Archive for November, 2015

Detail #236: Unabsolutive / Unnominative Case

Sunday, November 29th, 2015
This post starts out positing a very unnatural case, and then goes on to restrict it in a way that makes it somewhat more natural. Let's start out with the unnatural idea:

Consider a case for subjects or objects, that makes the noun fail to fill the subject or object case slot. This leads to the transitivity of the verb failing to be what it's expected to be, and in the "unabsolutive" version, an ergative subject is demoted to absolutive. In the unnominative version, a direct object cannot be direct object any longer due to lack of a subject, and is thus marked nominative instead of accusative.

Now, this might seem like an odd case indeed - why would a case appear which simply serves to confound marking? And don't we already have oblique subjects with passives, and oblique objects with antipassives which cause exactly this with some voice marking thrown in for good measure?

Well, sort of. But let's create a situation where this situation could exist: certain nouns might lack the usual nominative or absolutive, and instead be some kind of 'pseudonouns' - perhaps instead of nominative/absolutive, their unmarked form looks morphologically like an adverb of some type. These pseudonouns' unmarked form is the unnominative/unabsolutive.

So, we might get a situation like the two examples below, one accusative example, one ergative example:
rain.UNNOM I.NOM soaked(1sg): the rain soaked me / I got soaked in the rain
I.abs sing(1sg, intrans) song.UNABS: I sing a song
Maybe these nouns have other case forms, just not nominative / absolutive - although I'd bet they're also likely to lack accusative or ergative as well. In a more congruence-based verb-centered language, maybe these morphologically look like adverbs and fail to take congruence (and make the congruence unlike it would usually be, i.e. objects become subjects, or transitive subjects become intransitive ones).

I am tempted to give Sargaĺk a few unnominative nouns, whose effect is only visible with ditransitive verbs: the subject and one of the objects then are nominative, with the other object being unnominative. I still think the Sargaĺk verb will be marked as ditransitive in that situation, though. Nouns referring to certain environmental things - the sea, rain, wind, sun, snow, foliage and the forest are the most likely to be antinominatives in Sargaĺk.


Dairwueh: Adjectives and Comparison

Sunday, November 29th, 2015
Unlike my other conlangs, Dairwueh has comparatives and superlatives. It also has a few other related forms. Some of these morphemes also can be used on verbs to some extent. 

There are two main morphemes that are used for the various comparatives and superlatives, -bav-, and -var. The superlative is formed by compounding the two, but also has a slight vowel change, giving -bəvar.

The comparative construction has the adjective in the comparative form without any congruence on it. The thing that is compared to is in the genitive after the adjective, thus:
laxe-bar tond-at
tall-er tree-gen
'taller than a tree'
The normal superlative is used to specify that a noun is the most X among the relevant alternatives, or as a complement to express that the referent is the most X among relevant comparanda. The absolute superlative expresses that the referent is the most X among all things. 

Morphologically, the superlative and the absolute superlative do not differ significantly; only a few handful of words distinguish them - the words that have suppletive comparatives and superlatives. The absolute superlative uses the same root as the unmarked form, the positive.

Thus,
aras - loved
enabar - more loved
enabəvar - most loved
arasbəvar - the most loved (in the whole world)
side - good
rembar - better
rebəvar - best
sidbəvar - best (in the whole world)
vorge - strong
marbar - stronger
marbəvar - strongest
vorgbəvar - strongest (in the whole world)

but:
laxer - long, tall
laxebar - longer, tallest
laxebəvar - longest, tallest
laxebəvar - longest, tallest (in the whole world)

