Tòaq Dzũ Alpha 

A Primer

written by selpa'i

August 2013

Table of Contents

1.       What is this language?

1.1.    Features

1.1.1. What has been implemented?

1.1.2.      What has not been implemented, but will be?

1.1.3.      What will not be implemented?

1.2.   Just another Lojban?

2.      Phonology

2.1.   Consonants

2.2.  Vowels

2.3.  The Syllable

3.      The Sentence

3.1.   The Full Sentence

3.2.  Non-Sentences

4.      The Tones

5.      Parts of Speech / Tone Functions

5.1.   Predicates

5.1.1.   Simple Predicates

5.1.2.     Compound Predicates

5.1.3.     Complex Predicates

5.2.  Terms

5.2.1.     Argument Phrases           The Structure of Argument Phrases

5.2.2.    Argument Restrictive Relative Clauses

5.2.3.    Prepositional Phrases          Sentence Prepositions         Argument Prepositions

5.2.4.    Adverbial Phrases          True Adverbs         Vague Adverbs

5.3.  Non-term Sentence Restrictive Relative Clauses

5.4.  Particles

5.4.1.     Illocutionary Operators

5.4.2.    Sentence Prefixes

5.4.3.    Prenex

5.4.4.    Numbers

6.      Conjunctions

7.   Conclusion     

1. What Is This Language

Toaq Dzu (working title) is a tonal loglang (a logical language based around predicate logic) invented by selpa'i. Work began in August 2013. An online parser and an online dictionary are now available at and respectively.

1.1 Features

The general approach used in the creation of Toaq Dzu is the search for general mechanisms that are applicable in a variety of situations, as opposed to having 100 different solutions to 100 different problems. The language is simple in its overall structure, and completely regular. Apart from the pronunciation of the tones, anyone should be able to grasp the rules of the language in a very short time. Another asset is that it is relatively succinct; the average Toaq Sentence is about as long as an English one, though there are many cases where it's noticeably shorter than English. And compared to Lojban, Toaq needs slightly over 50% fewer syllables to express the same things.

 1.2 Just another Lojban?

If you are a Lojbanist, you might expect all the things you can find in Lojban to be found in Toaq as well. This is not the case. The languages are related, to be sure, but they are both unique. Some things found in Lojban are never going to be part of Toaq — one example being Lojban {kau} — because Toaq would have little use for them or because the author doesn't agree with their design.

There will not be multiple different words for connectives for different parts of speech, there are no direct equivalents of tanru, and there are no elidible terminators. The formal grammar is quite a bit shorter and simpler than Lojban's; {bo}-like patchwork mechanisms are nowhere to be seen. Yet, a Lojbanist can feel quite at home. Prior knowledge in one of the other Loglandic languages is likely to facilitate the learning of Toaq, though it's not a requirement by any means.

2. Phonology

The phonology of Toaq is similar to that of Lojban in that it uses much of the same phonemes, but differs from Lojban in that it permits fewer clusters and that the syllable structure is a bit simpler. Toaq has two phonemes less than Lojban.

2.1 Consonants

There are 20 consonant phonemes:

  bilabial labio-
alveolar post-
palatal velar glottal
stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth. stl. sth.
Plosives p b     t d     k ɡ  
Nasals   m     n         ŋ    
Trills         r                
Fricatives f v s z ʃ ʒ h
Approximants    w           j      
Laterals           l            

As can be seen, the "missing" consonant phonemes (from a Lojban perspective) are /x/ and /ʔ/. On the other hand, there is an additional phoneme /ŋ/, denoted by the grapheme <q>.

Also, pay extra attention to the fact that <y> is not a vowel, but that it stands for /j/.

/w/ and /j/ can only appear in a very specific spot, namely right after the initial consonant of a word. They may never begin a syllable.

/h/ has [h], [x] and [χ] as allophones.

2.2 Vowels

There are only five vowel phonemes.






In terms of Lojban, /ə/ is "missing" as a phoneme. However, in the word "na", the /a/ can be realized as [ə] in non-sentence-final position. 

2.3 The Syllable

Simplified, every syllable is of the form:


C means any consonant other than /w/ and /j/, V means any of the five vowels.

CC is one of the predefined consonant clusters, and VV is a predefined diphthong.

()-brackets denote optional components, | means xor, and []-brackets are merely for grouping purposes, but don't mark their content as optional.

Thus, the shortest syllable is:


and the longest syllable is more or less:


Maximal syllables are rather rare, however.

