A Question of Alignment VI: Syntactic Pivot

November 15th, 2017 by carsten

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.

Since we have just dealt with aspects of syntactic alignment in the last installment and found that Ayeri behaves a little oddly with regards to this, it may be interesting to perform another test on declarative statements and their syntactic pivot as well. A simple test which Comrie (1989: 111–114) describes in this regard is to test coreference in coordinated clauses. In coordinated clauses, it seems to be not uncommon for the subject of the second conjunct to drop out. Thus, in English, which behaves very much in terms of NOMACC alignment in this regard, we get the following result:

In the English example in (1), the cat constitutes the coreferential subject in (1d). This NP is the intransitive subject S of (1b) and the agent A of (1a). English thus typically has NOMACC alignment, since it treats S and A alike. In an ERGABS language, then, we would expect the opposite case: S and P should be treated alike. In Dyirbal, we find the situation depicted by the examples in (2).

  1. Dyirbal (adapted from Comrie 1989: 112):

In (2), we find that balan dʸugumbil ‘the woman’ is coreferential in (2d). This is the S of (2c), and the P of (2a). Dyirbal, thus, treats S and P alike, as predicted for an ERGABS language—at least in this case, since Comrie (1989: 113) also explains that 1SG and 2SG pronouns in Dyirbal behave in terms in terms of NOMACC. Comrie (1989) also notes that some languages do not show a clear preference for whether the A or P of the transitive clause in the first conjunct is the preferred reference of the S of the intransitive clause in the second conjunct.

For Tagalog, as Kroeger (1991) explains, “the deletion is not obligatory but null nominative arguments are always interpreted as referring to the nominative argument of the main clause” (30). Due to the way Tagalog treats subjects, however, the nominative argument can be formed by either NP in (3) with the voice marked accordingly on the verb.1

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 31, from Ramoscena 1990: 151–152):

What can be observed in Tagalog is that in (3a), the dropped S argument in the second conjunct, bago umalis … ‘before … leaves’, is coreferential with Marvin, since he is marked as the subject of the first conjunct. Since Marvin is the theme (above marked P for ‘patient’ more generally) of tanong ‘ask’, the clause needs to be marked for objective voice. On the other hand, in (3b), it is Derek who is the subject of the clause, so it is also he who leaves; the verb in the first conjunct clause is marked for active voice according to the asker as the actor (A) being the subject.

In order to now investigate what the situation is in Ayeri, let us return to our initial set of examples. These examples feature two animals which are treated both as animate neuters. Anaphoric reference is thus potentially ambiguous between paral ‘cat’ and prabara ‘mouse’.

While it is possible in Ayeri to not repeat the coreferential NP in a conjunct clause verbatim, Ayeri still appears to avoid an empty subject slot. Thus, the verb sahayong ‘it comes’ in (4b) displays a pronominal clitic, -yong ‘it’, which constitutes the resumptive subject pronoun of the clause. In (4d) at least, this pronoun is coreferential with the subject in the first conjunct, paral ‘cat’. Seeing as Tagalog switches the subject around by altering the voice marking on the verb, it is certainly illustrative to check how Ayeri fares if the topic is swapped to prabara ‘mouse’.

In (5), the resumptive pronoun is indicated to not refer to the first conjunct’s agent/subject, paral, but to its theme/object, prabara. This may be explained by topicalization: the sentence is about the mouse, so the underspecified argument in the second conjunct, in absence of topic marking that would indicate otherwise, corresponds to the topic. Interestingly, the result is structurally similar to the example of Tagalog in (3) above. It is too early yet, however, to conclude that what was called ‘topic’ so far is the subject; Ayeri is merely not completely unambiguous in this context. Since Tagalog allows any NP of a clause to be the subject, as illustrated by (1) of installment 4 in this series, let us test whether the behavior just described for Ayeri also holds in other contexts of topicalization. The following example presents sentences of differently case-marked topic NPs each, but in every case, the agent NP and the topicalized NP consist of a human referent. Both referents share the same person features so that the verb in the coordinated intransitive clause can theoretically license either of them as its antecedent.

