Láadan/Láadan Grammar Reference

Letters in Láadan Edit

Letter Pronunciation IPA
a father /ɑ/
e bell /ɛ/
i big /ɪ/
o hope /o/
u moon /u/
th think /θ/
zh pleasure /ʒ/
sh shine /ʃ/
lh - /ɬ/
b aback /b/
d dream /d/
h high /h/
l wealth /l/
m him /m/
n month /n/
r red /ɹ/
w weep /w/
y you /j/


A. Words cannot end with the letters "h", "w", or "y".

B. Split up double-consonants with the letter "e".

Example: hesh = grass, hoth = place, hesh+e+hoth = heshehoth = park.

C. Split up double-vowels with the same accents with the letter "h".

Example: ra = not, en = understand, ra+h+en = rahen = misunderstand

D. Two vowels next to each other are only allowed if one of them is accented.

Example: Láadan, Aáláan

Accented Vowels Edit

A letter with an accent mark gets pronounced with a slightly higher pitch, and slightly more emphasis.

  • Low tone – Example, /lō/ or /lò/
  • High tone – Example, /ló/

With two vowels side-by-side, there can be an accent on the first vowel or the second vowel. These have different sounds:

  • Loó – /lǒː/
  • Lóo – /lôː/

Pronouns Edit

Pronouns can be neutral, though if a gender is assumed it is generally feminine.

Voice Singular Plural, 2 to 5 Plural, 6 or more
First Person ("I") Le Lezh Len
Second Person ("You") Ne Nezh Nen
Third Person ("He", "She") Be Bezh Ben

Beloved, honored, or despised Edit

You can change the pronouns to match some feeling about who you're talking about:

  • Beloved - change the "e" vowel with "a". la, lazh, lan, ba, bazh, ban, na, nazh, nan
  • Honored - change the "e" vowel with "i". li, lizh, lin, bi, bizh, bin, ni, nizh, nin
  • Despised - add "lhe-" to the beginning. lhele, lhelezh, lhelen, lhebe, lhebezh, lheben, lhene, lhenezh, lhenen

Speech Act Morpheme Edit

At the beginning of a phrase, a sentence marker is added to indicate what kind of sentence it is.

Speech Act Morpheme Description
Bíi Indicates a declarative sentence (usually optional)
Báa Indicates a question
Indicates a command; very rare, except to small children
Bóo Indicates a request; this is the usual imperative/”command” form
Indicates a promise
Bée Indicates a warning

Extensions Edit

You can attach a suffix to each of these in order to further specify the speaker/writer's intentions:

Láadan Description
-(None) Said neutrally
-d Said in anger
-th Said in pain
-li Said in love
-lan Said in celebration
-da Said in jest
-de Said in narrative
-di Said in teaching
-du Said in poetry
-ya Said in fear

Evidence Morpheme Edit

An evidence marker is added to the end of a sentence. If there are several sentences strung together and context is clear, these can be omitted from additional sentences.

Evidence Morpheme Description
wa Known to speaker because perceived by speaker, externally or internally
wi Known to speaker because self-evident
we Perceived by speaker in a dream
wáa Assumed true by speaker because speaker trusts source
waá Assumed false by speaker because speaker distrusts source; if evil intent by the source is also assumed, the form is “waálh”
wo Imagined or invented by speaker, hypothetical
wóo Used to indicate that the speaker states a total lack of knowledge as to the validity of the matter

Content Words and Function Words Edit

Láadan does not have traditional verbs, nouns, and adjectives, as in English. There are two types of words: Content words, and Function words.

Most content words can be used as both verbs and nouns. (“Dance”, “Dancing”, would both be “Amedara”).

Verbs and adjectives are the same class of words. (“Red”, “To be red”, would both be “Laya”).

Identifier Case Edit

Láadan does not have a verb for “to be”, as in English. If you want to state [noun A] is [noun B], any verb will be left off and the subject and identifier will be used:

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi le with wa. I am a person. Bíi (I declare) le (I) with (person) wa (perceived by me).

Object Case Edit

Use the “-th” suffix to mark the object in a sentence.

