Conlangery 143: Music of Aeniith

October 7th, 2019
Margaret Ransdell-Green and Eric Barker come on to talk about the music they created for Margaret’s concultures in the world of Aeniith, which they performed at LCC8. Top of Show Greeting: Muipidan

Qaʃn̩ħeoħelə awo Nħeoħelə: A Grammar and a Cultural Reference for the People of Ħelə

October 1st, 2019

Ariel Robinson is an analyst out of Boston, MA. Since graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Cognitive Science and Linguistics, she’s leveraged her ability to “translate” complex concepts from one domain into another, including how geopolitics affect businesses and end-users’ emotions affect hackers and cybercrime.

Abstract

This paper describes a culture, language, partial lexicon, and creation myth Robinson originally created as a student at Wellesley College. Of note are the close ties between the spiritual underpinnings of the People of Ħelə and the phonetic inventory, where each vowel represents one of the four elements and the characteristics with which it is associated. The language is highly morphemic—rooted in Robinson’s study of Semitic languages—which was helpful in word formation in the beginning but posed a larger challenge during the second revision and expansion of the content. Though she wasn’t completely sure as a college student how she might use her creation in the future, Robinson has been percolating and has plans to incorporate the language and culture into a future novel.

Version History

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

Detail #382: Plurals, Gender and some Twists

September 24th, 2019
In all of my conlangs this far, plurals have not distinguished gender on the morphosyntactical level (i.e. there's just "they", not a masculine-they and a feminine-they). The morphemes that form the plural nouns may well be somewhat gender-specific (but mostly in the nominative and possibly some other additional case), but syntactically, the languages don't care about gender once plurals are used.

In real languages, there are loads of languages that operate like that, but there's also languages that operate in a different way, and do distinguish plurals of feminines from plurals of masculines (or even greater systems). Sometimes, greater numbers of genders have some distinctions be conflated in the plural.

However, I was thinking of something that might exist in the world, but which I would be surprised if it does. For the sake of simplicity, I'll stick to a two-gender system: masculine and feminine.

Let's have three plural markers: masculine, mixed and feminine.
Now, consider a noun, and a noun for which we sometimes might have mixed-gender plurals. Let's go for, say, "person". Now, "male person" is obviously "man", and "female person" is "woman", so let's go for these words.
Now man+masc.plur means "men", man+mixed = "persons". Woman+fem.plur = women, women+mixed = "persons".
"Mixed" plurals are referred to by the pronouns of the gender of the lexeme onto which the suffix is added, so "man+mixed" would get the masculine pronoun.

Now for the twists: some words lack forms! Some words use the other gender's root with the three suffixes. Some words have a separate suppletive root for one, two or all three of these. Some words just cross the lines: the masculine plural of "shaman" is based on the feminine root, and the feminine plural is based on the masculine root (this might be to confuse evil spirits). On some words, the morphemes are out of whack - "mixed" might mean either feminine or mixed, or masculine or mixed, depending on the lexeme. And finally, for some nouns, the "regular" suffix might also include the mixed meaning, while the "mixed" morpheme is not used at all.

Detail #382: Restrictions on Reflexives

September 23rd, 2019
Soo... I encountered a phrase from somewhere that launched some thoughts.

You dare try to control Aughra? Aughra can barely control Aughra!
Apparently an old-timey meme from Dark Crystal. I started thinking about reflexives, and in this case, my intuition is that since it's a person speaking of herself in the third person it would be really weird if there was a reflexive pronoun there.

Basically, my conclusion is: nouns that actually have first person referents cannot be referred to by reflexive pronouns, but will prefer to take the whole noun anew.

