Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ćwarmin Vocabulary: Accomodation

I'm planning to do some posts with the intention of increasing the size of the vocabularies of my conlangs. So, here's a first post on the theme. There'll be some cultural information as well.

Although the Ćwarmin were nomads until recently, a fair share of their population has settled in permanent settlements. The Nomadic lifestyle still holds a significant share of the Ćwarmin speakers.

This affects some 

badku has already been mentioned, and now means 'village'. It also signifies 'band'.
birsi signifies barns, and seems to come from bir, cattle. The latter part may have some connection to śisən, to build, which also is cognate to sirni, a temporary (wooden) structure.

perəc - granary. This is a loanword from Bryatesle pesr-axse, grain-store.

rumb - temple. A loan from Dairwueh ruvbe.

tor - well, but also water source in general

camto - the wall of a building

releś - door

xarsab - roof

rukun - the 'floor' (generally, earth floors are the common thing)

woxa - a fire, from a word that was non-count in early Ćwarmin. Different dialects have developed a few different new words for the non-count meaning of 'fire', most deriving from either woxa or mexəć, e.g. woxruś, mexćeś. Several dialects still permit using woxa in a non-count sense as well.

kotad - a building, a house

cirneć - home (from the diminutive prefix cir- and early Ćwarmin mexəć, fire (countable))
'home' in a more general sense tends to form its case forms from 'mex-', rather than from 'cirneć', whereas when talking of a specific home, i.e. 'the home of a rich person' or anything where it is more specific than usual, you are likely to use cirne- as the root.
Few Ćwarmin houses have multiple rooms; windows are unusual too. A couple of holes exist, though, at opposite ends of the roof, for letting light in, smoke out, and air through. These can be covered with animal skins. 

arkal, poktal – leeward, windward air/smoke/light-holes
barg - skin for covering these holes

worarkal - 'big leeward air-hole', the usual name for glass windows. Such called because wind does not enter through them. Window glass is sirgurbarg, 'small big covering skin'. Where, 'sirgur-' signals the astonishment that glass first caused among the Ćwarmin.

walan - bed. Generally not a very comfortable nor large bed, usually just a pile of wool, sometimes hay and moss.

saupa - a big wooden water container

kosdan - tent fabric (generally skin)

matup - the wooden structure that keeps the tent up

ćiriŋ - the first tripod that is raised when raising a tent

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Detail #264: Some Origins for Dual Marking on Verbs

Consider the comitative. Now, let's consider this grammaticalization path:
general comitative case exists
the language has plural and singular congruence

 the comitative is lost, in general
 pronouns retain it, though


comitative pronouns get more restricted in distribution, and only appear after verbs


comitative pronouns are phonologically reduced and turned into affixes


the usage patterns make the meaning more like 'singular subject doing a thing together with singular comitative'


meaning slowly changes to just meaning 'two subjects'
Another possibility would be an adverb-like 'with' that needs no noun (but can take one). Things like 'he went with' come to signify 'he went [with (discourse topic)]'. Another possibility is for an applicative comitative voice, possibly by incorporating a comitative adposition.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Bryatesle: A Farewell with Religious Significance

In Bryatesle, Dairwueh, and less so Ćwarmin society, greetings often convey religious sentiments. Consider, for instance, the 'good night' farewell; many Bryatesle religiolects form this very much like English, but in the ablative (because that is the case generally used when wishing someone something) -
vind-ïn tal-ëta
good-abl.fem night-abl.fem
The kindaper religion, however, considers the night to be evil per se, a time when the sun-angel is subdued and weakened. Instead, they say
snyk-Ø ɕavr-ity
fast-(abl.masc) victory-abl.masc
(for a) fast victory!
Sometimes,  these also render 'good morning' as tënek/drask ɕavrity, either a 'strong' or 'right' victory, referring to the perception that the sun has (again) won over the night. Snyk-Ø and drask are shorter than the expected forms *snyk-ek, *drask-ek, due to haplology.

