Archive for June, 2017

Sargaĺk: Demonstratives

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017
Demonstratives in Sargaĺk come in three levels of deixis,
ʒaŋ - this
ʒur - yon
ʒiki - that, there
These have gender congruence even in the absolutive, for the following feminine forms:
ʒem - this
ʒin - yon
ʒisi - that
Feminine case forms are suffixed to these roots, masculine ones to the masculine roots. The root for each of these consists of the first three phonemes - ʒaŋ-, ʒur-, ʒik-, ʒem-, ʒin-, ʒis-.
These have several related derivations, which also can showcase gender marking:
ʒarʒas, ʒerʒes - right, fit, suitable, the right one out of a set of alternatives
ʒurʒur, ʒinʒin - different, 'another one'
ʒirʒiki, ʒiʒisi - too distant, unreachable

ʒakal - bring
ʒukal - be moved between places none of which are 'here'
ʒikal - remove

ʒaŋlus, ʒemlus - this _____ of yours, this particular _________
ʒurnus, ʒinlus - a similar ____
ʒiklus, ʒislus - another, different,

ʒaŋluʒəŋ, ʒurnuʒəŋ, ʒikluʒəŋ - intensive versions of the demonstratives.
ʒemluʒəm, ʒinluʒin, ʒisluʒis
There is a special dual for couples formed by simple apposition: zaŋʒem, ʒurʒin, ʒikʒis.
 ʒik-ta-ʒis-tat nen keršo sadra-mic vitnət-ju-an
that couple provided me a knife and a net
The negative pronouns are sometimes prefixed to the demonstrative pronouns in Sargaĺk. The meaning of this construction differs by the type of demonstrative pronoun:
pinʒaŋ, pinʒem -  unfit
pinʒur, pinʒin - just anyone out of a set
pinʒiki - close by (adjective-like)

A Bryatesle-Dairwueh-Sargaĺk Adjective Type

Sunday, June 11th, 2017
In the BDS family, certain particles with adjective-like distribution are present in all languages. These adjective can be used with any NP in almost any position, even though the most similar translation in English cannot: 'what about/how about ...'

In Bryatesle, the adjectives are kyne- and sudu-, in Dairwueh xən- and orə-, and in Sargaĺk you find cin- and asku-. The pairwise distinction between these differ between the languages: the Dairwueh pair differ by animacy (xən- being animate, orə- being inanimate), the Bryatesle kyne- and sudu- differ by number (sudu- being plural), and the cin- and asku- pair of Sargaĺk differ by definiteness (asku- being indefinite).

It should be clear that kyne-, xən- and cin- are cognate. One rather typical vowel correspondence pattern in monosyllabic roots can be spotted here.
Bryatesle /ɨ/ <y> : Dairwueh /ə/ <ə> : Sargaĺk /i/ <i>
The sound changes on the initial consonants are a bit more complicated though. The cin- in Sargaĺk suggests the original sound was /k/ rather than /k'/, since /k'/ is more stable against sound changes in Sargaĺk. This fits well with Dairwueh, where k > x, k' > k. The three other forms do not seem to be cognate at all.

Some examples of use would be these:
tvem kynë mindë gavari livytri

tvem kyn-ë mind-an gava-ri livyt-ri

how aboutdef.acc.femgirlacc.femmeet2sg.atelicwent2sg.atelic
how aboutthegirl
that you meeting
how about the girl you were meeting
xənŋa srotoŋa misandeb
how aboutinstr/locsmall boatinstr/locarrive2sg.past
how aboutwiththe boat
How about (with) the boat (with which) you arrived 

We notice in both Bryatesle and Dairwueh that the case function of the noun is somewhat ambiguous - it is never quite clear in past tense expressions whether the case pertains to its relation to the past tense verb or how it relates to the inquiry. Therefore, the case forms often may get somewhat confusing.

