Ithkuil: A Philosophical Design for a Hypothetical Language




Home   Introduction 4 Case Morphology 8 Adjuncts 12 The Number System
FAQs   1 Phonology 5 Verb Morphology 9 Syntax List of Abbreviations
Links of Interest   2 Morpho-Phonology 6 More Verb Morphology 10 Lexico-Semantics The Lexicon
Updates / News   3 Basic Morphology 7 Suffixes 11 The Writing System Texts


Updates / News

Cover of Ithkuil Grammar book


For those who would like a copy of the Ithkuil Grammar
in book form, it is now available!

And while you’re at it, you can check out the novel I co-
with my twin brother Paul, also now available!

(It’s a political thriller/science fiction story that explores the
philosophical implications of quantum physics, and features
Ithkuil as a “para-linguistic” interface to a quantum computer.)

Cover of "Beyond Antimony" by John & Paul Quijada


November 23, 2011




Paul Elaku just advised me that my system for using the SSD suffix with the carrier stem won't work, since it is highly unlikely that a hypothetical Ithkuil listener would be able to aurally parse the foreign words/phrase to know how many words it contains (i.e., s/he would be unable to know where the non-Ithkuil words stop and the words "go back to being Ithkuil words.") Duh! Therefore, I have now modified and simplified the rule in Sec. 9.3.1. Note, also, that it in written Ithkuil, the triple-dot "quotation marks" already indicate the end of the non-Ithkuil word/phrase so it is unnecessary to otherwise represent it in writing. (That's why it was unnecessary to modify the title masthead on these pages to show the SSD suffix.)


November 22, 2011





Amended Section 9.3.1 regarding use of the SSD suffix with the carrier stem to address non-Ithkuil proper nouns, words, or phrases that are more than one word in length.

Added new Section 10.6.4 to address the equivalents to WH-questions.

Added new Sections 6.4.3 and 7.4.15 to the grammar, explaining the expansion of Format to include the ability of an incorporated root to be associated with any of the 72 main noun cases.


November 21, 2011


Made corrections to the interlinear analysis of the Babel Text, as pointed out by Jacob from the Facebook group.

Paul Elaku is inquiring as to how Ithkuil handles WH-questions, e.g., who? what? when? why?, etc. The Ithkuil equivalents are not structured as questions using INTERROGATIVE illocution, but rather as statements using DIRECTIVE illocution. Thus, in Ithkuil, one does not ask "What is your name?" "What time is it?" "Where is the toilet?" "Who is that woman?" "Which clown was caught stealing?" Instead, an Ithkuil speaker would say "Please tell me your name," "Please indicate the time of day," "Indicate the location of the toilet," "Please identify that woman," and "Identify the [individual] clown [from the group of clowns] who was caught stealing."


November 17, 2011



Added the first four sentences of the Babel Text to the Texts page.

Flo Bauer pointed out another error in the first Sec. 5.4.3 example. Somehow the first case-frame was in PURPOSIVE case instead of POSTCURSIVE case. Not sure how that happened. Oh, well....corrected now.


November 9, 2011

Paul Elaku at the community pointed out a big error with the suffixes in the first example in Sec. 5.4.3, which I've now corrected. (One of those instances of me creating an early example of the new version of the language, then forgetting to modify it after I made additional last-minute revisions.)

Also: I noticed the "extreme" verb example shown at the beginning of Chapters 5 and 6 is inflected for a non-OBLIQUE case-frame but is in UNFRAMED relation, which makes no sense. I have corrected it to FRAMED relation.


November 8, 2011



Anton on Facebook correctly pointed out that I forgot FUNCTIONAL context and FORMAL designation in my simplified version of the word for "computer." That got me to thinking. Technically, there's no reason conceptually that a computer has to function electronically (it just so happens that they do). After all, some of you may recall Babbadge's Engines. Therefore, I think the simplified version of the word doesn't really need the MEC1/5 affix. That leaves the form of the word as âdraxhtipší“apparatus designed for running programs.”

