Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

A completed Universal Language

Thursday, January 19th, 2017
Here's a language made to be easy for anyone from any language to learn. (NOTE: I say this, knowing full well that I only have an English translation to explain how it works :) I'm working on it other language speakers!!).

From the front page:
"Language is one of the biggest barriers that divides us all.

The only solution today if a businessman wants to create a partnership in another country is to hire a translator or spend lots of valuable time learning only ONE specific language. Even if he learned seven languages, he'd still be out of luck for many places. There are literally thousands of languages here on Earth, and many are very different from each other.


ZANA ZIKA is a constructed language designed to be as easy to learn as possible to many different language learners. Instead of structured grammar there are concepts, strung together in any order. Instead of massive dictionaries there are less than 150 words. There aren't any confusing sounds, I've combined them and taken them out. For instance, some languages have no different sound for 'p', 'b', and 'v'. ZANA ZIKA has just one 'p', that can be mispronounced, but still understood!

It's super simple to learn and create concepts in ZANA ZIKA, so give it a try!!"

Detail #326: Remnants of the Dual

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
A language with remnants of a defunct dual number can have many interesting peculiarities - consider, for instance, the case of Russian, where nominative numbers from two to four take singular genitive nouns - because historically, the nominative dual was identical to the singular genitive. However, even today, some exceptional nouns exist with an exceptional form in this context.

However, what if the duals leave different types of traces? Let's consider a language where the dual has been thoroughly present - in verb morphology, in pronouns, etc - but since the society has become more complex and bigger numbers have become commonplace, the dual has mainly fallen out of use. However, it survives in a few contexts:
  • things that often come in pairs
  • socially pairwise things
However, it also survives in certain participles and verbs with a variety of unexpected meanings:
  • With some applicative participles, formerly signifying the use of both hands for carrying out the action, now signifying intensity and without the applicative meaning preserved.
  • With applicative participles of verbs of perception, the dual signifies 'with the ears' or 'with the eyes' and thus basically just serves to enhance the fact that the speaker has seen or heard what he's speaking of.
  • With some active participles that formerly just signified pairs doing something, now the dual marker signifies reciprocality within socially important structures of two. 
  • With some gerunds a dual morpheme indicates repetition, whereas plural marks habituality.

Also, as a side note: yay, definitely 100k views in total, although no idea to what extent those are bots.


Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Let’s look at playing around with metrical extensions with “high” and “low.”

First, their superlatives “highest” and “lowest” could easily be extended to mean “top” and “bottom.”

You could always make their positives act like directions and not just states, so “high"and “low” could mean “up” and “down.”

You could get more creätive with the comparatives, and use them for personalities. Like, a “higher” person can have a lot of “charm” and a “lower” person could be “strange.”

This would get the regular looking:
High higher highest
Low lower lowest

To also be the more interesting:
Up charm top
Down strange bottom

Shalts Language Institute

Thursday, January 12th, 2017
Check out this conlang I created. I tried to replicate the changes that came to be in English, Germanic roots becoming overcome with latin and Greek ones (I decided not to try and add French).

So yeah, it's German, remade with Latin and Greek or different aspects of use.

Basically I wanted a language that would sound like simplified (read un-Normanized) English to non-native speakers of English, but it sounds more like Dutch to most English speakers. You can find it HERE.

Conlangery SHORTS #22: Axanar Update

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017
George gives a quick update on the Paramount v Axanar case and the LCS’s part in it. This was previously discussed in episode 119. For more information, please see the Language Creation Society’s Axanar information page.

Ŋʒädär Cases: Grammatical Subsystems as Bundles of Features pt I

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
Sometimes systems in languages can be analyzed in terms of feature bundles. This can work for cases, tenses, moods, lexical subsystems (say, family terminology, or such), etc. This article will look into the case systems of several of my languages, attempting to find some economical yet powerful description of the case systems.