To Be Right in my Conlangs

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
To express the sentiment of being right in my conlangs, a number of slightly different constructions are used. However, first a quick overview of being right in the languages I speak and a few more.

In Finnish, the usual way would be olla oikeassa, essentially 'to be in (the) right'. In Swedish, however, the expression is ha rätt, 'to have right'. This also seems to be the way of expressing it in German, recht haben. Russian has прав, 'right, true' as a complement, so e.g. ты прав, "you (are) right/true". Onto languages I don't speak: The French and Italian expressions seem to be analogous - although 'to have reason' seem to be more literal translations. Spanish is a bit like Finnish, although with 'in truth' (en cierto) rather than 'right'.  Bear in mind that I might be wrong on any of those beyond Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian. As a side note, for Finnish, English, German and Russian, there's a clear connection to right (the direction or side).

So, onto the conlangs!

In Bryatesle, being right is expressed using a verb that is closely related to the verb 'carry', verg, in the perfective aspect, with a quirky case subject, viz. the ablative.
tërty virg-a
you.abl carry-perf.3sg
you're right
In isolation, virga sometimes is used to express 'you're right'.

In Ćwarmin, being right is expressed by the demonstrative adverb olba/elbə ('this') in an adverbial form, olbaru, elbəri (essentially 'like this, like so, thus') or in the nominative definite olbutu, elbiti.  The construction with olbaru/elbəri uses the reflexive possessive accusative:
bec olbarsun
you thus-refl.poss.acc
~you have thus
you are right
The olbutu/elbiti form comes with the dative of whomever is right:
un olbutu
(s)he.dat right.nom.def(s)he is right
Unlike Bryatesle, Dairwueh uses the verb əduin, 'hold', but like Bryatesle, it uses a quirky case subject: the genitive. The verb is in the 3rd person II.
vedin ŋe ədu-ar
I.gen was.3sg hold-past.prtcpl
"my was held"
I was right

Ŋʒädär has a reflexive, locative expression. 
(sint) prä-ŋä-bürs-äz ŋul-ər
(they) right-at-3pl/3pl-direct self-plur
they are right
Prän does in fact have a slight typological similarity to 'right', although it signifies a different type of direction: in fact, it signifies the east. prä-ŋä thus also signifies "in the east", but the only situation in which this appears with transitive marking is when signifying 'being right'. For those who haven't read how the reflexive works in Ŋʒädär, here's a post.

Sargaĺk uses a reduplication-like construction:
(ne-tta) tvadas tvadas yəra-si
I-peg truth truth put-1sg
I put truth (to) truth
I am right
Clearly, the pegative of the subject suggests that the two instances of "truth" are considered different constituents, however - one being a direct object and one an indirect object. Hence the (to) in the word-for-word English translation. Here, as well, the subject pronoun can be omitted.

Dairwueh: Relative Clauses

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017
Relative clauses in Dairwueh reuse a certain idea I quite recently had – the relativizing auxiliary. In Dairwueh, it is kadal. Its main forms are
present tense:
3sg I: kada (masc, neut) | kado (fem) | kaduni (plur)
3sg II: kadal (also infinitive)
past tense:
3sg I: kadiŋ | kadari (plur)
3sg II: kale
3sg I: kadəyi (masc, neut) | kadəvo | kadəŋan (plur)
3sg II: kaləy
negative present and irrealis:
3sg I: kadešne
3sg II: kaleš
negative past and irrealis:
3sg I: kadeyš | kadeyšin (plur)
3sg II: kaleš
3sg I: kadeŋa
3sg II: kaleŋ
The difference between 3sg I and 3sg II is somewhat different than elsewhere in the language - 3sg I is restrictive, 3sg II is nonrestrictive. The main verb appears in an infinitive or participle form. If the relativized noun is some form of oblique or non-nominative argument of the subclause, a resumptive pronoun appears in the clause in the relevant case (or with the relevant adposition). 

