Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Sargaĺk: Habitual Aspect Marker on Noun Cases

In certain constructions, the habitual aspect marker in Sargaĺk can appear on nouns in locative cases (or in the comitative cases). At times, these are zero-derived verbs, at times, they are more like regular nouns.

The verbal uses, however, differ from regular verbs in that the case marker occupies the normal person congruence spot. Sargaĺk is still very much pro-drop for subjects, so even these verbs may lack explicit subjects.

A very common construction uses the comitative/instrumental. With animate nouns, it signifies being with someone - even non-habitually. The habitual marker there mainly works as a derivative thing:
to be with one's family
With inanimates, it can signify repeated use of an instrument, e.g.
to hammer ((away) at)

The meaning of forms derived using the various locative plurals may sometimes be somewhat unpredictable:
brother's wifehabituallative plural
'to be (romantically) obsessed with one's sister-in-law'
This particular example can be used with personal names or titles as well as words such as the different types of siblings-in-law and such. It's generally quite a condescending construction. The plural suffix here is part of the construction - with the singular case suffix -rne it would simply signify 'to habitually go to' or 'to habitually be, as per X's opinion'. The latter meaning generally takes an adjective too. 
nen morgos sərnarəvarne
I dumb [...]
my sister-in-law often thinks I am dumb

Oftentimes, the meaning is rather predictable:
k'orme -va -mime
brother -habitual -familiar comitative
'to collaborate with one's brother' (often with an infinitive)

Mostly, nouns referring to locations - both proper nouns and regular nouns - will simply signify the subject generally  being there, coming from there or going there habitually.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Ćwarmin Family Universal

The Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär family has a morphological universal that might be of some interest: there is a particular structure to nouns derived from verbs.

The structure is essentially as follows:
The significance of this is that instrumental nouns (opener, key, etc) are derived from the agentive form (runner, builder, etc), and locative forms (diner, etc) are derived from patientive forms. The adjutative form (a 'helper' noun with rather varying meanings) and the abstract form are less closely aligned to the agentive and patientive forms - adjutatives almost always, however, are embedded in one or the other, whereas abstract nouns can be more closely related to infinitives, the verb stem or the present tense stem.

One interesting thing with this is that it also applies to suppletive forms. We find that the verbs 'hunt' in Dagurib has a suppletive agentive form:
kinhes (to hunt, infinitive): kinhird (prey) but taʊgab (hunter)
The locative form derives from kinhird (kinhireŋi), but the bow derives from taʊgab - taʊgavlʊk. A similar phenomenon applies throughout the Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär family. Thus, the agentive of 'to fish' is suppletive in Ćwarmin:
sirpən (to fish, infinitive): sirpist (a catch), but źaŋk (a fisherman)
A good spot for placing one's nets is sirpisəmi, but the tool for repairing the net is a źaŋkasta.

The lack of an adjutative implication might seem to justify leaving it out of the graph altogether, there are some interesting things that justify keeping it. The Dagurib language, for instance, permits productive switching of the adjutative between agentive- and patientive-derived forms with slight difference in meaning, e.g.
malc.ab.oš = co-traveller
malc.ʊrd.oš = enslaved co-traveller
Mostly, the "patientive adjutative" will be less animate than the agentive adjutative, but the pair given above is one out of many exceptions.

In Ŋʒädär, a number of adjutative nouns are derived from the patientive form, although a majority derive from the agentive. The patientive adjutative seems to be more likely to appear with intransitive verbs than with transitive, but it's a minority for both.

In most ĆŊ languages, there are at least traces of the original system where the location and instrument suffix are identical, the difference being whether the intervening morpheme is patientive or agentive.For instance, we have Ćwarmin
toŋovuk - the smith's sledgehammer
toŋluk - the forge
or in Ŋʒädär 
swokaupo - the clergyman's ceremonial stick
swokurpo - the temple

Differentiation has later occurred, though, and different languages have come up with different suffixes to produce these forms, often reduced forms of words like 'thing' or 'place' or 'tool' or 'stone'. 'Stone', funny enough, appears for 'tool' in some ĆŊ languages, and for 'place' in some others, in part due to the importance of stones as markers of property in some areas.

In Ćwarmin, the pseudo-participles are closely related to the agentive and patientive noun forms. This does not necessarily hold for other ĆŊ languages.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Look at the Drafts Folder!

A terrible habit of mine when it comes to writing, is that I produce a lot of stuff that ends up sitting in the drafts folder forever. This blog is not the worst example of that - somerationalism has the drafts folder contain about 2/3s of the posts that I've written this far. For this blog, it's closer to 1/8.

The reason the stuff ends up sitting there is basically that I run out of ideas what to do with it, and keep it for future editing. Let's go and have a look at some of the posts that might one day come out of their dark cocoons.

I set out by actually deleting a few that are just a title without any content. Among these we find 'adverbs as verbs'. I remember thinking about moving a lot of the functionality of adverbs in European languages to more verb-like structures, but I didn't really get inspired enough to develop the idea much further. 

Another post that has an interesting concept behind it is "Details #110-#120: A Phonology (Done Right)". The title is intentionally a bit exaggerated, but it reflects my feeling that many conlangers simply do not go that deep into phonology. I don't mean to say that the phonemes and distinctions conlangers use are boring or anything - I mean to say that the descriptions simply show lack of familiarity with the kind of work that phonologists and phoneticians do. I also wanted to include some kind of reflections on writing fictional empirical research results. I think there are reasonable constraints on what makes sense in a naturalistic conlang, at least, constraints that rest on epistemological foundations. Yes, as conlangers we're the ultimate arbiter of what goes in our language, but if we want to pretend we're doing realism, we also need to at least familiarize ourselves with empiricism as it relates to language.

Needless to say, the numbers in the range for the phonology post, if it ever gets finished, have to be adjusted a bit.

Then we find A Review: Possible and Probable Languages. Probably going to be finished next year. Beyond that there's A Language Inspired by a Post at Badconlangingideas. This is a post where I keep adding ideas for a swing-dance based language. However, I have not really gotten into any depth with it yet, although my fascination for both linguistics and the lindy hop should be a fertile ground for it. I keep it around as a record-keeping thing.

Three posts on Barxaw, one from before it even had a name occur. One is a Table of Contents that links all the Barxaw posts, and sets out a main plan for new posts, essentially - a thing I probably should do with regards to my other major projects as well.

Some Ideas for Scripts. I have not posted much about scripts in general here, but that is basically a repository for ideas regarding writing systems that might germinate into a proper post some day. The sole idea in there right now basically proposes a scripts the writing or reading (or both) of which is a P-complete task.

Detail #141: Some Tweaks on Definiteness. Pretty much what it says on the label - an attempt at tweaking definiteness with regards to how it works in English. A look at definiteness in other languages. Other ideas occurred to me at the time, and so it didn't get much attention for a while.

A thing about verbal subordination in Dairwueh.

Several posts about teaching your child a conlang, with lots of sources. I am still reading research regarding first language acquisition and bilinguality, though, and making notes, so those might take a while.

That's but a sample, there's about 70 posts there.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bryatesle: Parameters of Pro-drop

Bryatesle permits pro-drop both for subjects and objects. However, the pro-drop seems to adhere to certain principles. The subject and the object seem to have rather opposite principles, however.