    1. {Yam ilya} {ang Akan} ilonley Maran nay sarayāng.

      yam=il-ya ang=Akan ilon-ley Ø=Maran nay sara=yāng

      DATT=give-3SG.M A=Akan present-P.INAN TOP=Maran and leave=3SG.M.A

      ‘Maran, Akan gives him a present, and he leaves.’ (Maran leaves)

    2. {Na pahya} {ang Maran} ilonley Diyan nay sarayāng.

      na=pah-ya ang=Maran ilon-ley Ø=Diyan nay sara=yāng

      GENT=take.away-3SG.M A=Maran present-P.INAN TOP=Diyan and leave=3SG.M.A

      ‘Diyan, Maran takes the present away from him, and he leaves.’ (Diyan leaves)

    3. {Ya bahaya} {ang Diyan} Maran nay sarayāng.

      ya=baha-ya ang=Diyan Ø=Maran nay sara=yāng

      LOCT=baha-3SG.M A=Diyan TOP=Maran and leave=3SG.M.A

      ‘Maran, Diyan shouts at him, and he leaves.’ (Maran leaves)

    4. {Ri su-sunca} {ang Diyan} ilonley Sedan nay sarayāng.

      ri=su~sunt-ya ang=Diyan ilon-ley Ø=Sedan nay sara=yāng.

      INST=ITER~claim-3SG.M A=Diyan present-P.INAN TOP=Sedan and leave=3SG.M.A

      ‘Sedan, Diyan reclaims the present with his help, and he leaves.’ (Sedan leaves)

    5. {Sā pinyaya} {ang Maran} tatamanyam Sedan nay sarayāng.

      sā=pinya-ya ang=Maran tataman-yam Ø=Sedan nay sara=yāng

      CAUT=ask-3SG.M A=Maran forgiveness-DAT TOP=Sedan and leave=3SG.M.A

      ‘Sedan, he makes Maran ask for forgiveness, and he leaves.’ (Sedan leaves)

In each of the sentences in (6), it is the topicalized NP which is identified as the antecedent for sarayāng ‘he leaves’. Does this mean Ayeri does, in fact, use Austronesian alignment? While the above examples certainly suggest it, let us not forget that the verb in the coordinated clause could theoretically pick either the agent NP or the topicalized NP as its controller. Things look slightly different, however, if the reference of the verb is unambiguous, for instance, because the topicalized argument cannot logically be the agent of the coordinated clause:

In (7), the first conjunct’s verb, as the head of its clause, specifies that the topic of the clause is the patient (P), which is embodied by ilon ‘present’. This NP, however, is not a very typical agent for the verb in the second conjunct, sara- ‘leave’. Besides, this verb is conjugated so as to require an animate masculine controller, whereas ilon is inanimate, as shown by the topic marker le. Ilon is thus not a suitable controller for sarayāng, since their person-feature values clash with each other—the ANIM and GEND values in particular:

    1. ilon N
      (↑ PRED) = ‘present’
      (↑ INDEX) =
       (↓ PERS) = 3
       (↓ NUM) = SG
       (↓ ANIM) =
       (↓ GEND) = INAN
    2. sarayāng I
      (↑ PRED) = ‘leave ‹(↑ SUBJ)›
      (↑ SUBJ) =
       (↓ PRED) = pro
       (↓ PERS) = 3
       (↓ NUM) = SG
       (↓ ANIM) = +
       (↓ GEND) = M
       (↓ CASE) = A

As before, there are two masculine NPs in the first conjunct which form suitable antecedents on behalf of being animate masculine as required: the agent (A) Akan and the recipient (R) Maran. Of the remaining non-topic NPs, Ayeri considers the agent to rank higher as a secondary topic on the thematic hierarchy than the recipient. The agent hence forms the preferred controller for sarayāng.

  1. Thematic hierarchy (Bresnan et al. 2016: 329):

    agent > beneficiary > experiencer/goal > instrument > patient/theme > locative

In cases where the topic in the first conjunct can safely be ruled out as the controller of the pronominal in the second conjunct, the syntactic pivot, thus, defaults to the highest-ranking semantically coherent NP. In most cases, Ayeri will therefore group the intransitive subject and the transitive agent together. For most verbs, this is also reflected by case marking, as we have seen above in (4): the S of an intransitive clause receives the same case marker as the A of a transitive clause: -ang/ang for animate referents, and reng/eng for inanimate referents. The case described initially, where the topic marking basically determines the controller of the coordinated intransitive clause, which is reminiscent of Tagalog’s syntax, is essentially a strategy to disambiguate between two possible controllers for the same target.

