Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Detail #124: Topics and Case Marking

It seems to me that topics would be a natural place for the case marking rules in a language to have any number of exceptions - and I even imagine these exceptions could be both towards less marking or more marking.

One idea could be to conflate all case marking on topics with the nominative, except that the accusative is retained for objects of a certain nature, and some very specific verb phrases retain specific markings - say the language has a Finnish/Russian-like predicative possession construction, maybe that particular case is retained as well in that particular construction.

Another idea could be to have, say, differential marking on subjects or objects - but only when they're topics. (So, non-topic objects are exclusively accusative, but as topics they can also be some other case - nominative or dative or whathaveyou, subjects as non-topics are exclusively nominative, but for topical subjects, the genitive gives definite subjects).

The justification why case marking could be less detailed follows from the example of Chinese, where topics often have no adpositions. The intuition we could have for this is that the topic is a sort of obvious participant in some way, and we are more likely to be able to expect its role in the sentence than other constituents' roles. However, on the other hand, topics could also imaginably attract more marking, as very central constituents in clauses.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Small Musing on Prepositions Governing Case

Most conlangers who are probably aware of how in several languages - Latin, German, Russian as prime examples - prepositions alter meaning depending on which case they are used with. In Indo-European languages, dative often goes with location, and accusative often with direction. Alternatively, in say Russian, there's the prepositional and instrumental cases that both are paired with the accusative to the same effect.

However, we're also aware that word order can distinguish subjects from objects and other similar distinctions. In addition, we know other things can distinguish subject from object - lexical knowledge about which noun out of two is more likely to be the subject in general, which noun is more likely to be the subject or object of which verb, etc.

Compare how in English, 'at' can be quite locative at times, and quite directional at other times. In part this seems to correlate* with whether it's a syntactic complement of the verb or not, more locative in nature the less complementy it is. (Here, I am thinking of complement in the way that the object is a syntactic complement.) 

So, maybe we could have the difference between a preposition being locative or directional as a result of word order in the sentence - S Prep N O V = S at N O V, S O Prep N V = S O towards N V.

And to make it better, turn this into a statistical likelihood, i.e. O Prep N is more likely to mean 'towards' than to mean 'at', but that there still is a significant probability for the meaning to be 'at'.

* Have not checked this and won't check it. It's purely a gut feeling, and I am not going to base what essentially is a speculation about how a language might work on whether this gut feeling is correct or not.

Dairwueh: The Third Person Verb

The Dairwueh verb, for most tense-aspect combinations have two third person forms, labelled quite clearly 3rd person I and 3rd person II. Since the II-form does not distinguish number, the following indexing is practical: 3sg, 3pl, 3II. The use of the 3II form requires some elucidation.

Generally, 3II is formed with the least actual morphology out of the third person forms. If the verb, inflected for tense, ends in a bimoraic syllable, that is that is also the 3II form. However, if the last syllable is monomoraic, it gains a second mora in some way.

It is used in the following circumstances:

  • with non-explicit subjects
  • with impersonal constructions
  • non-topical subjects
  • relative subclauses (where the subject is relativized), and other subclauses where the subject is not present in that particular subclause)
  • on verbs that are not the primary predicate of the clause
  • sometimes with indefinite subjects
Non-explicit subjects include 'pseudopassives', i.e. just not having a subject.

hāg - (people) do.PRESENT-3II (that)
(from hag, 'to do')
erŋe sawnī - thing-PL.ACC buy-PAST.3II, things were bought, the things got sold
It does not include pronoun dropping though.

In relative subclauses, it is possible for the subject to be present outside of the clause but not within it. In such cases, this too blocks the regular third person marking in the subclause. Non-primary predicates tend to mark meanings along the lines of certain English adverbs. These might have an impersonal subject or the same subject as the main verb, but are marked the same regardless whether impersonal or not.