Subject drop is possible under some circumstances. The main circumstance in which it occurs is when all these conditions are filled:
  • the subject is the discourse topic
  • it is definite and individuated
  • it has had an explicit realization as a noun that also was the subject of the recentmost finite verb to have an explicitly stated subject
Another situation where pro-drop is permitted is:
  • the subject is explicitly present with the leftmost verb in a clause with a subordinate verb, or is explicitly present with the non-subordinate verb regardless whether it is the leftmost or rightmost. In such a clause, any other verb with the same subject may entirely drop any realization of the subject.

 The object has a slightly different distribution of permissible omissions. Any of the following conditions suffice:
  • a discourse topic that is an object as well as an 'embedded subject' (thus, essentially, a discourse topic that would be having the secondary subject case if it were explicit). Thus "so-and-so forced X[discourse topic] sell the house" would come out as "so-and-so forced sell the house"
  • a verb that cannot be intransitive, when there's a clear "discourse object" that also is the object of that verb, or when the discourse topic is the object of the verb.
  • a verb that cannot be intransitive, and is 'semi-coordinated' with a previous verb that had an object. This semi-coordination generally takes the form of adverbials implying simultaneity, sequentiality, resumption or other causal connections.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Large Scale Conlanging: An Areal Tendency

Consider the correlation between definiteness and direct objects. Granted, topics and subjects too have a similar and probably stronger correlation with definites, but let's disregard that for now. Objects, unlike subjects, tend to be more marked than subjects, which is what we want for this areal tendency.

Have object marking tend to become definiteness marking for subjects as well as objects over time. How this would work out for case-marking is obvious. The challenge might rather appear in considering how a language that mostly does mark for object and subject congruence on the verbs would develop within this tendency.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Ćwarmin: Some Verb Morphemes and 'Mandatorily Suffixed Verbs'

There are a bunch of morphemes that can be used with verbs to mark a variety of meanings. Some of these interact with object definiteness in what exact meanings they convey. Parentheses at onsets give parts that can be left out due to morphophonological processes with regards to the verb root, parentheses at the other end are parts that are left off to form the new verb root.

The suffix -(v)ara-/-(v)ərə- signifies attempting to do something. Thus kuvara means 'attempt to open', lesivərə means 'attempt to catch fish', śaŋikara means 'attempt to appear' (if it has a complement) or 'attempt to impress' (if it only has a recipient).

The suffix -iŋe- or -uŋo- signifies doing something clumsily or without any knowledge as to how to do it. Thus kuvuŋo would signify attempting to open something very clumsily.

-um(u)- or -im(i)- suggests doing something very lightly or gracefully or easily.

-osos(o)-, -esəs(e)- implies doing something very productively. -ris- and -rus- mark doing something over a long span of time. -nimin- and -numun- signify struggling to complete something.

-sesk(e)- and -sosk(o)- signify doing something unintentionally, and -kinś(i)- and -kuns(u)- signify doing something badly.

There are a handful of verbs that can only appear with some set of these and never without such a suffix. The root *Karća- would signify 'aim', but it always has some suffix. Often -ara, since aiming is an attempt. However, a bad aim is also permitted - karćuŋo. Karćumu signifies aiming well, and karćanumun, with a definite object signifies repeated aiming at a goal; when intransitive or with an indefinite object it signifies habitually missing.

Another verb is *merk?-, improve. It only ever appears with -vərə (mergvərə), -imi (merćimi), -esəse (merkesəse) and -sesk(e)- (meskeske, due to metathesis). The verb 'merkiŋe' is attested in one regular saying - simply stated 'inki (inkic) merkiŋi' - no one improves (things) by accident. This is used as an expression that exhorts to learning skills.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dairwueh Conjunctions

Dairwueh is a typological oddity in the region for having a relatively large number of conjunctions. They serve a variety of functions.

Ke, -k corresponds to 'and'. Can be suffixed as -k, but also put between NPs or VPs in the full form.

Related forms:
keta: also, including, as well as

Sim, basically corresponds to 'if', but is also used to list options: do you want if this, if that, if these, if those... It pre

Simta is used for indirect questions.

'Bale' has been mentioned already in the context of reciprocals in Dairwueh.

Ule signifies 'or', and basically presents two options that might be true (if VPs, both verbs may be irrealis, if NPs, the verb they are arguments of is likely to be irrealis).

Iske signifies 'and then', and is commonly used to list realis statements.

isketa signifies that there is some surprise to the following clause.

Siuke is as iske, but with irrealis VPs.

Uleke signifies 'even though, although, though, albeit', and thus implies that the main phrase is somewhat contradictory to what would be expected.

In comparison, Bryatelse has words for and, or, if, and a general 'subordinate conjunction'.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Detail #245: Verbs as Pragmatic Markers

Consider the pragmatic use of the English word 'certain' – i.e. 'A certain woman came to the shop yesterday and asked for ...'. In this case, 'a certain' signals that the man will reappear in the discourse, and that he's probably rather significant for the whole speech act – he's a sort of discourse topic. From this point on, references to this 'certain woman' will be definite (or even pronominal).

Like English, Finnish does the same with an adjective (or borderline determiner), eräs. In Swedish, it's not unusual for a noun with similar properties with regards to the context to be introduced by an existential construction with det as a sort of extra empty formal subject:
det kom en kvinna till affären igår och frågade efter ...
it came a woman to store-DEF yesterday and asked for ...
This is not the only time det can be used as a formal subject, especially not with existential verbs - and this is not the only time existential verbs are used. However, this is one circumstance in which it's used. Of course, existential verbs are exclusively intransitive in Swedish, (and in most languages), so this restricts some stuff. However, let's come up with a twist!

Let's entirely extract the thing that identifies that we're introducing a discourse topic from the noun phrase and make a verb whose sole function is to signal 'hey, the subject is significant'. Let's use certain as a verb in the glosses.
a woman certains. she came to the store yesterday and asked for ...
This seems a bit clunky. So, let's turn certain into an auxiliary!
a woman certained come to the store yesterday and ask for ...
After this first sentence, there's no need to use that verb until we establish a new discourse topic. However, if the discussion has gotten a bit lost, the verb can be used with the right congruence and with a dropped subject to recall that the discourse topic indeed is this referent.

What if he is not the subject? Well, voice stuff could help there, but I am also partial to resumptive pronouns. 
a man certained police catch him yesterday. 
Of course, this pronoun might seem rather useless in the first or second person, generally speaking, so maybe first and second person markers in the subject spot of it would signify something along the lines of the topic being the object (or oblique argument) with first or second person subjects? Maybe passives have a special meaning with that verb, whereby first or second person passives on it signify that the topic acted on the first or second person.
a man was-1sg certained beat at chess yesterday
man certain-1sg-pass beat.inf at chess yesterday
a certain man beat me at chess yesterday

This would create an interesting way of referring to the discourse topic by "pronoun-like verbs" at times, whereas other nouns would be referred to by "noun-like pronouns" as well as "pronoun-like suffixes". What makes 'certain' be verbal in this, of course, is the suffixes it can take and its syntactical distribution as compared to other verbs and particularly auxiliary verbs in the language.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Few Observations about Grammatical Voice

I've noticed that some conlangers seem to think that grammatical voices basically only serve one purpose: omitting the subject. This somehow reduces the passive to serving as a convoluted way of saying 'someone did something to X'. 

