Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category


Thursday, July 20th, 2017

Create a conlang for your hyperloop-using society, in which there’s a verbal marker for governmental approval. 

Ćwarmin, Bryatesle: Proper Nouns and Definiteness

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017
In this post, "definite" refers, with regards to noun-phrases, to the quality of being a referent whose identity is known to the listener of an utterance. "Specific" refers to the quality of being a referent known to the speaker.

Ćwarmin and Bryatesle seem to have evolved definiteness marking in their case systems during times of contact. Ćwarmin's indefinite/specific/definite-distinction seems to go back fairly early, though, but we find dialects in contact with Bryatesle sometimes missing the specific/definite or the specific/indefinite distinction. The stage at which definiteness started becoming a thing in the Ćwarmin branch and Bryatesle-Dairwueh must be around the time of proto-BD, but later than Astami began diverging from the rest of the Ćwarmin languages.

Different languages in these groups have, however, dealt somewhat differently with definiteness marking on proper nouns. Proper nouns are most often definite by nature. In Ətimin, proper nouns are not marked for definiteness at all, with a few toponyms as exceptions. Rasm'in' and Ćwarmin, however, tend to use definite case marking for proper nouns in cases other than the core cases nominative, accusative, genitive and dative. The genitive and dative are flip-flopping in both, though. In these languages too, some toponyms have names where even the core cases are definite. However, exceptionally, Rasm'in' has a toponym that is always specific rather than definite, viz., mworanyus ädʒiniis', '(these/some) property markers of the belly', a historical border marker between the Kəlkəj and Moduwt tribes. The 'belly' refers to this being the most 'central' of the border markers between the tribes.

In Ćwarmin, personal names sometimes may appear in the specific. This, oddly enough, tends to indicate that the person referred to is a very recent acquaintance of the speaker, and that the speaker therefore is not sure whether the listener knows the referent.

With non-nominatives in Bryatesle, the definite case is almost always used with definite proper nouns except toponyms (and even there, many toponyms are definite - e.g. Zgakintën, 'the hilltop', a very definite hilltop near the capital. Omission of the definite marker, if no other secondary case takes its place, indicates specificity in non-nominatives. For nominatives, the partitive secondary case serves to indicate specificness.

One final language to consider is Dairwueh. It too has a very limited definiteness marking in the differential object marking of transitive subjects - genitive for definite, transitive subjects. It turns out a similar pattern holds there - nominative indicates specific, genitive indicates definite.

Detail #351: Generalizing Number to Mass Nouns

Friday, July 14th, 2017
In many languages, we find two distinct sets of nouns, viz. count nouns and mass nouns, that behave in slightly different ways: count nouns permit singular and plural forms (and so on), whereas mass nouns do not. Sometimes, the lines between the two can be crossed, and a mass noun can be turned into a count noun or vice versa. However, let's consider a different way of giving mass nouns something number-like.

A very simple, but subtle and tricky thing one could do is just to introduce mandatory marking of volume or size for mass nouns. Simply put, sometimes, water takes a marker that indicates lots of water, but this marker is mandatory under some circumstances.

Now, the interesting - and probably unformalizable - bit is when that marker is supposed to be used. Whoever authors such a conlang would need to provide some kind of guidelines, probably with individual guidelines for different types of mass nouns, that also are somewhat vague - i.e. there's probably a set of contexts or amounts for which both forms would be permissible.

One could imaginably also permit for ways of making count nouns out of both of the forms, and vice versa, turn count nouns into mass nouns of either form. (And maybe even cross-pollination: {plur, sing} * {small, large} and {small, large} * {plur, sing}. Duly note that these cartesian products are ordered pairs, so the operations are not commutative - [plur, small] may not be the same thing as [small, plur].

Naming Language Wanted for Science-Fiction Novel

Friday, July 14th, 2017


Anthony Taylor is looking for a language expert to create a naming language for a science-fiction novel. The language itself is spoken by a group of human aliens (the universe in that book follows the Hominid Panspermia Theory) living on a desert planet with unique flora and fauna. They are biologically very close to humankind, but their culture and language are unique and unlike anything found on Earth. The employer will share more information with applicants as needed during the solicitation process.
The job itself consists of one basic conlang sketch with romanisation, about 50 words of vocabulary, and rules to create character and location names. No expansion of the original work is being considered at this time.


