Archive for January, 2018

Nominalized pronominal possessives rescued

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018
In this post I made the suggestion that ka ni must mean "mine" (i.e. "my one") in the same way that ka ka kunu means "the dog's (one)." I was uncomfortable with this for reasons I still can't articulate but which remain emotionally compelling and suggested ka asi ni -- literally "my thing" -- as a possible substitute. It turns out that we actually do already have a solution that I had forgotten about by 2016 when I was typing up that entry!

First of all, I want to note that because ni is a particle, structures with it are not necessarily going to be the same as with predicates: ka ni doesn't actually have to be admissible. I think. We'll just accept this for now for the sake of argument.

Anyway, what we do in fact have that we can use instead is keme "attribute, possession," which gives us a neat keme ni for "mine." For example:

ti kunu i keme ni
this dog FIN possession 1SG
"this dog is mine"

ka keme ni i puna
DEF possession 1SG FIN red
"mine is red"

kunu keme ni
dog possession 1SG
"my dog (?)", "a dog which is mine, my property"

This does raise the question of what exactly the difference is between ka kunu ni and ka kunu keme ni, but I think I have an intuitive sense of it...in vague terms, the salience of the possession, or the relationship of possession, is being emphasized.

Similarly, though, what's the difference between ka ka kunu and ka keme ka kunu? Both seem to mean "the dog's one." Could they be entirely semantically equivalent, just different structural options that one might choose based on considerations of aesthetics or clarity?

WAIT.

I had already posted this but had to come back. I was just practicing vocabulary and came across nini, which I apparently had still never changed to nii for the reason that I never actually liked that decision, when it occurred to me: if we really did have predicate-form emphatic pronouns, which as I'm sitting here I'm beginning to feel overwhelmingly that we should, then those would be used in any structural situations in which a predicate would ordinarily be called for...like nominalized possessors. If we did this, we could have:

ka nini i puna
DEF 1SG FIN red
"mine is red"

kunu nini
dog possession 1SG
"my dog"

ti kunu i nini
this dog FIN possession 1SG
"this dog is mine"

Whoa. That last one really took me by surprise. If we did this, would that then mean the emphatic pronouns would actually sort of have possessive value? Or am I messing something up here? Let's run through this again using ka kunu instead of ni as the possessor.

ka ka kunu i puna
DEF DEF dog FIN red
"the dog's is red"

lelu ka kunu
toy DEF dog
"the dog's toy"

ti lelu i ka kunu
this toy FIN DEF dog
"this toy is the dog's"

Ah. So the issue is that, if nini just means "I," then I'm apparently allowing that one predicate to be used without particles! If we want to be consistent then we have the choice of either having nini mean "mine," or saying ka nini as the emphatic form rather than just nini: so like... Loha ka nini! "Love me!" ...i.e., "love the me one!" That is really incredibly weird and now I'm unsure again about the entire thing.

Obviously this is making a mess of my Indo-European intuition, but let's sit with it a bit longer. Maybe it's not as bizarre as it initially seemed...like, we could write it as one word, kaníni, which might help a bit. Plus I was just realizing, if we did this we could have words like ko nini that would be so wonderful for philosophical conversations, meaning something like "the quality/experience of being me."

Another option: perhaps these are predicates but with slightly different rules -- since they are pronouns, after all -- and "assume" the presence of ka unless a different particle precedes. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet.

Issue #17: I was just thinking we could also have mo nini "my way, à la me." But then, we use particles with the particulate (?!) form of pronouns all the the time, like tule me ni "come with me." Are we suggesting this should be tule me nini? Or that "my way" could equally be stated as mo ni? Why do these not seem equivalent to me?

My thoughts are thoroughly tangled up now so I'm going to just let this percolate for a while. One note in the mean time: if we do want full-form pronouns like this, maybe we could have tata mean "he/she/it (emphatic)" and let go of tata "dad" in favor of papa. I really really really really didn't want to do this in past years, but...maybe it's time.

