Ćwarmin: Sometimes Mandatorily Passive Verbs

November 10th, 2018 by Miekko
Ćwarmin has a set of verbs which require passive forms whenever some requirements for the subject is violated. These requirements come in three main types, two of which relate to the animacy hierarchy. This requirement seems to be related to the inverse alignment of Ŋʒädär, but not an inherited cognate - rather, it may be due to convergence with Ŋʒädär.

1. Absolute Animacy Hierarchy Restrictions

The verb 'kill' only permits animate subjects, but can take non-animate agents, and thus has an absolute restriction on the hierarchy restriction - basically, there is a line drawn across the hierarchy which limits it. With inanimate agents, the passive is required, and the agent is in the general ablative case.

A typical example of this would be the verb 'kill', which cannot take a proper inanimate subject, so e.g.
*ilmis arbaŋ-utus kerb-i-ś
*winter killed the herd

arbaŋ ilm-erəś kerb-eśp
the herd was killed by the winter

*nəlve iś kerb-i-ś
an arrow killed him

i nəlv-erəś kerb-eśp
(s)he was killed by an arrow
Another would be 'utter/express/signal/...', which basically is the same verb as 'exhale', hifnəs.
*ədnist marćost-uc hifn-i-ś
silence expresses agreement

marćost ədnist-erəś hifn-e-kn-eśp
agreement is expressed through silence (note: -e-kn- is really the applicative morpheme -ken-, and the reason the applicative is used here has to do with the argument structure of hifn-, which really means something like 'breathe'; consider the -ken- similar to a prefixed preposition or adverb, only, it does not appear in the active forms of the verb all that often).
All  of these need to be rendered in the passive (or applicative) to be grammatical in Ćwarmin.

2. Relative Animacy Hierarchy Restrictions

With many verbs, a less animate noun cannot be subject with a verb whose object is more animate. These include any verb indicating fights (ampac, nenŋel, ćasćar - all signifying fighting), causing movement sideways or upwards (hegec - push, hegtəm - pull, salkum - lift, raise, kunkun - to shake to-and-fro, vabžum - pull in by rope, liŋbəl - to move a significant distance by pulling, žal - to carry),...

The main difference here from the previous class is that low-ranked nouns can be subjects, provided the object has lower or equal rank. Thus,
ćiriŋ kosdan-uc salkum-i-ś
the tripod lifts the tent fabric

onkup estnet-uc hegədm-i-ś
the weight pulls the rope
are permitted, but not
*onkup vond-uc hegədm-i-ś
the weight pulls the horse
which would require
vond onkup-araś hegt-eśp

3. Lexically Specified

This is an odd, but limited bunch.

mamnan -  to put a child to sleep
Only the mother of the child can be the proper subject, any other agent must be oblique.
ŋačćur  - to wear a piece of clothing
The restriction here is related to tense rather than to subject or object - non-present and non-imperative must be passive.

biəkin - to endure
Passive whenever the object is not indefinite.
luzǯar -  to praise
passive whenever the object is inanimate.

Ćwarmin: Sometimes Mandatorily Passive Verbs

November 10th, 2018 by Miekko
Ćwarmin has a set of verbs which require passive forms whenever some requirements for the subject is violated. These requirements come in three main types, two of which relate to the animacy hierarchy. This requirement seems to be related to the inverse alignment of Ŋʒädär, but not an inherited cognate - rather, it may be due to convergence with Ŋʒädär.

1. Absolute Animacy Hierarchy Restrictions

The verb 'kill' only permits animate subjects, but can take non-animate agents, and thus has an absolute restriction on the hierarchy restriction - basically, there is a line drawn across the hierarchy which limits it. With inanimate agents, the passive is required, and the agent is in the general ablative case.

