Archive for December, 2013

Detail #69: A detail regarding comparative and superlative adjectives

Thursday, December 26th, 2013
I am generally somewhat cautious about including comparatives and superlatives in non-European languages (granted, there's no one-to-one correspondence between languages that have them and Indo-European languages, neither one way or the other), and I generally advise against their inclusion in conlangs.

However, let's assume a conlang having at least two, possibly all three of these. Let's add a few features:

There's significantly fewer comparatives and superlatives than positives.
Now, that's not particularly weird by itself - some adjectives' comparative and superlative forms nearly never get used in a literal sense, and some probably lack both reasonable literal and figurative senses. Examples of those lacking a reasonable literal sense are deader, deadest, and more alive, most alive. 

There's no morphological correlation between regular adjectives and comparatives.
Now, to get this weirder, let us just make the "lexical resolution" of comparatives and superlatives less than that of regular adjectives: handsome, stylish, good-looking, pretty, beautiful, all correlate to two comparatives with a slight meaning-difference between them; difficult, heavy, wearisome, tragic, taxing, all are represented by one particular comparative. There need not be any direct similarity between any of the positive adjectives and the comparative adjective they're associated with.

The comparative form is a comparative form mainly on account of its use - it can be used in comparative constructions in ways that a positive adjective cannot, and of its meaning - the meaning actually is 'has more of the quality of this class of qualities than the other referent in the construction'.

For the superlatives, the system might be somewhat different. I am inclined to entirely drop those, but having most adjectives have distinct (and morphologically predictable) superlatives - even the comparative lexemes would have them - might be somewhat interesting. Finally, I think the superlatives would be more likely to be used as intensifiers, whereas the comparative is more clearly restricted to comparative constructions.

Season’s Bleatings

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

In the end, it was not close. Though my goat put up a valiant fight, there was to be one winner, and that winner was chosen decisively. With 42.86% of the vote, I present to you Winter Goat, 2013:

Winter Goat, 2013!

Winter Goat, 2013!

All hail Winter Goat, 2013!

This year’s Winter Goat is named Caspian, and is an actual goat, unlike Dorvi #3, Molly the sheep (my favorite [I know it's a sheep! But she's such a charming sheep! (Though I do admit it would be quite un-Dothraki to name a sheep Winter Goat...)]). The picture was taken by our own Hrakkar, and Caspian hails from Sierra Safari Zoo, where Hrakkar works (and I have visited). Caspian is a fine goat, and it gives me great pleasure to name him Winter Goat, 2013!

And just what has Winter Goat shook from his hoary beard for all who would seek his frosty counsel? Why, it’s an azho for our Valyrian friends! I have to present to you the 207 word Swadesh list in High Valyrian. Merry Goatmas! Here it is:

There isn’t as much information as there could be on this list, but it’s at least a good chunk of vocabulary—most of which hasn’t been released before today.

So as you venture forth today to bask in the glow of pine trees, candles, ducks and windows, take Winter Goat’s shaggy beard with you, and let his goatish presence engoaten each and every one of your wintry endeavors!

Also, if you plan to be in the Houston area next week, I will be at SpaceCityCon! I’ll be talking about the Game of Thrones languages, the Defiance languages, and about language creation in general. If you come, find me and give me a good bleating, and I shall rebleat you, in the spirit of the season.

Once again: Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerry Goatmas, one and all!

whisker is viboke

Monday, December 23rd, 2013
viboke = whisker (noun) (some things Google found for "viboke": a rare term; user names; gaming character names; similar Vibok Works is a Spanish studio for publishing, art and architecture; similar Vibeke is a Scandinavian feminine first name; similar Viboge is the name of a place in Denmark)

Word derivation for "whisker"
Basque = bibote (whisker, mustache)
Finnish = viiksi (whisker, half of a mustache) (mustache is viikset)
Miresua = viboke

Another Finnish word for whisker is viiksikarva, where karva means hair, fur.

The Basque word for whisker, bibote, is from the Spanish word for mustache and whisker, bigote.

Whiskers, the plural, such as of a cat, will be viboket. This word will also mean mustache. By the way, there are other words in Basque and Finnish for hair in a beard or sideburns.

In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Queen of Hearts shrieked out, "Turn that Dormouse out of court! Suppress him! Pinch him! Off with his whiskers!"

baahl wii bateahl ba keri.

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013
I'm still pondering that quote from the other day.  Today I took the wood-burner to a plaque I've had sitting around for a couple of days and wrote it.

I'll probably end up hanging this on the wall in my room, once I figure out how to put something onto it for purposes of hanging. :)

Listen to it here:

Online recording software >>

I'm still learning the wood-burner, and this is only the second thing I've ever burned.  I hope I'll get better with time, and the nib'll stop sticking as much.  Onward and upward, as they say!

Detail #68: Participle-morphology on non-verbs

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013
In some conlang with a system of four participles - active perfective, passive perfective, active imperfective, passive imperfective - and where copulas usually are not dropped, negated adjectival complements for some reason take no copula, but instead take participle markings. Which particular participle goes on the adjective depends on lexical as well as contextual factors. Since the copula is dropped, this usually leads to the aspect of the chosen participle marking to serve tense-aspect-mood functions, while the voice sometimes marks details that usually would be visible in which particular copula was picked. However, the copula system of the language has at least three different copulas, so some distinctions are lost in the negative.

Accidental Sandic

Saturday, December 21st, 2013
I decided to do something today that I haven't done in a very long time.  I sat down and watched some movies.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a big consumer of visual media outside of the Internet, and so it is rare that I'll sit down and actually pay attention to something playing on a screen.  Generally such things simply do not interest me.

