Thursday, December 29, 2016

Detail #323: Infinitives and Prepositions as Infinitive Markers/Articles

In English, and some other Germanic languages, prepositions have become a very article-like thing that in some positions appear before infinitives. The distribution often differs from that of articles, but the idea is quite similar. (Both have interesting quirks in English -  Separately from English, this has also developed in other Germanic dialects, even far enough to be separated from the rest of the 'to'-area by other constructions (e.g. despite Swedish having a non-cognate 'att' for the same role, some north Swedish dialects too use cognates to 'to'; 'att', however, also originates with a preposition.)

Now, several families subfamilies in the Indo-European clade have a feature whereby verb roots combine with prefixes that are quite clearly prepositions in the language. These combinations may form even rather opaque meanings:
The way the preposition affects the meaning of the verb is not really obvious in any of these examples. Now, an interesting development of this is how it's interacted with aspect in the Slavic family of languages.

However, we can go on and consider a situation whereby prepositions do not combine with verb stems and thus forming new lexemes (as in the IE examples). What if, instead of prepositions/adverbs* merging with verbs to form lexemes, we had prepositions merging with infinitives to form some TAMs (and also the potentially tense-, aspect- and moodless infinitive). It's easy imagining a preposition marking an imperative ('for', anyone?), another marking progressive tense ('at', perhaps?) and one marking the basic infinitive.

Another thing one could do is have the infinitive marker be lexically specified by the verb; if they have a similar origin as in English, one could imagine something like
to eat
by sleep
in think
with consider
possibly distinguished by type of action (cognition vs. kinetic vs. passive vs. ...) or by some lexical feature (inherent aspect), or even permitting some distinction to be made by choice of preposition.

This would, anyway, make for an interesting similar-but-different development as to what has happened in several Indo-European branches.

* IE prepositions originated as adverbs that apparently could modify verbs as well as nouns in oblique cases, and only later got more closely bound to the nouns. In many IE languages, they can still be used "intransitively", and as adverbs - English being a trivial example of this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dairwueh: Noun Morphology in Depth, pt I

Providing the noun case and number suffixes for Dairwueh hides some of the things that are going on. We find, for instance, nouns like xei, whose plural stem is i-, giving us the following paradigm:
xei   ir
xena ijivna
xear ijivit
xeat ijedin
xeŋa ijeder
For most nouns, two stem forms suffice, but some nouns require up to four stem forms. However, there is no single system of four stems that is sufficient to account for all morphological variation – one needs five stems, of which no word uses more than four distinct ones:
  1. singular nominative stem
  2. singular oblique stem
  3. plural nominative stem
  4. plural oblique stem
  5. derivative stem
Few nouns have only one stem - these are basically only nouns that lack plurals or singulars altogether.

Nouns with two stems come in two main flavours: 2a: 12 / 345 (almost all being feminine), or 2b: 1234 / 5 (almost all being neuters). However, 2c: 1235 / 4 also exists for a few nouns, (e.g. erha, 'king') and 2d: bits, 'direction', exceptionally follows an 1 / 2345 pattern. Whenever a noun has three distinct stems, usually the lines of division are 3a: 1 / 234 / 5 (e.g. dor, 'man'). A small minority of nouns has 3b: 123 / 4 / 5. For nouns with four stems, the two that are merged are always either 4a: 2 and 4 or 4b: 3 and 4. Part 2 of this post will go through the historical reasons behind the morphophonological changes, this post only provides examples of the classes and explains the basic structure.

Further, the derivative suffixes that are given as examples below are of course also members of such classes; -res, for instance, is a member of 3a, -res, -rto-, -rr, while -pan is a member of 3b, with -pan-, -po-, -pla- as the stem forms.

2d: bits, 'direction'


Derivative example:
bətres: a signpost

3a: dar, 'man'

Derivative stem: dri-
dripan: manliness, masculinity

2c: erha, 'king'


Derivative stem: erha-
erhaksa: kingdom
erhapan: royal legitimacy, inheritance of kingly title
4a: soŋe, 'noble title'


Derivative stem: sot-
sotres: banner
sotukri: a woman whose nobility passes by female inheritance
sotsek: a nobleman

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A New Feature!

I've been considering introducing another feature here, which of course usually will lead into that feature slowly fading out because hey, too much bother, but let's hope this doesn't happen. The intention is to present conlanger lore about linguistic typology - things that are passed around in a variety of conlanging communities online, peculiar things that answer the question 'is X possible' with a resounding yes: it's not only possible, it's attested.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Detail #322: Negativity and Volition

Whenever an action is somewhat complicated, performing the action almost never is unintentional. However, when not performing the action, intentionality may vary - you may have forgotten or otherwise failed to carry it out, or you may have decided not to do it at all, and as a third option, you may not have had any intention whatsoever. Thus, for a large number of actions, it seems more likely that conveying volition would be more natural and more necessary in the negative than in the positive.

What ways could such a distinction be encoded? There's a lot of them, really!

One way could be lack of person marking on verbs for the negative whenever volition is lacking; another could be different constructions altogether - something like English or Finnish for volitional negativity, something with just a negative particle for volitionless negativity. Yet another option could be negativity concord on objects and the like with volitional negativity.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Detail #318: Exceptional Voice Marking in Participles

Consider having participles where certain verbs have exceptional patterns, where the 'wrong' voice may be marked on occasion in order to signal something about the verb. We can imagine a few possibilities:
intransitive verbs taking passive participle marking to signal things
transitive verbs marking passive meaning by active morphology
transitive verbs marking active meaning by passive morphology
verbs marking exceptional voice by passive or active morphology
These are some pretty vague notions this far - we've only really established the notion of
throwing → thrown

thrown → throwing
This is pretty boring, so we need to add some exceptional things to this. We could do a thing English almost does already:
scratching post
Sure, the verb there might be a gerund or something instead of an active participle, alternatively English conflates voice in some tenses and aspects with participles. Both analyses might work out, who knows?

What if we add some form of intensification or whatnot? Say, intense participles conflate voice, or for some verbs, the intensive participles are all marked as active participles. 

