Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Detail #283: An Unusual Origin for Person Morphology on Verbs

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016
Imagine a language with a long-lasting split-ergative system, split by person rather than by TAM. (This, for the record, is common in Australia.) Unusually, for such a language, it has unique forms for all of nominative, accusative, ergative and absolutive. Now, the following system obtains in the language:

subjobjcase alignment







The earlier system of congruence was eroded by a sound change that just so happened to lop off the verbal morphemes entirely (but the nominal morphemes survived by virtue of not having any sounds subject to that change). The new verbal congruence appears from present active participles, that have case congruence with their subject. Thus, the first person morpheme is identical to the ergative case suffix; the second person verb is unmarked, as is the third person verb. 

The reflexive forms are somewhat special - the verb itself has no weirdness in the first person, just a first person object, with maybe a reflexive pronominal morpheme added, much like 'myself'. In the second person, the verb agrees with the subject, but in the third person, the reflexive participle agrees with the absolutive of the object.

Detail #282: Case and Number Marking and Pronouns

Saturday, May 21st, 2016
Many languages have suppletive number on their pronouns, and some languages have a similar situation going for their case markers.

Now, what we could do with pronouns that already mark number, thus making the marking on the case markers superfluous, is shake things up! Take some forms from the singular case markers, some from the plural ones. In the first person, maybe use plural case markers for inclusive? In the third person, maybe use plural case markers for proximate-like and singular ones for obviative-like reference.

In the 2nd person, just go wild.

More Sargaĺk Vocabulary

Thursday, May 19th, 2016
A further bunch of Sargaĺk vocabulary with, what I hope, can be Proto-SBD vocabulary. Some trial runs of some sound changes will be needed before I can be sure of that, however.

magic, ritual *tahri incantation

hand *knəkw reach
sken elbow *xkein bend
veŋ knee *weiŋgə
impik fingernail *ep:ig
k'uris finger *k'ur
ip'i eye *ujp'i
niks cheek *mnik: jaw
lep ear, certain mushrooms, funnel *lebt ear
nose *tń nose, protrusion, tip, acute angle
ŕmatń branch, *wŕməh- tree, *nose
sum mouth *sıwmb
k'uip lip *k'ıwipt

sadŕ stomach, belly, also torso
vitkas chest, ribcage, bust, torso, *vit lung, *kas heart
kinve female breast *kin breastfeed, -v- instrument marker
izgər breathe, *jizgır inhale (c.f. *tamgır, exhale) (c.f. niz 'full', tam 'empty')

tobĺ penis *tops penis
tobmat testicles (formally singular) *tops, *-mat- ~"-ery"
tidixu vulva *tidi
git'nu uterus *git'əj, intercourse
mobe buttocks (formally singular)

fĺga funeral pyre *fl:ka
cremate, -m- causative or applicative derivative marker

doŋur signal pyre *dweŋı warn
doŋum warn by signal pyre (direct object: the thing you warn due to, recipient: whoever is expected to see it (often implicit), subject: whoever lights it)

git'e intercourse *gıt'əj intercourse
targit'e simulated ritual intercourse *tahri, 'magic, ritual' and *git'e
git' -
fuck (object is in any locative case, and can only be human)
targis - perform simulated ritual intercourse (object is in any locative case, and can only be human, subject is invariably pegative)

mĺni  hair *ml:nəj
gurs beard *gur:ıš

turn *mrw:i
t'amup fall *t'nwk
k'osoj rise up from a seated position k'wır- stand, -s- a derivative dynamic aspect morpheme.

tuŋ piece, part *tŋ́ a share
(t)ŋop share, divide, *tŋ́, *hob give

rul cloud *rudĺ
insa sun *jinsəh
obń full moon *wubn full moon
ŕma tree *wŕməh

library is lirjuste

Thursday, May 19th, 2016
lirjuste = library (noun) (Some things Google found for "lirjuste": a very rare term; bad OCR of old text documents; similar "lire juste" means just read in French; similar "tir juste" means fair shot in French)

Word derivation for "library" :
Basque = liburutegi (book + place of)
Finnish = kirjasto (book + suffix -sto (forms collective nouns)
Miresua = lirjuste

This is a new word. Both the Basque word and the Finnish word begin with their word for book, and so the Miresua word does too. The Miresua conlang word for book is lirju.

The word library doesn't occur in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-glass.


Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Consider a language that doesn’t assign core case roles except to finite (countable) nouns, but mixes it in with definiteness and finiteness.

So, your cases are glossed:
FERGA- for “finite ergative” for agents that are countable
DEFA- for “definite” for all definite nouns (think of the use of English “the”) except when FERGA is appropriate
INDEF- for “indefinite” things (think English “a/an”)

For example:
muri - water (non-finite)
lešis - rock (finite)

For muri, we see two forms, neither of which can take case

INDEF-muri - water (I saw some water, not any specific in mind)
DEFA-muri - the water (I saw the specific body of water referred to, etc.)

