Archive for January, 2015

Detail #139: Continuous verb aspect, reduplication and a twist on reduplication in general

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
The reason I present this idea in the order I do is that this is how I came up with it - following this path of thinking.

Ok, so doing something along the lines given below is quite obvious:
I run run ≃ I habitually run
I think think ≃ I habitually think
However, how about forming an intermitten aspect by non-continuous reduplication, i.e. by placing some other arguments between the two verbs:
I run a bit run ≃ I sometimes run, I run, then I don't, then I run again
I sing songs sing ≃ I sing every now and then

So basically, weakening the effect of reduplication by increasing the distance between the reduplicated elements. We could maybe extend this to plurals by reduplication:
house burn.pres = a|the house burns
house house burn.pres = houses are burning 
house burn.pres house = a few houses are burning

lip is hulain

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
hulain = lip (noun) (some things Google found for "hulain": an unusual term; a rare to unusual last name; a rare first name; Hulain Saleh Noor Degree College in Bangladesh; Hulain Bruno is a house painter in France; name of a World of Warcraft gaming character; in Finnish similar hulina means disturbance, hullabaloo; name of a place in Bangladesh)

Word derivation for "lip" :
Basque = ezpain, Finnish = huuli
Miresua = hulain

This new word is for lip, the fleshy protrusion framing the mouth.

The plural lips occurs once in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
...her eye fell upon a little bottle that stood near the looking-glass. There was no label this time with the words 'DRINK ME,' but nevertheless she uncorked it and put it to her lips.


Monday, January 26th, 2015

As an offshoot from #234, a gel electrophoresis language where word order is determined by “electrical charge” and the length of the word. The shortest positively-charged word starts the sentence, the shortest negatively-charged word ends it. The longest positive and longest negative words are next to each other in the center.

Detail #138: An ergative twist on topic-marking

Monday, January 26th, 2015
Let us imagine a topic-prominent language that has a marker for its topics - say a suffix. Now, when the topic is the only noun present, it is unmarked.However, when a bare non-topic is present, disambiguation is necessary and the topic gets marked - however, several other types of noun-phrase may remain unmarked - subjects, objects, possessors and indirect objects. However, if all other present non-topics are marked by adpositions or explicit case markers, the topic may be unmarked.

Barxáw: The Noun Phrase

Monday, January 26th, 2015
Barxáw noun phrases and prepositional phrases have certain complications that may be of interest.

In general, and this goes for all types of determiners and attributes, 'less' heavy attributes go to the left of their heads, heavy attributes to the right. Heavy attributes include subclauses and prepositional attributes -
túλxà ðo qhmaní - official of other (ambassador)
túλxà ðo Ísthaŋ - ambassador from Ístaŋ
 Ísthaŋ túλxà - an Ístaŋian officer 
 sartè dásqu - warm drink (generally heated berry juices)
thárg sartè dásqu - spicy warm juice (generally herbs rather than what English denotes by spices)
 sartè prùk - warm blood (a term for warm fruit or berry juices flavored with meat broth)
bɛ̀n díp - running water (here, a verb works adjectively; the actual verb is not 'run', but rather 'flow', but the meaning is closer to the English phrase 'running water')
The order of adjectives tends to be pragmatically determined - adjectives that 'restrict' the type of noun, rather than describe it, are closer to the noun. Adjectives that describe desired qualities rather than necessary qualities are further from it, etc.

There are two kinds of adpositions - prepositions proper and Wackernagelpositions. Wackernagelpositions occur as the second word in the phrase. 2ndpositions could be a reasonable name as well. Thus:
ðetrú kaw - along the side
qhmaní kaw ðetrú - along the other side
Counter words appear just before the noun, unless a 2ndposition gets in the way.
sún um ðìnt - (made) of (counter: bushel) hay; sún is a proper preposition
evé sit múlɛ́ - (counter: congregation) by permission from court; sit is a 2ndposition.
Numerals and other quantifiers go just before the counter. Most nouns require counters with prepositions, but a fair share of exceptions exist.
Complex numbers (i.e. having more than two parts) go to the right of the noun. Simple large numbers, such as 'thousand' or 'hundred' can also be moved to the right to emphasize the number or make it mean something like 'untold hundred(s)/thousand(s)'.

The 2ndpositions revert to normal prepositions in embedded adpositional phrases -
malí um sún ðìnt - house (made) of (bushel) hay
ðəlín sit evé múlɛ - license (≃ letter) by permission of court
Some of the wilder things - nouns or adjectives extracted from the phrase, etc, also revert 2ndpositions to prepositions. However, those will be reviewed in a separate post.

Detail #137, pt4: The Genitive Participle

Monday, January 26th, 2015
Again, the genitive is not (normally) a verbal argument, so its use suffers from much the same problems as the comparative object participle does. However, there are some things we can do with it:

  • 'locking' which argument(s) can be possessed; something high up in the accessibility hierarchy seems reasonable. Subjects and objects at most? We might not even need to distinguish when it's a passive or active - maybe that's lexically restricted by the verbs themselves, maybe it's assumed that context or type of noun involved disambiguates.
  • In some languages, certain verbs take genitive arguments for subjects or objects, c.f. Finnish 'täytyy' ('has to', 'must') takes genitive subjects, Russian бояться ('to fear') takes genitive objects (which for animate masculine is identical to accusative, but for other nouns it's distinct from the accusative). For a language that has lots of genitives all over the place, look at Icelandic. (It has all its cases all over the place.) For such a language, verbs that take genitive arguments could reasonably well take such a participle too. gen-бояться-participle = who is feared, gen-täytyy-participle = who has to. Let us involve such a thing in the language.
So, we have a few exceptional verbs, and the rest we deal with according to the previous approach: contextual or lexical disambiguation. However, possessing something is also in a way having control over it. So, 
  • fish(verb)-gen.participle John - John, who is an authority on fishing? John, who decides on issues pertaining to fishing? John, who is the boss of the fishermen? John, who is a damn good fisherman
  • pray-gen.participle priest - the priest who has the prayer - the priest who conducts us in prayer, etc
Thus, essentially, the genitive participle becomes a bit causative-like, but with complications: not one who causes a thing, but one that has power over a thing. Thus, the term for a doctor is heal-gen.participle, a mathematician is a count-gen.participle (unlike an accountant, who is count-active.participle). Thus also socially powerful persons have genitive participles for their occupations even if a regular active or passive or even recipient participle would be semantically and syntactically reasonable.

Some verbs, however, where the type of subject or object is very clear, the implication is more genuinely genitive-like:

  • Tim was birth-gen.participle = Tim's wife has just given birth
Almost invariably, die-gen.participle marks the death of the spouse; if the noun is a clan, it is the death of a clan leader - dead-gen.participle clan = a clan whose leader has died. A number of participles mark family-related things when the genitive participle is used, and the hierarchy tends to be one of political significance. Likewise, verbs that normally have cattle as subjects - give birth to calves, give birth to sheep, run off (of cattle), since the type of subject can be assumed and large portions of the population own cattle.


Sunday, January 25th, 2015

A language with a vertical consonant system. Consonant phonemes differ only in manner of articulation, with phonetic place of articulation being determined by the surrounding vowels.


Saturday, January 24th, 2015

A language that assigns grammatical gender based on morphosyntactic role; the alignment system observes split ergativity based on social (not grammatical) gender.

Detail #137, pt3: The Comparative Object Participle

Saturday, January 24th, 2015
Ok, we've established that relativized genitives and relativized objects of comparison are somewhat exceptional. Let us however do something with them anyway. This post will deal with the objects of comparison, a fourth installment will deal with the genitive participle.

I do not propose that this is a feasible source for such a morpheme, but it'll be easy to remember when seeing it): -than for 'object of comparison participle' - 'John's runthan Eric' - Eric, who John runs faster|more|etc than.

Verbs have associated qualities or quantities, and if no other quality or quantity has been called attention to in the wider context, the associated quality or quantity is assumed. Thus runthan ≃ who x runs faster than, eatthan ≃ who x eats more than, singthan ≃ who x sings more beautifully than. If both are subjects, X can be a genitive attribute of the participle (as in the example given above), if both are obliques or datives, X is in the appropriate case. Genitives can also appear, e.g.
Eric's John's runthan dog
In this case, the dog's speed could imaginably be compared to John's, but the language's grammar assumes that like is compared to like. I.e. Eric's [....] dog is compared to some other dog, and clearly that is John's. With pronouns, genitive forms are not used for proper possession but with participles and with verbs that take genitive arguments. Possessive non-genitive pronouns exist for all persons. To make this more clear, pronouns sometimes are used with the noun extracted. The possessive pronoun is not inflected further for case -
Eric his(poss) John his(poss) runthan dog - Eric's dog, which John's is faster than
Eric his(poss) John his(gen) runthan dog - Eric's dog, which John is faster than
However, such a specific use of a participle may seem somewhat odd, and to justify its existence we probably need it doing way more in the language. So, let us look into what it means without any arguments 'to the left' (let us use that as a shorthand for 'arguments', as opposed to the noun to which the participle is an attribute, and 'to the right' as a shorthand for 'the head noun'; these refer only to the position used in the English-based metalanguage I am using to describe the system).
"runthan John".
If the language conflates participles and gerunds, this might make sense - "runthan John is difficult" - Running faster than John is difficult. "What is your goal in life? Singthan Johnny Cash!"

Omitting the noun 'to the right' generalizes the comparison or specifies it as being somewhat reflexive - i.e. x needs to be better than it is.

In a nominal use the participle 'runthan' does not mean 'the one that jumps the highest', but rather a thing or person who is held as a standard. Thus,
we need knowthan.plur - we need people who are skillfull enough 
As participles, of course, these may encode other types of subclauses and embedded verbs as well -
my livethan this I will be happy - if I survive this, I will be happy
his-gen finishthan, he gets cigarettes - whoever finishes first gets cigarettes 
need chicken.acc dothan - the chicken need to be done better (it is raw)
need house soldthan - the house must be sold at a better price (than offered)
 Some lexemes that are verbs in English, such as exceed, suffice, extinguish, win, survive, outsmart, etc could easily just come up as participles in a language with this type of participle:
livethan = surviving, survival (as in survive a person, but maybe by extension survive the duration of some event)
competethan, finishthan = winning, winning over
smartthan = outsmarting
killthan = killing as many or more of x than there are x, thus slightly violating the 'compare like with like'-state of the language, as this is not 'kill as many or more than x kills'. As stated, voice slightly breaks down if we try to translate this into a single voice, so that's a thing we just have to live with.
lastthan = outlasting, exceeding, sufficing
bethan = outlasting, exceeding, sufficing
Since these only exist as participles, they require auxiliaries when they encode the main content of the clause (or alternatively, the language permits using participles as predicates without auxiliaries.)

These are not finished ideas, but rather hints at where one could imaginably go with a system like this.


Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Based on how in English, many function words start with /ð/, but very few non-function words start with /ð/, perhaps you should have a phoneme that means “this is a function word.” Just like English /ð/, use a sound that is not very common cross-linguistically.