Nominalized pronominal possessives rescued

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018
In this post I made the suggestion that ka ni must mean "mine" (i.e. "my one") in the same way that ka ka kunu means "the dog's (one)." I was uncomfortable with this for reasons I still can't articulate but which remain emotionally compelling and suggested ka asi ni -- literally "my thing" -- as a possible substitute. It turns out that we actually do already have a solution that I had forgotten about by 2016 when I was typing up that entry!

First of all, I want to note that because ni is a particle, structures with it are not necessarily going to be the same as with predicates: ka ni doesn't actually have to be admissible. I think. We'll just accept this for now for the sake of argument.

Anyway, what we do in fact have that we can use instead is keme "attribute, possession," which gives us a neat keme ni for "mine." For example:

ti kunu i keme ni
this dog FIN possession 1SG
"this dog is mine"

ka keme ni i puna
DEF possession 1SG FIN red
"mine is red"

kunu keme ni
dog possession 1SG
"my dog (?)", "a dog which is mine, my property"

This does raise the question of what exactly the difference is between ka kunu ni and ka kunu keme ni, but I think I have an intuitive sense of it...in vague terms, the salience of the possession, or the relationship of possession, is being emphasized.

Similarly, though, what's the difference between ka ka kunu and ka keme ka kunu? Both seem to mean "the dog's one." Could they be entirely semantically equivalent, just different structural options that one might choose based on considerations of aesthetics or clarity?

WAIT.

I had already posted this but had to come back. I was just practicing vocabulary and came across nini, which I apparently had still never changed to nii for the reason that I never actually liked that decision, when it occurred to me: if we really did have predicate-form emphatic pronouns, which as I'm sitting here I'm beginning to feel overwhelmingly that we should, then those would be used in any structural situations in which a predicate would ordinarily be called for...like nominalized possessors. If we did this, we could have:

ka nini i puna
DEF 1SG FIN red
"mine is red"

kunu nini
dog possession 1SG
"my dog"

ti kunu i nini
this dog FIN possession 1SG
"this dog is mine"

Whoa. That last one really took me by surprise. If we did this, would that then mean the emphatic pronouns would actually sort of have possessive value? Or am I messing something up here? Let's run through this again using ka kunu instead of ni as the possessor.

ka ka kunu i puna
DEF DEF dog FIN red
"the dog's is red"

lelu ka kunu
toy DEF dog
"the dog's toy"

ti lelu i ka kunu
this toy FIN DEF dog
"this toy is the dog's"

Ah. So the issue is that, if nini just means "I," then I'm apparently allowing that one predicate to be used without particles! If we want to be consistent then we have the choice of either having nini mean "mine," or saying ka nini as the emphatic form rather than just nini: so like... Loha ka nini! "Love me!" ...i.e., "love the me one!" That is really incredibly weird and now I'm unsure again about the entire thing.

Obviously this is making a mess of my Indo-European intuition, but let's sit with it a bit longer. Maybe it's not as bizarre as it initially seemed...like, we could write it as one word, kaníni, which might help a bit. Plus I was just realizing, if we did this we could have words like ko nini that would be so wonderful for philosophical conversations, meaning something like "the quality/experience of being me."

Another option: perhaps these are predicates but with slightly different rules -- since they are pronouns, after all -- and "assume" the presence of ka unless a different particle precedes. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet.

Issue #17: I was just thinking we could also have mo nini "my way, à la me." But then, we use particles with the particulate (?!) form of pronouns all the the time, like tule me ni "come with me." Are we suggesting this should be tule me nini? Or that "my way" could equally be stated as mo ni? Why do these not seem equivalent to me?

My thoughts are thoroughly tangled up now so I'm going to just let this percolate for a while. One note in the mean time: if we do want full-form pronouns like this, maybe we could have tata mean "he/she/it (emphatic)" and let go of tata "dad" in favor of papa. I really really really really didn't want to do this in past years, but...maybe it's time.

Reduplication types

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
I've discussed (at least) four different types of reduplication in Koa over the years, but never written them down in one place or really thoroughly explored/documented what they should mean. Here are the types I've talked about so far:

1) Whole-word reduplication, normal stress on first element

kuma > kúmakuma
loe > lóeloe
ake > ákeake

Meaning: intensifier (very hot, very cold, very sharp)
Notes: We talked about this here near the bottom, only written as two separate words without clear intentions about stress...though I have to admit that when I read Ni loha loha se aloud I stress the second. Hm.

