Sunday, May 21, 2017

Case Prefixes: Dagurib and Solgır

Dagurib was the first branch in the ĆŊ family to diverge from the rest. Through its history, however, it has been in extensive contact with the Ŋʒädär branch, and due to its relatively small number of speakers - for most of the time, only about 5% of the ĆŊ population. Many Dagurib languages have conserved a feature that is also shared by Solgır (a Ŋʒädär language), and which also has left traces throughout the family. These are the case prefixes.

The case prefixes are always single segments - in Solgır a-, n-, r-, e-, ä-, o-, q-, k-, f-, in Banar (a Dagurib language) m-, l-, z-, i-, a-, -ä-, u-, k-, k'-, p-, in Dagurib m-, l-, s-, i-, a-, ä-, u-, ü-, k'-, p'-. Some words just take them in some cases, and what cases they take them with differs from noun to noun. Sometimes, a noun whose stem begins in any of these is reanalyzed, and the segment is lost in all forms but a few.

A system of this kind seems unlikely to develop by itself twice in separate branches, and would therefore rather seem likely to be a reduced retention of a previous system. This is further supported by the fact that in other Ŋʒädär, Dagurib and even Ćwarmin languages, there are words where cognates have random-looking losses of initial elements. (Or is that random additions of initial elements?) Further down, we'll see some examples of cognate-sets where potential prefixes could explain some of the alternations between forms.

The Solgır and Dagurib prefixes do not seem to mark anything – the distribution is lexically determined. Essentially, for some nouns, some cases for that noun take some prefix. An extreme example would be the Solgır noun ermi, rope.

The particular prefixes do not belong to any particular case and can appear with different cases for different nouns. Mostly though, any noun with these prefixes will only showcase one particular prefix - tho' in some Dagurib languages, a certain free variation between two prefixes or between a prefix and none is well attested.

The historical origin for these prefixes is shrouded in mystery - they probably have communicated something in proto-ĆŊD, but the lack even of hints as to what that might have been prevents reconstruction of it.

Nouns that hint of the presence of such a system in proto-ĆŊ can be found. Some of these also have cognate examples even in Dagurib. Such examples will be marked with a + in the Ćwarmin cell or Ŋʒädär cell.
Here are some examples within the Ćwarmin branch:

+ruanashairwanoshairronasa hairuonohfur
'flag' on

The Dagurib cognates are:
ruanas - (r)ouno
nitis - (l)iti
els - (k')eili
ənve - (m)einyi
maso - (m)eizyi (due to random vowel harmony reassignment)

Within the Ŋʒädär branch these are a few examples:

*Süwdän has had an unusually large share of seemingly random vowel harmony changes; in ĆŊ, the vowel-harmony conservation ratio for 1000 years is something like 98%; for Süwdän, however, it seems the percentage is closer to 90%.
The Dagurib cognates are
soman - (p')amai- (house)
anək - (m)aŋu- (reindeer)
iqe(-k) - (i)q- (member of the tribe)
ästil - (ü)t(:)i- (clothing)

The situation seems to be that the prefix has been generalized to all the forms or none of the forms in the languages that have lost the prefixes, and rather randomly at that.

More examples can be found between the branches, and the Dagurib family itself is particularly rich with these, and especially with traces in those languages that only more recently have lost the prefixes as a grammatical feature.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Detail #340: A Type of Morphology

aA type of morphology I don't think I've seen anywhere but that has a certain similarity to Semitic morphologies (but only on some level, conceptually) is the following:

Many, but not necessarily all, consonants belong to various chains of gradations. Since this isn't going to be a fully constructed idea, I'll just present some possibilities inspired by Finnish:
k: > k > g > w, y, ɣ
ŋk > ŋg > ŋw, ŋy, ŋɣ
p: > p > b > w
w > w
y > y
ɣ > ε (empty string)
The various gradation patterns come in three basic forms: initial, middle and final. Prefixes and suffixes also introduce a new set of patterns: the exfinal and exinitial gradations, i.e. patterns for how a formerly final or formerly initial consonant behaves when forced into a new environment. These patterns are very similar to middle patterns, but differ in some subtle ways.

The w > w and y > y  examples illustrate changes that just don't happen: a root where such a change would be expected remains invariant with regards to that consonant.