Every word in Toaq is monosyllabic, so anything said about syllables is also true for words, excepting borrowings or lexical compounds, which may consist of multiple syllables. The vast majority of words, and certainly all the base words are monosyllabic.

3. The Sentence

There are two types of sentences: Full sentences (those that contain a predicate), and non-sentences (those that don't).

3.1 The Full Sentence

The general form of a sentence can be described with this simple formula:

            <sentence-prefix><prenex><predicate><terms><illocutionary operator>

Constituents marked in bold are mandatory, the rest is optional. This means that the most basic of sentences is


For example:

(3.1a) Diu- moq 
"Are you asleep?"

(3.1b) Pai- na
"She is a friend."

Both (3.1a) and (3.1b) have dropped subjects, which is a common thing to do in Toaq. Anything that is obvious from context can be omitted. In a different context, (3.1a) and (3.1b) could have different interpretations, of course.

(3.1c) Saq- pu

3.2 Non-Sentences

A non-sentence is a sentence without a predicate. As such, it can occur in different shapes. The main types are: Prenex-sentences (containing nothing but a prenex), and term-sentences (containing nothing but a list of terms).

(3.2a) Bi teq/
"As for you..." (as said by an angry parent who just scolded the first of two children, and is about to scold the second)

(3.2b) Hwaq/
"To the lake"

A natural situation in which (3.2b) occurs is as an answer to a question such as "Where are you going?". The questionee doesn't repeat the entire question, but only fills in the blank(s). 

(3.2c) tuoq\ cia- gou/ tcua/ na
"After I've eaten this banana."

(3.2c) could be imagined as an answer to "Please help me carry this table".

This concludes our treatment of sentence forms.

4. The Tones

A major aspect of Toaq are the tones. The tones do almost all the work! They are to thank for a lot of the succinctness of Toaq.

There are nine tones. No, that's not a typo. The following table will show what they are, how to write them and what to call them.

Tone# Tone Name Unicode ASCII
1 High/Mid Tone ā a-
2 Rising Tone á a/
3 Dipping Tone ă
4 High-Falling Tone a?
5 Peaking Tone â a^
6 Low Tone à a\
7 Creaky Dipping Tone ã a~
8 Low-Falling Tone a.
9 Neutral Tone a a

Nine may seem like a lot, but it's really manageable. Chances are that your native language makes use of tones, and you just aren't fully aware.

In this primer, the ASCII tone letters are used so that the student can directly copy and paste the example sentences into the parser and verify them.

5. Parts of Speech / Tone Functions

The tones introduced in the last section all have very specific functions. Their job is it to specify what the part of speech of a given word is. Each tone corresponds to a different part of speech. The following table lists the correspondences:

Tone# Tone Name Unicode ASCII Function
1 High/Mid Tone ā a- Predicate
2 Rising Tone á a/ Argument
3 Dipping Tone ă Non-term Sentence Relative Clause
4 High-Falling Tone a? Argument Relative Clause
5 Peaking Tone â a^ Argument Preposition
6 Low Tone à a\ Sentence Preposition
7 Creaky Dipping Tone ã a~ Adverb
8 Low-Falling Tone a. Compound
9 Neutral Tone a a Particle

5.1 Predicates

Predicates are part and parcel of any language built around predicate logic.

Toaq tries to provide regular place structure patterns. Predicate words of similar topics have parallel place structures. For example, predicates concerning movement are all of the form "x1 moves to x2 from x3".

Predicates in Toaq are multigrade; each predicate word is really a family of related predicates differing in their arity. What does this mean? Let's consider the predicate word dui:

        dui :  x1 goes to x2 from x3

This is how the dictionary lists the word, but it's actually only one of multiple dui-predicates. The word dui is really a family of predicates, one having one argument place, the other one having two, and the third one having three. We could write:

        dui1 :  x1 goes
        dui2 :  x1 goes to x2
        dui3 :  x1 goes to x2 from x3

Three different predicates by the same name, which differ by the number of arguments they relate. Which of them applies to a predication depends on how many arguments are being supplied. If only one argument is supplied, then the unary dui is used. If there are two arguments, then the binary dui, and so on. It is important to note that any predicate is always at least unary. When no arguments are overtly expressed, the predicate is unary and contains an implicit de (an anaphoric pronoun) in its first (and only) argument place.  (5.1a) and (5.1b) are identical in meaning.

(5.1a) Dae- na.
"It is beautiful."

(5.1b) Dae- de na.
"It is beautiful."

5.1.1 Simple Predicates

Simple predicates are made up of a single predicate word carrying the 1st tone (mid-high tone).

(5.1.1a) Cia- gou/ na.
"I'm eating."

