Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Sargaĺk: Mistaken Ideas about Biology

The gender of certain nouns in Sargaĺk showcase that biology and grammatical gender sometimes are mismatched. Several genderless animals have nouns for both genders. No regard is given to whether there actually are gender distinctions in the actual species, and sometimes the speakers have misconstrued what particular traits characterize the genders.
saləb a small common species of worm (masc)
saluta a small common species of worm (fem)
kaxar tadpole (masc)
ipxaž tadpole (fem)
Many tadpoles in the Sargaĺk area only differentiate by gender after reaching the (almost) mature stage.
karč scallop, oyster (masc)
əltas scallop, oyster (fem)
the gender distinction is made by the colour of the shell, which has no actual implication visavis the actual gender of the oysters of the Sargaĺk world. However, different communities may map the colours to genders in different ways.

sreb snail (masc)
srewta snail (fem)

tirs slug (masc)
tirast slug (fem)

əktəl a slightly larger species of worm (masc)
əkta a slightly larger species of worm (fem)
k'ets a type of crayfish (masc)
k'enast a type of crayfish (fem)
The Sargaĺk do not eat this particular crayfish because it's poisonous. However, they assume small claws imply feminine gender, which is not entirely accurate.

inis ant (fem)
inast a different, slightly larger species of ant (masc)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bryatesle: Adpositions vs. Location and some thoughts on Subjecthood and Adpositions

I will be talking about a technical notion of subject for a lot of this post, but at times, I will need to also refer to a less technical notion of subject. Not quite topic, since it's clearly not a role that can be filled by any old NP, nor necessary is it the topical NP. It rather is some vague notion of the quality that distinguishes the NP which in some way is active, whose state or change thereof the verb describes or whose active part in the interaction with some other NP or itself is expressed by the verb. Subjects are defined by certain subjecthood tests, but would almost all exhibit that vague notion (except maybe the subjects of passive verbs), but not all nouns that exhibit these vague notions are strict subjects, nor would pass subjecthood tests.

I will call any NP that carries these vague notions - including proper subjects - subjectids, and any subjectid that is not a subject is a subjectoid.

Proto-BDS did not strictly speaking have grammatical subjects, and their evolution in all the daughter languages showcases traces of the pre-subject state of the language. This statement requires a rather technical notion of what a subject even is, but for now, let's look at what NPs in Bryatesle with any kind of certainty are proper subjects, starting at the most certain:
1st and 2nd person pronouns that trigger verb congruence
proper nouns pertaining to humans that trigger verb congruence
These are, in all analyses, beyond doubt  as far as subjecthood goes.
Third person pronouns with human referents that trigger verb congruence are almost certain to be subjects as well
Here, congruence only really helps determine those cases where explicit congruence is present, e.g. plurals or non-neuters. (The neuter congruence is in fact a kind of zero congruence, as can be seen with the many instances where a verb gets neuter congruence despite no neuter argument being present).

A verb lacking a subject does not necessarily signify that no one or nothing is doing that, or even that who- or whatever is doing is not present in the clause. It simply means there is no noun phrase present with certain syntactical properties - it cannot control reflexives, it cannot undergo certain syntactical operations, it cannot be relativized, etc.

Now, this lax subjectness can be seen with inanimate masculine or feminine subjects:
winteryouaccRESLTkill3sg neuter

winter will kill you
The non-subjectness of aryk, winter, is not obvious from the example above, but  if we change the structure of the clause a bit we find for instance, the following permissible construction:
ark-ity tëk-u të-tyrn-ai

winterABLyouACCRSLTkill3sg neuter
winter will kill you
It turns out most inanimate nouns can be somewhat subject-like even in the ablative and dative cases.

A similar lack of subjecthood even occurs with intransitive verbs, and we find, for instance, that verbs like 'cease, end', 'begin' or 'last' basically can take an inanimate subjectoid in any case, but is more picky with the case marking on animate subjects. Plural animates may also behave as subjectoids at times, and this seems to correlate with the extent to which the plural animates act as a group or as a bunch of independent agents. Funnily enough, the 'independent agents' end of the spectrum behaves more like inanimate subjectoids than like animate subjects; it seems there is, among Bryatesle speakers a sense that the less internally organized a plural NP is, the less it is like an animate NP.

