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A Reference Grammar of Creolian 1.5


Last updated August 4, 2006


The following is a reference grammar for the "Creolian" language called Neo Patwa. It can also be used for the older version called Dunia Patwa (they use the same grammar, but Neo Patwa has a simpler phonology and, hence, a slightly different vocabulary). This file is not yet meant for learning, but to serve as a reference. I have, however, tried to provide examples, so I hope it can be of some use in learning the language.




Basic Syntax

Sentences in Neo Patwa include a subject, which performs the action, and a verb, which describes the action. Sentences can also include direct and indirect objects. The basic sentence structure, like English, is subject-verb-object (SVO). So to say "I eat rice," you would say:

Mi makan cawal. (I eat rice.)


There are some major differences between Neo Patwa and standard English. For example, verb and noun forms never change in Neo Patwa. So for example, you don't have to change a verb depending on the person (like in English, I am, you are, he is, etc.) or the tense (I go, I went). Also, nouns never change depending on their grammatical position (such as I killed him, but he killed me). Similarly, there are no plural forms (so nouns do not become plural by adding an "s" at the end). In addition, there are no feminine and masculine nouns (grammatical gender), as exist in many European languages.


This doesn't mean that you can't say complicated things in Neo Patwa. As you'll find out by reading this manual, there are ways to express all the things that need to be expressed in language!


Let's begin by looking at the most basic parts of the language: nouns and verbs.




Simple Nouns and Compound Nouns

Nouns are words like "book" and "Paris." They represent something, such as an object or idea. In Neo Patwa, nouns can be simple, but can also be compounds. In compounds, they are "head-last," as in English, with no grammatical particle to separate parts of a noun.


For example:

Njuni (bird)

Nila (blue)

Nilanjuni (bluebird, meaning a type of bird rather than a "blue bird")


Making Adjectives from Nouns

For example, the word for "anxiety" is susi. To mean that something is troubling, you can simply make the adjective sasesusi, meaning "cause anxiety." To say that you are anxious, you can say tenesusi, meaning "have anxiety".


Personal Pronouns

The personal pronouns are a special class of nouns. In Neo Patwa, there are six personal pronouns: mi (I, me); ju (you); ja (it/he/she); mipela (we); yupela (yous); and japela (they). Pela is a plural marker for certain words, used as a suffix.



Many languages create new words by using affixation. In English, we use prefixes such as "im-" in "impossible" or "-tion" in "creation." Neo Patwa allows compounding, and although it doesn't have prefixes or suffixes as such, compound words can be used to express this. Some notable examples are:

Sofi (wisdom, teaching) can be used to express a religion, ideology or philosophy. Tika (act, practice) can be used in a compound to express an activity. Loci (study, area of study) can be used to indicate an area of study or area of medicine, for example.

So for example, fwaloci (hepatology).



Like English, Neo Patwa is not a strictly head-first or head-last language. Modifiers (words like "big" or "quickly") are usually placed before the head word, and genitives (possessives) and relative clauses can be placed both before and after the head word. Demonstratives (like the word "this" in English), quantifiers and adjectives are placed before nouns.


Technical note: The basic order of modification in Neo Patwa is demonstrative - quantifier - adjectives - head noun - genitive - relative.




Neo Patwa does not have articles as in English. THere is no need to put a word like "the" or "a" before a noun. However, like in English, demonstratives, including tis (this), tas (that), and wanpela (a certain), can be placed before the noun.

Mi sase mati wanpela jan. (I killed ("make die") a man)



To specify a number in a noun phrase, place the quantifier before the noun. To specify a number, place the suffix -pela after a number. You can also use other expressions of quantity.

Wanpela njuni (one bird)

Muco nja njuni (many birds)



Adjectives normally come before a noun, followed by the particle nja. They can also be placed after a noun, as a relative clause, in which case they are preceded by ce sta. So we could have:

Wanpela nila nja njuni (A blue bird)

Wanpela njuni ce sta nila (A bird that is blue)


Expressing Possession

Possession is normally expressed by placing the preposition fi (derived from Jamaican) after the head noun and before the possessor.

Cawal fi mi (my rice, or "the rice of me")


Relative Clauses

Relative clauses are used to modify a noun. In English, for example, we would say "the man who ate the rice." In this case "who ate the rice" is a relative clause. In Neo Patwa, relative clauses can be created in two ways. Usually, they are placed after the headword. Place the particle "ce" before the clause. So for example:

Cawal ce mi makan (The rice that I eat)


There are a few options available to shift the order, as follows.


