Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Reduplication types

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
I've discussed (at least) four different types of reduplication in Koa over the years, but never written them down in one place or really thoroughly explored/documented what they should mean. Here are the types I've talked about so far:

1) Whole-word reduplication, normal stress on first element

kuma > kúmakuma
loe > lóeloe
ake > ákeake

Meaning: intensifier (very hot, very cold, very sharp)
Notes: We talked about this here near the bottom, only written as two separate words without clear intentions about stress...though I have to admit that when I read Ni loha loha se aloud I stress the second. Hm.

2) Reduplication minus onset, stress on second element

kuma > kumaúma
loe > loeóe
ake > akeláke (note L-insertion)

Meaning: affective/minimizing diminutive, "ish." (warmish, chilly, ...pointy? dunno). Minaína "gal."
Questions: (1) How is loeóe different from lóeki? (2) Is this too similar to the first type given the fact that they kind of have the opposite meaning? (3) Is that L-insertion -- the only thing saving the opposite of ákeake from basically and laughably being akeáke -- too ad-hoc?

3) First syllable, stress on full word

kuma > kukúma
loe > lolóe
ake > aáke (aháke?)

Meaning: unknown

4) Reduplicate medial consonant with -a, stress on reduplicand

kuma > kumáma
loe > loáe
ake > akáke

Meaning: From here, "I was thinking this might serve to make the noun more euphemistic, more gentle, less objectionable, or something. So a pragmatic rather than semantic value."

Just for reference, here are the three sample words with each reduplication type in turn for comparison:

kúmakuma, kumaúma, kukúma, kumáma
lóeloe, loeóe, lolóe, loáe
ákeake, akeláke, aháke, akáke

This is going to require some thought, and maybe some study of what reduplication tends to be used for cross-linguistically. Just impressionistically, though:

* I don't like type 1 at all; as I alluded to before, my instinct is that these should sort of be separate words with the stress on the second one. Then, maybe weirdly, I feel like type 3 might be synonymous with type 1.

* If type 1 becomes separate words with stress on the second as I just suggested, type 2 kind of gets sabotaged. I always liked this one, though! Loeóe for "chilly" seems perfect...but on the other hand maybe lóeki really is enough here.

* Type 4 is really great for certain things (like luái) and I think it's valuable for a living language, though at the moment I'm not thinking of a lot of specific uses for it other than euphemisms. Could it also take on the meanings of type 2? I'm not sure. Thinking just of getting it on, I feel like there's an important difference between lúiki and luái!

Another thought I'm having here is that, just because a particular reduplication type technically has to be available for every word doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be equally common with every word...so for example if mina mina means "a real woman" or whatever, and minaína means "gal," that doesn't have to entail that that type-2 strategy is now going to be used ALL the time and confuse everything.

Detail #369: An Unusual Type of Word

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018
A word class that is fairly common in European languages, and undoubtedly elsewhere as well, is the conjunction. Here, of course, a small warning is justified: 'and' as a word is less common cross-linguistically than you'd think.

Let's consider a language with rather little in ways of nominal marking: no case, or potentially very ambiguous case.

An example of the latter could be a language with GenN and SO order, where the possessum is marked by the same case as the object. Coordination ('and') would basically be dealt with by parataxis: "this that" → this and that.

Now, sometimes you may have things that are lined up in a way that looks very much like they belong to a GenN or an SO line-up, and one or the other might seem more like the 'reasonable' interpretation. In this case, a 'disjunction' could be introduced to mark that the two are not part of the same NP, or in the case of two nouns of the same marking next to each other, the disjunction could mark that they do not form a coordinated structure - an example for this would be a possessed noun and an object. 

This might well be called a 'conjunction', but somehow it seems to behave syntactically in a way quite dissimilar from a conjunction.

I bet something along these lines does exist in some languages, and I would be happy to see comments if anyone knows of it!

Detail #368: A Verb-like ‘Than’

Saturday, January 13th, 2018
Obviously, one can have a verb that compares things with things. This is the basic notion behind exceed-comparatives and the like, but also verbs like Swedish 'likna' ('to be similar to'). One could also do a simple thing like incorporate verb morphology like tenses and person marking onto a particle, so that 'than him' comes out as a third person verb, "thans". In a language with a more full person morphology, this obviously permits some succinctness, and one could of course also have tense morphology agreeing with the main verb - or even disagreeing to convey ideas like
she is faster than I was
she is fast(er) (and?/but?/that?) than-past-1sg
However, stopping there seems a tad underwhelming. Why not go and do things with voice.
she teaches good/better than-past-pass-1sg
she teaches better than I was taught
Now we can also consider making adverbial participles out of this:
he operates heavier machinery than-1sg-active-ptcpl-advbl
he operates heavier machinery than I
In this case, the point would be to de-emphasize the role of the comparison. Finite 'than' would make the comparison central to the utterance, infinite 'than' would make it peripheral. Maybe peripheral comparison should not (mandatorily?) trigger comparative marking on the adjective.

A thing like this could also permit for a nice way to group together things that are being compared, especially if the verbs of the language have a very rich congruence morphology.

Another turn could be letting this verb take a finite clause as its complement, so a bit analogous to verbs like 'say [that]', this could form a structure along the line of 'than [that]'.

Some less well-baked ideas on top of this then: in an ergative language with this construction, one could permit for intransitive verbal comparison to use either ergative or absolutive nouns for the subject of this particular verb in order to differentiate something, maybe degree of difference or such - absolutive possibly indicating that the subject is considerably less X than the standard of comparison.

Conlangery SHORTS #27: #Lexember 2017 Wrap-up

Saturday, January 13th, 2018
George discusses last year’s Lexember and some of the things that came out of that. Also, help us correct our transcripts on the Conlang Sources Wiki. What we reblogged on Tumblr. The Conlangery Twitter account. (Sorry, twitter search is bad, so I can’t  conveniently direct you just to Lexember retweets.)