As for a word for "Internet," looks like Flo and Anton from the Facebook community rose to the challenge. Flo suggests eqaškonîškatu analyzed below:

  • eq - Human, Person; P1S2 'higher order animal life'
    a - OBL Case
    šk - COMPOSITE configuration: -> A mass/unit of people
    on - AGC1/7 suffix "one enables to"
    îšk - DPR1/4 suffix " not physically connected but with immediate accessibility and ...knowledge of other member actions" - so now we know what kind of "unit" of people this is and that the word is the enablement of such.
    at - MEC1/5 - means of electronic binary switching
    u - AMG, adding that it has a big social impact

I really like his use of the DPR1/4 suffix here; I doubt I would've thought of that. Two small corrections to his analysis: The idea of enablement is given by the AGC1 affix in Degree 2, not Degree 7, thus -ön, not -on. Also: the MEC1/5 suffix only indicates “by electronic means” -- if you want to specify binary switching, you'd have to drag in the incorporated root -šp- (P3S1 FML) as I did below in the full version for the word "computer." (I don't think it's necessary.) And for easier pronunciation, I'd change the order of his suffixes. The end result being: eqaškönatîšku.

Anton's suggestion is âdraxhtipšatekšarqú, which takes the word for "computer" and adds on the DRC1/3 and SPS1/5 suffixes plus AMALGAMATIVE context to give a word meaning “an indirect 2nd-order level of computer-based infrastructure with strong social impact/ramifications.” Interesting how Flo sees the Internet as a network of people through electronic means with big social impact, whereas Anton sees it as a network of computers with big social impact. What's even more interesting is that I, myself, was thinking along a third line of reasoning, focused neither on people nor computers, but rather on information. But I think I'll stick to the above two words.

Both are great efforts. I'd go with Flo's suggestion for contexts focusing on what the Internet is for and how each of us is part of it, whereas Anton's word seems appropriate when focusing on how it works or is structured.

Added the missing -rn- suffix (alternative suffix forms of the Phase categories) to Chapter 7


November 7, 2011


I have amended Section to clarify that syllabic consonants count as full syllables for purposes of applying stress rules. Corrected additional errors. Began adding revised sound files back to where they had been previously removed for correction.

THE ITHKUIL WORD FOR “COMPUTER”: The administrator of the Ithkuil page at (the Russian-speaking world's answer to Facebook) contacted me puzzling over how to create the Ithkuil words for "computer" and "internet." In answer, I've now created a word for "computer" -- a very interesting exercise. There are two versions of the word, the full-length version, and a simplified version. The full version is âšpeudraxhtipšatúi while the simplified version is âdraxhtipšat. The analysis is below:

â - šp - eu - dr - a - xht -ipš - at - úi
P3S1/STA - inc.root:P1S3.FML='binary.switching' - stem:'follow/obey.rule' - OBL - NRM/DEL/U/COA/CST - UTE1/1 - MEC1/5 - ISR/FNC/FML
“apparatus designed for running programs [literally: 'obeying synergistically composite sets of rules'] by means of eletronic binary switching”

The simplified version âdraxhtipšat means “apparatus designed for running programs electronically” which is probably more usable than the full version. [NOTE: This form is not correct - see entry for November 8th above.]

Now I need a word for "Internet." That should put the morphology, suffixes and lexicon through their paces, eh? Anyone wanna give it a try before I take a crack at it? (Hmm, new root needed, maybe?)


November 4, 2011


Continued to correct various errors pointed out by the Facebook gang. (Note: some of the errors involve a choice as to how to correct them -- I don't always go along with the correction suggested.)

I have amended the second note under the fourth paragraph in Sec. 5.5 (above Table 11) to ensure that Cs Phase-Sanction-Illocution forms and Cg Validation forms do not become ambiguous in certain instances.

I have added a paragraph to Sec. 8.1.3, following Table 34, clarifying the order in which tones are combined in dual-referent personal reference adjuncts.


November 3, 2011


I've begun correcting several errors in example sentences pointed out on Facebook in the three weeks I've been away, (although not all of the items being pointed out are, in fact, errors). I will continue making corrections over the next few days.

By the way, I appreciate the eagle eyes of those few on the Facebook page who bother to take the time to so scrupulously check my work. After creating this revision of Ithkuil over the last couple of years, my enthusiasm lagged when it came time to create (or re-create) all the example phrases and sentences. The results were obviously hurried and sloppy in many instances. The fact that I made a few last-minute changes to the morpho-phonology and the script after I'd already created several examples obviously hasn't helped either.