Expressing Possession as an Adjective

A possessor can also be placed before the noun it modifies, essentially making it into an adjective. This is done by adding the particle "nja" (from Indonesian) after the possessor and before the possessee. The particle can also be used to relate nouns to one another. For example, you might say:

John nja skule (John's school)

Ja stil mi nja pesa (He stole my money)

Woli nja skulepikin (The schoolchildren who are males)


Putting Relative Clauses before the Head

A relative clause can also be placed before the head word, essentially by making it into an adjective, using the particle "nja," which is also used for possession. It's equivalent in English to saying "the rice-eating man," except that it is freer, and you can also say the "rice-that-I-made-eating man" (the man who ate the rice I made).

mi sana nja cawal makan nja jan. (The person eating the rice that I made)


Combining Left- and Right-Branching Constructions

As shown above, this system allows you to place relative clauses both before and after the head noun, so the clause above could also be expressed as:

jan ke makan mi sana nja cawal. (The man who ate the rice I made)

Tas mi nja kilapela pula pustaka ce mi pem pastjen. (those two red books of mine that I bought yesterday)


Expressions of Quantity


Expressing Cardinal Numbers

Add the suffix counter -pela to a number, before the noun.

Na sala tene tupela jan. (Two people are in the room; literally "in the room has two people")


Expressing Ordinal Numbers

Add the word nume (number) before the number.

Ja ta nume wan wolipikin fi mi. (He is my first son)





Many ideas, such as past and future, can be expressed in Creolian by modifying the verb, or by combining verbs together.


Verb Forms

Verbs never change form. There is no infinitive or participles.



Adverbs are normally placed before the verb or adjective they modify.


Preverbal Particles

There are a number of particles that can be placed before a verb to change the meaning. For example, to make a negative statement, you add "no" before the verb.

Mi no ale. (I will not go)


Serial Verbs


In addition, verbs can be concatenated to indicate various ideas. The auxiliary verbs in effect function as particles. They are used to express concepts such as tense, and ideas such as "must", "can" and "want to."

Ja no mau makan cawal. (She didn't want to eat rice.)


Aspect and Tense


Unlike in English, where tense is important (past, present, future), Neo Patwa relies mainly on the concept of "aspect." What is important is whether an action has been completed (anterior) or is still ongoing (non-punctual) or is hypothetical in the future (irrealis).


Expressing a Completed Action

To express a past action, which is already completed, you can place the word finis (finish) before the verb. This is called the anterior tense.

Mi finis makan. (I (already) ate)


Irreal mode

The irreal mode, expressed by the particle sa is used for the future or to express something conditional.

Mi sa eskale kaju. (I'm thinking of climbing the tree) (I'm going to climb the tree)


Nonpunctual aspect

Adding the particle sta (from Spanish and Portuguese creoles) is generally used to indicate an action that is not yet completed, as in the progressive tenses.

Mi sta xuje history. (I am studying history)


Expressing Experience

This is used to express something that you have done, or perhaps haven't done. The word sisi (a repetition of "yes") can be used.

Mi sisi ale Tokyo. (I've been to Tokyo before)


Adjectives and Stative Verbs

Adjectives and stative verbs are treated the same. In English, we might say "I am tall" (an adjective) or "He is sleeping" (a stative verb). In Creolian you can use stative verbs like an abjective.

Mi hapi. (I am happy)

Ja xuwi. (He is sleeping)


Auxiliary Verbs


Expressing Capability

The auxiliary verb safe (from Lingua Franca) can be used to indicate the capability to do something.

Mi safe nata. (I can swim)


Expressing Future Possibility

In English, the common usage is “he will probably come.”

Mi (maybe) ale nata. (I might go swim)


Expressing Necessity

Mesti (from Indonesian) indicates necessity.

Mi mesti ale nata. (I must swim.)


Expressing Lack of Necessity

Mi no meste ale nata. (I don't have to go swim.)


Expressing Advisability


Expressing Prohibition

Mi no safe ale nata. (I can't go swim.)


Expressing Permission

When you want to ask specifically if you have permission to do something (not capability), you can use oke instead of safe.

Mi oke ale fi skola ka? (May I go to school?)


Expressing Naturalness, Expectation or Appropriateness

In English, we might say, “He should go.”


Expressing a Definite Plan

The auxiliary "daswan" from Mandarin is placed before the verb.

