Archive for November, 2018

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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