Neuter nouns fall even lower, however, on the rank of animacy, than inanimate feminine and masculine nouns, and it seems this is the reason why a separate ergative construction has emerged specifically for them. The assumption has been so strong when parsing that a neuter noun is an object if the verb is not intransitive. We shall divert our attention for a while to the formation of the ergative case:

Neuter nouns, when subjects of transitive verbs, take a masculine nominative pronoun as a particle. This pronoun is somewhat phonologically reduced, and comes immediately before the noun. Adjectives preceding the noun mark masculine congruence.

A piece of evidence that quirky case subjectoids are proper subjects in Bryatesle emerge in some dialects: quirky case neuter noun subjects of ~transitive verbs in fact also take the masculine pronoun – in some dialects in the appropriate quirky case, in some only the noun (and adjectives!) are marked for the appropriate quirky case. This could arguably be called 'quirky ergative case'.

Now that we have looked at the notions of subjectids and subjectoids, let's delve further into a different relation that oftentimes is one between two nouns; that encoded by adpositions. An adposition can relate not just a verb to a noun, e.g. telling the location of a verb's occurrence, but also of nouns related to that verb, or even more specifically, telling us about the location or direction of a noun. Like with subjectids, we sometimes get nouns displaced from their adposition, either due to them being fronted as topics, or due to some other noun being more strongly attracted to the adposition. Maybe we could name this relation anchors in lack of any better term. We get a similar set of anchors, anchoroids, anchorids. 

The oblique/obliquid/obliquoid generally sort of is analogous to the object of a verb phrase, but sometimes, an adposition also has something similar to a subject as well - e.g. in simple statements of where something is - "John is in Western Papua". In English - and mostly in Bryatesle - such NPs are not just similar to subjects, they are subjects. However, we do get situations where the notional subject of the adpositional phrase is not the subject of the VP:
I put the bottles in the refrigerator
The children found berries in the forest
Bryatesle has a tendency of not wanting to have the topic be the object of an adposition, but it also has a tendency of not wanting to have adpositions without NPs. Thus, if we were to topicalize 'refrigerator', we would get the following transformations:
I put [bottle.acc.] [[refrigerator.dat.def] in]
refrigerator.dat.def I [put bottle.acc] [[_____(.dat.def)] in]
refrigerator.dat.def I [Ø →] [[put bottle.dat] in] 
Secondary case is not as closely tied to morphosyntax as primary case is, and so does not carry over, whereas the primary case is morphosyntactical in nature, and therefore the erstwhile 'subject' of the postposition now does adopt the case the object previously had, but usually remains on the left-hand side of the adposition.

In some sense, verbs and objects behave in a similar manner here: verbs push certain types of subjectids away from being actual subjects, but rather some kind of oblique argument with subject-like properties. Somethings, postpositions push anchorids away from being anchors and into being oblique objects with anchor-like properties.

However, looking at it from a different direction they seem very different:
Verbs permit non-subject subjectoid nouns to be parsed as agents, and do not require syntactic gaps to be filled. Postpositions do not permit gaps, but permit anchors to become objects in order to fill them.

This treatment is probably a bit too technical, but this should be read as a policy statement rather than an actual grammatical treatment. This is a post clearing up some of my thoughts on this issue, attempting to form a coherent idea of the Bryatesle subjects

Monday, June 24, 2019

Bryatesle: Comparison (An Introduction)

Bryatesle has some interesting uses of its case system with regard to comparison. It sort of falls in several categories: it has both fixed case and derived case. The fixed case is of a locative type, viz. the ablative. Strictly speaking, though, the Bryatesle ablative is only marginally locative, so we can pretend that this is not comparison of the locative type at all.

In line with not considering it a locative type, the verbs used are not of a locational nature, i.e. 'grow', 'hold', 'continue, keep doing', 'cease, run out', ''. The quality may be a finite verb in a subordinate syntactical position, a noun or an adjective after the contextual preposition ('du') or a more complex predicate.