Now, it would be lying to say that that is not part of what passives enable us to do, but a variety of languages use passives to a number of effects, and presenting a construction with an indefinite pronoun (i.e. 'someone') as the subject as a substitute seems to me to underestimate the amount of things that go on with the passive. Sure, it's a possible solution, and your language might well even parse the 'someone verbed X' construction as a legit passive with all the things that go along with a passive - the Germanic 'man' pronoun and the Finnish -taan passive are pretty close to that in some senses.

However, there are other uses for the passive beyond omitting the agent. In languages that are subject-prominent (as opposed to topic-prominent), the subject often has a very special pragmatic role. The subject, as it were, often correlates with some kind of 'topic of discourse'. So, a passive enables maintaining (and emphasizing) that particular relation: a patient that is felt to be important enough to be stated as the subject rather than object of its verb seems to convey the 'topic of discourse' thing pretty well - and study of how the passive is used would show that oftentimes, the subject of a passive verb indeed is topic not only of its clause, but of some part of the discourse.

Beyond this, we have languages with restrictions in their availability-hierarchies: comparing objects to objects might not be permitted (i.e. "I like sorbet more than (I like) parfait" would be forbidden, while "I like sorbet more than Sheryl (likes it)" would be possible) or, the distinction might be unclear due to fixed case marking on the standard of comparison, and passivization might help making it clear that the compared things are patients, rather than agents (in the case of more equal-status nouns, e.g. 'I like Edith Piaf more than Brigitte Bardot' - in this case, it might be unclear whether Brigitte Bardot is less liked or less liking!). More obviously, we have relativization-hierarchies: there are languages that permit relativization of subjects, but not of objects. Having a passive form helps with that, and other voices can help for things deeper in that hierarchy. 

A number of languages have verb forms that encode whether the subject is the same as that of the previous verb - so-called switch reference languages. Using the passive (or other voices) can permit for having same subjects for a longer stretch, since if some noun is the topic of discourse, it is likely to appear in most clauses - and probably in most of them as agent or other similar theta-role, but sometimes it might appear as a patient as well (and probably, in falling order of likelihood, various more oblique roles), and then voices can enable avoiding to have 'different subject' markers appear all that often, and the referent of the 'same subject' marker is kept constant, making it easier to parse an utterance.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Detail #244: Verbs of Movement, Pseudoreflexives and Shenanigans therewith

Many languages have reflexives originating with body-parts, such as 'head', 'body', or even 'bone' or the somewhat  "not quite there" 'soul'. 

Now, consider how many languages have many intransitive verbs of movement formed by the same pattern as reflexive verbs, c.f. Swedish röra sig, flytta sig.

Now, let's imagine that verbs of movement  take particular body-parts instead of the 'generic reflexive' body part: walk legs, jump hands (in the case of jumping forward, when the hands are flung back), rise head. Dance ass.

However, the meaning of some might have evolved over time so the connection between the body part and the verb isn't all that obvious any longer: turn belly, creep hands, lie face (from a verb meaning 'to direct upwards', and refers, of course, to lying on one's back).

Friday, December 11, 2015

Detail #243: Grammaticalized Greetedness-Marker

Consider a language mostly spoken by people in rather small communities. Let's imagine that somehow, a distinction has appeared whereby persons' names, as well as possibly pronouns referring to people, are marked for whether you have greeted that person that day yet.

For dead people you are related to, small acts of ancestor worship are the dividing line, instead.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Detail #242: Tribal Name Morphology in a Harshly Conflict-ridden Area

Consider a language that marks names of tribes as to whether they are considered enemies or not at the time being. The markers are derivative, and the derived nouns reside in different parts of the noun hierarchy (or can have different cases on them, i.e. the 'enemy' version might have some case restrictions).

Consider, for instance, a restriction whereby an enemy cannot be the recipient or beneficiary of an act carried out by a non-enemy. Or maybe more generally that enemies cannot be subject of verbs with beneficiaries at all, or maybe enemies cannot be beneficiaries. Any one of those might be of some interest.

These, however, lead to the need for voice constructions that permit those meanings to be expressed.

Another thing that is needed is ways of expressing that some group now have become or ceased to be enemies, and this could conceivably be done in some interesting ways - consider, for instance, deriving these verbs from the tribe names! Thus the template "tribename+transition suffix+verbalizer suffix" would give a personless verb expressing such a transition.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Dairwueh Comparison: A Middle Ground between Fixed Case and Derived Case

I previously described the Dairwueh comparison construction very shortly. If we compare noun1 to noun2 with regards to some adjective, we get 
noun1.nom is adjective-bar noun2.gen
But this method only works when comparing subjects. It also happens at adverbial comparisons of this type:
Galdun darav-Ø xoge-bar-s Eker-at
Galdun.nom work-3sg hard-er-advl Eker.gen
Galdun works harder than Eker
The noun that is compared to can also be placed directly after the verb, if the comparative is an adverbial.
Another construction that occurs is this:
Galdun gadek-Ø sondebre bare Eker-at
Galdun.nom have-3sg big-er.neut.nom house.neut.nom Eker.gen
Galdun has a bigger house than Eker
These adjectives can pertain to any noun phrase in the clause. Comparing non-subjects, however, is a tad more complicated. Noun2 still needs to be genitive, and will appear directly after the verb. Noun1 will be followed by the conjunction bale, after which a pronoun that agrees in gender with noun2 appears, and is of the same case as Noun1. A few exceptions to this exists, though, pairs such as 'today than tomorrow', 'tomorrow than today', 'here than there', 'there than here', words that still don't exist in the vocabulary.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Detail #241: A Different Comparison System

Apparently, there are only a few ways of comparing degrees for different referents in the world. Wals has a bunch of information on this.

How about a comparative based on causatives (or passive causatives). Let's assume the language has a specific marking for stimuluses. Now, we could have:
noun1 causes noun2 to seem|appear|... adjective
However, this obviously makes noun2 less central from an information structure point of view. So, we could go and topicalize noun2, or maybe use some passivized form (but perhaps retain the stimulus marking?) Also, the adjective could well be verbalized, or the verb might just be a causative copula. 
noun1 causes.pass noun2.acc adjective = noun1 makes noun2 adjective

noun1 causes noun2.[stimulus] adjective = noun1 makes noun2 appear adjective = noun2 is adjectiver than noun1
noun2.[stimulus] caused by noun1 adjective = noun2 is caused to appear adjective by noun1 = noun2 is adjectiver than noun1
The stimulus-marking makes any explicit 'appear'-like verb superfluous. Such a marking could also be reasonable on the adjective instead, i.e. the adjective marks perception rather than objective quality (or it marks a quality that attracts the attentions) – then 'real' causatives and comparison-causatives would be distinguished by whether the adjective had such a marking.

Such an adjectival marking, to some extent, actually exists in Finnic languages, but is triggered by verbs of perception. (It's a case meaning 'from', so e.g. 'something tastes from X').

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Detail 240: A Place to Sneak Ergativity into an SAE Language

Here, SAE signifies "Standard Average European". There is one position where, in quite a few SAE languages, oblique forms of (implicit) subjects tend to appear - at least in colloquial varieties.

