Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Detail #63: 'to have' in Ćwarmin

As described in the previous post, Ćwarmin has a special accusative for reflexively possessed objects. This combines with some normally intransitive verbs - to be, to stand guard, to become, to go - to create predicative possession.

The simplest construction is along these lines:
SUBJECT.nominative is[inflected for tense, aspect, person] OBJECT.refl.poss.acc
 ~subject has object
The owner can sometimes also be in the dative, in which case the verb omits agreement.

More complicated things appear with various voices. The language has two passives - one that promotes the direct object to subject, and one that promotes the indirect object. Sometimes, the indirect object passive (henceforth passive II) is used for predicative possession as well:
SUBJECT.nom is.passII.[tense,aspect,person] OBJ.refl.poss.acc
The third person passive II is used when having in general is discussed, or when no object is supplied:
be.passiveII.participle = those who have
be.passiveII money.refl.poss.acc is nice = to have money is nice 

Further, usually, to stand guard, takes a locative complement. The ablative can be used to mark guarding against something. It being used to denote possession often relates to certain objects that often are guarded  in the Ćwarmin culture - homes, flocks, individual animals, slaves, daughters, but also honor, titles and duties and by extension any noun of which one is especially proud. To stand mainly is used when the object is land, resources, ships, a shed or otherwise work-related building, rights and equals or above in status (brothers, friends, owners, masters, etc). To go is used in a possessive sense whenever the object actively obtained, to become when it is bestowed upon the subject.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Detail #62: That case system

The case system I made up as an example case system to describe some possible adverbial quirks was, imho, surprisingly good, so I figure I might take and develop it a bit further. I have generally avoided large case systems in my conlanging, settling for at most eight or so standard cases (although the Bryatesle case system arguably consists of more, but that is due to how they stack). To make it easier to speak of this language, I've given it a tentative name, Ćwarmin.

Here's the basic set of cases, given in set theoretical notation:
{nominative, accusative, reflexively possessed accusative, nominative complement, accusative complement, genitive, dative, {{towards, from, at}×{on, in, by}}/{towards,by}, general ablative, instrumental, comitative-with, comitative-to, negative}

Nominative is same-oldy, as is accusative. Reflexively possessed accusative is a special version of the accusative (but also takes on dative functions). The nominative and accusative complements are used both for copula-like and causative-like constructions. The nominative complement is a reduced copula-like particle. The genitive does its usual things but also partitive-like stuff, the dative does its usual things (but also some more classical object-like things). The locative cases, of course, by and large, do their usual things (and some other stuff, which I may design and describe later).

The Locatives

Towards-by is not distinguished from at-by.

General ablative
This case expresses a few different notions, some not necessarily locative in nature - avoided things, objects of reference (three miles from X), objects of comparison, a variety of uses with nominalized verbs, the onset of durations.

The Comitatives
The two comitatives and the instrumental form a sort of forked towards/at-like structure. The towards-comitative sometimes does duty as a towards-instrumental, but giving it the designation of towards-comitative is more justified as it covers that kind of 'abstract, ideal case-space' for this language more perfectly. The lack of a from-instrumental/from-comitative is in part a result of the way comitatives and instrumentals are conceived of in Ćwarmin. To the extent such cases would be called for, they are somewhat haphazardly distributed over the different from-cases, including the general ablative.

An example of the comitative-to would be most notions of joining, marrying or setting out to visit, whereas comitative-with express the usual comitative notions as well as staying at someone or a group, being married to someone or being a member of some group.

The Negative
A case by such a name may sound a bit unjustified, but as it covers several somewhat negation-related functions, the name is better than abessive or negative concord or any such. It covers the following roles:

  • absent existential arguments (subjects of negative existential statements, objects of negative existential statements)
  • that which is lacked (without X).
  • frequent with nominalized verbs (not having Xed, without Xing, not intending to X)
  • frequent with negative objects when an indirect object is present (X didn't give Y Z.neg)
  • frequent with negative, definite singular objects (didn't verb X)
  • in the plural, negative indefinite for intransitive subjects or objects ('no X'). Negative, indefinite transitive subjects and other noun phrases are formed using a negative determiner instead.
  • sometimes for 'instead of'. In these cases, it is generally preceded by a conjunction. 

More on these and how they interact with some verb system later.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Detail #61: Some adverb quirks

Adverbs are a part of languages where conlangers seem not to go into any huge amount of detail. There probably is a bunch of reasons for this, e.g.

