Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Detail #384: Making Adjectives more Dynamic

Monday, November 4th, 2019
One word class that sometimes does not get all the love it deserves is adjectives. Sometimes, they are just made a special type of verbs (or barely even special, at that), and sometimes they are conflated with nouns.

I have previously suggested a language that splits them in two new classes but I imagine there may be other things to do with them.

Let's make something like cases but exclusively for adjectives, that operate separately from the cases of nouns.

Here's a few such cases:
1. Qualitative
The basic use of an adjective: tells us something about the noun. Can appear both as subject and complement:
I am hungry
the red house
2. Translative
Much like how this case is used in Finnish on both adjectives and nouns, it expresses a quality the noun acquires. Unlike in Finnish, however, this can mark an NP that is undergoing a transition due to the verb:
hungry-TRNSL wolf ran
the wolf ran (and therefore got hungry)
"the wolf ran itself hungry"
3. Terminative-translative
Like the translative, but restricts the verb's time span or aspect:
tired-TT man worked
the man worked until he got tired
4. Essive
Qualitative, but restricts timespans:
you can come to the new open-ess store
you can come to the new store when it's open

old-ess you can sleep
you can sleep when you're old
It can also inform about cause:
I hated the new loud-ess guitarist
 5.  Post-essive:
Marks 'after being', or direct cause:
small-PE you will have to pay taxes
I saw the shiny-PE clothing

Conlangery Shorts 31: Listen Like a Conlanger — Child Language

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019
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Trompe l’Œil Conlanging—Or How to Fake Depth in a Conlang

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Sylvia Sotomayor has been conlanging since she read Tolkien at an impressionable age. She is best known for the Kēlen language, which won a Smiley Award in 2009. She is currently the Treasurer of the Language Creation Society, and keeps the membership rolls and the LCS Lending Library.

Abstract

In this short essay, longtime conlanger Sylvia Sotomayor illustrates some simple ways to give one’s conlang the illusion of depth.

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Detail #383: Gender, First Person Pronouns and Reported Speech

Monday, October 21st, 2019
Let's consider a language where even the first person singular pronoun is marked for gender. Now, this can provide an interesting situation with regards to reported speech.

Obviously, a person can report speech from a person of the same gender, or of the other gender. With the other gender, one could keep using the first person pronoun - but alter the gender marking - and still be entirely clear who one is speaking about.

With the same gender, however, one might be expected to replace first person pronouns with third person pronouns of the same gender.

Thus "She told me(masc) she doesn't like roses" comes out as "She told me(masc) I(fem) don't like roses", but "He told me he doesn't like her" comes out as "He told me he doesn't like her". 

Of course, one could permit for the ambiguous system where first person is used in both. One could of course also consider a system where first person in embedded contexts can be "restored" by reduplication:
a) he told me I-I don't know what I-I am talking about vs.
b) he told me I don't know what I am talking about
Where in a), it's me not knowing what I am talking about and in b) it's he who doesn't know.

Conlangery 143: Music of Aeniith

Monday, October 7th, 2019
Margaret Ransdell-Green and Eric Barker come on to talk about the music they created for Margaret’s concultures in the world of Aeniith, which they performed at LCC8. Top of Show Greeting: Muipidan

Qaʃn̩ħeoħelə awo Nħeoħelə: A Grammar and a Cultural Reference for the People of Ħelə

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Ariel Robinson is an analyst out of Boston, MA. Since graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Cognitive Science and Linguistics, she’s leveraged her ability to “translate” complex concepts from one domain into another, including how geopolitics affect businesses and end-users’ emotions affect hackers and cybercrime.

Abstract

This paper describes a culture, language, partial lexicon, and creation myth Robinson originally created as a student at Wellesley College. Of note are the close ties between the spiritual underpinnings of the People of Ħelə and the phonetic inventory, where each vowel represents one of the four elements and the characteristics with which it is associated. The language is highly morphemic—rooted in Robinson’s study of Semitic languages—which was helpful in word formation in the beginning but posed a larger challenge during the second revision and expansion of the content. Though she wasn’t completely sure as a college student how she might use her creation in the future, Robinson has been percolating and has plans to incorporate the language and culture into a future novel.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Detail #382: Plurals, Gender and some Twists

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
In all of my conlangs this far, plurals have not distinguished gender on the morphosyntactical level (i.e. there's just "they", not a masculine-they and a feminine-they). The morphemes that form the plural nouns may well be somewhat gender-specific (but mostly in the nominative and possibly some other additional case), but syntactically, the languages don't care about gender once plurals are used.

In real languages, there are loads of languages that operate like that, but there's also languages that operate in a different way, and do distinguish plurals of feminines from plurals of masculines (or even greater systems). Sometimes, greater numbers of genders have some distinctions be conflated in the plural.

