Archive for July, 2016


Sunday, July 17th, 2016

A conlang where /l/ is realized as its “light” [l] or “dark” [ɫ] variant based on the perceived brightness of the speaker’s environment, such as the time of day outside, proximity to light sources, whether or not their eyes are closed, if you’ve just been reading a Russian novel, etc. 

Sargaĺk Participles and their Use

Sunday, July 17th, 2016
I previously outlined the semantics and the morphology of the Sargaĺk participles. This post sets out to describe their syntax and their pragmatics.

Participles often serve a role comparable to relative subclauses in English. However, the strategy used to express similar ideas usually is one of using different styles of subordinated coordination: when the x was swimming, rather than the swimming x. The three voices of the participles enable some relative-clause-like structure for subjects, objects and recipients of the embedded verb.
Topics tend to prefer the use of separate, subordinate clauses.

An exhaustive list of "general" traits of which one to pick would be:
  • "heavy" embedded VPs are more often rendered as subclauses than by participles
  • "heavy" clauses with an additional subclause that could be rendered by a participle often have participles rather than an additional subclause
  • topics prefer subclauses
  • focus prefers participles
  • certain participles form compound-like lexical structures, and these form an inseparable unit with their head noun. These generally have very full case congruence, and their evidentiality is inferential*. Examples include
    • "xalval ecdo", sweating house or house that sweats, essentially 'sauna'. xalval is not a gerund or anything like that; to some extent, this is a sort of implicit causative, 'house that sweats (you)'.
Beyond the use of participles as attributes in NPs, we have the use of participles with auxiliaries. Participles can be combined with the copula to form statements a bit like "X is verbing Y". The binary copula is only used when emphasizing a positive answer to a yes-no-question. Other than that, the copula-construction is almost always used when the subject is the focus. Thus, a focused subject enforces evidentiality marking in its VP.

Objects and recipients too can, by voice markings on the participle, be marked in this way, but this is somewhat less common.

A handful of auxiliaries require participles:
sanət - be [reputed to/inferred to/seen to/heard to/...] verbThis requires the active form of the present or past participle. (Uninflected). This auxiliary basically emphasizes the content of the evidentiality marker.

xk'arp- - resume

mər- continue

mərmər- continue despite attempts by others to stop one from doing

cease (participle in the ablative)
Further, a lot of verbs lack some participle forms, e.g. verbs of perception often lack  non-primary perception evidentiality forms, verbs of verbal interaction often lack everything but second-hand forms, etc. For some of these, this is more of a conflation of forms, for others it seems more like an actual gap. Lack of past or present forms, or of passive or recipient forms is also not unusual.

Finally, there exists an adverbial case that only exists for participles. This signifies by doing. Its marker is -(k)o, which also reduces the previous syllable's vowel if morphophonologically possible. This conflates a fair share of forms as well.

Sargaĺk: Adjective Congruence and the Copula

Sunday, July 17th, 2016
The congruence bit of this post is obsolete.

The Sargaĺk copula is somewhat complicated – it is both morphologically defective, in lacking several forms that most other verbs have (specifically, it exclusively has indicative and a basic irrealis form. It lacks imperatives, and any other modal distinctions are just omitted). It also is morphologically extended, in having several forms that few and even no other verbs have. Some of the forms do not historically speaking derive from verbs, but from pronouns and participles, but are nevertheless syntactically and morphologically verbs by now.

Adjective Congruence

Sargaĺk has some congruence on its adjectives.


The above table marks the agreement marker in nominative and accusative noun phrases. The following set of markers appear with the pegative:

Beyond this, the only "normal" congruence markers are -er, which appears for all animate oblique case-number combinations, and -i, which appears for all inanimate oblique case-number combinations.

The case markers used on nouns do appear on adjectives at times as well - including a zero marker for feminine and masculine nominatives. This invariably happens when the adjective is the head of an NP, i.e. constructions analogous to English '(a|the) ADJ one'. This also serves to intensify the adjective, or to mark topicality of the NP or to attract attention to the adjective. This specifically may happen when demonstratives are involved.


There are two copulas: one for clearly binary qualities or memberships of sets, one for qualities with degrees to them. Whether a quality is considered binary or not is very culturally determined - gender is binary, as is being asleep or awake. Being a father is not binary, but being a mother is; being a male is binary, being female is not. This goes with both nouns and adjectives, so this is in a sense another two-way division of the noun/adjective space in addition to gender and animacy.

Colours are generally not binary, except eye colours. Darkness of hair is binary, but light hair colours are considered binary. Hunger vs. satedness is binary, illness is not binary. Deadness and liveness is binary. Etc.

(The order for the verb forms given below is 1 p., 2 p., 3 p. masc, 3p. fem, the upper row being singular, the lower plural)
The two verbs are as follows:
k'iʒ | k'ip | k'ir | k'iva
k'iko | k'iyo | k'ivo | k'ivo

past perfective:
sg: ak'o
pl: ak'yo
sg: ak'ə
pl: ak'e

past imperfective:
k'aʒa | k'apa | k'ara | k'ava
k'avi | k'aya | k'ava | k'ava
əvin | əvi | əvir | əvo
əko | əvyo | əvo | əvo
an | avi | avir | ava
aki | ava | ava | ava
k'əvk (singular)
k'əvka (plural)
The perfective-imperfective distinction in the past binary form is unique to the copula. The future is not fully unique, although its formation for the different verbs that have it is not very regular at all.