The same happens in Dairwueh, and to a lesser extent in Ćwarmin:
samar śavr-otuc
fast victory-[def. comitative-to]
The comitative-to is used in Ćwarmin also for wishing someone something, or wishing it more generally as a form of interjection-like statement. Śavar is borrowed from Bryatesle's ɕaver, and the loss of the second syllable in both is a coincidence - the languages happen to have a similar morphophonological process going.

korŋa i marbr-u-ŋa
speed-instr to victory-instr
(victory comes from marbar, 'stronger', and basically originally meant 'strongerness')

Sargaĺk: Numbers and Numeracy

The number system in Sargaĺk is somewhat limited – for numbers above 30 or thereabouts, most speakers switch to Ćwarmin numbers. The native Sargaĺk number system does cover numbers up to 55, however.
1 dem
2 k'em
3 prex
4 t'nez
5 voʒe
6 jiʒe
7 t'epp'u
8 (a)t'ep

9 dem at'epat or dmetve
10 k'em at'epat or k'metve
11 prex at'epat, pretve.

16: k'emat t'ep
17: dem (a)k'emat t'epat
18: k'em (a)k'emat t'epat

55: t'epp'u ajiʒat t'epat
Why 55? The Sargaĺk number system is octal, so 55 might seem like an odd point to stop at. However, for some reason there's no way of forming higher 'octaves' than 6*8, and thus the limit comes at 6*8 + 7. (This limit seems to have to do with seven being formed as "almost eight", and seven itself is not quite a regular number, lacking some of the syntactical properties of the other numbers.)

Native speakers who do not interact with traders may not necessarily be proficient with numbers above 32 or thereabouts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Subject and Object Omission in Ŋʒädär

Despite the lack of person congruence on the finite verb, Ŋʒädär permits some amount of subject and object omission. Generally, the most recent subject and the most recent object will carry over.
Example 1: NP1 NP2 V1. Vtrans.
The same NPs will be considered subjects and objects of the next verb, and the next after that and so on until new explicit argumenst are present. If it is intransitive, the previous subject generally will carry over, except for a handful of verbs for which the object will be considered the subject. These generally encode reactions to the first verb, and there are some lexically determined things going on there. 
Example 2: NP1 NP2 V1. NP3 Vdir.
Example 3: NP1 NP2 V1. NP3 Vinv
Although the subject of V1 is whichever of the two NPs whose ranking is preferred by the direct/inverse marking, the first noun phrase syntactically has some subject-like properties – it will carry over to the next verb - unless NP3 and NP1 are co-referent, in which case some other noun takes precedence - a previous subject or the other noun of the previous verb phrase, or the discourse topic. This is somewhat ambiguous, and depends on the nature of the verbs and the involved nouns.

If more than one third person argument is present, however, one will have to be marked for obviativity, which simplifies things a fair bit - the omitted argument will either be obviative or not, which will affect the marking of the next verb.

The Ŋʒädär branch lost a lot of the verb complex during its development out of Proto-Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär. Most direct-inverse languages seem to have pretty rich verb complexes, with person congruence almost omnipresent in this typological class. Therefore, Ŋʒädär is a bit of an outlier - in fact, I'd dare say it's typologically unlikely altogether. The Dagurib branch is more typical of direct-inverse languages.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Verbal Marking of the Proximate-Obviative Distinction in Ŋʒädär

Ŋʒädär noun morphology distinguishes obviative and proximate nouns; the obviative nouns do not distinguish number as readily as the proximate ones. There are situations where an obviative prefix is attached to the verb:
  • any verb with a pro-dropped obviative subject or object
  • intransitive verbs whose subject is obviative
  • subordinated verbs that relate to an obviative more than to a proximate noun
  • any verb with an obviative subject or object can take the obviative prefix, but this serves to emphasize the obviative noun. Since obviative nouns generally are more 'backgroundy' than proximate nouns, such emphasis is unusual.
The morpheme happens to be cognate to the Ćwarmin ok-/əc-/ec- morpheme. It goes back to Proto-ĆŊ */q'ovk-/, */q'eyk-/. In Ćwarmin, #q' > #ʔ > ∅. Being a doubly closed syllable, these behave somewhat oddly compared to other initial syllables in Ćwarmin: *ʔovk, ʔeyk > ok, əc, ec.

In Ŋʒädär, */q'ovk, q'eyk/ > /q'ovx, k'eyc/ > /q'oux, k'eic/ > /q'ou-, k'ei-/, with further vowel harmony forms having appeared for some verbs.

