Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Some Ideas Regarding Ordinal Numbers

Thursday, February 26th, 2015
One morphological way of forming ordinal numbers that somehow makes sense would be the verbal perfect aspect marker or a perfect, active participle. Consider 'the fourth item' is the item that 'brings' the number to four, thus the item that 'reached' four, the item that caused the items to number as much as four.

However, there are other things to do with ordinals than just their formation. We can consider what other things than numbers can take ordinal marking. In Finnish, the word 'monta' (many) permits forming an ordinal - mones (manyeth), which mainly is used in combination with the interrogative particle -ko. Monesko? 'How manyeth?' Of course, we could imagine a language that has forms like:
I don't recall which, but in someth part of that series they really jump the shark.
He's not the first to do this, but at least fewth.
One could maybe extend it to meanings like 'every so many|often|':
the oftenth day, we throw a party.
no matter the manieth the ephemeral obsessions of the youth, there will always be a next.
Of course, next is sort of ordinal-like as well, and one could also imagine offset-ordinals: the n:th from this one, as well as periodically offset-ordinals: every n:th from this one, (versus every n:th).

But, to go further and create some semantic fun, consider a language where ordinals can go on both sides of their noun.

the n:th thing := the thing that is n:th in order
the thing n:th := a thing that completes a culturally sort of significant set of that particular type of thing; i.e. 'the seventh out of a set of seven unfortunate events', the third out of three deaths in a village in a short span of time, the twelfth month out of a year, the sixth beer in a six-pack - so month twelfth, death third, disaster seventh would all be somewhat grammaticalized phrases.

But we could go on even further. Any out of these nouns, if in the plural with the ordinal after it, would signify the whole set of months or disasters; with the ordinal in the plural, it would be such sets of months or disasters or six-packs.




Thursday, February 26th, 2015



Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

A conlang where all consonants are trilled ingressive sounds and all vowels require some combination of sticking your tongue out and opening your mouth as wide as it will go.

Music Theory for Conworlders

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

I recently decided to write a series of posts about another favourite topic of mine - music! Many conworlders do mention the music of their concultures. Some even go so far as to compose some works set in those conworlds. However, most such works remain within the trappings of Euro-American styles.

Obviously, no co world can be an entire world, and no conworlder is omniscient. However, music is a field where innovation  is not all that unattainable.

At the tuning tarpit I present a primer to some type of generalised music theory, with audio examples to illustrate the concepts presented.


Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Make a sign conlang where “that face when no gf” is a phonemic facial expression.

Shalts Language Institute

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
Check out the Germanic Conlang, Shalts


Monday, February 23rd, 2015

A conlang with four noun classes ranked in an animacy hierarchy.

From lowest to highest:

  1. Mob
  2. King
  3. God
  4. Non-believer

few is hatxi

Monday, February 23rd, 2015
few = hatxi (adjective) (some things Google found for "hatxi": a rare term; user names; a rare first name; name of a dog that was adopted from a shelter group in Alicante, Spain; HATXI is an aviation waypoint in California; name of gaming characters; bad OCR of old text documents; may mean something in Vietnamese (transliterated); similar Haxi is the name of a place in Gansu Sheng, China)

Word derivation for "few":
Basque = gutxi, Finnish = harvat
Miresua = hatxi

The TX consonant combination in Miresua, as in Basque, is pronounced like CH.

I found ten occurrences of the word few in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Six of them refer to few minutes, and two of them refer to few things.
For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.

Bryatesle: Case Usage III: the Dative

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015
Besides the nominative and accusative (which later will be described), Bryatelse uses dative and ablative quite prominently. For some combined forms, the dative and ablative are conflated into a single 'oblique'.

The dative is comparable in some sense to a classical dative - it marks the recipient of an action. Examples:
emi mersi nalei
she him.dat sing-3sg - she sings for him
nek es urek siber
me.dat it strange appear.3sgN - it appears strange to me
xnërsi xus lrama xus fall-3sgN - something bad happened to you
However, beyond this, it also serves as quirky case subject with a handful of verbs:
tënk bulyr nïsr kevyk du inrahat
who.dat believe.3sg I.2ndsubj that like behave.1sg? - Who(DAT!) believes that I behave like that?
 The dative further can serve as a genitive:
Erkube tebuxu vybara
Erkub.dat cake.neut.nom suffice.telic3sgN (the verb is vyberet in the atelic form); Erkub's cake sufficed. 
The dative is the case used when the possessor is not marked as subject, secondary subject or object of the clause. Topical secondary subjects can own any participant of the clause, subjects can own any participants, objects can own oblique arguments, and oblique arguments can own other oblique arguments. A dative or ablative that is directly in front of a possessed noun, however, can own that noun. Datives are preferred with human possessors, ablatives with inanimates and non-human animates.

Directions with nouns are not given by the dative, most of the time - generally, those are formed by postpositions with the accusative.

In combination with the secondary cases, the dative further has some interesting deals - with the partitive it and the ablative merge and form a single oblique case. With the definite the implied telicity, pastness, 'realisness', absolutely-likely-to-happen futureness, etc, of the statement is slightly strengthened.

