Archive for October, 2014


Friday, October 31st, 2014

Boustrophedon is pretty cool, and having letters that are rotations and flips of other letters means that you have to make fewer letter shapes, making it easier to create and alphabet, so why not use both together?

Detail #117: Several Degrees of Definiteness vs. Lexical Distinctions

Friday, October 31st, 2014
In a language with two levels of definiteness (definite vs. indefinite), a third level (specific) could be semi-present for some constituents by means of lexicalized distinction on verbs:

I look for a car (any car)
I search for a car (a specific car; I know which one it is, you probably don't)
I search for the car (that I mentioned earlier, and thus you know of it now too) 
Maybe this is done by some change in congruence on the verb - maybe all specific-or-definite verbs have a certain marking, while only definite nouns have a marking, or vice versa. Or maybe only certain verbs where the distinction is felt to be significant enough have pairs where the difference is meaningful. I would imagine the pairs would tend to look similar but not have any regular formation going on.

Detail #116: Some Unusual Things to Grammaticalize

Friday, October 31st, 2014
Distinguish a few types of relative size of subject to object with regards to kinetic verbs! (May be distinguished by differential object marking? Or by some verb marking? Or by a weird auxiliary?)

I.e. 'John harvests(small-to-large) the field', 'David killed(medium-to-big) Goliath', 'The villain kicked(medium-to-small) the puppy',

One could also perhaps grammaticalize the amount of premeditation of first person future verbs by some way.

Detail #115: Local Cases

Friday, October 31st, 2014
This is basically an idea that takes what is sort of present already (to some extent) in Finnish and puts it on steroids.

Imagine a case system of about six local cases. In Finnish, these are conventionally arranged as {on/by, in} * {towards, at, from}. However, let us not give them all that clear names yet.

Let's rather go by {A, B} * {1, 2, 3}. Now, we have this set: {A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3}. And now for the fun: let directionality of the different numbers vary with the verb and its aspect!

Type 1 verbs have the perfect aspect cause the cases to map thus: 1 → origin, 2 → location, 3 â†’ direction (and A vs. B maintain the distinction 'in' vs. 'at'/'by'/'on'). The imperfect aspect, however, gets A1 â†’ entirely unused, B1 â†’direction, A2 â†’ direction, B2 â†’ location , A3 â†’ location, B3 → origin ... and the 'in' vs 'at'/'by'/'on' distinction is only partially preserved, where i.e. B3 conflates origins at/by/on or in the noun thus marked, and so on.

Of course, these mappings may be specific to classes of verbs, even unique to some verb (and most mappings may actually ignore most of the cases entirely), and the mappings may conflate things in various ways - sometimes, location and origin, sometimes location and direction, sometimes in and on/at/by, sometimes maybe even part of the on/at/by gets transferred to in and vice versa.

In part this is an exaggeration of case and adposition usage differences in reality - in some languages, a painting hangs on the wall, in some it hangs in the wall. In some, the mail slot in your door is on the door, in some it is in the door.

In English, the phrasal verbs likewise form a complex of preposition-verb pairs where the meaning is not trivially related to the preposition's usual use, and we can find languages where aspect does change the sense of location/direction - if you were heading somewhere, perfect aspect sort of implies you've gotten there somehow, and if you are coming from somewhere, you have been there.

Grammaticalizing and having a bunch of complications with regards to this is no big stretch, I imagine.


Friday, October 31st, 2014

A t-shirt with /ʙað çønɫanɢing ɪðɛas/ written on it.

EN: Hmm…

hill is muiki (revisited)

Friday, October 31st, 2014
muiki = hill (noun) (some things Google found for "muiki": an unusual term; user names; a rare first name that can be Japanese; a rare last name; Muiki Shop is an East African gifts stall in the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, MN; name of a World of Warcraft character)

Word derivation for "hill" :
Basque = muino, Finnish = mäki
Miresua = muiki

My previous Miresua conlang word for hill was moikä. This is another modification to avoid ending a noun in -Ä.

I couldn't find the word hill in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but there are a handful of occurrences in Through the Looking-glass.
"...It's more like a corkscrew than a path! Well, THIS turn goes to the hill, I suppose -- no, it doesn't! This goes straight back to the house!"

Lesson Two

Friday, October 31st, 2014

What are they called?

‘Opa haviwme.
‘opa havi ‘öme

hello grandfather GEN/1
Hello, my grandfather.

‘Opa tujöme.
‘opa tujö ‘öme.

hello grandson GEN/1
Hello, my grandson.

Zaj hwa’umuwme. Pawlmiwma.
zajö hö’a ‘umu ‘öme. pa’ö hömi ‘öma.