This is derided by prescriptivists in several such languages, though. The situation is 'than X'. Consider the following examples:
  • he is faster than I
    • he is faster than me
    • he is faster than I am
  • I like her better than I like him
    • I like her better than him
  • I like her better than he does
    • I like her better than him (in some colloquial varieties, this is possible)
Now, the transitive case gets ambiguous, but the intransitive situation is quite obvious. Since it seems SAE disprefers nominatives after prepositions, it wouldn't be very surprising if the oblique were used as often as possible. However, it could be possible that the transitive situation with comparison is felt to be too ambiguous, and the case marking would permit nominative after 'than'-like markers. So, the intransitive subject and the transitive subject of an implicit verb in a comparison would be marked in the object case, whereas the transitive subject in the same position would be marked with a nominative, thus begetting an ergative pattern!

However, there's another thing with regards to this type of comparison-structure that I have been thinking of: do 'than'-like comparisons have the same restrictions as the relativization accessibility hierarchy? Are there languages with than-comparatives that don't permit, say, recipients, locations and so on to be compared, but do permit subjects and objects?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Detail #239: An Isogloss of Demonstrative Pronoun Usage

Consider the situation where you are talking to something and referring to a thing in their hand; in some languages, this easily could be that thing, while in some this thing might be a reasonable way of referring to it.

So, have a language where there's a very clear isogloss with regards to that. Also, when contrasting things in your own hands vs. things in the hands of the person you're speaking to, make the distinction in some other way - person congruence on demonstratives, perhaps?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Detail #238: Onwards with #237, into 'odd subjects and objects'

Let us consider a noun class system where a variety of nouns have 'typical' non-subjectlike associated roles, e.g. members of one class are likely to be used as instruments (mainly tools), members of another are likely to be locations (mainly places, buildings, and certain actions that take place in specific places), members of a third class are likely to be direct objects (inanimate non-tools), and members of one class are likely to be time-spans or directions (day, downriver (as a noun), upriver (likewise), south, north, downwind (as a noun), etc).

Now, each of these noun classes lacks a classical nominative - they do have an unmarked form though, it's just that it's half-nominative half-whatever the class is associated with (instrumental, accusative, lative, locative, ...) - and the same goes for the object case. They can be parsed as subjects (or for the object case, as objects), indeed, but can also be parsed as instrumentals (for the first example), locations (for the second example), direct objects (...), or time-spans or directions (...)

All other nouns can be marked using cases to have these roles (except that time-spans may be somewhat restricted, although 'until X (arrives|finishes)' can be an interpretation, as well as 'for X's reign|presence|as long as X keeps doing whatever he's doing' could be meaningful interpretations there as well. 

So, the verb can take congruence with the noun in the pseudo-nominative, and if the noun is the topic, subject agreement is necessarily congruent with that noun's class. These nouns therefore permit for unmarked pseudo-circumstantial voice whenever they're present or in topic position. When they're direct objects, they permit for unmarked pseudo-applicative voices. Any 'real' agent or patient of the verb would be forced to be oblique.

So, a verb voice system with no verbal voice marking, voice marking instead being entirely reliant on the noun classes of the noun that the verb agrees with, or the noun in the direct object slot - however, with the extra challenge that these nouns could also be regular subjects or direct objects. Disambiguating such regular subjects and objects can be done by making them oblique, though, although this approach must be used sparingly or the language would turn the oblique markings into the 'real nominative' and 'real accusative'.

One fun thing is that this would permit really strange combinations of applicative and circumstantial, such as hammer strikes day: there is hitting with the hammer for the duration of the day, day strikes hammer: for the duration of the day there is hitting with the hammer.

Of course, one could also imagine classes that have different meanings when in subject position and when in object position - or maybe some nouns reside on the edge of one class, with one foot in another.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Detail #236: Unabsolutive / Unnominative Case

This post starts out positing a very unnatural case, and then goes on to restrict it in a way that makes it somewhat more natural. Let's start out with the unnatural idea:

Consider a case for subjects or objects, that makes the noun fail to fill the subject or object case slot. This leads to the transitivity of the verb failing to be what it's expected to be, and in the "unabsolutive" version, an ergative subject is demoted to absolutive. In the unnominative version, a direct object cannot be direct object any longer due to lack of a subject, and is thus marked nominative instead of accusative.

Now, this might seem like an odd case indeed - why would a case appear which simply serves to confound marking? And don't we already have oblique subjects with passives, and oblique objects with antipassives which cause exactly this with some voice marking thrown in for good measure?

Well, sort of. But let's create a situation where this situation could exist: certain nouns might lack the usual nominative or absolutive, and instead be some kind of 'pseudonouns' - perhaps instead of nominative/absolutive, their unmarked form looks morphologically like an adverb of some type. These pseudonouns' unmarked form is the unnominative/unabsolutive.

So, we might get a situation like the two examples below, one accusative example, one ergative example:
rain.UNNOM I.NOM soaked(1sg): the rain soaked me / I got soaked in the rain
I.abs sing(1sg, intrans) song.UNABS: I sing a song
Maybe these nouns have other case forms, just not nominative / absolutive - although I'd bet they're also likely to lack accusative or ergative as well. In a more congruence-based verb-centered language, maybe these morphologically look like adverbs and fail to take congruence (and make the congruence unlike it would usually be, i.e. objects become subjects, or transitive subjects become intransitive ones).

I am tempted to give Sargaĺk a few unnominative nouns, whose effect is only visible with ditransitive verbs: the subject and one of the objects then are nominative, with the other object being unnominative. I still think the Sargaĺk verb will be marked as ditransitive in that situation, though. Nouns referring to certain environmental things - the sea, rain, wind, sun, snow, foliage and the forest are the most likely to be antinominatives in Sargaĺk.

Dairwueh: Adjectives and Comparison

Unlike my other conlangs, Dairwueh has comparatives and superlatives. It also has a few other related forms. Some of these morphemes also can be used on verbs to some extent. 

There are two main morphemes that are used for the various comparatives and superlatives, -bav-, and -var. The superlative is formed by compounding the two, but also has a slight vowel change, giving -bəvar.

The comparative construction has the adjective in the comparative form without any congruence on it. The thing that is compared to is in the genitive after the adjective, thus:
laxe-bar tond-at
tall-er tree-gen
'taller than a tree'
The normal superlative is used to specify that a noun is the most X among the relevant alternatives, or as a complement to express that the referent is the most X among relevant comparanda. The absolute superlative expresses that the referent is the most X among all things. 

Morphologically, the superlative and the absolute superlative do not differ significantly; only a few handful of words distinguish them - the words that have suppletive comparatives and superlatives. The absolute superlative uses the same root as the unmarked form, the positive.

aras - loved
enabar - more loved
enabəvar - most loved
arasbəvar - the most loved (in the whole world)
side - good
rembar - better
rebəvar - best
sidbəvar - best (in the whole world)
vorge - strong
marbar - stronger
marbəvar - strongest
vorgbəvar - strongest (in the whole world)

laxer - long, tall
laxebar - longer, tallest
laxebəvar - longest, tallest
laxebəvar - longest, tallest (in the whole world)

The comparative takes congruence, and in most forms the congruence marker is affixed to -bər-, thus showing the same vowel alteration as in the superlative. Another type of superlatives is the "individual apex superlative". This corresponds, roughly, to "at (his/her/its) most X", e.g.
At his best, he can solve any problem by just looking at it for half a minute, at his worst, he'll get stuck on the smallest problem forever.
This has two primary forms, the adverbial form and the complement form. Both are formed using the positive root, the superlative suffix and the prefix no(g)-. The adverbial form does have gender congruence as well:
nosidbavres (masc) | nosidbavrin (fem) | nosidbavrer (masc plur) | nosidbaverta (fem plur) | nosidbavre (neut sg and pl)
nogarsabavres | nogarsabavrin | nogarsabavrer | nogarsabaverta | nogarsabavre
nolaxebavres | nolaxebavrin | ...
The complement version is simply nosidbəvar | nogarsabəvar | nolaxebəvar | ..., regardless of the gender of the noun. The complement would be used to express, simply, that someone is (or was or becomes or became) at their X-st.