An object is an item being acted on. In the sentence “I ate rice.” – Rice is the object. In Esperanto, this would be “Mi manĝas rizon”, where rice (rizo) has an object marker -n.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi ulanin le Láadaneth wa. I study Láadan. Bíi (I declare) ulanin (to study) le (I) Láadaneth (Láadan+object) wa (perceived by me).


  • If an act can only go one way (I can learn Láadan, but Láadan cannot learn me), the object marker is not necessary.
  • Remember that double-consonants get split up by an "e". (Láadan+e+th)

Degree markers Edit

Neutral degree markers Edit

Láadan Description
-hel to a trivial degree; slightly
-hil to a minor degree; rather
(none) to an ordinary degree
-hal to an unusual degree; very
-hul to an extreme degree
-háalish to an extraordinary degree
Láadan English Vocab words
Báa íthi bo? Is the mountain tall? íthi = tall, bo = mountain
Bíi íthihul bo wa. The mountain is extremely tall. (Neutral)

Negative degree markers Edit

Láadan Description
-hele to a troublesome degree
-hile to a severe degree
-hule to an intolerable degree
-shule an unbearable degree, would cause a catastrophic event; used as an emergency form.
Láadan English Vocab words
Báa íthi bo? Is the mountain tall? íthi = tall, bo = mountain
Bíi íthihule bo wa. The mountain is extremely tall. (Negative - it's awful that it's tall!)

Positive degree markers Edit

Láadan Description
-théle to a pleasing degree; fine
-thíle to a more-than-pleasing degree; excellent
-thúul to an extraordinarily pleasing degree; magnificient
-thúle to the furthest degree of pleasingness possible; perfect
Láadan English Vocab words
Báa íthi bo? Is the mountain tall? íthi = tall, bo = mountain
Bíi íthithúul bo wa. The mountain is extremely tall. (Positive - it's great that it's tall!)

Interrogative degree markers Edit

The interrogative marker, "-haba", can be used to ask "to what degree?"

Láadan English Vocab words
Báa íthi bo? Is the mountain tall? íthi = tall, bo = mountain
Báa íthihaba bo? How tall is the mountain?

(Amberwind (2012), Láadan Lessons, p. 295)

Duration markers Edit

A Duration marker can be added to the beginning of a verb.

Láadan Description
na- to start to...
ná- to continue to...
ne- to repeat...
no- to finish/complete...
nó- to cease to...
Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi eril nóhulanin le wa. I've stopped studying. eril = past, ulanin = to study
Bíi eril nahulanin le wa. I've begun studying.

Repetition marker Edit

A Repetition Morpheme can also be used to specify a pattern in which something is done.

Láadan Description
bada repeatedly, at random
badan repeatedly, in a pattern over which humans have no control
brada repeatedly, in a pattern fixed arbitrarily by human beings
bradan repeatedly, in a pattern fixed by humans by analogy to some phenomenon (such as the seasons)
bradá repeatedly, in what appears to be a pattern but cannot be demonstrated or proved to be one

Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi hal le brada wa. I work regularly. hal = work

Pluralization Edit

The prefix “me-” is used to indicate plural. However, it is used on the verb – not the noun.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi áya with wa. The woman is beautiful (my perception). Bíi (I declare) áya (beautiful) with (person/woman) wa (perceived by me).
Bíi meháya with wa. The women are beautiful (my perception). Bíi (I declare) meháya (plural+beautiful) with (person/woman) wa (perceived by me).

Adjective with noun Edit

If you want to modify a noun by combining it with an adjective, you add the “wo-” prefix on both the adjective and the noun.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi hal with wa. The woman works. hal (work) with (woman)
Woháya wowith Beautiful woman
Bíi hal woháya wowith wa. The beautiful woman works.
Bíi adal wobalin wohothul wi. The old grandmother sews.

Negation Edit

To make a sentence negative, put “ra” immediately after the verb.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi u áath wa. The door is open. Bíi (I declare) u (open) áath (door) wa (perceived by me).
Bíi u ra áath wa. The door is not open. Bíi (I declare) u (open) ra (not) áath (door) wa (perceived by me).