(1pl has a thing where -i is an old inflection that appears in some verbs in the past tense.) A peculiar thing with the two copulas is that if the complement is a noun, and thus has intrinsic gender, the congruence marker for adjectives will appear as a suffix on the verb, giving forms such as k'iʒda, əviso, etc. With adjectives, there is no such congruence on the verb, but the adjective does show the gender-number congruence. These two verbs are the only verbs to show gender-number congruence with more than one constituent; we will later, however, find verbs that have congruence not with the subject, but with some other constituent – and for these, the congruence morphemes are the same as for the complement congruence here.

Causatives of the binary version imply a more perfective causation, whereas causatives of the non-binary imply increasing something's quality as something or other. For the causatives, the subject congruence is dropped altogether.


Saturday, July 16th, 2016

Why doesn’t your next language try morpheme communism?

That is, you figure out how many non-root morphemes might be in your sentence (tense, aspect, mood, cases, evidentiality, politeness,etc.) and distributes them to all roots, so that they all have about the same number.

Sargaĺk: Participles and Evidentiality

Friday, July 15th, 2016
NB: This is partially a draft, and may still be changed.

Sargaĺk has a system of participles. These are used both as adjectival attributes in NPs, and as complements as times. They are also required by certain auxiliaries. There are a fair share of participles, and we need to classify them to speak about them.

First, we have different voice and transitivity concerns: we have passive participles, recipient participles and subject participles. However, the subject forms differ depending on the voice and the typical transitivity of the verb. Beyond this, the participle codes for evidentiality.

Two distinctions need to be explained here: primary and non-primary relate to the sensory organ by which this knowledge has been acquired. Primary is whichever is expected for the verb or the NPs involved - a stench would be known by smelling, a sound by hearing, and most things by seeing. Non-primary then is using any other sense. "Recipient-hand" and "subject-hand" is knowledge acquired second-hand from the recipient or the subject.

As can be seen, there is some overlap between the three transitivities. The overlap is not the same in both of the tense-aspect variations. Congruence markers can cause some morphological changes as well.

Imperfect aspect or non-past tense

typical transitivity:voice:evidentiality:

ditransitiveactivefirst-hand primary-al

first-hand non-primary-saŋ

second-hand -sur


recipientfirst-hand primary-tŕ

first-hand non-primary-tŋ́






transitiveactivefirst-hand primary-al

first-hand non-primary-saŋ/-tŋ́






markers as ditr.

Perfect aspect and past tense
typical transitivity:voice:evidentiality:

ditransitiveactivefirst-hand primary-jir

first-hand non-primary-jir(u)

second-hand -surem


recipientfirst-hand primary-trem

first-hand non-primary-teŋm






transitiveactivefirst-hand primary-jir

first-hand non-primary-jir(u)






markers as transitive

seventeen is sezpintima

Friday, July 15th, 2016
sezpintima = seventeen (number) (adjective) (some things Google found for "sezpintima": an unique term, did not match any documents; vaguely similar Septima is an unusual feminine first name which means seventh in Latin; vaguely similar sentima means fearless in Esperanto)

Word derivation for "seventeen" :
Basque = hamazazpi (from ten + seven)
Finnish = seitsemäntoista (seven + -teen)
Miresua = sezpintima (seven + -teen)

Another new word which is more Finnish than Basque. Not sure what I can do about it, it's partly because the Finnish word is a humongous 15 letter word.

The word seventeen doesn't occur in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-glass.

seventeen is sezpintima

Friday, July 15th, 2016

sezpintima = seventeen (number) (adjective) (some things Google found for “sezpintima”: an unique term, did not match any documents; vaguely similar Septima is an unusual feminine first name which means seventh in Latin; vaguely similar sentima means fearless in Esperanto)

Word derivation for “seventeen” :
Basque = hamazazpi (from ten + seven)
Finnish = seitsemäntoista (seven + -teen)
Miresua = sezpintima (seven + -teen)

Another new word which is more Finnish than Basque. Not sure what I can do about it, it’s partly because the Finnish word is a humongous 15 letter word.

The word seventeen doesn’t occur in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-glass.

A Public Service Announcement

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
I've been writing some longish posts for a while - a "post-mortem analysis" of Tatediem and Barxaw, some historical linguistics of Sargaĺk, Dairwueh and Bryatesle, some ditto for Ŋʒädär and Ćwarmin, some sample texts for Bryatesle, as well as the verb systems of Ŋʒädär and Sargaĺk, as well as some derivative morphology for Ćwarmin.

I might be exaggerating a bit when I call the Tatediem and Barxaw post a post-mortem analysis, since they both do have life in them - both Tatediem and Barxaw need significant changes, though, and such will happen in the upcoming winter.