2) Reduplication minus onset, stress on second element

kuma > kumaúma
loe > loeóe
ake > akeláke (note L-insertion)

Meaning: affective/minimizing diminutive, "ish." (warmish, chilly, ...pointy? dunno). Minaína "gal."
Questions: (1) How is loeóe different from lóeki? (2) Is this too similar to the first type given the fact that they kind of have the opposite meaning? (3) Is that L-insertion -- the only thing saving the opposite of ákeake from basically and laughably being akeáke -- too ad-hoc?

3) First syllable, stress on full word

kuma > kukúma
loe > lolóe
ake > aáke (aháke?)

Meaning: unknown

4) Reduplicate medial consonant with -a, stress on reduplicand

kuma > kumáma
loe > loáe
ake > akáke

Meaning: From here, "I was thinking this might serve to make the noun more euphemistic, more gentle, less objectionable, or something. So a pragmatic rather than semantic value."

Just for reference, here are the three sample words with each reduplication type in turn for comparison:

kúmakuma, kumaúma, kukúma, kumáma
lóeloe, loeóe, lolóe, loáe
ákeake, akeláke, aháke, akáke

This is going to require some thought, and maybe some study of what reduplication tends to be used for cross-linguistically. Just impressionistically, though:

* I don't like type 1 at all; as I alluded to before, my instinct is that these should sort of be separate words with the stress on the second one. Then, maybe weirdly, I feel like type 3 might be synonymous with type 1.

* If type 1 becomes separate words with stress on the second as I just suggested, type 2 kind of gets sabotaged. I always liked this one, though! Loeóe for "chilly" seems perfect...but on the other hand maybe lóeki really is enough here.

* Type 4 is really great for certain things (like luái) and I think it's valuable for a living language, though at the moment I'm not thinking of a lot of specific uses for it other than euphemisms. Could it also take on the meanings of type 2? I'm not sure. Thinking just of getting it on, I feel like there's an important difference between lúiki and luái!

Another thought I'm having here is that, just because a particular reduplication type technically has to be available for every word doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be equally common with every word...so for example if mina mina means "a real woman" or whatever, and minaína means "gal," that doesn't have to entail that that type-2 strategy is now going to be used ALL the time and confuse everything.

Reduplication types

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
I've discussed (at least) four different types of reduplication in Koa over the years, but never written them down in one place or really thoroughly explored/documented what they should mean. Here are the types I've talked about so far:

1) Whole-word reduplication, normal stress on first element

kuma > kúmakuma
loe > lóeloe
ake > ákeake

Meaning: intensifier (very hot, very cold, very sharp)
Notes: We talked about this here near the bottom, only written as two separate words without clear intentions about stress...though I have to admit that when I read Ni loha loha se aloud I stress the second. Hm.

2) Reduplication minus onset, stress on second element

kuma > kumaúma
loe > loeóe
ake > akeláke (note L-insertion)

Meaning: affective/minimizing diminutive, "ish." (warmish, chilly, ...pointy? dunno). Minaína "gal."
Questions: (1) How is loeóe different from lóeki? (2) Is this too similar to the first type given the fact that they kind of have the opposite meaning? (3) Is that L-insertion -- the only thing saving the opposite of ákeake from basically and laughably being akeáke -- too ad-hoc?

3) First syllable, stress on full word

kuma > kukúma
loe > lolóe
ake > aáke (aháke?)

Meaning: unknown

4) Reduplicate medial consonant with -a, stress on reduplicand

kuma > kumáma
loe > loáe
ake > akáke

Meaning: From here, "I was thinking this might serve to make the noun more euphemistic, more gentle, less objectionable, or something. So a pragmatic rather than semantic value."

Just for reference, here are the three sample words with each reduplication type in turn for comparison:

kúmakuma, kumaúma, kukúma, kumáma
lóeloe, loeóe, lolóe, loáe
ákeake, akeláke, aháke, akáke

This is going to require some thought, and maybe some study of what reduplication tends to be used for cross-linguistically. Just impressionistically, though:

* I don't like type 1 at all; as I alluded to before, my instinct is that these should sort of be separate words with the stress on the second one. Then, maybe weirdly, I feel like type 3 might be synonymous with type 1.