Mi taswan makan cawal. (I'm planning to eat rice)


Expressing Repeated Action in the Past

In English, we would say "I used to go there." In Neo Patwa, you can use safe (also used to mean "can").

Taswela, mi safe makan cawal kila tjen (In those days, I ate rice every day)


Using the Causative to Mark Transitivity

The auxiliary verb "sase" (from Japanese) can be used to show that something was done to something. For example, to "make die" can be used to mean "kill."

Ja sase mati njuni. (He made the bird die) (He killed the bird)




Using Adverbs

A modifier, which acts as an adjective, can be placed before a verb to modify it. Add the particle nja between the modifier and the verb.

Mi kwai nja makan. I eat fast.






A simple statement is generally a subject, followed by a verb, then an object.


Sentence Ending Particles

An important difference between Neo Patwa and English is that Neo Patwa has particles that can be placed at the end of a sentence to give it a certain mood. This is not completely unused in English; we use "tag questions," such as, "You'll go, won't you?" In Neo Patwa, sentences often end with a tag.


Expressing Emphasis

The particle la can be placed at the end of a sentence to mark emphasis.

Mi ale, la. (I'm going!)


Repetition of the Subject

In Creolian, a pronoun corresponding to the subject of the sentence can be inserted before the verb to clarify that the verb will come. In English, this would be equivalent to saying "The red car, it is expensive." So for example:

Mi makan cawal. (I eat rice.)

John, Ja makan cawal. (John eats rice.)

Jan ce makan mala nja cawal, ja kam malato. (The man who ate bad rice got sick)


Expressing Absence

Negative concord is used.

Mi no suka no jan. (I don't like anybody)



Word order is not changed in questions. In other words, a question would be "you do what?" Rather than "what do you do?" in English.

In addition, certain ideas, such as interrogation, can be expressed by placing ending tags at the end of a sentence. For example, you can put ja at the end to make a sentence into a question, la to show that it is emphatic (i.e. that you are stating something strongly) ne to make the sentence quizzical or suggestive (in English, you might add "don't you?" at the end in this case), and ba to make it into a command. This is common in Asian languages, and once you get used to it, it is a very convenient device.


Asking Yes/No Questions (1)

Do ask a question that requires a yes or no answer, simply place the particle si at the end of the sentence.

Ju ale, si? (Do you go?)


Asking Yes/No Questions (2)

Another method to as a yes/no question is to write the verb once, followed by no plus the verb again. In this case, you don't need to put a si at the end of the sentence.

Ju mau ale no mau ale? (Do you want to go?) Literally, "you want go, no want go?"

Ja sta no esta laosi? (Is he a teacher?)


Asking Information (Wh-) Questions

There is no need to change the word order (syntactic inversion) when asking a question that requires information, such as "where are you going?." The position of wh-words is not changed within the sentence. It is not necessary to place a question marker at the end of an information question, as it is clear from the context.

Ju ale waswela? (When will you go?)

Wasjan makan cawal? (Who is eathing rice?)



Imperative sentences are used to give orders. In English, the method used is to leave out the subject. So for example, we say "Go to school." In Creolian, you leave the subject in, but place a grammatical marker at the end of the sentence. So:

Ju makan je nja cawal, jo. (Eat your rice!)



Hortative means recommending that someone do something together with the speaker. In English we would say, "Let's go swimming," for example. In Creolian, as with the imperative, the subject should remain, and the particle ne can be used to make a sentence into a suggestion.

Mipela ale nata, ne? (Let's go for a swim)


Existential Sentences

In English, we say "there is a man," for example, in a way that simply expresses the presence or existence of something. In Neo Patwa, you can use the verb "tene" meaning "have." For example.

Atas mi nja mesa, tene wanpela mjao. (There is a cat on my table)




Prepositional phrases, which describe things about an action, such as when the action took place or using what, are preceded by prepositions (words like to, from, in, at, behind, etc.). Prepositional phrases are typically placed at the end of the sentence (following the verb and objects), but a prepositional phrase can also be placed before the subject of the sentence to express topic prominence. This is generally the same as in English. In Neo Patwa, fi, can be used as an all-purpose preposition. When necessary, serial verbs can be used to avoid ambiguity.


Direct and Indirect Objects

In Creolian, the objects should come after the verb. No marker is necessary for a direct object. However, an indirect object should be marked with a preposition, fi, meaning loosely "for" or "to," and should be placed after the direct object. Fi can also be used to indicate possession.