But for finite nouns, you get one more distinction

INDEF-lešis - “a rock,” as object of the sentence.
FERGA-lešis - “a/the rock,” as the subject of the sentence
DEFA-lešis -  “the rock,” as object of the sentence

It’ll make the boys go loco.

Detail #281: A Really Unnecessary Ordinal

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
I was considering how 'enough' could be distinguished for mass and count nouns, and the idea of an 'enough' with numeral-like properties occurred, and suddenly, the idea of an ordinal 'enough' (the enoughth, an enoughth) occurred. 

I've previously probably pointed out how Finnish (and Swedish in Finland) have an ordinal form of 'how many', roughly 'how manieth the X'.

Detail #280: Quirky Case Adjectives

Monday, May 16th, 2016
Much like verbs, we could have quirky-case adjectives. A quirky case adjective would, in a construction with a copula, require the noun to be in some atypical case - e.g.
me-dat is tired
We find that e.g. German sort of does this with kalt and such, but with kalt in particular, the meaning is different depending on the case of the ~subject, whereas the thing I am going for is simply that these adjectives always have quirky subject things going on.

What other things would we expect from such an adjective? I would posit that lack of congruence would be probable, and maybe that some comparative structures would be missing due to this lack of congruence.

Let's, however, imagine something even weirder to happen: when used as attributes, these adjectives start requiring pronouns that mark the case that the adjective triggers, but that agree in animacy (or gender or whatever) with the noun:
tired he*-dat man
the tired man
* here, "he" should only be seen as 'human', not as 'masculine' for now.
We go on one step further, and use indefinite pronouns with non-definite nouns, and regular personal pronouns with definite nouns:
tired one-dat man
a tired man

tired he-dat man
the tired man
As time goes by, these are merged into the adjective, but slightly worn so e.g. number morphemes are lost:
ADJ-[def/indef × animacy]-[animacy × case]
Suddenly, we have this situation:

Regular AdjectiveQuirky Adjective
with Copulas:

Number-Animacy Congruenceyesno
Adjective forces case marking on subject NPnoyes
as attributes in NPs:

Number Congruenceyesno**
Animacy Congruenceyesyes
Case Congruence(optional*)no

Definiteness Marking
Adjective has case marking, without correlation to case marking of NPnoyes
* here, it's up to the conlanger really, whether they want case congruence or not. I like case congruence a lot so I'd go for it, but to each his own. ** as can be seen below, while writing this post I slightly changed my mind on number congruence for quirky case adjectives; however, I still find the idea of not having it rather appealing.
So, now we have a strong/weak adjective dichotomy much like in the Germanic languages, but only for a subset of the adjectives. The origin of the number and animacy congruence markers in the regular and quirky adjectives is historically different - granted, they may be cognates, but the regular adjective markers have probably been worn down a bit since being grammaticalized - so at most we'd expect similarity rather than formal identity between these markers. (This holds even if we don't wear down the number-morphemes of the dummy pronouns, similarity rather than identity still is to be expected.)

One further thing one could consider with these adjectives is restricting their use in causative constructions, and mayhap some other "not entirely trivial" circumstances?

A proposal

Sunday, May 15th, 2016


I have been thinking of starting a Tumblr conlang chat. Anybody want in? If you do, PM me or reblog this post mentioning you want in or let me know otherwise somehow.

Detail #279: Morphophonology to the Extreme

Saturday, May 14th, 2016
I bet this is attested in some real-world language, although it might be the case that this kind of analysis hasn't been applied to that language. 

So, my idea is that instead of a morpheme consisting of a set of allomorphs, each consisting of a string of phonemes, one could have morphemes consisting of features. This means instead of, say,
you would have something a bit like
{+vowel, +front, +closed, ...}{+nasal, +velar, +consonant ...}
The main difference, however, would be that some of the elements would underspecify what phoneme to be realized. Instead of -ing or the featural form of -ing, we'd have
{+front, +closed}{+back, -obstruent}
Different combinations of features would have different 'favoured' realizations, but morphophonological context would sometimes lead to a different realization. Sometimes, two different sets of features would be forced to merge, with hierarchical rules resolving what feature wins if there's a conflict - say between +obstruent and -obstruent, for instance.  

Now, if your morphology is no richer than that of English, this wouldn't be very interesting, but once we go hugely agglutinating, this could lead into interesting things where morphemes that underlyingly are very agglutinating, end up looking almost fusional, as features get suppressed, assimilated, meta-phonemes get merged into new phonemes that drop some features, etc.

The verbal morphology of Sargaĺk will be an example of this, but working it out has turned out to be pretty challenging.


Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Create a future English where “guess who” becomes the new 1st person pronoun.