Home page
Lapine Overview

Unit 17: The Passive Voice; Reporting Speech

Speech is the small change of silence.
(George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel)

We're going to get a little more advanced this time, by introducing a couple of concepts which aren't actually required to produce correct Lapine, but which will allow you to come across as more fluent and natural in the language. First, we'll look at the passive voice, a very useful device for adding a bit of variety to your Lapine. And it's very easy to form, too. Explaining why it happens is a little involved, but doing it in practice is not at all hard. Let's have an example - the same idea expressed first in the normal active voice, and then in the passive. Remember from Unit 12 the special word hrarli, meaning a doe's stop (not to be confused with the ordinary verb "to stop", which is of course zyhl). Here's the sentence:

[LISTEN] U marli laynt skuf hrarli - The doe dug a stop
[LISTEN] Hrarli laynt skufant ol u marli - A stop was dug by the doe

Let's have a look at what's going on here. Firstly, as in English, you can see that the word order has been turned about. Also, ol, "of", can also mean "by". That's easy, and so are the first two words - hrarli laynt literally means "(a) stop was". Then it gets a little more complicated, because when you form the passive, again as in English, you have to "shift back" one tense."Was dug" is actually one tense "back" from "dug". In English, we say "I dig; I dug; I have dug". The difference is more obvious in some other verbs, for example: "I sing; I sang; I have sung".

So, "A stop was dug..." is one tense "further back" than "The doe dug...". But we're already using laynt, and as there are only three real tenses in ordinary Lapine, what can we do? Well, we borrow (in a much simplified form) something from Naylte Éan. In that dialect, the past tense is marked by adding the suffix -nt to a verb, together with various "person markers", so that "the rabbit saw" is haynte u naylte while "the rabbits saw" is hayntai u nayltil. However, we don't need to worry about the "person markers" at all in the colloquial language, but simply add -nt alone. Hang on a minute, though...

There's a slight problem here. Doing that would give us *skufnt, which is not exactly easy to pronounce! Luckily Naylte Éan comes to the rescue again - in such a case, you simply add an intervening -a- before the -nt, so what we end up with is, as it should be, skufant. In general, the -a- is used when the base word ends in a consonant other than Y. This is maybe not the easiest idea to explain in grammatical terms, so let's press our beloved sample sentences into service once again. Two new words - silisi, "snake", and nildel, "hawk":

[LISTEN] Duhreth laynt hrarailant ol Thlayli - Hawkbit was chased by Bigwig
[LISTEN] U ithé éan laynt thraynt ol u silisi nos - The old man was bitten by the big snake
[LISTEN] U nildro laynt zyhlant ol u desthile pfeffa, nahl u sithile! - The blackbird was killed by the third cat, not the second!
[LISTEN] U rowf roo laynt flaynt ol u nildel nos-nyt - The little dog was eaten by the huge hawk

a) When a word ending in a vowel is followed by one starting in the same vowel, as with ithé éan in the second sentence, you might hear them run together into something like ithéan. However, it is strongly recommended that you avoid this as it tends to cause a lot of confusion.
b) Note the changed word order in the third sentence - as we saw way back in Unit 01, adjectives move from following to preceding the noun when special emphasis is required (and, remember, embleer always appears before the noun).

Reporting speech

Note, reporting, not reported. The latter is something like, "Acorn said that he was fast," (which is Maythennion laynt meth, e laynt hraray), whereas here we're using direct quotes. Okay then. Up till now, except when we've been using Naylte Éan, we've always stuck with the basic form for quotes, so that we have something like this:

[LISTEN] Hrairoo laynt dayn ven. "Vahl," e laynt meth - Fiver came in. "Yes," he said

There's nothing at all wrong with this, and in everyday speech it's what you'll hear. But it's maybe just a little cumbersome to have to put in that e laynt meth time after time - in the average story, it'll turn up again and again and again. Luckily, you don't actually have to, as there is a special form of meth reserved exclusively for this sort of thing. If you know Welsh, then it is done in a fairly similar way to the Welsh word meddai. All you have to do is use the word methant, which is the "base" inflected past form of meth. (No, you don't need to understand all that; just trust me on this one!) So our example sentence could just as well be written as:

[LISTEN] Hrairoo laynt dayn ven. "Vahl," methant.

Much tidier, eh? Here's a rather longer example:

"Frithaes, Thlayli," methant Kothen. "I lay éneer?"
"Vahl," methant Thlayli. "Um hlien lay nao-nyt."
Kothen laynt hay vesth a nesth. "Hloth?" methant.
"Nahlan," methant Thlayli. "An a laynt meth il Thlaynlé hyaones, ar e laynt meth il ma, e laynt éneer asith."

"Frithaes, Bigwig," said Hazel. "Are you unhappy?"
"Yes," said Bigwig. "This warren is terrible."
Hazel looked around. "Why?" he said.
"I don't know," said Bigwig. "But I was talking to Silver today, and he said to me that he was unhappy too."

a) The person speaking goes after methant, so that "he said" is methant e, and not *e methant. Note that this is the other way around from the usual speech form - e laynt meth etc.
b) Note that I didn't use methant inside Bigwig's inverted commas. That's because it is (in Colloquial Lapine, anyway) almost exclusively a written form, and would just look silly in speech.
c) Remember a couple of handy colloquialisms from earlier on: hay vesth a nesth is "to look around", and nahlan is a contraction of a lay nahl lan, "I don't know". Think of it as roughly equivalent in effect to English's "Dunno" and you won't go far wrong.
d) If the person speaking is already known, as in the third line, you don't even need to mention them again, but can just use methant on its own, as you can see. It's not incorrect to say methant e in this case, but it's not necessary.

Bonus extra bit!

Ooh, I am spoiling you today. But it's a useful bonus, so listen up. We already know the Lapine for "father" (tarli or parli) and "mother" (marli). "Child" is the same as "kitten" - rooli. But it'd be handy to know a few of the other words for relations. And so here we are:

rooliti - son
roolimi - daughter
rusati - brother
rusami - sister
rusasi - sibling

a) The etymology of brother/sister/sibling is straightforward. A brother is someone who shares your parents, in other words a "same-parents-buck". That literally translates as rul-sarlil-tarli, but being such a common word it's been compressed a great deal (cf vahra), and so has achieved its present form. Much the same applies to the other words
b) The words for "son" and "brother" are always spelt with Ts, even by rabbits who say parli for "father".
c) To add a generation, you simply use the familiar emphatic suffix -nyt, so that, for example, "grandson" is rooliti-nyt, and "great-grandmother" would be marli-nyt-nyt. Theoretically you could have up to four -nyts (any more wouldn't be distinguishable from each other, the number being stuck at hrair), but in practice more than two is exceptionally unusual. To make out that something was a very long time ago, you can say ven u hyao marli-nyt-nyt, "in great-grandmother's day".

One other comment about this - you might have seen in Appendix 1 the saying u vahra ma, rusati [rusami] ma, ven atha ma, meaning "my friend, my brother [sister], in my heart". This is not a casually uttered saying, as it implies the other party is, or has become, the speaker's "heart-brother/sister" (rusatitha/rusamitha). It's a great honour to be considered a heart-brother/sister, and the responsibilities that go with it are to be taken with the utmost seriousness.

Right, folks, that's all for now. It's been a bit of a slog, but I think it's been worth it. Next time, we'll be taking a look at a slightly esoteric, but quite interesting topic: the little differences between the Lapine of various warrens. And yes, Woundwort's Efrafa looms large among them! =:O