If the relative clause lacks an eternal head, the verb will almost always be 3sg I. If the implicit external head is not nominative or accusative, there has to be some external resumptive pronoun in that case. Often, this is a demonstrative, but a personal pronoun is also possible, and comes immediately after or before the subclause.

Whenever the external head is a personal pronoun, there may be a person discongruence - and there may even be a personal subject person in the subclause itself, e.g.
ekadašor ver samotəg, (ver) samotas
rel_verb.pass_neg I win.inf, win.1sg
I, who is not won over, win
Intonationally, the subclause is often introduced with a slight drop in pitch for first word of the subclause - which is not necessarily the relative auxiliary verb, followed by a relatively quick rise, followed by a slow descent to the end of the subclause.

Conlangery #129: Non-Vocal Languages

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017
Jake Malloy and David Peterson join George to talk about sign language as well as a few other ways humans communicate non-vocally. Top of Show Greeting: Bakom Links and Resources: SLIPA ASL Lessons ASL classifiers Non-manual markers in ASL ASL Internet slang Plains Indian Sign Language Tactile Signing Black ASL Signed Exact English (signed English... Read more »

Detail #345: Alignment-Thing with Locative Cases

Monday, June 5th, 2017
Let's consider (and extend) the notion of cases for nouns located somewhere, and nouns heading somewhere. I.e. this wouldn't be "the man is at the lake", this would be "the man who ats is (at, with regards to) the lake" or some other silly way of expressing it. Let's consider how this interacts with
  • subjects vs. objects and alignment more generally
  • more metaphorical uses (e.g. becoming, being, being averb, going to verb)
  • indirect objects and such
  • more general effects throughout the language
Ok, so we come up with two cases, the stationary case and the motionary case. The stationary case is used when we state that the subject (or object) is located somewhere, or that the object is located somewhere as a result of a static VP: e.g.
A holds B.stat (in place)
A encloses B.stat
A contains B.stat

The motionary case is used whenever motion is involved, obviously:
A.mot approaches B
A.mot runs
A.mot leaves B
but also when A sets B in motion:
A scared B.mot (away)
A threw B.mot
A pushed B.mot

Verbs like 'leave' and 'come' may not be distinguished, and are not strictly speaking morphologically distinguished either: both involve a motionary subject, and both involve motion (obviously). Adverbs may serve to indicate the direction, but also context. As far as cases go, this seems to behave entirely unlikely both subject and object marking, and one would expect there to be some kind of object marking (or ergative marking) to balance this system up, so that the non-motionary non-stationary argument's role can be unambiguously parsed. However, it's not entirely unconceivable that each verb's semantics is clear enough that no subject/object distinction is needed: the motionary/stationary and the unmarked noun may well have easily parsed roles.

As for more metaphorical uses, we can consider the way many languages use locative expressions with infinitives, similar to how the 'to' in 'to VERB' became part of the infinitive construction in English. At this point we can consider the regular locative as 'being averbing', and the lative as 'going averbing'. In this case, a subject that is averbing would be stationary, and one that is going averbing would be motionary. However, in causative utterances (or utterances of, say, seeing someone verbing) the causee (or the object) could easily be in the stationary, or motionary, depending on the aspect and tense and whatnot of the situation.

    Detail #344: V2 to the Extreme

    Sunday, June 4th, 2017
    V2 is an interesting word order type, and as a speaker of a language with it (Swedish), I am interested at what happens sometimes when the brain exaggerates it by accident.

    Swedish permits using intransitive verbs in a copula-like fashion more than English does. English permits similar things - e.g. 'stand tall' - but such examples are far fewer in English than in Swedish. Examples would include "he sits tired", "I went confused to my destination", etc. So basically, conflating both expressing something about physical position or movement as well as something about the state of the subject. 

    I've noticed that I tend to overuse that construction to reduce the size of the NP to the left of the verb, and I think this is a result of V2 on overdrive.

