Friday, August 29, 2014

Detail #96: Predicative Possession and Instrumentals

It should be pretty easy to form instrumentals out of predicative possession. Just as a hint.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Song

As an entirely unrelated thing, I recently made a song that may be of some interest to conlangers, as it is in an unusual tuning system - 11 tone equal temperament. Except the minor second, pretty much each interval is audibly off from the scales we are used to.

There's no reason to expect non-human or even non-western cultures to conform to the tuning system that has swept the western world since about 200 years ago. Even so, 11-tone equal temperament is not a very likely contender to even appear in any realistic non-information age culture in my opinion, although scales with somewhat similar structures could be a bit more realistic. (The most realistic option that enables songs with the harmonic and melodic structures of this scale would be 17-tone equal temperament, because 11 and 17 both are integer solutions to 5x + y, where ≠ y, x ≠ 0 ≠ y and 17-tet per se is realistic because it has a low-error fifth. Granted, 22-tone equal temperament is also a possibility with an acceptable fifth.)


Barxaw: Possessive Constructions

The possessive constructions of Barxa tend to be rather varied in what other functions the different expressions overlap with. In this post, both predicative possession and attributive possession is described.

For nominal constructions, the overlaps mainly are in how the possessor or the possessee is marked:
One of the primary overlaps is the recipient or beneficiary:
aðál ðo Kpèma - Kpèma's horse (horse for Kpéma)
il istà kuì ðo Kpèma éŋxa  - that house belongs to Kpèma (by inheritance)
wík'an çùmut òrtho ðo Janwàp - three gifts (are/were) presented to Janwàp
saxk'ùlhimá ðo Inàm ðo Epáλ do Risíx - Nénsiqu òrtho ðo - harshword (~criticism) to Inàm, Epáɟ and Risíx was given by Nénsiqu. 
Qhuì ðo Kpèma - Kpèma's possession(s), alternatively also the VP 'belongs to Kpèma'. 

Another overlap is causative constructions, where causers and possessors can be marked the same for normally intransitive, stative verbs. The causee takes a preposition, as does the possessee. 
ɛ̀ŋðà kur jà Uqhir zémp'u t'rol - Eŋðà makes Uqhir carry burden
ɟə` kur t'aníp jà Epàλ - ɟə` cause scare to Epàλ 
C'aʝ kur lùjun  jà istà - C'aʝ's house is big, C'aʝ has a big house.

The fourth construction is a double comitative - with x with y, where y is the possessed noun. Often, this has animate nouns as possessees or culturally significant nouns, but some nouns we would normally consider inanimate are considered animate in Barxaw:

k'e kopì k'e dəsé - with thunder with rain - thunder brings rain, thunder has rain
k'e Inàm k'e aðál ðo Kpèma - Inam has/brings a horse for Kpèma.
k'e Inàm k'e tanaλ, k'e dìnaλ - Inàm has brothers and sisters.
k'e Epàλ k'e losàm - Epàλ has the respect of the community
k'e C'aʝ k'e níxqhà ðo il-Pəzézð - C'aʝ has judicial authority in Pəzézð village.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Some verb-related derivations in Ćwarmin

-enit|-unut - Adverb or noun derived from a verb, denoting the span of time it takes to carry out the action.

-irŋi|-urŋu -  Non-volitional agentive noun; klaturŋu - klutz.

-apur|-əpir - Noun-form that refers to a person whose mandate or responsibility carrying the verb out is. Tends either to be negative or positive in connotation - important titles often end in -apur|-əpir, so do several insults. Neutral designations tend just to use the regular agentive for similar roles.

-edre|-adra - A group-agentive noun, i.e. an ensemble of musicians, a theatre troupe, a crew, etc. Attaches to a verb. In the singular, it denotes one group, in the plural several groups, all who perform some kind of action together.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Detail #95: Adjectives that affect number

Imagine a language with plurals and singulars, but little or no congruence. Further, imagine that for some common adjectives - small, big, adjectives denoting membership in local tribes, tall, short, wide, - have forms that include coding for plurals, paucals, indefinites, nullar number, etc - some formed by some regular process, although many being formed by suppletion or by morphemes unique to one or two words. Not all of these adjectives have all of these forms.

Further, those among these that code for a non-singular meaning block the plural marking on the noun. However, if multiple adjectives of this kind are part of the same phrase, they all take the corresponding form - to the extent that they all do have corresponding forms.

