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.

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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

Conlangery 141: The Eighth Language Creation Conference

August 5th, 2019
George brings on Christophe and Joey to talk about their experience at the Eighth Language Creation Conference. We also have clips from interviews Joey made at the conference. Top of Show Greeting: Bizhida Links: 8th Language Creation Conference Livestream: Day 1, Day 2

Me Nem Nesa: A Phonological Analysis of Dothraki

August 1st, 2019

Sanjeev Vinodh is an undergraduate at UC Berkeley studying Linguistics and Cognitive Science. His interests include phonology, pragmatics, persuasive speaking, and p-alliteration. Sanjeev also teaches two classes at Berkeley: Magic: Theory and Deception, and Charisma: The Art of Genuine Connection.

Abstract

This paper provides an analysis of three phonological processes found in David J. Peterson’s conlang Dothraki (created for the HBO series Game of Thrones)—”r” alternations, vowel laxing, and stress assignment—including a discussion on the language’s typological tractability. This was Sanjeev’s final project for Linguistics 111, Phonology, taught at UC Berkeley.

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But then I took an aversion to the knee: constructions and collocations

July 22nd, 2019
I've been on a Construction Grammar (CxG) kick for a while now. I gave a talk about using it as a creative tool at LCC7. We talked about it on a recent Conlangery episode (Conlanger #140: Word Classes with William Croft). I don't want to go into great detail here, but the fundamental difference between CxG and the usual grammatical theories we're familiar with is that in CxG a construction is any pairing of form and meaning. In CxG, your grammar and your lexicon are not separate things — they're all constructions. Examples:

  • morphemes: pre-, -ing
  • word: and, sleep, peanut
  • complex word: daredevil
  • schematic complex word (partially filled): [N-s] (regular plurals)
  • idiom: give the Devil his due
  • schematic idiom: jog memory
  • ditransitive: Subj V Obj1 Obj2 (e.g., he gave her a book)
For conlanging, the most exciting thing about uniting lexicon and syntax into constructions is that everything that can happen to words can happen to all constructions: polysemy (have several meanings), grammaticalize, undergo semantic shift historically, appear and disappear as a fad (think "I did it because reasons"), etc., etc.

One very important feature of words is that they tend to have friends — words they appear with more often than chance or even semantics would suggest. Often these pairings mean something more than just the combination of the parts. For example, "dry land" is not simply land that is dry. It is used to contrast to bodies of water. Think also of: confirmed bachelor, insist firmly, seriously ill, etc., etc. These collocations (as they are called) are also a kind of construction.

I heard an English turn of phrase recently that go me thinking about collocations. I'm going to work out the associations and collocational restrictions a bit, with some help from Google. But this is not just an analysis of English. Think about using things like this in your own conlangs.

The schema is: Take (a/the) X to Y.  Now, this can be used as simple expression with an obviously compositional (non-idiomatic) meaning: I took the book to work. But things get interesting when we make specific selections for X and Y.

For example, if for X we pick a bladed object, and Y is some normal target for activity with that object: he took a razor to my beard; Thomas Jefferson took a scalpel to his copy of the gospels; [Girl] took a machete to this kid's car and completely just smashed it.

The word razor is in this, and from there it seems that other grooming tools can be brought into this construction: She took a razor to my hair, and it looked good at first; Ellen DeGeneres took a trimmer to Julian Edelman! she did use a diffuser but then also took a comb to my hair.

Another line of development, again seemingly related to cutting implements, is tools: the Fire Department took a Ax to the trunk and windows; on the last week of lab a lab technician took a saw to the top of the cadaver's head and removed his brain as a final organ for study in our lab; the aftermath of a carpenter bee infestation can look like a deranged carpenter took a drill to your property just for the fun of it. And then this use seems even to spread to stapler, and from that to other adhesion methods: it feels like someone took a stapler to my left eyeball; I took glue to my wanton collection, pasted together each part of each story and tried to make the edges fit; we took some pictures of a "DADS INN" (the sign obviously a Days Inn until someone took duct tape to it).

Perhaps yet another development of either the blade sense or the tool sense, weapons can be used: in the early part of the campaign, Baker took a bazooka to an entire ridge of enemy forces assaulting his company. Interestingly, when I looked for take a shovel to, most clear examples of this construction when the shovel was being used offensively, though not always: I took a shovel to the tawny daylilies that doubled in number every year; 7 grammar mistakes that make others want to take a shovel to your face.

From here there's a an interesting development where if X is a ballistic item and Y is a body part, the subject of the expression is on the receiving end of the action, always bad: McCarthy stepped in front of President Reagan, and took a bullet to the chest but made a full recovery; he took a mortar to his chest, and he was cut off behind enemy lines; he took a baseball to the face this weekend, but temporarily stayed in the game; "I used to be an adventurer like you, but then I took an arrow to the knee."

Finally, there is a completely different development, an interpersonal reading where certain nouns of liking and aversion are used to indicate an inchoative sense: He took a liking to his new neighbor; that's why Biggie took a like to them, because they lived what they rapped about; Laura took a shine to her at the interview and offered her the job; she took a dislike to me after a small argument over my political beliefs; I remember a race of lispers, fine persons, who took an aversion to particular letters in our language.

Here's a map of what I think is going on semantically:


There are problem some senses I have missed. This is probably an over-rich example of constructional flexibility. Regardless, it's working thinking along these lines when developing vocabulary and idiom for your conlang.

Conlangery 140: Word Classes with William Croft

July 3rd, 2019
George and William invite Prof. William Croft to talk about his theoretical approach to word classes and constructions. Forget a language without adjectives, let’s talk about how your property concepts are predicated! Links and Resources: Croft, William. in preparation. Morphosyntax: constructions of the world’s languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1, Chapter 2 Croft, William.... Read more »

Sargaĺk: Mistaken Ideas about Biology

July 2nd, 2019
The gender of certain nouns in Sargaĺk showcase that biology and grammatical gender sometimes are mismatched. Several genderless animals have nouns for both genders. No regard is given to whether there actually are gender distinctions in the actual species, and sometimes the speakers have misconstrued what particular traits characterize the genders.
saləb a small common species of worm (masc)
saluta a small common species of worm (fem)
kaxar tadpole (masc)
ipxaž tadpole (fem)
Many tadpoles in the Sargaĺk area only differentiate by gender after reaching the (almost) mature stage.
karč scallop, oyster (masc)
əltas scallop, oyster (fem)
the gender distinction is made by the colour of the shell, which has no actual implication visavis the actual gender of the oysters of the Sargaĺk world. However, different communities may map the colours to genders in different ways.

sreb snail (masc)
srewta snail (fem)

tirs slug (masc)
tirast slug (fem)

əktəl a slightly larger species of worm (masc)
əkta a slightly larger species of worm (fem)
k'ets a type of crayfish (masc)
k'enast a type of crayfish (fem)
The Sargaĺk do not eat this particular crayfish because it's poisonous. However, they assume small claws imply feminine gender, which is not entirely accurate.

inis ant (fem)
inast a different, slightly larger species of ant (masc)