Archive for April, 2019

Talking Rock in Kenda Soro 2

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Continuing from previously, the next two sentences in Soronen Kidi.

Likasaya soronen ŋeŋihe kidilo, sadu sorove, “U! Soronen kidi diŋi?”

Likasaya
li=kasa=ya
1SG=hand=CAUS
soronen
soro=nen
word=COM
ŋeŋihe
ŋe=ŋi=hi
SGan=MOVE=POT
kidilo
kidi=lo
rock=UP
sadu
sa=du
3SGra=GOAL
sorove
soro=vi
word=OUT
u!
u!
hey!
soronen
soro=nen
word=COM
kidi
kidi
rock
diŋi
di=ŋi
2SG=MOVE
I with my hand picked up the rock that could talk, and said to it, “Hey, are you a talking rock?”

The first clause in the second sentence starts out with another example of body part metonomy and with =ya, which only ever attaches to a rational agent. The subject of the first clause is our rock, modified by a relative clause. This is the same relative clause as in the first sentence. It is still potentially a talking rock. It’s identity has not yet been confirmed.

The second clause is an example of speech, using the verb most often used with speech, namely =vi OUT. This is because speech is considered to be sound, and sound is generally emitted by something. The emitter, when indicated, is marked by =ya, because speech is a characteristic of rational animates. The audience is marked with =du, for a goal or not yet attained destination. One doesn’t assume that one’s words have reached a destination.

The third clause is the direct speech. Direct speech is indicated with intonation and a juxtaposition of clauses. The speech starts with the attention-getting interjection u! and continues with a question of identity. Here we lose the relative clause and ask directly if the rock is word-having.

Kideya evi, “La! Soronen kidi liŋi!”

kideya
kidi=ya
rock=CAUS
evi
e=vi
3PLin=OUT
la!
la!
yes!
soronen
soro=nen
word=COM
kidi
kidi
rock
liŋi
li=ŋi
1SG=MOVE
The rock said, “Yes! I am a talking rock!”

And the rock says yes! Identity confirmed. The inanimate plural pronoun refers to speech in general.

Detail #394: A Type of Discongruent Adjectives

Monday, April 22nd, 2019
I might have had this idea before?

Some adjectives have congruence with a perceiver rather than with the NP it describes. These adjectives convey the mental effect the quality of the NP has on the perceiver.

Thus

beautiful*-masc.def woman
a woman who a particular man finds beautiful

deep-masc.indef river.def
a river that is deep to a man

Now, we could maybe introduce a way of deriving these, so e.g. "tired" could mean both 'tired' and 'tiring (for X)', maybe simply by double marking?

Detail #394: A Type of Discongruent Adjectives

Monday, April 22nd, 2019
I might have had this idea before?

Some adjectives have congruence with a perceiver rather than with the NP it describes. These adjectives convey the mental effect the quality of the NP has on the perceiver.

Thus

beautiful*-masc.def woman
a woman who a particular man finds beautiful

deep-masc.indef river.def
a river that is deep to a man

Now, we could maybe introduce a way of deriving these, so e.g. "tired" could mean both 'tired' and 'tiring (for X)', maybe simply by double marking?

Talking Rock in Kenda Soro

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Soronen Kidi

Here is the full text of the Talking Rock story, plus an interlinear of the first sentence and an explanation of all that is going on. More sentences will appear in upcoming posts.

Text and Translation

Tili lonos kini ŋamaza lireye, soronen ŋeŋihe kides libana ikanda liye irato baŋibaŋi. Likasaya soronen ŋeŋihe kidilo, sadu sorove, “U! Soronen kidi diŋi?” Kideya evi, “La! Soronen kidi liŋi!” Kidido keŋive, “Zodu diya lidu libanaraza seŋipe?” Kideya rusuve, “Ŋeya piŋividu soronen kidi liŋi.” Liya kidenda soronda likehes piŋiranda ebeves sama dimidimi ira. Zovalas lirunos kidi venala sapeye.

Yesterday, I was going along the shoulder of the land, when I had to stop from coming into contact with my foot against a rock that could talk. I with my hand picked up the rock that could talk, and said to it, “Hey, are you a talking rock?” The rock said, “Yes! I am a talking rock!” I asked the rock, “Why did you fail to warn me about my foot’s going?” The rock replied, “I am a talking rock who causes pain.” Because the rock’s words put pain in my belly, I threw it into the sea. I never saw the rock at any time again.

Interlinear and Explanation

Tili lonos kini ŋamaza lireye, soronen ŋeŋihe kides libana ikanda liye irato baŋibaŋi.

tili
tili
past
lonos
lono=s
day=LOC
kini
kini
land
ŋamaza
ŋama=za
shoulder=PATH
lireye
li=ra=yi
1SG=GO=CONT
soronen
soro=nen
word=COM
ŋeŋihe
ŋe=ŋi=hi
SGan=MOVE=POT
kides
kidi=s
rock=LOC
libana
li=bana
1SG=foot
ikanda
i=ka=nda
3SGan=TOUCH=SRC
liye
liye
1SG
irato
i=ra=to
3SGan=GO=STOP
baŋibaŋi
baŋibaŋi
unexpectedly
Yesterday, I was going along the shoulder of the land, when I had to stop from coming into contact with my foot against a rock that could talk.