Indefinite subjects are more likely to have this form the less topical they are.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Detail #123: One idea for Alignment and Causatives

So, we know how coordination should  under syntactic ergativity:

girlerg slapped boyabs and fell
In syntactic ergativity, it is the boy that falls. In most ergative languages that also permit coordination, that is not the case, indicating they have a nominative-accusative syntax underlying the case marking. However, let's do some fun stuff with this and causatives.

We have two primary types of construction:
S O V 
S V 
Now, let's assume we're having a nom-acc language for now.
We get causative transformations thus:
The C O V instance is obviously somewhat causative-passive, i.e. C causes someone to verb O. We would probably have marking along these lines:
Cnom Ssome case 1? Osome case 2? V
Cnom  Osome case 2? V
Cnom  Ssome case 1? V
It is possible S is marked as some kind of non-object,  and 1 and 2 might reasonably be the same. Let's now consider what happens when we have coordinate this with some other verb. Remember, non-causatives here coordinate like in English: Snom Oacc V1 and V2 means Snom did V1 and V2, regardless of transitivity of V2.
 Cnom Ssome case 1? felled and fell
 This could easily be a way of marking telicity of causatives! However, let's look at the other situation
 Cnom Scase 1 Ocase 2 V1,trans and V2,intr
 Johnnom made Ericcase 1 paint the housecase 2 and turned red : the house turned red (due to S1's painting it)
 Cnom Ocase 2 V1,trans and V2,intr
 Cnom made the house be painted and turned red: the house turned red (due to C's making people paint it)
We do get this kind of situation though: 
 Cnom Scase 1 O1,case 2 V1,trans and O2,acc V2,trans 
in pseudo-English with SVO order instead: 
 Johnnom made Ericcase 1 paint the housecase 2 and spilled the paintacc

This could reasonably go both ways:  Johnnom or Ericcase 1 could both be the subjects of V2,trans from a purely a posteriori viewpoint. We could leave such a thing ambiguous, or we could restrict it to either of the two, or we could have some peculiar semantically empty 'pseudo-voice' that is used to resolve this, i.e. a 'decausative voice' that is used exclusively to coordinate your regular verbs with a causer, or maybe the other way around. We also have the situation where we may want to coordinate an intransitive verb with either the C or S argument. We could also have the case marking on S1 depend on whether we want it to be the subject of an embedded verb - maybe shifting it rightwards or marking it as nominative if we are going to coordinate with it?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Detail #122: Places to put Alignmenty Things

[Some edits have been done due to feedback on the clarity. Great thanks to an American gentleman for helping me out]

Alignment-related stuff is an interesting way of showing off just how non-average non-European your language is. However, it is all too easy to describe a language-encompassing alignment and leave it at that - or maybe specify some rules for when the language aligns with nominative-accusative and when it goes ergative-absolutive.

There are more things to do with alignment than just that though! An obvious bit is in participles and derivative morphology - English famously has 'escapee' following an ergative pattern, but that is not the only possibility. A Siberian language whose name escapes me at the moment has its negative participles follow an ergative pattern, whereas the rest of the language is strictly accusative. 

So, let's get onto some weird places to put some exceptional alignments. Let's assume primarily that we're making an ergative language where accusative alignments keep popping up everywhere. Other combinations of alignments could be made just as well. 

1. Causatives
One could easily have the causer's case marking follow an ergative pattern. In these glosses, C marks the causer, and indices mark the case they mark:

We start with two quite regular sentences:
Serg Oabs Vtrans
 Sabs Vintr
 Adding the causer, C, we obtain, as now the S is notionally an object if no embedded object is present, and using obl as an embedded ergative:
Cerg Sabs Vcaus,intr 
Cerg Sobl Oabs Vcaus,trans

But much more variety would be achieved with nominative marking in an otherwise ergative language, and this version is what we'll develop further:
Cerg Sabs Vcaus,intr 
Cerg Sabs Oobl Vcaus,trans

