Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dairwueh: A Subject and Object Preposition

Dairwueh also has prepositions marking the subject, object and the indirect object, although these prepositions are very optional. They serve a few roles, however, and are mandatory when the conditions for some of these roles are fulfilled:
  • enabling preprepositional arguments for subjects, objects and indirect objects
  • intensification of the verb (optional)
  • topicalization (optional for fronted objects)
  • gerund formation for whenever the gerunds are subjects or objects
  • a variety of things with regards to transitivity-changing operations
    • introduces direct objects with normally intransitive verbs
    • introduces datives for verbs that normally do not take them
  • marking resumptive pronouns that are objects (mandatory)
The subject preposition ne cannot take genitive subjects in most dialects, but does tend to imply definiteness - and is also the main way of marking definiteness for intransitive subjects. The object preposition ne takes whichever case the direct object of the verb takes, and thus is one of the few prepositions to take many different cases. Obviously, the prepositions for subjects and objects are identical except for the case they take. The indirect object preposition ser takes the dative.

Preprepositional arguments of subjects and objects serve certain roles:

For subjects, it represents the role a subject is or is imagined to be in:

goodis3sg I
as a farmerArmusgoodis
as a farmer, Armus is good
For objects, it represents, likewise, the role an object is in; there can be a causal relation - I ate something because it was food. I gave someone something because it was their inheritance. For indirect objects, ne can also be used for causal relations: I gave someone something because he was a cleric. ser does not permit causal relations: the preprepositional marks the use for which a direct object was given the indirect object. Notably, ser cannot stand with all dative arguments, only with those that are indirect objects.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sargaĺk: Exceptional Alignment Situations #1

The Sargaĺk alignment situation has one further quirk. The negative is a lightly 'extended' fluid-s. The negative particle is ort(a)-, which is prefixed to some noun or verb. The distribution of the prefix matters with regards to parsing the information structure.

The lightly extended fluid-s signifies that for intentionally negative verbs, the subject will be in the pegative no matter the transitivity of the verb, but for verbs that are negative by omission or failure to act,intransitive and transitive subjects are absolutive. The exceptional verb forms for 1st and 2nd person singular subjects of ditransitive verbs are also used whenever the subject is pegative in the negative.

If ort(a)- is prefixed to the subject, it signifies that the subject's not carrying out the action is of interest, whereas if ort(a)- is prefixed on another NP, it signifies that the action not being carried out on that NP is of interest. On the verb, ort(a)- just generally negates the whole thing.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Detail #331: Determiners with Case-Number-... Mismatching

EDIT: reposted because of accidental deletion
Consider a situation wherein the case systems (or gender systems, or whatever) differ for singulars and plurals. Now, consider some determiner which semantically is plural-like but formally singular. This happens, sort of, in English, with the determiner 'each'.

Now, let's assume that the case system in the plural makes fewer distinctions than it does in the singular, e.g.
  • conflates accusative and nominative?
  • conflates locative and dative?
  • conflates genitive and comitative?
The exact details are irrelevant - come up with them at your own leisure.

Now comes the twist: the case markers are singular (or at least we omit the plural marker if we're dealing with a more agglutinating language), but follow the distribution and function of plural cases. Thus, 'each' is followed by a formally singular noun with the plural case system. Similar mismatches can of course be enforced with, say, gender systems or any other similar thing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Evidence of a Substrate in Inraj Sargalk

Inraj island is a relatively large island with a population of Sargalk speakers isolated from the main bulk of Sargalk. There are temporary Sargalk settlements in closer vicinity, but the archipelago chain linking Inraj to the rest is not very suitable for long term settlement. The location is east of the main Sargalk homelands.

There are a few indications of a linguistic substrate:

  • Nom-acc alignment, with the lative serving as accusative and dative. For some nouns, the pegative has become nominative, for most, the absolutive has become nominative.
  • Personal names use a simpler phonology, consisting of CV syllables (with word final C permitted as well), and only the vowels /i a e u/. The consonant system also is somewhat simplified in the naming system. Names include Kalit, Rukan, Melas, Nisa, Mase, Vinus, Mepus, Kisis, Venut, Lanut, Xenut, Lak, Karan.
  • The verbal system has been reorganized to use a fair share of auxiliaries.
  • In addition to personal names, more than 180 words without cognates in any SDB language.
    • Out of these some 80 are names for places, and 80 designate animals, plants, social status, mythic beings, verbs and nouns related to subsistence and ritual, as well as astronomical phenomena. Two dozen are different profanities.
    • Many of these words have a pitch accent system in place.
    • Some of these words have unusual morphophonology going on, including vowel harmony.
  • Some early loans from Proto-Cwarmin have gone through different changes than in other branches of Sargalk, hinting at being mangled by a different phonology.
  • The indefinite pronoun system is significantly different.
  • Loss of gender, despite no sound changes eradicating gender markers; animacy is much more central.
  • A number of constructions that are not attested anywhere else in the Sargalk area, nor do they have cognates elsewhere.
There are also some ethnological and anthropological reasons to suggest the Inraj Sargalk are partially an assimilated population:
  • different houses
  • different pottery and techniques for weaving baskets
  • certain differences in customs, superstitions and religion
  • dogs are only semi-domesticated
  • different boat designs

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Detail #332: Collective Action vs Individuated Action and Verbal Suppletion

One thing conlangers sometimes try out is distinguishing whether an action with plural subjects is done in a concerted manner or rather as a bunch of individuated actions. One way of encoding this distinction could be lexical - singular verbs and one of the types of plural verbs take the same root, the other kind of plural verb takes another. Thus, a significant amount of verb stems would never be used with singular subjects (except maybe collectives).

Now, we can imagine a situation where some verbs mostly are collective, and some verbs mostly are individuated - and we can let the morphology follow that. The mostly collective verbs use the same root when collective as when singular, and the mostly individuated of course have the same root for singular and individuated plurals.

We can go on and consider how this would interact with other parts of the language. A habitual form, regardless of the number and type of the subject, is a number of individuated actions, and thus the habitual may use the same root as the individuated form, making the IND/COLL distinction overlap with TAM to some extent. Another observation would be that doing something in a confused, haphazard, incompetent way would seem to be like doing a bunch of non-interconnected actions. Thus, exceptionally using the individuated form with a singular subject when it is distinct from the singular could be a way of communication such a thing. On the other hand, a very skillful person also might seem like a one-man army doing a thing, so the use of the form would basically mean 'with exceptionally great or bad skill'. Maybe differential case marking of the subject or object could help determine which, or it'd be left to context, and prosody to communicate which one it is.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

An Inquiry

I recall reading, maybe 15 years ago or so, a short sci-fi story about a fish that was fighting another fish, whose identities were tangled up in some weird ways, while the fish also was perceiving all kinds of amnesia-like sensations. (The plot twist is that the two fish both have had half a brain implanted, and both are from the same person.)

Anyone have any idea what story this might've been?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Detail #330: Interrogative Article

In a language with indefinite and definite articles, have an article that is historically related to the interrogative pronoun/determiner 'what'. Unlike 'what', however, it signifies that a definite noun is the topic of a yes/no-question. In the pseudo-English used to illustrate this, I'll form it analogously to a/an: wha, whan.

you saw wha car?
have you heard whan opera?

the emissary gave wha gift to the king?
the emissary gave a gift to wha king?
wha emissary gave a gift to the king?
A cool thing about this is that definiteness is neutralized in polar questions. Also, other determiners might be forced to behave in quirky ways of the syntax of determiners is anything like that of English:
* you saw wha my car
you saw wha car of mine
(or quirks analogous to that).