We can of course go on and have this voice conflation apply even with constructions that are used to form a passive, if the language uses some structure similar to that of English for that purpose. There's no need to do so, however.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Detail #321: Vowel Harmony Discontinuity

In languages such as Finnish, vowel harmony is pretty solid except in loans and in compounds, where the vowel harmony really only operates on the level of the component words of the compound. We do find some interesting exceptions in the derivative morphology, with stems that only contain neutral vowels:
lentää (to fly)
lento (a flight)

viiltää (to incise)
viilto (an incision)
Examples with other morphemes than -to can be found, but I can't be bothered to introspect for them all that much at the moment. In addition, there's two words that have exceptional singular partitives after a neutral root - usually, roots that only have neutral vowels trigger front harmony. I'll arrange the case forms here according to their morphological relation - i.e. the singular locative cases are indented from the genitive, because their formation can be predicted from the genitive, and the plurals from the plural partitive. A dash separates the case marker in the genitive and plural partitive from the singular and plural oblique stems.
meri (sea, ocean)
meressä, merestä, mereen, merellä, mereltä, merelle
mereksi, merenä, merettä, meret (plural nom/acc!)
merissä, meristä, meriin, merillä, meriltä, merille, meriksi, meri, merittä, merine-(plus poss. suffix), merin,
* I don't even recall the exact formation rule for merten/merien, but iirc it too derives from meri-. I get it right in speech, but don't ask me to tell you how it works. Oh, and both merten and merien are accepted forms - either due to standard Finnish taking both eastern and western forms, or due to both having coexisted widely.

One other word has the same exact behavior, viz. veri, blood. As a not fully native speaker but almost, my opinion on this particular pair of words might not be shared by everyone, but to me mertä sounds less wrong than vertä does - I am not sure whether if someone said vertä in a sentence, I'd even realize immediately what word was being mangled, but I think I would so with mertä.

Now, to the conlanging idea!
Let's have a couple (or more) of 'metaphonemes', " and ¤. " switches harmony to front harmony, ¤ switches to back harmony. Any other type of harmony could of course be useful, but front-back harmony with umlaut signs makes for a visually simple example. One could of course imagine that the best way for this to work would simply be a regular, realized phoneme that deviates from the expected harmony, and forces future suffixes to switch, as in the made up example below, where ko is part of the root:
pöläko, pöläkopa, pöläkora ...
My thoughts here come very close to such a system, but what if, due to vowel reductions, this happens:
pöläko, pöläkopa, pöläkr ?
The question mark serves to indicate my uncertainty here: should the lost /o/ still trigger -ra, or should the loss make the front harmony root trigger -rä? 
This is where the " and ¤ would come in. They would be present in the root, never realized by themselves, but appear whenever a vowel is reduced out of existence. Thus, if the root were pöläk"o, we'd get pöläkrä, if it were pöläk¤o, we'd get pöläkra.

Thus, some form of vowel harmony exists in a language with such a system, but it's governed by some weird rules.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Detail #320: Alignment, Essives and Translatives

I assume everyone knows what essives and translatives as far as the case nomenclature of Finnish goes are. If not, ask and I'll make a post explaining it for you.

Anyways, one could imagine a different alignment with regards to these as well! One could have the quality that is being been, or the quality that is being acquired, or the noun that is being been, or the noun that is being become marked in nominative or accusative depending on whether we're dealing with a situation like
I am a singer (nominative)
I fell ill (nominative)
I made it durable (accusative)
I painted it red (accusative)
and we could mark the subject or object in cases that mark being and becoming, much as the Finnish essive and translative - but marked on the bee-er or becomer, rather than on the quality (or noun) that is being been or become.

This must be one of the few times a passive of be and become ever has been called for in English.

A Peculiar Innovation in the Dagurib Branch: Verbal Body Part Prefixes

In the Dagurib branch of the ĆŊ family, a set of verbal prefixes have developed, mainly from words for body parts. In Dagurib itself, we have
yül-, yil-, yul- hand, arm
ülül-, ilil-, ulul- hand, arm (alternative form)
si-, su-, sü- face
or-, ir-, ür- upper torso
sal, säl-, sɛl- legs, leg, foot, feet
t'ob-, t'öb-, t'eg- head
lok'-, lök'-, lek'- back
kno-, knö-, kne- belly, lower torso
gim-, wüm-, wum- genitals
gimim-, wümüm-, wumum- genitals (alternative form)
k'ar-, k'är-, k'ɛr- ass, butt
ban-, bän-, bɛn- thighs
sol-, söl-, sel- shoulders, neck
ene-, ono-, önö- mind, cognition
Cognates to some of these may be found in Ćwarmin and Ŋʒädär. These are mandatory in some situations, optional in some situations and not permissible in some situations. The participant of the noun phrase that they belong to is also not entirely trivial, as they can indicate instrument, object, physical direction, and some more unusual things.

Basically, the participant whose body the prefix will be part of most generally is the argument that would have been marked with the absolutive in an ergative language. The exceptions are hand and genitals, whose short form follows a nominative-like distribution, and mind, whose referent depends on the register: when spoken to a superior, it will often be used as a prefix whenever the superior is the object. Otherwise, it will often be used to make a recipient the focus of the clause. In fact, all of these tend to mark focus of the noun to which they relate.

Those which follow the ergative pattern acquire a nominative pattern when the verb is marked with the passive voice, but may block the passive voice from promoting object to subject as well as demoting subject to oblique. 

With indirect objects, whether to parse something as being part of an indirect or direct object is often specific to combinations of prefix and lexeme.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Detail #319: A Pronoun Quirk

A really minor quirk one could have in a language is marking the gender of a different person on the pronouns of some person; maybe even have a cross-thing where the first person pronoun encodes the gender and number of the second person and vice versa.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I have bragging rights

It never crossed my mind to brag about this when it was relatively recent, but ... a piece of mine was included in a microtonal compilation album a while ago.