Anthony Taylor

Application Period

Open until job filled


The deadline of the project is two months after agreement.


$150 for the project as described above (payment in two $75 instalments at start and conclusion of the project by MoneyGram transfer).
Besides compensation, the language creator will be fully credited for their work.

To Apply

Email Anthony Taylor at taylor “dot” anth21 “at” gmail “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 #350: Some Ruminations on the Comparative Case

Monday, July 10th, 2017
I have never been a fan of any conlang with a comparative case. In retrospect, I think this is a result of conlangers never thinking such a case through. There are many questions such a case raises, and any description of a comparative or equative case needs to answer.

Comparisons can relate to many things. Comparison can relate to subjects' activity:
John carries more illegal merchandize than Frank
It can relate to objects' affectedness:
Erin studies more hard science than humanities
It can be more complex than that and relate to both subject and object:
John carries, by weight, more potatoes than Frank carries carrots
generalizes to "John carries more than Frank"
We can also have things like
Evelyn gave Tim more help than (she gave to) Phil

Evelyn gave Tim more help than Phil (did)
Now, let's consider how this works out with a case corresponding to "than". We note that such a case would normally not be assumed to be doing any Affixaufnahme. Such a possibility obviously exists, but needs to be explicitly stated in a grammar. However, let us assume that the comparative case does not explicitly state any information that relates to syntactical function of the noun, except that it somehow fits in a parallel slot to something in a nearby VP.

So, essentially, the comparative case locally is also a nominative, accusative, dative or whatever? Now, in some languages, undoubtedly, there are restrictions on what even can be compared, and I think I've previously mused that I bet this follows a very similar set of restrictions as that of relative subclauses, i.e. if a language permits comparing obliques, it permits comparing indirect objects; if it permits indirect objects, it permits direct objects, etc - but I also imagine it might follow very different restrictions? However, we could introduce some quirks here: maybe the comparative case is underlyingly an absolutive case in your conlang rather than a nominative. (Or, as might be even more likely, underlyingly nominative if the language is ergative in alignment.)

 Thus, for the underlying absolutive:
Bob.nom is smarter Adam.comp := Bob is smarter than Adam (is)
Charlie.nom likes Deborah.acc more than Emma.comp := Charlie likes Deborah more than (he likes) Emma
The underlying nominative situation in an ergative language will be rather boring to describe, so I will skip that.

Now, how will we construct the situation where two persons' likes for a third one are compared? Maybe a voice? Maybe just a voice marker existing somewhere in an odd isolation?

This really isn't even an attempt to answer any of the questions it could raise, it's rather meant to ponder as to the questions it could raise - really, I want to know what questions it could raise.

Conlangery #130: Interview with Kaye Boesme

Monday, July 3rd, 2017
Kaye Boesme joins George to talk about her far-future audiodrama Epiphany. Top of Show Greeting: Narahji (Note, I am working on a transcript for this episode. It has been delayed by irregular baby napping.)