* If type 1 becomes separate words with stress on the second as I just suggested, type 2 kind of gets sabotaged. I always liked this one, though! Loeóe for "chilly" seems perfect...but on the other hand maybe lóeki really is enough here.

* Type 4 is really great for certain things (like luái) and I think it's valuable for a living language, though at the moment I'm not thinking of a lot of specific uses for it other than euphemisms. Could it also take on the meanings of type 2? I'm not sure. Thinking just of getting it on, I feel like there's an important difference between lúiki and luái!

Another thought I'm having here is that, just because a particular reduplication type technically has to be available for every word doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be equally common with every word...so for example if mina mina means "a real woman" or whatever, and minaína means "gal," that doesn't have to entail that that type-2 strategy is now going to be used ALL the time and confuse everything.

Detail #369: An Unusual Type of Word

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018
A word class that is fairly common in European languages, and undoubtedly elsewhere as well, is the conjunction. Here, of course, a small warning is justified: 'and' as a word is less common cross-linguistically than you'd think.

Let's consider a language with rather little in ways of nominal marking: no case, or potentially very ambiguous case.

An example of the latter could be a language with GenN and SO order, where the possessum is marked by the same case as the object. Coordination ('and') would basically be dealt with by parataxis: "this that" → this and that.

Now, sometimes you may have things that are lined up in a way that looks very much like they belong to a GenN or an SO line-up, and one or the other might seem more like the 'reasonable' interpretation. In this case, a 'disjunction' could be introduced to mark that the two are not part of the same NP, or in the case of two nouns of the same marking next to each other, the disjunction could mark that they do not form a coordinated structure - an example for this would be a possessed noun and an object. 

This might well be called a 'conjunction', but somehow it seems to behave syntactically in a way quite dissimilar from a conjunction.

I bet something along these lines does exist in some languages, and I would be happy to see comments if anyone knows of it!

Detail #369: An Unusual Type of Word

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018
A word class that is fairly common in European languages, and undoubtedly elsewhere as well, is the conjunction. Here, of course, a small warning is justified: 'and' as a word is less common cross-linguistically than you'd think.

Let's consider a language with rather little in ways of nominal marking: no case, or potentially very ambiguous case.

An example of the latter could be a language with GenN and SO order, where the possessum is marked by the same case as the object. Coordination ('and') would basically be dealt with by parataxis: "this that" → this and that.

Now, sometimes you may have things that are lined up in a way that looks very much like they belong to a GenN or an SO line-up, and one or the other might seem more like the 'reasonable' interpretation. In this case, a 'disjunction' could be introduced to mark that the two are not part of the same NP, or in the case of two nouns of the same marking next to each other, the disjunction could mark that they do not form a coordinated structure - an example for this would be a possessed noun and an object. 

This might well be called a 'conjunction', but somehow it seems to behave syntactically in a way quite dissimilar from a conjunction.

I bet something along these lines does exist in some languages, and I would be happy to see comments if anyone knows of it!

Detail #368: A Verb-like ‘Than’

Saturday, January 13th, 2018
Obviously, one can have a verb that compares things with things. This is the basic notion behind exceed-comparatives and the like, but also verbs like Swedish 'likna' ('to be similar to'). One could also do a simple thing like incorporate verb morphology like tenses and person marking onto a particle, so that 'than him' comes out as a third person verb, "thans". In a language with a more full person morphology, this obviously permits some succinctness, and one could of course also have tense morphology agreeing with the main verb - or even disagreeing to convey ideas like
she is faster than I was
she is fast(er) (and?/but?/that?) than-past-1sg
However, stopping there seems a tad underwhelming. Why not go and do things with voice.
she teaches good/better than-past-pass-1sg
she teaches better than I was taught
Now we can also consider making adverbial participles out of this:
he operates heavier machinery than-1sg-active-ptcpl-advbl
he operates heavier machinery than I
In this case, the point would be to de-emphasize the role of the comparison. Finite 'than' would make the comparison central to the utterance, infinite 'than' would make it peripheral. Maybe peripheral comparison should not (mandatorily?) trigger comparative marking on the adjective.