Mi sema kisa fi fa. (I told a story to him)

Mama fi mipela (Our mother)


Expressing the Time/Location of Action

The preposition fi can also be used to indicate a time or location of an action, as well as a destination or source. You don't need to worry about different prepositions, like "at" and "in" and "on" in English.

Mi ale fi skule fi Lunatjen. (I go to school on Monday)

Mi kam fi skule. (I came from school)

Mi dwel fi Tokyo. (I live in Tokyo)

Fi Tokyo mi dwel. (It is in Tokyo that I live)


Expressing Togetherness and Instrument

In English, we use the preposition "with" to express being together or using an instrument. In Neo Patwa, the all-purpose preposition fi can be used.

Mi ale skule fi John. (I went to school with John)

Mi hase mati John fi pistol. (I killed John with the pistol)


When wanting to clarify, use the verb pakai (use).

Mi pakai pistol hase mati John. (I used the pistol and killed John)





Topic Prominence

Topic prominence involves bringing something to the front of a sentence to emphasize it. In Engish, for example, instead of saying "I read the book," we can say, "It's the book that I read." This puts the emphasis on the book. In Creolian, you can put the marker "nipa" (from Yoruba) to mean roughly "regarding" in front of the object of a sentence, and bring it to the front.

Nipa njoka, mi makan ja. (I ate that snake)


Expressing the Passive Voice

In English, passive can be expressed by using "by," so for example, "the man was bitten by the dog." There is no passive construction per se in Neo Patwa. However, there are three major ways to express the ideas.


First, you can express the passive using kena from Singlish, followed by the action that happened. So to say, "I was bitten by a snake," you would say:

Mi kena njoka kami mi. (I experienced, the snake bit me)

The particle "kena" can be thought of as the verb "experience," so you could imagine, "I experienced, the snake bit."


Another way is to use topic prominence. You can place the recipient of the action at the beginning of the sentence.

Nipa mi, njoka ja kami. (About me, the snake bit)


Finally, a useful device is to use an impersonal subject. In Neo Patwa, you use "they" to mean "somebody" or "something". So:

japela sase mati Tom. (They killed Tom) (Somebody killed Tom)


Discussing an Action

A verb can be made into a subject or object of a sentence, as in when we say "eating is fun." There is no "-ing" form, so you can just use the verb as is.

Makan panana sta fun. (Eating bananas is fun)




Connecting Sentences

Sentences can be connected using conjunctions. For example, "mo" means "and" and "kexi" means "but."

Mi sta America-jan, mo ja sta Frans-jan. (I am American, and she is French)

Mi sta America-jan, kesi ja sta Frans-jan. (I am American, but she is French)


Expressing Condition

The conjunction "sapos" can be placed before the first clause to mean "if."

Sapos fi sawamtjen skai sta sawam, ja sta pwena, mi ale fi taman. (If he weather is good tomorrow, I'll go to the park.)




Expressing Comparison

The verb kompe can be used to express comparison between two things. For example:

Mi kwai kule kompe fi hisam. (I run faster than a horse)


Expressing Superlativity

Numewan is literally "number one" or "first", and can be used to mean "most".

Ja sta numewan maha nja pikin. (He is the biggest child)


Expressing Equality

Mwan can be used like kompe but to express sameness. So:

Mi safe kwai kule mwan fi hisam. (I can run as fast as a horse).




Expressing Simultaneity

Mi during makan, during soma xuben.


Expressing Becoming

In English, we have a suffix –ize that signifies a transformation. For example, international becomes internationalize.


Expressing Repetition

In English, the prefix re- can signify a repetition of an action.




There should be a subject plus a verb. For example: Rain is falling, wind is blowing; air is cold.


Meha otos. (It's raining)






Days of the week have names ending in "-din." Like English and many other languages, they are named after the planets. So for example, Monday (day of the moon) is:



Days of the month are simply the numbers followed by "-din." So the 12th would be:



Two days, as a length of time, would be:

Kalipela tjen.




The months of the year are expressed as a number followed by "-luna." So January is:





A year can be expressed by simply putting the numbers one after the other, and then appending "anjo" at the end. So 1987 would be:



Two years as a period of time would be:

Kalipela anjo.


Historical Dates


Historical dates are expressed in the order year, month, day. So January 7, 1605 would be:

Wansitasifalima-anjo wan-luna sem-tjen.

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