No cognate morpheme is present in Dagurib, although morphemes with similar function can be found in that branch.

Ćwarmin Vocabulary this far

I compiled a list of the full vocabulary of Ćwarmin in order to check if certain things I suspected held with regards to its phonotax were accurate; turns out I was right, and this will help me with regards to constructing Proto-Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär-Dagurib a lot.


ainik, amśik, aunik - is/was not
ambad = octet      
arkal - leeward (wrt prevailing winds) opening in a building for smoke to escape/air to enter
arna = this     
arnjan- hurry (re making something or finishing something)
atosćun - to attack    
au - present     
aun - far past    
awwun - was  
badku - village
bara - a flap for closing the arkal and poktal wind openings
barin - walrus meat
baust[??] - fighter     
bax - determiner of some kind
bordo - edible tubers
bičər - wheel     
bir - cattle
birsi - barns     
brewən = to grip    
ćan - table     
cawxur - nine day week   
ćimamce - just a moment ago  
ćimij - oftentimes (verb)
ćiriŋ - the "leg" that is used to lift a V-shaped agglomeration of two sticks in order to form a tripod for a tent
ćirgin - horseradish
cirneć - home

cirverter - big small what  (idiomatic - essentially, 'whatchamaycallit')  
ćiwuru - sometimes (verb)    
cixkan - write
ćorda - cranberries    
ćul = few     
curronguska - tiny big chief   
curworkar - big small who ('whatshisface')
ćwarola - ćwarmin descendants    
dart[??] - withstand     
daval - to consider oneself something  
davlakol - not to consider someone something 
davlap - to consider someone something  
jaźe - whole?     
dəšip - to be named   
dimrəs - parsnips
dintan - bass (fish)
jirune - soon
dop - sweet
dopor - sweet sauce   
dunvali - kingdom     
dustokvo - enough for ten   
əcgettin - to answer no   
(əc)lədilən - refuse an offer politely  
ecnitren - obey     
əcritən - to deny an accusation or allegation
ecsidten - refuse     
əmni- build      
eramće = a specific, a particular  
erća = a specific, particular   
ered = solo, unity    
erkar, erter (one-who, one-what)    
farna - old     
farso - buckwheat
ferkij - cabbage tubers
fird - debt     
firdiŋ - debtor     
gara - red     
garkaaćwurga - huge storm    
garnun - body part
garpa, garva, garća - porridges and similar foods
gemi - grains
gəne - long
gimin fish      
girś - net     
grundu - pasture land    
gukula - viceroy     
ǧacjad - thinker     
ǧar - mr, mrs, ms   
ǧarsab - roof (from sabam)   
ǧaruhno - gentleman     
ǧərrip leghold traps     
iməl - river
ipsər - thyme (or rather, a thyme-like plant)
ipsərv - thyme-flavoured
itred - drunkard     
itrin = drink     
jeǧir - royal crown    
kalć - stick, branch, plant   
kamu-sun - his wife    
karaž - acres     
karća - aim     
karn - long     
kartapur - taxman     
kelə - know
kəc - wall     
kic - sea animal    
kiŋre - flock of tame animals, fortune, boon
kinij - question     
kinil, kinən - ask
kiri - mint

