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Lesson 19
Identifier Case









to understand




demonstrative pronoun (this, that)


grandchild [ho– (one generation removed) + shem (offspring)]






nothing [ra– (NON) + dal (thing)]

Hi” is known grammatically as a “demonstrative pronoun” and means “this” or “that.” As it is a pronoun, it also has the forms “hizh” and “hin” meaning “these” or “those”—few/several (2 to 5) and many (more than 5), respectively. Whether the item/items to which “hi/hizh/hin” refers is/are nearer (this/these) or farther away (that/those) is subject to interpretation for the purposes of translation into English.

The various forms of “hi” can also be used as what are known as “demonstrative adjectives” which specify which item (or items) from a larger array of such items is (are) under discussion—as in the examples below:

Bíi laya mahina wa.

The flower is red.

Bíi laya mahina hi wa.

This flower is red.

Báa meháya bo?

Are the mountains beautiful?

Báa meháya bo hizh?

Are these mountains beautiful?

In both of these sentences, the item(s) being discussed is (are) one (or a few) of the possible flowers (or mountains). Notice that when used in this way, the “hi/hizh/hin” is postpositional to (immediately follows) the noun it modifies. Unlike the Possessive structure, the Case ending remains on the noun modified by the demonstrative; the hi-form carries no Case ending.

Before the word “shem” (offspring) was coined, following Suzette Haden Elgin’s death, to disambiguate that meaning from “háawith” (child), it was possible for a parent to say, as in English, “You are my child.” When the child protested that s/he was a grown adult, the parent could (with complete linguistic surety) aver that, no matter how old, s/he would always be “my child.” That is no longer possible, given the form “shem;” when a parent states that “You are my offspring,” no argument is possible—or necessary, since there is no longer any imputation of minority. And, in reply, the offspring can easily agree that, “Yes, I am your adult offspring,” (Em, le sháashem netham wa).

Regarding the word “hoshem” (grandchild): an obsolete form for this meaning incorporated “háawith” (child) with the háa– prefix assimilated to the “o” from ho– (one generation removed): hóowith. Of course, in those days, “granddaughter” would be assumed unless –id (male) was added.

Identifier Case

[(Aux) Ø–Verb (Neg) CP–S CP–Identifier]

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, as always, the Subject Case Phrase comes before any other Case Phrase.

Bíi • le omám wa.

I am a teacher.

Bíi • le omám i thulem wa.

I am a teacher and a parent.

Notice that the Subject (“le” or “I” in all the above examples) can be Identified with more than one other noun, as in the second example above.

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.” This is similar to “úthú” which introduces a clause whose Object it stands for, which clause is the Object of the larger sentence. Like “úthú” for the Object Case, “úmú” does some heavy lifting: 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.”

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.

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

Bíi eril di be ledim úmú hal betho wa.

He told me what his work was.

Bíi eril di be ledim úmú aril hal betho wa.

He told me what his work will be.

Possessive Identifier

The only note about the Possessive in an Identifier Case structure is that, just as with the Object Case, the Identifier suffix, –m is added to the end of the Possessive Case Phrase, not directly onto the owned Noun.

Bíi • hi woléli wolanemidem wa.

This is a yellow dog.

Bíi • hi woléli wolanemid lanethom wa.

This is a friend’s yellow dog.

Bíi • hi woléli wolanemid lanetho henathom wa.

This is a sibling’s friend’s yellow dog.

Bíi • hi woléli wolanemid lanetho henatho letham wa.

This is my sibling’s friend’s yellow dog.

Possessive Pronouns

Another note about Possessives, now that we have the demonstrative pronouns. “Hi/hizh/hin” can stand in for the noun in a Possessive phrase; this construction would be translated “mine” or “ours” or “yours” or “his/hers” or “theirs” rather than “my [noun]” or “our [noun]” or “your [noun]” or “his/her [noun]” or “their [noun].”

Bíi u dem letho wa.

My window is open.

Bíi rahu hi netho wáa.

Yours is closed [Iím told].

Báa mehu hin ábedátho?

Are the farmersí open?


Translate the following into English.


Bíi berídanizh letha wothal wohalám wáa.


Bíi ra wohóoha wodená thulidem wa.


Báa héena bebáatho ábedám?


Bíi ra wíi yomem wi.


Bíi eríli Therísha nayahám wáa.


Bíi beth letho wolíithi wobelid Mázhareth betho wa.

Notice the word “nayahám” in #5. Stripping off the Identifier Case ending, we are left with “nayahá” (caregiver), formed from “naya” (to care for) and –á (doer; one who). Within a morpheme (indivisible meaningful word part), the vowel sequence “” would be allowable, but because one of these comes from “naya” (to care for) and the other comes 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.)


nen, ebalá


future, not


hi, wohowa wohana

present, not



dan hi, Láadan



womeénan woyu, mewolula wohéelen



wodo wohomá, hothul Ána betha

past, not

long ago


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 cousin 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.

In #13, did you have trouble forming a word for “short?” Consider: “short” is the opposite of “tall,” so how about “rahíthi” (short; low) [ra– (NON) + íthi (tall; high)].

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 worker.


The tired assistant is not a father.


Whose heart-sibling is a farmer?


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


Teresa was, long ago, a care-giver.


My home is Margaret’s white house.



Báa aril nen ebalám?

Will you (many) be bakers?

Bíi aril ra nen ebalám wa.

You (many) will not be bakers.


Báa ril ra hi wohowa wohanam?

Isn’t this warm food?

Bíi eril hi wohowa wohanam wáa.

This was warm food.


Báa dan 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 ra wodo wohomá hothul Ána betham?

Wasn’t the strong teacher Anna’s grandmother?

Bíi eríli wodo wohomá hothul Ána betham wa.

The strong teacher was, long ago, Anna’s grandmother.


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 edin 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.