Archive for November, 2018

Detail #387: A Separate ‘Possessive-Like’ Case

Sunday, November 25th, 2018
Let us consider something that is a special case of the genitive, only distinguished for a limited set of lexemes - maybe pronouns, maybe proper nouns, maybe family terms, etc.

I would call this the "Group-inclusion genitive", and it would be parsed as marking that the possessor is a member of the group (or possibly also vice versa, but the opposite direction of inclusion does not interest me for the topic of this particular post.)

I shall use .GiG as an abbreviation for this case.
my.GiG family → my family / the family I am in
your.GiG village → your village / the village you live in
Now, let's consider a further extension of this: we could maybe combine this with the first person plural pronoun as follows:
my.GiG us → exclusive 1pl
your.GiG us → inclusive 1pl
 alternatively
? our.GiG us → inclusive 1pl
It is my firm bet that blogger's html engine will make the examples above collapse into fewer lines than they should cover despite there being explicit html line breaks in the html source for this post. Here's to hoping against hope that it doesn't.

Of course, such a use of possessive pronouns and personal pronouns could work out even without a particular 'group inclusion genitive' existing, but here, one idea just inspired another.

This could also serve to reduce the need to distinguish, say, colleagues from employees: my.GiG workers = (me and) my colleagues, my workers = my employees.

An interesting thing could be not having the .GiG imply that the group membership extends to the particular statement, e.g. "my.GiG workers are kind" would not necessarily mean that I too am, just that the other members of the group to which I belong are. This could of course maybe be distinguished by means of congruence? If the first person is included, first person congruence is required, if the first person is excluded from the statement, second or third person congruence is required. (And then of course, this distinction will fail whenever in a position where no congruence is available on the verb, so maybe this would just be, say, distinguished for subjects and objects.)

Detail #387: A Separate ‘Possessive-Like’ Case

Sunday, November 25th, 2018
Let us consider something that is a special case of the genitive, only distinguished for a limited set of lexemes - maybe pronouns, maybe proper nouns, maybe family terms, etc.

I would call this the "Group-inclusion genitive", and it would be parsed as marking that the possessor is a member of the group (or possibly also vice versa, but the opposite direction of inclusion does not interest me for the topic of this particular post.)

I shall use .GiG as an abbreviation for this case.
my.GiG family → my family / the family I am in
your.GiG village → your village / the village you live in
Now, let's consider a further extension of this: we could maybe combine this with the first person plural pronoun as follows:
my.GiG us → exclusive 1pl
your.GiG us → inclusive 1pl
 alternatively
? our.GiG us → inclusive 1pl
It is my firm bet that blogger's html engine will make the examples above collapse into fewer lines than they should cover despite there being explicit html line breaks in the html source for this post. Here's to hoping against hope that it doesn't.

Of course, such a use of possessive pronouns and personal pronouns could work out even without a particular 'group inclusion genitive' existing, but here, one idea just inspired another.

This could also serve to reduce the need to distinguish, say, colleagues from employees: my.GiG workers = (me and) my colleagues, my workers = my employees.

An interesting thing could be not having the .GiG imply that the group membership extends to the particular statement, e.g. "my.GiG workers are kind" would not necessarily mean that I too am, just that the other members of the group to which I belong are. This could of course maybe be distinguished by means of congruence? If the first person is included, first person congruence is required, if the first person is excluded from the statement, second or third person congruence is required. (And then of course, this distinction will fail whenever in a position where no congruence is available on the verb, so maybe this would just be, say, distinguished for subjects and objects.)

Detail #386: Limitations on Volition Marking

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018
Let's consider a weird situation whereby for some reason, theory of mind is, through evolution - both cultural and biological - altered rather fundamentally, and volition marking becomes exclusively used in three contexts:
  1. First person
  2. Second person interrogatives
  3. Reported speech
How this situation would come about is beyond me, but who knows, maybe at a certain stage technological could enable this, and some weird group might pursue some weird ideological or sociological goals and achieve them, and after ages of isolation - with certain technological solutions being ubiquitously  present throughout the society - the brain and language both have reached a point where this is a stable setup.

Let's consider what kinds of verbs this might conflate:
dive vs. be submerged
bathe vs. be wet
fall asleep vs. faint
etc
Now, this isn't as much a strictly grammatical idea, but I've never said this blog is only about grammar (though the reader would be forgiven for thinking so). This idea is more about the structure of the vocabulary. It's about structuring the vocabulary in such a way that words whose main semantic difference is one of volition, and only distinguishing this meaning by any marking  in a limited set of contexts. However, this also permits - nay, even demands - marking the distinction in contexts where we wouldn't. Verbs like
think
say
eat
wake up
read
etc.

