[Anunuvagnei/Updated 21 July 2020]
Devra, our Sovermian language, and along with English one of the two official languages of the Republic, is a source of pride, pleasure, wisdom and national identity for Sovermians. We feel it is both a rational and appealing language — masei logikei ir skunei dongva “our logical and beautiful tongue” — expressive of our national character and our aspirations.
Dongva gviva, gviva dongva goes the Sovermian proverb: “Language is life — life is language.” As President Emerja said recently:
Many nations use family to talk about language. There’s good reason we call it our ‘mother tongue’. Most of us, most of the time, reason and think with words, and so a particular language contributes to a person’s — and a nation’s — worldview. The question isn’t ‘Can we be “Sovermian” without our Devra language?’ The real question is ‘Can we be more Sovermian with it?'”
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1 A TASTE of DEVRA
2 A SECOND LOOK
1 A TASTE of DEVRA
Learners of Devra are often surprised at the progress they can make when they set about acquiring even a little of our language. Sovermians will typically delight in your interest, welcome the courtesy of your effort, and encourage you to learn more. Ready for a whirlwind tour?!
As a linguistic “cousin” of English (both are Indo-European languages), Devra shares a “family resemblance,” and common words like numbers should feel familiar, especially if you’ve studied another European language. Here are the Devra numbers from one to ten, in their +ei adjective form:
oinei: one [OY-nay]
dvei: two [dway]
trei: three [tray]
kvetrei: four [KWEH-tray]
penkvei: five [PEN-kway]
seksei: six [SEK-say]
septei: seven [SEP-tay]
oktei: eight [OHK-tay]
novei: nine [NOH-vay]
dekei: ten [DEH-kay]
CONSISTENT PRONUNCIATION and GRAMMAR
Two features of Devra that make it easier to use and to master are its consistent pronunciation and its highly regular grammar.
NOTE: IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols are supplied below for vowels, for those who find such unambiguous notation useful. Otherwise, a rough “approximate pronunciation” is given in brackets (with capital letters to indicate stressed syllables), meant to be mostly intuitive for English speakers.
a = ah as in father [IPA ɑ]; e = eh as in bed [IPA ɛ]; i = ee as in machine [IPA i]; o = oh as in hotel [IPA o]; u = oo as in moon [IPA u].
b, d, f, k, l, m, n, p, t largely as in English.
g always as in get; j always like y in yet; r rolled or trilled [IPA ɾ]; s always as in sea; z always as in zoo.
v like English w after consonants, in words like the following:
kva [kwah] what?
svopit [SWOH-peet] s/he sleeps
dongva [DOHN-gwah] language; tongue
Like English v between vowels and elsewhere:
vidavo [vee-DAH-voh] I saw
kevrei [KEH-vray] north
All words are regularly* stressed on the penultimate, the next-to-last syllable:
gima [GHEE-mah] winter
Sovermja [soh-VEHR-myah] Sovermia
gignavomes [gee-gnah-VOH-mehs] we knew
interesontei [een-teh-reh-SOHN-tay] interesting
pretisolavortontei [preh-tee-soh-lah-vohr-TOHN-tay] counterclockwise
*Devra slang sometimes violates this rule, as slang often violates rules in most languages.
Devra shares hundreds of word roots with English, because both languages draw heavily from their Proto-Indo-European origins, and through descendant languages Greek and Latin via borrowing. Some examples:
vid-: see (video, evident, vision, etc.)
gent-: be born (generate, genesis, progenitor, etc.)
gign-: know (gnostic, cognizant, etc.)
ed-: eat (edible, etc.)
kerd-: heart (cardio-; cordial, etc.)
pod-: foot (podium, podiatrist, pedal, pedestal, etc.)
bratr-: brother (fraternal, etc.)
nav-: boat (navigate, navy, etc.)
dom-: house (domestic)
Devra nouns all end in +a, so from the roots above, Devra forms the following nouns: vida sight; genta birth; gigna knowing; eda eating; kerda heart; poda foot; bratra brother; nava boat; doma house
Add +s to form the plural, using the nouns with the numbers above: oinei kerda one heart; trei bratras three brothers; dvei podas two feet; kvetrei gentas four births and so on.
Preko. Please. (Lit., “I ask.”)
Gin vei ansa. Please. (Lit., “Of your kindness.”)
Kentei gurtas. Thanks very much. (Lit., “A hundred thanks.”)
Vokvis Devra? Do you speak Devra?
Povu vokvo. I speak a little.
2 A SECOND LOOK
In this section we will take a second and deeper look at Devra. Example sentences, grammar points and a foundational vocabulary of approximately 100 words can help you to acquire a basic understanding of our language.
dirvei intelligent; ejei this; golei cold; gurmei hot; interesontei interesting; junei young; kulkei what kind/sort?; meglei big; mei my; mengei much, many; minvei small; nevei new; povei little, few; sei his, her; senekei old; skunei attractive; solvei all, each, every; suvei good; tojei that; vei your
All Devra adjectives end in +ei and in noun phrases usually precede the nouns they describe: dirvei putla intelligent child; mengei argenta much money; senekei nera old man.