The Finnish Partitive Case

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017
The Finnish partitive case is a good example of just how versatile a case can be in a language. I'll start out with a bunch of terminology, but I'll break down what the terms mean down the line - this article isn't just meant for hobbyists, it's also meant for Finnish learners or even somewhat proficient non-native speakers for whom the partitive still is a bit of a mystery. Among its uses we find:
  • most direct objects (something like 80%)
    direct objects are nouns that are acted on, e.g.
    I bought a cup of coffeeshe saw a movie
  • a bunch of complements
    complements in this context are adjectives or nouns that are analogous to objects, but with verbs of being or becoming, e.g.
    she is strong
    he is a scout
    Russia is the largest country by area
    here, it is worthwhile inserting "FUCK BLOGGER" for randomly ignoring EXPLICITLY GIVEN NEWLINE CHARACTERS. FFFFFFFFFFUUUUUU. Google, don't you even care about the shit you own anymore?!? MAINTENANCE, dammit. I hope the corrected code here continues being in the correct form. I have no confidence whatsoever in that, though. People, avoid using blogger, it's crap.
  • with numbers and certain quantifiers ('monta', 'paljon', etc)
  • existential subjects, especially for mass nouns
  • closely related to the existential subjects: subjects of statements of amounts
  • lots of times "mikä" ('what'), which is nominative, is replaced for no clear reason at all by "mitä" ('what'), which is partitive. In the region of Finland Proper (Varsinaissuomi) this extends to "kuka" ('who'), which is regularly replaced by "ketä" ('who(m)').
  • for the standard of comparison in comparative constructions
  • some frozen expressions where it basically sort of is a catch-all case
  • sometimes exceptional forms of nouns look a lot like a partitive, and may have some odd uses (e.g. the word home has "kotoa", dialectally "kotoota", which differ from the regular partitive "kotia"; for the record, "koti" has a slightly odd locative series going. However, koti is an odd noun in itself, with several pairs of different forms where one refers to one's home, the other to some housing situation of some sort)
  • 'among' or 'one of' in the plural partitive.  This is especially common with the superlative, in construction such as 'hän on maan parhaita lastenlääkäreitä' - '(s)he is one of the best pediatricians in the land'.'
  • as an adverbializer (kauheeta vauhtia, etc)
  • in a bunch of weird fixed expressions, where the adjective is in some other case and the noun is partitive. Similar expressions also exist with adjectives in various cases and the noun in the instructive case.
  • with a bunch of adpositions ("adposition" is a term that covers both pre- and postpositions, words akin to English 'to, with' etc. In Finnish, some of these are prepositions, some postpositions, and some can be both.) Apparently, for some adpositions, the partitive is exceptional, but signifies 'unboundedness', e.g. pihan ympäri (yard-gen around) vs. ympäri pihaa (around yard-part) (surrounding the yard vs. around the yard)
The direct object case system is maybe the most important part of this case's usage. So, on to the above headings one at a time. First, a little convention: in some sense, the partitive corresponds to some. I will sometimes use (some) to get smoother "bad" translations that reflect the underlying structure.

For the record, I am not a native speaker of Finnish. I have been in contact with the Finnish language ever since I was a child, but due to a variety of reasons, I am only seminative. I am a native speaker of Swedish, instead. However, this has made me think about Finnish in a more analytical fashion than most native speakers. I do lack some occasional native intuitions there.

Historically, the partitive originates with a case that marked location.

Direct Objects
Finnish direct objects encode an aspectual distinction called telicity. Telicity refers to whether we consider the action to be successful and complete or not. Compare
mies ampui karhun
man shot bear-GENITIVE

mies ampui karhua
man shot bear-PARTITIVE
In the first instance, the desired result was obtained – a dead bear (or whatever intention there was). In the latter example, the bear was merely shot at.
Some verbs have quirks with regards to this, but generally this will hold. Whenever the verb is negative, the object is always partitive, so in effect telicity is not marked on negative verb phrases. A friend of mine once pointed out that for 'naughty' verbs, the object is almost always partitive. Since the negative removes the distinction, you can't distinguish, e.g. when ei panna means 'not put' and 'not fuck' based on the form of the object. Here, typologically, we can find a similar development of a location marker in English!
I shot the bear
I shot at the bear
The former implies a hit, the latter a miss or a failure to subdue the bear by the shot. In weirdly colloquial English, using 'some' operates entirely differently from the partitive, e.g.
I shot me some bear
this phrase would imply telicity, so "some" sometimes gives the wrong idea here.

The complement is whatever something is said to be. (Also whatever something is said to become, but Finnish deals with that in a special manner.) There are certain circumstances where the complement will be in the partitive in Finnish.

It is quite common for the complement to be partitive if there is no subject at all or if the subject is a subclause or an infinitival phrase, but a few adjectives such as 'hyvä' seem to resist this. 'Ikävä', 'paha', 'hauska' seem to appear rather frequently in the nominative there.

