Kobon Language - Grammar


Kobon is an SOV language.

Singular, dual, and plural are distinguished in personal pronouns and kin terms.

Like the other Kalam languages, Kobon is famous for having a very small number of verbs—perhaps less than 120 for the entire language. These verbs are combined with nouns into phrases with specific meanings, much as one says "have dinner" rather than "dine" in English.

This makes for an interesting window into semantics. One might expect that with a very limited set of verbs, their meanings would be quite general, as have, do, be and go are in English. To some extent this is born out. For example, there is only one verb of perception. That is, the same verb is used for see, hear, taste, smell, feel (both physically and emotionally), think, and understand (compare with "I see" for "I understand" in English). Another verb is used for making sound, whether it's speaking, singing, praying, crying, twigs breaking, rocks clattering, or water gurgling. However, some Kobon verbs are quite specific. There is one exception for sound, for example: there's a specific verb for calling a pig. There are also three verbs of pouring, depending on whether the thing being poured is solid, liquid, or food; and there is even a verb that means to quarter a cassowary.

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