With the partitive, the opposite implication is generally acquired, and there's a very weakened definiteness. (However, as noted, it then merges with the ablative.) The possessive should be fairly well understood by now. The reciprocal object will have its own post sooner or later. The secondary subject appears on the dative for two quite opposite reasons:
Promoted Dative Secondary Subjects
Subordinate Dative Secondary Subjects 
The previous kind basically are causers, parties involved indirectly but who cause things to come about. The subordinate dative secondary subjects are embedded in VPs that are objects of the main verb; they either are quirky case subjects or they are datives that serve a topic-like function in the embedded subclause.

Erkub taidënisr rulmunti ake sigi
Erkub wife-dat-2ndsubj tobacco.obliq-part not drink.atelic-3sg - Erkub doesn't smoke tobacco (because his wife doesn't like it)
Garkeb kendynnyx bumal segai
Garkeb desire.dat-pl.neut.2ndsubj water drink.atelic-3sg
Garkeb felt like drinking water, so he did
The subordinate kind would be exemplified by
Firgyk naskannyx barlei ydrei
Firgyk field.fem-dat-plur.2ndsubj-plur dry_up.atelic-3sg fear-3sg
Firgyk fears the field will dry up
The embedded verb usually comes before the main verb, but if the semantic difference of the kinds of verbs involved is big enough, the order can be reversed, and the change can signal differences along these lines:
Firgyk naskannyx ydrei barlei: Firgyk, on the account of the field is worried - it might dry up.
Firgyk ydrei naskannyx barlei: Firgyk worries, the field may dry up
naskannyx barlei Firgyk ydrei: the field drying up has Firgyk worried.
The remaining forms - both main objects and secondary objects - will be covered in the next post.

Notes on a Vaporware Conlang III

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

A thing that’s always bothered me a little regarding Ayeri is that, so far, I haven’t come up with a proto-language which to draw irregularities and other neat and natural idiosyncracies from. For this conlang idea, I want to right those wrongs from the start, and by experimenting with a “fresh” language I can also learn how I could maybe retrofit Ayeri a little while avoiding noob mistakes … Since any sound can change to any other at least in principle, I thought I should just

  1. assume some phoneme inventory for the proto-language, maybe with some underspecification à la PIE’s laryngeals;1
  2. make up some phonotactics of course;
  3. make up some words in either system accordingly;
  4. morph the proto words to their recent shape and thus gain a bunch of sound changes to draw on and extend.

Furthermore, of course, I can also go backwards from the current shape and make assumptions on what may have happened to generate the current surface form. For example, given words like boď and šaňt, there may very plausibly have been a high front vowel following the palatalized sounds which was elided by apocope or syncope, so e.g. *bodiboď and *šanitšaňt.

For a proto-language inventory, how about this, for a start:2


labial dental velar guttural
nasals *μ [m~n~ŋ]
plosives *t *k *q [q~ʔ]
*tʰ *kʰ
fricatives *s *x [x~h]
liquids *w *λ [r~l]


Front Mid Back
high *i *u
low *a

Some possible words

Given the above phonemes and the phonotactic rules I sketched out here,3 here is a list of some possible words:

*aλ, *aλs, *i, *iμs.tʰus, *kak.tʰixt, *kaλs.kʰaμk, *kisk.twa, *ku, *kuλ, *kʰa, *kʰask.λaμ, *kʰax.sta, *kʰaλt, *kʰaμ.sλa, *kʰuλs.txu, *sa.taλk, *si.λuxs, *ska.λi, *skʰa, *skʰu, *stʰaq, *su.λə, *sλa, *sλi.μaλμ, *sλu.λəλk, *ta.quμ, *taqs.qusq, *tsa.stʰu, *tu.λətq, *tuλ.tʰa, *txa, *tʰas.qsə, *tʰask, *tʰaxs.taλμ, *tʰaμ, *tʰis.λax, *tλa, *tλa.kaμ, *tλu, *xask.xwu, *xkʰa, *xə, *xλi.saλt, *xλuq.stʰa, *xμa, *λa, *λak.xa, *λəλk.λaλ, *μaλq.tʰak, *μisk.sλak.

Obviously, in order to reach the phoneme inventory posited in my previous blog article in this little series, there has to be some splitting of phonemes, and the underspecification of some of them will be useful there, I suppose, in that allophony (e.g. *λ → *r / #(C)_ but *λ → *l / _#, so *λəλk.λaλ*rəlkral) provides different contexts for sound change to operate on as complementary distributions get undermined. Also, there will have to be some playing around with vowels to generate /e/ and /o/ and to get rid of /ə/, and also to generate a length distinction.

  1. If you like some not totally serious but still good conlanging, look at Pthag’s Shapshiruckish with its series of voiceless fricatives *Ⅰ, *Ⅱ and *Ⅲ, with their sound value “reconstructed” as *​h~ʔ, *f, *θ, respectively.
  2. That is, this may be subject to changes, depending on whether I can make it work or not …
  3. This is a rule file for a little word generator I wrote some time ago, called Wharrgarbl. You can check that out, too, if you like.