Kulkei what sort/kind? asks for an adjective answer:
Sa sit kulkei ludja? What kind of person is s/he?
Sa sit dirvei ir interesontei ludja. S/he’s an intelligent and interesting person.
Note Devra word order: question words occupy the same position as their answers. That means that new info often comes at the sentence end.
argenta money; silver; bratra brother; dina day; doma house, home; guna woman; ja that, who; kja who?; kva what?; ludja person; nera man; nomena name; ora hour; prija friend; putla child; susra sister; troba town; vetsa year.
All Devra nouns end in +a and form plurals with +s.
oinei vetsa one year
penkvei vetsas five years
This includes words classed as pronouns in English but as nouns in Devra:
ma I, me; mas we, us
va you (singular); vas you (plural)
sa he, him; she, her; it; sas they, them
Kva “what?” and kja “who?” ask for noun answers.
Vei nomena sit kva? “What’s your name?”
Mei nomena sit Dalva. “My name is Dalva.”
Tojei nera sit kja? “Who is that man?”
Tojei (sit) mei bratra. “That’s my brother.”
Ja forms relative clauses – sentences describing a noun, inside larger sentences:
Tojei sit ludja ja bovit un troba. “That’s a person who lives in town.”
Vidavo nera ja vokvavit don va. “I saw the man who spoke to you.”
Gigno ludja ja sei doma sit un tojei troba. “I know a person whose house is in the town.”
Note the grammar of the last example above: literally, the sentence reads “I know person that his/her house is in that town”. Here, ja sei = “whose”. Here and in the example below, Devra deploys a resumptive pronoun:
Tojei sit doma ja bovit non sa. “This is the house that s/he lives in it.” This is the house where he lives.
bovit “dwell, reside”; donit “give”; edit “eat”; gignit “know”; gumit “come”; itit “go”; kurit “do, make”; mentit “think”; mogit “can, is able”; pibit “drink”; prinit “please”; sit “be”; vidit “see”; vokvit “say, speak, tell”; vonit “will, want.”
NOTE: The form of verbs as they are listed above, and in dictionaries, etc., also called their citation form, is always the third-person singular, ending in +it.
Verbs end in one of 7 person-suffixes: +o, +is, +it; +omes, +ete, +ot; +e:
Vono udor. “I want water.”
Itis. “You go.”
Vidit sei prija. “S/he sees her/his friend.”
Gumavomes gisu. “We came yesterday.”
Gignete sa? “Do you know him/her?”
Prokavot mengei prokas. “They asked a lot of questions.”
Itage ma! “Send me!”
Rather than a separate infinitive, Devra uses the conjunction ker “that” together with a second clause and a finite verb:
Mogo ker dono eda don va. “I can give food to you.” Lit., “I can that I give food to you.”
Vokvavo ker itis. “I told you to go.” Lit., “I said that you go.”
Vokvavo don va ker itis. Lit., “I said to you that you go.”
Vono ker vido troba. “I want to see the town.” Lit., “I want that I see the town.”
Past tense +av+: vidavo “I saw, have seen”; future tense +is+: vidiso “I will see.”
Suffixes +ont+ei and +en+ei form participles: vidontei “seeing”; videnei “seen.”
[Less common, and more frequent in written Devra, is the past active participle in +usei: Vidusei tojei doma, anugumavit don polja. “Having seen the house, he returned to the city”.]
an “hey”; apan “after”; delen “for”; don “to”; dun “during”; gin “of”; giren “without”; kon “with”; nuden “using, with”; perin “about, around”; pon “from”; pron “before”; ran “because of”; terkun “through, by”; un “at”; upren “over, above.”
Prepositions always (a) end in +n, and (b) appear together with nouns, forming phrases of 2 or more elements:
ran golei dinas “because of cold days”
dun nokta “during the night”
perin mei prija “about my friend”
Note an, classed with prepositions because of how it functions, and used for direct address when speaking to another person (rather than about another person):
Sudina, an Katja. “Hello, Katja.”
An Tomasa, don va sit argenta? “Tomas, do you have any money?”
Unlike English, which can show indirect objects with word order, placing them before direct objects, Devra always needs the preposition don “to”:
Donavo argenta don va. “I gave money to you.” “I gave you money.”
Don va sot bratras vor susras? “Do you have brothers or sisters?” Lit., “To you are brothers or sisters?”
Note, as above, that Devra usually expresses English “have” with don + sit:
Don sa sit skunei doma un troba. “S/he has a pretty house in town.”
Note this Devra idiom (also with don + sit) is used to express ages:
Don ma sot trodekodvei vetsas. “I’m thirty-two years old.” (Lit., To me are 32 years.)
edinu “today”; enoktu “tonight”; estu “here”; itmu “most”; gisu “yesterday”; kudu “when?”; kustu “where”; mengu “much, very”; mengodu “often”; moksu “soon”; nenu “no, not”; otru “more, quite”; povu “little”; solvodu “often”; teru “very”; todu “then.”