It looks like I ought to start doing this a bit more, though- Sandic is everywhere, apparently!

I sat down and chose to watch "The Mummy 2", which is a campy ridiculous... horror... um... something or other kind of film.  It's very Indiana Jones- but with a fun fake foreign language angle that makes me smile.

Imagine my surprise when a man appears on screen with tattoos in Sandic on his face!

This man's cheeks read A-K-A in Sandic, which is the sound a crow makes. 

Yes, his face says Caw!

This made my night. :)

Detail #67: Nouny ‘and’ and a noun class

Thursday, December 19th, 2013
I recently read of a language where the conjunction and is inflected like a verb. Suddenly the notion of having a very nouny and appeared to me.

Morphological template:
[noun class/number][root, -əl- or -əj-][dual/plural/optional possessive suffixes][case]
 Now, as may be gleaned by careful observation, number congruence appears in two places - in part with the noun class morpheme, in part in the slot on the other side of the root. And belongs to a pseudoclass of nouns, including several functional words and just a few regular nouns (if, I, anything, something, nothing, a few dummy objects, what when not being a determiner of a noun, ...)

The number is either dual or plural, for which the noun class does have markers (shared with another noun class though). To refer to the noun phrase later, the pronoun will be marked for this noun class.

The slot after the root is kind of interesting, though: if both nouns are possessed by the same owner, this slot will be filled with a corresponding affix, and no number congruence whatsoever. If no owner is present (or there are different owners for the nouns), the number congruence will be either dual or plural. Plural congruence permits stacking several ands, in which case only the first has to take case. If a pronoun is included, this also is marked as a possessive marker, so 'my friend and I' is 'friend-my dual-əl-mine-[case]', my friend and you is friend-my dual-əl-yours-[case].

Often, the conjunction goes after the two nouns, reverse polish notation style, but it may be shifted around due to the relatively free word order of the language.

Case follows the language's usual case marking paradigm, and marks the case of the whole phrase. The subordinate nouns may take the same case. Another option would be to use some kind of wastebasket case or not to distinguish certain cases when coordinated, e.g. object and subject cases default to nominative on the nouns (but not on the conjunction), whereas local cases are maintained on the noun, so e.g.
I bought a newspaper and an icecream -> I bought class_of_trivial_things-newspaper-nom foods_and_plants-icecream-nom pseudoclass/dual-əl-acc
I visited the museum and the concert hall -> I visit-1sg-past class:big_things-museum-to class:big_things-concerthall-to pseudoclass/dual-əl-to
If the coordinated nouns have different case - a permitted thing in this language - the case of the conjunction is generally the genitive (for core case coordination) or the somewhat wastebaskety locative.

There is a tendency for heavy constituents to go first among the two nouns, and in the case of trivial constituents, there is a discernible hierarchy where the greater the animacy, social importance and contextual relevance, the more likely the noun is to be placed first.

For coordinated non-nouns, a naked əl/əj suffices, and then often goes both between and after the verb phrases or adjectives. For subordinate clauses to which the speaker may want to refer, [singular]əl[3sg grammatical class possessor][case] may serve to form a subordinating conjunction:
he said singular-əl-3sg grm.class.acc he returns tomorrow
ta mege nəleta miǵris neltle
 he said that he returns tomorrow

size is tamko

Thursday, December 19th, 2013
tamko = size (noun) (some things Google found for "tamko": a common term; TAMKO Building Products for roofing and decks; an unusual last name; a rare first name; Tamko is a Finnish acronym for Tampereen Ammattikorkeakoulun Opiskelijakunta (Tampere University of Applied Sciences Student Union); in Swahili tamko means statement; similar Tamkor is the name of a place in India)

Word derivation for "size"
Basque = tamaina, Finnish = koko
Miresua = tamko

The Basque word tamaina is similar to the Spanish noun tamaño which means size. Another Basque word for size is neurri (size, measure).

The Finnish word koko means size, format. As an adjective, koko means whole, entire. Another Finnish word for size is suuruus (size, greatness, magnitude).

In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Caterpillar asked Alice, "What size do you want to be?"

Tao te tjen – Tao te Ching

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
I saw this challenge on Facebook and rather liked it.  It's true, of course.  "Jeegu masab ole:leet berai dee tree dee jut, a bee-enuun op jalenin oahl."

You can hear it below. :)

Voice Recorder >>

Order of texts: Sandic -- English


Ba fias utetreekainia baneot ahl ba fias ba kala.
Ba bee-enuu utemii-inia baneot ahl ba bee-enuu ba kala.
Ba bee-enuub baham baahl griawa repi ba aan wii ba priia.
Ba bee-enuub bale:leet ama ba ivi baahl.

wiisab kahami, ba jwri le:eeteraug se.
frn wiis kriani, ta katarain otiab peeteraug se.
Jeeguu masab ole:leet berai dee tree dee jut, a bee-enuun op jalenin oahl.
Jeed baahl ba deelew-
ba deelew gre kala.


The Way that can be walked is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of all things.

Free from desire you see the mystery.
Full of desire you see the manifestations.
These two have the same origin but differ in name.
That is the secret,
The secret of secrets.

Detail #66: A tiny noun morphology detail

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
In this sketch, a language with question particles (or affixes) and a vocative case, the combination of these two is parsed as 'are you X?'.

King-voc-question : are you the king?
John-voc-question: You are John, right?
Sick-voc-question: are you sick?