When only one of the referents in the transitive conjunct is eligible as the controller of the subject of the intransitive conjunct at the same time, A and P are regularly indicated by person agreement, since Ayeri requires a resumptive pronominal clitic in the intransitive clause, as indicated above. The affix on the verb thus has the status of a pronominal predicator, compare (10).

In (10a), the verb in the second conjunct, sarayāng ‘he leaves’ is marked for a masculine third-person subject. The only available controller in the first conjunct is Lita on behalf of being male, since Kumang is female. Hence, in (10b) the verb of the intransitive conjunct, sarayeng ‘she leaves’, finds its controller only in Kumang.

  • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
  • Comrie, Bernard. Language Universals and Linguistic Typology. Syntax and Morphology. 2nd ed. London: Blackwell, 1989. Print.
  • Kroeger, Paul R. Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. Diss. Stanford University, 1991. Web. 17 Dec. 2016. ‹http://www.gial.edu/wp-content/uploads/paul_kroeger/PK-thesis-revised-all-chapters-readonly.pdf›.
  • Ramos, Teresita V. and Resty M. Cena. Modern Tagalog: Grammatical Explanations and Exercises for Non-native Speakers. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 1990. Print.
  1. Thus, compare the English passive sentence Marvini was asked by Derekj before hei left with (3a). In English, the reference of he is ambiguous between the syntactic subject Marvin and the agent Derek, however. As we have seen above, though, Tagalog would also be able to make a subject of an oblique argument, not just of the patient/theme or the recipient. The actor of the Tagalog sentence is also basically an object, not demoted to an adverbial as in English (Kroeger 1991: 38–44).

Identity-centered Pronouns

November 15th, 2017 by Wm

One of the things you might do as a non-hetero or non-gender-conforming conlanger is fiddle around with pronouns or other parts of a language to represent your own reality a bit more. Most first attempts at fiddling with the pronouns are likely to result in a giant pronoun inventory that is unwieldy while also leaving some people out. I've certainly produced a few of these in the past.

For a very slowly developing personal project (Kílta), though, I came up with an idea that might be workable: the identity center.

This is modeled on the deictic center. The deictic center of a narrative or conversation is that location in space to which words of location and motion are oriented: this/that, here/there, come/go, etc. The center can move in narrative to where the action is, but in most interactive conversation the center is where the conversation is taking place.

So, in this model personal and demonstrative pronouns are coded as being either at or away from the currently active identity center. There are neutral pronouns, and much of the time those will be the ones used, but if somehow identity becomes relevant these pronouns can be brought out to signal where things fit. Further, the identity itself can be anything salient. One might, for example, say this to conlangers:

Inna ekólot si kotiho më.
DEM.IDC work ACC understand.PFV NEG.
(They) don't understand this work.

In this, inna is the identity centered demonstrative, here indicating that the work in question (fiddling with pronouns, say) is somehow related to the conlanger identity.

I translated the Fire, walk with me poem from Twin Peaks into Kílta as a test, and the final line is:

Luëka, án tin tali.
fire.VOC 1SG.IDC with walk.IMP
Fire, walk with me!

By using the identity-centered first person pronoun, án, the reciter is placing themselves into the same identity as the mystical fire being addressed.

Kílta plays with pronouns in several ways. There is, for example, a pair of first person pronouns that code how much agency the speaker feels they had in the state of affairs being described. But by thinking about LGBTQ+ pronoun questions I have concocted a system that is more broadly usable. But I'm going to have to use the language for a good bit longer before I'll be quite ready to declare a success.

Language & Orthography Needed for Science-Fiction Novel Series

November 14th, 2017 by LCS


Chad Queen is looking for an intrepid language expert to create a full language for a science-fiction book trilogy. The language itself is a universal language used by spacefarers across the universe, for written and spoken communication between species, and originated as a lingua franca between traders. The language and script are mostly naturalistic and human, but simplified, regularised and utilitarian. The structure of the language is not set in stone though, and the employer wants to give the conlanger enough creative license to make something that they are happy with. The language will be used sparingly in the books themselves, but the employer is planning various additional materials (games, marketing materials) where the language will be featured more prominently.
The starting job itself consists of:

  • One basic full language with a full grammar, romanisation, and about 500 words of vocabulary;
  • One basic native orthography for the language, with a simple font covering a single glyph style.

The employer sees this job as a starting point, laying the foundation for a long-term collaboration. Translations and additional materials are not part of the project as described here, and when needed will be paid for separately.