Materials out of which something is made can be in the partitive:
tämä kolikko on kultaa
this coin is gold-part
this coin is (made of) gold
Whenever the subject is abstract or 'general', e.g. "drugs are bad", the complement will be partitive:
kulta on kallista
gold is expensive

huumeet ovat haitallisia
drugs are harmful
With plurals, the partitive is probably more common for the complement than the nominative, but both occur. The difference has to do with whether the subjects are seen as being a 'unit' of some kind (e.g. a pair of shoes vs. just a bunch of shoes or shoes generally) or not. A unit gets a nominative plural complement. With complements that are nouns, the nominative plural might also appear in some situations where the complement is thought of as definite, but this often requires some additional attributes, e.g.
miehet tuossa ovat just ne konsultit jotka vei firman konkurssiin
men there are exactly those consults who brought the company to bankruptcy
Even in that case, the subject probably are seen as a group, and as such as some form of unit.
Some "google corpus linguistics" gave this example:
Raha ja nälkä ovat ne konsultit, jotka ohjaavat maailmaa ja se joka hallitsee rahan hallinnoi nälän ja siten tanssittaa koko orkesterin
In this case it's of course possible that consult is the subject and 'raha and nälkä' are the complements, but I find it more likely to parse this as a statement about the identity of raha and nälkä rather than a statement about ne konsultit, jotka ...

Generally, the case of the complement is the hardest part of this to express in any formalized manner.

Existential Subjects
In English, it's often possible to add a 'there' before certain verbs to express the existence of something:
there are pixies in the garden
there are stars in the sky
there sat gnomes on the lawn
In Finnish, a similar effect can be achieved by having the subject in the partitive. Fun thing: plural marking on the verb is generally omitted then, so not
*koir-ia juokse-vat piha-lladog-plur.part run-3plural yard-on
(some) dogs run on the yard
koir-ia juoksee piha-lla
dog-plur.part run(-s) yard-on
(some) dogs run(s) on the yard
there is (some) dogs running on the yard
The wrongly formed English there is intentional in order to illustrate how it is constructed in Finnish.
Negative existential statements always take the partitive:
maito-a ei ole
milk no-3sg be*
there's no milk
* this verb form, "ole", is called the conegative form. It is usually identical to the singular imperative, for almost all verbs.

Statements of Amounts
Subjects whenever the number of things is the important piece of information will be in the partitive:
meitä oli kolme
we-part was three
there were three of us

autoja on kaksitoista
is twelve
Notice, again, how the verb ignores the grammatical number of the subject - it's not ovat (are)/olivat (were), it's on (is)/oli (was) . Unlike with nominal phrases, e.g.
viisitoista auto-a
fifteen car-part
the noun is now in the plural partitive, not the singular
auto-ja on viisitoista
car-plur.part is fifteen
With numbers before nouns, e.g. 'fifteen cars', for the most basic cases the number requires the partitive. This happens for subjects and objects:
neljä mieslähti retkelle
four man-part went trip-onto
four men went on a trip

ostin kolme kirjaa
buy-past-1sg three book-part
I bought three books

en ostanut kolmea kirjaa
no-1sg bought three-part book-part
I didn't buy three books
Subjects and objects with numbers also take the partitive, and the number is in the nominative for (most) subjects and for telic objects (ones that otherwise are in the nominative or genitive). For the other cases, though, the number and the noun will be in the same case (and for most nouns, they'll be in singular forms). NB: an exception exists - nouns without singular forms will have the singular and the noun in the plural, for all numbers. Yes, even for one - so you get 'yhdet häät', 'yksiä häitä', etc.

Paljon (much) takes the partitive singular with uncountable nouns, but the partitive plural with countables.

Standard of Comparisons
With the comparative of adjectives, the partitive is often used a bit like the English 'than':
kynä on miekkaa mahtavampi
pen is sword-part mighty-er
the pen is mightier than the sword

Not really much to say about this, but a bit of a side note can be sort of relevant here . Mikä is the nominative of 'what', mitä the partitive, and it seems it's gaining on the nominative, especially in the southwest, but also elsewhere. In the southwest, even kuka/ke- is having the nominative 'kuka' randomly replaced by 'ketä' in many positions. In many languages with cases - even English, to the extent that it has cases (in the personal pronouns), usually one case will take on a role as a 'default' case. When a native or proficient speaker is unsure of what case a certain situation calls for, he'll default to that case. 

We find this in how native English speakers use the accusative forms (me, him, her, whom, us, them) in places where other native speakers frown on it. ('you and me', which of course is 'classically' valid in some places such as 'they saw you and me'. Teachers who are incompetent then teach students to say 'you and I', and you get things like 'they saw you and I', which of course is wrong by standard English rules as well.) 