Taken in order, the first clause starts with a time period marked with locative =s. The locative is used for attained destinations, locations, and time periods.

The next phrase in the clause uses =za to mark an area, the land’s shoulder, a whole::part noun phrase showing an inalienable possession construct. This is the standard construction for inalienable possession: the whole followed by the possessed part. Inalienable possession is only used for parts of wholes and metaphorical parts of wholes and not for kinship. The shoulder of the land would be the part of the land that gently slopes into not-land, i.e. sea, so the beach.

The final phrase is the subject pronoun, the verbal motion partical, and an aspectual continuative particle all glommed together to make one phonological word showing vowel decay li=ra=yi -> lireye. The continuative is used here to set the scene for the next clause.

The second clause starts with a locative phrase modified by a relative clause. This is the most common type of relative clause, one where the modified noun is the subject of the relative clause. The otherwise inanimate rock uses the animate relative pronoun because of the potentiality (marked on the verb with =hi) of talking. Talking makes a thing a rational animate. Talking here is indicated with soro=nen, word=COM or ‘word-having’. This is a use of =nen for turning a noun into an adjective indicating an attribute. Note the vowel decay.

The next part of the second clause is an embedded clause marked with =nda. The primary use of this particle is to mark a point of origin. The use in this case is to mark a cause or reason, an origin of the action in the main clause. The embedded clause libana ika is using body part metonomy, where a possessed body part stands in for the rational animate possessor. This causes the body part to act like a rational animate, taking rational animate agreement. But, the subject on the verb is the third person animate used for non-volitional action. So the embedded clause is conveying that the reason for the main clause is the non-volitional contact of my foot on a location: the rock that can potentially talk.

The main part of the second clause is the first person singular subject repeated as a third person animate subject, conveying additional non-volitionality. This is attached to the verb ra GO and the aspectual particle =to for stopping. The clause ends with the conjunction baŋibaŋi conveying an unexpected situation.

Kenda Soro Phonology

Saturday, April 20th, 2019

Phonology

labial dental alveolar palatal velar
nasal stops m n ŋ
oral stops, voiceless p t k
oral stops, voiced b d g
fricatives, voiceless s h
fricatives, voiced v z
rhotics r
laterals l
glides y

All of the consonants can occur initially and medially. Only /n/ and /s/ can occur finally. Consonant clusters allowed medially are /mb/, /nd/, and /ŋg/.

There are five vowels: /ieaou/.

Syllables are generally (C)V, with occasional CVC if the final C is /n/ or /s/. (C)VCCV is allowed with the medial CC being either /mb/, /nd/, or /ŋg/.

Stress is on the first syllable and then every other syllable. It is never on the final syllable. Thus words with an odd number of syllables end in two unstressed syllables. Vowels will change in this environment.

Phonological words have a minimum of two syllables.

Consonant Dissimilation

Some words are partial reduplications of other words. The initial syllable only is reduplicated. If the word begins with a vowel, the first vowel and consonant pair is reduplicated. This triggers consonant dissimilation. If the first consonant of the word is voiceless, then the second voiceless stop or fricative /ptsk/ become the voiced equivalent /bdzg/. Voiceless /h/ does not dissimilate. If the first consonant is already voiced then /bdzg/ become /vrsh/. So, /s/ becomes /z/, and /z/ becomes /s/. Likewise, /l/ becomes /y/ and /y/ becomes /l/. Furthermore, /d/ becomes /r/ and /r/ becomes /d/ with the further development of metathesis so that a word with the pattern rVdVX becomes dVrVX. This metathesis only occurs with /r/ -> /d/. The nasals /m/ and /ŋ/ both dissimilate to /n/. /n/ does not dissimilate.

Some examples:

  • Adjective basa ‘bad’ -> Noun bavasa ‘badness’
  • Adjective poto ‘sick’ -> Noun poboto ‘sickness’
  • Noun runu ‘eye’ -> Dual noun duruno ‘pair of eyes’
  • Noun tutu ‘lesson’ -> Noun tuduto ‘learning’
  • Noun uri ‘wind’ -> Noun udure ‘air’
  • Adjective zeye ‘dark’ -> Noun zeseye ‘darkness’

Vowel Decay

Unstressed vowels are subject to vowel decay. This primarily affects the high vowels /i/ and /u/. /iu/ will lower to /eo/ before a consonant cluster and before a final /s/. They will also decay if they are the final vowel in the two unstressed syllable sequence that occurs at the end of words of three or some other odd number of syllables. Hence duruno above rather than the expected durunu. And tuduto and udure. This decay does not happen if the word is augmented by a particle in some way so that the affected syllable is no longer unstressed or no longer the second unstressed vowel. So sama yanu duruno ‘his wide eyes’, but sadurunu ‘his eyes’.

A second type of vowel decay affecting /i/, /u/, and /a/ happens only when the vowels are in a sequence of unstressed syllables. XCiCa becomes XCeCa and XCuCa becomes XCoCa. Furthermore XCaCi becomes XCeCe and XCaCu becomes XCoCo.

