Thursday, January 30, 2014

Detail #75: Lack of a verb for 'to stand'

Imagine a language where the closest to a verb such as 'to stand' really only signifies 'to do something in an upright position'. In English (and all other languages I know), when walking, you do not stand - you're doing so in an upright position, but you're not standing. Thus, to express 'I am standing (still)', you'd say something like 'I am and do so in an upright position', or 'I do nothing, and in an upright position'.

Now, the verb 'to stand' is flexible enough for lots of periphrastic things, but it'd seem this kind of 'gap' in its meaning would lead to even more periphrasis.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Detail #74: Encoding emotional stances in temporal adverbs

Adverbs such as 'again', 'intermittently', 'on occasion', 'back then', 'recurrently', 'often', 'seldom', etc easily could combine with various emotional components, possibly in a systematic way. Obviously, some gaps easily could occur in such a system.

Meanings such adverbs would encode include '(too) often', 'seldom (enough)', 'back then (~in the good old days~)', 'again (argh why the heck does that have to happen again blargh)', 'back then (man I hated those times)', 'soon (and luckily, not too soon)', a while ago (and I am happy that much time has passed), etc. Emotions basically are marked on scales of intensity of emotion, positive or negative emotion as well as two points off that axis representing 'sufficient' or 'insufficient' - i.e. frequency, time passed or remaining, or sufficiently long or short time span.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Detail #73: Narrative and poetic use of evidentiality

Evidentiality has become somewhat popular, and the kinds of question you see on conlanger forums often relates to how it's dealt with in indirect speech, whether there's separate evidentialities for stories and poetry, etc.

I came up with a particular set of neat ideas for how evidentiality could be used in narratives and in poetry, but these usages have implications for the use of evidentiality throughout the language.

1. Ascending Evidentiality
Often, in poetic contexts, evidentiality tends to ascend - within a stanza, it is rather seldom that a verb has a less strong evidentiality than a previous verb has. Thus, when praising a king or the beauty of a woman or flower or whatever, the intensity of the evidentiality with which the poet has experienced the greatness/beauty/etc grows, while also possibly other details go towards more intense strengths as well - stronger adjectives, greater deeds, etc.

2. Descending evidentiality in narratives and plays
Often, the audience is informed that a character is being deceptive by his repeating similar lines with clearly weakening evidentiality, here given as if translated into English:
I have witnessed how he plans the deed, I have inferred that he's up to something, I have heard rumors that he will kill you, I suspect that he is out for your life
Sometimes, a descending evidentiality chain is broken - thus basically being a short plot twist - suspected deceiver was honest all along.

What we can deduce about the language where this feature exists as far as grammar goes is that evidentiality is not stacked or changed in indirect speech - the verb form used by the person making the original utterance is usually preserved. We also clearly can tell that narratives use the usual evidentialities, rather than some kind of 'fictive evidentiality' or other notions that some conlangers have played around with.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On with detail #69: A construction for predicative comparison

Developing this idea a bit, we get to constructions along the line of 
Stephen is taller than Everett 
So, we have one separate lexeme for tall (let us call it 'tall'), and one somewhat more general lexeme for 'taller' (also including meanings like bigger, stronger, wider, meatier, manlier, more robust, sturdier... ). Let us say the comparative lexeme is 'balls'. The above meaning would correlate to
Stephen is balls, Everett (is) tall.
For a thing like 'Stephen is stronger than ever', you could do something like:
Stephen is balls since strong? Stephen is balls ever strong? Stephen is now balls for strong.
Of course, some languages have comparatives also doing double duty as some kind of intensifying adjective. This obviously has a problem in a language with this adjective system, as the more intense adjectives all cover a much wider semantic space than the regular ones.

What could help this out would be some kind of almost-duplication:
Stephen is balls tall ('Stephen is very tall')
The two words don't need to form a sequence, they can be distributed throughout the sentence depending on various factors.