Words of Immiseration

July 7th, 2020

You never know what's going to lead your conlang to new grammar.

More than a month ago I was reading a bit by and about Hannah Arendt, and I realized Kílta was lacking a few bits of vocabulary I'd need if I wanted to convey some thoughts on my reading. In particular, I was looking to be able to describe ways in which communities and societies immiserate and even kill people. In particular, I was struck by the notion of entire populations being essentially ignored to death (refugees, mostly, come in for this sort of treatment).

But to say someone has been ignored to death is actually a fairly complex bit of grammar. The to death part here is a resultative secondary predicate. I had been considering secondary predicates ("I painted the wall red," for example) in Kílta for a while, and had some notes from a little research I had done on the topic, but hadn't committed to anything yet. If I wanted my immiserable expressions, I'd need to make a decision, to go with secondary predication, or pick some other method. Not all languages use secondary predication, after all.

In the end, I decided to use secondary predication, and picked a slightly unusual (but attested) way to do this: an adverb immediately before the verb can be interpreted either as a manner adverb or as a secondary predicate. Given Kílta's love of argument dropping, some ambiguity is possible, but I try not to let potential ambiguity stop me, especially if I can convince myself context will clear things up (most of human communication is context, anyway). At any rate, here's an example:

Tërta si mámui tëlpo.
meat ACC soft.ADV cook.PFV
They cooked the meat (until) soft.

The secondary predicate here is the adverb form of the adjective mámin soft.

Postpositional expressions in the shape [N mai] (the lative), can also be used preverbally as secondary predicates:

Këchar në vós mai këkíno.
government TOP plague LAT ignore.PFV
The government ignored its way into a plague.

Note here that, while in standard English secondary predicates can only refer to the object, in Kílta the subject (or topic, as here) can also take secondary predication. For more possibilities and subtleties of Kílta secondary predicates, see the grammar (section 10.6, as of July 2020).

So now I had constructions for secondary predication, but I did not just create a schematic way to handle all these expressions of immiseration. While Kílta is not a rigorously naturalistic conlang, I do consider plausibility an important part of its esthetics. A too tidy chart always makes me wince a bit. In any case, in a few places result converbs are used rather than secondary predication. That said, I did concoct a small number of rather specific adverbs for use as secondary predicates.

For example, I already had the word ína outcast, exile, pariah. I needed an adverb for this, and decided to use an "archaic" derivation to produce an unused intermediary form *ísa which was then turned into the adverb ísui in the way of an exile, outcast, and as a secondary predicate, into exile:

Ámatulásilur si ísui pëcho.
refugee.PL ACC into.exile oppress.PFV
They oppressed the refugees into exile.

On the other hand, I simply conconcted a new root adverb, méstë, which means something like harming the household or family. It turned out to be surprisingly easy to find uses for this outside secondary predicates.

Vós në méstë memúlo.
plague TOP harming.family CIS.arrive.PFV
The plague reached us, harming the household.

As a secondary predicate:

Símur në mélá si méstë túkwilo.
3PL TOP parent.PL ACC harming.family humiliate.PFV
They humiliated the parents until the family took harm.

Finally, I needed to death. I did not simply want to use the verb die or some expression too like English here. Kílta already has a strong association in other expressions of os dust with the entropic effects of time, and it was only a little stretch to push this into dying territory. I used a special locative adverbial derivation, which means down(ward) to, giving ostorë:

Avur në ámatulásilur si ostorë këkíno.
1PL TOP refugee.PL ACC to.death ignore.PFV
We ignored the refugees to death.

Not the lightest topic, to be sure, but I've now filled out a parts of a sadly useful semantic field, and acquired a useful piece of new grammar as part of the bargain. On my phone I have a document that's just an ever-growing list of expressions I want to add to Kílta. Most of the time I get new words out of this, but once in a while a whole new corner of grammar appears.

Conlang Courses Around the Globe

July 1st, 2020

Jessie Sams is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Stephen F. Austin State University. She generally teaches courses rooted in linguistic analysis of English, though one of her favorite courses to teach is her Invented Languages course, where students construct their own languages throughout the semester (she was even able to get Invented Languages officially on the books at SFA with its own course number). Her research primarily focuses on syntax and semantics, especially the intersection of the two within written English quotatives; constructed languages; and history of the English language and English etymology. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hosting game nights with friends, baking (especially cupcakes), and, of course, conlanging.

Abstract

This is an attempt at a comprehensive list of the various constructed languages courses offered at the university level throughout the world. As courses are added, readers are encouraged to share information with the author, so that the list may be updated.

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Detail #396: Antideranking

June 24th, 2020
In many languages, subclauses and main clauses have somewhat different properties. The differences may appear in any number of subsystems - word order, morphosyntactical alignment, verb conjugation, pro-drop rules.

Sometimes, complexions exist - different types of subclauses may behave differently (relative subclauses being one reasonable exceptional subtype), and sometimes, subclause behaviors may also pop up in main clauses: morphosyntactical alignment, for instance, sometimes is ergative in all subclauses and in some main clauses with some TAMs. Verbal modes that typically appear in subclauses may also signal something if they pop up in main clauses.

If I have properly understood the terminology, deranking seems to be a term used to describe systems whereby a subordinate thing has distinctive features, such as the ones listed above.

My proposition is to have a similar distinction, such that main clauses with subordinate clauses (of some types) are distinct from subclauses and from all other main clauses. Maybe some specific 'superordinate' verb forms, maybe some specific word order (I would not be surprised if a superordinate clause has stricted word order!).

