So I'm doing a grammar for my conlang (constructed language). My conlang is a very verb-heavy/polysynthetic language. E.g. subordinate clauses are marked on the verb. To create a conditional clause -ni is suffixed to the verb, so that sautnuni would mean If I give it to you. It's somewhat like using -ing verbs adverbially, but with much more variation. E.g. Going to you, I saw a bird flying is nothing more than When I went to you, I saw a bird flying.

However, how should I organize my grammar? I mean where should I describe my different subordinate clauses, e.g. how they exactly work? In the Verb chapter or in the Syntax chapter? Other than most European languages, subordinate clauses (or at least the 'marker' for it) are more a part of the verb, as they are an inflectional feature.

So how should I organize it?

PS: This are also called converbs IIRC. My converbs are finite though (have person marking and so on)

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    Welcome to Linguistics SE! The first thing you should do is pick up (or find online) one or two grammars of natural languages and look at the TOC. Those that go a few levels deep (like the recent Bilinarra one) would be most helpful. And if you're really serious about writing about your conlang, skim at least one grammar. Jan 11, 2016 at 3:37

1 Answer 1


You should describe it everywhere that is relevant. In the phonology chapter, you would describe vowel-harmony and denasalization pronunciation variants. In the morphology chapter, you would describe the position of that suffix relative to various other suffixes on verbs, and also how an alternative suffix -bɨlaʔ is used in future negative clauses. There would be discussion of the special syntactic properties of verbal clauses with that suffix in a chapter on verbal syntax, and most likely it would be discussed when you talk about "verb tense" in a broad sense. I assume you would also have separate chapters on the semantic properties of clauses containing this and related suffixes where you'd talk about counterfactuals, irrealis clauses, and so on.

In other words, I think it is a mistake to try to pack all of the information that touches on a suffix in one place. Divide the desription into coherent sub-parts. Ones about use, and ones about form; some of the use questions are syntactic, some are literal semantic, and some are pragmatic. Likewise, form questions can be about pronunciation, or they can be about the choice of morphemes.

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