The comparative takes congruence, and in most forms the congruence marker is affixed to -bər-, thus showing the same vowel alteration as in the superlative. Another type of superlatives is the "individual apex superlative". This corresponds, roughly, to "at (his/her/its) most X", e.g.
At his best, he can solve any problem by just looking at it for half a minute, at his worst, he'll get stuck on the smallest problem forever.
This has two primary forms, the adverbial form and the complement form. Both are formed using the positive root, the superlative suffix and the prefix no(g)-. The adverbial form does have gender congruence as well:
nosidbavres (masc) | nosidbavrin (fem) | nosidbavrer (masc plur) | nosidbaverta (fem plur) | nosidbavre (neut sg and pl)
nogarsabavres | nogarsabavrin | nogarsabavrer | nogarsabaverta | nogarsabavre
nolaxebavres | nolaxebavrin | ...
The complement version is simply nosidbəvar | nogarsabəvar | nolaxebəvar | ..., regardless of the gender of the noun. The complement would be used to express, simply, that someone is (or was or becomes or became) at their X-st.

There is also an intensive adjective form, which generally takes the positive root, but with the exception of side, where it sometimes takes the comparative root rem-. The intensive adjective takes the suffix -lar, and can take congruence, in which case the a turns into ə like in the comparative suffix.

Further, a verb for becoming increasingly X can be formed by suffixing verbal morphemes to -lər-.


Some More Blackletter-ish Doodling

Saturday, November 28th, 2015
A blackletter-inspired style of Tahano Hikamu: an example
A blackletter-inspired style of Tahano Hikamu: an example

Dairwueh: A Restriction on Personal Pronouns

Thursday, November 26th, 2015
A number of prepositions in Dairwueh cannot take a personal pronoun as an object, but have no restriction on nouns. Here is the full list of prepositions with this restriction. Almost all nouns here are presented in their accusative form, due to the prevalence of prepositions taking the accusative.
əre NOUN.ACC: on account of noun, due to noun, on behalf of noun, for the sake of noun.
 With a personal pronoun this requires a slight periphrasis:
əre vevna tarna
prep my.acc.masc issue*.acc.masc
 * or thing, or errand or (court) case, debt, credit.
The nouns that can be use differ a bit depending on the semantics of the situation, e.g.
sgutavne əre vevna tarna: do not stop on my account
sgutavne əre uvivna greivna: do not stop by my orders (essentially indicating that I never gave such orders - notice that 'order' is always in the plural)
sgutavne əre veve pira: do not stop for my pleasure (indicating that I would not be pleasured by such cessation)
 The preposition ves, viz. around, across, along, near to, before takes sabtar (steps), murna (place), nimina (face). For this particular preposition, sabtar is mainly used when the referent of the pronoun is or was moving during the time span for which he also was a location. Murna implies a more stationary situation, and nimina implies rather restricted location - not so much around as near to, before.

Aub takes nimina (face) or ridinu (soul).

I (to, at), ma (at, in on), lo (of, from) can take baren (house.dat), variŋa (fortunes.dat), murar (place.dat), murivit (places.dat). Mesrit (walk(noun).dat) only occurs with i and lo.

Nist (against, after, in opposition to, in response to) takes salmat (voice.instr), krunŋa (grip.instr), streiŋa (attack, strike, lashing out), mlirar (from nominative root mri-, words), vurnat (neck). The different meanings conveyed by the different nouns should be somewhat clear - nist ... vurnat fairly clearly parses as a physical location, nist salmat/krunŋa/streiŋa/mlirar all permit a variety of responses or oppositions to something depending on context.

air is aile (revisited)

Thursday, November 26th, 2015
aile = air (noun) (Some things Google found for "aile": an uncommon term; an unusual usually feminine first name; an unusual last name; name of a female character in Mega Man ZX video game; AILE grupa of Latvia; means wing in French; means fire in Manx; means family in Turkish; Aile Castle in Switzerland; name of places in Nigeria and China)

Word derivation for "air" :
Basque = aire, Finnish = ilma
Miresua = aile

My previous Miresua conlang word for air was eila. I swapped around the A and the E. I'm trying to lessen the number of nouns ending in -A.

The word air, as in Earth's atmosphere, appears about a dozen times in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
...she noticed a curious appearance in the air: it puzzled her very much at first, but, after watching it a minute or two, she made it out to be a grin, and she said to herself "It's the Cheshire Cat: now I shall have somebody to talk to."

