Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Detail #295: Agreement with the Subject in Case Marking

Sunday, June 26th, 2016
This post uses the distinction between argument and adjunct without really ever providing any specific defition. I Should probably sometime actually 

Imagine a language where the case markers of direct arguments of the verb show some kind of agreement with the gender and number of the subject. We come up with a set of object markers that - maybe with some syncretism - thus marks mostly the agreement features of the subject, but to some extent also marks some agreement features of the object.

For the other cases, for arguments of the verb the congruence marker only codes the gender-number of the subject, and there's a separate morpheme marking the number of the argument. This number marker marks the gender of the noun itself, not that of the subject.

For adjuncts of the finite verb and for both the arguments and adjuncts of infinitives, the noun takes its own gender's case marker.

To illustrate such a system, I guess a three-gender system is suitable. Let's assume a very IE one, i.e. with three genders, one masculine, one feminine and one neuter.

In the system I came up with , the masculine and feminine objects take their own gender's accusative marker as object marker when the subject is neuter. When the subject is of the same gender as the object, they take their own gender's default morpheme - the one used for adjuncts and infinitive objects.
However, when a masculine subject and feminine object or vice versa occur, a special set of morphemes are used. Slightly more complicated in the singular than the plural, however, with more syncretism in the plural.

Finally, for the other cases as arguments, a masculine singular subject triggers masculine singular case markers, a feminine plural subject triggers feminine plural case markers, etc. If the argument and the subject are of the same gender-number marking, the argument's own number-morphology is lost.

Sargaĺk Words: Family Terminology

Saturday, June 25th, 2016
xane - mother
ərges - father
simi - oldest son
simižar -
oldest living son, if the oldest one has passed away
tame - any other son
siminša - the full set of sons (masc)
tamu - daughter
tamunša - the full set of daughters (masc)
lisna - baby, infant
žəgon - kid (from around three up to about thirteen years)

kəsimos - older brother, uncle
kətamos - any other brother
kətamsu - any sister or aunt

boxan - grandmother
borges - grandfather
olinu - ancestors (m, sg.)

When speaking of grandparents, whether they're maternal or paternal such can be specified, oddly enough, by just inserting 'mother' or 'father' in the pegative-genitive:
xantat borgen : mother's father (not 'mother's grandfather')
ərgesta boxan : father's mother (not 'father's grandmother')

minu - wife
aŋul - husband

ŋolmi - manners, with regards to family.

ecdə - relatively close family (but wider than nuclear family)
miv - village, but also relativesecdo - house and privileges (m)
ecdak - inheritance

Adjectival Congruence in Sargaĺk

Friday, June 24th, 2016
In Sargaĺk, there is a very limited case congruence: an NP-initial adjective or determiner takes a case-specific congruence marker. However, the congruence is not entirely trivial:
  • The familiar comitative does not have congruence morphology of its own, but uses regular comitative morphology on adjectives.
  • Both masculine and feminine singular nominatives have a zero congruence marker on adjectives. Demonstratives distinguish the two, however, as do a few other quantifiers and determiners.
  • The ablative's adjectival congruence marker is identical to the regular oblique marker in the singular.
  • For non-nominative NPs, any intervening adjective takes an oblique, gender-specific morpheme.
The cause for this system seems to be providing cues as early as possible for parsing. 

Now it's time for some example phrases:
p'ĺxo : pig, swine (m)
kor p'ĺxo : big swine
žaŋ-a p'ĺxo :
that swine

kor-ta p'əlx-ta : big swine (pegative)
žaŋ-ta (kor-ə) p'əlxta : that big swine
goŋ-ta (kor-ə) p'əlxta : dumb (big) swine (pegative)
kor-sa p'ĺx-a : dumb swines
goŋ-sa kor-eg p'ĺx-a : dumb swines (pegative)
goŋ-eg p'əlx-tsa : from the dumb swine
kor-eg goŋ-eg p'əlx-tsa: from the big dumb swine
goŋ-əssa p'ĺx-əssa : from the dumb swines

č'onku : bottle
kor č'onku : big bottle
kor-air č'onk-air
: big bottles
kor-sta č'onk-sta : big bottles (peg)
k'ilp č'onku : full bottle
k'il-tat č'on-tat : full bottle (pegative)
žaŋ-u k'ilp č'onku : this full bottle
žaŋ-tat k'ilp-i č'on-tat : this full bottle (pegative)
žaŋ-rut k'ilp-i č'onk-rut : in this full bottle
ža-rne k'ilp-i č'onk-ərne : into this full bottle
žaŋ-el k'ilp-el č'on-əssa : from these full bottles
As can be seen, the oblique masculine marker is -ə, the oblique feminine is -i. In the plural, they are -eg (masc) and -el (fem).

