Archive for January, 2016

Challenge #1: My Own Solution?

Thursday, January 21st, 2016
In the very early days of this blog, I had this idea of posting challenges that people could come up with solutions for. I didn't get much response to them (although I had way fewer readers back then as well). However, in a moment of inspiration, I think I figured out a potential solution to Challenge #1.

Use some type of ingressive or imperfect aspect on the number; thus three-ingr-ptcpl = one that starts the count to three (where of course every 'counting' that this is the ingressive of is counting from the number one below, thus "the second").

Another way could of course be some causative-ingressive combination, three-caus-ingr-(ptcpl) or even three-ingr-caus-(ptcpl): the thing that starts to cause a count towards three, the thing that causes to start a count towards three.

It doesn't feel all that smooth, but it isn't all too stubbly either.

Asshekhqoyi Vezhvenagain!

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Looks like it’s my birthday again. I’ve had 35 of these things now and they show no signs of stopping. Bleh. So be it!

For those who follow me elsewhere, you’ll know that the last year has brought some major changes and challenge. The short version: new house, new shows, new book, and new child. Erin and I welcomed our first child Meridian Victoria Peterson last month, and the level of effort required to maintain her comparatively spartan lifestyle is as advertised. It’s stretched us to our breaking point and left us little time for anything else.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t do us a proper Dothraki haiku competition!

It does mean, though, that I don’t have any haikus of my own to share, or new rules to debut. It’s too much. Per last year, though, there will be a Dothraki competition and a High Valyrian competition, and each competition will have its own winner.

We can certainly still do challenge words, though. Always time for challenge words! The challenge word for Dothraki will be haf (an adjective meaning “quiet” or, with respect to pain, “dull”). For High Valyrian, the challenge word is the noun lāra, which means “crow” (lunar noun, regular Class IA declension). For the full set of rules regarding the haiku, see below.

Guidelines

For the purposes of this contest, a haiku is 17 syllables long, with the syllable counts for each line being 5, 7, and 5, in that order. If you need to fudge, go for it, but I will weight exact syllable counts more highly.

Also (and this is important), since this is Dothraki, we are definitely going by syllable count, not mora count. Regarding syllable-counting, in Dothraki, a syllable is defined as a vowel plus one or more consonants on either side. A syllable cannot contain more than one vowel, which means that a word like kishaan is trisyllabic, not disyllabic.

If it helps, you may or may not contract the various prepositions that contract. So, for example, mr’anha (two syllables) is the usual way of saying “inside me”. For your haiku, if you wish, you can separate the two out, i.e. mra anha (three syllables). You can also drop purely epenthetic e vowels (so the past tense of “crush”, kaffe, can be rendered as kaff’). Feel free to play with word order and drop pronouns, as needed, bearing in mind that such language is figurative, and the reader will still need to be able to figure out who’s doing what to whom.

For Valyrian: Long vowels count as two mora, and a vowel with a coda counts as two mora, but a syllable will not have more than two mora. So a long vowel plus a coda consonant will still be two mora, for the purposes of the poem. If you can’t do the poem using mora, do it with syllables, but I’ll weight those done with mora more highly. This will make it more like a real Japanese haiku. If you need a particular word in a particular number/case combination or a verb in a particular conjugation, please let me know and I’ll give it to you.

Addendum: Falling diphthongs count as two mora (i.e. ae and ao); rising diphthongs count as one (e.g. ia, ua, ue, etc.). Also, word order is certainly freer in poetry than it is in everyday speech, but the rules about adjectives still apply (i.e. you use the short forms if the adjective appears directly before the noun it modifies; otherwise they’d take their full forms). And, finally, word-final consonants are extrametrical. Thus if a word ends in -kor, that counts as one mora, not two.

Shieraki gori ha yerea! Fonas chek!

Detail #250: Partially Grammaticalized Subjects

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
Let's imagine a language that at some recent point has rearranged its noun classification. (Biological) Feminines have become distinct from other nouns, and now masculines and inanimates form the masculine gender.

The language has previously not had proper subjects, but is in the process of developing them. Specifically masculine animates are acquiring the status of being "proper subjects". Feminines, however, differ in having only some of the subject properties. (However, they acquire congruence marking on verbs to an even greater extent than animate masculines.) Inanimates trigger no verbal congruence anywhere.