Detail #386: Limitations on Volition Marking

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018
Let's consider a weird situation whereby for some reason, theory of mind is, through evolution - both cultural and biological - altered rather fundamentally, and volition marking becomes exclusively used in three contexts:
  1. First person
  2. Second person interrogatives
  3. Reported speech
How this situation would come about is beyond me, but who knows, maybe at a certain stage technological could enable this, and some weird group might pursue some weird ideological or sociological goals and achieve them, and after ages of isolation - with certain technological solutions being ubiquitously  present throughout the society - the brain and language both have reached a point where this is a stable setup.

Let's consider what kinds of verbs this might conflate:
dive vs. be submerged
bathe vs. be wet
fall asleep vs. faint
etc
Now, this isn't as much a strictly grammatical idea, but I've never said this blog is only about grammar (though the reader would be forgiven for thinking so). This idea is more about the structure of the vocabulary. It's about structuring the vocabulary in such a way that words whose main semantic difference is one of volition, and only distinguishing this meaning by any marking  in a limited set of contexts. However, this also permits - nay, even demands - marking the distinction in contexts where we wouldn't. Verbs like
think
say
eat
wake up
read
etc.

Ćwarmin: Sometimes Mandatorily Passive Verbs

Saturday, November 10th, 2018
Ćwarmin has a set of verbs which require passive forms whenever some requirements for the subject is violated. These requirements come in three main types, two of which relate to the animacy hierarchy. This requirement seems to be related to the inverse alignment of Ŋʒädär, but not an inherited cognate - rather, it may be due to convergence with Ŋʒädär.

1. Absolute Animacy Hierarchy Restrictions

The verb 'kill' only permits animate subjects, but can take non-animate agents, and thus has an absolute restriction on the hierarchy restriction - basically, there is a line drawn across the hierarchy which limits it. With inanimate agents, the passive is required, and the agent is in the general ablative case.

A typical example of this would be the verb 'kill', which cannot take a proper inanimate subject, so e.g.
*ilmis arbaŋ-utus kerb-i-ś
*winter killed the herd

arbaŋ ilm-erəś kerb-eśp
the herd was killed by the winter

*nəlve iś kerb-i-ś
an arrow killed him

i nəlv-erəś kerb-eśp
(s)he was killed by an arrow
Another would be 'utter/express/signal/...', which basically is the same verb as 'exhale', hifnəs.
*ədnist marćost-uc hifn-i-ś
silence expresses agreement

marćost ədnist-erəś hifn-e-kn-eśp
agreement is expressed through silence (note: -e-kn- is really the applicative morpheme -ken-, and the reason the applicative is used here has to do with the argument structure of hifn-, which really means something like 'breathe'; consider the -ken- similar to a prefixed preposition or adverb, only, it does not appear in the active forms of the verb all that often).
All  of these need to be rendered in the passive (or applicative) to be grammatical in Ćwarmin.

2. Relative Animacy Hierarchy Restrictions

With many verbs, a less animate noun cannot be subject with a verb whose object is more animate. These include any verb indicating fights (ampac, nenŋel, ćasćar - all signifying fighting), causing movement sideways or upwards (hegec - push, hegtəm - pull, salkum - lift, raise, kunkun - to shake to-and-fro, vabžum - pull in by rope, liŋbəl - to move a significant distance by pulling, žal - to carry),...

The main difference here from the previous class is that low-ranked nouns can be subjects, provided the object has lower or equal rank. Thus,
ćiriŋ kosdan-uc salkum-i-ś
the tripod lifts the tent fabric

onkup estnet-uc hegədm-i-ś
the weight pulls the rope
are permitted, but not
*onkup vond-uc hegədm-i-ś
the weight pulls the horse
which would require
vond onkup-araś hegt-eśp

3. Lexically Specified

This is an odd, but limited bunch.

mamnan -  to put a child to sleep
Only the mother of the child can be the proper subject, any other agent must be oblique.
ŋačćur  - to wear a piece of clothing
The restriction here is related to tense rather than to subject or object - non-present and non-imperative must be passive.

biəkin - to endure
Passive whenever the object is not indefinite.
luzǯar -  to praise
passive whenever the object is inanimate.

Ćwarmin: Sometimes Mandatorily Passive Verbs

Saturday, November 10th, 2018
Ćwarmin has a set of verbs which require passive forms whenever some requirements for the subject is violated. These requirements come in three main types, two of which relate to the animacy hierarchy. This requirement seems to be related to the inverse alignment of Ŋʒädär, but not an inherited cognate - rather, it may be due to convergence with Ŋʒädär.

1. Absolute Animacy Hierarchy Restrictions

The verb 'kill' only permits animate subjects, but can take non-animate agents, and thus has an absolute restriction on the hierarchy restriction - basically, there is a line drawn across the hierarchy which limits it. With inanimate agents, the passive is required, and the agent is in the general ablative case.