Of course, there's also the possibility of omitting the embedded subject, and just saying that Subject caused Object to be Verbed, in which case we can have anti-ergative patterns, here using the somewhat unclear notion previous encountered in the post on 'intransitive objects' :
Cerg Oabs Vcaus,trans 
Cerg Sabs Vcaus,trans

or a nominative pattern:
Cerg Oabs Vcaus,trans (causee omitted)
Cerg Sobl Vcaus,trans (object omitted)

Ergative patterns basically do exist for this kind of setup, but they would kind of be odd given that we'd be inserting an ergative pattern into a nominative pattern in an ergative pattern:
Cerg Oobl Vcaus,trans 
Cerg Sobl Vcaus,trans

2. Participles
We can have passive participles of transitive verbs marked the same as active participles of intransitive verbs in a nominative language, thus giving us an ergative subsystem. However, we could also have nominative-style participles in an ergative language, thus giving us basically the same kinds of participles that English have. However, we could also have this system break down in some constructions, so that it reverts to the more typical system under certain circumstances - such as, say, with some auxiliary or maybe when the participle is a dangling participle. 

Of course, lexical exceptions also enable funny stuff.

3.  Other non-finite verbal subject and object marking?

4. Some secondary thing, like having possession of subjects marked in one way, and possessions of objects in some other way, in an otherwise very ergative language, or alternatively possession of intransitive subjects and objects marked the same but otherwise a very nominative language.

5. Some other participant marking? (I.e. having the presence of marking for the listener affect cases of the verb arguments? Having marking for the evidentiality-source affect the case marking, in ways that are reminiscent of alignment? This is an idea I came up with a minute before posting this, so will need some further development, and it might turn out that it's ill-conceived from the beginning.)

6. To really make this baroque, one could of course have different noun classes further divide up the case space differently, so that humans follow clearly nominative tendencies both with regular verbs and with causatives (and other similar constructions), whereas other noun classes are nominative, but antiergative in the causatives, some are antiergative, some are ergative with regular verbs but nominative with causatives, etc. Such an alignments galore language would be weird, though, and probably not very realistic. There's probably some hierarchy for what behavior in the regular transitive verb can coexist with what alignment between the arguments of the causative verb, and what kinds of ditransitive alignments are likely to coexist with what kinds of transitive alignments - and even further probably some implicational universals between the causative and ditransitive alignments.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Detail #121: Adverbs as Complements

Imagine a language where adverbs generally are seen either as a complement of the subject (i.e., complements as in 'I am angry', 'I turned weak', etc, but generalized so any verb can have it - 'I walked quick' (where quick describes 'me', rather than 'walked') rather than 'I walked quickly', 'I fought convinced') or the object (as in the type of complement you get in 'I painted my house red'). Now, let's do this by having the adverbs agree with their subject or object in case and or gender.

Now, obviously, some adverbs don't necessarily have any clear semantic connection to either subject or object - 'he definitely knows our plan', 'regrettably, I cannot tell you this secret'. Thus, the language gets a lot of lexicalized information with each adverb-like thing as to whether they agree with the subject or the object. In the case of intransitive sentences, though, they all agree with the subject. (Alternatively, they agree with some default gender/case?) (Actually, this could be a place to insert some split-ergativity!)

Of course, even locative expressions that are not core arguments of the verb could go for some congruence-thing like this.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ćwarmin, Bryatesle and Dairwueh: Some Basic Word Order Typology

Ćwarmin is an SOV language, although some flexibility is present. It does follow some tendencies for such languages:

  • postpositions
  • (Det) (Num) (Adj) Nom, 
  • Gen N - although like in most of my conlangs, Gen can be extracted in several ways
  • wh- in situ
  • auxiliaries follow infinitives
  • a tendency towards time-manner-place order in adverbs

Ćwarmin has "historically" developed from an intermediate SVO stage that developed out of a previous SOV stage, so there are a handful of SVO-like features clinging on, although it never thoroughly acquired full SVO compliance. Relative clauses can precede or follow the noun, although there's a more restricted set of ways in which they can be formed before the noun.

