Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Inraj Sargaĺk: Spatial Deixis

Inraj Sargaĺk differs from most surrounding languages by its system of spatial deixis; it has two flavours, "very close to both speaker and listener", and "everything else". The "middle deixis" of Sargaĺk, ʒur, has come to signify an inanimate distal deictical determiner.

ʒa - this here, in both of our reaches
ʒu - this here in my xor your reach, or that over there, inanimate
ʒi - this here in my xor your reach, or that over there, animate
As an aside, we find a more complex somewhat similar system in the Lamen language, a mainland isolate in geographical vicinity to the Inraj archipelago (in terms of easily navigable routes).
The Lamen system consists of
ksa - this, in both of our reach
gzət - this, in both of our reach, inanimate

tra - this/that, in the reach of one of us
zrət - this/that, in the reach of one of us, inanimate

eksa - he/she/it, over there, animate
gəksət - it, over there, inanimate
Whether the underlying similarities are due to genetic relation or sprachbund phenomena is not clear. (Obviously, Inraj Sargaĺk is not related to Lamen, but its substrate might be?) 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Detail #384: Long-Range Negation Congruence and Probabilistic Grammars

Let us consider a language like Finnish (or almost English), where negation is done by an auxiliary. In this language also, the main verb takes a special form (in Finnish, the connegative, in English, the 'infinitive' or the 'active participle', to the extent we would call those 'special' :/ ).

Now, the main point here is that in English and Finnish, the form you expect are different for positive and negative statements:
he sits vs. he does not sithän istuu vs. hän ei istu
In English, for present progressive or whatever it's called, this breaks down:
he is singing vs. he is not singing
Let's however assume a language like Finnish, where this distinction is more clear-cut and present almost throughout the language. Now, we can of course imagine certain non-negative adverbials that weaken a statement triggering the negative form, giving us things analogous to
he barely workhe seldom thinkhe scarcely turn up
where barely, seldom and scarcely essentially become lightly negative auxiliaries.

Now, that's just one of the milder ideas of where such pseudo-negation might turn up. Another could be embedded negation bleeding outwards:
she tell him not to buy bitcoin
she know that he wasn't at work
We could also have negation bleeding downwards:
she doesn't know that he work in finance
We could of course make a probabilistic grammar for this, and that's a topic I think could be worthwhile for conlangers to consider - modelling the rules of a grammar in terms of probabilities.

Let's use p(x) for the probability for such 'mistaken' congruence, i.e. a connegative verb form with an actually 'positive' meaning. p(x) is then a function, where x is some way of representing this input. x is then, perhaps, the distance between the 'outer' verb and the 'inner' verb.

We may give some simple function for this, say, x is at most 75%, and is squared for each unit distance added.Thus, f(x) = 0.75^x

We could then start by considering, for instance, different subject as a difference worthy of one unit. Every single constituent between the verb and the subclause (or non-finite verb phrase) could be one unit, two units if the constituent is heavy. Either of the verbs being telic adds a unit of distance, but both being telic only adds 1.5 units. The object of the outer verb being the same as the subject of the embedded verb removes 0.5 units.

Of course, we could add special cases - certain verbs whose congruence has become 'linked' and so if these two verbs appear, the probability for mistaken congruence is unusually high, or somesuch. I am deliberately leaving the idea a bit vague here - I only want conlangers to think of grammatical rules in probabilistic terms while also presenting a certain grammatical idea that also fits as a suitable topic to represent probabilistic grammar a bit vaguely with.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Bryatesle: Word-Order Sensitive Words

A few words in Bryatesle have some fairly different uses depending on where in the clause they stand. These examples are part of literary Bryatesle, but also widespread in the areas on the dialects of which literary Bryatesle is based.

These are only a handful of examples, more will come at some later point.

Nominal Attributes

ralsem 'the wrong one' on the left, 'an unsuitable one' on the right. The difference is somewhat subtle - 'the wrong one' implies there is a specific right one, 'an unsuitable one' just implies that some quality of the noun makes it unsuitable.

sylsem 'another' (as in 'not this one') on the left, '(one) more' on the right. The difference between 'another' and 'the wrong one' is that this is not used for selecting/rejecting, it rather appears to point out e.g. that another one is introduced into the discussion.


kauda, signifying 'house', means 'at home' when just to the left of the verb, if the verb signifies movement or location.

tagnas, 'a span of time', except when directly to the left of the verb, when it signifies 'an instance of the action referred to'.


'sagyk' can signify 'remaining, left' when directly to the left of a verb or to the left of a noun, but elsewhere it means 'back, backwards, turning back, in reverse'. After telic verbs it can also signify 'again'. The verbs sagkad and sagkit both derive from sagyk, the former signifying 'to remain (after others  have been removed)', whereas sagkit signifies turning back. However, there are dialects that conflate the two, or distinguish them by other morphemes.


The verb 'tëlez' signifies 'being able to reach with one's arms' when at the right end of a sentence, but actually grasping something when to the left of the object.