Subordinate clauses with further subordinate clauses would be considered superordinate as well, but could potentially showcase non-conflicting features from both, e.g. strict SVO[SUBCLAUSE] word order due to being superordinate, but ergative alignment due to being subordinate.

Setvayajan: An Abandoned Conlang

June 1st, 2020

Barry J. Garcia is a 40-year-old staff and alumnus of California State University, Monterey Bay. He didn’t major in linguistics, but his interest in constructed languages initially began back in 1999 when he found the CONLANG mail list online after wondering what it would take to make a language. He is not a prolific conlanger and put the hobby aside for a number of years. He returned to conlanging in 2014 with his initial attempt at Setvayajan, now retired. He is currently working on a new version of Setvayajan which may or may not retain the name, but definitely will retain the spirit of the original Setvayajan language. Aside from Setvayajan, past projects have included his first conlang which was an unfinished Philippines-styled language and an experiment in sound changes to remove grammatical gender and reduce verb conjugations in Spanish called “Azhin” (from “Angelino”, the name for the residents of Los Angeles, California). He has also created numerous constructed writing systems.

Abstract

This document is an as-is preservation of the grammar and sound changes that went into what was created for Setvayajan from November 2015 through March 2020, with an introduction explaining why the project was abandoned.

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Detail #395: A Way of Forming Genitive Constructions

May 17th, 2020
So, I came across a quote from some text today that stated that "the genitive case seems to have survived linguistic evolution moreso than other cases in Europe because of the desire to communicate association and possession between nouns". I already have discarded the tab where it was quoted ages ago, so I am not sure about the exact wording and looking for it would be tedious and it was in Swedish so it's not like it'd be of much use to anyone, and it was old - it was in 18th century Swedish. Whatever may be the case, it made me think a bit about genitive-like constructions, and I came up with one I have not seen elsewhere.

So, in English and Swedish, the genitive marker occupies the same syntactic slot as articles. You can't say "Enid's the car" and by that mean 'the car of Enid's', as contrasted to 'Enid's a car' for 'a car of Enid's'.

Now, in some languages - Finnish among them - genitives behave more like adjectives. You can, in fact, place some attributes of a noun on the other side of the genitive in Finnish. Thus, the genitive in Finnish is "more clearly" inside the NP than they are in Swedish and English (where they arguably rather are parts of a DP that surround the NP).

Now, what if genitives were not marked, but were located inside the NP, and the language had explicit articles. Let's imagine the articles have a similar allomorphy as they do in English:
an a man cave: a cave of a man
the a man cave: the cave of a man
the the man cave: the cave of the man
a the man cave: a cave of the man
In a language with gender markers on the articles, this might be more likely to occur, as the relationships between the nouns and the articles would be easier to unpack.

#534

May 9th, 2020

A conlang written in the form of Super Mario Maker 2 levels. Enemy placement, music choice, course elements, etc. correspond to words, parts of speech, and so forth.

The Constitution of the Itlani Commonality

May 1st, 2020

James E. Hopkins received a BA in French from Hofstra University in 1974 and an MS in Metaphysics from the American Institute of Holistic Theology in 1998. He is a published poet, Eden’s Day (2008), and has a novel which features five of his conlangs, Circle of the Lantern, with the publisher as of this writing. He has been involved in language construction since 1995 with the birth of his first conlang, Itlani (then known as Druni). Although Itlani is his first and foremost love, since that time he has been developing Semerian (Pomolito), Djiran (Ijira), Djanari (Nordsh) and Lastulani (Lastig Klendum), the other languages spoken on the planet Itlán. One further language project, Kreshem (Losi e Kreshem), is also under development. His primary interest in language construction is from an aesthetic and artistic perspective.

Abstract

A little more than 5,000 years into the Itlani Imperium the people of the united planet Itlán started to push for a more decentralized form of self-governance. As a result, the Itlani Commonality was founded. The original Itlani language version of the new Basic Law (Constitution) and its English translation is presented here.

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#533

April 26th, 2020

A future English where fə- is the obligatory accusative prefix. It originates as a phonological reduction of “the fuck out of” as in “I put down the fuck out of this glass.”

#532

April 9th, 2020

<i> represents two different vowels if the tittle is a dot, like normal, or a heart.

Detail #394: A Detail in a Language with Subject and Object Verb Marking

April 2nd, 2020
Let us consider a language that has both of those; let us further consider the language to have two reflexive markers, one for singular subjects, the other for plural subjects.

A further detail: the number congruence for the subject marker follows morphological number (at least almost all of the time), whereas the object marker follows semantic number (so, e.g. 'family', when speaking of the family as a bunch of individuals, will have plural congruence, but when speaking of it as an entity, will have singular congruence).

And the final piece of setup before we get to the thing I want to describe: there are two reflexive markers that can fill the object slot. One for singulars, the other for plurals.

(N.B. the language could conceivably also have duals, but they will not affect the detail I am about to describe, and so I will not mention them any further.)

Now, we can imagine that in some language, a group X having Y as a member  can be expressed as 'X having Y'. For some contexts, this even works in English, so it shouldn't be particularly weird.

However, one could imagine that the particular construction mentioned there gets weird here:
X have-3pl-refl.1sg Y
and, one could even imagine, that this ignores the actual number of Y, that the (1/2/3)pl-refl.1sg affix on certain verbs simply signify 'have/acquire/... as a member or part'.

I considered working this idea into some Dagurib language, since those will, I think, have object congruence, ... however, with the pace at which my current conlangs are being developed, Dagurib might start getting done when I turn 120.