Bryatesle too is basically SOV, with the same basic word order tendencies:

  • postpositions
  • (Det) (Num) (Adj) Nom
  • Gen N, although again, the gen can be extracted in several ways
  • wh- in situ
  • auxiliaries follow infinitives
  • a tendency towards time-manner-place order in adverbs
Bryatesle has no traces from any non-SOV systems. Both Ćwarmin and Bryatesle permit OSV and the verb can be fronted as well. SVO and OVS are very uncommon in both, although an extra subject pronoun can appear in Bryatesle after the verb for emphasis. 

Dairwueh, on the other hand, is SVO. It has the following properties:
  • prepositions
  • Nom (Num) (Det) (Adj) 
  • N Gen
  • prevalent wh-movement

Both Dairwueh and Ćwarmin have the complication that many verbs that to a speaker of English might seem to serve auxiliary-like roles are not really auxiliaries at all, but rather what we might term 'pragmatic verbs', verbs which serve as building blocks for information structure rather than as a ways of signalling actions or states of participants, and these tend to be coordinated with other verbs rather than being in an auxiliary verb-main verb relationship. In Bryatesle, this is rather dealt with by means of a huge set of conjunctions and discourse particles. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Detail #120: A Quirk in Numbers

Imagine a numeral system much like the decimal system - although any number really could serve, I will use decimals as the basis here for simplicity. We further keep a detail that is quite common: unique numbers for a few numbers above ten (or whatever base we're using): eleven, twelve, and we give ten, eleven, twelve the symbols Ð, Þ, ß (I only picked those symbols because they were conveniently available right now). These are parsed as their value * 10^(n-1), where n = the index of the position from the left.

Now, partially, English and many other languages do admit using these numbers a bit beyond their usual range: twelve hundred is an example of exactly that. But let's further permit using eleven and twelve beyond that:

1ß1 : 221
ßßß: 1332
ß12: 1212
3Ð2: 402
Ð0: 100
1Ð0: 200
5Þ: 61
Þ5: 115
In this system, both of these symbols would be acceptable ways of writing such numbers.

Now we get to the sociolinguistic or 'socionumeristic' use of these numbers: of course, pricetags with repeated digits are preferred - ßßß rather than 1332. Reducing the number of digits, if possible, is also preferred: ß999 rather than 12999. Stating a debt using Ð, Þ, and ß - if you're the lender - is perceived as a kind way, an indication that there is no hurry. Stating it using the canonical western form indicates some demand of payback soon.

Now, for a mathematical challenge: give an algorithm f(N), which as an output gives the number X, 0 < X ≤ N, such that X has the maximum number of ways to be written using this notation out of all integers less than or equal to N.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tatediem: Some Morphology and also "Tense, Aspect and Mood: Not Quite Categories"

Tatediem's verbal system has a slot for TAM, which applies to all verb forms except infinitives. However, the TAM marking there comes in only four flavors: zero marking for non-future, and an often assimilated -də- for future, -ki- for imperative/hortative/optative and -ek- for tenseless irrealis. The extra subject congruence, of course, also codes for a somewhat specific aspect-tense thing.

Tatediem can encode information that encodes a much richer TAM system, but they are distributed in slightly weird ways. We find four slots in the verb slot system - manner, intensity, direction and the infinitive slots - where TAM-like information can be encoded. A slot can only ever take one prefix in it at a time.

The intensive slot can take the following quite regular markers:
-əŋu- non-committed, un-eagerly, weakly, slowly,
-oppo- intensely, strongly, quickly, obsessively (somewhat likely to be habitual)
-kauto- skillfully, gracefully, strongly
-habbi- sufficiently, suitably
-akriw- perversely, shamefully, like a madman, like a ferocious animal
-igŋu- pervasively, with lasting results (somewhat likely to be perfect)
-irbun- pervasively, with constant prevalence (somewhat likely to be gnomic)

In addition to these, the following also can appear in the same intensive slot and mark TAM-like meanings:
-iŋrul- optative
-kugbik- non-immediate future 
The voice slot does some non-voice stuff as well:

-gaf- (also -ŋaf-, -ŋav-, -gav-) passive present progressive
-daw- passive momentane
-raf- passive past
-lef- reflexive past
-lew- reflexive momentane, reflexive past
-tu- other third person subject than previously
-as- causative (adds an object slot after the regular object slot)
-ŋam- 'same subject and object as previously', leaves both slots empty. Aspectually, it also forms a kind of 'consecutive' tense. Historically a conjunction that turned into a prefix.