To some extent, it seems like the partitive might be partially taking this role in Finnish, but since the Finnish case system is pretty rich, I actually think one could posit the existence of a hierarchical tree of default cases – however, I don't think this is established enough among speakers, and you'll find different structures, so some person might prefer -ltA over -stA if he's unsure which of those two to use, some speaker might prefer the other way around, and if the question of which is preferrable include even more options, the partitive wins out.

Discongruent Expressions
Ok, so there's a few different things under this heading. We have the discongruent expressions, where the adjective is in some case, and the noun is partitive. A similar thing exists with the instructive (which is basically an almost extinct case with regards to nouns), and for some of these examples you can substitute the partitive and the instructive for one another. This is a pretty 'advanced' topic in Finnish, and mastery of it really gives off a slightly refined image.  

This includes examples like
pitkä-ksi aika-a
long-translative time-partitive
for a long time

tä-llä tapa-a
this-on manner-part
in this way
With the instructive instead:
palja-i-lla jalo-i-n
bare-PLUR-on foot-plur-with
with bare feet

nä-i-llä keino-i-n
these-plur-on trick-plur-with
by these tricks
These are "almost" a closed set - there's about two dozen expressions (which I don't recall at the moment!) - with the partitive or the instructive on the noun and some other case on the adjective. However, this is not an entirely closed set - it's semiproductive. It's possible to come up with new ones that sound acceptable to many speakers of Finnish. In part, using the same nouns with some similar adjectives helps to produce somewhat acceptable phrases, e.g.
noilla keinoin
those-... methods...
method is maybe not quite the right translation here, something between method and trick in style would be the best option.

tuolla tapaa
that... manner...
However,  sometimes one can go a bit further and get other adjectives to work:
uudella tapaa
in a new manner

Adverb-like Usages
Sometimes, and this is a bit analogous to the main nouns in the previous point, nouns in  the partitive may signify some sort of adverbial meaning:
hän juoksi kauheeta vauhtia
(s)he ran terrible.part speed.part
(s)he ran with terrible speed
In trying to come up with examples of this, I find that oftentimes, this requires the noun to be preceded by some adjective, and often it will be a slightly dramatical one. However, one could possibly interpret this as some kind of direct object, maybe analogous to some weirdo construction in English such as
he ran (up) great speed
This is basically not good English, but conveys the sort of sense that one could imagine goes through the head of some speakers when using the above construction, i.e. somehow, the speed is the grammatical object of the verb, c.f. to sleep a deep sleep or something like that. provides a few examples of other partitive forms that have become adverbs: lujaa (fast, hard), hiljaa (silent, slow), kovaa (hard).

Often when greeting someone something, the case of the thing wished for will be in the partitive, e.g.
hyvää iltaa - good evening
hyvää joulua - good christmas
hyvää juhannusta - good midsummer
hyvää päivää - good day
However, sometimes the plural nominative appears instead:
hyvät viikonloput - good(s) weekend(s)
hyvät pikkujoulut - good christmas party
hyvät juhannukset - good midsummer(s)
With nouns that lack singular forms - synttärit, häät, etc, the nominative plural is the usual form, but the nominative plural seems to be creeping onto nouns that do have singulars, esp. named holidays such as christmas, easter, etc.

 A Note about the Direct Case System and the Existential Subject System
Since existential subjects almost always are intransitive and often are partitive, and direct objects significantly more often than not are partitive, we get a system that is somewhere close to the edges of what could be called an 'ergative' system if you squint a bit. Despite not being a proper ergative system, it is tempting to consider Finnish as falling into some kind of split-ergative-like thing.

Language Creation Tribune, Issue 11

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

Language Creation Tribune

Issue 11

July 2017

A word from our President

Welcome to the 11th edition of the Language Creation Tribune! Yes, the Tribune’s schedule has been slipping a bit as of late, sorry about that. It’s bound to happen as we are a volunteer organisation, and we all have jobs and lives that need attending to once in a while (I know, how dare they demand such attention!). On the subject of jobs and lives, some of you may have noticed I haven’t been easy to reach lately. As it happens, I’ve started a new job recently (in the same company I’ve worked for for the past 11 years, but in a completely different department), and this is taking up most of my time. Also, as you may have noticed, spring has arrived (at least in the Northern hemisphere), and so have my allergies! I’ll survive, but it does mean I am only at 50% capacity at the moment.