Chad Queen

Application Period

Open until job filled


The deadline of the original project is three months after agreement, subject to negotiation.


$600 for the project as described above (payment in two $300 instalments up front and upon completion). Compensation for additional work will be negotiated.
Besides compensation, the language creator will be fully credited for their work.

To Apply

Email Chad Queen at conlang_request “at” summerdoorstudios “dot” com to express your interest in the project. Please include qualifications and samples of previous work.

Note: Please assume that comments left on this post will not be read by the employer.

Detail #360: Fun With Complementizers

November 13th, 2017 by Miekko
Complementizers appear as heads of all clauses in some theories of syntax. In most theories of syntax, they are also at least the heads of subclauses. The idea in some theories, is that something similar to that in "I knew that she likes Victorian-era comedy" even appears as a null morpheme in the onset (or somewhere else) even of main clauses.

Now, in some languages similar things genuinely appear in some clauses, and I wouldn't be surprised if such a thing even appears in all clauses in some language out there. One common such 'main clause complementizer' is the question marker.

Here appears a thing I've seldom seen conlangers do: force complementizers to appear in certain situations with main clauses, but not in others. Maybe negative clauses require a complementizer, maybe certain kinds of statements require them.

As for 'certain kinds of statements', in Swedish, 'att' (similar to English 'that' as a complementizer) sometimes introduces a clause (whose word order then is like that of subclauses), without any main clause, where the statement expresses disdain, admiration or agreement for a fact thus stated:
att han törs!(that) he dares!
how dare he?

att hon gör!
(that) she does!
she sure does!
Using complementizers occasionally or regularly for main clauses can be an interesting way of enriching one's syntax as well. One hypothesis regarding verb fronting as a way of marking questions is that the verb actually moves to the zero morpheme question complementizer, and thus is a sort of realization of that complementizer. This of course changes details in the word order. One could have the language sometimes force the subject or object into the C position, and this would change other word order details. Maybe moving the subj to the C position breaks reflexive binding? Maybe it breaks verb congruence? Maybe moving the object breaks transitivity, making a transitive subject marked absolutive (if the language is ergative).

Of course, the presence of an explicit, non-zero complementizer could, as in Swedish, force subclause word order, if there is a difference between these in the language. Thus maybe all negative clauses have subclause word order?

A Question of Alignment V: Verb agreement

November 8th, 2017 by carsten

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.

One of the most prominent features of Ayeri with regards to verbs and their relation to subjects is verb agreement with 3rd-person NPs. This was already discussed at length in two previous blog articles (“Verb Agreement in Ayeri: Bound, Clitic, or Both?”, 2016-06-01; “Clitics in Ayeri: Thoughts and Notes”, 2017-04-16). Hence, I will only give basic information here.

Kroeger (1991) mentions that Tagalog has optional plural agreement of predicates with the nominative NP if the nominative argument of the clause is plural. This is independent of whether the nominative argument is also the actor of the clause or not (Kroeger 1991: 24–25), compare (1). The arrows in (1) mark government and agreement relationships: the verb governs role and case assignment (top arrow), while the nominative NP controls plural agreement on the verb (bottom arrow). As the arrows illustrate, the relationship between the assignment of the subject role and thus nominative case and plural agreement on the verb are congruent: the verb agrees in both (1a) and (1b) with the respective nominative NP, whether it is the agent (1a) or not (1b).

  1. Tagalog (adapted from Kroeger 1991: 14):

As described before, person agreement in Ayeri is essentially fixed to the agent NP in canonical cases, whether it is the topic of the clause or not. In (2a), we can see the verb determine that the agent argument is also the topic, with the verb agreeing itself in person with the agent: Ajān is a male name; the verb corresponds with masculine agreement. In (2b), however, the relation is asymmetric in that the marking on the verb shows that the patient argument is the topic, while the verb still displays masculine person agreement. We know that the verb agrees with Ajān rather than with Pila because the latter is a female name, so the verb should have feminine agreement if it were to agree with the patient NP. However, as the example shows, the verb continues to agree with the agent NP in spite of not being the topic of the clause. Topicalization appears to have no influence on the distribution of person agreement on the verb; the agent NP remains the subject. This is a very NOMACC trait.