Note: The brief epenthetic vowel following a glottal stop described in Section does not count for purposes of antepenultimate or pre-antepenultimate syllabic stress. The rules for syllabic stress operate at the phonemic level, not the phonetic level.


October 18, 2011








Lexicon: Fixed errors in the meanings of the complementary stems of the roots -Ļ- ‘BREATHE/RESPIRATION’ and -RXh- ‘COMPONENT OF NERVOUS SYSTEM’.

I just realized that nowhere in Chapter 2 do I indicate that the Slot VII root consonant form Cr cannot be a glottal stop nor those consonant forms that are the same as CG forms (from Slot III) or Ci forms (from Slot IX), i.e., -w-, -y-, -h-, -hw-, -hr-, -hh-, -hn-, -hm-, -lw-, -ly-, -rw-, -ry-, -řw-, -řy-. Don't know how I could've failed to state something so basic that, without it, the entire morpho-phonological formula for formatives (Sec. 2.1.1) falls apart. I've amended Table 3 (in Section 2.1.1) and Section 2.2.1 accordingly.

Prior to the end of 2012, I plan to divide the Lexicon into two different versions: (1) the existing alphabetical listing, and (2) a listing of roots by topics, which will group semantically-related roots together.

Next updates will not be until November.


October 14, 2011:



To those persons who are attempting to memorize all 1728 forms of the Ca affix from Tables 5(a) through 5(l) in Section 3.5.3: You might find it helpful to review the alternate means of showing Extension explained in Section 6.3.5 via tone on a verbal adjunct (use a neutral default verbal adjunct an-n if you have to). In this way, you only have to memorize 288 forms of the Ca affix (the NRM and RPV forms of the DELIMITIVE extension) instead of the full 1728 forms. Just a suggestion.


October 13, 2011:


In anticipation of the forthcoming print-version of the Ithkuil grammar, I have modified the copyright terms listed at the bottom of each page of this website, making them more specific.


October 11, 2011:




Resolved the issue of duplicate stems -SP- and -SK’-. The latter root has been eliminated, and the examples on the Texts page which had utilized that root (involving formulas of thanks/gratitude) have been changed to utilize the -SP- root instead.

To the Facebook poster wondering why the native name of the language still carries a circumflex accent over the last vowel -- see Sec.


October 5, 2011:


Corrected the root for the ‘prepared food’ example in Section 5.1.5. Made several additional corrections of various small typos/errors, as well as some Ithkuil script transcription errors found by the astute folks on Facebook.


October 3, 2011:




Various additional typos and errors pointed out by the Facebook gang have been corrected.

I have introduced four new roots to the lexicon relating to the atomic and subatomic world as well as the fundamental forces, including electromagnetism and gravity. The four new roots are -KTh-, -ŇKY-, -TXh-, and -KSS-.

Additionally, I have added two new suffixes to the list of derivational suffixes in Chapter 7: The PLV and MLR suffixes. The former suffix operates closely in conjunction with the four new roots above.

During 2012, I plan to add new entries to the lexicon on a more frequent basis.

Also: Upon closer analysis, I've determined that -K- and -- are not, in fact, duplicate roots. I have clarified the distinction between them in the lexicon as well as in the interlinear analysis of the fifth example from Sec. 4.5.33.


Sept. 21, 2011:







I managed to sneak some time from my vacation to make an update. I have made numerous corrections pointed out by the Facebook gang. A few remain to be fixed. The most important corrections are as follows:

Corrections made to several values in Tables 5(d), 5(k) and 5(L) in Chapter 3, Section 3.5.3. (I don't think any example sentences are affected, are there?)

Additional information added to Section on how to indicate high-toned personal reference adjuncts in the writing system.

Example sentences in Sections 3.5.4, 4.5.33, and 6.4.2 corrected.

Correction made to one of the values in Table 11(f), Section 5.5.


Sept. 2, 2011:


I will be away for the rest of September and will likely be unable to make any updates to the site until October.