(5.1.1b) Pai- teq/ moq
"Are you a friend?"

5.1.2 Compound Predicates — Serial Compounds

Predicate words can be chained together to form serial compounds with regular semantics. Each additional predicate word carries the 1st tone. In a serial compound, the place structures of neighboring predicate words merge to become a single new predicate.

(5.1.2a) Tou- dae- teq/ na
"You are very beautiful."

Why does (5.1.2a) mean what it means? Let us decompose the sentence.

        tou: x1 is/does very/much x2
        dae: x1 is beautiful

In a serial compound, the second argument place of the first predicate word aligns with the first argument place of the second predicate word:

             x1 is very x2
                               x1 is beautiful
              x1 is very -      beautiful

Thus, tou- dae- has the definition "x1 is very beautiful".

Another example:

(5.1.2b) Kai- dui- pu
"Go quickly!"

        kai: x1 quickly does x2
        dui: x1 goes to x2 from x3

Aligning and merging:

             x1 quickly does x2
                                         x1 goes to x2 from x3
              x1 quickly          -  goes to x2 from x3

Thus, kai- dui- has the definition "x1 quickly goes to x2 from x3".

There is no limit on how many predicate words can appear in a serial compound; they only have to make sense! (5.1.2c) shows a tripartite serial compound.

(5.1.2c) Hoaq- tcaq- byo- koq/ diaq/ na
"The man swims quite slowly in the river."

5.1.3 Complex Predicates

Predicates can also be constructed by combining certain particles with other parts of speech. For example, sentences or numbers can be turned into predicates. Names

In Toaq, all names are predicates with the definition "x1 is the one called <name>", where the <name> placeholder is a string of any length of legal syllables. If the name is not natively Toaq and its form violates the rules of Toaq phonology, then it has to be adjusted to fit.  

Let's use the name "John". In Toaq letters, it would be written djan, or djon, depending on your accent. Neither of these forms are legal, however, because a syllable cannot end in n. Therefore, the n is replaced by q, yielding djaq (or djoq). 

To signal that something is a name, it has to be preceded by the particle mi.

( mi- Djaq-
"[to be called] John"

Note that djaq- carries the 1st tone (high tone). This is because the name continues as far as the high tone reaches. This allows names to be as long as desired:

( mi- Djaq- Smi-
"[to be called] John Smith"

A name-predicate behaves like any other predicate. Thus, it can be used as an argument,

( Dui- mi/ Djaq- dzo/ na
"John goes to the store."

it can be quantified,

( Cua- gou/ raq mi/ Djaq- na.
"I know three Johns."

and it can have a relative clause attached to it:

( Pai- mi/ Djaq- gyu? ca teq/ na gou/ na
"The John you met is my friend."

And of course it can also be used in serial predicates and anywhere else a predicate can be used. There are no exceptions to this. Quotations

[coming soon]

5.2 Terms

"Term" is a broad category. It includes arguments, prepositional phrases and adverbs. Anything that counts as a term can be used in a termset. And any two terms can be connected by a conjunction.

5.2.1 Argument Phrases

Arguments are things related by a predicate. In "I love you", "I" and "you" are arguments filling different argument places of the predicate "love".

Arguments carry the 2nd tone (rising tone). The Structure of Argument Phrases

The full structure of the argument phrase is:

        <quantifier><predicate-word+high-tone><relative clause>

The part in bold is again mandatory, the rest optional.

Thus the most basic argument phrase is:

        <predicate word + high tone>

( koq/

( pai/

Here is an example of a quantified argument phrase:

( raq daa/
"three women"

And here one with a relative clause:

( koq/ laq? na
"men who work"

And lastly one quantified and with relative clause:

( soq pai/ dui? na.
"nine friends who go"

(keeping in mind that this is actually quantifying over them)

5.2.2 Argument Restrictive Relative Clauses

Argument Restrictive Relative Clauses (a long name, but for a reason), are used to restrict the referents of an argument phrase or to restrict the domain of quantification.

Such a relative clause is started by a predicate carrying the 4th tone (falling tone), which is then followed by a sentence (whose predicate is the previous predicate that carries the falling tone).

5.2.3 Prepositional Phrases

Perhaps some Lojbanists will see the term "preposition" and immediately conclude that it is one of those "terrible natlang things". But really, what Lojban (or Loglan) does by inventing bogus words like "modal" is just fraudulent labeling. Sumtcita are prepositions to a linguist, and the author sees no reason to avoid this terminology.

