Conlangery SHORTS 29: Reflections of a PhD graduate

February 1st, 2019 by Conlangery Podcast
George reflects on completing his PhD, and talks to those conlangers who might be considering graduate study in linguistics. Script below the fold: Welcome to Conlangery, the podcast about constructed languages and the people who create them. I’m George Corley, and we’re back! We’re going to have a short episode today, just to catch y’all... Read more »

Designing an Artificial Language: Universals: Recommended Reading

February 1st, 2019 by Fiat Lingua

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 article provides a brief description of linguistic universals, and then recommends some books that discuss universals in much more detail.

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A personal update

January 26th, 2019 by Miekko
Over the two last years, I have found myself planning and writing ever more ambitious things for this blog. Because of the scopes of these posts and series, the pace naturally has been reduced.

Recently, two additional things have occurred that will ensure no acceleration in this pace for a while:
  • I have gotten a puppy! (länk?)
  • I have gotten a new job as a java developer.
Both of these will conspire to keep me somewhat occupied elsewhere, but I do hope to provide quality content at least once or twice monthly. Meanwhile, I do sometimes go and improve old posts, since the occasional error still can be found in them.

A personal update

January 26th, 2019 by Miekko
Over the two last years, I have found myself planning and writing ever more ambitious things for this blog. Because of the scopes of these posts and series, the pace naturally has been reduced.

Recently, two additional things have occurred that will ensure no acceleration in this pace for a while:
  • I have gotten a puppy! (länk?)
  • I have gotten a new job as a java developer.
Both of these will conspire to keep me somewhat occupied elsewhere, but I do hope to provide quality content at least once or twice monthly. Meanwhile, I do sometimes go and improve old posts, since the occasional error still can be found in them.

Kílta

January 22nd, 2019 by Wm

After several years of slow work, I think Kílta is far enough along that I don't mind other people seeing the documentation: Kílta (PDF via Dropbox).

The thing I'm most pleased with this is that the dictionary is so large, and has so many examples. I've been on a pro-examples kick for quite a few years, but this is the first language I've worked on where nearly every word has an example sentence, often more than one. As of the day I write this post, Kílta has:

  • 1158 headwords
  • 166 sub-headwords (idioms, light verb constructions, etc.)
  • 1592 definitions on the above
  • 1924 examples for everything
That said, there are still a handful of words I didn't bother to give examples to, but as I notice them and non-idiotic examples present themselves I'll add them. The main benefit to a good example is that it helps nail down the semantics more clearly. If I really cannot come up with an example that clarifies the meaning at least a little, I'm liable to skip it a bit, though some examples created for other words may end up in a definition, even if it isn't terribly clarifying.

A good chuck of Kílta's semantic development is created with a desire to avoid obviously compositional meaning. So, in addition to the many examples, a good number of "idioms," there are sections on conceptual metaphor, as well as the introduction of a small bit of vague supernaturalism which permits even more idiom construction. Check out the definition of virka stomach for an example of me having fun developing idioms. Once you create one or two of these, more suggest themselves over the years.

For most of Kílta's life I have kept a very short and almost always dull diary in the language. This is an amazing tool for grammar and lexical development. But you have to be prepared to write a lot of tedious things at the start, or you'll just overwhelm yourself. Talking about the weather can, with a little grammatical imagination, be a great testing ground for: conjunctions and other sequencing constructions, thinking about tense, thinking about coreference, thinking about those parts of discourse that expose a speaker's feelings about what they are saying, report clauses, counterexpectation, etc., etc.

Kílta

January 22nd, 2019 by Wm

After several years of slow work, I think Kílta is far enough along that I don't mind other people seeing the documentation: Kílta (PDF via Dropbox).

The thing I'm most pleased with this is that the dictionary is so large, and has so many examples. I've been on a pro-examples kick for quite a few years, but this is the first language I've worked on where nearly every word has an example sentence, often more than one. As of the day I write this post, Kílta has:

  • 1158 headwords
  • 166 sub-headwords (idioms, light verb constructions, etc.)
  • 1592 definitions on the above
  • 1924 examples for everything
That said, there are still a handful of words I didn't bother to give examples to, but as I notice them and non-idiotic examples present themselves I'll add them. The main benefit to a good example is that it helps nail down the semantics more clearly. If I really cannot come up with an example that clarifies the meaning at least a little, I'm liable to skip it a bit, though some examples created for other words may end up in a definition, even if it isn't terribly clarifying.

A good chuck of Kílta's semantic development is created with a desire to avoid obviously compositional meaning. So, in addition to the many examples, a good number of "idioms," there are sections on conceptual metaphor, as well as the introduction of a small bit of vague supernaturalism which permits even more idiom construction. Check out the definition of virka stomach for an example of me having fun developing idioms. Once you create one or two of these, more suggest themselves over the years.

For most of Kílta's life I have kept a very short and almost always dull diary in the language. This is an amazing tool for grammar and lexical development. But you have to be prepared to write a lot of tedious things at the start, or you'll just overwhelm yourself. Talking about the weather can, with a little grammatical imagination, be a great testing ground for: conjunctions and other sequencing constructions, thinking about tense, thinking about coreference, thinking about those parts of discourse that expose a speaker's feelings about what they are saying, report clauses, counterexpectation, etc., etc.