Adverbs always end in +u and usually precede the verbs, adjectives and adverbs they describe, unless they appear elsewhere for emphasis (or in poetry for meter and rhythm):
Edinu sit teru gurmei. “Today it’s very warm.”
Bovis kustu? “Where do you live?”
Tojei ludja itmu dirvu vokvavit. “That person spoke most intelligently.”
Unlike English, Devra may use multiple negatives in a sentence for emphasis — they accumulate force, rather than canceling each other out:
Tostu nenu vidavo nenoja. “I didn’t see anybody there.” Lit., “There not I-saw nobody.”
Nenu sit don ma noina. “I don’t have any.” Lit., “Not is to me none.”
apanker “after”; delenker “so that, in order that”; dunker “while”; girenker “unless”; ir “and”; ker “that”; mar “but, however”; pronker “before”; ranker “because”; sir “if”; vor “or.”
All Devra conjunctions end in +r and link words, phrases and sentences:
ma vor va “I or you”
un vorga ir un doma “at work and at home”
Dunker vorgavis svopavo “While you worked, I slept.”
Vorgavo delenker mogomes ker gvivomes. “I worked so that we could live.”
13 ENDINGS, 10 SUFFIXES
Devra has 13 word endings: adjective +ei; noun +a and +s; verb +o, +is, +it, +omes, +ete, +ot, +e; preposition +n; adverb +u; conjunction +r.
It also uses suffixes to derive new words. Here are the 10 most common: +ag+, +avn+, +en+, +etr+, +im+, +o+, +ont+, +ost+, +uk+, +un+.
+ag+ makes causative verbs from nouns, adjectives and other verbs: prija “friend”; prijagit “befriends, makes a friend”; gurmei “warm, hot”; gurmagit “warms up, heats something”; mogit “is able, can”; mogagit “makes able, enables, empowers.”
+avn+ei resembles English “-less”: nomena “name”; nomenavnei “nameless”; argenta “money”; argentavnei “broke; without money.”
+en+ei makes past participles: vido “I see” vid+en+ei “seen”; vokvis “you say, speak”; vokv+en+ei “said, spoken.”
+etr+a forms instruments or tools: gurm+ag+etr+a “heater.”
+im+ei forms ordinals: oinei “one”; oinimei “first.”
+o+ forms compounds & is common with numbers (see below): dvei “2”; dekei “10”; dvodekei “20.”
+ont+ei forms present participles: vokvit “speaks”; vokvontei “speaking”; gignit “knows” gignontei “knowing.”
+ost+a forms abstract nouns: dirvei “intelligent”; dirvosta “intelligence.”
+uk+a forms nouns from verbs, adj. & nouns: vokvit “speak”; vokvuka “speaker”; golei “cool, cold”: goluka “cold person”; troba “town, village”; trobuka “town dweller, townsman.”
+un+ forms verbs from adjective & nouns: gurmei “warm, hot”; gurmunit “warms up”; nera “man”; nerunit “becomes a man”; dina “day”; dinunit “dawns, becomes day.”
NUMBERS above TEN
Devra forms numbers above 10 by compounding, sometimes using the compounding suffix +o+. Here are 11-19: dekoinei, dekodvei, dektrei, dekkvetrei, dekpenkvei, dekseksei, dekseptei, dekoktei, deknovei.
And 20-90: dvodekei, trodekei, kve(tro)dekei, pen(kvo)dekei, seksodekei, septodekei, oktodekei, novodekei.
Here are kentei “100” and geslei “1000”:
Ejei vetsa sit dvogeslodekoktei. “This year is 2018”.
Don konserta sot kvetrokentei klusontas. “At the concert there were four hundred in the audience”.
Ordinals have the suffix +im+ei:
oinei “one”; oinimei “first”; dekei “ten”; dekimei “tenth.”
GREETINGS and COMMON EXPRESSIONS
Here are some of the more frequent Devra expressions you may hear:
Suvei dina/Sudina. “Hello.” (Lit., “Good day.”)
Ir don va (sudina). “And to you (good day).”
Ola. Edavis? “Hi. Have you eaten?”
(Nenu) edavo. “I have(n’t) eaten.” (Depending on how well the people know each other, the hour, and the frankness of the answer, a snack or full meal may soon follow.)
You may also hear the following, especially from older people:
Edinu (sit) don va kva? “How are you?”(Lit., “Today is to you what?”)
(Sit) don ma ker dina berit sa. “Whatever the day brings.” (Lit., “It is to me that the day carries it.”)
Don (masei) anuvida. “Goodbye.” (Lit., “To (our) seeing again.”)
Devra expressions for goodbye often depend on who is leaving and who is staying.
To the person leaving, using it– “go”:
Ker itis suvu. “Goodbye.” (Lit., “May you go well.”)
To the person remaining, using mon– “remain”:
Ker monis suvu. Goodbye. (Lit., “May you remain well.”)
A Publication of
the Sovermian Ministry of Culture
Brochures of this material in PDF format for easy printing are available on request — visit the Kontakta–Contact page to request one.