Prepositions in Toaq are not lexicalized. Instead, they are derived directly from any old predicate word, by simply using one of the two prepositional tones on them, and then following them up with a sentence (or argument, depending on the type of preposition).

There are two types of prepositions, and each comes with its own tone. Sentence Prepositions

Sentence prepositions carry the 6th tone (low-falling tone). The name sentence preposition comes from the fact that they must be followed by a sentence.

( tuoq\ laq- na
"after work" / "after he/she/it works"

tuoq is a normal predicate, "x1 happens after x2". When used as a preposition, the first argument place (x1) is automatically filled by the sentence that the preposition is embedded in. Let's see how this works:

( meo- koq/ ze/ tuoq\ laq- na na
"The man who is my friend comes home after work."

Here, the main sentence is "mēo kóq zé na", "The man comes home". Embedded in this sentence is the prepositional phrase "tùoq lāq na", "after work". Argument Prepositions

Argument prepositions work exactly like sentence prepositions, except they are to be followed by an argument phrase. Argument prepositions carry the 5th tone (peaking tone).

( Laq- koq/ dji^ sao/ na
"The man works for a long time."

Again, the main clause is automatically supplied in the first argument place of the preposition-predicate (dji), and the following argument fills the next argument place.

( Dui- koq/ pea^ gou/ moq
"Does he go with you?"

Of course, the two preposition types can be combined:

( Meo- koq/ pai? gou/ na ze/ tuoq\ laq- dji^ sao/ na na.
"The man who is my friend comes home after working for a long time."

5.2.4 Adverbial Phrases

Toaq implements adverbs in a consistent and formalized way.  To turn any predicate word into an adverb, use the 7th tone (creaky-dipping tone) on it, e.g. kau kãu.

The semantics of adverbs are simple, but powerful:

            ∃x ( ( x is an event of <proposition> ) ( x <adverbial predicate>) )

<>-brackets denote placeholders for actual Toaq propositions and predicates.

Because this is specifically designed for predicates with an abstraction in their first argument place, many predicates that don't meet that criterion have alternate forms which do. For example, consider

            kai = x1 does x2 swiftly

As this wouldn't be useable as a true adverb (the first argument is not an event), a regularly derivable form exists. In this particular case that is:

            kau = x1 (event) happens quickly. 

Thus, to say "I quickly ate the banana", we say:

(5.2.4a) Cia- kau~ gou/ tcua/ na
"I quickly eat the banana."

Formally, this means:

        x ( ( x is an event of <I ate the banana> ) ( x <happens quickly>) )

Adverbial forms of predicates can be regularly derived using a simple formula, so they are easier to learn. 

(5.2.4b) Cia- teq/ tcaa~  ci.
"Please eat slowly."

5.2.5 Termsets

Termsets allow us to make multiple claims at the same time, when all those claims revolve around the same predicate.

(5.2.5a) Dui- to ru gou/ kau~ to teq/ tcaa~ hwaq na
"I go to the lake quickly, and you slowly."

The structure looks like this:

         Go [I quickly]&[you slowly] lake

Which means more or less the same as

         [Go I quickly lake.] And [go you slowly lake.]

Argument phrases, prepositional phrases and adverbs can all be used as components of termsets. Any number of terms can be used, but the same number of terms must be on both sides of the termset connection.

5.3 Non-term Sentence Restrictive Clauses

The prepositional phrases shown so far were all terms, and thus fell under the scope of any scope-introducter to their left.

Non-term sentence restrictive relative clauses are different. They are not terms, and they always have top scope. When multiple such relative clauses appear in a sentence, they all scope equally high (or are equally far to the left). They carry the 3rd tone (dipping tone).

(5.3a) Ka dui- gou/ lui° moi- gou/ na na
"I don't go, for I am tired."

A (term) prepositional phrase would not have worked in place of the non-term sentence restrictive clause, as the meaning would be quite different:

(5.3b) Ka dui- gou/ lui\ moi- gou/ na na
"The reason why I go is not because I'm tired."

5.4 Particles

Particles carry the 9th tone (neutral tone). Usually, using a different tone on a particle won't have any effect (other than perhaps sounding a bit strange), though for some of them, there is a defined meaning change that goes along with such a change in tone.

5.4.1 Illocutionary Operators

These operators specify the illocutionary force of the utterance. They tell you whether a sentence is an assertion, a command, a request, a question, etc. They normally carry the 9th tone (neutral tone) and are always the last word of a sentence (be it a subclause or a top-level sentence).

These are the illocutionary operators currently defined:

Illoc. Operator Function
na Assertion
pu General-purpose Imperative
ci Request ("please")
moq Question

However, there will be several more.