However, I was thinking of something that might exist in the world, but which I would be surprised if it does. For the sake of simplicity, I'll stick to a two-gender system: masculine and feminine.

Let's have three plural markers: masculine, mixed and feminine.
Now, consider a noun, and a noun for which we sometimes might have mixed-gender plurals. Let's go for, say, "person". Now, "male person" is obviously "man", and "female person" is "woman", so let's go for these words.
Now man+masc.plur means "men", man+mixed = "persons". Woman+fem.plur = women, women+mixed = "persons".
"Mixed" plurals are referred to by the pronouns of the gender of the lexeme onto which the suffix is added, so "man+mixed" would get the masculine pronoun.

Now for the twists: some words lack forms! Some words use the other gender's root with the three suffixes. Some words have a separate suppletive root for one, two or all three of these. Some words just cross the lines: the masculine plural of "shaman" is based on the feminine root, and the feminine plural is based on the masculine root (this might be to confuse evil spirits). On some words, the morphemes are out of whack - "mixed" might mean either feminine or mixed, or masculine or mixed, depending on the lexeme. And finally, for some nouns, the "regular" suffix might also include the mixed meaning, while the "mixed" morpheme is not used at all.

Detail #382: Restrictions on Reflexives

Monday, September 23rd, 2019
Soo... I encountered a phrase from somewhere that launched some thoughts.

You dare try to control Aughra? Aughra can barely control Aughra!
Apparently an old-timey meme from Dark Crystal. I started thinking about reflexives, and in this case, my intuition is that since it's a person speaking of herself in the third person it would be really weird if there was a reflexive pronoun there.

Basically, my conclusion is: nouns that actually have first person referents cannot be referred to by reflexive pronouns, but will prefer to take the whole noun anew.

One could imagine other similar restrictions, with a variety of justifications. Let's have some ideas:

1. Types of Conditioning Factors
The following factors seem like reasonably likely to restrict permissibility of reflexives:
  • Animacy. It may seem weird to think of inanimate things acting upon themselves? 
  • Certain types of verbs may not permit reflexives due to the normal reflexive meaning being too unrealistic. In such cases that the reflexive meaning indeed is intended, some more cumbersome construction where other verbs combine to form the intended meaning are required.
  • The referent of the noun. The English example above is weird - a proper noun that is coreferent with the first person singular pronoun - but similar restrictions based on some notion of courtesy may exist.
2. Types of  resolution
  • The animacy restriction could easily be resolved by making the inanimate noun the object of either a subjectless verb, the subject of a passive verb or the object of a verb with a dummy subject. Repeating the noun might also be reasonable.
  • Repeating the noun seems reasonable with courtesy-based restrictions, but one might also use some kind of smaller set of nouns that can refer to the same person: titles, for instance.
  • Where the verb is the restricting factor, one might imagine separate verb phrases added after a conjunction that take the reflexive marker ('the man helped it, did for himself' where it is a dummy pronoun), or again, the use of nouns that share referents ('his majesty helped the king'). Here, some extra marking would be needed whenever ambiguities arise, but words such as 'the same' or 'the other' probably would be available.


    More funlang

    Monday, September 16th, 2019

    Here is more of the funlang. This time I did the Eye Juggler text from Dirk Elzinga.

    Piyayuri
    Piya-yuri
    Piya-spirit
    wununday
    wunu-nday
    see-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Piya was seeing something.

    OK, so proper names get classifiers, too

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirunday
    yiru-nday
    follow-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    This was as follows.

    kibikibinuya
    kibikibi-nuya
    children.in.group-ANIMATE
    Tabunihunday
    Tabuni-hu-nday
    Tabuni-belonging.to-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Children were belonging to Tabuni.

    And marking plural on the predicate amuses me, so…

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    gurawunday
    gura-wu-nday
    play-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    They were playing.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirunday
    yiru-nday
    follow-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    This was as follows.

    nuya
    nuya
    ANIMATE
    ɂasamuwunday
    ɂasa-mu-wu-nday
    grasp-out-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    They were plucking out something.

    And with classifiers that can be used as pronouns, there is no need for separate third person pronouns.

    wuŋiwubiya
    wuŋi-wu-biya
    eye-PL-ROUND
    hutuwunday
    hutu-wu-nday
    in.hand-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Eyes were in hands.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tuyawayuwunday
    tuyawa-yu-wu-nday
    throw-up-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    And they (the eyes) were thrown upwards.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    rusutuduwunday
    rusu-tudu-wu-nday
    return-CAUS-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    And they were made to return.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    wuŋikabanuwunday
    wuŋi-kaba-nu-wu-nday
    eye-hole-COME-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    This was into eye sockets.

