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.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Detail #382: Gender Congruence Marker being Partially Reused as Derivative Morpheme

Let us imagine a language with a gender or noun class system of some description. Now, let's imagine that usually, adjectives (maybe verbs too) have gender congruence with the main noun, but sometimes an adjective (or verb) will gain a different meaning in some gender markings, and this gender marking turns into a semantic marker - almost a derivative marker - for these lexemes.

Let us consider a system with a noun class for 'tools'. Let us imagine that due to metal object  being quite hot when red, the adjective 'red' thus starts signifying 'hot' when dealing with tools. "red-tool" then becomes one of the ways of describing any hot object, and so "red-tool drink-comestible" means "hot drink", but "red-comestible drink-comestible" signifies a red drink.

This would be some kind of differential gender congruence. Let's consider onwards what happens when we want to describe an actually 'red' tool:
  • We can make the distiction only be available in every other noun class, so in the tool-class, this distinction cannot be made using congruence as a tool. So, expressing 'red tool' requires something like 'tool whose color is red' or 'tool of redness'.
  • We can even say the speakers don't care for the distinction, since differential object marking only is used in situations where the difference is not important for the particular class of things (i.e. all red tools are also hot when they're red, but for other things, 'hotness' and 'redness' do not necessarily coincide)
  • We can permit the use of a default noun class marking (i.e. 'red.masc knife.tool')
  • We can permit the use of zero marking (red knife.tool) to provide the default meaning
A few examples of potential meaning distinctions:
bad - with animate noun classes: 'evil', with inanimate: 'unfit, useless, no moral judgment implied'.
heavy - with feminine noun class: pregnant (also when used of non-human animals in their noun classes). Here, maybe using male gender for the adjective denoting heavy females could also be justified
talkative - signifies 'loud' when used with an inanimate noun class marker
angry - signifies 'dangerous' when used with an inanimate noun class marker

Monday, June 4, 2018

Detail #381: Underlying Split Alignment * Quirky Case

Let's imagine a situation wherein a language has quirky case. The language normally is nom-acc, but the situations where quirky case appear are all underlyingly erg-abs.

The language has quirky subjects as well as objects. Let's for the sake of simplicity assume that subjects sometimes are dative, objects sometimes ablative. Here, any substitutions, even to the extent of replacing both with the same oblique case, could work. I am just establishing this in order to have a terminology that makes it clear.


Now, how does the underlying ergativity look? Well, let's decide on some quirky verbs:
quirky subject:
verb1 : 'to have the time to', 'to do on time', 'to have time for'
verb2: 'to forget (to do something)'
quirky object:
verb3: 'to refuse (a proposal, a guest, a gift or a favour)'
verb4: 'to fear'
Now, let's consider what the underlying ergativity of these implies: the subject of verb1 would be absolutive if there is no direct object, and thus can be coordinated with another intransitive verb:
 I have time to wait and (so) (I) sit here
however, it cannot be coordinated with a transitive verb:
 I have time to wait and __ (am) eating pirogies
 With a direct object, however, we get the following situation:
I have time for the committee and will discuss the issue
 However, an intransitive second verb will take for its subject the object of the previous verb:
I have time for the committee now and will be seated in room 101
 here, it's the committee who will be seated in room 101. Semantically, this seems to be a reasonable thing - whoever has time for a thing may be seen as active in some sense, and the object may be more likely to do intransitive things.

Similar examples could be constructed for the other verbs, obviously.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Explaining the Dereflexive

A long while ago I posted a description of a voice, which I dubbed the 'dereflexive'. In retrospect, it is an unclear post. (Not an unusual problem on this blog, to be entirely frank.) So, let's try and rephrase the content.

Sometimes, in languages, you may have multiple possible third persons. Oftentimes, one is more prominent than the other, and will be the 'basic' third person you will assume a subject pronoun refers to. However, object pronouns in the presence of a third person subject often refers to a 'less' prominent third person.

I saw him
has him = prominent third person,but
he saw him
has he = prominent third person, him = less prominent third person.
Basically this sort of equates to something along the lines of proximal and distal. Now, it is not uncommon for languages to permit reflexivity by reflexive pronouns (or some other approach), and we thus get
he saw himselfvs.
he saw him
where 'himself' is the same person as 'he', and 'him' is a different person. Now, what if we can introduce a way of using the existence of this distinction in objects to distinguish the "semantic subject". Maybe by having a distal third person subject rendered as a vanilla third person direct object, but a proximal third person subject as a third person reflexive direct object.

So, some possible complications: maybe we want proper objects to still exist, and this we can permit by either demoting them to some kind of oblique position or maybe have double objects - if used strictly, this voice would only really be used with pronominal arguments anyway, so any regular noun will be "safe". Thus maybe we will have a two-pronged approach: regular nouns can be "regular objects" even in the presence of object-like pronouns with this voice, but pronominal objects have to be demoted to some type of obliques.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Detail #382: A Small Congruence System

Let us consider a language where no 'adjectives' proper exist. Such languages, by received wisdom, come in two forms: languages that use verbs instead, and languages that use nouns instead.

This dichotomy is somewhat exaggerated in conlang circles, or at least it was about a decade ago or thereabouts. Obviously, pretty much every language has a noun that is pretty much the same as some adjective in another language, and pretty much every language has a verb that is pretty much the same as some simple adjective in another language.