Here is one example of each operator:

(5.4.1a) Dae- teq/ na
"You are beautiful."

(5.4.1b) Siu- pu

(5.4.1c) Pai- teq/ gou/ ci
"Please be my friend."

(5.4.1d) Luo- teq/ bo/ moq.
"What are you doing?"

5.4.2 Sentence Prefixes

Sentence prefixes are little words that are placed in front of a main-level sentence.  Apart from serving as explicit sentence breaks, they also contain discursive information. For example, the sentence prefix ma indicates the returning to the main topic of discussion, while sa indicates a new topic:

(5.4.2a) Ma hyaq- sio/ na
"Anyway, the idea is interesting."

Not many sentence prefixes have been created yet, but a fair number are expected to exist eventually.

5.4.3 Prenex

The prenex is an optional part of the sentence. The prenex is there to place all the quantifiers of the sentence first so as to be able to more easily get the intended scope, but without having to rearrange the order of the constituents of the main sentence. Another use is as a topic marker.

A sentence may have infinitely many prenexes.

The function word bi marks the start of a prenex. A prenex ends with the occurence of a predicate (a predicate word carrying the 1st tone (high-mid tone)).

(5.4.3a) Bi cu va/ dzo- va/ na
"For all X, X is red."

(5.4.3b) Bi teq/ fyaq- gou/ na
"Regarding you, I'm very angry."

5.4.4 Numbers and Math Expressions (MEX)

The digits 0-9 are:

1 niq
2 hua
3 raq
4 buo
5 he
6 djiu
7 dro
8 nae
9 soq
0 sia

Expressing numbers is simple: Just string the digits together.

(5.4.4a) djiu soq buo
"694" / "Six hundred and ninety-four"

Any number or mathematical expression can be used as the quantifier of an argument phrase. Quantifiers come before the argument. They can be arbitrarily complex.

(5.4.4b) soq mau/
"nine cats"

6. Conjunctions

Conjunctions are interpositions and belong to the Particle category. Thus, they carry the neutral tone. There are logical and non-logical conjunctions, though no non-logical ones have been added yet.

Conjunction Meaning
ru and
ri or
ro Connective Questions

Conjunctions are extremely versatile. They can connect a large number of constructs: Sentences, predications, predicates, terms (arguments, prepositional phrases, adverbs), prepositions, illocutionary operators, MEX expressions and sentence prefixes. The two connected bits need to be of the same type, though any term can be joined with any term (e.g. a prepositional phrase with an adverb), so in effect almost anything can be connected.

(6a) gou/ ru teq/
"I and you"

(6b) koq/ ri daa/.
"men or women"

(6c) beq\ ru tuoq\
"during and after"

6.1 A Note on Adjectives

From a logical point of view, there is no need to treat adjectives as a distinct part of speech. Frequently, an adjective-plus-noun construct is logically equivalent to a logical conjunction. 

(6.1a)  hoe ru sna
"to be a red house" (lit.: "to be red and a house")
               ∃x ( x is red ∧ x is a house )

Thus, no additional machinery for adjectives is necessary.

However, there are times when a simple logical conjunction as in (6.1a) leaves something to be desired. Consider for example the phrase "a small star". A small star is still extremely big compared to most things we deal with on a daily basis. It would not be optimal to express "a small star" with the same pattern we used in (6.1a):

               ∃x ( x is small ∧ x is a star )

We could exclaim: "But a star is not small! Not even a small one is!"

So, more precisely, when saying "small star", we mean a star that is small for a star. Toaq has a special particle (fi) to express this difference. Fi means "and" just like ru, but it has just the additional semantics we need here.

(6.1b) ciu ru tiq
"a small star"

(6.1c) ciu fi tiq
"a small star"

Thus, we can express both readings of "small star" unambiguously. In (6.1b), the star can reasonably be assumed to be as small as other things we'd normally describe as small. In (6.1c), we are explicitly told that it's a star that is small by the standard of stars, but it's probably still way bigger than our planet.

7. Conclusion

Hopefully this primer was able to give an appropriate overview of Toaq Dzu and that it managed to spark some interest in the reader.

It is now necessary to test the language in real world situations, and/or to attempt some literary translations. It is reasonable to assume that the language — in its current state, but certainly once the finer nuances have been worked out — is well-equipped for either task. It offers a variety of expressive tools, is flexible, and fares very well in terms of succinctness (besting Lojban by a great margin and more than just keeps up with natural languages).

Please email your feedback or questions to: selpahi at

Your opinions may very well influence the future of Toaq Dzu.