Detail #367: Neutral Participles

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018
Consider participles that are not marked for voice at all. (Note: the English past vs. present participles are rather passive vs. present, although the way English participles work is a bit more complicated than that.) Now, such participles could behave in different ways depending on how we want to structure the language - animacy hierarchies, for one, could be a very natural approach to how to parse them.

However, let's go for something less obvious, but still pretty obvious: let's have the case role of the NP with regards to a finite VP also double as its role for the participle:
the man sold the castrate-PTCPL horse:
horse is the object of sold, so it's also the object of castrate, thus:
the man sold the castrated horse

the travel-PTCPL man made a bid:
man is the subject of offer, and therefore also of travel, thus:
the travelling man made a bid
What can we do with this? One obvious potential restriction could be one of only permitting this to work for arguments – non-argument adverbials and such seem less likely to have their 'role' passed on to a participle. 

A second thing we could do is make the role that is passed on to the participle be less carefully differentiated - maybe not distinguishing objects from indirect objects or somesuch.

Here, a light ergativity could be introduced: intransitive participles could be accepted as 'active' participles for objects of transitive verbs.

To make the system more flexible, one could use resumptive pronouns in the desired case, which could lead to a neat way of turning case markers into voice markers.

I had an idea on ergativity and participles, that I have since forgotten. I am hopeful that I might be able to reconstruct it fully and post it soon enough.

Detail #367: Neutral Participles

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018
Consider participles that are not marked for voice at all. (Note: the English past vs. present participles are rather passive vs. present, although the way English participles work is a bit more complicated than that.) Now, such participles could behave in different ways depending on how we want to structure the language - animacy hierarchies, for one, could be a very natural approach to how to parse them.

However, let's go for something less obvious, but still pretty obvious: let's have the case role of the NP with regards to a finite VP also double as its role for the participle:
the man sold the castrate-PTCPL horse:
horse is the object of sold, so it's also the object of castrate, thus:
the man sold the castrated horse

the travel-PTCPL man made a bid:
man is the subject of offer, and therefore also of travel, thus:
the travelling man made a bid
What can we do with this? One obvious potential restriction could be one of only permitting this to work for arguments – non-argument adverbials and such seem less likely to have their 'role' passed on to a participle. 

A second thing we could do is make the role that is passed on to the participle be less carefully differentiated - maybe not distinguishing objects from indirect objects or somesuch.

Here, a light ergativity could be introduced: intransitive participles could be accepted as 'active' participles for objects of transitive verbs.

To make the system more flexible, one could use resumptive pronouns in the desired case, which could lead to a neat way of turning case markers into voice markers.

I had an idea on ergativity and participles, that I have since forgotten. I am hopeful that I might be able to reconstruct it fully and post it soon enough.

#514

Monday, January 8th, 2018

A constructed language with no multimorphemic words: all words are one morpheme. But there is also an EXTENSIVE case system, so for every noun, there are multiple unique single morpheme words for each case. Words in word-morpheme groups need not be related phonologically.
For example:
Orgit - ‘book’ Nominative
Thalim- 'book’ Accusative
Dom - 'book’ Dative
Borrif - 'book’ Genitive
Theebo - 'book’ Instrumental
If - 'book’ Vocative
Zan - 'book’ Ablative
Zee - 'book’ Lative
Pingo - 'book’ Casual
Kib - 'book’ Ornative
'Soo’ - 'book’ Instructive
And so on and so on.

#513

Friday, January 5th, 2018

Make a conlang only for the beasts of burden in your conculture. It’s called an “Ox-lang”.

#512

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Make an agglutinating language where the potential morphemes in any slot do not form a natural group of morphemes; maybe the first slot for inflections on the verb can take one out of [1sg, past, imperative, mirative, causative], the second slot can take one out of [2sg, 3pl, present, negative, passive], and so on. Nouns and adjectives are similarly twisted.

Update on the Grammar Writing Process V

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Happy new year, everyone! I suppose it’s time again to provide a brief update on my progress with writing my grammar of Ayeri. The whole last year I’ve been trying to figure out describing its syntax formally. This will continue to preoccupy me for the time being also in the new year because verbs are still not fully described, and complementizer phrases (used for complement clauses, relative clauses and such) are lining up to be next. Then, I will also have to work on correcting some things in the sections on raising and control with regards to syntactic typology (I should have figured out constituent structure first), and also describe pronominal binding. And after this, I will have to go back to the beginning of the chapter and fix things for consistency and do proofreading.

The compiled PDF is now close to 400 pages (in A4 format, but with generous margins because LaTeX) without frontmatter, appendices and backmatter, and 400 pages is what I had wanted the main part to be at most once everything is done. The section on the syntax of verbs alone is already almost 100 pages long currently, though granted, verbs are probably the most complex part of the language (or any language?), and all those diagrams take up an awful lot of space. I will definitely have to shave some pages off after writing will be done hopefully some time later this year, though, and especially the argumentative parts are probably predestined for some literal cutting to the chase in spite of my trying not to ramble unnecessarily. The description of Ayeri’s alphabet might also rather go in the appendix. Years at university have taught me that good writing can’t be produced on the spot, anyway.

Honestly, sometimes I wish I had an editor to look over my writing to guide me with it. With the syntax chapter especially, I wish someone could check the plausibility of my hypotheses and analyses once writing is done, too. And then, there’s still proofreading of the whole grammar to do. My English may be pretty good overall, but I’m always somewhat distrusting my abilities as a non-native speaker. Proofreading one’s own writing is generally hard in my experience, though, even in one’s native language.