One could imagine other similar restrictions, with a variety of justifications. Let's have some ideas:

1. Types of Conditioning Factors
The following factors seem like reasonably likely to restrict permissibility of reflexives:
  • Animacy. It may seem weird to think of inanimate things acting upon themselves? 
  • Certain types of verbs may not permit reflexives due to the normal reflexive meaning being too unrealistic. In such cases that the reflexive meaning indeed is intended, some more cumbersome construction where other verbs combine to form the intended meaning are required.
  • The referent of the noun. The English example above is weird - a proper noun that is coreferent with the first person singular pronoun - but similar restrictions based on some notion of courtesy may exist.
2. Types of  resolution
  • The animacy restriction could easily be resolved by making the inanimate noun the object of either a subjectless verb, the subject of a passive verb or the object of a verb with a dummy subject. Repeating the noun might also be reasonable.
  • Repeating the noun seems reasonable with courtesy-based restrictions, but one might also use some kind of smaller set of nouns that can refer to the same person: titles, for instance.
  • Where the verb is the restricting factor, one might imagine separate verb phrases added after a conjunction that take the reflexive marker ('the man helped it, did for himself' where it is a dummy pronoun), or again, the use of nouns that share referents ('his majesty helped the king'). Here, some extra marking would be needed whenever ambiguities arise, but words such as 'the same' or 'the other' probably would be available.


    More funlang

    September 16th, 2019

    Here is more of the funlang. This time I did the Eye Juggler text from Dirk Elzinga.

    Piyayuri
    Piya-yuri
    Piya-spirit
    wununday
    wunu-nday
    see-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Piya was seeing something.

    OK, so proper names get classifiers, too

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirunday
    yiru-nday
    follow-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    This was as follows.

    kibikibinuya
    kibikibi-nuya
    children.in.group-ANIMATE
    Tabunihunday
    Tabuni-hu-nday
    Tabuni-belonging.to-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Children were belonging to Tabuni.

    And marking plural on the predicate amuses me, so…

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    gurawunday
    gura-wu-nday
    play-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    They were playing.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirunday
    yiru-nday
    follow-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    This was as follows.

    nuya
    nuya
    ANIMATE
    ɂasamuwunday
    ɂasa-mu-wu-nday
    grasp-out-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    They were plucking out something.

    And with classifiers that can be used as pronouns, there is no need for separate third person pronouns.

    wuŋiwubiya
    wuŋi-wu-biya
    eye-PL-ROUND
    hutuwunday
    hutu-wu-nday
    in.hand-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Eyes were in hands.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tuyawayuwunday
    tuyawa-yu-wu-nday
    throw-up-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    And they (the eyes) were thrown upwards.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    rusutuduwunday
    rusu-tudu-wu-nday
    return-CAUS-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    And they were made to return.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    wuŋikabanuwunday
    wuŋi-kaba-nu-wu-nday
    eye-hole-COME-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    This was into eye sockets.

    Piyayuri
    Piya-yuri
    Piya-spirit
    guraɂuŋinday
    gura-ɂuŋi-nday
    play-MUST-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Piya wanted to play.

    wuŋibiya
    wuŋi-biya
    eye-ROUND
    zuyanday
    zuya-nday
    dark-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    (Piya’s) eyes were dark.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    ɂaranday
    ɂara-nday
    reflective-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    And they were shiny.

    yuri
    yuri
    spirit
    ɂasamundat
    ɂasa-mu-ndat
    grasp-out-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya plucked out something.

    biya
    biya
    round
    hutundat
    hutu-ndat
    in.hand-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    They (the eyes) were in hand.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tuyapayundat
    tuyapa-yu-ndat
    be.thrown-PASS-up-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    And they were thrown upwards.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    turunandat
    turu-na-ndat
    go.down-BEGIN-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    And they begin to come down.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    pasarandat
    pasara-ndat
    interrupted-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    This was interrupted.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    suŋudundat
    suŋudu-ndat
    cedar.tree-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    This (interruption) was a cedar tree.

    yuri
    yuri
    spirit
    ranaranatudundat
    ranarana-tudu-ndat
    shake-CAUS-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya made something shake.

    suŋuduɂuda
    suŋudu-ɂuda
    cedar.tree-TREE
    ranaranandat
    ranarana-ndat
    shake-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    The cedar tree shook.

    biya
    biya
    round
    turutupandat
    turu-tupa-ndat
    go.down-FAIL-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    The eyes did not come down.

    kibikibinuya
    kibikibi-nuya
    children.in.group-ANIMATE
    riniriniwundat
    rinirini-wu-ndat
    laugh-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    The children laughed.

    nuya
    nuya
    ANIMATE
    pusupusuwundat
    pusupusu-wu-ndat
    mockery-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    They mocked someone.