In addition to the ablative case, the secondary subject or reciprocal object or partitive case will be further applied to the compared nouns, depending on what is being compared.

The comparative clauses generally begin with the verb that signals comparison, one out of the following:
seler ('grow', atelic)
tuzla ('remain', atelic)
agza ('continue', no specific telicity, and the telicity morphology shifts in different persons)
symta ('win, "beat"', telic)
If the subject is compared, the verb will be congruent with it, but if some other NPs are compared, this verb will invariantly be 3 p. sg. n. This reduces the possibility of distinguishing the two with 3 sg. n. nouns.

Congruent examples:
Selei Talim Aris-ëta-nisr valm selei
grow Talim from-Aris-2nd_subj old reach
Talim is older than Aris
Selei Aris Talim-ity-nirs perxai
grow Aris Talim-abl-2nd_subj hear_3sg
Aris hears (more) than Talim
Implicit superior quantities or qualities of comparison
Seler Aris ard-ë-sus perxai
grow Aris doctrine-acc-recipr.obj. hear
Aris hears (more) than the (explicit) doctrine
With no object or other complement, the verb 'seler' signifies increase in the quantity or quality:
Seler Aris tasdai
Aris knows more (now than before?)
With 'tuzla' instead:
tuzler Aris tasdai
It would imply  that Aris knows more than he lets on, or has told us.

Cross-cutting comparison
Cross-cutting comparison is when the comparanda are not of the same type. In English, we could go for something like 'Elrem is the chieftain of more people than the number of people that hate Avkir".

I have not been able (in, admittedly, a short time) to come up with any smooth English examples. Bryatesle's comparison system handles these systems using two separate systems woven together: a resumptive pronoun approach, and the secondary case system.

Tuzla Elrem kjevam-dureh resren-isr ka tërsi tekjëz raga-rsi-nyx Avkir-ak  tejleis
remain Elrem many-abl chieftain*-2nd-sub gives
they-them.part people-pl.abl.-2nd-subj Avkir-acc  hate-3pl
Elrem give from many chieftain, they exceed the people who hate Avkir.
We also find here a special use of the verb 'give', signifying 'to be something to someone'. The complement might, due to the complex clause structure, actually omit the secondary subject marking that otherwise is common for this particular meaning.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Detail #380: A New Spot For Alignment

I recently came across this, a post whose content I am not really going to comment (due to the feeling that I don't know enough about this particular topic.) However, it sparked an idea in my mind:

Why not make an alignment-like system with regards to symmetrical vs. reciprocal actions? Some verbs could imaginably only take one or the other type, and here we could get an interesting set of situations:
  • verbs that are exclusively symmetrical
  • verbs that are exclusively reciprocal
  • verbs that can be either one or the other
Let's use s and r for arguments of exclusively s/r verbs, and S and R for verbs that can take one or the other. The way any particular marking works may differ from the way others are marked: reciprocal pronouns with differential object marking distinguishing different meanings, verbal affixes, particles, auxiliaries, adverbs, etc.
Potential solutions:

Trivial bipartite:
s = S
r = R

Asymmetrical bipartite:
s = S = r


s = R = r

Unhelpful bipartite (unlikely)
s = r
S = R

Tripartite I
s = r

Tripartite II
s = S


r = R

Diagonal Tripartite (unlikely)
s = R


S = r

Unhelpful Tripartite (unlikely)
S = R

Quadripartite (unlikely)
s S
r R
One thing that feels realistic, though, is that for some verbs, you may also have occasional exceptions like so:
Exceptional Marking I
S' = R
R' = other way that coincides with some other thing in the language?
The ' there marks that these are exceptionally marked ones, and that the "R" on the right hand of the equals mark stands for the marking, not the meaning.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Detail #379: Inverse Alignment of an Unusual Type

I think I promised to stop doing alignment things a good while ago, but I am like some kind of addict I guess with regards to alignment.

So, ... let's consider participles. Let's assume participles are uniformly created by affixing some morpheme onto the verb stem. All verbs form their participle this way.

