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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Detail #229: Grammaticalized "Selectedness"

A thing that could be somewhat similar to definiteness, but also to some other things nouns can distinguish. Let us consider the mental act of selection as the distinctive trait. 

Selection can be performed by the speaker, the listener, or even a third person. However, only persons aware of an object can select it, and the only relevant people for the act of selection are either speaker, listener or a third person relevant to the state of affairs described by the verb phrase.

Selection happens when the object is mentally marked out among others.
house-SEL on the hill: that house on the hill (out of many houses, or out of many potentially relevant objects)
house on the hill: a/the house on the hill

she likes snow (she generally likes snow)
she likes snow-SEL (she likes snow over the other options present)
As the house example shows, selection is not the same as definiteness: a single house on a hill is not necessarily marked as selected despite being the only thing on the hill. (However, maybe on the hill too could be marked for selectedness, thus distinguishing the full phrase house on the hill as selected, as opposed to, say, house by the beach). The snow example also shows that indefinite, mass nouns can be selected.

In imperatives, ommission of selection generally implies free choice, selection is basically the same as a demonstrative - although a fairly vague such, as some other NP involved may affect its meaning, e.g. "sell John's car-SEL" will resolve to whichever car John prefers you to sell.

Reuse of the selection morpheme refers back to the same entity as previously selected. Doubling it means a new selection takes place, after which a simple selection morpheme refers to the new selection.