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!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Sargaĺk: Reciprocality and Reflexives

The Sargaĺk reflexive marker -fuš- is cognate to the reciprocal object markers 'sy(v)-' and '-sus' of Bryatesle, all three going back on a PDBS lexeme 'izguš', signifying 'spirit, soul'. The reflexive marker is a bit more complicated in behaviour than English, and can even be the subject of an embedded verb, e.g. in constructions like
nen manda-tsa tamup-ser-i mar k'an-sepem*-fuš
I thought-from fall-past*-1sg something do-inferential active past-reflexive
I fell from the thought of something self did
I forgot what I did
* marks morphemes that really are participal forms that encode tense as well as evidentiality.

Here we also see how Sargaĺk forms its usual past tense in main clauses: participles (e.g. -ser-) followed by 2nd conjugation morphemes. The subordinated verb is not finite, and so does not have a finite verb morpheme. However, not all constructions use participles, but rather require finite verbs and may have the reflexive marker followed by a person marker.

The reflexive marker also appears when the reflexive action is not done as unto an object, but rather as unto an oblique. In these cases, either an oblique dummy pronoun will appear as well, usually the pronoun corresponding to the person of the subject combined with the suffix -fuš, or the morpheme -fuš will be affixed to an adposition.
nen nəru-fuš lonk-ser-i
I me-at.refl told-past*-1sg
I told of myself

nen iknur oxi-fuš yər(a)-ser-i
I seal skin onto-refl put-past*-1sg
I wrapped myself in the seal skin

Sargaĺk has two main reciprocality markers, '-ant' and '-jivi'.
These are are cognate to the Bryatesle words  'jyg', 'centre, in the middle of' and 'amet', 'guild, private pact'. The PDBS words were something like 'amate' - 'a temporary, loose grouping of people', and 'ʒiɰ̊gu' - 'a pair'.

There are certain differences in their use:
-jivi is mainly used with subjects that actually form a pair, although the pair may also be two groups acting on each other. It can also be used for groups of pairs acting reciprocally within their pairs.

-ant can be used for larger groups with more random interactions, but is also permissible with dual subjects if the interaction is not entirely symmetric.
Like the reflexive, these can also be subjects of embedded verbs.

These do not only go on verbs, but also on a particle that can go after adjectives and nouns. The circumstances under which these markers follow nouns and adjectives will be described below.

When a complement of a verb is a noun, the -jivi may mark that the relation is mutual, e.g.
nista  uvas-jivi k'ivo
they are members of the same seal-hunting team

nista k'omo-jivi k'ivo
they are friends
Adjectives behave similarly:

nista k'omosi-jivi əvo
they are friendly (to each other)

miv-air tobas-air-jivi əvo
the villages are far-recp(apart)
However, if villages A and B are far from village C, it will say
villages A and B village-from C-from far are
miv-air A B miv-rut C-rut tobas-air əvo
('villages A (and) B are far-plur.fem in village C')
If the relation is mutual among a bigger set than two, -jivi is still used, -ant only appearing in this use in some dialects.

The -jivi and -ant morphemes are also entirely missing from Imraj Sargaĺk, which uses a unique system of adpositions for reciprocal constructions.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Piece of Music

Since it's become a bit of a thing I do, I'll also post my new piece of music here. It's in 11-tones per octave, and so sort of fits in with the conworlding aspect of this blog: essentially, this could be music of a culture where intervals such as 11/8, 14/11, 7/4 and 17/14 are valued, but where equal temperament also became a thing. For the most likely way in which such a culture could develop, I suggest looking into Paul Erlich's paper on the 22-tone scale.
For the record, the paper is not a conworlding paper, it is a paper about the tuning. But, since these properties exist, it is conceivable that some culture would like those properties and therefore start using 22-tet as their tuning.
A culture that develops music based on 22-tone equal temperament would sooner or later possibly try to utilize a variety of arbitrary subsets of that temperament, including the rather obvious idea of using only every other tone, and even from there of using even fewer out of those. (An analogy could be how in the late 19th century, the wholetone scale started finding favour among some composers. 11-tet is obviously almost twice as large as the wholetone scale, so a further search for scales 'inside' it makes sense.)

Anyways, here's the piece.