# Deer-hunting in Mesak

The following are ten sentences in the Mesak language:

Ñ-ikábnos sopvs itirpvnvi.
Ñ-idernos zemos ihúkpvkoi.
Zemos ɀámoi.
Ñ-izemnos sopvs itirnvi.
Sopvs ehúkpvnvi.
Ñ-ikábnos zemos ihúknoi.
Ñ-idernos ihúkeko.
Kábos etirnoi.
Ñ-isapnvs kábos itirpvkoi.
Ɀámpveo.


Each of these corresponds to one of the following English sentences:

You(sg) will be sleeping.
The deer is sleeping.
The deer sees fish(pl).
You(sg) see the man.
The man will see fish(pl).
The fish(pl) will see the man
The wolf pack are hunting you(sg).
The man is hunting a deer.
The wolf pack will be hunting a deer.
You(sg) will be  hunting fish(pl).


The goal of this challenge is to figure out the correspondences, analyze the grammar and with the learned information, translate the following sentence into Mesak:

The wolf pack will be sleeping.

Mesak is an artistic/naturalistic constructed language made by me, but for all intents and purposes, you can treat it as if it was a natural language. Not all concepts expressed in English are handled in the same way in Mesak, and depending on your experience in linguistics you might find certain features of Mesak surprising. Every morpheme occuring in the above sentences is entirely regular, meaning the same morpheme will look the same way everywhere you encounter it. The letters Ɀɀ and Ññ represent consonant sounds. The abbreviations (sg) and (pl) stand for “singular” and “plural”.

• What is the first character in the last line (Ɀámpveo) meant to be? I'm seeing it as just a box, as if some unicode character hasn't loaded properly. – Rand al'Thor Feb 10 '18 at 19:59
• Uppercase z with swash tail, a rather obscure letter, all things considered. It is the uppercase version of the character found in the beginning of the second word of the third sentence. – Adarain Feb 10 '18 at 20:00
• Fun puzzle! One (mostly irrelevant) question, though: am I correct in my guess that v represents a vowel sound? If so, why is it spelled v and not u? – DLosc Feb 22 '18 at 6:48
• @DLosc Because u is yet another, distinct vowel. v is a central, high, unrounded vowel, [ə~ɨ] depending on environment. – Adarain Feb 22 '18 at 10:00

Verb inflections

Rand's pretty much done everything but there are a bunch of verb affixes that determine whether the subject and object are singular or plural.

The structure of the transitive verbs is:

[i/e]-VERB-[pv]-[e]-n/k-o/v-[i]
Where bracketed morphemes are not necessary.

Prefixes:

i- = third person subject
e- = second person subject

Suffixes:

-e = second person object
-n = singular subject
-k = plural subject
-o = singular object
-v = plural object
-i = third person object

Examples:

i-tir-pv-k-o-i
3.sub-SEE-fut.-pl.sub-sing.ob-3.ob

N-isapnvs kabos itirpvkoi.
The fish(pl) will see the man.

e-huk-pv-n-v-i
2.sub-HUNT-fut.-sing.sub-pl.ob-3.ob

Sopvs ehukpvnvi.
You(sg) will be hunting fish(pl).

i-huk-e-k-o
3.sub-HUNT-2.ob-pl.sub-sing.ob

N-idernos ihukeko.
The wolf pack are hunting you(sg).

The structure of the intransitive verbs is:

VERB-[pv]-[e]-o/v-[i] (which means Mesak is an ergative-absolutive language)

Suffixes:

-e = second person subject
-o = singular subject
-v = plural subject
-i = third person subject

Examples:

zam-pv-e-o
SLEEP-fut.-2.sub.-sing.sub

Zampveo.
You(sg) will be sleeping.

zam-o-i
SLEEP-sing.sub.-3.sub

Zemos zamoi.
The deer is sleeping.

Deros zampvvi.
The wolf pack will be sleeping.

Deros zam-pv-v-i
WOLF SLEEP-fut.-pl.sub-3.sub

• And there we have it, this is the correct answer (minus diacritics)! As an additional note, the -o- and -v- on nouns actually mark number as well, but “wolf pack” is a bit of a weird one because it’s marked singular on the noun and plural on the verb (which I at some point realized british english does too, this is unintentional). This is a recurring pattern in the language (things like nouns with a numeral adjective also get marked in this way). As an extra-additional note, “I sleep” would be aɀámo and “you see me” etirano. – Adarain Feb 11 '18 at 11:46

## Analysing the English sentences

First let's look at the English sentences:

1. You(sg) will be sleeping.
2. The deer is sleeping.
3. The deer sees fish(pl).
4. You(sg) see the man.
5. The man will see fish(pl).
6. The fish(pl) will see the man
7. The wolf pack are hunting you(sg).
8. The man is hunting a deer.
9. The wolf pack will be hunting a deer.
10. You(sg) will be hunting fish(pl).

The particles of meaning in these sentences (ignoring articles, tenses of verbs, and cases of nouns) are:

you(sg) (3 sentences), sleep (2 sentences), deer(sg) (4 sentences), fish(pl) (4 sentences), see (4 sentences), man (4 sentences), wolf pack (2 sentences), hunt (4 sentences).