    Piyayuri
    Piya-yuri
    Piya-spirit
    pusupusupandat
    pusupusu-pa-ndat
    mockery-PASS-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya was mocked.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    nurutudundat
    nuru-tudu-ndat
    anger-CAUS-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    This caused anger.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    Piyasundat
    Piya-su-ndat
    Piya-LOC-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    This was in Piya.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    zunandat
    zuna-ndat
    reason-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    And this was the reason.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirunday
    yiru-nday
    follow-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    This was as follows.

    yuri
    yuri
    spirit
    yiriyiruganundat
    yiriyiru-ganu-ndat
    run-BEHIND-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya chased after something.

    nuya
    nuya
    ANIMATE
    yiriyiruganupawundat
    yiriyiru-ganu-pa-wu-ndat
    run-BEHIND-PASS-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    They (the children) were chased.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    hutudutupawundat
    hutu-(tu)du-tupa-wu-ndat
    in.hand-CAUS=FAIL-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    And they were not caught.

    So this is one way to make things less agglutinative – drop a syllable that is identical to the previous syllable. I suppose I should make sure I didn’t forget to do this elsewhere.

    yuri
    yuri
    spirit
    yiriyiruturandat
    yiriyiru-tura-ndat
    run-STOP-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya stopped chasing.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    puzarandat
    puza-ra-ndat
    away-GO-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya left.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tayituduɂuŋinday
    tayi-tudu-ɂuŋi-nday
    new-CAUS-MUST-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Piya must make something new.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    wuŋinday
    wuŋi-nday
    eye-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    These were eyes.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    ŋuyarunday
    ŋuya-ru-nday
    pine.sap-FROM-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    And they were from pine sap.

    wuŋibiya
    wuŋi-biya
    eye-round
    ŋuyaŋu
    ŋuya-ŋu
    pine.sap-LIKE
    Piya’s eyes are like pine sap.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    ɂarawapawapa
    ɂara-wapawapa
    reflective-NO.LONGER
    And they are no longer shiny.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    nuya
    nuya
    yellow
    And they are yellow.

    Talking Rock in a Funlang

    September 12th, 2019

    This is a new, unnamed funlang. It is an experiment in topic – comment with only intransitive predicates. So each full sentence is only two words and two words only. Pronouns include one that refers to the topic of the previous sentence (SAME) and one that refers to the comment of the previous sentence (COMMENT). It might even be non-recursive, but not being a theoretician, I won’t swear to that.

    yunara
    yunara
    1SG.NEW
    bandasa
    banda-sa
    walk-RECPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    I was walking.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yundatasa
    yundata-sa
    yesterday-RECPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    This was yesterday.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    habasusa
    haba-su-sa
    shore-LOC-RECPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And this was on the shore.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    pasarat
    pasara-t
    be-interrupted.RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And this was interrupted.

    yi
    yi
    1SG.OLD
    waɂat
    waɂa-t
    trip-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I tripped.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    ɂidusut
    ɂidu-su-t
    rock-LOC-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This (tripping) was on a rock.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    surahigudiy
    sura-higu-diy
    speak-POTENTIAL-RECPAST+IMPERF+INF
    This (the rock) might talk.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    ɂasayut
    ɂasa-yu-t
    grasp-UP-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I picked something up.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    surat
    sura-t
    speak-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And I spoke.