  • English having a rather boringly simple system for most adverbs that are formed from adjectives (-ly not giving a lot of potential for interest). This relatively straightforward lack of detail seems to be par for the course in Germanic though (e.g. German and some Scandinavian languages basically having uninflected adjectives double for adverbs, Swedish having adjectives with the neuter marker.) English does do some interesting things, even then: good → well, where well also is partially an adjective (but slightly unusual in that it cannot be an attribute, but can be a complement - *"the well man", but "the man is well"). Another exception is hard, where hardly, of course, is a mostly separate lexeme. This kind of exception can of course be interesting, but I will leave it at that. Coming up with different details than those present in English but of the same kind is left as an exercise for the reader.
  • Adverbs often being subsumed into other existing word classes and phrase classes, e.g. adpositional phrases, adjectives, nouns in different cases. Making verb-like adverbs does not seem to be very common among conlangers, possibly because of them being relatively uncommon in Standard Average European.
  • Adverbs seem to be slightly too far into the bits of a grammar where people
  • don't know what to do with them? 
  • just don't care to do cool things with them? 
  •  don't have an idea that it's possible to do cool things with them? 
  •  Get bored of going into deeper detail or assume no one's going to read that far
So, let's consider adverbs. For now, I will not consider any semantic or pragmatic uses for them - there are ideas I have in those regards that may appear later. What other things can we do to adverbs except something like English does?:
I run quickly
There are two main sources of behaviors I am going to look at, and try to apply their traits to adverbs. These are, (un-?)surprisingly enough, verbs and nouns. I will present a draft of a language's verbal and nominal morphology, and then go on to apply this in different ways to the adverbs.


The nouns have three accidents: number, case and definiteness. Not all combinations occur. There are three numbers - singular, plural and partitive. Partitive is always indefinite. Definiteness comes in three forms too - indefinite, known to speaker, known to listener. For this language, the case list will amount to something along the lines of Finnish or Hungarian: 

{nominative, accusative, reflexively possessed accusative, nominative complement, accusative complement, genitive, dative, {{towards, from, at}×{on, in, by}}/{towards,by}, generally away from, instrumental, comitative-with, comitative-to, negative}

As a note, comitative-1, comitative-2 and the instrumental have morphological similarities to the three {towards, to, from, at}-series. The instrumental corresponds to from, and the two others to towards and at. The case I label 'generally away from' also has similarities to the instrumental in form. The negative case takes several rather different roles, but only appears with the partitive number - subjects of negated atelic verbs, non-existing subjects of existential verbs, objects of negative telic verbs, without.

The system is not entirely agglutinating. Although each accident has a default value that is normally expressed by no exponent - e.g. nominative, singular, indefinite - these sometimes do take an exponent - partitive nominative has an explicit nominative marker, as does indefinite comitatives, instrumentals, datives and genitives. Reflexively possessed objects cannot be known to speaker, and are either indefinite or known to listener.

The plural for a rather large group of words is formed by partial reduplication. This partial reduplication also occurs in the partitive for the same nouns. The partitive can signify both plural and singular referents, and this can be shown using verb congruence.


The verb has congruence for subjects and direct objects. The congruence is somewhat defective. Partitive-case objects are more likely than others not to be marked on the verb. Some intransitive verbs have object-congruence rather than subject-congruence markers appear for their subjects. Passives entirely lack congruence. Subject congruence distinguishes the three definiteness levels, object congruence merges the two definite kinds.

The verb also marks some kind of TAM-complex. The more complex the set of exponents present (mainly formed agglutinatingly), the greater the likelihood that the verb congruence and/or the tense being deficient. Certain moods lack tense differentiation (although aspect tends to be marked for most of them). Some moods have non-nominative subjects, and for those, the subject congruence invariably settles for zero marking.

As for voices, there are three basic voices: active, passive and oblique. Passive has little to no congruence, and lacks a bunch of moods. Its tense-aspect matrix basically consists of {{past, nonpast× {perfect, imperfect}}.

The oblique voice rather seems to promote non-agent, non-object arguments to subject status. It has {nonpast, past} ×  {imperfect}, thus lacking all perfect meanings. 

On to the adverbs

So, let us have adverbs as somewhat of a wastebasket for words specifying qualities of the VP. To make it interesting, let's make them have properties that make them look like deficient verbs and nouns at the same time. I would probably have two subfamilies of adverbs - the verb-like ones and the noun-like ones, but a clever design could merge these. Probably, some adverbs would be less deficient than others. 

Let's consider a few individual adverbs:
slowly - in this language, this is verb-like, and it takes congruence either with the object or subject (but not both), depending on whether the action is performed slowly on the object, or the agent is performing the action slowly. Essentially, intentional slowness →object congruence, unintentional slowness → subject congruence. The only mood it can mark for is 'intensive', which does not cooccur with subject congruence. With an intransitive verb, object congruence is simply omitted.
harshly - in this language, harshly is noun-like. It is normally partitive instrumental definite (and sometimes in the complement cases), but also can take modal and subj/obj congruence.
weirdly - noun like, but takes object or subject morphology (and the oblique voice). If subject congruence, the "weird" thing is that the subject acted on the object (instead of on something else), if object congruence, the weird thing is that the subject acted, and not that someone else did, and if oblique, the weird thing is some other participant or fact. 
 heavily - noun-like, with no verbal congruence. Partitive instrumental indefinite (and sometimes in the complement cases). 

The complement cases often are used if the adverb describes a subordinate verb or infinite, and then agrees with the subject of that verb (i.e. is it subject or non-subject) 

This is a somewhat unclear description, but I hope it offers some ideas for how to create more complication in the adverbs.