There is also an intensive adjective form, which generally takes the positive root, but with the exception of side, where it sometimes takes the comparative root rem-. The intensive adjective takes the suffix -lar, and can take congruence, in which case the a turns into ə like in the comparative suffix.

Further, a verb for becoming increasingly X can be formed by suffixing verbal morphemes to -lər-.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dairwueh: A Restriction on Personal Pronouns

A number of prepositions in Dairwueh cannot take a personal pronoun as an object, but have no restriction on nouns. Here is the full list of prepositions with this restriction. Almost all nouns here are presented in their accusative form, due to the prevalence of prepositions taking the accusative.
əre NOUN.ACC: on account of noun, due to noun, on behalf of noun, for the sake of noun.
 With a personal pronoun this requires a slight periphrasis:
əre vevna tarna
prep my.acc.masc issue*.acc.masc
 * or thing, or errand or (court) case, debt, credit.
The nouns that can be use differ a bit depending on the semantics of the situation, e.g.
sgutavne əre vevna tarna: do not stop on my account
sgutavne əre uvivna greivna: do not stop by my orders (essentially indicating that I never gave such orders - notice that 'order' is always in the plural)
sgutavne əre veve pira: do not stop for my pleasure (indicating that I would not be pleased by such cessation)
 The preposition ves, viz. around, across, along, near to, before takes sabtar (steps), murna (place), nimina (face). For this particular preposition, sabtar is mainly used when the referent of the pronoun is or was moving during the time span for which he also was a location. Murna implies a more stationary situation, and nimina implies rather restricted location - not so much around as near to, before.

Aub takes nimina (face) or ridinu (soul).

I (to, at), ma (at, in on), lo (of, from) can take baren (house.dat), variŋa (fortunes.dat), murar (place.dat), murivit (places.dat). Mesrit (walk(noun).dat) only occurs with i and lo.

Nist (against, after, in opposition to, in response to) takes salmat (voice.instr), krunŋa (grip.instr), streiŋa (attack, strike, lashing out), mlirar (from nominative root mri-, words), vurnat (neck). The different meanings conveyed by the different nouns should be somewhat clear - nist ... vurnat fairly clearly parses as a physical location, nist salmat/krunŋa/streiŋa/mlirar all permit a variety of responses or oppositions to something depending on context.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sargaĺk Phonology, Orthography and Latinization

A small observation: blogger sometimes apparently eats things between greater than and lesser than brackets. This just shows how bad the blogger editor is. Thus, instead of using such brackets to mark

The Sargaĺk language has already been presented in a latinized form for a while without any phonological or orthographical information presented. So, it is time for a short overview.

Sargaĺk has a three-way series of stops: voiced, unvoiced, and ejective: /p t k pʼ tʼ kʼ b d g/. The ejectives are normally written with ', e.g. mak'ugu.
The points of articulation are bilabial, alveolar and velar.

Affricates do not fully fill up the three-way system: /t͡s, t͡sʼ, t͡ɕ, t͡ɕʼ, d͡ʑʼ/. . These are written c, c', č, č', ʒ.

The fricatives are f, s, z, ɕ, ʑ and x. /ɕ/ is transcribed š, /ʑ/ as ž, the others by the obvious Latin letters.

Further there are two laterals - a velarized one, and a (lightly) palatalized one. I will transliterate these l, ly. There are three nasals, /m n ŋ/, transliterated with the same symbols. An alveolar trill also exists, transliterated r.

All consonants except the ejectives and the fricatives /f, x/ have length distinctions, which are marked by doubling the letter, except for the digraph ly, which is lengthened by doubling the y.

Syllabic Consonants
The laterals, the nasals and r can all appear as syllabic cores in open syllables.  However, the syllables might alternate, due to morphological reasons, between being open and closed. This causes alternations where a vowel is inserted before the syllabic consonant, thus rendering it asyllabic. The symbols used for these are: ḿ, ń, ŋ', ĺ, ĺy, ŕ. The diacritic is retained even when the consonant is not syllabic.
An exceptional word with regards to this is Sargaĺk itself - it is formed from a root sargĺ (an endonym) and the root ĺk (an otherwise almost obsolete word for 'language'). In combining the two of them, *sargĺaĺk would be obtained, which later lead to the loss of the first ĺ.

Sargaĺk's vowel inventory consists of six vowels, /a e i o u ə/. /a/ is normally in the vicinity of [ɑ ], although depending on consonants such as lʲ and vowels such as /e/ in the same phonetical vicinity can pull it forward towards [a]. The alveolo-palatal consonants also tend to move /a/ towards [a] and even into the territory just 'south' of [æ] in the vowel trapezoid.

/e/ is normally somewhere between [e] and [ɛ]. The sequence /elʲ/ often has a slightly closed, but not retracted articulation. /eɫ/ retracts and closes /e/ a bit, towards [ɨɫ]. /er/ and /eŋ/ often has a slightly opened articulation as well, almost reaching into [æ]-like territory. A palatal consonant in the onset of a syllable may prevent such opening, though.

The vowels /u o/ often cause rounding on preceding consonants. When close - following or preceding /lʲ/, they may front towards [ʉ ɵ]. Much like /e/, /r/ and /ŋ/ cause it to open up a bit, but unlike /e/, /o/ opens up a bit preceding /ɫ/ as well.

/ə/ seems to roam about its bit of the vowel trapezoid according to a similar logic: /lʲ/ before or after it causes some fronting, /ɫ/ some retraction (and opening), an /r/ after it causes some opening.

/i/ moves between [ɨ] when close to velars, [ɪ] when close to palatals, and slightly widened in the vicinity of all the nasals. The presence of /r/ does not cause any widening.

