Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Tatediem Verb Prefixes as Derivative Affixes

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
Some Tatediem verbs are fairly semantically unclear in their meaning. Take, for instance, làhi, which signifies 'to engage with music in some way'. The usual interpretation is either 'listen' or 'sing'. However, with some prefixes, it changes meaning a bit. These prefixes have previously been described in a separate post.
-sudlàhi (làhi in several directions) : to dance
-tagslàhi (làhi clockwise): also to dance
-kugilàhi (làhi towards the subject): to attempt to attract something by singing (or alternatively dancing)
-xemelàhi (làhi due to duty): to sing a working song, or to work rhythmically in coordination with the working song
-kautolàhi (làhi gracefully): to sign or dance a solo part in a performance, or to sing or dance in a very impressive fashion
-cakŋilàhi (to act preparatorily for làhi): to practice some musical skill
-stunlàhi (làhi collaboratively): to dance in a big formation
Another verb that has some notable changes in meaning is tíni, 'to see'.
-kautotíni: to see with a sharp eye
-akriwtíni: to be a peeping Tom
-irbuntíni: to be watchful, to mind something
-gaftíni: to act so as to appear outwards to be something (gaf normally is a passive)
-lewtíni: to recall (normally, lew is reflexive momentane)
-hustíni: to spy (normally, -hus- signifies doing silently), to guard
-ŋiŋutíni: to dream of adventure (-ŋiŋu- signifies 'away from home')
-nnaliktíni: to be shy (-nnalik- signifies 'turning downwards')

Bringing Up Children in Conlangs: Language Death

Monday, November 23rd, 2015
One detail about bringing children up in your own conlang that might not have occurred to anyone is language death. Now, the usual argument with regards to language death and conlanging is the trite and fairly stupid why create languages when there's already hundreds of them out there dying? That is most emphatically not the argument I will present, and to make this very clear, I'll present a rather strong argument against that argument - despite the fact that it is entirely beside the point I am trying to make, and despite the fact that I am not arguing for conlanging as such, since I figure there is no great need to argue for it.

So, what is the problem with the bad rhetorical question why create languages when there's already hundreds of them out there dying? Due to globalization, lots of cultures are slowly vanishing, their songs, their ethical traditions, their philosophical inquiries, their stories being replaced by those of dominant cultures. Why would anyone write new stories when old ones are vanishing? Why would anyone compose music, when music is vanishing?

Since that argument is clearly preposterous, we probably can reject any argument of a parallel structure unless it has some other qualities that make them not be fallacies.

I only bring that argument up in order to show that I do not hold it. I have already seen people argue against positions I do not hold sufficiently often in discussing this that I want to be very clear on where I stand.

Now, let's get to the details of my argument: we know from extensive research into dying languages that the last speakers generally are very unhappy about the state of their language - no longer able to speak a language they grew up with to anyone who would understand it or be able to respond in it. It's not just unhappiness, generally, but a genuine anguish

For an example of this, David Crystal wrote a play that is a character study of a last speaker. Granted, it describes a situation with other important characteristics, such as the almost complete extinction of a tribe. However, we know from people who have been isolated from their language too that this anguish can happen even without the actual extinction of the language.

Further, how likely does anyone think a conlang will ever be at convincing a large enough community to speak it for there to be a likely transmission into a second generation beyond the first few native speakers it might manage to get? Seriously?

This argument is thus not why create languages when there's already hundreds of them out there dying - it is why create moribund language communities, whose first native speakers will also be first-hand experiencers of language death?

shadow is irjal (revisited)

Monday, November 23rd, 2015
irjal = shadow (noun) (Some things Google found for "irjal": an unusual to uncommon term; a rare last name that can be Indonesian; a rare first name; similar írjál is in Hungarian a conjugation of the verb to write; similar Irja is an uncommon feminine Finnish first name; Irjal ash Shaykhiyah is the name of a place in Iraq; similar Irjala is the name of a place in Finland)

Word derivation for "shadow" :
Basque = itzal, Finnish = varjo
Miresua = irjal

My previous Miresua conlang word for shadow was iljar. I swapped the L and R around, which makes the new word look more similar to the Basque and the Finnish words.

The word shadow isn't in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, although its plural can be found once in Through the Looking-Glass.
-- the mild blue eyes and kindly smile of the Knight -- the setting sun gleaming through his hair, and shining on his armour in a blaze of light that quite dazzled her -- the horse quietly moving about, with the reins hanging loose on his neck, cropping the grass at her feet -- and the black shadows of the forest behind --

Some Blackletter-ish Doodling

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

I have been looking quite a bit at blackletter writing1 recently and I just randomly doodled around using Ayeri’s script, Tahano Hikamu, as a basis, today:

A blackletter-inspired adaptation of Tahano Hikamu
A blackletter-inspired adaptation of Tahano Hikamu

The letter 〈ba〉 is slightly difficult because it’s looking left whereas most of the other consonant characters are looking right. The difference between the placeholder consonant and 〈ra〉 is also very minimal, but that it is in the regular form (first rows) as well, plus similarity with 〈ta〉. I’m not perfectly happy with that 〈ha〉 either.

