Sona relies heavily on the creation of compound words. Any number of morphemes might be assembled into a compound.

some radicals have fluctuating meanings

Some morphemes have different meanings depending on their position within a word. For example na means “not” or “non-” when it occurs at the beginning of a compound, but at the end of a compound it is merely a vague indicator of a noun that signifies some “inorganic” thing.

brevity and arbitrariness

When Searight made compound words he tended to make them short, usually aiming for brevity rather than a complete prevention of ambiguity. Thus his word for automobile, rather than “self propelled land vehicle,” is merely siruno sometimes shortened to sino. In the realms of business and government he did coin a few long compounds such as hakaidaleci = Secretary of State and jidiubizamelen = ‘record of personal services.’

Some of Searight’s compounds are rather arbitrary and simply have to be memorized: gufu “mouth out” = cough, melan “mind sound” = music, kauri “chief season” = summer. These are not any harder to learn than completely idiomatic English compounds such as moonshine, deadline, silverfish, brainwash and so forth.

y insertion

y is inserted to prevent ambiguity and to make words easier to pronounce.
This insertion happens under the following circumstances.

to separate n from any subsequent vowel

dan-a → danya
en-e → enye
in-ibi → inyibi
tan-o → tanyo
en-u → enyu

to separate two identical vowels

na-a → naya
ke-e → keye
do-o → doyo
fu-u → fuyu

exception: ii occurs occasionally in Searight’s texts (e.g. hasanii and liin) and he never uses -iyi-, so we assume the insertion of y is not permitted between a pair of i’s. Prohibiting -iyi- is reasonable because many people around the world have trouble pronouncing yi-, for example many Japanese students of English never acquire the ability to say ‘yeast’ and ‘year’ correctly.

to separate two “hard” vowels (a, e, o)

a+e : ra-e → raye
a+o : ta-o → tayo
e+a : re-a → reya
e+o : ze-o → zeyo
o+a : e-ko-a → ekoya
o+e : xo-en-mi → xoyenmi

ye insertion

ye is inserted when a “vowel radical” such as a- is prefixed to a CV radical. (C=consonant, V=vowel.)

a-ta → ayeta

exception: not necessary if the CV radical begins with c, j, f, v, h, x

a-ci → aci


Radicals can be arranged in groups consisting of one “primary” and four “secondary” radicals.
For example, the TA group consists of the primary radical ta and its secondary radicals tan, ata, ita, uta.

When a secondary radical is followed by its own primary radical, the common vowel is dropped.

ata-ta → atta
ita-ta → itta
uta-ta → utta

When a VCV radical is followed by its related CVN radical, the common vowel is dropped.

ata-tan → attan
ita-tan → ittan
uta-tan → uttan

ci as an isolator

When the suffix -a (indicating a place) is followed by a radical that begins with a consonant, the syllable -ci- should be inserted to prevent creating a compound that might be analyzed several different ways. This situation does not occur very often.

pia-piga → piacipiga


Reduplication refers to using a single radical twice back-to-back as in koko or using a sequence of two or more radicals repeatedly as in azuiniazuini. Searight did not create any compounds of this nature but did not prohibit their creation. This presents an opportunity for experimentation.

Reduplication might be useful in onomatopoeia (the imitation of sounds): Dabondabon could represent the sound of a heartbeat and Cici might be the “tweet-tweet” of a bird. Reduplication could also be used to express repeating patterns of activity, for example takotakoda might represent the rising and falling of the stock market or some other type of recurring fluctuation. Many languages use reduplication productively.


©2013 Richard K. Harrison

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