Introducing Kenda Soro

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

So the new language continues to evolve, and right now it is in a good place. It’s current name is Kenda Soro. First a short grammar sketch. In a few days I’ll post something on the phonology. Grammar is more important!

Kenda Soro rhymes with this, my favorite from Ali Farka Touré.

Short Grammar Sketch

The central idea in the grammar is motion. Clauses are built around a noun in motion (the subject) and everything else is marked in relation to the subject.

Word order is verb final. The primary predicates of the language are all single-syllable particles, so they attach themselves to the end of the subject. All the predicates are intransitive, so other arguments in the clause are all oblique by definition.

Particles

Particles are grammatical words that do not follow the phonological rules. They are single-syllable, and so have to glom onto another word. The primary predicates of this language are all particles. Aside from the single syllable pronominal particles, all other particles act as suffixes and attach to the end of the preceding word. Pronominal particles act as prefixes. A predicate can consist of a pronominal prefix and a verbal suffix with no added material in between.

Motion Particles

There are twelve particles that attach to the end of the noun phrase in motion to convey the type of motion and type of noun. These are: ŋi MOVE, se STAY, ra GO, no COME, lo UP, ta DOWN, me INTO, vi OUT, ka TOUCH, ki BY, pe FAIL, and vu NOT.

MOVE or ŋi marks motion in place, or internal motion (moving one’s limbs, breathing, etc.). It is also used to mark identity, attribution, and location of an animate nouns.

STAY or se marks non-motion, remaining in place. It is used to mark identity, attribution, and location of inanimate nouns.

GO or ra marks motion along a path or in a single direction, to or from a location. Motion is away from the speaker or the deictic center of the clause. The deictic center is the argument with the highest animacy.

COME or no is the equivalent of GO, but the motion is towards from the speaker or the deictic center of the clause. The deictic center is the argument with the highest animacy. COME is often used to express the metaphorical motion of an object to one’s eye or a sound to one’s ear.

UP or lo and DOWN of ta are also equivalents of GO, with the deictic center being the ground. In addition, UP and DOWN also can convey MORE or LESS of an attribute. or the increase or decrease in a non-physical noun (like darkness).

INTO or me marks inward motion, usually by light, sound, air, water, fire, or some sort of mass substance. It is also used for things that are being created.

OUT or vi marks outwards motion, usually by light, sound, air, water, fire, or some sort of mass substance.

TOUCH or ka marks motion with impact or touching. When used with =za it can convey physical possession.

BY or ki marks motion passing by a location or leaving behind a location. This can also negate the possession use of ka.

FAIL or pe marks a failure to move in a direction or to achieve a destination. This negates most of the other motion particles, at least in some contexts.

NOT or vu negates se.

Motion particles can be inflected for aspect: –na for the starting of motion, –to for the stopping of motion, and –yi for continued motion. Continued motion is used to set a scene of background motion and to express continuation of a situation despite an effort to change the situation.

Motion particles can also then have two optional future particles added: hi for potential future and zi certain or intended future.

Other Particles

Other particles mark the other noun phrases in the clause. These can mark a motion phrase once the motion phrase has been nominalized.

s marks location at, on, in, onto, into. It implies that the motion is complete, that is that the subject has finished moving and arrived at a destination marked by s.

za marks a path along which a subject is moving. It is also used to mark any position that involves elongation, such as fingers around a grasped object, and thus marks objects held or grasped, and the subject of speech (about).

du marks a destination that has not been reached, and so conveys motion towards a goal, a direction, the end of a sequence, a purpose or intention, a result, and an audience for speech.

nda marks location form, a source of motion, a beginning of a sequence, the source or substance something is made from, the stimulus of mental activity, a standard of comparison, or the whole that something is part of.

ya marks a rational animate cause of motion, and can be considered an animate, volitional version of nda.

nen is a very general comitative, also used as an instrumental.

Nouns

Since motion is the central idea of the grammar, nouns are divided into groups based on ability to move (animacy) and volition.

  • Things that move of their own volition..
  • Things that move, but without perceived volition.
  • Things that only move when made to do so by an outside entity or force

Group A includes people and deities. These are the rational animates. Group B includes animals, and certain celestial phenomena. B also includes the wind, flowing water, wildfires, sound, and light. These are all animate, though not rational. And C includes still air, still water, campfires, earth, most landscape items, plants, body parts, objects, and everything else. These are the inanimates.

Since nouns are not marked in any way, membership in the various classes is determined by pronoun usage and which motion particles are used to denote an attribute of the noun, and which source particles can be used.

Rational Animate Animate Inanimate
Pronoun sa= i= ha=
Relative Pronoun ŋe= ŋe= zo=
Motion Particle =ŋi =ŋi =se
Source or Cause =ya =nda =nda

Pronouns

First, a quick list:

Singular Plural Extended Singular Extended Plural
1 (first person singular and exclusive plural) li= ke= liye keye
1+2 (1+2 dual and first person inclusive plural) ŋi= mi= ŋiye miye
2 (second person) di= ŋa= diri ŋari
3 rational animate, volitional sa= na= sama nama
3 other animate, 123 non-volitional i= ya= imba yama
3 inanimate ha= e= hada yeda
relative clause common argument animate ŋe= ma= ŋeda mana
relative clause common argument inanimate zo= za= zoda zaya

Number is obligatory only in pronouns and rational animate nouns. All other nouns are neutral in regards to number and can be read as either singular or plural. That said, nouns that appear to be partially or fully reduplicated will take plural pronoun agreement. Number can also be specified by adding a quantifier to the noun phrase.