I've also just discovered a duplicate root in the lexicon: -K- and --, both meaning ‘PATH-ORIENTED TRANSLATIVE MOTION’. I will need to eliminate one of them, but first must determine how many example sentences using one of these two roots will need to be changed. Unfortunately, I will likely not have time to do this until October. Until then!


Sept. 1, 2011:








Table 5(i) in Chapter 3: Corrected the RPV/ICP/M/CSL/CST affix to -ļtl-.

As for yesterday's correction, yes, the value should be -ndv- not -nv-, as both /m/ and /n/ allophonically assimilate to a labio-dental nasal (IPA [] ) before /v/ for most speakers (including yours truly), except in hyper-enunciated speech.

IMPORTANT: I am planning a big addition to the grammar of the language. There will be a whole new set of suffixes added to Chapter 7 that will greatly expand the category of Format (see Sec. 6.4) for use with incorporated stems. These new suffixes will essentially be entirely new formats. Many, if not all of them, will correspond to noun cases, so that a great many new kinds of relationships will be available between a primary stem and its incorporated stem. In many instances, these will allow for single-word substitutes for noun-to-noun case relationships. At this stage, I have only considered the idea conceptually; I have not yet mapped out the specific relationships nor assigned any morpho-phonological values to these suffixes. I anticipate I will be adding these to the website sometime in late 2011 or early 2012. The eventual update will include many new examples added to Section 6.4 on Format.


August 31, 2011:


In Table 5(b) in Chapter 3, corrected the value of the NRM/PRX/N/VAR/COH Ca affix from -mv- to -ndv-, plus a few other minor errors. Thanks, Anton!


August 30, 2011:







Florian's critique of my Litany Against Fear translation has caused me to rethink the translation and make some changes. I have modified lines 2 and 3 to indicate ALLEGATIVE sanction. Also, I now realize the future tense used in Lines 6 and 8 in the English original implies intentionality rather than mere future time; it should therefore be translated by INTENTIVE modality (or the suffixed equivalent) rather than PROSPECTIVE aspect. And in Line 7, this use of English 'will' rises beyond intentionality to the level of a declarative statement, i.e., the speaker is willing the statement to be true, thus corresponding to DECLARATIVE illocution. Finally, while fear is spoken of as an abstract entity in Lines 2 and 3, it is personalized as the speaker's own feelings of fear in Lines 4 through 7 and should not, therefore, be expressed using ABSTRACT perspective or ABSTRACT personal reference, but MONADIC perspective and MONADIC inanimate personal reference. On the Texts page, I have now shown these modifications to the original translation in green. I have also added literal English reverse-translations of the Ithkuil version.

Corrected the Vc+Cz values of the last six cases in Table 28 in Chapter 8.


August 26, 2011:







Well, as it turns out, I decided on the straightforward approach to the vocative -- I've made it a new noun case. You'll now find it described in new Section 4.8. While I was at it, I eliminated the DEFERENTIAL case and merged its function with the BENEFACTIVE case, so there are still a total of 96 cases. The Vc infix for the new VOCATIVE case is -ë-. I have updated Table 7 in Chapter 4 to reflect these changes, as well as the first line of the Lord's Prayer on the Texts page.

As for the Vc and Vc+Cz forms used with personal reference adjuncts (see Sec. 8.1.2), I did some switching around. I changed the Vc and Vc+Cz values of the CONCESSIVE case to those of the now-obsolete DEFERENTIAL case, and have assigned the former values of the CONCESSIVE case to the new VOCATIVE case. The new values for the CONCESSIVE and VOCATIVE cases can be seen in Table 28 in Chapter 8.

The tables of primary and secondary case/aspect written characters in Chapter 11 have also been updated to reflect these changes.


August 24, 2011:






Florian from the Facebook group is attempting a translation of Schleicher's Fable, which involves conveying indirect speech. Ithkuil handles indirect speech, as well as direct quotations in the same way, via case frame. In most cases this would be the OBLIQUE case-frame, considering the statement's semantic role as CONTENT of the verb 'speak/say', as in 'He said X,' where X is obviously not a semantic patient, enabler, experiencer, agent, stimulus, etc., but merely the non-causal content associated with the verb.