You can also negate other words by prefixing it with "ra". For instance:

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi rahu áath wa. The door is closed. Bíi (I declare) rahu (closed) áath (door) wa (perceived by me).

And/Or Edit

"i" is used for "and".

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi yod i rilin le wa. I eat and drink. Bíi (I declare) yod (eat) i (and) rilin (drink) le (I) wa (perceived by me).

"e" is used for "or".

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi néde le thuhal e thuzh wa. I want candy or cake. Bíi (I declare) néde (want) le (I) thuhal (candy) e (or) thuzh (cake) wa (perceived by me).

Yes/No Questions Edit

When asking yes/no questions, the word order will be the same, but “Báa” (question type-of-sentence marker) will be used instead of “Bíi”, and you leave off the evidence marker.

Láadan English Breakdown
Báa thal ne? Are you good? Báa (Question) thal (good) ne (you)?

"Yes" is "Em".

"No" is "Ra".

Interrogative Questions Edit

In English, we have words like who, what, when, where, why…

In Láadan, who/what/when/where questions still begin with “Báa”. The third person pronoun “be” is used in place for what is being asked about (or a plural form), and the suffix “–báa” to mark it as what we’re asking about.

Láadan English Vocabulary
Báa áya bebáa? What is beautiful? áya = beautiful, bebáa = they+question
Báa yod ne bebáath? What are you eating? yod = to eat, -th = Object marker
Báa sháad ne bebáadi? Where are you going to? -di = Goal marker
Báa hal ne bebáaden? Who do you work with? -den = Association marker
Báa lalom ne bebáawáan? Why are you singing? -wáan = Reason-cause marker

Tenses Edit

In a sentence, you can add tenses like "ril" (now), "eril" (past), to clarify the time which the action happened. Here is a list of tenses:

Láadan English Sample Phrase Translation
eril past Báa eril yod ne? Did you eat?
aril future Báa aril yod ne? Are you going to eat?
ril present Báa ril yod ne? Are you eating (now)?
eríli far past Báa eríli yod ne? Did you eat long ago?
aríli far future Báa aríli yod ne? Will you eat, far in the future?
rilrili hypothetical Báa rilrili yod ne? Would you eat?

Embedding sentences Edit

Once you're comfortable with basic sentence structures, you may want to include one sentence in another. For example, "Did you know that [grandma died]?", where "Grandma died" is its own sentence, but is included in a larger sentence.

Embed statement: -hé Edit

The "-hé" marker can be used to embed one statement within another statement. "-hé" will be added to the last word in the internal sentence.

Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi áya le wa. I am beautiful. áya = to be beautiful
Bíi lith le [áya lehé] wa. I think that I am beautiful. lith = to think
Bíi lith be [áya lehé] wa. She thinks that I am beautiful.

Embed question: -hée Edit

This marker can be used to embed a question within a sentence. The external sentence can also be a question, or it can be a statement. "-hée" will be added to the last word in the internal sentence.

Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi áya le wa. I am beautiful.
Bíi lith be [áya lehée]? Do you think that I am beautiful?
Bíi lothel ra le [áya lehée] wa. I don't know whether I am beautiful or not. lothel = to know

Embed relative clause: -háa Edit

A relative clause modifies a noun. With the statement and question embedding markers above, the internal sentences are relatively standalone ("the rain is cold." "do you think that [the rain is cold]?"). Here, however, the relative clause will modify the sentence as a whole.

Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi an behid witheth wa. He knows a woman.
Bíi lalom with wa. The woman sings.
Bíi an behid [lalom witheháath] wa. He knows a woman who sings.

(Amberwind (2012), Láadan Lessons, p. 295)

Comparison Edit

Note the difference between using "-hé" and "-háa":

Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi dom le [hal withehé] wa. I remember that [the woman works]. dom = to remember
Bíi dom le [hal witheháa] wa. I remember the [woman that works].

Passive Voice Marker -shub Edit

Maybe you want to describe what is happening in a more passive voice; for example, changing "Jane coveted the treasure" (active), "The treasure was coveted by Jane".