Singular refers to a single entity, and plural to more than one entity. The exception is the dual pronoun ŋiye, which acts like a singular even though it refers to two.

First and second person are straightforward. Third person is broken up into three classes: rational animates, other animates, and inanimates. Rational animate nouns have plural marking, and so trigger use of the plural pronouns. Other animate nouns do not, so which pronoun to use depends on the context. With inanimate nouns, again, which pronoun to use depends on context. But, some inanimate nouns are or appear to be partially or fully reduplicated. These always use plural pronouns, even when the subject seems to be singular.

Rational animate nouns will sometimes use the animate rather than the rational animate pronouns. This signals non-volitionality. It is used in imperatives as well.

Adjectives and Quantifiers

Adjectives precede the noun they modify. Basic, non-derived adjectives can be partially reduplicated to indicate intensity or continuation of a process. A noun phrase can consist solely of an adjective.

Quantifiers act like adjectives in that they precede the noun. Quantifiers convey number, but are not used for counting! Some quantifiers also modify adjectives.

Adverbs, Conjunctions, and Interjections

Adverbs go between the subject and the motion particle, triggering a need for a pronominal prefix on the motion particle. Conjunctions go at the end of the clause. Interjections go anywhere.

Conlangery #138: Jesse Sams and Conlangs in the Classroom

Monday, April 8th, 2019
Jesse Sams comes on the show to talk to us about how she uses conlanging in the classroom. We discuss how these courses can be designed, what fields of linguistics they address well, and the results she saw from the course. Jesse also requested the following message be added to the notes: I would also... Read more »

The Syntax and Semantics of Gender in Dairwueh, Bryatesle and Sargaĺk

Sunday, April 7th, 2019
In the DBS family of languages, gender/noun class, much like in Indo-European, Semitic, Northeast Caucasian and Bantu languages, is an important feature that has remained present over a long span of time. Only one dialect of Sargaĺk has lost the gender system, viz. Inraj Sargaĺk, which has done so under strong influence from a gender-less substrate.

For a conlanger, it's very easy to say 'my conlang has so-and-so many genders' without thinking much about the semantics of the system. This is a post that tries to set a different tone.

Syntactical and Morphosyntactical Properties of Gender
In both Dairwueh and Sargaĺk, there is an independent morphology for adjectives and pronominal determiners that conveys agreement with the head noun. This congruence extends to adjectival complements of verbs, and may

Sargaĺk seems to have innovated in dropping the neuter, shifting the nouns over to masculine and feminine.

In Bryatesle, syntactically gender only affects pronouns and determiners, but also has a strong effect on the morphology of nouns.

Only Sargaĺk retains the gender distinction in the plural.


Semantics
The obvious semantic split in the gender system of all three is one corresponding to biological sex. However, this only applies to humans: the biological sex of 'generic' animals does not strongly correlate with the gender used. In part, this disconnect has a practical epistemological basis: if you see a horse in the distance, you may not be able to tell what sex it is. (And indeed, animals for which it is likely that a speaker can distinguish the sexes, it is more likely that no generic noun at all exists. This especially holds for some tamed birds, some livestock and dogs, but also in the case of Sargaĺk with regards to some really huge seals.)
When speaking of individuals of the species you either have morphological devices for clarifying the sex of the generic noun, or gender-specific nouns at your disposal.

In Bryatesle and Dairwueh, there also exists a neuter gender. It would be easy to say the neuter gender is for inanimates, but this does not hold; the only strict rule in regard to the neuter is that it does never refer to humans.
For many of the tendencies described here, conflicting tendencies sometimes appear due to the Sargaĺk gender system.

The animals that are neuters are generally not very well "respected" - in both Bryatesle and Dairwueh there's a surprising agreement: certain small predators that kill poultry, stinging insects (except the bee in areas where beekeeping is practiced), frogs, lizards, snakes, and inedible tiny kinds of fish.

Regarding inanimate things, it turns out that there is a rather elaborate distribution between the genders: nouns that provide a context tend to be of the same gender as the gender associated with the context - i.e. men and fishing boats in all of the languages, women and the house in all these languages. A context mostly is a place (natural or a building), or something within which a person can be and act. However, any prevalent and topical tool smaller than a boat is likely to be of the opposite gender (but also possibly neuter in Dairwueh and Bryatesle), whereas objects that appear in many contexts tend to have a rather equal distribution over the available genders. Thus, the hammer is feminine, the spinning wheel is masculine, a net is feminine, a bread paddle is masculine.
Dairwueh:
teməri ( hammer, feminine )
yənera ( spinning wheel, masculine )
muliri ( net, feminine )
eskəna (bread paddle, masculine )
Bryatesle
demby ( hammer, feminine )
yinvinu ( spinning wheel, masculine )
nvuly ( net, feminine )
iska ( bread paddle, masculine )

This distribution probably has emerged to increase the likelihood that a thing and a person spoken about will be of distinct genders, and thus have distinct pronouns. In the case of Dairwueh and Bryatesle, of course, the use of neuters facilitates distinct references to an additional noun if it happens to be neuter.