Go check out NextXen

It's pretty neat.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Detail #317: Indirect Object Marking and Possessive Suffixes

Many languages have possessive suffixes. There's some kind of semantic similarity between being a recipient or indirect object and being a possessor. These could easily be marked in similar ways on an NP - i.e. the recipient could be marked on the object, the possessor on any NP.

The grammaticalization path here might be pretty obvious: indirect object pronouns get fused to the direct object noun, and turn into affixes. Trivial, no? 

An obvious result could be identical markers, so
I gave (away?) your car = I gave you the car
The other possibility of course distinguishes the two, although we can of course limit the amount of distinctions made - maybe indirect object markers cannot be reflexive, and the second person plural conflates indirect object and possessor, or whatever.

Now we can start doing fun things - if our markers are distinct, they're also case markers – their presence indicates that an NP is a direct object. Now, we could imagine a double marking here, where both possessive and IO markers can appear simultaneously on a noun, turning
I gave away your car ≠ I gave you the car
Now, this could be sort of different from case marking, though, when interacting with passivization! For passive verbs, maybe this marking remains whenever the direct object is made subject, but disappears when the indirect object is made subject.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Anatomy of the Description of a Conlang

My previous post got a question that got more difficult to answer the more I was thinking about it.
Is this meant to be a simple quirk of the language or is there a shade of meaning implied by the genitive marking of tired, as opposed to, say, sleepy?
This was meant to be a quirk of the language, much like there are words that lack congruence, have incomplete congruence or have extra congruence in a variety of languages. Consider, for instance, English this/these vs. the, or Swedish trött which conflates neuter and common gender forms (but seems to rather maybe lack a neuter form altogether?).

However, I here need to divert attention to what I am describing when I describe Dairwueh (or Sargaĺk, Bryatesle, etc ...). Of course I am describing some kind of partial language whose only 'real' existence is in the descriptions I have created and the ideas I have in my mind. However, these ideas have some kind of structure to them, and I don't just mean that the ideas belong together. In some sense, my descriptions of these languages are synchronic - they pertain to one particular timespan in an imaginary timeline. There's some ideas as to what came before, often in a rather vague form, and sometimes there's ideas as to what is coming to come later.

Of course, any real language has a lot of individual variations - consider, for instance, the difference between partitive and accusative objects in Finnish. Can we be sure that every native speaker encodes the exact same distinction by that? I am not so sure of that! I am inclined to think that, in fact, we have a lot of greatly overlapping distinctions, most of which don't differ by much, but the occasional outlier exists. Any 'properly realistic' conlang should also have this, I think. And thus I will usually end up with slightly fuzzy ideas of what's going on - I'll try and fuzzily permit for variation in my idea.

The tired bear ate the honey. (the bear possesses tiredness?)
The sleepy bear ate the honey. (the bear has the property of sleepiness)
I don't think there's any such meaning-difference distinguished here in the Dairwueh-period I am describing, but the origin of the construction might be an almost-onset of such a development. Consider "a strong man" vs. "a man of strength" as a similar distinction, but with strength in the morphologically marked genitive instead, and as an adjective, not a noun of the same root. So, the origin of this construction might've had some such meaning, but only the form got conserved, not the meaning. This is also why it did only remain in the nominative - being that it was more often used with nominatives than with other nouns (due to such distinctions being more often made for the subject than for other NPs), which is why the normal congruence won out for those.
Would a Dairwueh speaker notice the genitive marking or just think it 'proper Dairwueh-ish'?
They would notice it as the normal thing to do with those adjectives for those adjectives they are used to using that way, i.e. other dialects would feel weird if their set of such adjectives differed significantly. It is possible that they wouldn't perceive the -at marker as the same morpheme as the genitive masculine marker, though, but rather as an exceptional gender-indifferent nominative marker.

However, I can imagine a Dairwueh scholar writing something like
3sg negative passive auxiliaryneg pcpl prefixwriteneg pcpl
writepassivetiredsg masc genman
is not
is written

3sg neg passive auxiliaryneg pcpl auxwriteneg pcpl auxtiredfem nomwomanfem nom
writepassivetiredsg masc genwomanfem nom

is written
Or in translation "it's not (to be) written 'rəmg dar', it's written 'rəmgat dar', it's not to be written 'rəmgi tol', it's written 'rəmgat tol', correcting uneducated speakers who are generalizing the adjectival congruence patterns even to these, or conversely saying to use an adjective in the regular pattern instead of the genitive pattern.

I ask because, perhaps frighteningly, I use your blog to learn linguistics and so I always look for a meaning in the bits of grammar you create and I can't see what marking 'tired' differently does to the word.
Usually, if such a different marking does something to the meaning of the word, I will point it out; in this case, it's just a morphological deviation with regards to these few nouns. As to using this blog for learning linguistics, I guess there's worse places, but I really really suggest you also use some kind of complement. This is of course just a sample of ideas from typology, filtered through potential misunderstandings on my part and then brewed in a vat where my imagination acts as the fermenting agent.

This will obviously result in a somewhat unbalanced diet when it comes to learning linguistics.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dairwueh: Semi-genitive Adjectives

In Dairwueh, there is a set of adjectives whose congruence pattern is slightly off. Their behavior differs in one particular spot: for nominative nouns, their marking is masculine genitive. (The one exception is the word sabrin, "unusual, foreign, strange" which is in the feminine plural genitive with nominative nouns).

Not only do these behave slightly oddly within noun phrases (and fail to have comparative marking altogether), they also behave weirdly with copulas.

The main examples that are widespread through Ćwarmin dialects include
koŋsat: last, final, complete
rəmgat: tired
lodat: correct, right, entitled
satpat: sturdy, firm
nestat: ancient
bartat: partial, incomplete, one among many, a few among many
Notice that the -at suffix in all of these is the genitive masculine morpheme, so the roots will consist of the adjective without that suffix.  Less widely distributed examples that are found in the capital area prestige dialect are
sxundat: wafer-thin
ropsat: bloody (from 'rapəs', blood, from *rrabx, bleed)
julkat: lazy
silgat: rank, rancid
xugat: brave
xsəlrat: avid, skilled, obsessed
tagrat: content
nalkat: sad
rusnat: smooth
With the copula, this type of adjective is marked by the preposition 'lo', when marking having that quality, and by the preposition 'əre' when marking acquiring that quality, and no congruence marking with regards to gender or number appears. The adjective then is in the masculine instrumental (-ŋa) with 'lo', and masculine accusative (-na) with 'əre'.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Detail #316: An Indirect Imperative

Have a way of inflecting imperative-like forms for the person who gave the command and for the time and aspect of the command-giving. One possibility would be for this to be morphologically related to causatives.