A typical example of this would be the verb 'kill', which cannot take a proper inanimate subject, so e.g.
*ilmis arbaŋ-utus kerb-i-ś
*winter killed the herd

arbaŋ ilm-erəś kerb-eśp
the herd was killed by the winter

*nəlve iś kerb-i-ś
an arrow killed him

i nəlv-erəś kerb-eśp
(s)he was killed by an arrow
Another would be 'utter/express/signal/...', which basically is the same verb as 'exhale', hifnəs.
*ədnist marćost-uc hifn-i-ś
silence expresses agreement

marćost ədnist-erəś hifn-e-kn-eśp
agreement is expressed through silence (note: -e-kn- is really the applicative morpheme -ken-, and the reason the applicative is used here has to do with the argument structure of hifn-, which really means something like 'breathe'; consider the -ken- similar to a prefixed preposition or adverb, only, it does not appear in the active forms of the verb all that often).
All  of these need to be rendered in the passive (or applicative) to be grammatical in Ćwarmin.

2. Relative Animacy Hierarchy Restrictions

With many verbs, a less animate noun cannot be subject with a verb whose object is more animate. These include any verb indicating fights (ampac, nenŋel, ćasćar - all signifying fighting), causing movement sideways or upwards (hegec - push, hegtəm - pull, salkum - lift, raise, kunkun - to shake to-and-fro, vabžum - pull in by rope, liŋbəl - to move a significant distance by pulling, žal - to carry),...

The main difference here from the previous class is that low-ranked nouns can be subjects, provided the object has lower or equal rank. Thus,
ćiriŋ kosdan-uc salkum-i-ś
the tripod lifts the tent fabric

onkup estnet-uc hegədm-i-ś
the weight pulls the rope
are permitted, but not
*onkup vond-uc hegədm-i-ś
the weight pulls the horse
which would require
vond onkup-araś hegt-eśp

3. Lexically Specified

This is an odd, but limited bunch.

mamnan -  to put a child to sleep
Only the mother of the child can be the proper subject, any other agent must be oblique.
ŋačćur  - to wear a piece of clothing
The restriction here is related to tense rather than to subject or object - non-present and non-imperative must be passive.

biəkin - to endure
Passive whenever the object is not indefinite.
luzǯar -  to praise
passive whenever the object is inanimate.

Detail #385: Lexically Determined Chirality of Locations

November 4th, 2018 by Miekko
Chirality refers to 'handedness'. Normally, left and right are relative terms, but we find, even in English, a pair of terms that in some way are defined as a variation of "left" and "right", but in some sense these are determined by reference to a type of location.

This type of location is 'a boat', and the terms, of course, are port and starbord. Several other languages have a similar pair, e.g. Swedish babord and styrbord. These are helpful because on a ship, you may need unambiguous terms referring to directions with regards neither to the current orientation of the speaker, or the listener, or to the cardinal directions.

Now, what if in some types of locations, a culture had a fixed left and right, with regards to some specific type of geographical feature, and the terms for left and right in those contexts, if not further specified (e.g. by possessive pronouns) are taken to be in relation to the geographical feature.

An example would be valleys - a valley might have its left be the left side as seen when looking downstream a river in the valley. If the valley lacks a river, some other means would be necessary.

Detail #385: Lexically Determined Chirality of Locations

November 4th, 2018 by Miekko
Chirality refers to 'handedness'. Normally, left and right are relative terms, but we find, even in English, a pair of terms that in some way are defined as a variation of "left" and "right", but in some sense these are determined by reference to a type of location.

This type of location is 'a boat', and the terms, of course, are port and starbord. Several other languages have a similar pair, e.g. Swedish babord and styrbord. These are helpful because on a ship, you may need unambiguous terms referring to directions with regards neither to the current orientation of the speaker, or the listener, or to the cardinal directions.

Now, what if in some types of locations, a culture had a fixed left and right, with regards to some specific type of geographical feature, and the terms for left and right in those contexts, if not further specified (e.g. by possessive pronouns) are taken to be in relation to the geographical feature.

An example would be valleys - a valley might have its left be the left side as seen when looking downstream a river in the valley. If the valley lacks a river, some other means would be necessary.