    Piyayuri
    Piya-yuri
    Piya-spirit
    guraɂuŋinday
    gura-ɂuŋi-nday
    play-MUST-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Piya wanted to play.

    wuŋibiya
    wuŋi-biya
    eye-ROUND
    zuyanday
    zuya-nday
    dark-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    (Piya’s) eyes were dark.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    ɂaranday
    ɂara-nday
    reflective-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    And they were shiny.

    yuri
    yuri
    spirit
    ɂasamundat
    ɂasa-mu-ndat
    grasp-out-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya plucked out something.

    biya
    biya
    round
    hutundat
    hutu-ndat
    in.hand-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    They (the eyes) were in hand.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tuyapayundat
    tuyapa-yu-ndat
    be.thrown-PASS-up-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    And they were thrown upwards.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    turunandat
    turu-na-ndat
    go.down-BEGIN-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    And they begin to come down.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    pasarandat
    pasara-ndat
    interrupted-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    This was interrupted.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    suŋudundat
    suŋudu-ndat
    cedar.tree-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    This (interruption) was a cedar tree.

    yuri
    yuri
    spirit
    ranaranatudundat
    ranarana-tudu-ndat
    shake-CAUS-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya made something shake.

    suŋuduɂuda
    suŋudu-ɂuda
    cedar.tree-TREE
    ranaranandat
    ranarana-ndat
    shake-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    The cedar tree shook.

    biya
    biya
    round
    turutupandat
    turu-tupa-ndat
    go.down-FAIL-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    The eyes did not come down.

    kibikibinuya
    kibikibi-nuya
    children.in.group-ANIMATE
    riniriniwundat
    rinirini-wu-ndat
    laugh-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    The children laughed.

    nuya
    nuya
    ANIMATE
    pusupusuwundat
    pusupusu-wu-ndat
    mockery-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    They mocked someone.

    Piyayuri
    Piya-yuri
    Piya-spirit
    pusupusupandat
    pusupusu-pa-ndat
    mockery-PASS-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya was mocked.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    nurutudundat
    nuru-tudu-ndat
    anger-CAUS-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    This caused anger.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    Piyasundat
    Piya-su-ndat
    Piya-LOC-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    This was in Piya.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    zunandat
    zuna-ndat
    reason-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    And this was the reason.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirunday
    yiru-nday
    follow-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    This was as follows.

    yuri
    yuri
    spirit
    yiriyiruganundat
    yiriyiru-ganu-ndat
    run-BEHIND-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya chased after something.

    nuya
    nuya
    ANIMATE
    yiriyiruganupawundat
    yiriyiru-ganu-pa-wu-ndat
    run-BEHIND-PASS-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    They (the children) were chased.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    hutudutupawundat
    hutu-(tu)du-tupa-wu-ndat
    in.hand-CAUS=FAIL-PL.TOPIC-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    And they were not caught.

    So this is one way to make things less agglutinative – drop a syllable that is identical to the previous syllable. I suppose I should make sure I didn’t forget to do this elsewhere.

    yuri
    yuri
    spirit
    yiriyiruturandat
    yiriyiru-tura-ndat
    run-STOP-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya stopped chasing.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    puzarandat
    puza-ra-ndat
    away-GO-DISTPAST+PERF+REP
    Piya left.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tayituduɂuŋinday
    tayi-tudu-ɂuŋi-nday
    new-CAUS-MUST-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    Piya must make something new.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    wuŋinday
    wuŋi-nday
    eye-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    These were eyes.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    ŋuyarunday
    ŋuya-ru-nday
    pine.sap-FROM-DISTPAST+IMPERF+REP
    And they were from pine sap.

    wuŋibiya
    wuŋi-biya
    eye-round
    ŋuyaŋu
    ŋuya-ŋu
    pine.sap-LIKE
    Piya’s eyes are like pine sap.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    ɂarawapawapa
    ɂara-wapawapa
    reflective-NO.LONGER
    And they are no longer shiny.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    nuya
    nuya
    yellow
    And they are yellow.

