Detail #380: Stealing a Thing from Georgian but Refactoring it so It Applies to Nouns Instead

April 24th, 2018 by Miekko
Consider a system of nouns with a rich derivational morphology, where a single root can be used for a variety of vaguely related concepts, e.g.
aras: 'a thing or person in some way related to return of an action'
arat: an opponent or an accuser
aras-in: answer
aras-uk: responsibility
aras-tab: resistance
aras-tuk: physical support or counter-force
v-aras-k: payment
at-aras: reaction
er-ras: a replacement
Now, one could imagine that in a variety of positions, these affixes are omitted, and I am going to go by the Georgian verb route and omit them in the least marked instance. For Georgian verbs, it's the present imperfective that omits semantically significant prefixes, but for these nouns, it will be the definite subject that does so.

Thus, an answer, an opponent, a responsibility or a payment all will be 'aras' in the definite nominative, and the rest of the morphemes appear in non-nominative contexts. How does this work out with regards to understandability?

Well, the verb itself will by sheer semantic content help the listener figure out what type of noun the subject can be in the first place. In such a language, it could help if the verb also encoded some information about the speaker's opinion of or relation to the subject.

Here, we could also imagine a situation wherein the personal pronouns also permit for a slightly richer semantic range than just persons, e.g. "I" also encoding for 'me and my family' or even things like 'these concerns of mine', 'my business', 'my past actions', 'my intentions' and such, just by means of what verbs one uses. Thus something like
"I worked out like planned"
would signify
my plans worked out like I planned
but
"I settled the new house"
works out as
me and my family moved into the new house
Different verbs would obviously need to have rather complicated associations.

An alternative way of designing this idea would conflate everything in the accusative instead (or even absolutive or ergative), and let the verb influence how to parse the object instead.

Ŋʒädär: The Conditional

April 23rd, 2018 by Miekko
The conditional verb in Ŋʒädär (marked by -OlOb- directly on the stem) can be used for a variety of uses, even strictly indicative/realis uses. It has three main usages:

1. Irrealis / Conditional
The presence of -OlOb- on a verb is most commonly used to signal a conditional construction. Usually, both the protasis and apodosis are marked with -OlOb-, especially if they are of the same tense. However, if if the protasis is in the past, and the apodosis in the present, you sometimes only get -OlOb- on the protasis. The protasis often comes before the apodosis, but this is not mandatory. In the case of the protasis coming after, however, the postposition -ok'an is mandatorily suffixed to the verb or to a third person dummy obviative pronoun. Here, a slight indication that the irrealis is somewhat 'infinitive-like' appears.

2. Statements about VPs
What in English would be expressed as 'it is unfortunate/good/... that ..." would, in Ŋʒädär be constructed as
unfortunate/good/... VP (with V having -OlOb-)
An interesting difference is that for proper adjectives, use of the absolutive indicates that the statement is realis, whereas use of the complement case indicates that the statement is irrealis. For nouns, it is dative vs. complement, where the dative indicates realis. For "improper adjectives" (or adverbally inclined adjectives, see this), the distinction is maintained by omitting the absolutive marker in the realis, and the use of the complement case in the irrealis.

3. Denoting wishes and desires
If used in a statement with no apparent apodosis, and no apparent adjective or NP (or even other VP) to parse as qualifying the quality of the statement,  -OlOb- cannot be parsed as marking neither a condition nor a result, and will be parsed as expressing a desired circumstance.

Detail #379: Differential Object Marking with a Twist

April 19th, 2018 by Miekko
Many languages have some type of differential object marking, even, arguably English, if we consider verb pairs like shoot x vs. shoot at x to be distinguished not by 'shoot at' being a phrase, but by the object phrase containing a preposition. In English, it gets a bit complicated due to being lexically determined to a great extent.

However, other languages have a more predictable system: Turkish, for instance, uses the nominative with indefinite objects, and accusative with definite objects. This is fairly simple. For a more complex system, let's look at ... Finnish. Now, I'm leaving out a truckload of details here.

Finnish uses the partitive whenever the verb is either of
  • atelic
  • negative
  • certain verbs just generally use it
 It uses the partitive whenever the verb is all of
  • telic
  • positive
This asymmetry between the two is sort of notable:


atelictelic
negativepartitivepartitive
positivepartitiveaccusative
Now, let's imagine a language where the differential marking really serves to distinguish a three-valued thing, let's call the values A, B and C. This system only has two surface forms, however. Singulars merge B and C, plurals merge A and B.