The verb 'satët' likewise signifies 'being able to travel somewhere' when at the right end of a sentence, but actually arriving if it's to the left of the object.

The two verbs above only are distinguished in the atelic forms, the telic generally always implying actual realization of the grasping or arrival.

sïmet signifies 'residing somewhere' when anywhere else in the sentence, but 'existing' when used sentence-initially. It has no telic form.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A New Song

This song is a rework of an old song. Each voice of the old version has been inverted around some 'B' close to the middle of that voice's range, so this is a non-strict example of 'negative harmony' in a microtonal environment.

Friday, July 6, 2018

A Challenge: Origin of Person Congruence

Can anyone come up with other origins of person congruence than pronouns that are merged with the verb (or, for that part, merging the verbs with verbs that previously have been merged with pronouns)?

I have two ideas, out of which one is not very good.

Reinterpretation of direct-inverse morpheme

Easily, the direct morpheme could be reinterpreted as solely being used when the subject is at the top of the animacy hierarchy, and thus either becomes a first person or first-and-second person congruence marker. (Some langs iirc rank second person higher, so that's also a possibility.)

This even leaves open the possibility of using the inverse marker solely as a marker for third persons, and then an unmarked verb could be second person. Other paths to such a situation can be constructed.

Unlikely rebracketing of case morphemes

Some languages permit omitting the accusative marker on nouns when the subject is, say, a pronoun. (This might assume case marking on the pronouns still obtains or some type of congruence already in place - otoh, Chinese is somewhat pro-drop so why couldn't this work without a pre-existing congruence?)

Now, we can restrict this to, say, omitting case marking in the presence of a first (or second) person subject. See where I am going with this? Now, let's have the case marker - either a suffix or a prefix of the noun - condition a sound change at the word boundary of the verb or just be rebracketed as a subject marker, and then generalized to all persons.

SVO: an object with an object prefix triggers a change, causing a verbal suffix
SOV: an object with an object suffix triggers a change, causing a verbal prefix

Of course, a thing that could further influence this could be a split-ergative system, where absolutives and ergatives and accusatives cause different things to be rebracketed with different persons as subject.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Ŋʒädär: Further with the Reciprocal

It has previously been stated that the reflexive pronoun ŋul- in Ŋʒädär can encode both reflexive and reciprocal meaning, but that the difference is encoded in whether the pronoun is high in the animacy hierarchy (which implies reciprocality) or low (which implies reflexivity). However, no general reciprocal / reflexive distinction was presented.

Also, the various approaches for reciprocality that exist in Ŋʒädär are not entirely trivial, and we'll find that a variety of interesting behaviours happen with regards to it.

1. Lexical Distinctions (intransitive vs. reciprocal vs. reflexive)
Some intransitive verbs have their meaning changed by turning them into reciprocals or reflexives.

 A few examples include
ʒgaŋ(uk)- 'be part of a tribe or family'
talpa-hus ʒgaŋ-sa
talpa (proper noun)comitativebe affiliated1 sg/(intransitive/3sg)-direct
the Talpa clanwithbelongI
dat ŋul-ır ʒgaŋ-da-z
weselfplur nombelong1pl/(intransitive/3sg)-directdirect
weselvesbelong1 pl

we belong to the same family unit (rather wider than core family, though)

weselfplur nombelong1pl/(intransitive/3sg)-directinverse
weselvesbelong1 pl
we belong to the same clan

2. Non-object Reciprocal vs. Reflexive distinctions

There is an adverb ıbars, cognate to the -bara suffix. It can signify something along the line of 'in haphazard, random disarray' -
wearoundare running

we are running around / we are running all over the place
It can also be used for transitive verbs to signify e.g. sending things all around, doing something in multiple places, etc. However, it can also signify reciprocality. Some verbs in Ŋʒädär have suppletive forms for different recipients, and with these, for instance, ıbars will signify reciprocality:
 ür karos ıbars kep'är-ür-z
'you give each other gifts'
(note: karos, "gift" is non-count!)
The same holds with other verbs of giving, but also goes with less semantically specific verbs, albeit there is some ambiguity:
sint ıbars vörvör-täs
'they speak over each other/they speak in all directions/they speak random stuff/they argue'

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Detail #383: A Tiny Idea about Mixed Alignments

All the low-hanging fruit regarding mixed alignments and alignment in general probably already has been picked (and even cooked into marmalade) by now, but this one has eluded that grasp.

So, consider a system of split alignment whereby the split is conditioned on something like TAM; the usual is of course that present, imperfect, realis, ... are nom-acc, and perfective, past, etc... are absolutive-ergative.

Now, there's an obvious twist to add here: lexical exceptions. A few verbs may have nom-acc in all TAMs, alternatively a few may have erg-abs in all TAMs; possibly, you may have both these in parallel.

Of course, there could also be a separate set of systems that enforce splits anyway: e.g. subclauses might still always have erg-abs, or maybe first person always enforces nom-acc, despite the lexical exceptions.

And finally, of course, over the life-span of a language or the territory over which it is spoken, verbs may migrate from type to type, giving dialectal and historical variation!