  1. Things aren’t perfectly angular yet in this period, i.e. the first quarter of the 13th century.

Sargaĺk Alignment Syntax

Saturday, November 21st, 2015
The pegative case system has some implications for the syntax and morphosyntax in situations that are not just ditransitive finite verb clauses.

Pegatives can be transitive or intransitive subjects in coordinated structures; nominatives cannot be pegative subjects in coordinated structures. This is one of the most prominent uses of the anti-passive. (However, first person and second person nominatives can overcome such gaps without the anti-passive in at least one of the dialects.)

Thus we get situations like the following:

"A father surely teaches (his) son, and thus ensures him (of an) inheritance".

If the verb had been sirvac-ju instead, it would have been the son who had ensured [something], and since sirvac- is mandatorily at least transitive, the verb phrase would have been malformed.

Further, relativization shows a restriction: the pegative argument is not relativizable. Thus
*miv kŕderiman pangĺk-an-di-st gukla - village tax-exemption grant-past.active_participle-masc.REL king,
miv kŕderimazvi pangeĺk-ne-st gukla - village tax-exemption-with grant-past.antipassive_participle-masc.REL king
'the king who granted the village tax exemption'
Given that Sargaĺk primarily uses participle-like constructions for relativization, this might as well be described as a property of the participles. Sargaĺk does not really permit relativization of anything 'lower' on the relativization hierarchy, although it's hierarchy is slightly twisted, with the top tiers being intransitive subject > recipient > direct object.

Details regarding how the alignment interacts with control will be given later.

A Naming Practice in Sargaĺk and Northernmost Ćwarmin

Friday, November 20th, 2015
In Sargaĺk culture, and therefore also in northernmost Ćwarmin, which essentially are communities that have changed language to Ćwarmin over time, a slightly exceptional naming practice exists. A person only gets his proper name at some age, which differs from village to village. Before that age, the name the person carries is simply determined by the ordinal number of his birth in the village. The sequence in a few of the Sargaĺk villages is this, with two additional names of some use:
Mek'na, Sitro, Duta, K'anti, Pergo, Virka, Yege
Tikt'e is a special name for children from non-Sargaĺk areas
Kemratsa, a word meaning 'from elsewhere' can be used with Sargaĺk children whose name does not align with the village's name sequence
Unlike adult names, these are gender-neutral, and a child is referred to by the masculine pronoun until the adult name has been established. In most of the northernmost Ćwarmin villages, these still retain Sargaĺk morphology. An important thing to note is that in villages where the age for getting one's proper name is relatively low, the child names may lack a pegative form, because children are not assumed to be able to contribute in any way. In the unusual situation where a child does contribute - as in the stories about certain miracular figures in Dairwueh religions - the anti-passive is used. 

In other villages, however, kids may go with adult names until their teenage years. In such villages, pegative forms are more common.

The larger a village is, the longer the sequence tends to be. There may also be family exceptions: a clan that has had several kids of the same name that have died as children may ask that the child's first name be taken one step ahead in the series - which affects the entire village's "position" in the sequence. Not all villages permit this, though, and for those who hold this superstition, such a name might be a source of great anguish.

The longest sequence is about twenty names long. A closely related thing is the generalized incest taboo whereby children of the same name are considered, in some sense, siblings. Thus in some villages, two children of the same child-name cannot marry later in life. 

Some villages and clans have some other name-related superstitions: some name might be considered very lucky, and a child by that name from a parent of the same child-name may be considered especially suitable to be clan or village leader.

cloth is ongal (revisited)

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
ongal = cloth (noun) (Some things Google found for "ongal": an unusual to uncommon term; The Battle of Ongal took place in 680 in around the Danube delta in present-day Romania between Bulgars and the Byzantine Empire; historical Ongal area; Ongal Peak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica; Ongal Museum in Balgarevo, Bulgaria; a rare last name; similar Ongala is the name of a place in Namibia)

Word derivation for "cloth" :
Basque = oihal, Finnish = kangas
Miresua = ongal

My previous Miresua conlang word for cloth was kosal. I'm changing this word to start with O, which is much more uncommon than starting with K.

The word cloth doesn't appear in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Although it appears twice, as table-cloth, in Through the Looking-Glass.
"I can't stand this any longer!" she cried as she jumped up and seized the table-cloth with both hands: one good pull, and plates, dishes, guests, and candles came crashing down together in a heap on the floor.


Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

A language where it is obligatory for the speaker to omit as many verbs as they the listener won’t notice.

Detail #235: An Allophony Detail

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Have a system with a great deal of allophony. However, have syllables that happen to be similar at certain positions with regards to prosody that also happen to have the same phoneme in them to disregard local allophony in favour of some kind of rhyming allophony.

Detail #234: Suppletion, Comparatives and Superlatives

Monday, November 16th, 2015
Based on an universal due to Bobajlik (page 3), a simple yet neat "anti-universal" thing to do in a conlang:
Have a system with comparatives and superlatives like English. Have some adjectives form comparatives along a pattern like good - more bett - most bett. (Phrase directly from page 3 of that paper).