kopon = hammer
kosdan - tent skin
kotad - house, home
kupni - a kind of whitefish
kur - salt
kurćap - salty
kuvara - attempt to open   
lank - door
laŋras - black salsify
lendə - apples
lentapritaś- 'morning', '(the time) of someone obligated to milk the cows'
lentek - to harvest milk, blood, eggs, meat of small
loma - bird or bat   
maruw - kidneys
matup - the wooden structure, often a tripod, that a tent is based on
mauŋ - food     
mauŋed - eater     
meǧwi = bread     
mered = duo, but also mother of two
mərə(s) - travel     
merk - improve
mewie - milk
midreviŋrə - our praise    
migit - old
milti - liver
mirgə - board, cloth, skin, cover  
miske - greedy     
mokmo - action, story, outcome, result  
murus = tusk
narwo - parsley
nedim = bit (uncountable)    
nəmirəmcə - demand-past.recent     
nerel - leeward     
niźilgə - my love
nopor - cabbage leaves
nuna - reindeer milk
ogmo - stone     
okkaulad - resistance fighter    
okkaulan - resistance
əctəriln - answer   
okratun - to answer yes   
okruncan - fall over from being kinetically affected
(ok)samawan - succumb to something   
olba = that     
ostanc - storm (synonym)    
pəktən - hundred     
pər - man     
perəc - granaries    
pokra - onion
poktal - windward (wrt prevailing winds) opening in the wall for air to enter into a building
ragad - speaker     
ragam - talk     
ragan - left     
rakad - reader     
rakam - walk     
rəige - bay, cove
releś - door
remuk - a kind of herring
resepaŋ - criminal     
riekye - scissors     
rigən, ridjel, ridjen, ridjin - hurry (re: movement)
ripen, ripəm, ripjig- bite    
roŋ - flock of wild, carnivorous animals 
rukun - indoor ground, floor
rumb - temple     
runa - road     
sabam, sabjul - cover    
sabokvo - duvet, blanket    
salcan - great     
śalda  - blueberries
samar fast      
samarad - a fast one   
saŋ - a determiner, but also 'up'; as a determiner it serves to mark that a noun, as part of the event the clause refers to, is differentiated from other objects or subjects; it is selected or otherwise differentiated.
śaŋikara - attempt to appear as, attempt to impress
saŋmoru - fallow land    
sapr(ul) - strike, hit    
sarbatuŋra - our obligation    
saul - see
saupa - a big water container
seben - right    
śeme - flour
śenər - blood
śenərv - blood-food
səkve - land animal    
seltimgə = fisherman     
semtə - flock of wild, non-carnivorous animals 
sewkən = eat     
sicə - vinegar     
sidestigə - my child    
sikred = trio, but also mother of three
sikrekye - enough for three  
sirgurbarg - glass
širmes ship      
sirni - temporary building    
sirpən - catch a fish   
sirpist - the catch of fish
skense - a type of salmon
śpanit - in the nights   
suŕurŋaca - widower     
taucon - breathe     
taxkar, taxŋar - assembly of parts  
taxuga(r) - swith places    
tebuvu - cake     
tergin - clergyman     
toŋugul = winter    
tor - well, water source
tretke - town     
tuam, twam = reside, live somewhere, stay somewhere
učuśan - plow     
udug - lake
varsan - harbour    
vasni - a kind of salmon
verći - account, words, story, sum, plan 
verhərgimin, largest moderately large fish    
voram - belly, torso
walan - bed
wekre - garlic
wicxə - house     
wicxit - house     
winćə - city gates    
windarś - marketplace, open square  
wirdə - plums
worarkal - window
woxa - fire
woxar - smoked (meat)
wruŋna - castle     
wundarś - marketplace
wərse - walrus meat 
xaukam - read     
xuvop - to become    
yulzor - assembly of people, bunch, gang, congregation
yulzvonar - horse-mounted assembly of people  
źaŋk - fisherman     
źaŋkasta - net repair tool   
žewa - maritime sound    
źil - nail

Monday, March 21, 2016

Detail #263: A DIfferent Type of Active-Stative

Most Active-Stative languages have the case of the subject of intransitives lexically fixed for each verb. A simple way of varying this would be to have the case of the subject of intransitives lexically fixed for each noun.

Of course, further complications could be introduced, with some form of interplay between nominal lexical preferences and verbal lexical preferences. Maybe some simple structure like these:


or like this:


or finally like this:


In the last table, the conflicting preferences are not resolved, but open up for those combinations to have some kind of differential marking on the subject. However, one could also decide to just let one of the combinations remain unresolved. Somehow, it seems natural that the differential marking for the nounabs/verberg combination not to distinguish quite the same meaning as the nounerg/verbabs combination.

Verbs that prefer ergative marking may be verbs that clearly have agents although not necessarily patients, whereas verbs that prefer absolutives may be verbs that more clearly have undergoers, experiencer, perceivers, etc. Nouns that prefer the ergative may, conversely, be nouns with low animacy - nouns that normally would not be parsed as agents otherwise.

Thus, in the conflicting combinations, low-ranked nouns may preferentially receive ergative marking when it would be suppressed by the verb, but high-ranked nouns may go by without any problems. However, with verbs that prefer the ergative, high-ranking nouns may shed the ergative marking if their preference is absolutive, since there is no need to clarify that they indeed are the subject.

