Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Detail #44: Migratory case suffixes

(This feature could arguably be used as evidence that the cases in question are not cases, but rather some kind of adpositional clitics).

In a language with some verbs triggering quirky case on the object, under certain circumstances if the object is missing the case suffix/clitic goes somewhere else in the sentence. The circumstances that trigger this are:

  • objects being topicalized
  • objects only being present as congruence marking on the noun
  • objects having certain determiners on them that prevent the case markers
In these cases, the case marker tends to appear on whichever is the rightmost of:
  • adjectival complements (esp. object complements)
  • indirect objects
  • subjects
  • a dummy pronoun

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Detail #43: A couple of derivative affixes

An affix applicable to verbs of utterance, which in combination with verbs like say, ask, tell, etc form verbs meaning things along the lines of

  • [prefix]-say: to concur, to agree
  • [prefix]-ask: to agree with the notion that the asked question deserves an answer
  • [prefix]-tell: to concur with a story or longer utterance
  • [prefix]-sing: to sing harmony
  • [prefix]-laugh: to laugh with someone
Another affix would form a kind of opposing meaning:
  • [prefix]-say: to contradict
  • [prefix]-ask: to respond by a further question
  • [prefix]-tell: to assert that a whole narrative is a lie
  • [prefix]-sing: to sing the response part in a call-and-response structure
  • [prefix]-laugh: to laugh at someone
Further verbs of speech and discourse could have meanings that somewhat follow these patterns, but on occasion - as with the singing examples deviate a bit more from the pattern of the meanings.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Detail #42: N pieces each

The previous post involving 'each' inspired me to think a bit about the construction used in the topic, the construction used to express giving members of some group a certain amount each.

I came up with a few ideas:

  • Use an adverb formed by clustering together a bunch of pronouns: to me-you-him-them (alternatively, with dative or whatever). Simple and has a certain attractiveness to it. There's a kind of obvious way it would have come about and been generalized for each instance of 'N# each'.
  • Use a special form on the numbers. Four-distr. pound = four pounds each.
  • The previous option could be made interesting - what if the -distr. form then is generalized to other things? Bread-distr. = bread for everyone! Fast-distr. = everyone speed up? Everyone is?|can be?| should be?|may be?  fast.
  • And, again, what if it went the other way? In some way, this could be seen as a very special kind of imperative, so an imperative affix on the numeral. The grammaticalization path would go from the very specific context of '(here, take) four' until every context is covered by it, included telling that each person got so and so many or are entitled so and so many somewhere.
  • Some kind of fossilized imperative verbs along the lines of 'take an allotment of  N' or 'allot N'. Maybe not even fossilized - they could still be distinguished between when you're the recipient or the distributing part.  
  • In a way, a modal verb form expressing permission easily could generalize to this kind of numerals?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Longer term project: a few details

This idea originally was slated to be detail #... but as I kept thinking about it, it occurred to me that it fits with the isolating language I have been slowly compiling ideas for. I will, however, describe the idea as it developed.

each, every: formed as two opposite nouns or adjectives along these lines -
man and woman }
beast and fowl     }   NP
child and adult    
large and small    
E.g. every able worker young and old able worker | big and small able worker
Before it occurred to me that this could work with the isolating language, I considered case marking and how it interacts with this. The following options occurred:
  • These phrases, when used as determiners and pronouns, use the same case morphemes - and the same case distinctions - that pronouns normally use? Or alternatively, a simplified case system or one that merges cases in a way that differs from nouns in some other way.
  • The case of the embedded noun phrase should be somewhat limited - partitive or genitive or nominative or somesuch, but maybe exceptionally mark accusative case when the phrase is the direct object of a verb?
  • When used as a pronoun, the phrase is more often oblique than a direct argument of the verb, thus distinguishing it from sentences where these noun phrases are coordinated due to the speaker actually speaking of such combinations.
At this point, it dawned on me that maybe one could use articles to distinguish 'actual' use of nouns and this kind of use - omitting the articles whenever the use is pronoun-/determiner-like. At that point, this makes sense in an isolating language as well. It also dawned on me that the more typical determiner/pronoun 'all' probably also could originate with this construction, and an earlier 'all' could have been grammaticalized into some kind of aspect marker particle, but also still persist in some idioms. 

Thus, the language will have articles - probably using some kind of noun class system (with some overlap between classes), as well as a very free way of forming 'all, each, every'. Finally, fossilized use of an earlier 'all', as well as use of that earlier pronoun as an aspect marker. Oh, and the 'all, each, every'-construction should probably be more likely to occur in somewhat oblique positions than as direct objects.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Detail #41: A lexical item

The verb used to denote smoking tobacco (or other similar things) varies a bit between languages. Swedish uses a verb derived from 'smoke' (rök röka, but compare the verb used for fires and other things from which smoke is emitted: ryka). Finnish uses the verb for 'to burn' (polttaa), English uses a zero-derived verb smoke. Albanian, apparently, uses a verb that also denotes drinking

Considering the importance of the lips in smoking, I figure some kind of detransitivized or dereciprocalized version of kiss reasonably could be used as well in some language - maybe especially so if smoking is a ritualized practice in the culture.