Syllable structure
Word initially, Sargaĺk seldom has any particularly large clusters. Words that begin in consonants almost all have a vowel for their second sound. Inside words, however, up to five consonants in a cluster can appear, although this is not particularly common. For whatever reason, only one cluster is likely to appear in a root.
Stress falls on the first syllable of most words. Syllabic consonants in the first syllable can be stressed too. Secondary and tertiary stresses alternative with unstressed syllables according to patterns along the lines of 10203 and 10302, where 0 stands for unstressed.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tatediem Verb Prefixes as Derivative Affixes

Some Tatediem verbs are fairly semantically unclear in their meaning. Take, for instance, làhi, which signifies 'to engage with music in some way'. The usual interpretation is either 'listen' or 'sing'. However, with some prefixes, it changes meaning a bit. These prefixes have previously been described in a separate post.
-sudlàhi (làhi in several directions) : to dance
-tagslàhi (làhi clockwise): also to dance
-kugilàhi (làhi towards the subject): to attempt to attract something by singing (or alternatively dancing)
-xemelàhi (làhi due to duty): to sing a working song, or to work rhythmically in coordination with the working song
-kautolàhi (làhi gracefully): to sign or dance a solo part in a performance, or to sing or dance in a very impressive fashion
-cakŋilàhi (to act preparatorily for làhi): to practice some musical skill
-stunlàhi (làhi collaboratively): to dance in a big formation
Another verb that has some notable changes in meaning is tíni, 'to see'.
-kautotíni: to see with a sharp eye
-akriwtíni: to be a peeping Tom
-irbuntíni: to be watchful, to mind something
-gaftíni: to act so as to appear outwards to be something (gaf normally is a passive)
-lewtíni: to recall (normally, lew is reflexive momentane)
-hustíni: to spy (normally, -hus- signifies doing silently), to guard
-ŋiŋutíni: to dream of adventure (-ŋiŋu- signifies 'away from home')
-nnaliktíni: to be shy (-nnalik- signifies 'turning downwards')

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bringing Up Children in Conlangs: Language Death

One detail about bringing children up in your own conlang that might not have occurred to anyone is language death. Now, the usual argument with regards to language death and conlanging is the trite and fairly stupid why create languages when there's already hundreds of them out there dying? That is most emphatically not the argument I will present, and to make this very clear, I'll present a rather strong argument against that argument - despite the fact that it is entirely beside the point I am trying to make, and despite the fact that I am not arguing for conlanging as such, since I figure there is no great need to argue for it.

So, what is the problem with the bad rhetorical question why create languages when there's already hundreds of them out there dying? Due to globalization, lots of cultures are slowly vanishing, their songs, their ethical traditions, their philosophical inquiries, their stories being replaced by those of dominant cultures. Why would anyone write new stories when old ones are vanishing? Why would anyone compose music, when music is vanishing?

Since that argument is clearly preposterous, we probably can reject any argument of a parallel structure unless it has some other qualities that make them not be fallacies.

I only bring that argument up in order to show that I do not hold it. I have already seen people argue against positions I do not hold sufficiently often in discussing this that I want to be very clear on where I stand.

Now, let's get to the details of my argument: we know from extensive research into dying languages that the last speakers generally are very unhappy about the state of their language - no longer able to speak a language they grew up with to anyone who would understand it or be able to respond in it. It's not just unhappiness, generally, but a genuine anguish

For an example of this, David Crystal wrote a play that is a character study of a last speaker. Granted, it describes a situation with other important characteristics, such as the almost complete extinction of a tribe. However, we know from people who have been isolated from their language too that this anguish can happen even without the actual extinction of the language.

Further, how likely does anyone think a conlang will ever be at convincing a large enough community to speak it for there to be a likely transmission into a second generation beyond the first few native speakers it might manage to get? Seriously?

This argument is thus not why create languages when there's already hundreds of them out there dying - it is why create moribund language communities, whose first native speakers will also be first-hand experiencers of language death?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sargaĺk Alignment Syntax

The pegative case system has some implications for the syntax and morphosyntax in situations that are not just ditransitive finite verb clauses.

Pegatives can be transitive or intransitive subjects in coordinated structures; nominatives cannot be pegative subjects in coordinated structures. This is one of the most prominent uses of the anti-passive. (However, first person and second person nominatives can overcome such gaps without the anti-passive in at least one of the dialects.)

Thus we get situations like the following:

"A father surely teaches (his) son, and thus ensures him (of an) inheritance".

If the verb had been sirvac-ju instead, it would have been the son who had ensured [something], and since sirvac- is mandatorily at least transitive, the verb phrase would have been malformed.

Further, relativization shows a restriction: the pegative argument is not relativizable. Thus
*miv kŕderiman pangĺk-an-di-st gukla - village tax-exemption grant-past.active_participle-masc.REL king,
miv kŕderimazvi pangeĺk-ne-st gukla - village tax-exemption-with grant-past.antipassive_participle-masc.REL king
'the king who granted the village tax exemption'
Given that Sargaĺk primarily uses participle-like constructions for relativization, this might as well be described as a property of the participles. Sargaĺk does not really permit relativization of anything 'lower' on the relativization hierarchy, although it's hierarchy is slightly twisted, with the top tiers being intransitive subject > recipient > direct object.

Details regarding how the alignment interacts with control will be given later.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Naming Practice in Sargaĺk and Northernmost Ćwarmin

In Sargaĺk culture, and therefore also in northernmost Ćwarmin, which essentially are communities that have changed language to Ćwarmin over time, a slightly exceptional naming practice exists. A person only gets his proper name at some age, which differs from village to village. Before that age, the name the person carries is simply determined by the ordinal number of his birth in the village. The sequence in a few of the Sargaĺk villages is this, with two additional names of some use:
Mek'na, Sitro, Duta, K'anti, Pergo, Virka, Yege
Tikt'e is a special name for children from non-Sargaĺk areas
Kemratsa, a word meaning 'from elsewhere' can be used with Sargaĺk children whose name does not align with the village's name sequence
Unlike adult names, these are gender-neutral, and a child is referred to by the masculine pronoun until the adult name has been established. In most of the northernmost Ćwarmin villages, these still retain Sargaĺk morphology. An important thing to note is that in villages where the age for getting one's proper name is relatively low, the child names may lack a pegative form, because children are not assumed to be able to contribute in any way. In the unusual situation where a child does contribute - as in the stories about certain miracular figures in Dairwueh religions - the anti-passive is used. 

In other villages, however, kids may go without adult names until their teenage years. In such villages, pegative forms are more common.

The larger a village is, the longer the sequence tends to be. There may also be family exceptions: a clan that has had several kids of the same name that have died as children may ask that the child's first name be taken one step ahead in the series - which affects the entire village's "position" in the sequence. Not all villages permit this, though, and for those who hold this superstition, such a name might be a source of great anguish.

The longest sequence is about twenty names long. A closely related thing is the generalized incest taboo whereby children of the same name are considered, in some sense, siblings. Thus in some villages, two children of the same child-name cannot marry later in life. However, in many villages, one is expected to focus charitable efforts onto those who had the same child-name.

Some villages and clans have some other name-related superstitions: some name might be considered very lucky, and a child by that name from a parent of the same child-name may be considered especially suitable to be clan or village leader.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Detail #235: An Allophony Detail

Have a system with a great deal of allophony. However, have syllables that happen to be similar at certain positions with regards to prosody that also happen to have the same phoneme in them to disregard local allophony in favour of some kind of rhyming allophony.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Detail #234: Suppletion, Comparatives and Superlatives

Based on an universal due to Bobajlik (page 3), a simple yet neat "anti-universal" thing to do in a conlang:
Have a system with comparatives and superlatives like English. Have some adjectives form comparatives along a pattern like good - more bett - most bett. (Phrase directly from page 3 of that paper).

Detail #233: Possession, Anaphora and C-Commands

Examples taken from here.
The following restriction applies in many languages:
*Shei said that Maryi gave a great talk.
Yet, embedding the pronounis permitted:
[Heri colleague] said that Maryi gave a great talk.
Embedding on the other side doesn't have a similar effect:
*Shei said that [Maryi's student] gave a great talk.
This is a peculiar restriction. However, we could imagine a language that does the opposite, not permitting [Heri colleague] said that Maryi gave a great talk yet permitting *Shei said that [Maryi's student] gave a great talk.