    However, the most extreme thing I've accidentally done is split coordinated NPs on the left and shifted the first half to a sentence-final position:
    John brought wine Lisa and
    Lisa and John brough wine.
    I imagine one could take any syntactical feature of a language and exaggerate it in similar ways, have other syntactical features' use change to accomodate the exaggeration of such a trait, etc. I'd recommend looking at features of your native language (or any other language you know), and exaggerating that trait and having other traits pick up that slack. It'll definitely contribute to coming up with interesting conlanging ideas.

    Update on the Grammar Writing Process III

    Thursday, June 1st, 2017

    I’ve recently done a lot of proofreading of basically anything besides the introduction chapter of the new Ayeri Grammar. I did this to weed out errors I’ve previously overlooked and also to make sure that what I’d written earlier in the morphology chapter was consistent with the rather extensive work I did in order to come to terms with why certain pre- and suffixes should be clitics. This detour took quite a while—from January to April—but it was probably worth it, since it clarified some questions I had. My quest for clarity on clitics versus affixes in Ayeri culminated in a lengthy blog article, a version of which, revised in parts, can be found in the new grammar as section 3.2.5.

    Starting to document Ayeri’s syntax is the logical next step now after I tried to describe its phonology and morphology as well as I could. So, what I’m up to now is trying to describe the morphosyntactic structure of the various syntactic constituents: noun phrases, verb phrases, adjective phrases etc. Since there is very little agreement morphology in Ayeri, this should be rather straightforward for the most part, except for verb phrases (I recently discovered that Dalrymple (2001) contains a whole lot more examples than Bresnan (2016), so that might come in handy). Currently, however, I’m still only concerned with NPs and DPs. What’s still making me self-conscious about all this is that I still have never really studied syntax formally, as I pointed out earlier. So, if you take a look at the grammar and see something implausible, please let me know!

    When I tried to figure out clitics in Ayeri earlier, I also came up with a lot of examples of coordination, and one thing I wondered is if the following is actually reasonable.

    An attempt to describe formally the distribution of the progressive clitic over two coordinated verbs

    What you can see here is an attempt to apply LFG to an example sentence which contains a coordinated constituent: manga sahaya rangya ‘is coming home’ is coordinated with nedraya ‘sits (down)’. The question now is, how to formally describe that manga as the (enclitic) progressive marker is to be understood as distributing over both verbs, sahaya ‘comes’ and nedraya ‘sits’? I actually looked up a few articles (Belyaev et al. 2015; Kaplan and Maxwell 1988; Maxwell and Manning 1996; Peterson 2004) and at least took a casual glance at them, but nowhere did I see any discussion of how to indicate when certain markers in the verb phrase distribute to multiple conjuncts. Instead, I could only find discussions of how to indicate the distribution of the subject to conjuncts. The distribution of the subject is also indicated in the argument-value matrix on the right in the illustration above, namely, in that the first verb’s SUBJ(ect) is connected by a line to the second verb’s empty SUBJ slot.

    The question I now have is whether connecting items this way is possible also for other features, like ASP(ect). From what little I know, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be plausible to analogize here, but I might as well be wrong. If you know, please let me know as well. What is slightly frustrating is that a lot of times, you can only easily find information on English.

    Also, I’ve been working on writing this grammar for almost a whole year now. Wow.

    • Belyaev, Oleg, et al. “Number Mismatches in Coordination: An LFG Analysis.” Proceedings of the LFG ’15 Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 18–20 Jul. 2015. Ed. by Miriam Butt and Tracy Holloway King. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 2015. 26–46. Web. 25 May 2017. ‹›.
    • Bresnan, Joan et al. Lexical-Functional Syntax. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Print. Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics 16.
    • Dalrymple, Mary. Lexical Functional Grammar. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2001. Print. Syntax and Semantics 34.
    • Kaplan, Ronald M., and John T. Maxwell, III. Constituent Coordination in Lexical-Functional Grammar. Palo Alto, CA: Xerox PARC, 1988. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. ‹›.
    • Maxwell, John T., III, and Christopher D. Manning. “A Theory of Non-constituent Coordination Based on Finite-State Rules.” Proceedings of the LFG ’96 Conference, Rank Xerox, Grenoble, France, 26–28 Aug. 1996. Ed. by Miriam Butt and Tracy Holloway King. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications, 1997. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. ‹›.
    • Peterson, Peter G. “Coordination: Consequences of a Lexial-Functional Account.” Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 22.3 (2004): 643–679. Web. 18 Apr. 2017. ‹›.