Having the resolutions be perfectly vertical or horizontal would make the nominal or the verbal preference entirely suppress the other preference, in which case it makes no sense even to talk of the other word class having such a preference at all.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ŋʒädär: Compound Parsing (and Formation)

Ŋʒädär uses compounding rather productively. It uses it for a very great deal of quite different meanings. In addition to this, the compounding system is closely governed by a more detailed hierarchy than the animacy hierarchy.

Reduplication also appears as a compounding strategy (there's two ways reduplication is used with nouns: [(reduced) root]-[inflected noun] vs. [absolutive]-[inflected noun]; the first approach is not per se a compounding strategy, and does thus not appear in this post.) We can see an example of such compound reduplication below:
name-name : things to identify a person, i.e. home village, profession, close relatives
 Sometimes, compounds form somewhat abstract meanings:
arm-hand : strength
work-arm : strength
hand-finger: grip;
hands-fingers: sequence of grips, 'methods' for doing things, sequence of hand moves (in board games), knot tying sequences,

heart-breath : life, in the sense of the biological state of being alive, rather than when speaking of the contents of someone's life - in which case one would rather combine birth-burial.

back-head : stature, uprightness

knife-hide-(dir)-(nom) : treachery, plotting, conspiracy
Noun-verb compounds' meaning depends on where in the hierarchy the noun is. Sometimes, it's X-who-is-verbed, sometimes it's X-who-verbs. Obtaining the opposite meaning requires using the inverse morpheme; the cutoff line is at the dative subject spot. However, dative subjects themselves do not exist for this formation, but the noun component is parsed as though the verb had regular subjects/objects.

Adjective-verb compounds give verbs for either making something have the property designated by the adjective or doing things to things designated by the adjective. Oftentimes, these are further nominalized: cold-fearer. Here, the inverse marker also serves as a participle marker for some verbs, giving things like 'feared by X' as X-fear-(inv)-(inf) or X-fear-(dir)-(inf).

Noun-noun compounds of the same rank are parsed as dvandva compounds:
Noun1Noun2 → Noun1 and Noun2
Same rank is somewhat subjective, and seems to be rather flexible; the exact parameters of the ranking seems to vary greatly from village to village.

For nouns of different rank, 
Noun1Noun2 → Noun1's Noun2, if N1 > N2
Noun1Noun2 → Noun2, associated in some way with Noun1, if N2 > N1
The latter can include, for instance, a person from a village, a person who works with something, etc.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Detail #262: Some Things to do with Comparatives and Superlatives

Just some ideas for a few small things one could make.

Pairwise Superlative

The pairwise superlative is a noun derived from an adjective that marks the most Adj out of a pair. Useful when pointing out one out of two. Reduplicating the pairwise superlative marker makes the form signify greatest out of a small group.

I'd assume that Bobajlik's claim that the comparative encompasses the superlative does not hold for this (much like it doesn't hold for absolute superlatives either). Thus, it would not necessarily have the same root suppletions that the comparative and superlative has, but could be formed more regularly. However, I'd rather form it using morphology closely related to the comparative than to the superlative.

A number of lexemes signifying things like 'husband', 'wife', 'enemy', 'friend', 'older sibling', etc could be formed by similar morphology, even though there's no necessity for the roots to be proper adjectives.

Tangential Superlatives and Comparatives

Forms that describe a thing as being 'at its best' and 'improving'.  'Tangential' here refers to the tangent of the curve of a function – thus basically being the derivative of a function. The tangential superlative is 0, but also the maximum point of the functional curve at which the derivative is 0. The comparative tangential could also permit participal forms that indicate "has/had potential for improvement" but also "has/had potential for improving (others)". 

Capped Superlative

Some case marking on the superlative form could indicate the maximum potential reachable quality of a thing. However, given that this is no longer a regular superlative, it to can break free of Bobajlik's universal, and thus be formed from the root of the regular adjective even if the comparative (and therefore also superlative) is suppletive.

Monday, March 14, 2016

ANADEWs #2: The Finnish Object Case and its Complications

One sort of ANADEWy thing about Finnish is the case marking of the object, once you get down to the really fine-grained details. This post will first introduce the basic setup, and then go on with the worse bits.