A special situation may occur in monosyllabic words if 'penultimate' consonants rather than medial consonants are the actual class that this operates on. However, consonants that are both initial and penultimate may behave in unique ways that partially pattern with medial, partially with initial consonants. (The complement way around could also be conceivable: final consonants in monosyllables behaving in a way that merges final and medial traits; having both occur seems to stretch credulity though, and this would simply mean that in monosyllables, both ends of the word behave wonkily.)

Sometimes, the surrounding vowels may affect how a consonant behaves, giving us many possible outcomes:
g > w (before back, close vowels), y (before front vowels), ɣ (before open back vowels)
These patterns may differ depending on position, due to various historical changes.

Now, a root is a string of the form
 Thus yaktub, ka, tak:, bastu or ɣa are all permissible. The morphology then operates in two ways: affixes and gradations. We may have, for instance, rules that derive the following inflected forms (on the right) from the roots tak and tak:. Notice that these roots also have homonyms appearing among the inflectional forms of each other:
tak > dak
tak: > tak
tak: > tag
tak > tag
tak > ta
tak: > dak:
It is conceivable that root-k behaves different from k-derived-from-k: one can then imagine that the roots tak: and tak differ down the line:

tak: >  tak >tax
tak >
tag >taɣ
Of course, I am not just talking about k vs k: here, any pair whose lines have shared elements could imaginably behave differently down the line of changes, due to whatever underlying historical changes hide behind the analogies that created this morphology.

Medial clusters can muddy the picture a bit, mostly with a variety of assimilations or dissimilations:
yaktub > yagrub (< *yagdub)
yaktub > yaktuw
yaktub > yaxsuw

pastu > bastu
pastu > wastu
pastu > baru (< *bardu < *bazdu < *basdu)
Morphological forms could then be described as
where a, b and d are numbers indicating how far down the chain of gradation the sound is to be shifted; a number that probably never is larger than 3; this gives, for three-consonant roots 27 possible forms; with affixes added, this permits for quite a sufficient amount of morphology. Some roots will have fewer on account of having consonants from which there is nowhere to go: they either vanish at the first stage or get stuck at some point just mutating into themselves but this is not unusual for real-life languages either.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Ŋʒädär: Becoming, Turning, Starting, Increasing, Changing

Becoming something, turning into something, starting out doing something, increasingly being something and changing are all somewhat similar notions. So, there's probably very little surprise that Ŋʒädär approaches these in similar ways. However, it also introduces an interesting distinction between different ways things change or begin or turn.

Certain intransitive verb suffixes in Ŋʒädär take a special third person morpheme, even though the usual third person finite present verb takes no such suffix. This suffix is -n.

For "turning adjectival" or "beginning to verb", similar structures appear:
[adjectival stem] [-lUA-] [TAM and intransitive person congruence markers]

[verbal stem] [-lUA-] [TAM and intransitive person congruence markers]
caban bör(ü)l-ät sarctu-lua-bra-n
road rough-get-HAB-3sg_intr_pres
the road gets rough in spring
The -lUA morpheme has a Ćwarmin cognate, -lgU-, which only appears in a few lexical items. In both the Ćwarmin cognates and the Ŋʒädär case, -lUA only signifies changes over time, not changes over space. Thus, if the terrain gets rougher to the west, a different morpheme is used:
[stem] [-(A)rgA] [TAM + intr. person]
caban sıvlı-vımə sarctu-rga-n
road west-through rough-get
the road gets rough towards the west
For more abstract "spaces" over which something changes, both are used:
k'or-gəvi dənt'ı-rga-s-t
salt-on-account-of thirsty-get-1sg_intr-pp*

k'or-gəvi dənt'ı-lua-s-t

"I got thirsty due to (the) salt"
The  acquisition of mass nouns can also use both of these. Most dialects prefix the noun oblique stem by GI- and suffix -LUA-:
it gathers dust
The GI- prefix has some lenition before i: ji- vs. gı-. 

Beginning to do something usually takes -lUA on the verbal stem. If one begins to do something due to geographical location, -rgA can also be used, but is less common since in some sense verbs tend to be distributed temporally.