This also extends to verb nouns: a verb noun that is associated with women will generally be masculine (or neuter), and vice versa, thus
gistas ( breastfeeding, masc )
zexnas ( cooking, masc )
bagrasi ( the act of hunting, fem )
vyrnasi ( participation in a battle, fem )
from the verbs
gistër, gistai, breastfeed
rexnër, zexnai cook
begrer, bagrai hunt
vyrner, vyrnai fight a battle
In both D and B, verb nouns that are not particularly associated with either of these genders tend to go with neuter, but so do verb nouns that are associated with non-human subjects regardless of gender.



1. Size
Things of extreme sizes - very small or very big - tend to be neuter. In Sargaĺk, they tend to be masculine unless they have some kind of cultural prominence, in which case they may be feminine. If there is a progression of sizes (e.g. mountain - hill, river - ditch, tree - bush).
Bryatesle:
burts - mountain
xyles - snowflake
ulid
- valley
sarn - the sky
lyvmat - the world
mal - a grain of sand
nibit - a drop
yfir - a louse
ebik - a birthmark
ryts - a scale (of fish or reptiles)
sinis - a very tiny amount
Dairwueh:
pəltən - mountain
əls
- a valley
xorm -
the night sky
yunt
- the world
ʒiks - the 'details' in a coarse surface
nəf - a drop
ifrəl - a louse

2. Edibility
The more edible a thing is, the more likely it is to be neuter (or in Sargaĺk, masculine). Flavour, nutrition and texture all are factors in this. Live animals are obviously an exception to this. Things that are entirely outside of the scope of even consideration for edibility are not affected by this tendency.

An inedible root or plant is likely to be feminine, as is animal considered to be inedible.

3. Social roles and professions
In all these languages, nouns denoting social roles and professions will follow the gender they are most closely associated with, even if the particular referent is of a different sex: thus, it is grammatically ok in all of these languages to say something like
she is a fisherman
or
he is a seamstress
However, pronouns that are not determiners will adhere to sex.

In Bryatesle, there is an analogous extension in the function of buildings of different types (i.e. a wooden hut used for storage or for living in or for doing some kind of work in). A storage room for firewood is a
yvalk
which is masculine , but if the building is a 'hut', it is a  
sira
which is feminine. In this case, the 'actual sex' of the building follows the building type rather than the building 'profession', and so you could have a feminine pronoun referring to an yvalk, if it is known that the yvalk is a sira.

Named buildings also have genders, which tend to be building-specific.

The Syntax and Semantics of Gender in Dairwueh, Bryatesle and Sargaĺk

Sunday, April 7th, 2019
In the DBS family of languages, gender/noun class, much like in Indo-European, Semitic, Northeast Caucasian and Bantu languages, is an important feature that has remained present over a long span of time. Only one dialect of Sargaĺk has lost the gender system, viz. Inraj Sargaĺk, which has done so under strong influence from a gender-less substrate.

For a conlanger, it's very easy to say 'my conlang has so-and-so many genders' without thinking much about the semantics of the system. This is a post that tries to set a different tone.

Syntactical and Morphosyntactical Properties of Gender
In both Dairwueh and Sargaĺk, there is an independent morphology for adjectives and pronominal determiners that conveys agreement with the head noun. This congruence extends to adjectival complements of verbs, and may

Sargaĺk seems to have innovated in dropping the neuter, shifting the nouns over to masculine and feminine.

In Bryatesle, syntactically gender only affects pronouns and determiners, but also has a strong effect on the morphology of nouns.

Only Sargaĺk retains the gender distinction in the plural.


Semantics
The obvious semantic split in the gender system of all three is one corresponding to biological sex. However, this only applies to humans: the biological sex of 'generic' animals does not strongly correlate with the gender used. In part, this disconnect has a practical epistemological basis: if you see a horse in the distance, you may not be able to tell what sex it is. (And indeed, animals for which it is likely that a speaker can distinguish the sexes, it is more likely that no generic noun at all exists. This especially holds for some tamed birds, some livestock and dogs, but also in the case of Sargaĺk with regards to some really huge seals.)
When speaking of individuals of the species you either have morphological devices for clarifying the sex of the generic noun, or gender-specific nouns at your disposal.

In Bryatesle and Dairwueh, there also exists a neuter gender. It would be easy to say the neuter gender is for inanimates, but this does not hold; the only strict rule in regard to the neuter is that it does never refer to humans.
For many of the tendencies described here, conflicting tendencies sometimes appear due to the Sargaĺk gender system.

The animals that are neuters are generally not very well "respected" - in both Bryatesle and Dairwueh there's a surprising agreement: certain small predators that kill poultry, stinging insects (except the bee in areas where beekeeping is practiced), frogs, lizards, snakes, and inedible tiny kinds of fish.