The Finnish object case is determined in part by a semantic component, basically best illustrated by this schematic:

The accusative has a further complication, and this complication is syntactically conditioned. First of all, the nominative and accusative are identical in the plural, which means that basically, this decision algorithm is unnecessary there.

In the singular, the accusative is identical to the genitive. (However, some sources state this as 'there's an accusative I and an accusative II, the first being identical to the genitive, the other to the nominative.) If the verb is passive, or the subject is not in the nominative, the object will instead be in the accusative-nominative.

The decision flow for object case thus runs:
is the statement telic and affirmative?
yes? ↓       no? ↳ partitive
is it possible to have a nominative subject for that particular VP?
no? ↓   yes? accusative (genitive if singular)
accusative (nominative if singular)
The schematic above omits some finer things, but by and large it is accurate. Here are some examples:
Erkki osti auton
Erkki buy-past(3sg) car.gen
Since the result here - obtaining the car - is sort of the central point, it's telic, and thus some form of accusative. Since Erkki is an overt nominative subject,

Erkki ostaa auton
Erkki buy-3sg car.gen
Erkki (will) buy a car – the telicity implies that we're talking about him actually completing the transaction.
katselen televisiota
watch-1sg television-part
I am watching television
A further complication resides in the personal pronouns ̣- they all have an accusative form that is more similar to the plural nominative-accusative than to the genitive. Let's compare the noun morphology for nom, gen, acc1, acc2 and plur nom for the pronouns "minä", "sinä" (me, you) and the noun "talo" (house). The plural nom/acc of 1sg and 2sg does not really exist for personal pronouns in Finnish, as the plurals are formed from separate roots.

nomgen"acc 1""acc 2"plur nom/acc
1sgminäminunminutminutn/a ("minut")
2sgsinäsinunsinutsinutn/a ("sinut")
3plheheidänheidätheidätn/a ("heidät")
However, it turns out that somehow, the minut/sinut/... forms underlyingly are genitives or nominatives- they trigger genitive or nominal adjectival congruence depending on which object form is expected. The pronoun 'who', kuka, which is rich in suppletion (kuka, kene-, ke- being the principal roots) can have both kuka and kenet for "acc2" objects. The congruence with genitive adjectives also "feeds back" and forces the pronoun itself get genitive marking, and congruence with nominative adjectives operates likewise.

More on this stuff can be found in Paul Kiparsky's Structural Case in Finnish, a very thorough treatment of object and subject case in Finnish. 

What we as conlangers can take away from this is the potential for a case with limited distribution to behave weirdly outside of that context: an interesting thing would be to have more lexemes behave like kuka/kene-/ke- as per above. Alternatively, like the minut/sinut/... forms, the congruence could indicate an underlying case distinction.

Another option that I sort of envisioned while reading this was to have the minut/sinut/... gamut be underlyingly genitive throughout the system, and having adjectives marked for the "wrong case forms". By "wrong case forms", I mean as per the decision algorithm given above. So, when that decision algorithm indicates the nominative/acc2 case, but an adjective appears with a pronoun that conflates acc1 and acc2, the adjective appears in the genitive - and maybe even better, have the kuka/kene-/ke- -like thing happen and force the entire phrase into the genitive.

There's probably even more weird things one could come up with.

Pseudo-Numbers in Tarist

In Tarist, numbers and certain determiners form a closed class. Unlike in some languages, these differ significantly from adjectives.

The word order in the Tarist noun phrase is very much like in English, except adpositional attributes precede the head in adjectivified forms, subclauses often are replaced by participles, and adverbial attributes do not as such exist - adjectives are formed from adverbials instead. Unlike English, adpositional phrases can be either pre- or postpositional – this depends on the lexical properties of the adposition itself, as well as on syntactical factors - arguments are more likely to have prepositions than adjuncts are, for instance.

Given the above information, we can go on to this form:
[prep] [det] [numP] [adjP]* [noun] [relP]
Out of these, adjP is the only part that can follow a copula:
The X is adjP. It is an adjP X.

*The X are numP. They are numP X.
*The X is relP. They are X relP.
Normally, adjectives that are derived from adverbials and prepositional phrases lose their derivation when being extracted. Numeral phrases behave slightly differently - the subject will be in a quirky case, and the ~copula will be 'have' instead.