However, let's consider a situation where most of the words an anglophone would think of as adjectives are in fact nouns, so e.g. 'red' is maybe semantically closer to 'a red one' than to 'red'. However, this language permits using nouns in apposition as attributes.

Now, the language has a simple noun class system, maybe four or five classes, and these classes are mainly 'visibly' seen in a fairly small congruence system, with congruence markers appearing on quantifiers, pronouns, demonstratives,  articles, and verbs. Thus, the nouns themselves usually do not have a clear class marker (or rather, the morphemes that do appear on nouns may be misleading some of the time, c.f. Latin 'nauta' or Russian 'дядя', both of which end on -a, and "usually" would be feminine, but due to semantics also influencing gender in fact are masculine.

However, nouns used adjectivally need to be of the same noun class. The markers used for 'typecasting' a noun into another noun class, however, have been worn down so that they are all identical, thus the adjectival congruence basically consists of 'no morpheme' = 'same class as head of phrase', 'that morpheme' = 'different class than head of phrase'. Numbers also is part of the class system, but certain nouns are essentially 'plurale tantum' words anyway, and so get 'that morpheme' whenever with a singular noun.

Finally, the genitive in part overlaps with this system: the genitive construction does not use the congruence-marker, being happy enough to just put nouns in apposition. With two nouns of the same noun class, this will be indistinguishable from an "adjectival" noun in apposition to a "nominal" noun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Unnumbered Detail: Oddly Unbalanced Tense Systems

The three usual 'basic' tense systems are "past" vs. "non-past", "non-future" vs. "future" and finally "past" vs. "present" vs. "future". Some languages mix these a bit, having different systems in different aspects (e.g. Russian with its present-shaped gap in the perfective aspect - which given the semantics of Russian aspects makes complete sense.)

However, there also exist other tenses beyond these: there are the hodiernal, the hesternal and crastinal tenses, for instance. The names relate to different days: today, yesterday, tomorrow.

Could an unbalanced system exist of, e.g. "hesternal past vs. non-hesternal tenses" or "crastinal future vs. non-crastinal tenses"?

Oh, the weird ideas that pop up while contemplating the tenses of a conlang.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ŋʒädär: Introduction to the Perfective side of the TAM system

Beyond the reduplication mentioned here, Ŋʒädär is rich in moods and aspects. Its tense system permits rather complicated things by auxiliaries, but for a clause without an auxiliary, there are two tenses: past and non-past, which are not distinguished in all moods. Auxiliaries are used for specific times such as 'yesterday', and in combination with aspect forms, obtain forms like 'until yesterday', 'since yesterday', 'intermittently a long time ago', etc.

Non-past is generally not marked by any morpheme, although a handful of verbs do get the marker -vul/vıl/vil/vül- in the inverse when the verb is non-past, instead of the usual marker. These are verbs of perception, of opinion, and of mental states in general. The morpheme originates with the noun *vurl that in Proto-ŊƷD signified the 'soul' of animals. The reason for this only appearing in the non-past tense may originate with some kind of belief that animal cognition did not much care about the past - that animals were more present-centered than man, and this fits with ideas about animal psychology in ŊƷD superstitions throughout the ŊƷD tribes.

The past is marked by a suffix after the aspect marker, but before the person marking. This suffix appears in the realis, optative and dubitative, and takes the form -(I)c'l(I)-.

Beyond this, we get the aspect system. The location of the aspect marker is immediately after the verb root, sometimes causing slight morphophonological alterations of the root itself. The perfective marker has somewhat merged with modal markers.

Perfective, realis:

After stops, this mutates into
Before velar sounds and -w-, the -l- is lost, and before -v-, it's lost while turning the -v- into -w-.  The -m-/-w- part can cause a variety of other things as well: -pw- and -tw- tend to become -kw-. -nm- becomes -m(:)- or -n(:)-. Depending on dialect, -wm- becomes -m(:)-.

Note: intrinsically perfect verbs do not take this marker, unless the perfectivity is emphasized.

Infinitives do not form perfectives by agglutination, but rather as phrases consisting of two infinitives, with the second infinitive being 'modan', which never appears in any inflected form (since it has been subsumed into the morphology of the finite verb.)

Perfective, optative:
After stops, this mutates into
-wUksA-, where if U = u, the w- further vanishes.
The -m(closed vowel)- part of these morphemes comes from a particle, 'mod', which was a reduction of the verb 'took' and came to signify perfectiveness. -ksA- comes from a similar particle, 'okta', which signified 'maybe'. The optative perfect is always intransitive. If the verb usually would be transitive, the perfect optative is understood as a passive.

Perfect, conditional
If followed by a morpheme beginning in a labial, this turns into -OlwO-.
The historical origin is a noun olob, signifying 'circumstance, case, chance, fate'.

Perfective, imperative:
-rOn (sg)
-rOndA (pl)
From the imperative form of the verb 'go'. The marker that exists in other related languages had been lost, and the auxiliary 'go!' slowly was merged into the verb morphology. Certain verbs have their own exceptional forms.

Perfective, dubitative
The dubitative marks things that are somewhat unsure. The historical origin is a suffix -EŋdzE, whose further origins probably lie in an assimilated auxiliary. The suffix now is -ŋŋE