Designing an Artificial Language: Phonology

November 1st, 2018 by Fiat Lingua

Rick Morneau is a long time language creator who lives in rural Idaho. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of essays on language design that proved to be quite influential in the early language creation community. Their quality has endured since their original publication, and continue to be read and enjoyed by language creators the world over.

Abstract

This essay discusses how to select the phonemes of a language based on what the language is intended to accomplish, and on how much pronunciation difficulty is acceptable.

Version History

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Kílta metaphor: SALT IS VITALITY

October 28th, 2018 by Wm
One standard feature of my current grammars for new languages is a separate section after the dictionary where I focus on particular areas of interest or difficulty. For example, copulas and verbs of existence in Kílta have a few complications, so there's a section on those. This lets me limit cross-references in the dictionary definitions to something reasonable, while still being able to give a thorough overview later.

A subsection on conceptual metaphor (Conlangery Podcast #66) is now standard in my grammars. I've recently been working out the metaphor SALT IS VITALITY (for some reason, conceptual metaphors are often given in all-caps like this). 

When I first thought about this metaphor, I spent a little while first thinking through the implications. In this instance, I already had an idiom involving salt that would interact a bit oddly with it —


Ches si tirat vuëtiso.
salt ACC give.1R-INF try-PFV
They tried to bribe me. (lit., "they tied to give me salt")

I decided this wasn't a vital problem, and in fact slightly enhanced the idiom and the conceptual metaphor I was about to develop.

Kílta has a modest set of derivational affixes, so I first thought about how some of those might work:

  • chesámin - "saltless," has the standard meanings of dull, lifeless, with an additional sense of mildly ill
  • chesëtin - "salty, having salt" is the core sense, but also means vital, lively, vigorous
For now, no other derivational elements have suggested themselves for this metaphor. In general, I try to take these metaphorical derivations only if they have a clear literal use, too.

Next, Kílta, as a verb-final language, favors N-V combinations for creating new verbal senses from nouns, rather than derivational affixes. These are more obviously idiomatic, with less clear-cut literal use:
  • ches si raho - literally, "throw (the) salt," has the same basic sense and tone as the English idiom "kick the bucket," but is a touch less respectful than the English
  • ches tëníto - literally, "(the) salt is gone," matches the idea of being dejected, or "the life has gone out of him/her/it"
  • ches si kwilë relo - literally, "carries too much salt," is for someone who has too much nervous energy, or a pet having the zoomies
That's as far as I want to take things for now with a new metaphor. I've made a notation in the dictionary entry for ches salt which reminds me of this sense if I add new examples to that headword, in addition to the conceptual metaphors section after the dictionary. Maybe that's as far as this metaphor will go, but it's always nice when a new metaphor-based idiom suggests itself.

Kílta metaphor: SALT IS VITALITY

October 28th, 2018 by Wm
One standard feature of my current grammars for new languages is a separate section after the dictionary where I focus on particular areas of interest or difficulty. For example, copulas and verbs of existence in Kílta have a few complications, so there's a section on those. This lets me limit cross-references in the dictionary definitions to something reasonable, while still being able to give a thorough overview later.

A subsection on conceptual metaphor (Conlangery Podcast #66) is now standard in my grammars. I've recently been working out the metaphor SALT IS VITALITY (for some reason, conceptual metaphors are often given in all-caps like this). 

When I first thought about this metaphor, I spent a little while first thinking through the implications. In this instance, I already had an idiom involving salt that would interact a bit oddly with it —


Ches si tirat vuëtiso.
salt ACC give.1R-INF try-PFV
They tried to bribe me. (lit., "they tied to give me salt")

I decided this wasn't a vital problem, and in fact slightly enhanced the idiom and the conceptual metaphor I was about to develop.

Kílta has a modest set of derivational affixes, so I first thought about how some of those might work:

  • chesámin - "saltless," has the standard meanings of dull, lifeless, with an additional sense of mildly ill
  • chesëtin - "salty, having salt" is the core sense, but also means vital, lively, vigorous
For now, no other derivational elements have suggested themselves for this metaphor. In general, I try to take these metaphorical derivations only if they have a clear literal use, too.

