Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Detail #30: Two ideas for lexical derivation

Having perfective aspect morphology derive historically from a definite object marker is a bit been-there/done-that as far as ideas in this blog goes. However, aspect morphology can be interesting in other ways.

The detail I like here is the idea of having verbs along the line of arrive formed from the preposition one would use to express movement to the place being the object of the arrival, and a perfective morpheme. However, these would then grammaticalize into just average verbs, and maybe use a separate perfective morpheme to mark actual perfectiveness, alternatively lack imperfective forms.

Another thing I've been thinking of (and which could be interesting to combine with the previous idea) is object-type markers. These would mark perfective aspect, but the marker is semantically determined by the kind of action or kind of object involved:

ŋei - intransitive verb (only occurs with normally transitive ones), (also maybe some types of objects under some restrictions - non-kinetic non-... action)
ga - human object, also marks indirect object of bivalent verb (and then isn't restricted to perfective verbs)
den - liquid or very soft object (up to dough-type consistency), verbs such as pour, ...
toz - mass object
iŋk - object of ingestion or consumption
sek - structured object, collective object
sim - object of transaction

Now, these could maybe combine with adpositions too to form verbs:
in + iŋk = swallow
in + den = fill
out + toz = eject
out + den = ejaculate
out + sim = have sold at too low a price
at + sek = to arrange
in + ga = to have intercourse with, to marry?

Note that they would not be compounds, but separate words that together form phrasal verbs of some kind.

Detail #29: A quantifierish thing

I bet this exists in some language.

A noun along the lines of 'pair, couple' designating - in isolation or with a noun-phrase any set of two that together are perceived or thought of as having a close connection or bond or togetherness; could include "romantic" pairs, doesn't have to. This would be its primary meaning, and the way it is most likely to pop up.

With numerals, though, it would lose the 'pair' meaning, and just signify the close-connection:

pair you : the two of you, you lovebirds(?)
pair shoe: two shoes, a pair of shoes
fifty pair soldier: a platoon, a unit of fifty soldiers or so.
four pair string instrument: string quartets 

This could further interact with definiteness or somesuch in the following manner:
five some? pair wheel: five actual pairs of wheels. (Presumably assembled so the pairs are on some axes or somesuch.)
the pair wagon: the caravan of wagons.
pair the wagon: the two wagons. 
the five the pair wagon: the caravan of five wagons.
Finally, with "one", it marks unification of something:
one pair land: a country (several regions unified)
one pair herd: a herd (would indicate a herd that earlier has been several herds?)

So basically, a noun that if not given a specific number defaults to two, but with other numbers or  determiners, it may be interpreted as another number or a less specific number.

A language with a dual number could use the dual in a similar way as well - or of course have even more complex interactions between the quantifier and the numbers and such, the use of isolating typology in this post was mostly to advertise isolating languages a bit.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Detail #28: Names

It is fairly common in western names to have first-names followed by family names. In some cultures the pattern - still present in Chinese and Hungarian, for instance - is reversed, with the family name first. Hence in the name Mao Tse-Tung the first word signifies the family, and Tse-Tung is his individual. This should be obvious with regard to the North Korean leaders - they haven't been very lacking in imagination by giving all their sons the same first name and tucked on some random middle-names.

Some Germanic areas in Northern Europe still have family-names first in the usual spoken vernacular, (Dalarna, parts of Österbotten), Finnish (and afaict Estonian) does it as well, even though in all of these, the family name goes last in the official, legally recognized name. Apparently, some Swedish families have managed to arrange some exceptional right to have the reverse order in their official papers - something I would love to do as well, since my home-village the reverse order is still very alive (although, funny enough, there's a tendency for many there to have two family names; the traditional one and the official one. My traditional family name is Låuses, from the dialectal Swedish word for (maritime) pilot, whereas my official name is Finnish and has quite a different history behind it).

Now, how about a language in which names do not have an order? You have four or five names, and there is no difference to the order in which they are given. There may be a hierarchy as to which would be used in which registers, but there is no information about you encoded in the order of your names. The cultural hierarchy of order could be something like 'names that sound like those of [important cultural heroes] go first in state-business contexts, names that sound like those of important saints go first in temple rituals, names shared with your close ancestors go first in family ceremonies'.

In addition, this could be nice for some sandhi-processes or such acting on the names, giving various surface forms:

Gar Tek Dho Gan -> Got`:eðowã
Tek Gan Gar Dho -> Teg:aŋãl`o
Gan Dho Tek Gar -> Ganðoteg:ar

or maybe something like
Gama Welli Nau Mes -> Gamawel:inome
Welli Gama Mes Nau -> Wel:ijames:au
Gama Nau Mes Welli -> Gam:aunesol:i (Nau is assimilated into the -ma of the previous name, and the following Mes is dissimilated so as to avoid several syllables beginning in m- in a sequence.)