Dairwueh demonstratives

Dairwueh has two and a half level of demonstratives.
The two basic ones are 'this', av, and 'that', xev. The third, ŋev, is only distinguished in the nominative and genitive, and otherwise conflates with xev. The basic inflections are:
xev, xejxenaxenarxenatxeŋa
ŋev, ŋej

av, ajanaanaranataŋa
There are some further related adverbials derived from the same roots:
xeke - there
ŋeke -
there (even further away)
ajke - here

xekem - thither
ŋekem - thither
ajkem - hither

xeŋesa - from there
xeŋesa - from even further away
aŋesa - from here
There are also verbs deriving from these roots, although ŋe- entirely is absent from these.
xevin - to go towards there
avin - to come towards here

xevki - to arrive there
avki - to arrive here

xeŋsin - to leave from there
aŋsin - to leave from here

xeski - to exit an enclosed volume, such as a house
ŋaski - to exit an enclosed volume, such as a house, in which the speaker is located
These four infinitives ending in -ki are the only Dairwueh infinitives to end in vowels. Beyond the verbs above there are also causatives, which are the main ways of expressing 'bringing' something:
xevlik - to bring there
avlik - to bring here
Avlik is mostly common as an imperative, avlu, avlisu, but appears in other forms as well. Xevlik in all its forms is by all counts significantly more common.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Ŋʒädär: Residing and Wearing

Ŋʒädär conflates 'wearing' and 'residing' in one single lexeme. As an intransitive verb, it takes the location, or the clothing as an instrumental argument:
Isheep skininstrumenalwearintransitive
Isheep skin
I wear sheep skin
With transitive marking, it can mark 'to clothe' or 'to house':

the village houses fifteen people / has fifteen inhabitants

the mother dresses (her) daughter
The origin of this verb is the PŊĆ root *kɛŋüst-, signifying 'protect, cover, hold'.

A few nouns are derived from this verb, e.g.
käŋürti - clothes
käŋüsmö - settlement
käŋele - anything that forms a natural protection against weather
There is a Ćwarmin cognate, keŋəc,  signifying 'fabric, cloth'.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Sargaĺk Conjunction

In Sargaĺk, a conjunction corresponding to 'and' exists. However, normally when expressing multiple NPs that do something together, either the comitative is used or apposition suffices.

Apposition is the most common strategy for listing things, but is not unusual with two coordinated nouns either. Normally, the pitch contour of nouns in coordination-by-apposition becomes very static, with a slight drop at the final syllabic core.

Two coordinated human nouns, often at different levels of some kind of definiteness hierarchy or person hierarchy, will call for using the comitative. Thus, first > second > third def > third indef

Finally, the conjunction u is used to express meanings such as
not even
In combination with negation, u often signifies 'not even'. Oftentimes, but not always, the negation will come directly after u, giving upin or upic, but sometimes u ... pic/pin ... appears.

who even cares
A similar thing happens with the 'irrelevant' mood, u ḿte, which can be parsed as 'who even knows|cares'
just not
In the order "pic/pin u" signifies, generally, 'just not'

also, even, too
placing u phrase-finally expresses a meaning similar to the three English words given above.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ćwarmin Voice Markers beyond the Passive

Ćwarmin has some more voices beyond the passive and active, but unlike the active voice, all of them use the passive -aśp morpheme for the third person, and lack person marking for first and second person subjects. The main voices beyond passive and dative-passive are the causative (of intransitives), and the causative (of transitives). There is also a detransitive-habitual aspect-voice combination.

Morphologically, there is some overlap between the two causatives. Almost all causatives of intransitives are entirely unmarked in the present tense, as are a handful of causatives of transitives. A few entirely regular such verbs are:
taun - sit, seat
wecəm - smile, make someone smile
gaxar - laugh, make someone laugh
miler - rise, raise
colan - sink, submerge
Some intransitives that are marked in the present causative include
pəlnəm - jump
polnom - jump
kəjn - run
The few transitives that are not marked in the present causative are
taslon - leave, make someone leave
kolkor - carry, load
kolćojn - carry, send
In all other TAMs but the present indicative tense, the intransitive causative has the marker -ka(n)-/-ke(n)-, and takes either no person suffix (for 1st and 2nd person) or the passive suffix -aśp/-eśp for the third person. A more "neutral" way of describing -aśp/-eśp would be as a non-canonic voice marker, which in the absense of other markers is parsed as a passive.

The causative, further, has the causee in either the accusative or the nominative, often depending on the amount of coercion or force involved (nominative indicating less such).

The use of the causative voice is clearly and easily related to the structure of a fact: someone made someone be or do something, and that is what is being expressed. Asking someone to do something, telling them to do something, suggesting they do something, placing them in a situation where they are forced to or even prone to do something is all considered forms of causation.
A further voice marker is a sort of passive causative, which is formed by -kar(u)-/-kər(i)-. This passive causative signifies a few different meanings:
(being made to do something (subject in nominative))
doing something with little volition involved (subject in genitive)
resigning to doing something (subject in dative)
accidentally doing something (subject in genitive, aspect being punctual)
No matter the case of the subject with these forms, the congruence works similarly to the passive: -aśp/-eśp for third person, no marker for first and second person.

Usage of the passive causative is more pragmatically marked, mainly indicating that something is accidental, non-volitional or even somewhat undesirable. Sometimes there is no causer stated, and this basically communicates that there is no causer but that the whole state described by the verb is very untowards according to the speaker or the subject.