But don’t worry, as all this stuff will not prevent me from attending the big event of this year: the 7th Language Creation Conference! By the time this column is published, the LCC7 webpage will have been updated with the programme schedule, and registering will be open. I advise everyone to register using that link, especially if you are not a Canadian citizen, as you may need an official letter of attendance to help you cross the border, and the registration process will take care of generating one for you (you can also contact local host Joseph Windsor for such a letter if you need one but don’t want to use the form–for instance if you want to register at the door). Non-Canadian citizens who are planning on flying to Canada should also make sure they have all the documents they need. Even if you are visa-exempt, you will most likely at least need an Electronic Travel Authorization, so you shouldn’t wait too long before applying for one. The best way to handle this is to go to this site and answer all the questions given truthfully. You will then be given all the information you need.

The LCC is one of the few occasions most of us (including myself) get to meet other conlangers face-to-face, and this fact alone makes the LCC a special event indeed. But this LCC is shaping up to be one extra special event: besides the “usual” talks (and we were once again overwhelmed by the quality of the proposals), attendees will be able to watch the full Conlanging Documentary, as promised, at the Plaza Theatre! This will be, as far as I am aware, the first actual screening of the documentary since its completion. As you can imagine, we are all very excited about it.

As I state above, I will be at the LCC on the 22nd and 23rd of July in Calgary, and I am looking forward to meeting everyone there. See you there!

Fiat Lingua!
Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets,
President of the Language Creation Society.

Conlang Curiosities 

by John Quijada


Cruising Around In My “Spin-Turtle”

So I was perusing back issues of Fiat Lingua (the LCS’s monthly online publication of scholarly articles regarding conlanging), when I came across the July 2016 article by Étienne Ljóni Poisson regarding “Absolute Descriptives” in his Siwa conlang. In reading it, I noted the author ends the article with an enticing little paragraph: “Siwa certainly has other novel grammatical constructions that are worth exploring…” followed by some example topics from the official Siwa Grammar.

Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued by the promise of “novel grammatical constructions”, as I am always on the lookout for the innovative and unusual in conlangs. So I decided to take him up on his offer (or perhaps call his bluff) and find some of these promised novel constructions in the Siwa grammar. I figured I was in for a treat upon discovering that Siwa’s influences include Finnish, Northern Sámi, and Georgian.

Ljóni, as he apparently likes to go by, is a graduate of the University of Iceland, having studied Icelandic, Finnish, linguistics, organic chemistry and biochemistry, and currently resides in Sweden doing graduate studies in organic synthesis at Linköping University.

Google managed to turn up a PDF version of the grammar and, lo and behold, I found myself quite taken aback by this masterful work. What a showcase of the art of language construction! At nearly 800 pages, the grammar is one of the most thorough and well-organized I’ve ever seen, on par with Matt Pearson’s grammar of Okuna. And while one might assume that such a lengthy tome implies overly-complicated explanations and endless delving into the intricate details of petty linguistic arcana, in fact, each section of the grammar is remarkably straightforward and comprehensible, and illustrated by plenty of example phrases and sentences. The coherency of the work as a whole is remarkable.

The work opens with a nice section on his Alopian language family (of which Siwa is a member) including con-history, diachronic evolution of the member languages, some nice con-cultural and ethnographic bits and, of course, the requisite map.

As a mere example of the level of workmanship, the section on phonology alone takes up 62 pages and is the richest, most comprehensive I’ve ever seen in a conlang grammar. While extremely detailed, it is quite natural and systematic, yet with just the right amount (and kinds) of irregularities and oddities to be realistic. Siwa’s morphology and syntax is similarly complex and nuanced, but we’re here specifically to track down one of those promised “novel grammatical constructions.” And, indeed, one finds several such delights, my favorite of which I describe below:

Agentive vs. Unagentive verbs: Siwa verbs inflect for two values of agentivity. As one might expect, AGENTIVE verbs indicate that the action is performed volitionally/willingly/consciously, while UNAGENTIVE verbs indicate involuntary and affective states like being wrong, being hot/cold, seeming to be something, growing, experiencing emotional states, etc. Where things get interesting, however, is a phenomenon the author calls “ambiguous agentivity”, where an agentive verb switches to unagentive, and vice-versa, for various rhetorical purposes, as shown below.