Flo is also looking for a root for "thing" (looking at the fable I'm not sure why he needs such a stem, but it's his translation...). At any rate, I don't have the stems from the root "TANGIBLE OBJECT/THING/SUBSTANCE" worked out yet, although almost certainly Informal Pattern 1, Stem 1 of the root will simply mean "tangible object/thing; be/exist as a tangible object/thing." The root will most likely be --. Or, in the meantime you could always use Pattern 1, Stem 1 of the root -C-, as a nominal formative (translation: "something that exists").

As for the vocative, I'm still toying with whether to make it a suffix, a case form, or a Slot IX Ci+Vi form (i.e., a new illocution like the DECLARATIVE, available only in FACTUAL mood). I'm leaning toward the latter solution.


August 22, 2011:



Finished adding the Litany Against Fear to the Texts page.

Corrected a few more errata pointed out by the Facebook gang.


August 19, 2011:




Began adding to the Texts page the Ithkuil translation and interlinear analysis of the Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Added the script analysis example to Section 11.1.5.

Corrected the written form of the example phrase at the beginning of Chapter 5.


August 18, 2011:


Corrected a few more errors listed on the Facebook/Ithkuil site.


August 17, 2011:


Added the handwritten forms of the Ithkuil script to Section 11.5.

Corrected various errata pointed out by the folks on the Ithkuil Facebook page. Thanks guys! Nice to know there's someone more attentive to details than I am.

As for ordering of the days of the week, Ithkuil grammar arbitrarily chooses to follow the pattern of most Western European cultures in calling Sunday the first day of the week, e.g., Portuguese segunda-feira 'Monday,' terça-feira 'Tuesday' -- literally 'second-day,' 'third-day.' And in the 'on Sundays' example from Section 4.6.16, the Configuration could also be SEGMENTATIVE if you want to emphasize that the recurring Sundays are subjectively connected to each other (e.g., by the same activities or purpose or interdependency, such as when each Sunday's events/activities are dependent on the preceding Sunday's events/acitivities and likewise form the basis/foundation for the following Sunday's events/activities.)


August 16, 2011:





Added the new CAL suffix to Section 7.4.5 to address the issue of names of the days of the week and months of the year. As a result, the 'on Sundays' example in Section 4.6.16 has been modified. Also changed the meaning of the FORMAL stems of the root -Ż- to refer to calendrical/cyclic days; the lexicon entry for this root has been expanded with various notes, including information on deriving the words for 'week' and 'month.'

On the Texts page, I modified my analysis of Line 7 of the Lord's Prayer in order to address in greater detail the erroneous form ^tuhekčéötöt’.


August 15, 2011:


Finished the analysis of the Lord's Prayer on the Texts page.


August 12, 2011:





An Ithkuil fan has posted his own Ithkuil translation of the Lord's Prayer on Facebook. Hooray! I have copied it to the Texts page and have added my own comments/analysis regarding it.

Made corrections to examples in Sections 5.7.15 and 5.9.1 where the values for the CPL and RCP valences were transposed.

I have begun preparing the handwritten forms of the Ithkuil script and will be posting them to Section 11.5 probably sometime next week.


August 11, 2011:


A few paragraphs on Ithkuil equivalents to placenames, ethnonymns, and language names has been added to the end of Section 11.4.1.


August 9, 2011:






One of the Facebook members is apparently tackling an Ithkuil translation of the Lord's Prayer. Interesting! He'll need to review the new root I've just added: --. As for a word for 'sin', I think I'd use the root -VY- in Pattern 2, Stem 2, Formal Designation, in conjunction with the SIM2/1 suffix to give a word meaning more or less 'immoral act, moral transgression.'

Corrected various errors pointed out by Anton Sanarov: Sections, 5.4.1, 8.1.3, 10.1.2, and all of the variants of the 'She and I were planning on taking a walk later on" sentence from Chapters 5 and 6. Still one or two more to correct....

And I'm still thinking about the vocative....


August 8, 2011:




I've been peeking at posts on Facebook's Ithkuil community. Looks like some of the members there have been hard at work (best of luck!). They have pointed out various errata (for which I'm grateful and will be correcting over the next few days) and have raised some good questions which I will address in the grammar soon, including the thorny issue of an Ithkuil equivalent to a vocative form (which I've always somehow managed to avoid dealing with ... [sigh]).