There is a further voice, the applicative. It turns a locative of any type or an instrument into a direct object. For transitive verbs, it also permits turning the object into an instrumental, although we also finds speakers that permit retaining the direct object as an accusative direct object (thus having two direct objects). The applicatives morpheme is -tak-/-tək-.

With locatives the kind of locative (that is, direction or location) correlates with the aspect of the verb.
hethe doors(a few)deliver (by wagon)

he delivers all the way to the doors(paucal)
This serves to emphasize a non-patient argument or to make it available for certain syntactical operations.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Detail #315: Noun-specific Quirky Case

Since I am a fan of various forms of irregularities, I find the idea of quirky case that only applies to particular nouns with particular verbs to be kind of interesting. However, let's phrase it vaguely as 'nominally conditioned quirky case' and we can use this vagueness to generate even more ideas.

Quirky case possession, for instance, could have certain nouns (or even noun-noun combinations) require their possessors to be marked for an exceptional case, or vice versa, certain nouns could be marked for an exceptional case when possessors (despite having a genitive that as far as everything else but possession goes has the same distribution as the genitive for other nouns), or the whole thing requires two nouns that together trigger the quirk.

Quirky case could of course be extended to nouns with adpositions, but this would sort of just be an extension of the previous two - no matter whether the adpositions originate as semantically bleached nouns or verbs, a previous stage exists to account for it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Detail #314: "Untransitive" Verbs and an Odd Voice

Let's consider verbs with meanings such as 'to be at', 'to stand at', 'to lie at', etc. These verbs could easily take accusative complements without being perceived as really being transitive (or for that part, in an ergative language might fail to have the subject marked for ergative!).

Now, we can start considering what it'd mean for an accusative complement of a verb not to be an object. This would mean we can't coordinate them, despite identical marking, with other objects:
*John wasat and hated school
 This in itself is kind of interesting. However, we could imagine something really weird going on here: using some kind of circumstantial (or whatever) voice to turn these verbs into actual transitive verbs; then, some voice marker could be used to permit something along the lines of
John was being be-at-ening and hated school
where obviously be-at-ening is a pretend form in English, a nonsense thing I use to present this form. This use of voice would probably have to be called something like explicit active or somesuch.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Ŋʒädär Vowel Harmony and its Development

Ŋʒädär's vowel system is somewhat more complicated than that of Ćwarmin. The following system, in fact, is the basic layout:
iüɯ <ı>u
eöɤ <ə>o


This originates with a slightly different system, the ancestor system of both Ŋʒädär and Ćwarmin:




The symbols used are somewhat misleading: ɒ is not necessarily fully rounded, nor is ɶ. The distinction of e vs. ɛ, ø vs. œ etc was only maintained in stressed syllables. The vowels of the neutral column were also retracted significantly in words with back rounded vowels.

This originally allophonic retraction became phonological with the loss of a number of vowels in various positions, such as unstressed final short vowels after sibilants.
/'gisu/ ['gɯsu] > /gɯs/ sling
/'gise/ ['gise] > /gis/ feather
/'keza/ ['kezɒ] > /kɤz/ thing
/'keze/ ['keze] > /kez/ straw of grass

ser'teʒi/ [ser'teʒi]> /ser'teʒ/ keep for later
/'sɛrteʒa/ ['sʌrtɤʒɒ] > /'sɤrtɤʒ/
Final vowels have thence reappeared due to loss of final -t, -p and -k after vowels. These have thence reappeared due to simplification of final clusters (-nk, -nt, -mp, -st, -sp, -sk, -rk, -rt, -rp). 

Another position where vowels have disappeared is unstressed initial ijV-, ıjV-, ıwV-, uwV-, etc. Of these, only uwV- and ar- affect vowel harmony.
/a'rik/ [ɒrɯk] > /rɯk/ knee
/rik/ [rik] > /rik/ shard
/u'wir/ [u'wɯr] > /wɯr/ dough
/i'wir/ [i'wir] > /wir/ soft
/u'jent/ [u'jɤnt] > /jɤt/ sleep (stem)
jent [jent] > /jet/ eyelid

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Python HTML Table Gloss Maker

Since making glosses using the blogger editor by hand is tedious and boring, I suddenly realized I'm doing it often enough anyways to benefit from writing a short script for dealing with it. The code is not particularly beautiful or anything, but I figure it might be useful for some conlangers who want to write glosses in html, and just find doing so by hand tedious. Adding css or whatever to keep it beautiful is up to you. 

Here goes: 
 def Tokenzr(T, symbols):
        for sym in symbols:
                T = T.replace(sym, ' ' + sym)
        return T.split(' ')

def TRow(words):
        tr = " "
        for word in words:
                tr = tr + "" + word + "
        return tr + " "

def DefElems(description, elements):
        print(description + ":\n")
        output = []
        for element in elements:
                temp = raw_input("\n" + element + "\n")
        return TRow(output)

T_tb_glossd = raw_input("Text to be glossed:\n")
tokend_T = Tokenzr(T_tb_glossd, [',', '.', '-', '_'])

gloss = "" + TRow(tokend_T) + DefElems("Grammatical glosses", tokend_T) + DefElems("Word for word translation", tokend_T) + ""
By request, a python3 version, which is better whenever you use non-ascii symbols:
def Tokenzr(T, symbols):
    for sym in symbols:
        T = T.replace(sym, ' ' + sym)
    return T.split(' ')

def TableRow(words):
    tr = " "
    for word in words:
        tr = tr + "" + word + ""
    return tr + " "

def DefineElements(description, elements):
    print(description + ":\n")
    output = list()
    for element in elements:
        temp = input("\n" + element + "\n")
    return TableRow(output)

T_tb_glossd = input("Text to be glossed:\n")
tokend_T = Tokenzr(T_tb_glossd, [',', '.', '-', '_'])
gloss = "" + TableRow(tokend_T) + DefineElements("Grammatical glosses", tokend_T) + DefineElements("Word for word translation", tokend_T) + "

The script prints the result out to the console - to me at least that's more convenient than printing to a file. Making a browser plugin seems like overkill for such a trivial task. Just copy-paste and put in a .py file if you want to run it. The ugly abbreviations are just my own conventions.