A thing like this could also permit for a nice way to group together things that are being compared, especially if the verbs of the language have a very rich congruence morphology.

Another turn could be letting this verb take a finite clause as its complement, so a bit analogous to verbs like 'say [that]', this could form a structure along the line of 'than [that]'.

Some less well-baked ideas on top of this then: in an ergative language with this construction, one could permit for intransitive verbal comparison to use either ergative or absolutive nouns for the subject of this particular verb in order to differentiate something, maybe degree of difference or such - absolutive possibly indicating that the subject is considerably less X than the standard of comparison.

Detail #368: A Verb-like ‘Than’

Saturday, January 13th, 2018
Obviously, one can have a verb that compares things with things. This is the basic notion behind exceed-comparatives and the like, but also verbs like Swedish 'likna' ('to be similar to'). One could also do a simple thing like incorporate verb morphology like tenses and person marking onto a particle, so that 'than him' comes out as a third person verb, "thans". In a language with a more full person morphology, this obviously permits some succinctness, and one could of course also have tense morphology agreeing with the main verb - or even disagreeing to convey ideas like
she is faster than I was
she is fast(er) (and?/but?/that?) than-past-1sg
However, stopping there seems a tad underwhelming. Why not go and do things with voice.
she teaches good/better than-past-pass-1sg
she teaches better than I was taught
Now we can also consider making adverbial participles out of this:
he operates heavier machinery than-1sg-active-ptcpl-advbl
he operates heavier machinery than I
In this case, the point would be to de-emphasize the role of the comparison. Finite 'than' would make the comparison central to the utterance, infinite 'than' would make it peripheral. Maybe peripheral comparison should not (mandatorily?) trigger comparative marking on the adjective.

A thing like this could also permit for a nice way to group together things that are being compared, especially if the verbs of the language have a very rich congruence morphology.

Another turn could be letting this verb take a finite clause as its complement, so a bit analogous to verbs like 'say [that]', this could form a structure along the line of 'than [that]'.

Some less well-baked ideas on top of this then: in an ergative language with this construction, one could permit for intransitive verbal comparison to use either ergative or absolutive nouns for the subject of this particular verb in order to differentiate something, maybe degree of difference or such - absolutive possibly indicating that the subject is considerably less X than the standard of comparison.

Conlangery SHORTS #27: #Lexember 2017 Wrap-up

Saturday, January 13th, 2018
George discusses last year’s Lexember and some of the things that came out of that. Also, help us correct our transcripts on the Conlang Sources Wiki. What we reblogged on Tumblr. The Conlangery Twitter account. (Sorry, twitter search is bad, so I can’t  conveniently direct you just to Lexember retweets.)

Detail #367: Neutral Participles

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018
Consider participles that are not marked for voice at all. (Note: the English past vs. present participles are rather passive vs. present, although the way English participles work is a bit more complicated than that.) Now, such participles could behave in different ways depending on how we want to structure the language - animacy hierarchies, for one, could be a very natural approach to how to parse them.

However, let's go for something less obvious, but still pretty obvious: let's have the case role of the NP with regards to a finite VP also double as its role for the participle:
the man sold the castrate-PTCPL horse:
horse is the object of sold, so it's also the object of castrate, thus:
the man sold the castrated horse

the travel-PTCPL man made a bid:
man is the subject of offer, and therefore also of travel, thus:
the travelling man made a bid
What can we do with this? One obvious potential restriction could be one of only permitting this to work for arguments – non-argument adverbials and such seem less likely to have their 'role' passed on to a participle. 

A second thing we could do is make the role that is passed on to the participle be less carefully differentiated - maybe not distinguishing objects from indirect objects or somesuch.

Here, a light ergativity could be introduced: intransitive participles could be accepted as 'active' participles for objects of transitive verbs.

To make the system more flexible, one could use resumptive pronouns in the desired case, which could lead to a neat way of turning case markers into voice markers.

I had an idea on ergativity and participles, that I have since forgotten. I am hopeful that I might be able to reconstruct it fully and post it soon enough.