August 3, 2011:


Corrected an error in Section 6.1.31 and made a few minor edits to Chapter 6.


August 2, 2011:




Corrected an error in the fourth example sentence from Section 5.7.15 and added a clarifying paragraph to Section 6.2.3 below Table 17 regarding the value of the Ve Level infix in Slot B of a verbal adjunct when there is no Level but the presence of Ve is required by the presence of a CL Valence prefix in Slot A.

Populated the greetings/salutations section of the “Texts” page.


August 1, 2011:


Added sound files to “Texts” page.


July 29, 2011:


Made some small edits and corrections to Chapters 4 and 5.


July 27, 2011:


Oops! Forgot about the sound files for the “Texts” page. I'll record those this coming weekend.


July 26, 2011:


Made some small edits and corrections to Chapters 1, 2, and 3.


July 25, 2011:





Finished adding sound files to the site.

Added placeholder section in the “Texts” chapter pertaining to greetings and other conversational elements.

Corrected two errors in Table 35 and one error in Table 43 in Chapter 11.

NOTE: A video of my May 2011 Ithkuil slideshow presentation in Kyiv, Ukraine, has recently appeared online. Viewers should be aware that at the time of that slideshow, the new Ithkuil writing system had not yet been finalized, and that the written forms of the phrases and sentences shown in the slideshow have since changed.


July 21, 2011:


Added IPT suffix to Chapter 7. Added all sound files through Chapter 4.


July 20, 2011:




Placeholder sections 11.5 and 11.6 added to Chapter 11, for the eventual posting of the handwritten forms of the Ithkuil written characters and description of the yet-to-be-developed adaptation of the 2-dimensional ornamental script from the now-defunct Ilaksh website.

Corrected the pronunciation table in the Phonology chapter regarding the value of the xh-digraph.


July 18, 2011:





Began placing sound files for new site into production. Will continue to do so over the course of the week.

Added new "Updates / News" page and links.

Added new Section to the Phonology chapter regarding separation of diphthongs into separate syllables.

Amended Section to address tri-consonantal and tetra-consonantal stems that cannot be written using a single consonantal character.


July 15, 2011:


New version of website placed in production; old Ithkuil site plus Ilaksh site withdrawn.



Regarding the Ilaksh script:

For those persons who are wondering about the fate of the experimental 2-dimensional non-linear writing system used for the now obsolete Ilaksh language, it is my intention to eventually adapt it to the new verson of Ithkuil for use as an alternative ornamental/artistic writing system. I anticipate doing this sometime in the next couple of years. For those new visitors unfamilar with the Ilaksh writing system that was, here is a sample:

Regarding the name “Ithkuil”:

Astute readers familiar with the previous version of the language may have figured out that the name Ithkuil, which was an anglicized form of a word in the old version of the language meaning “hypothetical representation of a language” would no longer have the same meaning in the new version of the language. I have nevertheless decided to keep the name for continuity’s sake, given the more-or-less established notoriety of the name at this point.

At any rate, the word still has a meaning which is somewhat applicable in the new version of the language, albeit in a whimsical sense. If necessary, the name can now be considered to be a shortening of the Ithkuil phrase laxhtud íţkuîl meaning ‘inundated with/overwhelmed by language due to [having made] three of them,’ referring to my mentally numb state after creating the third (and hopefully last) version of the language.

Incidentally, I notice that someone on the Russian-language Ithkuil LiveJournal page has already figured out that the “correct” translation of the old word iţkuîl into the new form of the language would be elartkha. It should be noted, however, that that is NOT the name of the new version of the language, but merely the Ithkuil word meaning “hypothetical representation of a language.”






Home   Introduction 4 Case Morphology 8 Adjuncts 12 The Number System
FAQs   1 Phonology 5 Verb Morphology 9 Syntax List of Abbreviations
Links of Interest   2 Morpho-Phonology 6 More Verb Morphology 10 Lexico-Semantics The Lexicon
Updates / News   3 Basic Morphology 7 Suffixes 11 The Writing System Texts

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