Unagentive becomes agentive, for purposes of personification of inanimate objects in storytelling or poetry, e.g.,

UNAGENTIVE: keųi te̓htṡa
‘the sun will rise’ [a simple natural phenomenon]

AGENTIVE: keųi te̓rhi
‘(the) Sun will rise’ [the Sun personified as a deity acting consciously]

Agentive becomes unagentive, for purposes such as pejorative sentences and to rhetorically belittle or diminish the value of the agent, as seen in the following examples:

Non-pejorative with verb form in AGENTIVE:

medde vuihlina

‘you even whistle’

Pejorative with verb form in UNAGENTIVE:

so medde svuihlo-ate

‘heh, so you even whistle’ [said to intimidate or bully someone]

Ambiguous agentivity is also used to distinguish a conscious act such as a craft from a similar act performed merely as a natural phenomenon, e.g.,

Euksami detkenůįůma ‘I produce quality knives’ [AGENTIVE]

Euka geletsta si̓růkůdi ‘Spiders produce silk’ [UNAGENTIVE]

Agentivity also comes into play in another interesting Siwa grammatical construction called “double agentivity,” which corresponds to English constructions of the type X wants/needs Y to Z.

Siwa Neologisms:

I can’t end this article without commenting on a section toward the end of the Siwa Grammar entitled “Modernization.” This section provides Siwa neologisms referring to modern concepts and technology. The particular lexemes chosen for use in compounds are quite curious in many cases, e.g.,

mįariḍmi ‘airplane’, derived from words meaning ‘shield’ and ‘raven’

tugįai ‘alcohol’, derived from words meaning ‘poison’ and ‘clear’

gemkot ‘economy’, derived from a word meaning ‘to make advantageous’

And my two favorite Siwa compounds:

dionųaddi ‘computer’, derived from words meaning ‘counting’ and ‘beehive’

gįelvis ‘automobile’, derived from words meaning ‘X will spin’ and ‘turtle’ (Note: the word for ‘bus’ substitutes ‘salamander’ for turtle!)

Anyway, I’m gonna sign off now from my beehive-counter and go for a drive in my spin-turtle!


LCS Lending Library Update

New library books

The LCS Lending Library has acquired the following new books:

All LCS members are welcome to check out books free of charge!

The Library will be closed July 22 to August 17.

Conlanging News

Fiat Lingua‘s latest articles

  • July 2017: “Constructed Language: An analysis of the phonemic sounds influenced by historical stereotyping” by Ashlie Devenney
    • Abstract: “The perception of constructed languages in film is not a topic that has been researched extensively in the past due to the scrutiny concerning the field of constructed languages as a valid field of study. An understanding of how humankind perceives constructed languages is vital in our understanding of how natural languages are perceived. The purpose of this research is to examine how the base phonemic sounds of a language (particularly constructed languages) affect how the listener hears and perceives a constructed language as well as how and why this perception is constructed. This study is done through a survey consisting of several languages wherein the participant rates the languages on certain qualities which establish how the participant feels towards the language. The research finds that a historical relationship between the beginnings of language construction and the listener’s perception of that language, discovered through an analysis of the phonemic sounds, exists in both constructed and natural languages. This finding will help those who create constructed languages determine what sounds need to consistently occur for their language to be perceived according to intention.”
  • June 2017: “An invented language project for the introductory linguistics classroom” by Skye Anderson
    • Abstract: “This paper presents a brief description of a constructed language project developed for the introductory to linguistics/language classroom. The paper describes the project, its history of development and use, and provides links to sample syllabuses, the project outline, and student project examples. The project described has been used with thousands of students at three different universities. Developed for a large lecture-style setting with up to 500 students at a major research university enrolling over 30,000 students, the project has been taken to a smaller research university (12,000 students) and a metropolitan university (13,000 students), where it has been implemented in a variety of undergraduate courses. The project has been used as a means to introduce basic linguistic concepts to the non-major in a general education setting. In addition, it is currently being piloted in a course on typology. These applications demonstrate the versatility of the project as tool for a variety of linguistic classrooms.”
  • May 2017: “Three lesser-known tools for lexicon-building in your conlang” by John Quijada
    • Abstract: “At the Fifth Language Creation Conference in Austin, Texas, John Quijada presented on some advanced lexicon building techniques. Unfortunately, his talk was shortened due to some organizational mishaps. In this paper, John goes over the main thrust of his talk, and uses the opportunity to share some of the examples and ideas he wasn’t able to share at the talk itself.”