The manner slot can take the following markers, some of which tend to a more mood-like or evidentiality-related:

-hak- appears to be
-run- pretends to be
-sib- strives to be
-sok- is rumored to be
-cakŋi- "presently in preparatory stages for the verb"
 -nkurnke-  "enjoying the results of the verb, at the relative time spoken of" -gadun- "regretting the results of the verb, at the relative time spoken of"-stun- doing by cooperation
-stig- doing competitively
-hus- doing silently
-kagi- doing carefully
-xeme- doing due to duty
-sawin- doing as a gift to someone
-emek- doing in order to pay off an obligation or debt
-hayin- a chieftain-related causative
-kega- causing a change (reflexive or causative)
And finally, directions:

-ŋigi- homewards
-megs- outwards
-rigi- upwards
-rragi - turning upwards
-mags- turning clockwise
-tags- turning anticlockwise
-ŋiŋu- away from home
-nalk- downwards
-nnalik- turning downwards
-mis- in the role of, often present or past
-úli- turning into, often slightly future
-sud- in several directions, habitual
-irpi- towards an adverbial of location
-ahpi- away from an adverbial of location
-ippi- at an adverbial location
-kugi- towards the subject
-sagi- towards hunting grounds, present tense in times of hunting, past or future in times when hunting is not common
-nyagi- towards farming grounds, present tense in daytime, past or future in nighttime

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tatediem: Complements and Copulas and the First Hints of the TAM System

Tatediem does not have one verb that corresponds to English 'to be'. Instead, different strategies are used for different types of complements, and different types of distinctions can be found in those as well.

Adjectival predicates basically are given verbal inflections. Three verbal templates are commonly used with such predicates: Subj (Ind Obj) Voice STEM (Subj), Subj (Intensity) (Direction) (Manner) STEM, and Owner Subject (Direction) (Manner) STEM. There is one particular marker, -ére- that tends to go in the voice-slot that basically marks that the verb is a copula. The direction-marker can either be a zero morpheme or a translative marker -úli- (that shows acquiring the quality the verb-adjective encodes). For verbal adjectives, there are four manner-morphemes that often pop up:
-hak- appears to be
-run- pretends to be
-sib- strives to be 
-sok- is rumored to be 
For nominal predicates, it depends a bit on what type of noun we are dealing with:

Titles of authority tend to be objects of the verb sarwan, which means 'occupy, master, possess, have authority over, rule'. The manner slot of this verb is then -pel-, which in this case turns it into a slightly abstract sense. Thus, ruling a captain is nekoptan ----etensarwan, being a captain is nekoptan -----epelsarwan.

Family members and professions tend to have separate verb roots.

Being some more general noun is often expressed using the verb turw, with no object congruence and often no manner marker (although the four given for adjectival predicates above also do appear with turw). Direction also can have the translative -úli- marker to show turning into something.

Interestingly, -úli- is turning into an aspect marker (with hints of inceptive as well as progressive to it). Other markers in the voice and manner slots are also having a tendency towards aspect and tense marking, which means the tense-aspect marking system in Tatediem is not marked in any single spot in the verb morphology template.

Turw also is used for existential statements. Without any prefixes at all, turw also can be used as a confirming response, essentially 'yes'.

An Addendum to the Post on Alignments

So, there was a slightly peculiar notion present in the previous post - viz. 'intransitive object'. Clearly this is not a well-defined thing!

Under what circumstances could we consider an object to be intransitive as well as an object? This will be somewhat language-specific, but it helps to consider what kinds of things could lead to such a situation.