As for congruence, this causes the following situation:
animate masculine agent present? → masculine congruence
feminine agent or patient or topic present? → feminine congruence (overrules masculine congruence)
inanimate masculine? → triggers no congruence
What syntactical things might we expect from these different levels of subjecthood? Let's look at some properties subjects often have. Let us start with reflexive binding. Masculines proper and feminines both have this subject property, but inanimates do not. Thus
She washes self/*her
Heanimate washes self/*him
Heinanimate wash *self/it
 Neuters behave differently with regards to control, so you can't say things analogous to
the house seems to be on fire
it would require
seems that the house is on fire
but
he/she seems to be doing fine
 would be permitted. Another thing could be that feminines and masculines can be implied, covert arguments. For feminines, this would probably apply both for subjects and objects. A thing that is difficult to make sense of with English examples is resistance to extraction. Apparently, subjects are cross-linguistically less resistant, but in English, perversely, they are more resistant:
Evert thinks that Robert gave Lisa a gift
*who does Evert think that gave Lisa a gift
what does Evert think that Robert gave Lisa?
who does Evert think that Robert gave a gift to?
In this language, "who does Evert think that gave Lisa a gift" would be permissible, but not
*what does Evert think that Robert gave Lisa
or even
*what does Evert think that [gap] is the tastiest dish?
However,
who does Evert think gave Lisa a gift
who does Evert think received a gift from Robert
 would both be permissible, however not necessarily
?who does Evert think Lisa got a gift from
?who does Evert think Robert gave a gift to
More interesting things could be done with regards to subjecthood, but it's late in the evening and I think this post introduces enough ideas already.

flat is latä (revisited)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
latä = flat (shape) (adjective) (some things Google found for "lata": a common term; LATA is an acronym for Local Access and Transport Area used in U.S. telecommunications regulation; Lata Mangeshkar is a Indian playback singer; Lata is a Hindu Indian female first name; LATA stands for Los Alamos Technical Associates; lata means wide in Latin; lata means summers in Polish; lata means can or tin in Spanish; Lata Mountain in American Samoa; Lata is the name of places in Uzbekistan, Solomon Islands, Burma, India, Portugal, and Colombia)

Word derivation for "flat" (having no variations in height):
Basque = lau, Finnish = litteä
Miresua = latä

My previous Miresua conlang word for flat was lati. A small change to end the word in -Ä.

I found the word flat twice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
At this moment Five, who had been anxiously looking across the garden, called out "The Queen! The Queen!" and the three gardeners instantly threw themselves flat upon their faces.

flat is latä (revisited)

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
latä = flat (shape) (adjective) (some things Google found for "lata": a common term; LATA is an acronym for Local Access and Transport Area used in U.S. telecommunications regulation; Lata Mangeshkar is a Indian playback singer; Lata is a Hindu Indian female first name; LATA stands for Los Alamos Technical Associates; lata means wide in Latin; lata means summers in Polish; lata means can or tin in Spanish; Lata Mountain in American Samoa; Lata is the name of places in Uzbekistan, Solomon Islands, Burma, India, Portugal, and Colombia)

Word derivation for "flat" (having no variations in height):
Basque = lau, Finnish = litteä
Miresua = latä

My previous Miresua conlang word for flat was lati. A small change to end the word in -Ä.

I found the word flat twice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
At this moment Five, who had been anxiously looking across the garden, called out "The Queen! The Queen!" and the three gardeners instantly threw themselves flat upon their faces.

Bringing Your Child up in a Conlang: Long-Term Commitment

Sunday, January 17th, 2016
A really stupid thing many American school districts apparently do, is to require that people stop speaking their native language with their children and switch to English instead. The mistaken thinking that goes into this probably includes something like
learning a language is great effort, so learning two languages doubles all learning efforts in all subjects
i.e. a kid who is learning maths needs to learn maths twice to master it in both languages. We do know this to be mistaken, and we even know now that bilinguals potentially do better than non-bilinguals. Maybe talking about the same things a bit in more than one language by random chance will resolve potential ambiguities?

It turns out that this common policy not only is mistaken, in the sense that it does not solve the problem it sets out to solve, but even worse, in that it often creates new problems. One of these is that bonding between parents and children can be impacted negatively if the language they use is replaced by another language.