From now on, I should never be caught making badly layed-out glosses for this blog, at least.

Detail #313: A Noun Morphology (for once without cases!)

Let's consider a language in which almost all noun stems begin on consonants; the exceptions are few enough that the minds of the speakers basically are able to keep track of them pretty well. All nouns belong to a variety of noun classes, which are (sometimes optionally) marked by a suffix.

The interesting bit is a set of five prefixes, a-, e-, i- and u-. These have different functions depending on the definiteness, the number and the class of the noun. Before -r-, -l-, and -w-, a- appears in the allomorph o-, whereas in the handful of nouns that begin with vowels, u- appears as w-, i- as y-, and the others get an intrusive -l-, also causing a- to appear as o-.

The class of thin, long things have these prefixes mark for orientation:
i-  away from the current reference (sg, pl)
u- towards the current reference (sg, pl)
a- perpendicular to the line of sight of the reference
e- moving (sg, pl) , in disarray (plural)
The class of round and irregular things have
i- small
a- large
u- large (very irregular shape)
e- varying sizes (only plural)
Places have
i- close by
a- forest
e- inhabited
u- pasture
Humans have
i- sibling
u- at least one generation older
e- slave or otherwise non-free
a- higher in social status
Animals have
i- small
e- tame
u- wild
a- large
Some of these may have meanings differing by definiteness as well, e.g. foodstuffs have this:
i- a small amount of
a- sweet, fat
u- sour, bitter
e- medical, poisonous

i- a small piece of
a- sweet, fat
u- sour, bitter
e- of ritual importance

Unlike nominal or adjectival attributes, these cannot form simple predicates. You can of course take a noun with the prefix and use that as a predicate. However, a special verb exists that has the prefix appear twice in it:
  These of course take noun class congruence. For these, however, the noun class congruence is sort of half-way derivational: saying something like 'my brother is far away' would use the place-class congruence marker as well as the human-class marker.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Ćwarmin Names

Ćwarmin names come in several patterns, depending on regional and family traditions.

One common tradition is using suffixes on 'name stems' to express the significance of a child:
-ot | -ət
'oldest son'. Whether it goes by mother or father differs by region, but most regions go by father. In some families, it is replaced by
-sako | -səke
upon the death of the father.
-otkom | -ətkəm
A younger twin of an oldest son

A female twin of an oldest son
Outside of the core cases (nom, gen, acc, dat), -ot/-ət is omitted, but the case marking follows the definite paradigm as far as possible.

-otol | -ətəl
'oldest living son'. Changes upon the death of a previously oldest living son; in some regions, goes to oldest living daughter once if no sons remain). In regions with the -sako/-səke morpheme, this is also replaced by -sakol/-səkəl upon the passing of the father.

-oxan | -esən
'daughter born after the death of her father'

-anko | -ənke (son)
-asko | -əśke (son)
-olku | -elki (daughters)
'a son or daughter born significantly later than other children of the same mother'
Patronymics likewise have some doublings of the same information present.
The usual patronym for male offspring is name-stem+julor, from julo, son. The patronym for female offspring is [name-stem]+-ćəŋer, from ćəŋel. However, oldest sons get -julot, as do oldest living sons. Female twins of an oldest son gets -ćəŋet. -ćəŋsən is applied to daughters born after the death of their father.

Toponyms often appear in the general ablative in full names.

Ćwarmin naming is not very solidly set in stone, and differs by what is needed; several small, distant communities basically never use the patronymics, because no confusion appears anyway. Communities involved in trade routes, military raids, or even urban living use increasingly complex names:
toponym patronym [optional descriptive term] name
The optional descriptive term can be basically any adjective or profession. Some other nouns appear at times, but are unusual.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Detail #312: Conjugations, Declinations and Exceptional Lexemes

Consider a language along the style of Latin, Russian or Finnish, where nouns and verbs belong to conjugations or declensions. Each conjugation or declension provides somewhat different patterns for inflecting your nouns and verbs. Usually in languages such as these, a noun or verb belongs to one in particular, although dialectal, *-lectal and even historical variation may exist. A lexeme might also be somewhat ambiguous as to what particular such class it belongs to.

However, you can also imagine lexemes that in most normal use belongs to a particular class, but have individual exceptions – a certain case or TAM+person or whatever behaving like the lexeme belonged to a different class.

These are fairly plausible exceptions and can be found in many languages. However. A thing that I am unaware of any careful description of are semantically conditioned exceptions. I.e. a word that belongs to a particular class, except for a specific set of phrases including that word - for instance, sausages belong to declination III, but in a particular compound or with a particular attribute that turns it into a specific type of sausage, the lexeme "sausage" is suddenly inflected as though it belonged to a different conjugation. Referring to sausages of that particular type even without the compound or attribute may also trigger the exceptional inflectional pattern.

A couple of things one could do with this:
  • restrict this quirk to only some specific case or number - say having the nominative plural behave exceptionally for the specific phrase, but no other case or number; or have it go for all the plurals?
  • generalize it as a kind of derivational tool for those lexemes belonging to a particular declension or conjugation
This kind of detail is an easy way of giving one's conlang a kind of 'realistic texture', the kind of 'lived-in' feeling of, say, Finnish, German, Russian, Latin or Georgian.

The reason, btw, why I used the noun "sausage" as an example is that some speakers of Southwest Finnish have that exact distinction, apparently. Makkara has the plural stem makkaroi- in the plural for most sausages, but a few specific types of sausage have makkari- in the plural.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Detail #310 pt 2: A Better Explanation of the Idea

Idea #310 might've been slightly unclearly expressed, so here's a further elaboration.

A Coordinate System
The coordinate system above corresponds to the combinations of elements of two sets. These can be anything - we could, for instance, imagine them to be [Persons] and [Tenses, Aspects and Moods].

This need not be a two-dimensional system, it could as well be something like
A Cube; This time, in glorious 90s colours.
One dimension might encode person, another tense, another aspect.