Of course, the terminology "intransitive object" is not widely used - I have in fact never seen it, and thus only use it as a very vague proto-idea here.

1. Passives
We could have the object remain object-like even after passivization. This happens in Finnish, where the passive is more like a zeroth person than a voice (although it is distinct enough from the persons too not to really qualify as one of them). If the object of a passive can be coordinated with the objects of active verbs, and not with other subjects, this would seem one rather likely contender. Of course, purely entirely omitted subjects - such as when making general utterances such as this one - could also qualify.

2. Imperatives?
These qualify in Finnish, although even there Finnish does have number congruence for the subject.

3. How about verbs with pro-dropped subjects?
Somehow, this does not seem all that justified, yet it's tantalizingly close.

4. Quirky case subjects
This is the case in Finnish - non-nominative subjects turn the verb sorta-intransitive-with-an-object.

5. Objects of verbs where the connection to the subject is sort of weak by means of being quite embedded phrases.

6. Certain kinds of switch-reference - I'd imagine 'same subject' would tend to be more likely to be parsed as having an intransitive object?

Not a very coherent post, I know. Obviously, this creates a sort of "split-O" situation which only appears in the "anti-ergative" (and the loony unattested system) system - but a language could imaginably have an anti-ergative subsystem as well as a regular nom-acc or ergative subsystem: maybe indefinite objects are anti-ergative, whereas definite objects are accusative - thus giving us:

I bought house.acc (indefinite or definite house
buying house.NOM is a big decision (indefinite house)
opening door.ACC is impossible (definite door)

This essentially takes Turkish-style Differential Object Marking and restricts where it can appear, by having different types of objects act differently under different circumstances. However, maybe it could be affected by properties of the verb instead? Say, having it be lexically determined instead of determined by TAM - so buy takes anti-ergative, sell takes nominative?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mixing Alignments

There is a fair share of possible things to do with alignment. The most obvious bit probably has to do with split-ergativity. However, there are more things we can split, so let us look into these things.

First, we can observe the following basic setups of case-marking for direct objects and subjects:

Subj[1] Obj[2] Verb
Subj[1] Verb
Obj[2] Verb

Subj[1] Obj[2] Verb
Subj[2] Verb
Obj[2] Verb

Subj[1] Obj[2] Verb
Subj[1] Verb
Obj[1] Verb

Subj[1] Obj[2] Verb
Subj[2] Verb
Obj[1] Verb 
[See source at footnote 1] 

The last one is quite obviously 'weird' and its unnaturalness should be obvious. If the difference between the nominative and the anti-ergative is unclear, look at the "intransitive object" case - it is the same as the subject case in the anti-ergative, but the same as the "transitive object" in the nominative.

What we mean by 'transitive' vs. 'intransitive' objects here is not necessarily obvious - in Finnish - which partially follows the anti-ergative alignment, it basically means that there is no possible nominative subject, which happens when the verb has a quirky case subject, is imperative or passive. The object is still syntactically an object (and pronouns have a distinct accusative marking in this situation), and the differential object marking that Finnish has still applies - negative or atelic verbs take partitive objects.

We can of course create a similar system for ditransitives:

Subj Obj[1] IObj[2] Verb
Subj Obj[1] Verb
Subj IObj[2] Verb

Subj Obj[1] IObj[2] Verb
Subj Obj[2] Verb
Subj IObj[2] Verb

Subj Obj[1] IObj[2] Verb
Subj Obj[1] Verb
Subj Obj[1] Verb

Subj Obj[1] IObj[2] Verb
Subj Obj[2] Verb
Subj IObj[1] Verb

Again, the last one seems unnatural, but for some reason less impossible than the unattested antinominative. I have no typological data regarding these, and that is why I affixed (?) to 'secundative'.
Now, we could of course do a simple thing and combine any of the first set and any of the second set and get all kinds of weird shenanigans, where the same case could mark intransitive subject, monotransitive object and ditransitive indirect object, and we could have all kinds of odd combinations about what happens when there's Obj and IObj but no Subj and so on.