However, we could imagine that a language may want to distinguish all three of these on, for instance, pronouns. And we can imagine a multitude of ways that this distinction is done: unique morphemes, reduplicated morphemes, change of roots or some more shenanigansy approach.

1. Unique Morphemes
Trivial, really. whereas regular nouns use two morphemes (whereof maybe one is a null morpheme), the pronouns have a unique case morpheme here.

2. Overlap Elsewhere
A bit like the previous, but here, the pronouns overload some other case here. Maybe the pronouns can use the genitive for direct objects to distinguish this third option, whereas regular nouns can't.

3. Reduplicated Morphemes
A bit like the 'unique' morphemes solution, but simply just have the accusative suffix go twice on the pronoun. A simple alternative would be to have both the accusative and the genitive combine to form this case.

4. Change of Roots
This is an obvious and simple solution, ... but. We can do something interesting about it. Much like the I-me suppletion in English, this would have a unique root involved. However, to make this interesting, we could have one of the object cases conflate several pronouns. For instance, maybe gender distinctions are fewer for the special root? Maybe number is not distinguished in third person? Or even in first person? Or hey, let's be radical and let's not distinguish first and second person at all!


Detail #379: Differential Object Marking with a Twist

April 19th, 2018 by Miekko
Many languages have some type of differential object marking, even, arguably English, if we consider verb pairs like shoot x vs. shoot at x to be distinguished not by 'shoot at' being a phrase, but by the object phrase containing a preposition. In English, it gets a bit complicated due to being lexically determined to a great extent.

However, other languages have a more predictable system: Turkish, for instance, uses the nominative with indefinite objects, and accusative with definite objects. This is fairly simple. For a more complex system, let's look at ... Finnish. Now, I'm leaving out a truckload of details here.

Finnish uses the partitive whenever the verb is either of
  • atelic
  • negative
  • certain verbs just generally use it
 It uses the partitive whenever the verb is all of
  • telic
  • positive
This asymmetry between the two is sort of notable:


atelictelic
negativepartitivepartitive
positivepartitiveaccusative
Now, let's imagine a language where the differential marking really serves to distinguish a three-valued thing, let's call the values A, B and C. This system only has two surface forms, however. Singulars merge B and C, plurals merge A and B.

However, we could imagine that a language may want to distinguish all three of these on, for instance, pronouns. And we can imagine a multitude of ways that this distinction is done: unique morphemes, reduplicated morphemes, change of roots or some more shenanigansy approach.

1. Unique Morphemes
Trivial, really. whereas regular nouns use two morphemes (whereof maybe one is a null morpheme), the pronouns have a unique case morpheme here.

2. Overlap Elsewhere
A bit like the previous, but here, the pronouns overload some other case here. Maybe the pronouns can use the genitive for direct objects to distinguish this third option, whereas regular nouns can't.

3. Reduplicated Morphemes
A bit like the 'unique' morphemes solution, but simply just have the accusative suffix go twice on the pronoun. A simple alternative would be to have both the accusative and the genitive combine to form this case.

4. Change of Roots
This is an obvious and simple solution, ... but. We can do something interesting about it. Much like the I-me suppletion in English, this would have a unique root involved. However, to make this interesting, we could have one of the object cases conflate several pronouns. For instance, maybe gender distinctions are fewer for the special root? Maybe number is not distinguished in third person? Or even in first person? Or hey, let's be radical and let's not distinguish first and second person at all!


Conlangery SHORTS #28: Fuzzy Phonetics

April 14th, 2018 by Conlangery Podcast

George gives a short talk about how phonology affects phonetic transcriptions and why the narrow “phonetic” transcription of your language does not have to be overly specific (especially with vowels!). We should have a regular episode again next month. ORIGINAL SCRIPT: There is a tendency in the conlanging community to hew toward more narrow, standardized… Read more »

#519

April 11th, 2018 by analemmas

A conscript where the ideograms must all be drawn to scale.

Lexical Exploration: “bruise”

April 7th, 2018 by Wm

The English bruise is related to words for "crush, injure, cut, smash." The usage for blemished fruits is first attested in the 14th century.

In Ancient Greek, several words related to the core sense of "crush" are also given the definition "bruise:" θλάω, τρίβω. There is also the rare-appearing word μώλωψ, "mark of a stripe, weal, bruise" which generates a denominal verb.

In the Dravidian family, again, quite a few words related to "crush" or "(strike a) blow, beat," and occasionally "press," are also glossed "bruise." See for example, naci and tar̤umpu.

