Saturday, April 27, 2013

Detail #37: Pragmatics and double negation

To rip off what probably actually happens in a load of actual languages:

Let the resolution of whether repeated negation cancels out or not be determined by pragmatical cues.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Detail #36: Duals and transitives

In a language where subjects and objects originally weren't that strictly distinguished, could it be possible for a dual verb to express both the situation where two subjects perform an action together, or the situation where one noun acts on the other? Thus, you'd get "I see you" as "see.1 dual", possibly with some other marker indicating which is the genuine subject: "is.1sg see.1 dual" vs. "is.2sg see.1 dual", but on the other hand, plural subjects go by the usual route: I see them: "see.1sg them", you and I see them: "see.1du them"

Detail #35: 'anymore', 'anylonger'

Certain indefinite pronouns and comparatives have things in common, and this can be noted in how some languages actually use comparative forms in the latter (anymore, any longer).

Many of the contexts where these are used easily lend themselves to carrying some kind of emotional data:

Are you trying to learn the guitar any longer (mocking, dubious)
 Is there going to be more (curiosity) of that?
Are you going to stay a while longer (hope)?
On the other hand, such emotional markers being present would also tend to indicate that some kind of meaning along those lines is implied.

Hence, a language where indefinites and comparatives both are formed from grammaticalized adjectives or verbs denoting emotional states?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Detail #34: Special subject nouns instead of auxiliaries

A system where several modes are expressed not by auxiliaries or by adverbs, but by replacing the subject with a modal subject. This subject is either coordinated with the usual subject, or demotes it to some kind of indirect object status.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Detail #33: Restriction on verb control

In constructions along the lines of:

he tries to sleep
she seems to sleep
he tricked her to sell the stock
she wants to see the movie
what if only object control of the subordinate verb was allowed?

it tries him to sleep
it seems her to sleep
he tricked her to sell the stock
it wants her to see the movie
In such a language, it would make sense for 'seems', 'tries', etc to have somewhat different meanings than in English - tries could easily mean something like 'challenges', seems could also have as subject the person to which it seems to be the case, etc, and a general, 3rd person dummy object would just signal more general situation.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Detail #32: Freely movable morphemes

And by this topic, I mean entirely freely movable morphemes - to the point that they can be freely infixed *anywhere* in any other word in the sentence, maybe with some rather specific restrictions (like, say, never inside an adposition).

They might trigger some mutations and sandhi things that help counteracting ambiguities.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Detail #31: Pronouns doubling as particles

Certain pronouns - especially indefinite ones - lend themselves easily to adverbial uses as well, c.f. how some languages do not distinguish "not" from "no, none". (Example: Swedish dialects in southwest Finland use 'inga' for basically all negation, thus having the same negation in "I didn't see you" and "No car is fast enough". )

Somewhat inconsistently, dialects of Swedish also use 'all' to denote completion (and by extension, wearing out, lacking and running out: bɪɭɪn jä all - the car is worn out, mjöɭt͡ʃen jä al: - IMD at least usually used to say something like 'well, that was the last of the milk!'. The pronoun has gender marking in congruence with the noun. This is basically only used with all as a complement - a rather restrictive use. How about constructing a whole perfect/perfective/telic(?) aspect using all as the morpheme/particle marking it? I'd presume this use would not have congruence with anything (or whatever form the pronoun takes would be influenced by whatever.)

Certainly, of course, something along the lines of some could easily be an explicit marker for slightly intensifying a imperfect/imperfective verb. Do keep in mind that different languages of course may have different sets of indefinite and definite pronouns (outside of the basic personal pronouns), there's no guarantee that 'some' will have a perfect match.

'who, which, that, ..' (relativizers): questions like "Who built this?" could easily get an increasingly grammaticalized answer like "it's John who [built it]", where "who [built it]" slowly is reduced to just an intransitive relativizer. This would end up increasingly like some kind of definite article restricted to only some contexts, such as answering questions, contrastive statements ("... but it was really he who."), etc. (Reminds me of lambdas in programming, for some reason).

Just some ideas that could be developed, and probably are rather close to what actually may have happened in some natural languages.

Coming up at some point in the next weeks: a consideration of pragmatics in conlangs.