As complements they do showcase congruence, however.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Intensifying Adjectives, Verbs and Nouns in Barxaw

Barxaw does not have comparatives or superlatives (although it does have comparative constructions), but it does have particles that intensify certain adjectives. These particles also serve to intensify verbs, and sometimes can serve by themselves as (intensive) adjectives with specific nouns.

tìì - intensifies adjectives denoting spatial smallness, weakness, cuteness, childishness, shortness, lack, but also limberness. Certain negative looks for men - scrawniness, lankiness, etc.
ťɛn - adjectives denoting fastness, strength, might, richness, coarseness, manliness, handsomeness or any adjective describing a male's looks in a positive manner.
ćá - femininity, beauty, but can also be used to insult a man.
ťáć - longevity, durability, amount, stability, endurance, fitness, quality, skill. Also for verbal time span, and can combine with 'do' to operate as a compound preposition 'ťáć do λip řú
pil - fine, rich in detail, refined, textured. Also with verbs of cognition or thought, perception or the playing of musical instruments as well as song. 
kçup' - intensifies mainly verbs of a kinetic nature. It is also a noun that is used as the head when forming compounds denoting huge measures. 
ɟɛ̀m a catch-all intensifier for other positive adjectives
zágì - a catch-all intensifier for negative qualities 
ʝáp - a verbal intensifier for 'social verbs' (verbs denoting behaviors, relationships, approval or disapproval, participation, religious adherence and legal obedience)
suλɲ̟ò - a verbal intensifier for productive verbs (verbs denoting activities such as fishing, farming, harvesting, cooking, building, ploughing, ...) Can also, as an adjective denote a productive person. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Conlanging by Fiat: an example

A while ago, I posted a thought on what I termed conlanging by fiat. I did not provide any really clear example, since I am pretty bad at coming up with such things - especially ones that seem convincing and realistic. (I could easily come up with contrived ones, but there's a reason I don't use that, and it starts with con- and ends with -trived.)

As luck would have it, I ran into such an example in a recent discussion about polysynthetic languages. The discussion had other terminological confusions in it, and I am really happy it came up, as some confusion was resolved, and it seems people were willing to learn - a commendable trait, due to its infrequent appearance in human populations in general. I have asked for permission to use this example by its originator, and I really appreciate their cooperation on this.

So, the question was what to use instead of cases, if one wanted not to have them in a polysynthetic language. A suggestion was presented: use suffixes that are invariant. (In other terms, suffixes with only one allomorph per suffix.) It is superficially similar to cases, but it is not the same thing.

The reasoning behind this is based on a mistaken notion of what a case is, but the interesting thing is the approach, and I will exaggerate the approach taken in that discussion a bit - beyond what my source did at the very least, but not by far:

Have a set of suffixes that are applied to nouns, and mark their role in the sentence. Assert that these are not case forms. Say your language therefore manages to mark sentence roles efficiently, but without a case system.

Anyone see the problem? We have essentially created cases, and the only thing that makes our forms non-cases is our assertion that they indeed aren't cases.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Detail #94: Onwards with definite and indefinite verbs

In November 2012 I posted this rather short idea:

Verbs come in two main forms, sometimes differentiated by suppletion, mostly by some simple but not entirely predictable morphology. (Probably such that dialects differ greatly in which affix which verb takes).

Indefinite verbs are more coarse-grained as well dividing semantic space generally into fewer slices, and may be less permissive in whether they accept direct objects at all.

Definite verbs, however, do not permit topicalization of objects, except through passivization. Passivization of a definite verb does not demote the subject to oblique, but both the subject and object of the finite active verb behave as independent subjects of the finite passive verb. Passives do not have congruence.

Other unrelated idea:
Have a few verbs require the object to be the topic.

This idea, I feel, could be used as a kernel for a larger set of ideas. It might also be interesting to see how I'd take a small idea such as that given in the quoted post and expand it into a fuller idea. We find a set of features proposed in the post: topics, two-subject passives, and since it's specifically mentioned that passives do not have congruence, we can assume active verbs do have it. Indefinite verbs seem more likely in general to be intransitive, and somehow, having them have just generally less clear aspect - less telic, less punctual, less perfect, less past and so on could make sense. More 'impressionistic', if we're to be somewhat poetic about it.

So, i.e.
þef - to be shopping, to be buying stuff, to be selling, to be engaged in commerce, to haggle
enðif - to buy
abenðifþif - to repeatedly buy
tuŋaðif - to buy or sell at loss
ćukþif - to sell ("buy out")
kxeṃþef - to sell inferior wares or to conduct unethical business practices
irtuvif - to be very stingy in selling
irteðif - to be very stingy in buying

The prefixes can be grouped into sets, one somewhat arbitrary division given below:
directional prefixes
object type prefixes
object type + reflexive beneficiary?
object type + external beneficiary?
object type + version
time structure prefixes
other transitivity-affecting prefixes
Let's not get too big a system - huge tables of prefixes make no one happy.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Detail #93: Evidentiality-related taboos

In a language with several degrees of evidentiality, the following taboos regarding its use could apply:

  • marking for hearsay is avoided when in the presence of deaf people
  • marking for evidentiality by sight, however, is permissible in the presence of the blind, as this is seen as giving them indirect sight
  • marking for knowledge by inference in the presence of people who are on suspicion of having committed a crime, as the legal system of the culture only really permits witnesses, not reasoning to lead to a verdict
  • marking for hearsay while pregnant, so that the child not grow up to be a telltale
  • all future tense markings are taboo in the presence of a newly died corpse, and to a lesser extent they are avoided in the presence of an elderly person who is about to die. A young person who is about to die is not afforded this protection from hearing of the future.
  • marking for evidentiality by sight in the presence of someone who has been sentenced to death, as it is by that evidentiality his or her death has been established. This is violated only by liturgies related to the death sentence being carried out. Future tense and related evidentialities are, however, permitted and even desirable, to instill a sense of shame and loss in the convict.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bryatesle: Discourse Markers In Lieu of TAM

Bryatesle is relatively poor in TAM-related forms. Like early Biblical Hebrew, it even lacks tense. It does, however, have ways of showing - to some extent - whether a noun is new information or not.