PROG learn Umu GEN/1. run for 1
I’m learning Umu. You help me

Da. Zaj pawlmiwtiwme.
töta, zajö pa’ö hömi ‘öti ‘ome.

alright, PROG run for 2 GEN/1
Alright, I (will) help you.

image image image image image image image image image
Jonazuk nnihaza? ‘Ul ijá nnihaza?
jona zukö nöni haza? ‘urö jöja nöni haza?

how as.such small.thing here? name what small.thing here?
How about this? What is this called?

image imageimage image
Hini ‘ul nnihaza.
hini ‘urö nöni haza.

car name small.thing here.
This is called a car.

image image image image image
Jonazuk irömvna?
jona zukö jörö ‘ömö vöna?

how as.such body PL there?
What about those?

image image image image
‘Aj’ul irövna.
‘ajö ‘urö jörö vöna

horse name body there.
Those are called horses.

image image image image image
Jonazuk irömhaza?
jona zukö jörö ‘ömö haza?

how as.such body PL here?
What about these?

‘a’a jörö haza.

cat body here.
These are cats.

‘Ul ijá munövna?
‘urö jöja munö vöna?

name what person there?
What is that man called

‘Ul Kij munövna.
‘urö Kijö munö vöna

name Kij person there.
That man is called Kij.

Kij, ‘ul ijá mariwti?
Kijö, ‘urö jöja mari ‘öti?

Kij, name what mother GEN/2?
Kij, what is your mother’s name?

‘Ul Pal mariwme.
‘urö Parö mari ‘öme.

name Pal mother GEN/1.
My mother is called Bal.

Tagged: conlang, lesson, pseudoghlyphs, umu

Translation Challenge: The Beginning of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Text in English:

The text to be translated in this Translation Challenge is the initial passage of Tolstoy’s 1878 novel Anna Karenina.1 The Ayeri translation here follows the English one by Constance Garnett (1901), which can be found on Project Gutenberg.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with a French girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with him. This position of affairs had now lasted three days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all the members of their family and household, were painfully conscious of it. Every person in the house felt that there was no sense in their living together, and that the stray people brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members of the family and household of the Oblonskys. The wife did not leave her own room, the husband had not been at home for three days. The children ran wild all over the house; the English governess quarreled with the housekeeper, and wrote to a friend asking her to look out for a new situation for her; the man-cook had walked off the day before just at dinner time; the kitchen-maid, and the coachman had given warning. (Tolstoy 2013)

Ayeri translation:

Translation Challenge: The Beginning of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"

Kamayon pandahajang-hen mino; minarya miraneri sitang-ton pandahāng-hen minarya.

Enyareng atauya kāryo nangaya pandahana Oblonski. Silvisaye sarisa envanang, ang manga miraya ayon yena cān-cānas layeri Kahani, seri ganvayās pandahaya ton, nay ang narisaye ayonyam yena, ang ming saylingoyye mitanyam nangaya kamo kayvo yāy. Eng manga yomāran eda-mineye luga bahisya kay, nay tong vakas ten pulengeri, sitang-tong-namoy ayonang nay envanang, nārya nasimayajang-hen pandahana nay nangānena ton naynay. Ang mayayo nyān-hen nangaya, ming tenubisoyrey, mitantong kadanya. Ang engyon vihyam miromānjas keynam si sa lancon kadanya apineri kondangaya, nasimayajas pandahana nay nangānena Oblonski. Ang saroyye envan sangalas yena, ang manga yomoyya ayon rangya ton luga bahisya kay. Sa senyon ganye nangaya-hen; ang ranye ganvaya Angli kayvo lomāyaya visam nay ang tahanye ledoyam, yam mya balangyeng pinyan yanoley gumo hiro ye; ang saraya ersaya bahisya sarisa pidimya tarika sirutayyānena; ang narisaton lomāya risang nay lantaya vapatanas ton.

More information

See this PDF file for the whole thing, including interlinear glosses and some commentary: Translation Challenge: The Beginning of “Anna Karenina”.

  • Plank, Frans, Thomas Mayer, Tatsiana Mayorava and Elena Filimonova, eds. The Universals Archive. 1998–2009. U Konstanz, 2009. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. ‹›.
  • Schachter, Paul. “The Subject in Philippine Languages: Topic, Actor, Actor-Topic, or None of the Above?” Subject and Topic. Ed. Charles N. Li. New York: Academic P, 1976. 493–518. Print.
  • Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Eds. David Brannan, David Widger and Andrew Sly. Trans. by Constance Garnett. Project Gutenberg. 11 Oct. 2014. Project Gutenberg, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. ‹›.
  1. Hat tip to Steven Lytle for suggesting it.


Thursday, October 30th, 2014

If you see two potential ways to express the same concept, why not make sure your language can do both of them, and call the alternation “stylistic choice.” You need not stop at just two constructions per concept if you know of more!

Discourse deixis

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Ti/to for discourse deixis: ti is cataphoric (subsequent discourse), to is anaphoric (prior discourse).

[Neat, though I don't know where this came from...maybe Nahuatl?]