In the Austronesian family color terms seem to be a popular source domain, as in the color root, -*dem, which generates a term in one daughter language, and the root *alem, also related to color, does in another. Also *baŋbaŋ₈, which generated terms related to a range of skin discolorations. There are other source domains, however, such as baneR, which in addition to "bruise, weal" also generates a specific term for blemishes on fruit.

In Mbula, -berebere across dialects means "be bruised and swollen, itch and burn, have blisters."

Mandarin has a large collection of terms glossed "bruise," most of which seem to be polysemous with more generic injury terms, "wound, abscess, bump," or the aftermath, "scar." The term 烏青 wū qīng refers to the color ("dark/black" + "grue/grey"), and can be used alone as a color term.

Somba-Siawari's yöhöza covers all of "bite, sting, rub, hurt, bruise, weigh down."

In Malayalam the terms are all polysemous with other injury terms, of which ആഘാതം āghātaṁ is most flush with meaning: "stab, stroke, beat, trauma, blow, waft, bruise, bump, impact, poke, push, shock."

Other dictionaries consulted: Maori, Turkish, Angave, Swahili, Arabic, Wolof, Korean, Armenian, Malay.

Summary: the cause of bruising ("hit, crush, pound, press," occasionally "abrade" or "dent") is a common source domain. In some families, the word is polysemous with other kinds of injuries, "weal" and swelling, in particular. Color terms are an occasional source. It's hard to tell history from some dictionaries, but there may occasionally be root terms for a polysemous injury word that includes "bruise." Finally, languages that are robustly reduplicating seem happy to use it in "bruise" terms (but this might be due to the stative sense rather than specific semantics).

#518

April 2nd, 2018 by surullinensaukko

—-BREAKING—-

We interrupt your usual schedule with this important announcement. Reports are coming in about a brand new conlang idea, where everything is written in the style of a breaking news report. This idea is believed to originate from one bored shitposter killing time as they waited in the departure lounge of a train station. More on this as it develops.

Detail #378: An Unlikely Type of Numeral

April 2nd, 2018 by Miekko
Consider imprecise numbers. In normal usage, one can assume some leeway with the unstated digits, so e.g.
370.3
permits any number in the range [370.25, 370.35[. However, final zeroes offers a small problem here, as 370 can be imagined to be 37 * 10 or 37.0 * 10, giving us the following possible ranges:
[369.5, 370.5[
[365, 375[
A jargon for some mathematically inclined profession, or the language of a highly technological culture could potentially include these distinctions in their spoken numbers by having a significant zero. This significant zero would appear in the same kinds of constructions giving higher numbers as do regular numbers, with the exception that it only appears once, at the least digit position that is significant (not the least significant such). 

Thus, you'd get numbers like zeronty, zero hundred, zero thousand, and these would cut off the number at the desired level of precision.

The tens would in addition need two tens - one that is just ten, the other is ten and zero.

Thus ten thousand would signify 'ten +/- 500', 'ten and zero' would signify 'ten +/- 50', and ten thousand zeronty would signify ten thousand +/- 5, and finally 'ten thousand zero' would signify ten thousand +/- 0.5.

Smaller fractions could also be formed using the regular ways fractions are formed.

Detail #378: An Unlikely Type of Numeral

April 2nd, 2018 by Miekko
Consider imprecise numbers. In normal usage, one can assume some leeway with the unstated digits, so e.g.
370.3
permits any number in the range [370.25, 370.35[. However, final zeroes offers a small problem here, as 370 can be imagined to be 37 * 10 or 37.0 * 10, giving us the following possible ranges:
[369.5, 370.5[
[365, 375[
A jargon for some mathematically inclined profession, or the language of a highly technological culture could potentially include these distinctions in their spoken numbers by having a significant zero. This significant zero would appear in the same kinds of constructions giving higher numbers as do regular numbers, with the exception that it only appears once, at the least digit position that is significant (not the least significant such). 

Thus, you'd get numbers like zeronty, zero hundred, zero thousand, and these would cut off the number at the desired level of precision.

The tens would in addition need two tens - one that is just ten, the other is ten and zero.

Thus ten thousand would signify 'ten +/- 500', 'ten and zero' would signify 'ten +/- 50', and ten thousand zeronty would signify ten thousand +/- 5, and finally 'ten thousand zero' would signify ten thousand +/- 0.5.

Smaller fractions could also be formed using the regular ways fractions are formed.