    Talking Rock in a Funlang

    Thursday, September 12th, 2019

    This is a new, unnamed funlang. It is an experiment in topic – comment with only intransitive predicates. So each full sentence is only two words and two words only. Pronouns include one that refers to the topic of the previous sentence (SAME) and one that refers to the comment of the previous sentence (COMMENT). It might even be non-recursive, but not being a theoretician, I won’t swear to that.

    yunara
    yunara
    1SG.NEW
    bandasa
    banda-sa
    walk-RECPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    I was walking.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yundatasa
    yundata-sa
    yesterday-RECPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    This was yesterday.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    habasusa
    haba-su-sa
    shore-LOC-RECPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And this was on the shore.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    pasarat
    pasara-t
    be-interrupted.RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And this was interrupted.

    yi
    yi
    1SG.OLD
    waɂat
    waɂa-t
    trip-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I tripped.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    ɂidusut
    ɂidu-su-t
    rock-LOC-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This (tripping) was on a rock.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    surahigudiy
    sura-higu-diy
    speak-POTENTIAL-RECPAST+IMPERF+INF
    This (the rock) might talk.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    ɂasayut
    ɂasa-yu-t
    grasp-UP-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I picked something up.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    surat
    sura-t
    speak-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And I spoke.

    ɂidubiya
    ɂidu-biya
    rock-round
    hutat
    huta-t
    be.in.hand-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    The rock was in hand.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    zinit
    zini-t
    be.spoken.to-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And it was spoken to.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    tanit
    tani-t
    say-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I said something.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    ɂuŋut
    ɂuŋu-t
    question-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This (what was said) was a question.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    yirut
    yiru-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was as follows.

    ɂidubiya
    ɂidu-biya
    rock-round
    guya
    guya
    be.this-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    Is this a rock?

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    sura
    sura
    speak-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And it speaks?

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tanit
    tani-t
    say-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And it said something.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirut
    yiru-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was as follows.

    ɂidubiya
    ɂidu-biya
    rock-round
    yunara
    yunara
    1SG-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    A rock I am.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    sura
    sura
    speak-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And I speak.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    tanit
    tani-t
    say-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I said something.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirut
    yiru-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was as follows.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    zinibidit
    zini-bi-dit
    be.spoken.to-NEG-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    I was not spoken to.

    wisata
    wisata
    2SG.NEW
    surabidit
    sura-bi-dit
    speak-NEG-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    You did not speak.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    tanibidit
    tani-bi-dit
    say-NEG-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    And you did not say something.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirudit
    yiru-dit
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    This was possibly as follows.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    zusahigudiy
    zusa-higu-diy
    watch.for-POTENTIAL-RECPAST+IMPERF+INF
    I should watch out.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    wisatanudiy
    wisata-nu-diy
    2SG-RECPAST+IMPERF+INF
    This (watching out) would be for you.

    biya
    biya
    round
    tanirusut
    tani-rusu-t
    say-back-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    It replied.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirut
    yiru-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was as follows.

    ɂidubiya
    ɂidu-biya
    rock-round
    yunara
    yunara
    1SG-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    A rock I am.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    sura
    sura
    speak-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And I speak.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    puna
    puna
    be.mean-NONPAST+IMPERF+VIS
    And I am mean.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    zuna
    zuna
    reason-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This is the reason.

    taniya
    tani-ya
    saying-GENERIC
    nurutudu-t
    nuru-tudu-t
    anger-cause-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    The speech caused anger.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yunarasut
    yunara-su-t
    1SG-LOC-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This (anger) was in me.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    zunat
    zuna-t
    reason-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And was the reason.

    du
    du
    COMMENT
    yirunut
    yiru-nu-t
    follow-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    This was for the following.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    tuyawat
    tuyawa-t
    throw-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    I threw something.

    biya
    biya
    round
    tuyawapat
    tuyawa-pa-t
    throw-PASS-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    It (the rock) was thrown.

    ɂa
    ɂa
    SAME
    haraharasut
    harahara-su-t
    ocean-LOC-RECPAST+PERF+VIS
    And it was in the ocean.

    yi
    yi
    1SG
    wunurusubidit
    wunu-rusu-bi-dit
    see-back-NEG-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    I did not see (something) again.

    biya
    biya
    round
    wunurusubipadit
    wunu-rusu-bi-pa-dit
    see-back-NEG-PASS-RECPAST+PERF+INF
    It (the rock) was not seen again.

    I like the repetitiveness of otherwise transitive verbs. It amuses me.

    I also like the fact that speak and spoken to are different, unrelated words. And that the converse of pick up is be in hand.

    I like that pronouns come in two sets: new and previously mentioned. With regular nouns, this is accomplished by using noun plus classifier for a new mention and the classifier only as a previous mention.

    I am a bit worried about the lack of clarity in where a quote ends. Adding something like “saying finished” might work, but it would probably involve repeating the noun tani-ya rather than just ya, which I don’t like.

    The comment words ought to be less cleanly agglutinative, at least when it comes to multiple suffixes, those should blend a bit more, maybe.

    What do you think?

    I will do the Eye Juggler next, and then maybe the South Wind and the Sun. Short texts become such long texts that I am not sure I dare tackle the longer texts that I usually use.