Anyways, here's a short sample of a sample of Bryatesle:
Tsarmuvex kulpity ɕmargɕity xistvëmxi xarda, ɕixue ɕvaraɕ kama. Tërsi ɕtekan lrexmud kerfeklër ɕxarda. Nədvər, ednën rufal, tatsek. Anzïmub teka du kar iskrar. "Bəcək nədvərśkə xuršupuru", ednën rufalïr tersëk furaven ixutë.
Ćwarmins are insulted by signs of human decay and death, such as worms and rot. Insulting certain rituals (insults) them too. Baptism, first washing, head (among these). Insults often join the two: "Bəcək nədvərśkə xuršupuru" - in your first washing, the worms swim.
A small challenge, for anyone interested: there should be enough online to be able to figure out most of this text's grammatical structure - the vocabulary should be possible to figure out from the translation. A good glossing would be a sufficient enough achievement.

Detail #299: An Idea for a Morphophonology

Monday, July 11th, 2016
So, I have been planning this morphophonological system for Sargaĺk, originally, but have abandoned it because it just didn't really fit with the imaginary history of the language.

The idea is that morphemes do not consist of strings of phonemes (although phonemes are also permitted to occur), but by strings of underspecified phonemes. Thus, you can have a thing like
passive: {+back}l{-occlusive +voiced}
Depending on the phonological context in which this appears, phonemes will be picked to realize these features using some set of rules. The fun appears when multiple morphemes appear together. Also, "weak brackets" would be ones that permit for merging with the previous/next phoneme. A hierarchy of features would determine how the resulting set of features ends up. Let us use {/ and /} for such brackets.

Each underspecified phoneme could of course maybe have a 'strongest' feature that could be written in bolds or as the leftmost feature or whatever, to which special rules apply. Coming back to the passive marker presented previously, we could suffix the following morpheme:
first person: {/ +semivowel}a
Thus we get 
{+back}l{-occlusive +voiced}{/ +semivowel}a → {+back}lwa
What maybe happens there is that the backness present before l velarizes l, which leads to +semivowel coming out as /w/ rather than /j/. 

Of course, at times a combination of features just might not be realizeable, say e.g. {+occlusive/} {/ -occlusive} or {+velar /} {/ -velar }. For such conflicts, a set of rules need to exist. At other times, the interpretation need not be entirely literal.

Sargaĺk: Detransitivization

Sunday, July 10th, 2016
Much like other languages, Sargaĺk has some amount of detransitivization going on. It also has deditransitivization.

First, the canonical detransitivization procedure in Sargaĺk usually involves adding some morpheme to the verb. There are exceptions, however, where some stem changes occur instead:
tŕp'ə- - to spin something
tĺp'ə- - to spin (reflexive)
kar- - to carry something
kačń- - to hold up, to stand while burdened, to withstand

fakń- to bring something
fačń - to reach
Sargaĺk, like English, has verbs that are ergative and verbs that are accusative. Above, tŕp'ə-/tĺpə- is an example of an ergative verb. Another example, where both a stem change and an inflected form exist, can be seen here:
ŕma- - to raise
ĺma- - to rise
ŕman- - to rise
(c.f. adjectives ĺmi- 'ascending', ŕmi - high)
There are a number of transitivizing operations as well. Most ditransitive verbs get -an-, but some verbs do not get such a marker. These include typically ditransitive verbs such as
ops- - to give
id- - to show
- - to sell
p'rik- - to pass someone something
lonkə- - to tell
k'əda- - to throw someone something
- to teach someone something
t'ošni- - to confirm something to someone
vəšni- - to negate something to someone
partə- - to stand as someone's representative to someone
ĺvoʒa- - to betray someone to someone
kŕvoʒa - to betray someone to someone
The relation between intransitive, transitive and ditransitive verbs gets slightly complicated at times. Certain ditransitive verbs, when they lose their pegative subject, promote the direct object to subject, some promote the indirect object to subject. The non-promoted argument can be omitted. A few such verbs are these:
opsopil promotes object to subject
ididil promotes object to subject
vŕ → vril promotes object to subject
p'rik → p'rikil- promotes i.o. to subject
lonkə →lonkə (!) promotes object to subject
k'əda → k'ədil promotes object to subject
t'ošni → t'ošni (!) promotes i.o. to subject
vəšni → vəšni (!) promotes i.o.
partə → partil
promotes object
lvoʒa → lvoʒil promotes i.o.
kŕvoʒa → kŕvoʒil promotes d.o.
As can be seen, -il- is the suffix that marks the omission of a pegative subject. Not all verbs can be made to lose their subject by the addition of -il-, however.

Other verbs lose the object whenever the marker -il- is on them. There's generally no detransitivization marking whenever an indirect object is omitted. The detransitivization promotes the i.o. to object if present, so one can have what looks like a d.o. present even after -li- is applied.

Verbs for which -il- omits the subject can have their direct object omitted by a slightly different strategy: the presence of -an-. -an- normally marks the presence of a pegative noun phrase, but when only two NPs (usually in the nominative) are present it signals the omission of a (usually direct) object, and that one NP is also the proper subject. Usually, the other NP is the one that -il- would promote to subject with that verb.