For complements of verbs, the oblique markers are used if the state expressed is fairly constant, i.e. 'he is tall' or the like, whereas if it is more temporary, no congruence marker is used.

    fifteen is vositima

    Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
    vositima = fifteen (numeral) (Some things Google found for "vositima": a very rare term; similar Vestima is an investment fund service; similar Fostiima is a business school in Delhi, India; similar visitmina is a website for the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art in the UK)

    Word derivation for "fifteen" :
    Basque = hamabost (from ten + five)
    Finnish = viisitoista (five + -teen)
    Miresua = vositima (five + -teen)

    Another new number word. This one is more Finnish than Basque, but I think not unreasonably so.

    I'm not sure if the word fifteen occurs in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or not. I'll update this post later when I find out.

    Case in Answers in my Conlangs

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016
    Single-noun answers to questions sometimes in some languages do not necessarily preserve case. If we think of English prepositions as case markers, the two possibilities can be seen below:
    Case Preserving:
    Q: To where are you going?
    A: To Närpes.

    Non-case Preserving:
    Q: With what are you going to build it?
    A: Blood, sweat, tears, nails, wood and a hammer.
    My conlangs have slightly differing approaches to responses. Ŋʒädär permits case preservation, but also permits some non-preservation - oblique cases that are not preserved are replaced by the locative, whereas dative, genitive-comitative and complement cases are replaced by the absolutive.
    Q: vär xogon t'e-k bürü-ŋö-z
    you house what-instr build-fut*-direct
    with what do you intend to build a house?

    A2: altaŋ-ŋa
    A: (with|at) brick

    * the meaning of -ŋö- varies with the verb root and with surrounding morphemes.
    Ćwarmin requires case preservation, except with direct objects and quirky case subjects: for all of these, an answer in the nominative is permitted.
    Q: u kar-ar?
    (s)he what-from?where is he from?

    A: kirəc-ər
    A: from far away

    Q: bec kar-ac źarkus-amca
    Q: you who-acc meet-recent_past
    who did you meet?
    : Garan
    : Garan-uc
    Sargaĺk preserves case except the pegative, which is replaced by the nominative in short answers. 

    Dairwueh preserves case except in situations involving quirky case, where the nominative or the accusative can appear instead, depending on whether the noun asked for is subject or object. One minor exception is that nominative interrogative pronouns with transitive verbs can take genitive nouns as answers, if the noun given for the answer is definite.

    Finally, Bryatesle does not preserve secondary case ever in short answers. Subjects and objects can preserve case, but may also be marked by nominative (regardless whether it's subject or object, or even quirky case subject or object that is being asked for). The two other cases can be preserved, or be given in the answer in the accusative case.

    Detail #294: An Unusual Way of Marking Reflexives

    Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016
    A thing that could be somewhat interesting would be to form reflexive objects by using a preposition and a pronoun. In the example sentences, I'll use eg as that preposition:
    I washed eg me
    I washed myself
    However, this could also provide a way of doing reflexive possession:
    he sold eg car
    he sold his (own) car

    he sold his car
    he sold another third person's car
    This would qualify as a preposition on syntactical grounds - whatever syntactical differences you find in the language between objects and prepositional phrases, you'd need to have this line up with the prepositional phrases: this might include omitting object marking on the verb, not permitting certain transformations, requiring the noun to be in some specific case.

    We could also restrict this from combining with other prepositions, thus making 'by him', 'from him', etc not distinguish reflexive and other third person.

    If the language permits reflexives in subject position (which some languages do in positions such as 'he1 doesn't know that he1's won the lottery', this could be made interesting by requiring a verb voice that lacks syntactical subject altogether, and for which the 'eg [Noun]' phrase is the demoted subject.

