Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category


Saturday, July 4th, 2015

Create a naturalistic conlang with absolutely no irregularities, and have a complex morphology where each of the innumerable morphemes is totally distinguishable from all others with a unique phoneme. Bonus points for a completely prescriptive syntax.


Friday, July 3rd, 2015

An alternate English characterized by a sound change known as the Late Medieval Descending, in which non-final /s/ shifts to /f/.

Detail #180: Nasal Affricates

Friday, July 3rd, 2015
Consider the articulation of an affricate - a stop with a slow release, such that the release essentially produces a fricative. 

Now, what prevents us from having a nasal airstream during the time of closure? (It will weaken once the closure opens a bit, though, so that bit actually helps us a bit in turning this into a meaningful thing)

/n͡z/ or even /n̥͡s/ could be pretty neat phonemes. These seem realistic enough - at least nz - to actually maybe exist somewhere, so if someone knows whether they're attested, please comment!

bull is sozen

Friday, July 3rd, 2015
sozen = bull (animal) (noun) (Some things Google found for "sozen": an uncommon term; Sozen is a Chinese creative furniture design company using woven bamboo; Sözen brand Turkish Coffee Grinders; Sozen (and Sözen) is an unusual last name that can be Turkish; Mete Sozen is a Professor of Structural Engineering at Purdue University; Melisa Sözen is a Turkish actress; a rare first name; SoZen is a product by equine feed company Cavalor which has a calming effect on nervous horses; Sozen Pty Ltd is a property development and construction company in Queensland, Australia)

Word derivation for "bull" :
Basque = zezen, Finnish = sonni
Miresua = sozen

This is a brand new word, not a revision.

The word bull does not appear in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass.


Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

You might be familiar with the nominative and accusative, and maybe the ergative or some locative cases, but here are some other good case assignments for your nouns:

If you have a noun case that frames nouns as background information (with respect to NOUN), and it is primarily used in legal or business documents, then you should put the noun in the BRIEF CASE.

If you have a noun case that is usually used to describe location in a far off place, usually used for travel, you put the noun in the SUIT CASE.

If you have a noun case that topicalizes hypothetical situations with low probability, the case used named for the boyfriend of the linguist who first described it, as the first description of it was actually used as a marriage proposal. This is the JUSTIN CASE.

Detail #179: Connegative verbs and names

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
Some Uralic languages have a set of verb forms called 'connegatives'. Generally speaking, these languages also have a negative auxiliary (much like English "don't/doesn't", but inflecting for more persons and not necessarily taking the infinitive). In Finnish, the connegative verbs are identical to other verb forms, mostly: the connegative present verb is identical to the singular imperative:

mene! (go!)
ei mene (doesn't go)
menee (goes)
menen (I go)
en mene (I don't go)

The past tense is formed by using the past participle instead: 

saapunut mies (the man who (has) arrived)
mies ei saapunut (the man did not arrive)
mies saapui (the man arrived)
mies on saapunut (the man has arrived (literally "is arrived")
et saapunut (you didn't arrive)
saavuit (you arrived)
olet saapunut (you have arrived)
et ole saapunut (you have not arrived)

In most of the Uralic languages with such a negative auxiliary, the imperative is formed by a suppletive negative auxiliary. In Finnish, it is älä/älkää(/älkäämme/älköön/älkööt)(the forms in parenthesis are somewhat unusual, 1pl, 3pl, 3sg). In the second person singular , the connegative is identical to the regular imperative, again.

Älä mene! (Don't go)
However, with plurals and the third person singular, it is a unique form:
älkää menkö (don't y'all go!)
älköön tulko (don't he come! as an optativey thing)
Finally, the passive has a connegative that simply removes part of the passive suffix -tAAn (present), -tiin (past) and obtains -dA (or -tA) (present passive connegative, sometimes identical with the infinitive), -tU (past, also the past passive participle).
I am not all that sure how other Uralic languages deal with this, but let's go and imagine a system slightly different from that of Finnish. We posit an explicit set of forms - connegative imperative, connegative past and connegative present (possibly some TAM's connegative forms are constructed, however, by reusing other forms, much like how Finnish reuses the imperative and the past active participle here). Now, we further add these restrictions: these forms only ever appear as part of the verbal complex with negative particles and they originate with deverbal forms of some kind (possibly having some formerly case morphology on them).

So, we suddenly have a set of almost-nouns, that when they are used indicate negation. This could be used for something. Let's be weird and use them for personal names! 

Fear.CNEG-IMPER-PLUR "(do not, ye all) fear"
Fall.CNEG-PRES "(does not) fall"
Conquer.CNEG- PASS "(un)conquered"
Deceive.CNEG-PRES-SG "(does not) deceive"
Suffer*.CNEG-PRES-SG "(does not) suffer"
Surrender.CNEG-IMPER-PLUR "(do not, ye all) surrender"

*as in "to suffer a fool", or such.
This might be a pretty unusual naming scheme, I figure.


Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

If your conculture’s fear that things get strange in transitional areas leaks over into their use of metaphor, they probably will not use creative extensions in the vulnerable liminal spaces. This means that while in-land and at sea, it is safe to use metaphor, on the shore you need slightly more … littoral … meanings.

Language X: A Controlled Experiment in Pidgin Creation

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

David J. Peterson received a BA in English and Linguistics from UC Berkeley in 2003 and an MA in Linguistics from UC San Diego in 2005. He created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Castithan, Irathient and Indojisnen languages for Syfy’s Defiance, the Sondiv language for the CW’s Star-Crossed, the Lishepus language for Syfy’s Dominion, the Trigedasleng language for the CW’s The 100, and the Shiväisith language for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. He’s been creating languages since 2000.


In the fall of 2001, David Peterson ran a semester-long project to have participants create a pidgin on the fly. This paper is his final write-up of the project, and includes the full word list of the invented pidgin.

Version History

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

crow is veles (revisited)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
veles = crow (noun) (Some things Google found for "veles": a very common term; major Slavic God of cattle, commerce, music, divination and the underworld; name of a black metal band from Poland; genus of birds containing only the brown nightjar of cental Africa; veles is the singular of velites which is a class of infantry in the early Roman Republic; an unusual last name; Velež (named after the Slavic god Veles) is a mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina; name of a municipality and a town in Macedonia)

Word derivation for "crow" :
Basque = bele, Finnish = varis
Miresua = veles

My previous Miresua word for crow was velas. This is a small change, which I'm making partly because veles seems more ominous than velas. In Spanish and Portuguese velas means candles or sails.

The word crow doesn't occur in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but it occurs five times in Through the Looking-Glass. This quote is from an old song Alice recites.
"...Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel."

Detail #178: An Indefinite Pronoun (weaving a typological mess)

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Consider utterances such as
"Ouch, I got something in my eye"
"Something made a noise, and it kept me up all night"
Now, in some circumstances, the identity of the referent is relevant to the further context (as per expectations that speakers learn while acquiring the language). In some circumstances, however, the identity might be entirely irrelevant - tiny particles you get in your eye, things that make noises, etc.

Such things could have a separate pronoun - one that is simply an indefinite, "antitopical" pronoun, which I will call the 'inconsequential'. Reusing the same pronoun in an utterance of roughly "paragraph"-length would indicate it's the same thing being referred to (but that still, it's identity is not all that interesting, though the continuity of its identity is maintained). Switching the referent to a more topical pronoun requires explicitly stating something like 'itinconsequential was [NP], itregular was' or some other construction along those lines.

Now, what other things could we weave around this concept? Maybe indefinite pronouns do not trigger third person congruence on verbs – but since only subjects (or only subjects and objects) have congruence on verbs, the pronoun has existed for other constituents, and been generalized to work as a subject as well. This could well lead to it having some morphological gaps - i.e. no case distinction between subject and object, and even possibly less. Of course, this might indicate that the language usually does have those cases, at least in the pronominal system.

(This of course is only an indication as to what kinds of questions we ask, rather than as to actually meaningful things about the language).

Further though, this might have some use for other purposes - Navajo has a possessive prefix that is somewhat similar in meaning, which is used to permit using inalienably possessed nouns even without specifying a possessor, i.e. shizé'é: my father, azhé'é: someone's father, a father.

So, this could easily extend into that kind of construction as well. 

As for getting no congruence on verbs, this could lead to a situation where a noun marked as object gets subject congruence (and the object congruence is omitted altogether), so the language essentially forms passives by 
subject: itinconsequential object: Noun, acc Verb: [subj: congruence with Noun]
Having both a case system AND subject and object congruence is not very common, as far as I can tell (some languages of Beringia and northernmost North America excepted), so it might just happen that this is somewhat typologically messed up. Let's instead go for the following solution: itinconsequential and other indefinites lack subject congruence, but not object congruence. In the case of no object congruence being present, the object has been promoted to syntactical subject status (while the indefinite has been demoted to unmarked oblique), whereas indefinite object congruence of course tells us that the subject is the regular noun.

A VP in which one indefinite object congruence is present, as well as an indefinite pronoun - and nothing else - the only interpretation is that the indefinite pronoun is the subject, and the indefinite morpheme on the verb is the object. Thus, "something acts on something" is distinguishable from "itinconsequential acts on something", but "something acts on something" is indistinguishable from "something acts on itinconsequential", and same goes for "itinconsequential acts on something/itinconsequential". The loss of these distinctions does not seem all that worrying, though.