Sargaĺk Phonology, Orthography and Latinization

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
A small observation: blogger sometimes apparently eats things between greater than and lesser than brackets. This just shows how bad the blogger editor is. Thus, instead of using such brackets to mark

The Sargaĺk language has already been presented in a latinized form for a while without any phonological or orthographical information presented. So, it is time for a short overview.

Consonants
Sargaĺk has a three-way series of stops: voiced, unvoiced, and ejective: /p t k pʼ tʼ kʼ b d g/. The ejectives are normally written with ', e.g. mak'ugu.
The points of articulation are bilabial, alveolar and velar.

Affricates do not fully fill up the three-way system: /t͡s, t͡sʼ, t͡ɕ, t͡ɕʼ, d͡ʑʼ/. . These are written c, c', č, č', ʒ.

The fricatives are f, s, z, ɕ, ʑ and x. /ɕ/ is transcribed š, /ʑ/ as ž, the others by the obvious Latin letters.

Further there are two laterals - a velarized one, and a (lightly) palatalized one. I will transliterate these l, ly. There are three nasals, /m n ŋ/, transliterated with the same symbols. An alveolar trill also exists, transliterated r.

All consonants except the ejectives and the fricatives /f, x/ have length distinctions, which are marked by doubling the letter, except for the digraph ly, which is lengthened by doubling the y.


Syllabic Consonants
The laterals, the nasals and r can all appear as syllabic cores in open syllables.  However, the syllables might alternate, due to morphological reasons, between being open and closed. This causes alternations where a vowel is inserted before the syllabic consonant, thus rendering it asyllabic. The symbols used for these are: ḿ, ń, ŋ', ĺ, ĺy, ŕ. The diacritic is retained even when the consonant is not syllabic.
An exceptional word with regards to this is Sargaĺk itself - it is formed from a root sargĺ (an endonym) and the root ĺk (an otherwise almost obsolete word for 'language'). In combining the two of them, *sargĺaĺk would be obtained, which later lead to the loss of the first ĺ.

Vowels
Sargaĺk's vowel inventory consists of six vowels, /a e i o u ə/. /a/ is normally in the vicinity of [ɑ ], although depending on consonants such as lʲ and vowels such as /e/ in the same phonetical vicinity can pull it forward towards [a]. The alveolo-palatal consonants also tend to move /a/ towards [a] and even into the territory just 'south' of [æ] in the vowel trapezoid.

/e/ is normally somewhere between [e] and [ɛ]. The sequence /elʲ/ often has a slightly closed, but not retracted articulation. /eɫ/ retracts and closes /e/ a bit, towards [ɨɫ]. /er/ and /eŋ/ often has a slightly opened articulation as well, almost reaching into [æ]-like territory. A palatal consonant in the onset of a syllable may prevent such opening, though.

The vowels /u o/ often cause rounding on preceding consonants. When close - following or preceding /lʲ/, they may front towards [ʉ ɵ]. Much like /e/, /r/ and /ŋ/ cause it to open up a bit, but unlike /e/, /o/ opens up a bit preceding /ɫ/ as well.

/ə/ seems to roam about its bit of the vowel trapezoid according to a similar logic: /lʲ/ before or after it causes some fronting, /ɫ/ some retraction (and opening), an /r/ after it causes some opening.

/i/ moves between [ɨ] when close to velars, [ɪ] when close to palatals, and slightly widened in the vicinity of all the nasals. The presence of /r/ does not cause any widening.

Syllable structure
Word initially, Sargaĺk seldom has any particularly large clusters. Words that begin in consonants almost all have a vowel for their second sound. Inside words, however, up to five consonants in a cluster can appear, although this is not particularly common. For whatever reason, only one cluster is likely to appear in a root.
 Stress
Stress falls on the first syllable of most words. Syllabic consonants in the first syllable can be stressed too. Secondary and tertiary stresses alternative with unstressed syllables according to patterns along the lines of 10203 and 10302, where 0 stands for unstressed.




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 —

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 --