In agentless clauses, however, the verb agrees with the patient argument, which makes Ayeri less typical a NOMACC language, and more similar in this regard to what an ERGABS language would be expected to do. Passivization of a transitive clause as a strategy for keeping the topic constant as a subject is essentially preempted by Ayeri’s use of a topic particle in the verb phrase. Hence, a sentence like (3a)—as a parallel to (1b)—sounds odd, while (3b) is fine.

Detail #359: An Ergative Language with Phrasal Verbs

November 7th, 2017 by Miekko
In English, there are a bunch of object-like nouns (that under some analyses are objects), that are marked by prepositions. These occur with a variety of verbs, a handful of these could be, for instance
wait for
hope for
look at
listen to
Now, we could imagine a similar thing in a syntactically ergative language. In a syntactically ergative language, the syntactical subject is the absolutive argument, though, and we could imagine a situation whereby the ergative argument sometimes would be marked by some other case or some adposition. I am not sure whether this should even be considered quirky case 'subjects' (or 'quirky case ergatives', since the ergative is unlike both 'subjects' and 'objects' in this style of analysis.)

Here's a bit of a challenge though: think up some "ergatively phrasal verbs" that seem as natural as 'wait for' or 'look at' or 'think about'.

Detail #358: A Congruence System with some Quirks

November 1st, 2017 by Miekko
For certain kinds of congruence, there are two main types we can consider:
  • morphosyntactic congruence
  • semantic congruence
The former agrees in case, gender, etc, the latter agrees in some way with the meaning. We find English having a split on this with regards to examples like 'the family is' vs. 'the family are'. Different speaker communities do not agree on which one of these are right, and some may even use both with some subtle meaning differences. However, let's make up some more interesting thing here, such as a rule that tells us when the congruence is semantic and when it's morphosyntactical.

One idea could be that NP-internally, agreement always is morphosyntactical. (I will go and revise this later with regards to participles!) We could also go and say that VP-internally, the agreement is always semantic. However, the subject not being part of the VP, subject agreement on the verb might be exceptional - I'll go with morphosyntactical here. (Here, I am rather agnostic as to which way is most likely in a natural human language; heck, I find myself conflicted on whichever way VP-internal or NP-internal is more likely to go). For the language I am envisioning, the verb also has object congruence.

So, now we have a system where
the family sold-subj:3sg-obj:3pl the flock
We may of course have some gender congruence adhering to this pattern. Now, we may also have a complication with regards to quirky subjects and objects, or oblique ones: the subject might get a third person ('neutral') marking regardless of the subject's person, number or gender, while a primary 'semantic' object that is marked obliquely in some sense still might get some form of object marking on the verb.

Another complication we can introduce is with regards to left-dislocated objects - regardless if it's due to focus fronting or topicalization or whatever other thing, the object may then be considered outside of the VP, and the gap left behind now might not cause congruence.

Participles obviously have features both of adjectives and of verbs. There, passive participles could take semantic agreement, active participles morphosyntactical agreement.

Here, however, we get a lot of possibilities for sliding scales of marking, and this whole notion could be a nice testing ground for looking at probabilistic approaches for grammars: maybe, just maybe, we could build a system where the probability in some context for one kind of congruence is P, and for the other it's 1-P, where P is a real number in the range [0,1]. In different circumstances, the probabilities differ: subject marking on finite verbs has probability Psubj, object marking has Pobj, a left-dislocated object has Pl-obj, adjectives in attributive position have Pattr, and so on. These may further have a hierarchy where a change in the probability of one might force the probability of another to change.

A Question of Alignment IV: Some General Observations

November 1st, 2017 by carsten

In this series of blog articles—taken (more or less) straight from the current working draft of chapter 5.4 of the new grammar for better visibility and as a direct update of an old article (“Flicking Switches: Ayeri and the Austronesian Alignment”, 2012-06-27)—I will finally reconsider the way verbs operate with regards to syntactic alignment.

As mentioned in a previous article in this series, Ayeri was originally conceived under an impression of what was described in a quotation by Cowan (1995) in terms of ‘trigger language’ (also compare Schachter 2015). That is, in simple declarative statements, the semantic macrorole of a definite NP is marked on the verb. This is itself a very basic account of what can be observed in Tagalog and other Philippine languages, compare (1) below (emphasis mine).1 Further effects—which I completely disregarded for a long time—will be discussed in more detail in the next few blog articles in this series.

  1. Tagalog (Kroeger 1991: 14, adapted from Foley and Van Valin 1984: 135):
    1. B-um-ili ang=lalake ng=isda sa=tindahan.