Since we're dealing with a very finite number of combinations - say, this time, that we're dealing with number * case * gender or something like that - we can conveniently enough flatten this cube by mapping the elements of two of the dimensions onto one dimension, returning us to something like the coordinate system above; we need to arrange it so that one dimension is subordinate to the other, though (e.g. in the multi-dimensional representation, each dimension can keep its elements in the same order everywhere: 1, 2, 3, ... always come in that order; however, if you have a subordinate and a superordinate set of dimensions, A3 may come before B1, despite 1 < 3, if the value of A is lower than the value of B). We get this happening:
Some neighbours are preserved as neighbours: any two that are in the same column in this example, will retain their distance in the new presentation; any two that are in the same row will have their distance multiplied by four. If distance isn't interesting, this is no problem, and even if it is, it's not necessarily all that big a deal, so we'll ignore it for now. We should be aware of it, though.

But now we'l get to an interesting thing: in morphology, we have two 'spaces'/'planes'/whatever. One is the plane of possible combinations of morphemes, the other is the plane of possible combinations of meaning.

Canonical agglutination, if such a term can be used, would refer to the following situation, or higher-dimensional analogues of it:

There is a perfect correspondence between combinations of morphemes (the left coordinate system) and combinations of meanings (the right coordinate system). We find in some languages, though, that this is not the case! We can come up with a lot of things that could be going on, and this image with several forms mapped to meanings should illustrate some possibilities:
A system of correspondences that has been distorted in several ways.

Some of the most common things in real-life languages probably are meaning-conflations (several meanings correspond to one combination of morphemes), morpheme-conflations (several morphemes express the same meaning). Direct twists might be somewhat unusual; however, if a twist/cross exists, I find it likely that more than one pair has a similar cross/twist going, and it's of course imaginable that the twist has more than just one pair of elements involved.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Detail #311: Distributive Participles

Distributiveness can be an interesting feature of verbs and nouns alike. Although I have had this interest in going for more verb-centered, less noun-centered systems for a while, I still find huge verbal morphologies somewhat awkward - they can be pretty clever, but I really don't think I have what it takes to pull a nice huge verb system off.

However, finite verbs is not the only place we can throw stuff at and hope that it sticks – infinite verbs can be just as useful places to stick things, and in many languages, different infinitives and participles appear often enough in all kinds of constructions.

So, let's consider a particular distinction with regards to verbs - that of whether a plural subject or object participates in the role as subject or object in a concerted, group-like manner or in a distributed, non-concerted manner.

Consider, for instance, the difference between
the men of the tribe hunted the mammoth down
the men of the tribe drink tea
The first  we can guess implies the men did so together; the latter, each man may be drinking tea regularly at home, or it's conceivable that they gather somewhere and drink tea together. Conversely,
the man trampled the bugs
the man hunted hares
Trampling bugs probably refers to a single event of bug-trampling where they get trampled in one concerted go, whereas hunting hares seems to consist of multiple separate events of shooting at hares.

So, we can create a semantic distinction there, one that slightly also accords with
  • telicity - telic with plural subjects or objects is more likely to be concerted than atelic with plural subjects or objects
  • perfectivity and perfectness (by the same argument)
  • habituality - habitualness can kind of imply concertedness or not with regards to subject - people doing things together regularly; however, with regards to plural objects, habituality is almost never concerted, though a concerted habitual verb with a singular subject is imaginable.
  • 'groupness' of both subjects and objects
Let's imagine now that the number congruence marker on participles for certain verbs can be replaced by another marker that signals both the (semantic) plurality of the subject or object, and whether the action is perceived as a single overarching action or as multiple iterations of an action. Maybe markers exist for both, but some verbs prefer the overarching action-parsing, and some the multiple-iterations parsing, and thus select the other marker whenever the dispreferred meaning is intended.

This might take on a slightly derivative meaning if participles and gerunds are conflated.

Also, I hear the previous post was a bit unclear, so I should probably write an explanation with actual examples.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Detail #310: Topologies of Morphologies

Often when making agglutinating morphologies, it's easy to end up making a fairly Cartesian-product like morphology. One way of avoiding the "excessive regularity" of this could be not to introduce irregularities in the formation - to in fact keep it exactly that way, but introduce oddities in how parts of the thing stick together.

Consider the number of features your morphology marks for - also include zero marking for any feature as a distinction. Make a table where you project all the dimensions of the morphology space, in the following way:


If a combination of markers of features - say 2bIIIג - really just combines the meanings of features 2, b, ג and III - we're dealing with a topology that corresponds to an entirely flat surface.

We can, however, make this surface more interesting; we can add a twist to it:


I like throwing ugly colour combinations your way; yep, that's pretty much the only conceivable explanation.
Now, one could imagine a similar twist happening both in 1 and 2, and of course it could just as well appear in some way for the hebrew-letters or for I/II/III. Basically, this 'twist' could appear in any dimension, e.g:


This twist is also sort of 'tube-like' - each highlighted element in 2a is offset by one in the {I,II,III}-dimension, if we assume the entire structure "turns around" so the right edge of III is glued on to the left edge of I. This isn't necessary, though - the offset might be more like a braid-shaped twist.

I am not going to try and impose the little topology I've learned from youtube here, but I think this kind of thing might give a sufficient idea about possible ways of turning cartesian products into interesting and creative things whose structure is less trivial.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Face and its Parts in Ćwarmin

A thing Ćwarmin has with regards to body parts is separate words for left and right instance of them; this even extends to things that are not "bodyparts" per se, but rather features of bodyparts - such as the corners of the mouth.

togol face, *t'ougo head
sala the right eye, *salak, pupil of the eye, from **slehk, "spot"
ciŋi the left eye, *kjenxi eye

sala in its plural form can either signify 'eyes' or 'right eyes' depending on context; ciŋi is almost never used in the plural.