Next, Kílta, as a verb-final language, favors N-V combinations for creating new verbal senses from nouns, rather than derivational affixes. These are more obviously idiomatic, with less clear-cut literal use:
  • ches si raho - literally, "throw (the) salt," has the same basic sense and tone as the English idiom "kick the bucket," but is a touch less respectful than the English
  • ches tëníto - literally, "(the) salt is gone," matches the idea of being dejected, or "the life has gone out of him/her/it"
  • ches si kwilë relo - literally, "carries too much salt," is for someone who has too much nervous energy, or a pet having the zoomies
That's as far as I want to take things for now with a new metaphor. I've made a notation in the dictionary entry for ches salt which reminds me of this sense if I add new examples to that headword, in addition to the conceptual metaphors section after the dictionary. Maybe that's as far as this metaphor will go, but it's always nice when a new metaphor-based idiom suggests itself.

#525

October 26th, 2018 by surullinensaukko

A Romance language where the Latin feminine agentive ending is reanalyzed as a diminutive marker, because -trix is for kids.

Two Notes on Walman

October 24th, 2018 by Wm

The Walman language of Papua New Guinea has two interesting grammatical features: a conjugated and, and an inflectional diminutive.

Conjugated Conjunction

Walman's verbs have polypersonal agreement on transitive verbs, marking both subject and object. Conjunction is handled with two verb stems, -aro- and <-a-> (subject is a prefix, object is a suffix):

nyue w-aro-n ngan
mother 3SG.F.SUBJ-and-3SG.M.OBJ father
a mother and father

Since verb serialization is already present in Walman, it looks like a verb got grabbed to mean and and got dropped into the serialization chain. There is also a non-conjugated and, which may be used instead of the conjugated form, but seems to be preferred for inanimate constituents and clauses. Interestingly, the Lamaholot language of Indonesia also has an inflecting and, but it can be used to join clauses.

See Verbs for 'And' in Walman for all the glorious details.

Inflectional Diminutive

Walman also has a third person singular diminutive marker which occurs on verbs and adjectives.

Pelen l-aykiri.
dog 3SG.DIMIN-bark
The puppy is barking.

Pelen w-aykiri.
dog 3SG.FEM-bark
The female dog is barking.

Pelen n-aykiri.
dog 3SG.MASC-bark
The male dog is barking.

Pelen y-aykiri.
dog 3SG.PL-bark
The dogs are barking.

The authors of the paper below believe that the diminutive marker was originally a neuter gender.

See Diminutive as an Inflectional Category in Walman for details.

Two Notes on Walman

October 24th, 2018 by Wm

The Walman language of Papua New Guinea has two interesting grammatical features: a conjugated and, and an inflectional diminutive.

Conjugated Conjunction

Walman's verbs have polypersonal agreement on transitive verbs, marking both subject and object. Conjunction is handled with two verb stems, -aro- and <-a-> (subject is a prefix, object is a suffix):

nyue w-aro-n ngan
mother 3SG.F.SUBJ-and-3SG.M.OBJ father
a mother and father

Since verb serialization is already present in Walman, it looks like a verb got grabbed to mean and and got dropped into the serialization chain. There is also a non-conjugated and, which may be used instead of the conjugated form, but seems to be preferred for inanimate constituents and clauses. Interestingly, the Lamaholot language of Indonesia also has an inflecting and, but it can be used to join clauses.

See Verbs for 'And' in Walman for all the glorious details.

Inflectional Diminutive

Walman also has a third person singular diminutive marker which occurs on verbs and adjectives.

Pelen l-aykiri.
dog 3SG.DIMIN-bark
The puppy is barking.

Pelen w-aykiri.
dog 3SG.FEM-bark
The female dog is barking.

Pelen n-aykiri.
dog 3SG.MASC-bark
The male dog is barking.

Pelen y-aykiri.
dog 3SG.PL-bark
The dogs are barking.

The authors of the paper below believe that the diminutive marker was originally a neuter gender.

See Diminutive as an Inflectional Category in Walman for details.