For becoming [a noun] two approaches are in common use. The first method distinguishes volitionality of the subject. The second signals the definiteness of the complement. The first uses the verb to be with the -lua suffix: ihlüä...
Volition marking is optional, so the lack of such a marker does not imply lack of volition, it only permits for it. The marker is the presence of the reflexive pronoun:
Arbas kammauv ihlüä-n
Arbas chieftain-compl become-3sg
Arbas becomes (a) chieftain

Arbas kamma-ɣuv ŋul-ʒuv ihlüä-n
Arbas kamma-ɣuv ŋul ihlüä-3sg
Arbas chieftain-compl self become
Arbas (has applied himself and therefore) becomes (a) chieftain
The reflexive pronoun seems to appear in both the complement case and in the absolutive case. The complement case probably is a result of some kind of dislike for having two absolutive arguments with an intransitive verb and then going for the other case that is present in the clause. This varies from speaker to speaker and community to community.

The other method used ŋul- as the root for the verb:
Arbas kamma-ɣuv ŋul-(l)ua-n
Arbas chieftain-compl self-begin-3sg
Arbas becomes the chieftain
The Ŋʒädär constructions for these are unique to the Ŋʒädär branch of the Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär-Dagurib languages. The Dagurib branch retains a less synthetic set of constructions with some cognates to the Ŋʒädär -lUA and -ArgA morphemes. The Ćwarmin branch only has a very small number of cognates, and is using quite different constructions.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ŋʒädär: Possessive Suffixes

The statements here hold for most of the Ŋʒädär branch, and also widely for the Dagurib branch of Ŋʒädär-Ćwarmin languages.

Pronouns as possessors are generally not present as words unto themselves, but as suffixes of the
absolutive possessumdative possessumoblique possessum
1 sg-sA-sAr-s-As-sOt-As- or -sA- -sIs-
1 pl-dA-dAr-dAx-Ad-Od--Ad- or -dA--dIs-

2 sg-Un-nUr-nUx-Un-On--Un- or -nU--nIs-
2 pl-Ur-rUr-rUx-Un-On--Ur- or -rU--nIs-
3 prox-sI-sIr-sIx-Is-IsI--sI- or -Is--Is-

The location of these suffixes vary; the absolutive suffixes go word-finally, and replace the case marker completely. This conflates the singular and plural obviative distinction for the possessum. The dative suffix goes finally for proximative datives, but before the case suffix for obviative ones. The number distinction is lost with dative possessums. The obviative dative suffixes require the plural dative marker, even if the possessum is singular - this same pattern appears with the obviative marker for the dative.

For the obliques, the possessive suffix goes before the case suffixes, and replaces number and obviative markers.

Second person singular and plural are conflated in some positions.

Proximative nouns cannot have obviative possessors. Third person non-personal pronominal possessors (i.e. indefinites and such) may cause the possessum to take the 3rd person obviative marker, but this seems highly optional, possibly emphasizing the type of pronoun of the possessor.

Uses for these include, beyond possessors, object suffixes on some participles, subject suffixes on others. The word 'and', on also can take the absolutive singular proximative forms (or the obviative -q(O), to signify 'and (pronoun)', or '(pronoun) too' and similar things. These forms further can take regular case suffixes, getting forms like onsam 'and to me, to me too', ondaŋa 'and at you, at you too'. Finally, some adjectives can take these for complements, including p'ürkör (similar to X), so p'ürkörüx = similar to you(pl), korqəl (related to), korqəlas-[case congruence]. Different adjectives may take different suffixes here: p'ürkör takes absolute obviative or plural proximative in numeric congruence with the noun that is similar to someone; p'ürkör does not take congruence when it has a possessive suffix. Korqəl always takes case congruence with the head noun, and therefore follows the full complexity of the table above. The third type can be exemplified by varın-, "appealing (to X)" (always dat. prox. poss. forms).

Thus, we have three classes: I (p'ürkör-like adjectives), II (korqəl-like adjectives) and III (varın-like adjectives).
Some examples:
kostan- (unappealing to)
mitkis- (insufficient for)
vinei- (too small for)
irib- (angry at)

gərəs- (loyal (to X))
sork'o- ( thankful (to X))
nüre- (infatuated (with X))
sajan- (married (to X), only used for the wife

ökäm- (married (to X), only used for the husband
sacıd- (insufficient for)
akom- (too much (for X))
t'ebä- (dear (to X))

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Detail #339: Simple Gender Systems confirms that pretty much all "small" gender-like systems that don't have a masculine/feminine distinction use an animate/inanimate distinction. A simple way of differentiating your conlang from the usual fare presents itself here: a two-gender system that is neither fem/masc or anim/inan. Let's establish two end-points- all humans belong to gender 1, all mass nouns to gender 2. However, this is not a count/mass-distinction either.