    ɂidubiya
    ɂidu-biya
    rock-round
    hutat
    huta-t
    be.in.hand-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    The rock was in hand.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    zinit
    zini-t
    be.spoken.to-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And it was spoken to.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    tanit
    tani-t
    say-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I said something.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    ɂuŋut
    ɂuŋu-t
    question-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This (what was said) was a question.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    yirut
    yiru-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was as follows.

    ɂidubiya
    ɂidu-biya
    rock-round
    guya
    guya
    be.this-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    Is this a rock?

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    sura
    sura
    speak-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And it speaks?

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tanit
    tani-t
    say-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And it said something.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirut
    yiru-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was as follows.

    ɂidubiya
    ɂidu-biya
    rock-round
    yunara
    yunara
    1SG-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    A rock I am.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    sura
    sura
    speak-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And I speak.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    tanit
    tani-t
    say-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I said something.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirut
    yiru-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was as follows.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    zinibidit
    zini-bi-dit
    be.spoken.to-NEG-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    I was not spoken to.

    wisata
    wisata
    2SG.NEW
    surabidit
    sura-bi-dit
    speak-NEG-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    You did not speak.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tanibidit
    tani-bi-dit
    say-NEG-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    And you did not say something.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirudit
    yiru-dit
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    This was possibly as follows.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    zusahigudiy
    zusa-higu-diy
    watch.for-POTENTIAL-RECPAST+IMPERF+INF
    I should watch out.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    wisatanudiy
    wisata-nu-diy
    2SG-RECPAST+IMPERF+INF
    This (watching out) would be for you.

    biya
    biya
    round
    tanirusut
    tani-rusu-t
    say-back-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    It replied.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirut
    yiru-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was as follows.

    ɂidubiya
    ɂidu-biya
    rock-round
    yunara
    yunara
    1SG-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    A rock I am.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    sura
    sura
    speak-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And I speak.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    puna
    puna
    be.mean-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And I am mean.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    zuna
    zuna
    reason-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This is the reason.

    taniya
    tani-ya
    saying-GENERIC
    nurutudu-t
    nuru-tudu-t
    anger-cause-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    The speech caused anger.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yunarasut
    yunara-su-t
    1SG-LOC-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This (anger) was in me.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    zunat
    zuna-t
    reason-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And was the reason.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirunut
    yiru-nu-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was for the following.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    tuyawat
    tuyawa-t
    throw-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I threw something.

    biya
    biya
    round
    tuyawapat
    tuyawa-pa-t
    throw-PASS-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    It (the rock) was thrown.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    haraharasut
    harahara-su-t
    ocean-LOC-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And it was in the ocean.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    wunurusubidit
    wunu-rusu-bi-dit
    see-back-NEG-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    I did not see (something) again.

    biya
    biya
    round
    wunurusubipadit
    wunu-rusu-bi-pa-dit
    see-back-NEG-PASS-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    It (the rock) was not seen again.

    I like the repetitiveness of otherwise transitive verbs. It amuses me.

    I also like the fact that speak and spoken to are different, unrelated words. And that the converse of pick up is be in hand.

    I like that pronouns come in two sets: new and previously mentioned. With regular nouns, this is accomplished by using noun plus classifier for a new mention and the classifier only as a previous mention.

    I am a bit worried about the lack of clarity in where a quote ends. Adding something like “saying finished” might work, but it would probably involve repeating the noun tani-ya rather than just ya, which I don’t like.

    The comment words ought to be less cleanly agglutinative, at least when it comes to multiple suffixes, those should blend a bit more, maybe.

    What do you think?

    I will do the Eye Juggler next, and then maybe the South Wind and the Sun. Short texts become such long texts that I am not sure I dare tackle the longer texts that I usually use.

    Another musical interlude

    September 6th, 2019

    While I try to figure out how to present the interlude language – a fun project not meant to be a naturalistic conlang on its own…

    Xyric Folk Tales, Version 1

    September 1st, 2019

    Raymond Scherer first became interested in linguistics when he took Spanish for the first time in the 8th grade. Since then, he has engaged in a few language creation efforts and created the Xyric language as part of a school project, but has since expanded it. He currently studies German and Spanish but has aspirations to study other languages once he becomes fluent. He plans to study aerospace engineering in college.