Ŋʒädär has a fairly simple case system:
The absolute marks subjects and objects. The dative marks recipients. The genitive-comitative marks possessors or accompanying participants. The three locatives - locative, lative and ablative - have similarities, but there is an odd one out among them. The complement case has certain similarities to the absolute case.
We find beyond these that there is an unabsolutive case for certain nouns. Counting the regular cases we have seven, and the unabsolutive would give us eight. log28 is 3, so the most optimal case would only have three binary variables. Let us first look at the seven 'common' cases before taking a look at the unabsolutive.

It seems three basic qualities distinguish the three cases: involvement, direction and centrality. Involvement is whether the noun is a participant in any way whatsoever, or just a frame or scaffold for the action. Direction is whether there is a spatial progress involving the noun as some form of source or sink, and 'centrality' largely corresponds to likelihood of being topicalized or focalized but also the likelihood of being an argument.

The question marks indicate that the relevant spots seem to go both ways. The ablative thus can acquire the same meaning as the lative in some contexts, but can also acquire a distinct meaning. We can expand this by having both the complement and the ablative appear as two versions of themselves - giving a total of nine, but this is ok since ablative2 is the same as lative as far as its features go.

here, the cases are ordered assuming participant > central > directional

By now we have exhausted the number of states three binary variables can occupy, so the unabsolutive wouldn't fit into this. We could attempt to rearrange this so that we get rid of the question marks and express both the complement and ablative in terms that do not require them to occupy two different states - however, this particular setup will prove useful to understand the shenanigans of the case systems. We shall rearrange the system a bit for a truly full three-variable system without any cases occupying two slots, and using a different set of features that better catch the "morphological reality". The middle column has different values for the upper and lower half.

core case/
This model also has its drawbacks; 'active core case' signifies cases that (can) participate in an action, but obviously the absolutive can be the object as well, and quirky case verbs can take datives that do things. Framing is a question of locating a VP or subject either spatially or conceptually. Associate reference is whether a noun in such a case necessarily refers to a noun's referent itself or possibly to things associated therewith - i.e. the locative may be marked upon a noun the vicinity of which is referred to (whereas the lative more usually goes on the name of a place, or a noun on the inside or top of which something moves). 

Asking what features an NP satisfies for these two schemes gives a pretty good idea of what case an NP in Ŋʒädär takes, but even then the two models give some mistakes. Similar models for Ćwarmin would be huge, but Bryatesle, Sargaĺk and Dairwueh may get their own treatment among these lines. On the other hand, the interaction of number, case and definiteness in Ćwarmin could make for interesting models that demonstrate how weirdly intervowen those three really are in Ćwarmin.

Subordinating Verbs: A Small Blast from the Past

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

I was recently thinking about this with regards to writing my New and Improved (tee-em) grammar of Ayeri and my previous post on subordinating verbs. I saw subordinating verbs as posing the problem of putting too much stuff in the constituent that holds the verb. As a solution, I described moving the complement of the main verb into a finite complement clause. When I did some analysis of verbs yesterday to maybe shed some light on the alternation between -isa and -isu in deverbal adjectives, I came across the following example sentence in the entry for pinya ‘ask’, entered October 24, 2008:

  1. Sa

    ‘Her he asks to close the window.’

Material from 2008 is not quite fresh anymore, but going through my example texts, I also found the following sentence fragment in the 2010/11 Conlang Holiday Card Exchange (interlinear glossing updated to current standards):

  1. nārya

    ‘but I got the chance to buy cards’

In both cases, the subordinating verb is transitive: (1) ‘(you) ask her’, (2) ‘I got the chance’; pinya- ‘ask’ in (1) is a raising verb (the logical subject of the subordinate verb is the object of the verb in the matrix clause), while int- ‘buy’ in (2) should simply be an infinite clausal complement. However, in both cases we do neither get the complement awkwardly placed in the middle, nor are the sentences rephrased so as to result in a finite complement clause or a nominalized complement to avoid the infinite verb form:

    1. ??

      ‘Her he asks to close the window.’
    2. Pinyayāng,

      ‘He asks that she closes the window.’