    Detail #293: Indefinite Pronouns and Noun Morphology

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
    Integrating definiteness and the whole indefinite pronoun system with its various functions into noun morphology instead of having things like case could be an interesting approach to noun morphology - it seems to me the order by which conlangers go for noun morphology beyond the derivative morphology is a hierarchy something like
    number (maybe fused with gender)
    possession marking (head or dependent marking)
    other cases (maybe fused with gender)
    possessive affixes
    definiteness marking
    noun class / gender (maybe fused with number)
    This is not particularly bad or anything, but we could do something else with nouns than that. Some Native American languages offer us the idea of marking for obviativeness/proximativeness, which interacts with the verb and the more general discourse in interesting ways. Few conlangers make Native American languages, however.

    The last in the hierarchy above is gender, which any Bantu-style language would almost necessarily be present.

    Now, I've often gone and linked the typological classification of indefinite pronouns that Apollo Hogan wrote way back. To this, we could add some definite pronouns and determiners - demonstratives, maybe articles (if we go so far as to distinguish 'that', 'this' and 'the'; seems 'the' may easily turn superfluous). From this point on, 'the/a/any/some/...' represents whatever system you come up with from that classification.

    Incorporating that whole system of 'the/a/any/some/...' into the noun, possibly in combination with possessive affixes (either giving {the, a, any, some, no, every, ...} * {my, your, his/hers, our, ...} or {the, a, any, some, no, every, ...} + {my, your, his/hers, our, ...} could give interesting results. Let's further permit a "light recursion", having the third person possessive suffixes further be marked for a less granular set of distinctions - merge a few of the different 'anies' and 'somes' that you have for that suffix, and maybe forbid certain combinations ('than any X of than any X' seems unlikely to ever be needed, i.e. forbid double indefinite standard of comparison. I find it likely that you'll ever need the possessor to be the indefinite standard of comparison, but you could of course permit having the marking go there nevertheless for whatever reason, or heck, require doubly marking it.)

    Since indefinite pronouns often have somewhat overlapping functions (just check the amount of overlap in the example systems section of the link), this gives us a somewhat more overlapping system than the typical case system - which is a nice effect, in my opinion.

    Even more interest could maybe be created by having different noun classes divide up this functional space in slightly different ways, maybe even having different numbers of divisions of it.

    Detail #292: A Grammaticalization Path for Imperatives

    Monday, June 20th, 2016
    Have imperatives form from infinitives with vocative case congruence.

    Ŋʒädär: Verbal Aspect (pt 1)

    Thursday, June 16th, 2016
    Ŋʒädär's verbal system is characterized by a lack of 'thoroughness': few grammatical categories can be found throughout the verbal system, often only being marked on a minority of the verbs. The same marker can take on different functions with different verbs, and one of the verbal aspect markers can be pretty informative.

    One of the approaches Ŋʒädär uses for aspect is reduplication. For some verbs, reduplication indicates telicity or perfectivity:
    p'an- : hit at
    p'amp'an- : kill, to kill by hitting at
    duʒ- : to think
    duʒduʒ- : to solve, to think through

    k'ıv- : to reach for
    k'ıvk'ıv- : to be tall, to strive for
     For others, it implies progressive or continuous, even habitual aspect:
    ŋʒis- : to bring (by carrying)
    ŋʒiŋʒis- : be bringing, carry something somewhere
    ʒgur- : to escape
    ʒguʒgur- : to be exiled, to be an escapee

    rəŋ- : to partition
    rəŋrəŋ- : to have a share in something
    Thus the meaning of reduplication is specific to each verb. Sometimes, the aspectual difference may - as seen above - amount to significant differences in actual meaning as well. 

    Challenge: A New Frame

    Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
    A partial dichotomy that often is presented is that between verb framed and satellite framed languages. Obviously, this is a spectrum, and I doubt anyone even questions that.

    Verb-framing languages express the type of motion with regards to a location by using different verbs (enter, exit, approach, ascend, descend, etc); satellite-framing verbs use particles of some type to mark the type of movement, and this often frees up the verb to mark the type of movement (running, walking, rolling, skipping, jumping etc).

    For the challenge itself: come up with other things about motion than manner and direction with regards to the location that could be pushed into 'satellites'. Come up with other things that could be more central for what verb to pick.
    (Wikipedia has a suggestions already: type of noun involved. So, that one's not going to cut it for now.)

    A main reason why I post this is to get a challenge for myself as well - finish some things about framing in at least one of my conlangs before someone else suggests the same idea.