Archive for January, 2022

Detail #423: Reflexive Possession as an Auxiliary

Monday, January 31st, 2022

Reflexive possession is expressed in a few different ways in languages. I am not aware of any language like this from before:

I throw ball => I throw a/the ball

I AUX throw ball => I throw my ball

For direct objects and indirect objects and other complements of the verb, the auxiliary is directly in control of some infinitive form, potentially a participle.

1. Etymology of the auxiliary

There are a few natural ways such an auxiliary could arise. Lexemes associated with the following meanings make sense to develop towards such a use:

  • to have, to own    
  • to control, to exert power over
  • to hold, to carry
  • to be related to, to pertain to
Here, one could also imagine that different types of objects get different auxiliaries.

2. Syntax

One syntactical issue that emerges is some level of ambiguity with regards to multiple NPs. For me, some level of ambiguity is entirely acceptable, i.e. direct and indirect objects. Here, different verbs for different types of NP can help resolve the ambiguity.
However, we could also imagine that the auxiliary only has a reflexive significance with regards to its complements, while adjuncts (or complements of the subordinate verb) are not reflexively owned. Thus
I hold book.acc swap for bag -> I swapped my book for a bag
I hold book.acc and bag.acc swap > I swapped my book for my bag
I swap book for bag > I swapped a book for a bag
If the system has multiple different verbs, there may be a hierarchy as to which noun gets to "decide" which verb is used, or maybe there's a need for using multiple verbs.

We could also imagine that for non-objects, participles are used:
I gave brother a gift: I gave my brother a gift

A little post scriptum
As you might have noticed, the pace with which I post here has been severely diminished. One particular cause looms large: all the low-hanging fruit has already been picked.

Thus, writing a post worth posting takes about ten times as long these days as it did at the heyday of productivity. I will, however, go on posting, and there are ideas that slowly mature in the drafts folder. There's a significant number of slowly growing ideas.

Wóxtjanato: A grammar

Saturday, January 1st, 2022

Jessie Sams is a Professor of Linguistics at Stephen F. Austin State University. She generally teaches courses rooted in linguistic analysis of English, though one of her favorite courses to teach is her Invented Languages course, where students construct their own languages throughout the semester (she was even able to get Invented Languages officially on the books at SFA with its own course number). Her research primarily focuses on syntax and semantics, especially the intersection of the two within written English quotatives; constructed languages; and history of the English language and English etymology. Since 2019, she’s worked as a professional conlanger on the Freeform series Motherland: Fort Salem. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hosting game nights with friends, baking (especially cupcakes), and, of course, conlanging.


This is the full grammar of Wóxtjanato, a language spoken on a planet that was affected by the sudden appearance of a second moon.

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