Regarding inanimate things, it turns out that there is a rather elaborate distribution between the genders: nouns that provide a context tend to be of the same gender as the gender associated with the context - i.e. men and fishing boats in all of the languages, women and the house in all these languages. A context mostly is a place (natural or a building), or something within which a person can be and act. However, any prevalent and topical tool smaller than a boat is likely to be of the opposite gender (but also possibly neuter in Dairwueh and Bryatesle), whereas objects that appear in many contexts tend to have a rather equal distribution over the available genders. Thus, the hammer is feminine, the spinning wheel is masculine, a net is feminine, a bread paddle is masculine.
Dairwueh:
teməri ( hammer, feminine )
yənera ( spinning wheel, masculine )
muliri ( net, feminine )
eskəna (bread paddle, masculine )
Bryatesle
demby ( hammer, feminine )
yinvinu ( spinning wheel, masculine )
nvuly ( net, feminine )
iska ( bread paddle, masculine )

This distribution probably has emerged to increase the likelihood that a thing and a person spoken about will be of distinct genders, and thus have distinct pronouns. In the case of Dairwueh and Bryatesle, of course, the use of neuters facilitates distinct references to an additional noun if it happens to be neuter.

This also extends to verb nouns: a verb noun that is associated with women will generally be masculine (or neuter), and vice versa, thus
gistas ( breastfeeding, masc )
zexnas ( cooking, masc )
bagrasi ( the act of hunting, fem )
vyrnasi ( participation in a battle, fem )
from the verbs
gistër, gistai, breastfeed
rexnër, zexnai cook
begrer, bagrai hunt
vyrner, vyrnai fight a battle
In both D and B, verb nouns that are not particularly associated with either of these genders tend to go with neuter, but so do verb nouns that are associated with non-human subjects regardless of gender.



1. Size
Things of extreme sizes - very small or very big - tend to be neuter. In Sargaĺk, they tend to be masculine unless they have some kind of cultural prominence, in which case they may be feminine. If there is a progression of sizes (e.g. mountain - hill, river - ditch, tree - bush).
Bryatesle:
burts - mountain
xyles - snowflake
ulid
- valley
sarn - the sky
lyvmat - the world
mal - a grain of sand
nibit - a drop
yfir - a louse
ebik - a birthmark
ryts - a scale (of fish or reptiles)
sinis - a very tiny amount
Dairwueh:
pəltən - mountain
əls
- a valley
xorm -
the night sky
yunt
- the world
ʒiks - the 'details' in a coarse surface
nəf - a drop
ifrəl - a louse

2. Edibility
The more edible a thing is, the more likely it is to be neuter (or in Sargaĺk, masculine). Flavour, nutrition and texture all are factors in this. Live animals are obviously an exception to this. Things that are entirely outside of the scope of even consideration for edibility are not affected by this tendency.

An inedible root or plant is likely to be feminine, as is animal considered to be inedible.

3. Social roles and professions
In all these languages, nouns denoting social roles and professions will follow the gender they are most closely associated with, even if the particular referent is of a different sex: thus, it is grammatically ok in all of these languages to say something like
she is a fisherman
or
he is a seamstress
However, pronouns that are not determiners will adhere to sex.

In Bryatesle, there is an analogous extension in the function of buildings of different types (i.e. a wooden hut used for storage or for living in or for doing some kind of work in). A storage room for firewood is a
yvalk
which is masculine , but if the building is a 'hut', it is a  
sira
which is feminine. In this case, the 'actual sex' of the building follows the building type rather than the building 'profession', and so you could have a feminine pronoun referring to an yvalk, if it is known that the yvalk is a sira.

Named buildings also have genders, which tend to be building-specific.

Formation of the Singular Nominative in Bryatesle

Thursday, April 4th, 2019
I have this far evaded discussing the formation of the nominative case in Bryatesle. Even in the tabular representation of the nominal morphology, the nominative column basically consists of varied all the way down, for both singular and plural. The feminine vocative likewise is varied.

It is now time to take a closer look at the singular part of this, with some early hints about the plural nominative as well. There are a few important phenomena we will encounter: a) case syncretism, b) free variation, c) lexically determined allomorphy, d) zero marking.

A phenomenon we'll also encounter is that of me not having planned the format very much ahead of time, and as I wrote this over several months of time, the format for lexical entries varies over the scope of the post, and I will not go and fix that.

I've spent a lot of time on this and there's a risk there's inconsistencies. Currently I feel that if I do not commit to this now, I'll never post it, so here goes.

There is some amount of free variation for a bunch of nouns, with several masculines having, for instance, one of these sets of permissible suffixes:
{-a, -e, -u} or {-e, -i, -ε} or {-i, -u}
as a common set of permissible masculine nominative suffixes for a bunch of nouns. However, some nouns have more restricted sets.

A final word before getting into the actual nitty-gritty on the case morphology of the nominative is that nearly all nouns adhere to the table here insofar as secondary case markers go.

Note: is the empty string, which usually is to be taken as 'no suffix on the stem'. The stem usually will end in a consonant in Bryatesle. may appear in several of the paragraphs below.

