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Lesson 18
Identifier Case













trousers; pants




nothing [ra– (NON) + dal (thing)]


to be pure; to be perfect

Identifier Case

You may not be used to talking about the “case” of noun phrases. Case is the term that refers to the role the noun phrase has in a sentence—that is, whether it is something that acts, something acted upon, something used to act, etc. […] (A Case Phrase is just a noun phrase plus its case-marker ending; a noun phrase is any sequence that can fill a case role, such as a noun or a pronoun.)

Another way to think about Case is that Case defines the relation that a noun phrase has to the verb. The Subject does the verb. The Identifer specifies what the Subect is. The action of the verb is performed upon the Object (we’ll discuss the Object in the next lesson). The other Cases we will be studying during these lessons define other relationships that nouns have to the verb in a sentence.

[(Aux) Ø-Verb (Neg) CP–S CP–ID]


Suffix (noun phrase): Identifier Case

An Identifier identifies the Subject by profession, gender, nationality, etc. The rule for forming an Identifier in Láadan is to add the suffix –m.” Of course, if we’re adding this suffix to a Noun Phrase that ends in a consonant, we’ll need to add an “e” to separate the consonants.

When Suzette Haden Elgin first created Láadan, she opted for a zero-suffix (no apparent suffix) for the Identifier Case. This falls neatly in line with English, wherein Identifier structures are formally rendered in Subject Case:

                    Q: “May I speak to Mary?”
                    A: “I am she.”

In ancillary materials, she allowed as how she didn’t think that would be a problem; in practice, however, it occasioned some unnecessary confusion. The decision was taken by the next generation to change from the zero-suffix to –m.”

The other item of note about a sentence using an Identifier Case structure is that there is no apparent verb. Láadan doesn’t have a “copula” (the stand-alone verb “to be” that English uses, among other things, to equate two things). The Láadan Identifer structure appears to have no verb (linguist-speak: the verb presents a null surface form); we simply present the Subject (the one being Identified) and the Identifier (what the Subject is being Identified as). If we’re placing the Identification in another time or denying the Identification altogether, the Auxiliary will precede, and the negative will follow, the invisible verb.


To make it clearer in the examples to follow, we’ll insert a “” where the invisible verb is.

Bíi • le withem wa.

I am a person.

Bíi • le wothal wowithem wa.

I am a good person.

Bíi • le wothalehul wowithem wa.

I am a extremely good person.

Notice that the Subject Case Phrase comes before any other Case Phrase.

Bíi • háawith Ána bem wa.

The child is Anna.

Note that personal names do not receive Case endings. When the name of a person or animal fulfills the role of a Case that would take a suffix, the name is followed by the pronoun “be” which accepts the Case ending instead. This rule applies to the names of living and once-living persons and creatures but not to the names of places or times.

Bíi • Ána omám wa.

Anna is a teacher.

Bíi • Ána omám i thulem wa.

Anna is a teacher and a parent.

Notice that the Subject—“Ána” (Anna) in the example set—can be Identified with more than one other noun.

Báa • with thulem?

Is the person a parent?

Bíi eril • ra with thulem wa.

The person was not a parent.

Bíi • ra with thulem wa.

The person is not a parent.

Bíi aril • with thulem wa.

The person will be a parent.

We can also deny the Identification by inserting “ra” after the verb, just as usual—except that the verb is invisible. Notice in the above that in the Identifier Case structure, just as usual, the auxiliary comes before the verb and the negative comes after the verb; the only difference here is that the verb has that “null surface form” (it’s invisible and inaudible).

Identifying Conjunction

Along with the Case suffix comes a new conjunction: “úmú.” It implies that the Subject of the sentence can be Identified with something, and that the clause to follow explains what that something is. “Úmú” stands for the Identifier in the clause it introduces, and that clause is the Identifier of the larger sentence.

Úmú” will most often be translated “who” or “what”—but not the forms of “who” or “what” that pose questions. This form introduces a clause that fulfills the Identifier case-role, as in the English sentences, “I know who you are,” or “I know what you are.” You will notice, in the examples below, that the clauses introduced by “úmú” have only a noun phrase; just as the Identifier uses no apparent verb, the clause introduced by “úmú” shows no apparent verb. Since Láadan doesn’t make use of the form of the verb “to be” known as a “copula”; for the purposes of translation into English, “úmú” acts as the copula as well as the “who/what.” In effect, “úmú” could be translated “who/what [noun phrase] is/are/was/were/will be.”