      PFV.AV-buy NOM=man GEN=fish DAT=store

      The man bought fish at the store.’

    2. B-in-ili-Ø ng=lalake ang=isda sa=tindahan.

      PFV-buy-OV GEN=man NOM=fish DAT=store

      ‘The man bought the fish at the store.’

    3. B-in-ilh-an ng=lalake ng=isda ang=tindahan.

      PFV-buy-DV GEN=man GEN=fish NOM=store

      ‘The man bought fish at the store.’

    4. Ip-in-am-bili ng=lalake ng=isda ang=pera.

      IV-PFV-buy GEN=man GEN=fish NOM=money

      ‘The man bought fish at the store with the money.’

The examples in (1) show variations on the same sentence, differing in the distribution of the definite NP which Kroeger (1991) classifies as being the subject of the respective sentence on syntactic grounds. The subject NPs are marked with the clitic ang, and their role in the clause is reflected by the voice marking on the verb (the root is bili ‘buy’): in (1a) the subject is the actor, in (1b) it is the object, in (1c) it is a location, and in (1d) it is an instrument. What is remarkable is that this voice marking goes beyond mere passivization,2 so even the oblique arguments of (1cd) can become subjects of their respective clauses. Ayeri is at least superficially similar, compare (2).

    1. ang=int-ya ayon-Ø inun-ley moton-ya

      AT=buy-3SG.M man-TOP fish-P.INAN store-LOC

      The man, he bought fish at the store.’

    2. le=int-ya ayon-ang inun-Ø moton-ya

      PT.INAN=buy-3SG.M man-A fish-TOP store-LOC

      The fish, the man bought it at the store.’

    3. ya=int-ya ayon-ang inun-ley moton-Ø

      LOCT=buy-3SG.M man-A fish-P.INAN store-TOP

      The store, the man bought fish there.’

    4. ri=int-ya ayon-ang inun-ley pangis-Ø

      INST=buy-3SG.M man-A fish-P.INAN money-TOP

      The money, the man bought fish with it.’

Like Tagalog, Ayeri marks a privileged NP on the verb, however, in Ayeri, this is the topic, not the subject (this will be subject to further scrutiny later). Unlike in Tagalog, the marked NP is not marked by a particle, but by the very absence of case marking on the NP itself. The marker corresponding to the role of the topic NP appears as a clitic in the shape of the corresponding NP’s case marker in its proclitic form at the left-most edge of the clause, before the verb. While the marker on the verb is thus related to nominal case markers in Ayeri, Tagalog uses a number of affixes for voice marking which are not obviously related to case markers on nouns. For instance, non-subject actors are marked by the genitive clitic ng (pronounced nang), while actor voice is marked by mag- or -um- (Schachter and Otanes 1972: 74, 78; Kroeger 1991: 16–18). In Ayeri, on the other hand, non-topic animate agents are marked on NPs by -ang or ang, and animate agent-topics are marked on the verb by ang as well.

  1. The underlining here is not supposed to be read as marking contrastive focus—this is one of the ‘mistakes’ that has led to what I have in Ayeri, basically, besides then also mixing up focus and topic. It also does not help that terminology is all over the place, as Schachter (2015: 1659) points out.
  2. Note that Kroeger (1991) avoids the terms active voice and passive voice that Schachter (2015) objects to as inappropriate, even though what Tagalog does essentially appears to work along those lines, except in a more generalized way.

An Essay on Naturalism in Conlangs

November 1st, 2017 by Fiat Lingua

Jeffrey R. Brown created his first language at the age of 21, and was surprised, upon the birth of the Internet, that there were others who did this. He has lived most of his life in Minnesota, but now calls San Diego home. Jeffrey speaks English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, and Hawaiian, with various degrees of incompetency. He has been long retired from a peripatetic career of accounting, engineering, adjunct faculty, technical training, business management, and consulting. He still is creating languages, though.


There are four facets of an artistic conlang that influence the degree of its naturalism: the three linguistic aspects: the phonology, the lexicon, and the grammar; and the cultural aspect, that is, the conworld. Of these, the elaboration of the conworld, and its integration with the conlang, is the most important. This essay presents the views of the author about how best to strive towards that goal.

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October 30th, 2017 by postclovis

A language with a system of measure words like Mandarin, but the specific nouns have been lost. You have to infer them from context.