Nouns that are neither human nor mass are arbitrarily distributed between the two. Nouns that are both - crowds, tribes, etc - can behave as members of either class.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Basics of Ćwarmin Folk Dances

The Ćwarmin tribes are increasingly adopting sedentism, but many tribes still retain very nomadic lifestyles. Many of the traditions and rituals among the sedentist tribes stem from nomadic rituals, and many of the dances have ritual use.

A very common type of dance happens before setting up a new camp, or building additional tents or structures (and in the sedentist tribes, before building a new house). One style of dance consists of placing sticks in geometric patterns on the ground: crosses, "asterisks", and sometimes tiled patterns are made. Dancers place themselves in symmetric or pseudosymmetric patterns, and make sequences of steps over and back across the sticks, often in various symmetric patterns, although with certain layouts, the ends of the shape may require some different step sequence. Oftentimes, these step sequences are the length of two regular step sequences.

Dances in large crosses or asterisks often move in and out along the diameter - often they have a "chorus" part, where the dancers close to the middle grip each others hands (in a variety of ways, depending on the dance) and do some slightly different moves from in the "verse", and now often in some quite simple fashion around the centre.

Sometimes, the final chorus part also differs from the earlier choruses. In some dances, the sticks are moved somewhat in the middle (often really a bit into the second half, length-wise). This is often carried out as a special version of the second main genre of stick dance, where the dancers hit each others' sticks generating percussive sounds as they do so. These often also contain parts where the sticks are hit together in various ways that often feature a significant amount of syncopation.
The final part of such a three-part dance often has the same music as the first part, but with a new arrangement of steps and sticks.

At weddings, married couples often dance either opposite each other or next to each other, unmarried dancers do not dance next to or opposite anyone, and the couple who are building their first common tent move, during the dance, from not being opposite/next to one another to being so. Depending on the region, this may require short movements (just getting one step ahead) or large movements (moving slowly around a large segment of the figure). In other dances, the married couple will dance a 'duet' in an exceptional spot - in the middle of a large figure - and often in an exceptional pattern.


Groupings and symmetries: oftentimes, everyone moves in the same pattern. Such dances are fully symmetrical. Some may permit for gaps. Sometimes, men and women dance in different patterns. Sometimes, one of the genders are divided into two groups with different patterns each. It is unusual, but not unattested for a dance to have two separate groups per gender. Finally, some dances are only for one gender – and such dances also sometimes divide the dancers into as many as three groups.

These are single, double and triple dances (depending on the number of groups), and they usually have rotational or transpositional symmetry.

Finally, four kinds of dances exist where one must consider there to be several 'bunches' of people that move together, rather than separate people moving in similar patterns. In three of these, the bunches all behave similarly, in the final one, the behavior of the groups starts out similarly, until one group breaks the ranks, and after awhile another group also breaks the ranks, and ends up converging on the first group to break ranks. Finally, the whole set converges.

Stick setups: polygons, combs ( |_|_|_|_| ), often symmetrical across the spine ( -|-|-|- ), squares-with-combs (#, possibly with more arms) stars (pentagrams,  hexagrams, larger ones are uncommon), crosses and asterisks (+, *, with odd or even numbers of arms permitted). For the second style of dance, there's two main setups: short sticks in each hand, or long stick held by both. Sometimes, different dancers may have different setups in such dances.

Stick transitions: Most dances that include stick transitions go between a comb or square-with-comb layout and a cross or asterisk layout.

Rhythms: Mostly the rhythms consist of short slightly lilting pulses, basically alternating strong and weak, short and long beats. Length and strength combine both ways.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Detail #338: A Voice - Dereflexive

Consider a language where the only pronominal way of distinguishing third persons is the distincyion between reflexive and regular third persons.

In cases where only one third person is prominent, this is not widely used but sometimes the distinction is used outside its origin in reflexivity.

Here, we can consider a situation where a  basic voice marker and the reflexive marker - be they of whatever kind you want - combine forces to form a "dereflexive" - a voice that lacks a proper subject, but instead has a reflexive marking that is the real subject of the thing.