Bóo di beye úmú • belidá, lu.

Please, someone, say who the carpenter is.

Of course, the Possessive is one noun phrase, so it is perfectly reasonable to use a Possessive after “úmú.”

Bíi ril dibáa le úmú • hena netha wa.

I’m asking who your sibling is.

Bíi ril dibáa le úmú eril • hena netha wa.

I’m asking who your sibling was.

Bíi eril dibíi be úmú • hal betho wa.

He stated what his work was.

Bíi eril dibíi be úmú aril • hal betho wa.

He stated what his work will be.

Possessive Identifier

Báa • hena thulem?

Is the sibling a parent?

Báa • hena netha thulem?

Is your sibling a parent?

Báa • hena thul halátham?

Is the sibling the worker’s parent?

Báa • hena netha thul halátham?

Is your sibling the worker’s parent?

Regardless of Case, the Possessive becomes part of the Case Phrase. Since the Possessive Noun Phrase is a single unit (and so nothing can be inserted between its elements), the Case Suffix must be added to the end—on the Possessor, not on the thing possessed.

The Case Suffix for the Subject (the only Case we’ve addressed up until now) is what’s known as a “null suffix” or “zero suffix” (or, in Linguist-Speak, the suffix is said to “present a null surface form”). That “null suffix” on a Possessive in the Subject is attached to the end of the Possessive sequence; however, since it’s a “null suffix” (which cannot be seen or heard), we haven’t had to address concerns around its placement until now. Perhaps it’ll be a little clearer if presented in morphemic analysis of the first and fourth examples above. We’ll insert “Ø” where the Subject’s null-suffix is.





Sibling + SUBJ


Parent + IDENT







You1 + POSSbirth + SUBJ




Worker + POSSbirth + IDENT

A multiply-possessive structure is still a single unit, and so the Case Suffix belongs at the end of the Possessive structure. Note the changes in the Possessive endings as the ownership of the dog evolves through the examples.

Bíi • hi woléli wolanemidem wa.

This is a yellow dog.

Bíi • hi woléli wolanemid lethim wa.

This is my (chance) yellow dog.

Bíi • hi woléli wolanemid lanethi lethom wa.

This is my (other reason) friend’s (chance) yellow dog.

Bíi • hi woléli wolanemid lanethi edinetho letham wa.

This is my (birth) cousin’s (other reason) friend’s (chance) yellow dog.

Bíi • bezh halám wa.

They-few are workers.

Bíi • bezh hizhem wa.

They-few are this/that.

Bíi • bezh halám hizh wa.

They-few are those workers.

Bíi • bezh beyezhem wa.

They-few are something.

Bíi • bezh halám beyezh wa.

They-few are some workers.

Bíi • bezh zhem wa.

They-few are that same thing.

Bíi • bezh ram wa.

They-few are nothing and no-one.

Bíi • bezh halá ram wa.

They-few are anything but workers.

Bíi • bezh hizh hizhem wa.

They-few are each other.

In contrast to the Possessive structure, when using Demonstrative or Indefinite pronouns (hi-forms or beye-forms, respectively) postpositionally to modify a Case Phrase, the Case ending remains on the noun modified; the postposition takes no Case suffix.

Notice the pair of examples using “ram[ra– (NON) + –m (IDENT)]. The first of these is a straightforward statement that the Identifier Case does not apply. The second, on the other hand, states that the case does apply, but that the noun it would be applied to absolutely does not. In effect, this example excludes this noun from the Identifier Case function.

There is an idiomatic usage in English “each other” (also “one another”) that is no less idiomatic in Láadan. However, the Láadan idiom looks quite diffferent from the English. In Láadan, we use a pair of demonstrative pronouns (“hi” forms), one in Subject case and the second in whatever case describes the role “each” has to the “other.” In the seventh example above, this would be “hizh hizhem” (each other, few, as Subject and Identifier). Granted, the circumstances where “hizh hizhem” would apply are somewhat rarified; however, the mechanism exists to say that thing when required.