Historical linguistics of the situation

It is conceivable that the Sargaĺk-Dairwueh-Bryatesle proto-language had an alignment similar to that of Sargaĺk, viz. subjects of ditransitive verbs had a distinct case (called the 'pegative'), whereas all the other core NPs of ditransitive, transitive and intransitive verbs were in a default 'absolutive' case. The absolutive was not necessarily unmarked, but may have had morphemes correlating with the gender of the noun. It seems that a system of three genders was already in place by the proto-language.

Bryatesle and Dairwueh quickly shed the pegative case, but traces of the alignment can still be found: mainly nominative-accusative syncretism and nominative-dative syncretism in the case of Bryatesle. A nominative-accusative alignment has emerged, with a few ergative traces. The ergative subsystem in Dairwueh likewise might have emerged out of a similar tension with regards to the pegative alignment of the proto-language. A secondary complication is that for some nouns, the pegative form was in such prevalent use that it eventually became the nominative.

The nom-vocative and nom-exclamative syncretisms are harder to explain historically, but potentially, some semantic explanations can be posited: things that relatively often are invoked may receive the vocative or exclamative as their nominative through semantic bleaching of the voc/excl case suffixes.

Patterns in All Genders

All genders have examples where case syncretism between the nominative and some other case occurs. This is most thoroughly present in the neuter, where case syncretism with the accusative is near-universal. However, some 'extensions' exist there as well: the same syncretisms that occur in the masculine and feminine can occur in the neuter, but will extend the syncretism to the accusative for neuters. (Of course, the neuter lacks the vocative, so a nominative-accusative-vocative syncretism does not occur.)
Nominative-Vocative syncretism
The nominative-vocative syncretism is common with names for totemic spirits, ritual objects as well as objects that carry cultural roles without carrying actual kinetic functions, such as written deeds, testaments, and so forth.

Thus, a testament is xvuntam (f), and this syncretism is paralleled in the plural, with xvuntvim. A banner is a tunsïm, with the plural tunsïm as well. Most non-living masculine nouns will conflate the singular and plural vocative as well, bringing this syncretism quite far. A deed is a knavum, but exceptionally has a plural nominative distinct from the vocative nominative, viz. knavia (Thus falling in the nom-dat syncretism group in the plural).

Nominative-Exclamative syncretism
This comes in two subforms, one having nom-acc syncretism in the plural, the other having nom-excl consistently in the plural as well. Most of these nouns are 'semantically strong' - either abhorrently so, or less commonly positively so.
A few examples would be:
raxny (m, plural raxunu) a wolf
tineny (f, plural tivin) an omen
ruleny (n, plural ruluku) an abomination
parteny (
n, plural partuku) a destructive fire
pileny (f, plural pilvin) a beauty
kysëny (m/f, plural kyrunu/kyrvin) a village elder, a wise (wo)ma
Most neuter nouns in the nom-excl category fall in the plural nom-acc subcategory, and most nouns in that subcategory are neuter, but neither of these implications hold fully.
Nominative-Accusative syncretism
In addition to the neuter nouns, a number of inanimate feminines have nominative-accusative syncretism.
tabe (f, plural taviku) ladle
tutë (f, plural tutviku) hood (the clothing detail)
rimbe (f, plural rimiku) ember
juzë (f, plural juzviku) basket
guge (f, plural guriku) bean (also, in the plural: testicles)
As mentioned, nom-excl syncretism oftentimes is paired with nom-acc syncretism in the plural. For singulars with nom-acc syncretism, this syncretism almost invariably also holds in the plural.
Nominative-Dative syncretism
Especially common in the masculine, but also has some 'partial' examples with masculines whose nominative is in free variation and one of the free variants happens to be identical to the dative.
gzare (pl. gzarmex) - shin
ulzë (pl. ulzumex)- mitten
kintë, kinti (pl. kintumex) - trapping pit
skare, skari (pl. skazumex) - road
 A very few feminines also have this, namely
yara (pl. yarvia) bride
bura (pl. burvia) pregnant woman
kmuta (pl. kmutvia) widow
kuǧa (pl. kuvia) a feminine supernatural being
ylna (pl. ylvia) a different type of feminine supernatural being
imba (pl. imbia) uterus
All nouns with nom-dat syncretism in the singular also have it in the plural, but the opposite does not hold. Thus, at least the following are attested with singular nominatives distinct from the dative, but the nominative and dative plurals conflated:
elet (pl. eleveku) roof
spen (pl. spenuku) thread

Patterns limited to the Masculine

Many masculine nouns end in consonants. (This is basically stolen from Russian!) However, way more than in Russian, there is also a number of masculines whose stems are followed by a vowel or even end in a vowel, and sometimes there are several possible nominative suffixes in free variation. This variation seems only to be a feature of the literary language, as different dialects rather seem to fix one or another, with at most two freely alternating forms existing in just a handful of "natural" dialects for just a handful of nouns. There is a systematic counter-exception, though: some nouns have both a singular ending in a consonant and a vowel in quite a few dialects, and this seems to be partially conditioned by prosodic cues.