Some thoughts on nullar and indefinite numbers

January 14th, 2019 by Miekko
Every now and then, ideas like 'nullar number' or 'indefinite number' make the rounds in the conlanging sphere of the internet. Since I am not about simple solutions, I am not going to leave it at that, though.

Nullar numbers seems to me to be an obvious candidate for defective paradigms. It seems unlikely to me that every form a singular or plural noun can take would also exist for the nullar, in case the language has even a moderately rich morphology.

Nullar is apparently not attested in any language, afaik, and this of course opens up for some speculation: it seems to me that nullar would maybe follow a slightly modified accessibility hierarchy, where objects (or even absolutives) are more likely to have nullar forms than (transitive) subjects, and beyond that, transitive subjects followed by some kind of instrumental or comitative and only then datives and other obliques?

The justification for this would be that an instrumental or comitative nullar basically is not all that far from an abessive, and thus this is likely to be a fairly common use of the nullar - clearly the abessive/privative is sufficiently useful to exist, which kind of indicates something about the way we talk about absences.

On the topic of indefinite numbers, though, first we need to specify a bit more clearly what I mean. Plurals tend to be somewhat indefinite in that we generally do not automatically specify the number of members of a plural referent. What I know mean, though, is a referent where number is entirely unspecified, i.e. it can be any of the available numbers in the language.

This, again, feels like a number that would likely have a defective paradigm, but beyond that, it feels like a number whose marking even would be defective in some sense - maybe lack of plural congruence on adjectives and verbs? Maybe only partial application of plural marking (i.e. suffixes, but not umlaut, in languages where plural is formed by application of both to some nouns), maybe failure to apply gender marking?

Some thoughts on nullar and indefinite numbers

January 14th, 2019 by Miekko
Every now and then, ideas like 'nullar number' or 'indefinite number' make the rounds in the conlanging sphere of the internet. Since I am not about simple solutions, I am not going to leave it at that, though.

Nullar numbers seems to me to be an obvious candidate for defective paradigms. It seems unlikely to me that every form a singular or plural noun can take would also exist for the nullar, in case the language has even a moderately rich morphology.

Nullar is apparently not attested in any language, afaik, and this of course opens up for some speculation: it seems to me that nullar would maybe follow a slightly modified accessibility hierarchy, where objects (or even absolutives) are more likely to have nullar forms than (transitive) subjects, and beyond that, transitive subjects followed by some kind of instrumental or comitative and only then datives and other obliques?

The justification for this would be that an instrumental or comitative nullar basically is not all that far from an abessive, and thus this is likely to be a fairly common use of the nullar - clearly the abessive/privative is sufficiently useful to exist, which kind of indicates something about the way we talk about absences.

On the topic of indefinite numbers, though, first we need to specify a bit more clearly what I mean. Plurals tend to be somewhat indefinite in that we generally do not automatically specify the number of members of a plural referent. What I know mean, though, is a referent where number is entirely unspecified, i.e. it can be any of the available numbers in the language.

This, again, feels like a number that would likely have a defective paradigm, but beyond that, it feels like a number whose marking even would be defective in some sense - maybe lack of plural congruence on adjectives and verbs? Maybe only partial application of plural marking (i.e. suffixes, but not umlaut, in languages where plural is formed by application of both to some nouns), maybe failure to apply gender marking?

Detail #388: Separable nouns

January 9th, 2019 by Miekko
Let's take inspiration from the German separable verbs, but reapply the whole idea to nouns.

Let us however separate out a suffix, not a prefix. Now, what if  the suffix must go to the right of the next word, regardless of word class if the separable noun is subject.

Intransitive: Root verbs suffix
Transitive subject: Root verbs suffix object
Object: Subject verbs object suffix
However, in isolation, a separable noun also requires an intervening morpheme - either a vocative particle or some other type of particle.
Vocative: Root oh suffix
Exclamative: Root indeed suffix
Where this gets weird is coordination. We could go down  simple route of just having the suffix after thd conjunction. But... what if the conjunction is a prefix or even just achieved by putting nouns in apposition?

If a subject is clause-final, some particle also may need inserting or alternatively some other kind of displacement could take place.

Also, been busy, new job. May take a while until the regularly scheduled tempo resumes.

 

Detail #388: Separable nouns

January 9th, 2019 by Miekko
Let's take inspiration from the German separable verbs, but reapply the whole idea to nouns.

Let us however separate out a suffix, not a prefix. Now, what if  the suffix must go to the right of the next word, regardless of word class if the separable noun is subject.

Intransitive: Root verbs suffix
Transitive subject: Root verbs suffix object
Object: Subject verbs object suffix
However, in isolation, a separable noun also requires an intervening morpheme - either a vocative particle or some other type of particle.
Vocative: Root oh suffix
Exclamative: Root indeed suffix
Where this gets weird is coordination. We could go down  simple route of just having the suffix after thd conjunction. But... what if the conjunction is a prefix or even just achieved by putting nouns in apposition?

If a subject is clause-final, some particle also may need inserting or alternatively some other kind of displacement could take place.

Also, been busy, new job. May take a while until the regularly scheduled tempo resumes.