Call for submissions: Fiat Lingua publishes everything conlang-related, including reviews of conlang-relevant books, conlang grammars, essays on style, conlang criticism, scholarly work on a conlang-related topic, and conlang artwork and prose or poetic composition. If you have something you’d like to publish or have an idea you think might work as an article, email All submissions must be in PDF format.

Conlangery podcasts

  • June 2017
    • Conlangery #129: Non-vocal languages
    • Description: “Jake Malloy and David Peterson join George to talk about sign language as well as a few other ways humans communicate non-vocally.”
  • June 2017
    • Conlangery SHORTS #25: Listen like a conlanger – Specialized terms
    • Description: “George talks about how to listen to the language all around you like a conlanger, especially when you encounter weird specialized terms or senses of words.”
  • May 2017
    • Conlangery SHORTS #24: Personal conlanging progress
    • Description: “George talks a bit about his personal progress with Middle Pahran.”

LCS Member Milestones

The fourth video from John Quijada’s Kaduatán music project is now on YouTube. Once again, David J. Peterson sings the lyrics in Ithkuil. The text with translation can be found on the Texts page of the Ithkuil website. (NOTE: John really indulges his clown obsession in this one, so viewers with an aversion to such might consider listening to the audio only!)

Nina-Kristine Johnson published a book about her conlang on April 28; it is available as a paperback and Kindle ebook.

LCS Membership benefits

You can find more information about becoming a member, as well as more information on the benefits, here.

  • Two permanent domain names and free full web and email hosting; for more information or to fill out the form to claim a domain name, please visit this page.
  • Checkout privileges for the LCS Lending Library.
  • Access to a Hightail account (you can find more information about Hightail, an online file server, at its website); please email Sylvia to create your account.
  • Full voting rights in the LCS.
  • Discounts on all LCS events.

Please direct any questions you have regarding LCS membership to Also, all communication regarding your membership will come from that address as well, so please white-list

You shop. Amazon gives. If you shop Amazon, you can now support the LCS by using this Amazon link for your shopping. Amazon will give a percentage of its profits on all the purchases you make through that link to the LCS.

Detail #349: Generalizing Order of Magnitude-prefixes

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017
The SI units come with prefixes that specify orders of magnitude - all the way from very small fractions to reasonably large - on a human scale - powers of ten.

Now, consider languages with numeral case congruence. If each part of these numbers has congruence for case, you quickly run up some quite huge compounds with numbers. Finnish is a particularly notable example of this:
in five hundred thirty eight thousand three hundred and ...
Now, one could imagine that, for instance, SI units could be abused to avoid this, giving us
viidessä dekatalossa instead ofviidessäkymmenessä talossa
At this point, we'd have a language with singulars, plurals, decals?, centals?, millennals? or whatever to call such numbers.

Of course, it's also easy to imagine a number system with the largest numbers placed to the right within the numeral develop in a way where that number suddenly is prefixed to the noun instead.

Constructed Language: An Analysis of the Phonemic Sounds Influenced by Historical Stereotyping

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

Ashlie Devenney recently graduated from R.L Paschal High School in Fort Worth, Texas and will be attending A&M University. This research was completed through the AP Capstone program under the supervision of Ian Connally and with the assistance of Dr. Jessie Sams of Stephen F. Austin and David Peterson.


The perception of constructed languages in film is not a topic that has been researched extensively in the past due to the scrutiny concerning the field of constructed languages as a valid field of study. An understanding of how humankind perceives constructed languages is vital in our understanding of how natural languages are perceived. The purpose of this research is to examine how the base phonemic sounds of a language (particularly constructed languages) affect how the listener hears and perceives a constructed language as well as how and why this perception is constructed. This study is done through a survey consisting of several languages wherein the participant rates the languages on certain qualities which establish how the participant feels towards the language. The research finds that a historical relationship between the beginnings of language construction and the listener’s perception of that language, discovered through an analysis of the phonemic sounds, exists in both constructed and natural languages. This finding will help those who create constructed languages determine what sounds need to consistently occur for their language to be perceived according to intention.

Version History

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