The first version, we would order it something like:

Speech-act-morpheme verb subject object evidence-morpheme

Where the subject is Jane and the object is the treasure.

Passive sentence with an Agent Edit

In order to change the original active sentence to passive move the subject, which is the Agent doing the action, (Jane) after the verb and the object (treasure) immediately before the verb. The object is now in the focus position.

Step Láadan English Vocab words
Active Bíi eril yod le thuzheth wa. I ate cake. eril = past, yod = eat, le = I, thuzh = cake
Passive, with Agent Bíi eril thuzheth yod leshub wa. The cake was eaten by me.

Passive sentence without an Agent Edit

You would also add the suffix -shub onto the end of the subject (Jane).

If your sentence does not have an Agent subject (The treasure is coveted), then you will still move your object before the verb, and add the -shub suffix to the verb.

Step Láadan English Vocab words
Active Bíi eril yod le thuzheth wa. I ate cake. eril = past, yod = eat, le = I, thuzh = cake
Passive, no Agent Bíi eril thuzheth yodeshub wa. The cake was eaten.

Preposition-like Markers Edit

In Láadan, there are no prepositions. Instead, there are suffixes added to the end of words.

Goal Marker: -di Edit

This is similar to the “to” preposition. Append “-di” to the goal. (“I am going to the store” – store would be the goal).

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi aril sháad le anawehedi wa. I’ll go to the grocery store. Bíi (I declare) aril (later) sháad (come/go) le (I) anawehedi (grocery store+goal) wa (perceived by me).

Source Marker: -de Edit

This is similar to the “from” preposition. Append “-de” to the source. (“I came from home” – home would be the source).

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi eril sháad le bethede wa. I came from home. Bíi (I declare) eril (earlier) sháad (come/go) le (I) bethede (home+source) wa (perceied by me).

Association Markers: -den, -dan Edit

This is similar to “with”. There are two forms of with: “-den” (neutral), and “-dan” (with pleasure).

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi eril im le ruledan wa. I travelled with a cat. Bíi (I declare) eril (earlier) im (travel) le (I) ruledan (cat+with-pleasure) wa (perceived by me).

Instrument Marker: -nan Edit

This is similar to “with” or “per”, denoting a tool being used to accomplish a task. The suffix is “-nan”.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi eril yod le thuzheth bathanan wa. I ate cake with a spoon. Bíi (I declare) eril (earlier) yod (eat) le (I) thuzheth (cake+object) bathanan (sppon+with) wa (perceived by me).

Beneficiary Markers: -da, -dá, -dáa, -daá Edit

This marker is for when you’re doing something “for” someone or something else. There are a few variations:

Suffix Meaning
-da voluntarily
-dá by force, against X’s will.
-dáa obligatorily, as by duty
-daá accidentally
Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi ril hal le hothuleda wa. I work for the grandmother. Bíi (I declare) ril (now) hal (work) le (I) hothuleda (grandmother+for-voluntary) wa (perceived by me).

Location Markers: -ha, -ya Edit

This is similar to the preposition “at”. To denote location in space, use “-ha”. To denote location in time, use “-ya”.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi eril hal le hohaleha wa. I worked at the office. Bíi (I declare) eril (earlier) hal (work) le (I) hohaleha (office+at) wa (perceived by me).
Bíi aril hal le háasháaleya wa. I will work at morning. Bíi (I declare) aril (later) hal (work) le (I) háasháaleya (morning+at) wa (perceived by me).

Manner Marker: -nal Edit

To denote a manner with which something is done, use the marker “-nal”.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi eril amedara le áyanal wa. I danced beautifully. Bíi (I declare) eril (earlier) amedara (dance) le (I) áyanal (beautiful+manner) wa (perceived by me).

Reason Marker: -wáan Edit

To mark a reason, add the suffix “-wáan”.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi eril yime be óowamidewáan wa. She ran because of the dragon. Bíi (I declare) eril (ealier) yime (run) be (she/he/it) óowamidewáan (dragon+reason) wa (perceived by me).

Purpose Marker: -wan Edit

Mark the purpose with “-wan”.

Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi eril sháad be hohaledi halewan wa. She went to the office to work. Bíi (I declare) eril (earlier) sháad (come/go) be (she/he/it) hohaledi (office+goal) halewan (work+purpose) wa (perceived by me).

Cause-to marker: dó- Edit

Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi yod le wa. I am eating. yod = to eat
Bíi dóyod le mideth wa. I am feeding the animal. mid = animal

Possessive Marker: -tha, -thi, -the, -thu, -tho Edit

There are several forms of the possessive marker:

Suffix Meaning
-tha by reason of birth
-thi by reason of chance
-the for unknown or unacknowledged reason
-thu the false (“partitive”) possessive, as in “a dress of velvet”
-tho other (purchase, gift, law, custom, et cetera)
Láadan English Breakdown
Bíi eril láad le shinehal nethoth oyinan wa. I saw your computer. Bíi (I declare) eril (earlier) láad (perceive) le (I) shinehal (computer) nethoth (you+object+possessive) oyinan (eye+with) wa (perceived by me).

Path marker: -mu Edit

Let's say that we want to say that we're going from point A to point C, by going *through* point B. In this case, we'd mark point B as the "path", using the *-mu* marker.

Examples Edit

Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi sháad le wa. I'm coming/going. sháad = to come/to go, le = me
Bíi sháad le bethedi wa. I'm going home. beth = home
Bíi sháad le hohalede bethedi wa. I'm going home from the office. hohal = office
Bíi sháad le bethedi heshehothemu obe wa. I'm going home through the park. heshehoth = park, -mu = path marker, obe = through
Bíi sháad le bethedi wilimu óobe wa. I'm going home along the river. wili = river, óobe = along
Bíi sháad le bethedi oódóomu yil wa. I'm going home (via) under the bridge. oódóo = bridge, yil = under

Noun Declensions Edit

Additional detail can be added to words, such as emotions (happiness, anger, etc.). By adding on to these words, using the first and second declensions, you can encode more information in a single word, instead of having to formulate lengthy sentences to describe your current state.

First Declension: For reasons... Edit

Láadan Description
-i for no reason
-e for good reason(s)
-o for foolish reason(s)
-u for bad reason(s)
-(e)he despite negative circumstances

(Suzette Haden Elgin (1988), A First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan, Second Edition, p. 132)

Láadan English Vocab words
Bíi loláad le thena I feel joy, for good reasons loláad = to perceive internally
Bíi loláad le thehena I feel joy, despite negative circumstances
Bíi loláad le nena I feel contented, for good reasons

Second Declension: Blame/reason... Edit

The second declension can be used to specify reason, blame, and futility of the statement. You can essentially answer three questions with each suffix:

  1. There is a reason that I feel this way: (True/False)
  2. There is someone to blame for this situation: (True/False)
  3. There is something that can be done about the situation: (True/False)

In the table below, "T" symbolizes "True", and "F" symbolizes "False".

-ara -ala -ama -ana -ina
Reason T T T T F
Blame T T F F F
Futility T F T F F

Anger: bara, bala, bama, bana, bina

(Suzette Haden Elgin (1988), A First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan, Second Edition, p. 133)

Láadan English
Bíi loláad le bala I feel angry, there is a reason, there is someone to blame, and it is not futile.

Compounding Edit

As in English, compounds are usually head-final. That is, a mid-(e)math animal-building is a kind of building (a ‘stable’), not a kind of animal. A bud-(e)halid clothing-competition = ‘masquerade’ is a kind of competition, not a kind of clothing.

There are a small number of exceptions, though. A bud-(e)shun clothing-ceremony is "ritual clothing", not a kind of ceremony. Similarly dale-shun object-ceremony = ‘ritual object’. Od-obeyal cloth-gold is a kind of cloth decorated with gold, not a kind of gold (though this may be a metaphor).

The word hoth, place, works head-finally in the regular way; dutha-hoth heal-place is ‘hospital’, hesh-(e)hoth grass-place is ‘park’, etc. However, as the prefix ho-, it becomes head-initial. ho-zhazh is ‘airport’ (a place of planes=zhazh), and ho-hal is ‘office’ (hal = work).