    1. nārya

      ‘but I got the chance of a purchase of cards’
    2. nārya

      ‘but I got the chance that I buy cards’

Both constructions, (1) and (2) are not widely attested in my materials, and the new grammar doc as it currently is does not rule out cases like (2), insofar I only need to make up my mind about constructions like in (1): continue allowing them as a variant, declare them ungrammatical, or simply ignore them? In the first case I might be required to keep a VP or a functional equivalent of it, after all, since there would be a post-subject position associated with verbs, then.1 In any case, raising and control should be interesting topics to come to terms with in my conlang.

  1. What with my trying to learn more about syntax lately (LFG specifically because it’s interesting for languages like Ayeri), I was recently wondering if (IP (DP) (I’ (I) (S (NP) (XP) ) ) ) might be a/the appropriate way to describe a basic transitive clause in Ayeri, with DP as the topic marker; the finite verb in I; NP as the subject NP; and XP as whatever is under predication. If we don’t assume empty terminal nodes, everything governing S can be omitted in predicative statements, and the XP position would be filled with an AP – though that alone possibly doesn’t accommodate for the negator, which is located between subject and predicative adjective. This, in turn, triggers the question where to place it if the order of adjective and noun is reversed.


Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Your werewolf conlang’s syntax should work strictly off of transformational grammar.

Sixth Lexember Month: Another Month of Haotyétpi Words

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

So, like last year, December was the Lexember month, and of course I participated, once again with Haotyétpi. While Haotyétpi's grammar is now more or less complete, its vocabulary is still far too small to be usable, so naturally I wouldn't pass on an event whose entire purpose is to create vocabulary! And what an event it was once again!

As with last year, I wrote all my Lexember posts on Tumblr. It is the best platform for this event, hands down. I also automatically shared them on Twitter and manually shared them on Facebook, Google+ and the CONLANG mailing list. The automatic link I had set between Tumblr and this blog somehow failed to work correctly, so I ended up duplicating the Tumblr posts manually here, so that they would also appear on the Conlang Aggregator. Sorry about the empty posts (which I came back to and updated with the correct information), I'm now looking into what caused the automatic link to fail. Hopefully it won't fail me next year!

As I did last year, I will give here the short definitions of the created words and link to the relevant posts. Don't hesitate to follow the links: each Lexember post contains additional information about Haotyétpi in general and the created words in particular, together with topical GIFs and in some cases even example sentences! So, without further ado, here are all the new Haotyétpi words:

1st word: sohé [so̞ˈʝe̞ˑ], alienably possessed noun:
wind, breeze.
2nd word: már [ˈmäˑɾ], intransitive verb:
to be violent, to be intense; to be strong.
3rd word: markó [mäɾˈko̞ˑ], alienably possessed noun:
storm, windstorm.
4th word: wakkumárpi [ʋäkːʊˈmäˑɾpɪ̆], nominalisation:
5th word: ortáse hón [o̞ɾˈtäˑʑə̆ ˈvo̞ˑn], noun phrase:
6th word: remuríp [ɾe̞mʊˈɾiˑp], alienably possessed noun:
lightning, flash of lightning.
7th word: ós [ˈo̞ˑɕ], alienably possessed noun:
8th word: eków [e̞ˈgo̞͡ʊ], transitive verb:
to cross, to pass, to go through.
9th word: oseków [o̞ʑe̞̽ˈgo̞͡ʊ], intransitive verb:
to strike (for lightning); to fall, to shoot (for a shooting star).
10th word: repé [ɾe̞ˈbe̞ˑ], inalienably possessed noun:
shade, shadow.
11th word: ossép [o̞ˈɕːe̞ˑp], alienably possessed noun:
clouds, cloud cover.
12th word: patíse [päˈd͡ʑiˑʑə̆], inalienably possessed noun:
person, animal, location (or other) of special significance for the possessor; "soulmate".
13th word: táw [ˈtä͡ʊ], alienably possessed noun:
river, stream, brook; riverwater, water from the ground.
14th word: ikkóte [iˈkːo̞ˑd͡ʑə̆], inalienably possessed noun:
rainwater; drinkwater; juice, broth, sauce, consumable liquid.
15th word: [ˈme̞ˑ], alienably possessed noun:
tree; wood (material).
16th word: meomá [me̞o̞̽ˈmäˑ], alienably possessed noun:
(tree) branch.
17th word: hayré [hä͡ɪˈɾe̞ˑ], intransitive verb:
to be left, to be on the left side; to go/turn left.
18th word: socú [so̞ˈd͡zuˑ], intransitive verb:
to be right, to be on the right side; to go/turn right.
19th word: aspá [äɕˈpäˑ], transitive (causative) verb:
to put, to place.
20th word: ankehayrép [änd͡ʑe̞̽ɦɐ͡ɪˈɾe̞ˑp], nominalisation:
left side, left area.
21st word: ankesocúp [änd͡ʑe̞̽zo̞̽ˈd͡zuˑp], nominalisation:
right side, right area.
22nd word: pekrépe [pe̞kˈɾe̞ˑbə̆], inalienably possessed noun:
disease, sickness.
23rd word: urún [uˈɾuˑn], intransitive verb:
to tire, to be/get tired.
24th word: tamín [täˈmiˑn], alienably possessed noun:
riverside village, fishermen’s settlement.
25th word: harté [häɾˈt͡ɕe̞ˑ], intransitive verb:
to party, to celebrate.
26th word: saér [säˈe̞ˑɾ], transitive verb:
to enter, to go/come in.
27th word: saériwe [säˈe̞ˑɾɪ̆ʋe̞̽], ditransitive (causative) verb:
to put in, to place inside.
28th word: wessó [ʋe̞ˈsːo̞ˑ], alienably possessed noun:
boat, ship.
29th word: peón [pe̞ˈo̞ˑn], alienably possessed noun:
speech, language; word.
30th word: peorrép [pe̞.o̞̽ˈre̞ˑp], alienably possessed noun:
writing, written words; document.
31st word: imíke [iˈmiˑd͡ʑə̆], inalienably possessed noun:
back, behind; end.

In terms of statistics, before this last Lexember event the Haotyétpi dictionary contained 356 entries (including affixes, clitics and some important phrases). By the end, it contained 388 entries (yes, one more than Lexember entries. That's because of the addition of one suffix -te, created for the harté entry, but which I felt was not productive enough to include as an actual Lexember entry), i.e. a 9% increase in total vocabulary. Not bad for a month of work!

I don't have anything to add that I haven't said before. I still enjoy Lexember as much as when we started with it 5 years ago (5 years already!). I enjoy reading everyone's entries, and it motivates me to create words, which as you know is usually a very tedious activity for me. Count me in once again next December!

Detail #324: Another Uncommon Voice

Sunday, January 1st, 2017
Consider a situation whereby a speaker community reinterprets the argument structure of a verb depending on the person of the subject. An example where this might be reasonable to occur is various verbs for 'like' in a variety of languages:
I like → I like
you likeyou like
he likeshe appeals to X
much like, say, 'es gefällt mir' structurally is something like 'it appeals to me', but is semantically probably closer to 'I like it'. It is easy to imagine that first and second person more often perceive the appeal, and third person are the cause thereof, and semantic wear turns the structure, rather than the verb, into the meaning-carrying element.

This could imaginably lead to an inverse-direct thing for verbs with such a behaviour. Another thing it imaginably could lead to would be an exceptional voice whereby the behaviour of the verb for first and second person is recreated for the third person as well.

This would differ from other voices in the language, since
  1. it is restricted with regards to person
  2. it does not demote anything
  3. it does not promote anything
  4. it only permits that a certain type of NP behave like another type of NP with regards to the verb
(Now, we can imagine that it doesn't even permit first and second person "objects" – i.e. with this voice, you still can't say 'she likes me'. This would be somewhat interesting, but let's not go there.)

A tiny challenge: what could naturally grammaticalize into this function?

Onwards with the idea, this could of course combine with a passive - since normally, the stimulus is the subject, we could now go for a situation where you first make the perceiver the subject, then passivize so the stimulus again is the subject - maybe in order to get rid of the perceiver altogether, for a meaning along the lines of 'X is appealing (in general)'.