Archive for October, 2014

Discourse deixis

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Ti/to for discourse deixis: ti is cataphoric (subsequent discourse), to is anaphoric (prior discourse).

[Neat, though I don't know where this came from...maybe Nahuatl?]


Thursday, October 30th, 2014

A language where all sentences must be semantically vacuous, e.g. “I hate people except when I don’t”, and it is incredibly gauche to assert anything non-vacuous, all work done by presuppositions, implicature, and/or slightly different implied senses of meaning of words. Contradictory sentences also valid “I gave him what he was wanting but I didn’t give him what he wanted” contrastive with “gave him what he wanted but not what he was wanting”


Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

A conlang that’s based entirely on your pets’ names.


Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

All grammatically correct sentences must either be phonetic palindromes (including ingressive sounds) or, when played backwards, contain some salute to The Dark Lord Satan (all hail).

Moten Words for the Day

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

jemagi /je̞maɡi/, verb: “to sail, to travel”

ibnamagi /ibnamaɡi/, verb: “to walk, to travel on foot”

jugejugej /juɡe̞juɡe̞j/, verb: “to walk; to step”

Not me though. I usually fall asleep before the plane even takes off! :D

So, three verbs this time, all somewhat in the same semantic range, but with specific meanings that do not neatly fit with English counterparts.

Let’s start with jemagi. Its original meaning is “to sail”, i.e. “to travel by boat” (indeed, it’s a compound of jem: “river, brook” and jagi: “to go, to leave”). But its meaning was actually broadened with time, to refer to travelling with any kind of vehicle (including animals like horses). So its most common translation is simply “to travel”.

Yet jemagi doesn’t exactly correspond to “to travel”, because it doesn’t cover travelling on foot. There’s a specific verb for that: ibnamagi (from jagi and bnam: “foot, leg”). So you can’t simply say in Moten that someone travelled somewhere: you have to indicate at least whether they did it mostly on foot (in which case ibnamagi is used) or mostly using vehicles (in which case jemagi is used). My own theory about this semantic split is that long ago, the Moten speakers were a riverside community, and the main means of travel were either riverboats or just travelling on foot (maybe they didn’t have any animals capable of sustaining their weights or pull carriages). This led to two verbs being used for these two forms of travel. When other forms of travel appeared (maybe draft animals were introduced into their community), the verb already used to indicate travel in a vehicle was extended to cover other vehicles, while travelling on foot, i.e. using one’s own strength, kept its own verb.

Since ibnamagi refers to travelling on foot only, it can be translated as “to walk” (as in “he walked the whole way from Paris to Amsterdam”, something I will never do! ;) ). But that’s only true when “to walk” refers to travelling. If you want to refer to the physical activity of walking, i.e. to the act of making one step after the other, there’s another, specific verb for that: jugejugej, from uge: “step, footstep”. So once again here is a place where Moten and English divide the semantic space differently: “to walk” must be translated differently depending on whether one refers to the physical activity of walking, or the act of travelling on foot.

And to complicate matters, jugejugej can also be translated as “to step”, i.e. “to go through a list of actions”. Confused already? ;)


from Tumblr

Detail #114: Aspect Shenanigans

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Imagine a language that distinguishes punctual from non-punctual, but which exact type of punctuality is being discussed is not normally specified - so perfect and inchoative are marked the same in most circumstances - although there may be optional periphrastic ways of specifying further aspectual distinctions.

Of course, this might seem somewhat unrealistic, so how about restricting having only this particular distinction to only, say, irrealis moods?


Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Your gender system should classify dead people based on how they died, and living people based on how you think they will die or how you want them to die. One of the grammatical genders is used only for wombat attacks.

Detail 113: Imperative as a Case

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Imagine a case that marks out a specific noun as an answer to a question or as a suggestion or order.

Which one should I take? That.CASE.
 Would you pay your debts.CASE.
Should I bring the red or the white wine? White.CASE.
Now, this could easily develop into a situation where nominal verbs marked with such a case serve as imperatives.

On Bringing Kids up in Conlangs (Index, Introduction and statement of purpose)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Time to invite some controversy, I guess.

During my stints on the facebook conlang group, one topic that has regularly popped up has dealt with children. Specifically, whether there is anyone teaching a conlang to their children.

Few do this, but it is, I feel, my obligation to present an argument why conlangers should avoid doing it - there should be even fewer doing it out there than there is. There are several partial arguments to why, each argument contributing different reasons to avoid it. There are arguments from a number of fields - just ethics in general, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, language acquisition-related, etc.

So, let me present to you the several partial arguments why you should not teach a conlang to your child.

1. Your constructed language is less adapted to human needs than you think

2. You don't speak your conlang natively, reducing the ability to bond with your child

3. Introducing a child into a situation with an artificial lack of a speaker community to support its language learning seems rather peculiar (notice: this differs from teaching a child your native language if your native language's speaker community has dwindled away, due to reason #2)

4. Your child's language acquisition could be used for something more useful

5. Your child's language acquisition skills may be somewhat affected

6. Your child's hearing may be affected

7. Your child is not yours to do what you want with, a kid isn't an art project - unlike your conlang

8. Being an example to other conlangers, so as not to inspire linguistic ignoramuses from doing this in potentially harmful ways even if you could pull it off in a harmless manner

I will elaborate on each of these, probably giving each a post of its own, with literature to back most of the points up. However, it will be a slow going project, as I will have to fish up some sources - literature I have read years ago, etc. Other partial topics may appear as well.

However, I ask people who object to my reasoning to wait until the relevant post before responding with their objections.


Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

To give flavor to your language, make words for oddly specific concepts like “the moment when someone asks you a question, and you are eating, but have not sufficiently chewed the food in your mouth to swallow it, and so you must wait awkwardly before responding” or “objects with sentimental value that were stolen by an angry ex, and are now being offered back to you because that ex’s new significant other wants you not to be angry with them”