A typical example of this would be the verb 'kill', which cannot take a proper inanimate subject, so e.g.
*ilmis arbaŋ-utus kerb-i-ś
*winter killed the herd

arbaŋ ilm-erəś kerb-eśp
the herd was killed by the winter

*nəlve iś kerb-i-ś
an arrow killed him

i nəlv-erəś kerb-eśp
(s)he was killed by an arrow
Another would be 'utter/express/signal/...', which basically is the same verb as 'exhale', hifnəs.
*ədnist marćost-uc hifn-i-ś
silence expresses agreement

marćost ədnist-erəś hifn-e-kn-eśp
agreement is expressed through silence (note: -e-kn- is really the applicative morpheme -ken-, and the reason the applicative is used here has to do with the argument structure of hifn-, which really means something like 'breathe'; consider the -ken- similar to a prefixed preposition or adverb, only, it does not appear in the active forms of the verb all that often).
All  of these need to be rendered in the passive (or applicative) to be grammatical in Ćwarmin.

2. Relative Animacy Hierarchy Restrictions

With many verbs, a less animate noun cannot be subject with a verb whose object is more animate. These include any verb indicating fights (ampac, nenŋel, ćasćar - all signifying fighting), causing movement sideways or upwards (hegec - push, hegtəm - pull, salkum - lift, raise, kunkun - to shake to-and-fro, vabžum - pull in by rope, liŋbəl - to move a significant distance by pulling, žal - to carry),...

The main difference here from the previous class is that low-ranked nouns can be subjects, provided the object has lower or equal rank. Thus,
ćiriŋ kosdan-uc salkum-i-ś
the tripod lifts the tent fabric

onkup estnet-uc hegədm-i-ś
the weight pulls the rope
are permitted, but not
*onkup vond-uc hegədm-i-ś
the weight pulls the horse
which would require
vond onkup-araś hegt-eśp

3. Lexically Specified

This is an odd, but limited bunch.

mamnan -  to put a child to sleep
Only the mother of the child can be the proper subject, any other agent must be oblique.
ŋačćur  - to wear a piece of clothing
The restriction here is related to tense rather than to subject or object - non-present and non-imperative must be passive.

biəkin - to endure
Passive whenever the object is not indefinite.
luzǯar -  to praise
passive whenever the object is inanimate.

Detail #385: Lexically Determined Chirality of Locations

Sunday, November 4th, 2018
Chirality refers to 'handedness'. Normally, left and right are relative terms, but we find, even in English, a pair of terms that in some way are defined as a variation of "left" and "right", but in some sense these are determined by reference to a type of location.

This type of location is 'a boat', and the terms, of course, are port and starbord. Several other languages have a similar pair, e.g. Swedish babord and styrbord. These are helpful because on a ship, you may need unambiguous terms referring to directions with regards neither to the current orientation of the speaker, or the listener, or to the cardinal directions.

Now, what if in some types of locations, a culture had a fixed left and right, with regards to some specific type of geographical feature, and the terms for left and right in those contexts, if not further specified (e.g. by possessive pronouns) are taken to be in relation to the geographical feature.

An example would be valleys - a valley might have its left be the left side as seen when looking downstream a river in the valley. If the valley lacks a river, some other means would be necessary.

Detail #385: Lexically Determined Chirality of Locations

Sunday, November 4th, 2018
Chirality refers to 'handedness'. Normally, left and right are relative terms, but we find, even in English, a pair of terms that in some way are defined as a variation of "left" and "right", but in some sense these are determined by reference to a type of location.

This type of location is 'a boat', and the terms, of course, are port and starbord. Several other languages have a similar pair, e.g. Swedish babord and styrbord. These are helpful because on a ship, you may need unambiguous terms referring to directions with regards neither to the current orientation of the speaker, or the listener, or to the cardinal directions.

Now, what if in some types of locations, a culture had a fixed left and right, with regards to some specific type of geographical feature, and the terms for left and right in those contexts, if not further specified (e.g. by possessive pronouns) are taken to be in relation to the geographical feature.

An example would be valleys - a valley might have its left be the left side as seen when looking downstream a river in the valley. If the valley lacks a river, some other means would be necessary.

Designing an Artificial Language: Phonology

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Rick Morneau is a long time language creator who lives in rural Idaho. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of essays on language design that proved to be quite influential in the early language creation community. Their quality has endured since their original publication, and continue to be read and enjoyed by language creators the world over.

Abstract

This essay discusses how to select the phonemes of a language based on what the language is intended to accomplish, and on how much pronunciation difficulty is acceptable.

Version History

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