A lot of the discourse-information thus resides elsewhere, mainly in particles and adverbials that tie the discourse together. These often go in the Wackernagel position, viz. as the second constituent of a sentence. Sometimes, they even break up constituents to go in the absolute second position.

Many of them have merged with postpositions, forming a special set of discourse-inflected postpositions.

We shall first overview the discourse particles and their uses.

entï - then, therefore, and so, right away. Often signals some immediacy to when the consequent action takes place.
kseme - then, therefore, with less immediacy than entï. Clear causal chain implied.
abas - signals the start of a discourse. Not mandatory, but tends to be used if the speakers wants to ask for attention for at least a handful of sentences onwards. Also used to emphasize requests or statements.
ytusr - "and due to this", mainly used with conclusions and more abstract causation - thus not really a link of events, but a link of reasoning.
dës - "but not", "but never". Basically contrastive negation or emphatic negation - "but X doesn't" or "and that fool doesn't/never does". Merges often as a prefix onto adpositions in the form dë-, but sometimes with dedentalization: de-. Sometimes also a suffix, -ës or -es. May be doubled for emphasis.
dëdis -  "but not (+past)". Often used when someone didn't do what was expected, something having turned out unexpectedly, or such. Contrastive negation, unexpected negation or accusatory negation ("...but that fool didn't ...). Also appears in "did not!", "did too!" kinds of exchanges. In that kind of exchange, both parts basically use the same word. Merges as dï-, di- or -ïs, -is.
rawi - unless (+past implication), merges as -wi to adpositions.
telle - the conditional thing depending on a clause with rawi in it. Merges as -le or tel- to adpositions.
pagu - in spite of what previously has been mentioned, even though previously mentioned facts, but also 'paradoxically'. Can be intensified by doubling, and then also often signifies 'in contradiction of given orders or obligations'.

Some of these, such as entï, pagu, dës and dëdis and telle can be used as complements for subjects or objects - entï signifying that the described thing or person has the quality of being very quick to react, pagu someone or something that is either opposing orders or whose qualities oppose expected order, dës and dëdis someone who is likely to refuse or has refused and telle someone or something whose status is in the balance.

Several more will exist, but this is a nice first portion.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Barxaw: Negation and Lexical Negatives

Barxaw - my main isolating conlang - permits double negation, and its negation generally follows the 'contradiction operator' ⊥. Its truth table is as follows:

⊥true = false
⊥false = false
The negative particles are different for different 'objects' of negation, verbs are negated by either xij (past telic), kim (non-past telic), kpà (past or non-past atelic) or án (non-existential). Entire previous sentences or even utterances by the same person by ŋían! Utterances, statements or proposals by another person elicit xiŋì or xwùá. Xiŋì can also be used as a negative imperative marker. Nouns can be negated by one out of the following, depending on noun class and other semantic considerations:
naù - a singular human (or similar) negated, both in existential-predicative, locative or as a negative indefinite determiner: teppé naù - (the god) Teppe is not here, teppé naù naù - (the god) Teppe does not exist, in lə delts naú - he is with no one, in naù kmtok - for him, there is no brother.
In Barxaw mythos, Teppe is a god whose existence is explicitly denied, and often appears in stories as what non-Barxa people pray to, seek help from or go to seek, but never find. Every Barxaw knows the real gods laugh at believers in Teppe. 
Those for other noun classes often cover about 3-4 classes each, and there is some overlap. Their syntactic use - both as predicates and determiners is similar to naù
These are íŋè (classes 1-3, 6), imáŋ (class 2, 4, 8), ŋaŋ (classes 3,4,5) and dìŋ (classes 4,5,1,7). 
Nouns and adpositions are not negated as complements - the verb is negated instead. Adjectives, however, can take xij, kpà or more generally àn (which, when used with adjectives, has no existential connotation). However, there is a number of adjectives that are considered semantically negative, and adding a negative particle to them only strengthens the meaning or specifies the aspectual-temporal meaning of the negation (i.e. xij would show that the hunger is a problem of the past) - ŋnì (hungry), inxu (sad), seóma (unable, incapable), tixwè (sick), kpùm (asleep), ancur (poor), enéx (weak), ámbec (unwashed, dirty). Negating these by adding a word is thus impossible, and antonyms have to be used. (mag - full, sated; ísep - happy, content; sèwap - capable, able; sudám - healthy, strong, doing ok; psir - awake, alert; èrmel - of sufficient means or indàa - rich, taŋèŋ - strong, ìdír - clean, pure, separate.