    Abstract

    This is a collection of various folk tales in the Xyric language. This collection contains five different short stories, including their creation story in which the Great Boulder creates the world. It also includes a story about a man saving his son, a man becoming the wind, a swearing pet, and a woman that raises birds.

    Version History

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

    Conlangery 142: Mike McCubbins on Anasazi (comic)

    August 30th, 2019
    We bring Mike McCubbins on to talk about his new Kickstarter project, Anasazi, a comic which uses simple constructed written languages to tell a story in a visual medium. You can find the Kickstarter here! Top of Show Greeting: Salbécyk / Salbekian

    Detail #381: Zero-Copula and Zero-Have with some Animacy Hierarchies and Noun Class Considerations Thrown in

    August 27th, 2019
    Let's consider a language where
    Tiffany boss
    means 'Tiffany is (a/the) boss' , but
    Tiffany skateboard
    means 'Tiffany has a skateboard'.

    What could be the strategies that differentiates the two?

    1. Semi-Word Classes
    Even if the language conflates, say, adjectives and nouns, certain nouns will sort of tend to be applicable to things in a very general way - e.g. if colours are expressed as nouns (or nominal adjectives), it seems as though 'red(noun)' could refer to things of a whole lot greater range of variation than 'tractor' could. If it turns out a noun is statistically very likely to be used as an attribute, we could consider it "more adjectivey" than nouns that are less likely to appear as attributes. The more adjectivey a noun, the more likely it is to be understood as something that the person is rather than has. However, of course, in certain contexts
    Tiffany cold
    might signify that Tiffany has a cold one. Maybe when describing what she and her colleagues are drinking at after-work, in parallel with others:
    Jean irish coffee, Lisette mulled cider, Tiffany cold.

    For some nouns, there may not even really exist a difference in parsing:
    John is sick
    John has sick(ness)
    The parenthesis is mainly there to show that for that particular adjective-noun, there's no difference between the abstract notion of 'disease' and the quality of being sick, or being a sick person. Again, parallel constructions could break this parsing:
    Sean healthy son and John sick
     Sean has a healthy son, but John has a sick one.
    2. Noun Classes and Animacy Hierarchies
    Nouns of the same 'class' are parsed as 'be' rather than 'have', unless there are syntactical or contextual reasons not to. (See 4). Words close together on the animacy hierarchy are considered 'be'-words unless there are semantic clashes:
    John husband: John is a husband
    Patricia husband: Patricia has a husband
    For some words where some kind of symmetry is implied, both ways of parsing kind of pass:
    Lyndon friend: Lyndon is a friend, Lyndon has a friend
    Regardless of the parsing, if Lyndon has a friend, he also probably is a friend of that friend.

    3.  Abstract nouns depend on the concept itself and the subject: take 'guilt', for instance.
    police guilty: police (have) the guilty one (in jail)
    suspect guilty: the suspect is guilty
    man guilty: depends on the man!
    4. Things that 'force' a different parsing:

    With symmetrical structures - "friend", for instance - some kind of reflexive marking or other transitivity marking could potentially "steer" the meaning in a less symmetric direction. This could also go for less symmetric things like husband/wife: John refl-poss husband: John has a husband.

    With abstract nouns, pronouns could break the implicit 'bond' that affects meaning:
    police he guilt: the police is guilty
    suspect refl-poss guilt: the suspect has (apprehended?) the guilty part
    man he guilt: the man is guilty
    man refl-poss guilt: the man has the guilty one
    The same structure also probably could override differences in the animacy hierarchy. This also gives a great reason to sometimes double a pronoun:
    he guilt: ambiguous
    he he guilt: he is guilty
    he refl-poss guilt: he has the guilty one