Translate the following into English.


Bíi berídanizh letha wothal wolalomám wáa.


Bóo di ne úmú wohóoha wodená, lu.


Báa héena bebáatho ábedám?


Bíi ra wíi yomem wi.


Bíi eríli Therísha edalahám wáa.


Bíi beth letho wolíithi wobelid Mázhareth bethom wa.

In #5, did you get the “sense” of “edalahá?” It means “botanist[e– (SCIof) + dala (plant) + –á (DOER)]. It also suggests “edala” (botany) [e– (SCIof) + dala (plant)]. Note that, though “” is an allowed Láadan vowel combination, because the “a” comes from “dala” (plant) and the “á” is from –á (DOER) they must be separated by an “h.”

Equate the following—in a question and a statement to answer it—using the Identifier Case, and translate both into English. The first word will be the Subject. The second column will give time and/or negative for the question. The third column will give these for the answer.

Example: “with, thul” with “past, not” give “Báa eril ra with thulem? (Wasn’t the woman a parent?) and “Bíi eril ra with thulem wa.” (The woman was not a parent.)


inad i woshad woháayo, bini


future, not


hi, wohowa wohana

present, not



dan hi, Láadan



womeénan woyu, mewolula wohéelen



láa hathethu, radal


long ago, not


hoth hi, Halishóni e Aranesha

In #7, note the plural form of the pronoun. There is a way to indicate that a noun is plural without a perceptible verb, and we’ll see that in a few lessons. Until then, a plural pronoun is our only mechanism for indicating plural in an Identifier Case sequence.

Translate the following into Láadan.


Is Elizabeth’s nephew a short peace-scientist?


The furry creature is not the alien’s niece’s cat.


Being old will be a lot of work.


The voice of the needleworker is a slow song.


To laugh and dance is to be beautiful.


The sound of the still wind is wisdom.

Note: As we see in #15, nouns can also be made “more so” by the addition of –hul;” however, their increase in degree isn’t usually rendered well in English by the word “extemely.”

Also in #15, we see a Degree Marker, –hul (extremely), and a Case Marker, –m (IDENT) applied to the same word. In general, the Case suffix will be the last piece added to the word, so it will be at the very end; this means that any Degree Marker will, perforce, be added beforehand. Semantically, this means that the [Noun + Degree] compound becomes one unit, and that compound unit fulfills the Case role.




My aunt is a good singer.


Please tell who the weary assistant is.


Whose heart-sibling is a farmer?


To be alive is not to be safe (or: Being alive is not being safe. or: Aliveness is not safety.) (obviously).


Teresa was, long ago, a botanist.


My home is Margaret’s white house.



Báa aril inad i woshad woháayo binim?

Will the trousers and the perfect skirt be gifts?

Bíi aril ra inad i woshad woháayo binim wa.

The trousers and the perfect skirt will not be gifts.


Báa ril ra hi wohowa wohanam?

Isn’t this warm food?

Bíi eril hi wohowa wohanam wáa.

This was warm food.


Báa dan hi Láadanem?

Is this language Láadan?

Bíi ra dan hi Láadanem wa.

This language is not Láadan.


Báa ra womeénan woyu mewolula wohéelenem?

Isn’t the sweet fruit purple grapes?

Bíi womeénan woyu mewolula wohéelenem.

The sweet fruit is purple grapes.


Báa eril láa hathethu radalem?

Was the perception of time nothing?

Bíi eríli ra láa hathethu radalem wáa.

Long ago the perception of time was not nothing.


Báa hoth hi Halishónim e Aranesham?

Is that place California or Arkansas?

Bíi hoth hi Halishónim e Aranesham wa.

This place is California or Arkansas.



Báa sherídanid Elízhabeth betha worahíthi woheshonám?


Bíi ra woshane womid rul sherídanizhetho néehátham wa.


Bíi aril balin halehulem wi.


Bíi dith dathimátha woralóolo wolomem wa.


Bíi ada i amedara áyam wa.


Bíi zho wowam woyulethu wothem wa.