Verb-noun compounds usually have verb-object semantics: di-shóo-dal tell-happen-things = ‘to tell the news’. The verb-object compound can point to an external meaning: wida-dith carry-voice means "telephone" (=that which carries the voice).
Another compound order is modifier-verb: óoma-sháad foot-go = walk, go by foot. Of course, the same works for adjectives: muda-(h)éthe pig-clean is a kind of clean (a half-assed clean state). Modifier-verb order can lead to, effectively, an ‘inverted’ object-verb order: oba-(h)éthe body-clean is to clean one’s body, to take a shower or bath (but it’s being encoded as a kind of cleaning; cp. English ‘housecleaning’ vs. ‘clean the house’).

As when inflecting words, consonant clusters are resolved with an -e-:

  • hal work + zhub insect = halezhub ‘ant’

And vowel clusters are resolved with -h-:

  • ezha snake + ith light = ezhahith lightning bolt

Vowel clusters can be allowed if it’s the same vowel with different tones (the only kind of vowel cluster present in Láadan):

  • rá- not + alehale music = ráalehale musically deprived

But different vowels or longer sequences get the -h- even with different tones:

  • muda pig + éthe clean = mudahéthe pig-clean.
  • owa warm = úuzh bedding = owahúuzh ‘blanket’.

When the junction point of a compound repeats the same phonemes, they usually merge into one:

  • rumad + doni hide-dirt → rumadoni (‘dig’), rather than *rumadedoni.
  • óoya + aáláan heart-wave = óoyaáláan (‘pulse’), rather than *óoyahaáláan.

In some cases whole syllables may be dropped:

  • wil let + oba body + mina move → *wilobaminawilomina ‘to perform, act’ (as in theatre)

Or the coda (ending) of the last syllable of the first word may be dropped, combining it with the next word:

  • wíyul breath + aáláan wave → wíyulaáláanwíyaáláan ‘respiration rate’

This seem to be especially common when the consonant is repeated:

  • oba body + bedi learn → obabediobedi ‘to acquire a skill’

Here, the repetition-dropping process removes an entire echoing sequence, preserving the two high tones of lámála:

  • odama lips + lámála caress → *odamalámálaodámála ‘kiss’

Parallel compounds (without head, as in Chinese) take the infix -i- ‘and’:

  • dim-i-dim box-and-box = ‘cupboard’
  • bod-i-bod line-and-line = ‘computer program’
  • ban-i-bel = give-and-take

Compare these semantics with simple reduplication, which may take the usual -e- to separate consonants:

  • hul-e-hul [extreme degree sufix]-[extreme degree suffix] = heck yes, emphatic yes
  • hath-e-hath time-time = forever, eternity

Parallel compounds (with -i-) suggest repetition, iteration, while reduplication suggests large degree, magnification.

Degree suffixes like -hal ‘to an unusual degree’ are used to coin words:

  • bod line + -hal [unusual degree] = bodehal ‘rod’
  • tham circle + -hal = thamehal ‘globe, planet’
  • sháad come, go + -hul [extreme degree] = sháadehul ‘grow transcendentally’
  • yul wind + -hul = yulehul ‘hurricane’

The negative morpheme/sound lh is usually added to the start or end of a word. It can be temporary/inflectional:

  • awith ‘baby’
  • lhawith or awithelh ‘this darned baby’

And it can also be compounded into new words (derivational):

  • ada laugh, lhada scorn
  • ranahá drinker, ranahálh alcoholic

Instead of affixing lh, an 'l' inside the word can mutate into 'lh':

  • bediloth knowledge lesson, bedilhoth useless knowledge lesson
  • lol feeling of community, lolh oppressive feeling of community
  • éholob threat, éholhob very malicious threat

This lh-mutation also works for on-the-spot, temporary coinages:

  • éelen grapes; éelhen these darned grapes

In the following word, an infix -lh- between morphemes seems to cause a vowel to echo:

  • strong, rado weak; dó-rado dominate; dó-lh-orado dominate with evil intent.