However, let's not go down that route right now. Let's instead look at having subsystems that follow different systems among these.

In Baltic Finnic, an ergative subsystem kinda appears with regards to existential subjects - intransitive ergative subjects are marked like (some) objects. However, some "intransitive" objects are marked like some subjects, so an antiergative subsystem is also present, and probably even more present than the ergative-like subsystem.

So, what could be reasonable ways of having subsystems such as these? I dunno, there might be any number of things that could distinguish them, and a language could probably have as many as three or four or five different systems, with quite different lines of demarcation determining which is in use at what point.

[1] Terho Itkonen, Subject and Object Marking in Finnish: An inverted ergative system and an "ideal" ergative sub-system, in ed. Frans Plank: Ergativity, Towards a Theory of Grammatical Relations, 1979, Academic Press

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Detail #119: Differential Object Marking with a Quirk

Imagine a language with the following object markers (of whatever kind - prepositions, postpositions, morphology, etc):
accusative - marks exclusively the direct object. Might be identical to the subject case (i.e. unmarked), or might be marked somehow.
dative - marks exclusively the indirect object
objective(?) - marks either, but only one at a time
The objective and accusative distinguish whether the direct object is definite - or some other similar distinction. Also, if the indirect object can be seen as losing from the transaction, it will be marked by the objective. In that case, the definiteness of the direct object is less salient, and thus it cannot take the objective case. In case the definiteness is salient, it is more likely that the listener already knows of the negative implications of being given the object, and thus no such marking on the recipient.

Really tiny idea #2: A Morposyntactical Quirk

Have definite plurals behave differently from indefinite plurals - which group like definite and indefinite singulars alike. The main difference I was thinking of was something like:

Definite plural nouns are never complements of prepositions, but instead take a weird construction along the lines of 'the men, shortfillermorpheme-of-them', giving something like

ar kibas = by a man
ar kibastə = by the man
ar kibasli = by (some) men
kibaslə, ŋar fwi = the men, ŋ-by them.(masc plur)
As for direct objects, the plural definites more often than other nouns - but not always - have a similar object pronoun present in their vicinity.

Often, the definite plural noun itself will be left-dislocated - probably even topicalized. Other topicalized nouns pull their preposition with them. In part this is the result of a somewhat unclear verbal congruence marking - so this strategy increases its distinctness from the indefinite plural nouns.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Really tiny idea: A Conflation

Conflate future tense verb and abstract noun marking, thus giving some verb/noun pairs identical forms, i.e.

(the) love - will love
(the) hunger - will hunger

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Sociolinguistic Detail: Diglossia

In the foreword* Lewis' Teach Yourself Turkish (1968), it is mentioned that in an earlier learner's grammar of Ottoman Turkish, 161 pages were devoted to Arabic and Persian, whereas 215 were devoted to actual Turkish.

Naively, this might sound like a weird thing. You want to learn Turkish when reading a book about Turkish, you don't want that and a taster course for Arabic and Persian. However, at the time, the Turkish spoken by educated Turks was heavily influenced by Arabic and Persian, both a heavy amount of loans and actual code switching wildly present - speaking decent Turkish required some level of mastery of Persian and Arabic.

This is a level of detail that could be cool in a conlang!

* Every time I write that word, I wish I were unaware of the fact that some write 'forward' - there's even some quality printed works that suffer from it! - and every time my fingers itch to replicate the mistake.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Detail #118: Having Different Ways of Structuring Transitive and Intransitive Verb Chains

Oftentimes when recounting events, the utterance will be a chain of verb phrases. Some languages grammaticalize this into various kinds of verb-chaining structures and switch reference and the like.

Imagine wildly different strategies developing for transitive and intransitive verbs. Let's say the object slot also is the slot that would have taken the switch reference marker had not an object been present - the object blocks switch-reference marking. Maybe transitive verbs instead have grammaticalized some kind of obviative-proximative thing.