However, all the forms attested in the literary language are attested in some dialect in the vicinity of some of the Bryatesle linguistic centres.
The following 'clusters' of nominative forms can be found:
{-a, -e, -u}, we find for instance
karna, karne, karnu (stone for ballast)
this has the dative karnë
xebsa, xebse, xebsu (puppy)
this has the dative xebsë
tata, tatë, tatu (thorn)
the dative is tatë, but dialects with either tete, tate, tetë or tatë as the nominative form often have other one for the dative.
saxa, saxe, saxu (link in a chain)
the dative is saxe. It turns out forms with nominative-dative conflation in some dialects have had a tendency to trigger innovation of new forms that are distinct, such as both the saxa and saxu forms here. -u is probably by analogy to the -u neuter suffix.
kydla, kydle, kydlu (glove)
the dative is kydlë. Dialectally, a nominative kydlë also appears, but this is not attested in the literary language.

{-ε, -e, -i }
stal, stalë, stali (knight)
The distribution of the monosyllabic vs. bisyllabic forms seems to follow some stress-based pattern, i.e. avoiding that stressed syllables come too close together. Many dialects thus have the form for the next few nouns, but many also have one or the other of the longer forms. Stale as dative is known, probably emerging to restore the case distinction. (FYI: diareses in the Bryatesle orthography mark that a previous 'alveolar' actually is dental)

yrf, yrpe, yrpi (a scar, a nick in a knife blade, a tear in a piece of fabric or paper)

ibs, ibse, ibsi (mouse)
Conflation of dative and nominative is fairly common for this noun throughout the Bryatesle area, even to the extent that ibsi replaces the more regular dative ibse in several dialects. 'Ibs' as a nominative seems to be an innovation by analogy with other nouns in this class, with *ibse or *ibsi being the original form.

tnap, tnape, tnapi (sack)
{-u, -y}
gazu, gazy (makeshit bridge)

ambu, amby (hammer)
Nonsyncretic Masculines
Most masculine nouns do not exhibit any syncretism, and so have their own unique forms in the nominative. 

Many of them have their stem identical to the nominative. Not all of them end in consonants, but most do. However, some have suffixes such as -i, -a or -u after the stem.

The following examples will have the stem bolded, and nominative suffixes italicized, with an added dash just to be completely clear:
bagr-u (carpet)
yry-a (wool (mass noun))
dulr-u (hat)
safk (dust (mass noun))
fyn-i (toe)
azës
(thief)
gen-u (bronze, bronze item)
imin-u (ditch, really minor river)
guv-u (mushroom, also penis)
Patterns Limited to the Feminine
In the feminine, there are few hard and fast rules as to what singular nominative and what plural nominative go together (plurals will be the topic of the next post). Some nom-voc syncretism also exists, but for most nouns there are some fairly regular vocative patterns, i.e. -e feminines tend to have -ele vocatives, -a feminines tend to have -ala, etc.

The full set of potential regular feminine nominative singular formations is:
(V)-e*, (V)-ε*, -e, -i, -y, -a
* These unusual forms, i.e. a stem ending in vowel is unique to the feminine, and only appears in six words: ala, 'mother', yjala, '(maternal) grandmother', diri-e, '(paternal grandmother)', myni-e, 'daughter', dajnu, 'granddaughter'. If we consider to be the actual nominative suffix, we can in fact eliminate -u from the set of feminine nominative suffixes altogether.

In monosyllabic stems, the -i, -e and -y nominative suffixes sometimes cause an umlaut-like effect where u > y or a > e, but you also find the -a suffix causing some monosyllabic stems having i,y > e or e > a, thus
*matë > metë, mat- (chain)
*buli > byli, bul- ( mushroom, count noun)
*kera > kara, ker- ( knee )
*brytsa > bretsa, bryts- ( wind )
*glita > gleta, glit- ( candle )
*ykte > ekte, ykt- ( cheese )
*ansë > ensë, ans"- ( liver )
These effects are lacking in the masculine due to differences in prosody: the feminine -i/-e/-y suffixes were stressed at the time the sound change occurred.

A small number of feminines end in consonants:
ib - eye
sud - navel, middle, hub (of a wheel),
tsyl -
feather
Patterns Limited to the Neuter

A unique syncretism for the neuter is singular-plural nominative syncretism, i.e. the nominative having no distinct plural form. This occurs for at least the following nouns:
ilenk shoe, shoes
unsyt a particular small type of fruit
keb a particular small species of fish
varal brick(s) - probably a former feminine plural?
surux wart(s)
ayg sinew
nayga pine cone(s), nipples
kirip seeds
selyg refuse, waste, any fairly useless by-product
vreg small stone
kun shape, mould, baking mould
kifut bug, insect, spider
ryp bug, insect, spider
yts wound
rifs needle (of coniferous trees)
For many of these, it is also occasionally seen that other cases are used in the singular even when the referent is plural, but at the very least the plural forms are possible, permitted and fairly well attested for the other cases.

Almost all neuter nouns end in -C, and most of the time, this is also the stem. However, a few have -ig, -eg, -yg, -ip, -ut or -yt as a nominative suffix, thus having the stem be shorter than the nominative.