Each sentence contains exactly 3 of these particles, or 2 in the first two cases, plus filler such as articles and tense indicators.

## Analysing and comparing the Mesak sentences

Now the Mesak sentences (ignoring diacritics, sorry):

1. N-ikabnos sopvs itirpvnvi.
2. N-idernos zemos ihukpvkoi.
3. Zemos zamoi.
4. N-izemnos sopvs itirnvi.
5. Sopvs ehukpvnvi.
6. N-ikabnos zemos ihuknoi.
7. N-idernos ihukeko.
8. Kabos etirnoi.
9. N-isapnvs kabos itirpvkoi.
10. Zampveo.

There are some clear particles here, like sopvs (3 sentences), zemos (probably 4 sentences, assuming "zemnos" is a variation), kabos (probably 4 sentences, assuming "kabnos" is a variation), and ihuk (3 sentences, or 4 if "ehuk" is a variation). But it's not always clear which parts of a word are morphemes with independent meanings: probably zam (2 sentences, including that z with swash tail), itir (3 sentences, or 4 if "etir" is a variation), pvnvi and pvkoi, nvi and noi and koi, ...

Anyway, there seem to be two clear candidates for the two-particle sentences (corresponding to #1 and #2 from the English), namely #3 and #10. Checking the translations, we see that

zam (or rather ɀám) equals sleep, while "zemos" and "pveo" are "you(sg)" and "deer" in some order. Since we have a noun and a pronoun, I'm going to guess zem(n)os equals deer and pveo equals you(sg).

Now the three sentences containing "zem(n)os" in Mesak are #2, #3, #4, and #6; these must correspond to the English #2, #3, #8, and #9 in some order.

We already know Mesak #3 equals English #2. Considering the very close parallelism between English #8 and #9, it looks like these must be Mesak #2 and #6 (which both have "zemos" in the same position at least), leaving us with Mesak #4 equalling English #3.

So it looks like we have the following word translations:

ihuk equals hunt, and the "n-i[noun]" form indicates the nominative case. By sentence parallelism (clearly Mesak is a subject-object-verb language), sopvs equals fish(pl) and itir equals see.

Now deduction after deduction follows quickly, using sentence structure parallelism:

English #3 and #5 differ only in subject, so Mesak #1 equals English #5, and kab(n)os equals man. This tells us which way round Mesak #2 and #6 are: they're English #9 and #8 respectively, and we find that der(n)os equals wolf pack and ihuk equals hunt.

The only thing left is to work out the order of correspondence between Mesak #5, #7, #8, #9 and English #4, #6, #7, #10. From what we know so far, it's clear that

Mesak #5 equals English #10, Mesak #7 equals English #7, Mesak #8 equals English #4, and Mesak #9 equals English #6.

## Final results

The sentence correspondences are as follows:

1. "You(sg) will be sleeping." = "Zampveo."

2. "The deer is sleeping." = "Zemos zamoi."

3. "The deer sees fish(pl)." = "N-izemnos sopvs itirnvi."

4. "You(sg) see the man." = "Kabos etirnoi."

5. "The man will see fish(pl)." = "N-ikabnos sopvs itirpvnvi."

6. "The fish(pl) will see the man" = "N-isapnvs kabos itirpvkoi."

7. "The wolf pack are hunting you(sg)." = "N-idernos ihukeko."

8. "The man is hunting a deer." = "N-ikabnos zemos ihuknoi."

9. "The wolf pack will be hunting a deer." = "N-idernos zemos ihukpvkoi."

10. "You(sg) will be hunting fish(pl)." = "Sopvs ehukpvnvi."

And the word correspondences are as follows.

NOUNS:

deer = zemos, fish(pl) = sopvs, man = kabos, wolf pack = deros.

VERBS:

sleep = zam, hunt = ihuk, see = itir.

OTHER:

pv on a verb represents future tense, n-i[...]n[...] wrapped around a noun represents the subject of a transitive verb; the second person singular as subject changes initial "i" to "e" (e.g. "itir"->"etir", "ihuk"->"ehuk"); sentence structure is subject-object-verb unless the subject is a pronoun (pronouns are melded into the verb); verb conjugation is as described in as4s4hetic's excellent answer.

And the sentence "The wolf pack will be sleeping." translates as:

Deros zampvvi.

• Sadly, there are some mistakes here. The sentence correspondences are correct, but you’ll have to take some closer looks at the word forms. By the way, a friend of mine was able to solve it correctly (and explain the thought processes so I know it wasn’t just guesswork). – Adarain Feb 10 '18 at 21:21
• The new answer is much better, but it’s still not entirely correct. – Adarain Feb 10 '18 at 21:33
• @Adarain Fixed the first word; all I have to do now is fully figure out the tense and pronoun structure (and maybe not even the latter). – Rand al'Thor Feb 10 '18 at 21:34
• but zampveo is You(sg) will be hunting fish(pl). not You(sg) will be sleeping? – Destructible Lemon Feb 11 '18 at 5:56
• @DestructibleLemon no it’s not, the order of the Mesak sentences is randomized and Rand found the correct correspondences – Adarain Feb 11 '18 at 12:16