    Detail #343: Places to Put Differential Case Markings

    Thursday, June 1st, 2017
    Differential case marking is something that to me is mainly associated with:
    • subjects and objects (c.f. Turkish or Finnish objects, Turkish subjects of some infinitive verb types; also, fluid-S languages kind of qualify for this!)
    • adpositions (Latin, German, Russian, Greek, etc prepositions)
    • some kinds of secondary subjects (e.g. the agent that is caused to do something with some types of causative constructions)
    Conversely, the features I associate it with are:
    • negative vs. positive
    • aspect (telic vs. atelic, for instance)
    • direction vs. location (the adposition thing)
    • definiteness (Turkish object and (infinitive) subject marking)
    • volition (fluid-S)
    • in some Finnish causatives, "permit X to ..." vs. "have X do ...", so basically sort of volition again?
    Could we go for some different things? For contexts where differential case could make sense, how about:
    • relative pronouns
    • resumptive pronouns
    • interrogative pronouns
    • reflexive pronouns pronouns
      With relative and resumptive, we could consider for, say, subjects and objects, whether  the relative clause is restrictive or not. For interrogative pronouns, a relevant distinction could be analogous to what vs. which. For reflexives, maybe reflexive vs. reciprocal.

      An Invented Language Project for the Introductory Linguistics Classroom

      Thursday, June 1st, 2017

      Skye Anderson is a graduate student in Linguistics at the University of Arizona; her research are the phonology and morphology of Semitic languages, speech perception and corpus linguistics. She started studying Linguistics when she realized all of her invented languages had words for aardvark, but no grammar.

      Shannon Bischoff is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Linguistics at Purdue University Fort Wayne. His Ph.D. is in Formal and Anthropological Linguistics with a minor in Computational Linguistics. His research interests include English and Spanish in Puerto Rico; English as a language barrier to minority and endangered language communities; language documentation, revitalization; formal and computational approaches to language; and Indigenous languages of the Americas. He has been teaching using language invention since 2006.

      Amy Fountain is an Associate Professor, NTE, in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Her Ph.D. is in Anthropology and Linguistics. Her research interests are in language endangerment, documentation, and revitalization, and the indigenous languages of the Americas. She has been teaching freshmen about linguistics using language invention since 2006, and is always learning new things about language, and students, because of it.

      Jeffrey Punske is an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He earned his PhD in Linguistics in 2012 from the University of Arizona. His research focuses on morphosyntax. He teaches courses on invented languages, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics, phonology, among other topics. He previously taught at the University of Oklahoma and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. He is frequently bow-tied.


      This paper presents a brief description of a constructed language project developed for the introductory to linguistics/language classroom. The paper describes the project, its history of development and use, and provides links to sample syllabuses, the project outline, and student project examples. The project described has been used with thousands of students at three different universities. Developed for a large lecture-style setting with up to 500 students at a major research university enrolling over 30,000 students, the project has been taken to a smaller research university (12,000 students) and a metropolitan university (13,000 students), where it has been implemented in a variety of undergraduate courses. The project has been used as a means to introduce basic linguistic concepts to the non-major in a general education setting. In addition, it is currently being piloted in a course on typology. These applications demonstrate the versatility of the project as tool for a variety of linguistic classrooms.

      Version History

      Creative Commons License
      This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.