mogo nose, *muogɔl

rolca nostril, *rɔr hole (exceptionally lacks left and right words)

tərvi right corner of the mouth, *tɛzbü, corner of the mouth
londu left corner of the mouth, *lɔlduk, fold
tuka right cheek, *tuwkas cheek
kolna left cheek, *k'ɔlma chin

senti forehead
envə chin, *önüɛ jaw

ruxan right ear, *ruskan
cəvəl left ear, *kɛvl

ćimbi any tooth of the upper row of teeth, from *ksümbü, fang
lom any tooth of the lower row of teeth, from *lmɔ, tooth

ruanas hair, *ruhɔnaz
bald spot, *gotom leather

samǧa beard, *sawgas beard
Another pair of words with a similar pairing are the words for hands:
vilke right hand *xvülk'ö, hand
left hand *t'artwa, branch
The left-right symmetry of the human body is a very central concept in early Ćwarmin liturgies, rituals, myths and gestures.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Detail 309: Directions, Writing, Religion and Convention

In many religious traditions, houses of worship tend to be oriented the same way; many churches point to the east, synagogues and mosques have their directions of prayer, etc. In many cultures, religion is the reason why literacy in the first place began spreading to the larger population - religious reformers or movements wanted the population to be able to participate in prayer, in the doctrinal system, etc, to a greater extent than previously.

If these main texts are almost always read while oriented in the same way, it is conceivable that in some culture, the main relative directions when encountered in a text could be given an absolute reading using the religious ritual orientation.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Conreligion Idea: Ahenotheism

Consider a region where henotheism is widely adopted - i.e. tribes, families and individuals basically pick some God to worship, and stick with that, but believe in multiple gods. Greater life changes - conquests, natural disasters, interactions with new people - may mkae a tribe, a village, a family or a person decide to change gods. There is no formalized pantheon, but fuzzily overlapping zones with varying sets of gods recognized as even existing or relevant.

In this, a small tribe develops a religious view whereby they acknowledge the existence of Gods and various beings, but decide not to worship any of them; there is, however, a ritual life present.

The rituals include 'banishing' gods from former worship halls, in essence telling any God who attends a place that he is not going to receive any worship there for a while. This is renewed at intervals somewhat shorter than the religious festive cycles of neighbouring tribes.

When entertaining guests, an admonition not to thank nor praise any gods for the foods that are served is uttered. This admonition varies historically from not mandated, to mandated but freely worded, to a short 'anti-benediction'.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Terms of the Sargaĺk Tribute to the Bryatesle Empire

During the Ćwarmin expansion, the tribal warlords (sarku-tal, order-chieftain) often made agreements with conquered tribes with regards to the tribute they were expected to pay. As soon as literacy became a thing, most sarkutluwu (pl.indef) saw fit to have scribes record these agreements.

The Sargaĺk 'treaty' was originally agreed to by the village Marərki, one of the previously mainland Sargaĺk settlements. Instead of renegotiating the terms for each village, most other village's elders' councils agreed to having all of the Sargaĺk area enter into a similar deal, but simply changing the numbers.

The treaty was originally given in both Sargaĺk and Ćwarmin and preserved in oral form, with a large image carved into a rock, with three large images, separated by empty areas: the largest image depicting horse-carried soldiers, and villagers handing them sheep, fish and slaves, and a large depiction of Sarkutal Molčur, who led the expedition. The second 'image' consists of stylized pictures of different types of arctic livestock, boats, skin pelts, tents, all with very basic numbers underneath (unary notation, basically), and finally, a third similar image with a smaller number of fish types, a boat, a few types of livestock, a woman, a soldier, and a slave; each of these have numbers by them, but by the woman, the soldier and by the slave is also a second number crossed by a line, like so: II IIIII. Some numbers are circled - this signifies a number multiplied by 20. One circle contains the string IIII, signifying seventy, i.e. 3.5 * 20. (For those with screen-readers, the fourth I in the string is half as tall as the rest.)

These are basically pictures meant to help the communities remember what their obligations are. The first picture thus describes their submission to the Ćwarmin leader Molčur. The second picture describes the tribute Molčur exacted as an initial payment. The third picture depicts later, regular tributes. Most of the ones are paid yearly - the ones with only one number, that is. However, numbers like IIIII signifies every n:th year. This notation carried over to the written forms of the treaty. Only the yearly payments are part of the written treaty. 

Here are some samples of the text:
sargəsa mil cəwarta pehite Molčur u simiar u simižar  t'ošni-k-sud
sarg-plur we cəwar-peg chieftain Molčur and oldest sons and oldest living sons confirm-1pl-reflexive
'we, the sarg, confirm our allegiance to the chieftain Molčur and his oldest living male descendants'

mil-ta cəwar kŕder ops-ək-rus-olar
we-peg ćwar tax give-1pl-fut-hab

kŕder k'iva
tax is-3sg.fem ≃ (tax is (as follows):)

IIIII karaŋ
(5 boat)

(III) IIIII iknur
(65 seal skin jacket)

(IIIII) ĺpa
100 musk ox

(IIII) jajra garəc
70 measure whale_oil

II III mirluk asi IIIII III kosdo
two three soldier or five three slave
(two soldiers every third year or five slaves every third year)

I IIIIII miv-tat pehite-ta tame k'ilp tamu minu-m-əl-u-an
1 / 6 village-plur.peg.fem chieftain-peg(gen) son full daughter
the villages give a son of the chieftain an (adult) woman for a wife once in six years
Neither the Sargaĺk nor the Ćwarmin care particularly much about virginity. As the same arrangement was passed on to the Bryatesle empire, the recipient of the deal was the Bryatesle governor. Bryatesle culture, however, is very concerned with the virginity of brides. Since the deal was granted a rather solemn status, however, the Bryatesle governor cannot do anything to add a condition regarding the virginity of the brides. Some Sarg women see the bride-tribute as an opportunity to climb socially and get away from a relatively poor and harsh environment, other Sarg see it as an opportunity to cause considerable embarassment to the son of a governor. Some governors, or their sons, have in fact refused to abide by that term of the contract for this particular reason, which is something that does not particularly bother the Sarg. The Sarg sometimes point to such violations on the part of the Bryatesle as a justification for not paying some other part of the tribute. Thus, sometimes, only people found to be criminals in the eyes of the Sargaĺk are sent as soldiers or slaves, depending on their crime.

A Ćwarmin and a Bryatesle version of these text snippets will appear later.