This would be an even peculiarer restriction, since it would not be terribly easy to explain by recourse to X-bar or the like, which is easier to do with the English situation.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Alignments vs. Possession

As you may have noticed, grammatical alignments have really held my attention for a while now. In part because they really lend themselves to easy creativity, another reason is that there's a fair share of stuff that looks almost realistic yet might not be attested anywhere.

One thing I'd like to draw attention to - a thing I bet already has been considered by linguists somewhere - is the possibility of drawing analogies between adnominal possession and alignment and also between predicative possession and alignment.

Comparing nom-acc vs. erg-abs with head marking and dependant marking adnominal possession gets a bit unclear. If we assume the possessum is the head, the following comparisons obtain:
nominative: independent noun, possessed noun
accusative: marked possessor

ergative: marked possessum
absolutive: independent noun, possessor
However, we could argue for the other way around as well.

I have presented an inverse alignment for possession as well, but let's consider some other options:

Tripartite: each of the possible noun phrases - non-possessed, possessor, and possessum all have unique markings. To some extent, double-marked possession is exactly this.

We go on to consider some kind of split-possession system: maybe nouns in the "basic" cases require possessors in the genitive, whereas in adpositional phrases, the possessor OR the independent noun takes the case the adposition calls for, whereas a possessum takes some specific marking. Alternatively, nouns in the "basic" cases can also be marked as possessums instead of their usual case marking (c.f. how Finnish conflates possessed nominatives and accusatives), whereas oblique cases must be marked. The other option with split possession is to have it lexically determined: some nouns trigger head-marking, some trigger dependent-marking.

Once that is done, we get to the point of omitted arguments: what if we want to mark that a thing is possessed, but not explicitly state the possessor? What if we want to state the possessor, but not the possessum?

These too could permit for patterns analogous to anti-ergative, "normal accusative" and so forth. Some languages - including to some extent English - have a special case for this, viz. mine, yours, hers, ours, etc. Some languages have a special form for the opposite situation, i.e. basically [someone's] hand, for nouns that are cannot stand without possessors.

All of these could basically be taken over directly to the predicative possession situation: different case uses, different constructions (possessum is by possessor, possessor is with possessum, the possessum possibly being more or less syntactically subject- or object-like in either of the constructions, etc) ...

Let's, however, not stop here, let's ... go where no man has gone before:
What could a possessive analogue of ditransitives be?

How likely is it for a language to evolve some kind of regular, grammaticalized ditransitive type of possession? What use would it have? How could it, morphologically and syntactically, be formed?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Detail #232: Reciprocals vs Reflexives

Reciprocals (they saw each other), and reflexives (they saw themselves) are a couple of fairly similar meanings that might not even be distinguished in any systematic manner in a language. However, we could also imagine them being distinguished in haphazard manners.

Let us consider the actions described -
they verbed each other vs. they verbed themselves
Somehow, to me at least they verbed each other seems like a single action carried out by a group, while they verbed themselves seems like lots of small actions carried out by multiple people. This might of course depend on the nature of the verb - if the verb means wash your teeth, then clearly the latter implies lots of people independently doing things, whereas if cause to lose a war is the verb involved, then the communal action interpretation might be more close at hand.

So, why not have plural congruence in the case of the separate, independent actions and singular congruence in the other case, and slowly make this also turn into plural congruence with reflexives implies reciprocality, lack thereof implies reflexivity. (It could just as well fall out the other way, but the basic principle is what I'm getting at – of course, the distinction between communal action and individuated action could also be present without influencing reflexives vs. reciprocals at all.)

We could of course take that and go in the direction of ... inverse systems. Some verbs prefer a reciprocal interpretation, some verbs prefer a reflexive one, and the inverse marker turns the interpretation around?

But that's not particularly new an idea for this blog, even though it's not been mentioned before iirc. It skates close to exoreflexive and endoreflexive verbs.

A new idea would be this, though: take the same pronoun for reciprocality and for reflexivity. Thus "them|our|yourselves" and "each other" are conflated. Now, with the reciprocal meaning, the pronoun is marked as the subject, and the noun phrase that normally would have been the subject is the object:
theyselves helped them
and the regular reflexive meaning would be
they helped themselves
This is probably typologically unattested, and maybe even breaks some universals. I have a sort of inclination to think that if the language lacks a proper subject, though, it might be more likely. Such languages seem to be syntactically ergative relatively often, so there you have an idea to play with.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Detail #231: A Noun Complex

So, let's consider a language that has fairly morphologically simple nouns: maybe they mark one or two things - but preferrably at most one of those things at a time.

But the noun phrase has a thing going for it that is more complicated. The article. The article bears the brunt of morphological marking, and this to an extent that far surpasses German.

First, we'll posit a historical origin: nouns that have been grammaticalized. So, instead of "actor" vs "actress", you have "boy actor" vs "girl actor". Thus, what now are articles, historically have been nouns. There is a fair share of such former nouns, and the noun classes can be somewhat overlapping.

Possessors of the noun have a congruence marker in the article. Certain nominal possessors may be incorporated into the article, but some will just have a possessive pronominal suffix on the article. Certain adjectives can also be incorporated, but only one at a time.

A number of morphemes corresponding to different types of indefinites and definites also go on the article. 

What more can we throw onto these auxiliary nouns to get a sort of "polysynthetic noun phrase" going? Case could be an obvious thing, but let's not go there. Other kinds of relations than possession? E.g. spatial relations with regards to other nouns and deictics?

A noun that is represented by a pronominal suffix in "another noun's article" does not require an article of its own, unless it has further embedded relations (i.e. a possessor of a possessor or somesuch).

Sargaĺk: Verbs with Different Complements in the Negative

Although Sargaĺk mainly does not have differential object marking, some verbs with oblique complements have a differential thing to them.

This post lists a few of them.
ĺirjar - remember, observe any religious tradition, contemplate
     pos: loc, neg: lat
rinjas - to reach (when extending oneself towards), to stand tall, to be esteemed (worthy of)
     pos: lat, neg: abl
jaĺgan -
to be welcomed into a place or situation
     pos: lat, neg: abl
garjir - to ask permission to enter into somewhere
     pos: lat, neg: abl
gardan: to grant permission to enter into somewhere
     pos: lat, neg: abl (note: recipient of permission is in the accusative)

One verb has a rather peculiar feature, where which participant is the subject changes in the negative:
pidas - fit
In the positive, a thing1 fits into (lative) a thing2, or a person fits (his) bodypart into (lative) a thing2.
In the negative, a thing2 does not fit on (locative) a thing1, or a thing does not fit on (locative) a person on a bodypart1

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Detail #230: Anti-Pegative Alignment

I posted, a good while ago, a post that described the "anti-ergative" subsystem of Finnish. The post also contains an extension of this into ditransitive verbs. However, the pegative alignment that I've previously described did not enter into that post.

What would an analogous anti-pegative alignment look like, especially in a language that in the "normal" case is pegative?