Let us reuse English words, and create the morphology as we go. The participle marker might be -b.

run - runeb
go - goeb
live - liveb
do - doeb
take - takeb
Now we run into the inverse alignment bit, and here we get the unusual twist. Instead of having an animacy hierarchy, we have each verb having a preferred voice. 

'Take', for instance, might prefer active, 'catch' might prefer passive. This is not so much regarding what one is likely to be doing, or even close to an animacy hierarchy, but close to which sense is likely to be used. You are more likely as a hunter-gatherer, for instance, to catch things and talk of things you've caught, than you are to talk of things that are catching things.

The inverse marker then would be a separate morpheme altogether, maybe at the opposite end of the word from the participle morpheme. It could also serve some other role in finite verbs (say, aspectual or temporal or some kind of congruence-like thing?) 
Let's imagine the inverse morpheme is a prefix: en-.
taking: takeb
taken: entakeb

caught: catcheb
catching: encatcheb
Now we get to a part where we can start varying our approach: intransitives. Maybe they're split? Maybe the split is a differential way of marking things (e.g. volition), or maybe it's lexically split.

Maybe intransitives exclusively use the marker that normally marks inverse? So now you'd get
enrun, engo
Just some thoughts.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

An Entirely Unrelated Thing

I mentioned a while ago two life changes that conspire to keep me posting a bit less; indeed, the two changes keep doing so, and due to the nice perks of my new job, I also got a third life change: I've started working out. So that also keeps me a bit occupied, but I think it might be good for the mental faculties in the long run and thus probably will be beneficial for my creativity as well.

However, what I really wanted to mention - and this is a thing I intended to do way back but forgot about in all the every day hassle - is the instagram account of one of the life changes. For readers who are so inclined, meet Oswald the tibbie.

Currently, I am really thinking a lot about my main big conlangs, and this is also reducing the posting frequency significantly. Trying to figure out how to make Bryatesle, Sargaĺk and Dairwueh descend from a single proto-language – and the same for Ŋʒädär and Ćwarmin - does take quite an effort, and developing them all simultaneously also takes some thinking.

Finally, a personal project I've been doing for a while, and which I intend to make into a full-fledged, uh, thing, is my microtonal pitch perception and theory exercise webapp. Currently it is in an alpha stage, and the sound only works on firefox and edge (maybe safari?). Future features will be:
  • persistent states (i.e. it will remember where you left)
  • better sound that also works in chrome
  • a better menu system
  • a login system
  • the app will gather stats about progress in order maybe to be able to improve the exercises to have a better effect?
  • achievements
  • more content, esp. with regards to chord progressions
  • Just Intonation, well-temperaments, more equal temperaments
    • Just Intonation will almost necessitate some type of hexagonal key layout as an option in addition to the piano-based layouts
  • some generative content
  • some ability for the users to generate their own exercises
  • The basic engine also seems rather well-suited for some kind of 'microtonal scale and chord encyclopedia' type of use.
I figure the microtonal pitch perception exercise thing may be of some interest to conworlders. However, I am also interested in hearing feedback! Known issues at the time are:
  • sound engine timing
  • sound quality in general
  • navigability
So, don't complain about those quite yet ...  they're under work.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Nominative Plural Bryatesle

Plural Nominatives

Finally, the one remaining case form in Bryatesle. We have seen some patterns in the previous post about the nominative, and some of these provide us with the nominative plural. Going through the classes schematically, we get:
singular syncretisms implying parallel syncretisms

nom sg
voc sgnom pl voc pl
for one noun in this wider class, knavum, there is a dat pl syncretism, but this is basically the only exception to the rule. Tunsïm is a different exception, with even more syncretism thrown in.
nom sg excl sg(nom pl (excl pl or acc pl))
nom sg acc sg → nom pl acc pl
nom sg
dat sg → nom pl dat pl

For these, do not read AB as a commutative thing, read it rather as 'A is formed using the same morphological suffix as B'. I opted for the symbol '≡' in order that the reader realize that there is some non-standard notations in place. It is also important to note that these are implications, not equivalences, A → B does not imply B → A.*

* Talking about implications not implying something might feel a bit weird if you are not used to reasoning about logic. "A implies B" is essentially the same as "If A is true, then also B will be true", but says nothing about B in case A is not true - if "A implies B" holds and "A is false" holds, we do not know whether B is true or not, or in this rather prescriptive situation, the truth of B cannot be ascertained from the given information.
singular-plural syncretism
Some neuter nouns have a singular-plural nominative syncretism. With the exception of nayga (pine cone), these end in consonants. Thus we can't really say that there exists any specific nominative (singular or plural) suffix for these nouns.