Thus, if you decide to exclusively speak a conlang to your child - which basically is what you need to do if you want the child to learn it - you have to be ready to go in there for the really long run. 

Are you sure your love for your own hobby is that strong? Are you sure you're in for such a commitment? A child is a big enough commitment on itself, adding this to the equation seems rather heavy.

#444

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Decline nouns by how many of them you can take on in a fight.

“My daughter-2.in.a.fight, did you remember to feed a goat-3.in.a.fight to the allosaurus-0.2.in.a.fight? She looks a bit hungry.”

Backwards with Idea #246: Some Ergativity

Sunday, January 17th, 2016
Post #246 originated upon reading a post that had been left to die in the drafts folder. Basically, the last clause was a cue to myself to come up with something. This was finally done about 120 posts later, and to some extent, this post in some sense only serves as a window into how ideas develop for me, if that interests anyone. So here goes, a peek into the creative process:

Getting back on the ergativity track, we can imagine a language that otherwise is very nominative-accusative, but where infinitives are ergative in alignment:
I see you = I see you
to see you =  you to see
seeing you = you seeing
to see (subj: you)= for you to see
seeing (subj: you) = your seeing
However, we could complicate this a slight bit.

Imperatives and Exceptional Imperatives in Dairwueh

Sunday, January 17th, 2016
I decided to include imperatives in Dairwueh for a variety of reasons. Here's a few features:
A number of verbs have slight suppletions, c.f.
ak! (sg), aksu! (pl)
go!
kadu
- go (inf)
ral! (sg) rallu! (pl)
sasalu
- hurry
ten! tessu!
vedeu -
help (inf)
vir! virru!
vesu - to listen

sim! smu!
gesem - tell, say
Some verbs drop part of the root:
bar! (sg), barru! (pl)
barinə - to be careful, to get out of the way, to be careful with something
dig! dixu!
endixu - stand

rud! ruxu!
berugu - leave a place

knu! knuvu!
aknuvu - keep, hold

Most roots lose any final vowel, and apply some morpheme out of the set {-u|-su, -ak|-su, -ar|-sur, -g|-xu}, where the left element is the singular and the right element the plural. The morpheme is lexically determined but tends to follow this schematic:
verbs of states: {-ar, -sur}
verbs of movement: {-ak, -su}
verbs of increase, and of stature: {-g, -xu}
other intransitive verbs: {-u, -su}
transitive verbs of applying a state to something: {-g, -xu}
transitive verbs of movement: {-u, -su}
other transitive verbs {-g, -xu}
Usually, the imperative is fronted, but this is not fully mandatory. There are also some syntactical complications. The main syntactical complication are 'imperatives with overt subjects', where some subject other than the addressee is syntactically in some sense the subject of the imperative. One of these is 'san|sannu', signifying 'look'. It can take a third person "subject".
kreruš san vorge
timberman look! strong
look how strong the timberman is
This might seem as an object, but it turns out that these quirky imperative-subjects can be coordinated as subjects of other verbs:
kreruš san vorge ke darav xogebars doŋbat-ta
timberman look! strong and works harder than smith
It also passes some other subjecthood tests, and therefore, peculiarly enough, qualifies as a subject despite the actual subject of the imperativey part of the verb is the second person.

The 2015 Smiley Award!

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Once again time for the Smiley Award!

The eminent conlanger and former president of the Language Creation Society (LCS), David J. Peterson, has announced his choice for the Smiley Award 2015, a constructed language that has made him smile:

Kash by Roger Mills!

Along with his decision, Peterson outlines Kash’s background, features and most interesting constructions, explaining this year’s choice.

Kash belongs to an excruciatingly detailed conworlding project certainly fruit of a life-long work of passion. Set in the world of Cindu, they are used in the context of his stories, where a young man from a research ship named John Rodriguez travels there and meets Shenji, a representative of the Kash people: a species of cat-like beings with black fur.

Roger set about creating the entire world, its environs, its other inhabitants and, of course, the languages therein. Check it out, there’s a lot to learn there!

Roger Mills’ Kash webpage: http://cinduworld.tripod.com/contents.htm

David J. Peterson’s Web Thing: http://dedalvs.conlang.org/index.html