Let us consider the situation when the subject is omitted:
[omitted subject] gives thing.acc person.nom
This seems like a fairly natural way of dealing with the situation - there is no case problems whatsoever. We may want to make the situation worse before we come up with something interesting. So, first we reduce the case marking a bit:
Subjects, objects and recipients are all marked by nominative, except ditransitive subjects, which are marked with the pegative.
Given the nature of, say, dechticaetiative languages, this seems like the most probable situation for a pegative alignment in a real language.

The situations we're interested in are, schematically, something like these:

  1. [omitted subject] gives thing.nom person.nom
  2. person.[nom? peg?] gives [omitted thing.nom] person.nom
  3. person.[nom? peg?] gives thing.nom [omitted recipient]

If we extend this to a Finnic-like thing, this also would include situations where the subject is not canonically marked, although not strictly speaking omitted. We can extend this even further: non-canonical objects and non-canonical recipients.

1. Omitted or non-canonical subject
It seems this situation shouldn't call for any specific thing to happen in an anti-pegative system. Maybe, just maybe, we could have the pegative marker ascend to either the direct or the indirect object. Both possibilities seem reasonable, depending on what the speakers see as the semantics of the case marker: does it a) mark the argument with the most agency or b) the argument that provides for the recipient. To put it in very clunky English rephrasings:
a) Erin gave, and Wendy received candy.
Wendy has some agency, Erin has more agency, candy has none, thus omitting Erin, Wendy is now at the top of the agency scale.

b) From Erin, Wendy was given candy.
Wendy has agency, Erin is marked as origin. Let's use an even less natural preposition here:
Of Erin, Wendy was given candy.
Wendy was given of candy.
Both of these seem somewhat compelling (albeit probably typologically speaking very improbable). Let's present some graphs:

The standard bit of the pegative system:

Possibility 1 extends the table with these rows:
 Possibility 2 does this instead:
We also have possibilities 1b and 2b, where we get the following tables:
Possibility 1b:
 Possibility 2b:
Both of these seem pretty unlikely. If we want to see some really twisted stuff we could come up with worse varieties still, though:

Or alternatively

Both of these should be pretty bad options - especially due to the three last rows probably making it impossible for someone learning their first language to draw a reasonable conclusion about the distribution of the case marker, along the way that the anti-accusative system given last in my post on anti-ergative systems.

We could of course develop the details for an anti-pegative appearing in an otherwise decthicaetiative or "normal" alignment also. Such a follow-up post will probably appear in a few days.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sargaĺk: Argument Structure-altering Constructions

Constructions that alter the number of canonical arguments include:
  • the passive and the pegative-passive
  • the habitual aspect (which has subject appear in the comitative, and the verb as a habitual participle)
  • the construction analogous to "X had better ..."
  • the distant past
  • verbs of transitions
The passive in Sargalk deletes the highest-ranking nominative. There is a pegative-passive that deletes the pegative. Typically, the pegative is changed to nominative in a passive clause. This does always happen if the omitted argument instead was demoted to an oblique phrase. The passive is formed by replacing the final -VC of the citation form with -game and the pegative-passive -gagame. In the past tense, the two passives are conflated as -gven. In participles, subjects, objects and indirect objects are kept intact.

The habitual aspect usually has the participle appear clause-finally, marked by the suffix -saš (in the passive, -sanaš, in the recipient-voice, -sašen)). Thus:
Indak'-mic sunir-sa higin-saš
Indak-COM net-plur.nom tie-hab.ptcl
Indak regularly ties nets

'X had better' uses 'good' in the pegative form, sibe-ta, followed by up to three nominative arguments. Only the first of these triggers any congruence, and the verb itself takes no pegative congruence marker.

sibe-ta Indak' Mared sunir-sa tor-ju
better-from Indak Mared net-plur.nom sell-3sg
Indak had better sell Mared some nets

The distant past is formed using a few auxiliaries and the subject in the comitative.
ʒeuga (masc sg.), ʒeugi (fem sg.), ʒeugis (masc, fem pl) , ʒeugven (passive)
ʒimena (masc sg.), ʒimeni (fem sg.), ʒimenis (masc, fem pl), ʒimeven (passive)
nade (not marked for gender), nagven (passive)
Thus Jomemai Salaru seukahir ʒimena - Jome travelled to the southern lands, back in the day. Kahimai xəszin ʒeugven –Kahi was poisoned a good while ago.

The main differences are that nagven less often is used with animate subjects, and ʒimena is "further" past than ʒeuga. Ʒimena is almost exclusively used with subjects that are now dead.

The verbs of transition take the original state or the object undergoing a transition in the pegative. The most common is arda, (with the past form orga, exceptionally having a form for far past: ardana, ardani, ardanis, ardanen). Another is boyda. Boyda differs in more often implying that a previous state has been left, rather than just acquiring an additional state. It only has the past form boga) What is considered a state that has been left is rather culturally conditioned. Getting married is considered leaving the state of not being married, and thus mandates boyda. Getting sick is not considered leaving the state of being well. Getting old is considered acquiring age, not losing youth. Getting rich is considered acquiring a feature, not leaving the feature of being poor behind. Improvement in any feature mandates arda.
Jome-ta tempe orga - Jome sick became
Agu-ta pehite-rne arda - Agu chieftain-to become
Korsa-ta ganite orga - Korsa rich became
Seno-ta tusto boyda - Seno wise become
Mabi-ta ontor-rne boga - Mabi outcast became
Noun complements generally have the -rne (lative) case, adjectives are generally "naked".

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sargaĺk Non-Canonical Subjects and Objects

This post originally started out as a post describing an "anti-pegative" sub-system in a language (not necessarily a pegative language). That part of the post has been excised now, and will return in a more focused form.

In many languages, some set of verbs or some constructions cause exceptional patterns of marking. Sargalk has a handful of such verbs as well as constructions. The exceptional verbs are valjan, represent, kotjan, permit, feldar, suggest, surrender, harias, promise, pledge, grant marriage to one's daughter, merenar, replace obj1 with obj2, durenar, offer obj1 as a trade for obj2, rigmar, to lack, suldin, to assert the truth of what one's previously said, švudar, to stink, smiral, to stretch something.

In the following discussion, note that only pronouns distinguish the accusative from the nominative.

These follow a few different patterns - valjan and harian have subject = pegative, recipient = nominative, object= pegative. In constructions where any argument is omitted, the cases remain unchanged with these two verbs.

Kotjan and feldar have the direct object in the locative case, and the other two arguments are nominative. Merenar has the direct object in the pegative, and the other in the instrumental. These cases are not impervious to changes.

Harias takes the direct object in the pegative, and the other two arguments in the accusative.

Merenar has its subject in the nominative, the replaced object in the pegative, and the replacement in the lative. The subject can be omitted, and the replaced object will have verb congruence, but pegative marking. Durenar follows the same pattern, with the exception that the replacement can be in the nominative or accusative as well.

Rigmar has its subject in the pegative, and the object in the accusative. Suldin has its subject in the pegative, and no direct or indirect object appears. An eventual recipient of the assertion is in the lative, and any semantic object is really either in another VP or embedded as a subclause.

Švudar can have either the emitter of the stench or the emitted stench in the pegative, and the other NP in the accusative. Smiral has a nominative subject, pegative direct object, and nominative indirect object (generally the location to which something stretches). The (causative) subject can be omitted, turning the direct object into a new subject, which is then still marked with pegative and triggers subject congruence.

The next post will include the constructions that trigger non-canonical subject and object markings.