Now that the weirder nouns have been dealt with, we can look at the vanilla regulars. There is some level of "mild" irregularity going on even here, though. Beyond these, some loans from Dairwueh keep their plural nominative for about a generation or two, at least among the intelligentsia. The situation is not entirely similar to Latin in English, since the two languages are in a rather different relationship: both are quite likely at any given moment to be the dominant language of the area.
regular masculine plurals
A large number of masculine nouns have, in the singular, nominative suffixes in free variation. In the standard language, this situation does not obtain in the plural, but some tendencies exist that connect the singular and plural, along the following lines, where the higher up a rule is, the higher it ranks (i.e., a noun for which the suffixes {-a, -i} appear in the singular, the {-a, ...}-rule will be applied.
{-u, -y} → -yri (tho' some -iri or -ere also appear)
{-a, ...} → -ere
{-i, ...} → -ini, sometimes -uny (mainly after velars)
{-e, ...} → -ini, sometimes -uny (mainly after velars)
Nouns ending in a consonant tend to have -ere as plural nominative suffix as well.

In dialects, simplified systems exist (-iri or -ere for all), as well as systems with multiple permissible allomorphs (often in less elaborate systems than in the singular). Common consonants in the masculine plural suffixes are -r, -n, -l and -z. Atnel Bryatesle, however, has masculine (and neuter) plural suffixes with -k or -t in them, likely originating with a different particle in PBD than the particles giving rise to the standard set of suffixes.
regular feminine plurals

The most common regular plural feminine nominative suffixes are
-a, -(V)l, -(V)r/-r(V)
The feminine nouns ending in consonants all are somewhat irregular:
ib, ebel (eye)
sud, sadal (hub)
tsyl, tsular (feather) (dissimilation of -al following -r-)
The feminine plural nominative morpheme depends on the singular nominative morpheme according to this pattern:
-a → -al (dissimilated as -ar)
-i → -ir (dissimilated as -il)
-y → -yr (dissimilated as -il)
-e → -er (after a stem ending in -l, comes out as -ur)
mxera , mxeral ointment
nanmi, nanmir hook
tapsy, tapsyr birthmark
mekse, mekser mare
xable, xablur spear
 Occasional exceptions exist; some former hiatus situations have come out as follows:
...ai, ...ail → ...a, ...il
ya, ...yal → ...e, ...al
ue, ...uel → ...ve, ...ul
Some historical examples of these have been hit by analogy and rendered similar to the regular plurals, but some regular plurals have also hit and been turned into examples of these patterns.
Examples (with + marking examples that have appeared due to analogy):
gara, garil (bread roll)
rame, ramal (standard-sized wooden container for salted fish)
+nime, nimal (a flute)
sepe, sepul (grass turf)
gyle, gylar (chopsticks)
+rile, rilar (small drinking vessel)

regular neuter plurals
Regular neuter nouns form their plural by suffixes -veku or -uku. If the final syllable of the stem carries stress (or secondary stress), -uku is used. Otherwise, -veku is used. (This is not entirely true, the truth is "if the final syllable carried stress before the -ve- → -u- reduction in unstressed syllables, it is -uku", however, the previously stated rule of thumb will almost always be accurate, but does account for some dialectal differences. This rule has one absolute consequence, however: monosyllabic neuters always have plurals with -uku. A secondary development that has a similar outcome is -veku after consonant clusters becoming -uku. Here, ' marks stress, appearing before the stressed syllable)
ran-uku wool socks
min-uku fox pelts
tert-uku pebbles
'baset-veku mushrooms
ti'rik-uku straws
'tegarks-uku branches
a'gixn-uku riches