Numerals, unlike adjectives, affect the case and number marking of their head nouns: inanimate nouns after a numeral are in the singular. If the numeral is in the nominative, ergative or absolutive, the noun will be in the ablative (if neuter), or the ergative plural (if animate). (The obvious exception to this are numbers whose value is one or a non-integer or zero. Ones always are followed by the singular of the same case, rationals and zero by the ablative singular.)

Now for the lexical quirk - some words whose meaning we would consider more adjective-like are syntactically numerals in Tarist. This leads to some peculiarities. Examples:
bari - young
tars -
knaedze - big, huge
xvurn -
valuable, important
sogor - dead
xkuna - whole
muras - strong
sitvi - small
A peculiarity with these is that they can be part of big numerals. They can be inserted anywhere in a numeral construction, giving numbers like 'onehundredwholeteen', 'strongthousandfiftythree', etc. These adjectives too affect the case marking and the number marking of their heads (although for animates, they permit singular and plural marking - with inanimates, there are workarounds using other quantifiers in coordinated constructions).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Subjects and Case in Tarist

(Tarist is probably not going to be very developed; to the extent it fits into my language ideas more generally, it's closely related to Bryatesle, but has been influenced by some language family I've yet to come up with).

In Tarist, there are two kinds of subjects - proper subjects and improper subjects. The main visible distinction between the two is their position in the clause: proper subjects precede the verb, improper subjects follow it. A few other differences exist:
  • all first and second person pronouns are proper subjects regardless of their position
  • no verb congruence is triggered by improper subjects
  • improper subjects do not take quirky case, but are invariably nominative
  • proper subjects can bind reflexive anaphora, improper subjects cannot, and bind third person anaphora for reflexive utterances (and are thus slightly ambiguous)
  • proper subjects have a mildly ergative case marking going on (except pronouns, which are strictly nom-acc)
  • improper subjects are seldom topics, proper subjects are almost always topics
  • improper subjects cannot be gapped over coordinated verbs, i.e. you can't do VERB SUBJ1 (OBJ) and ____1 VERB (OBJ), but you can do SUBJ1 VERB (OBJ and ____1 VERB (OBJ)
  • passives only take improper subjects
Some verbs do require specifically one type or the other, but such verbs are few. Most verbs permit both, and which one uses depends, mostly, on the information structure of one's utterance. However, many nouns also lack case forms - a fair share lack the ergative, a fair share also lack the dative or the ablative. For verbs that force proper subjects to be marked with those cases, nouns that lack the relevant case will instead appear as an improper subject.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Detail #261: Definite Nouns as Less Semantically Precise

Let us consider a system whereby definite and indefinite nouns differ in a few ways. 

Let us consider the 'root', which might also be the definite form (or maybe the definite form takes some marking, but not particularly much). This needn't be very specific at all: context (i.e. the introduction of the referent) should be sufficient for the speaker to know what it is.

So we might have a lexeme meaning 'vessel'. This includes meanings such as 'ship', 'carriage', 'cart', 'boat', 'sleigh', 'chariot'. When first introducing the noun, some affix is required that specifies its type – and this is almost an open class in the language; there may be a 'generic' affix as well.

Another noun could be 'places in general', including suffixes turning it into 'house, burial ground, ritual place, village gathering place, pasture, ...'

Some nouns may be specific enough in their root form not to require any affixes - this at least applies to body parts, relations, certain types of locations, and certain animals and plants.

Outside of that, however, this system leads to certain problems: easily, many nouns whose definite forms are the same may coexist in a context. Therefore, the language would do well to have some kind of proximate-obviative system in place, or alternatively a definite-specific-indefinite system, where the specific type of noun does distinguish the same distinctions as the indefinite type?

Further, of course, this could combine with restrictions on the case system - the dative might not be permissible as indefinite, the genitive might not have an overt definite, but might be implicitly infinite anyways, the instrumental might lack the plural definite, the locative might not mark for definiteness at all, nor does it carry the distinctions.

Of course, the opposite way around – definite nouns as more semantically definite – could possibly also work.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Detail #260: A Noun Gender Marking System and Noun Possession

Let us consider a language with a two-gender system. The gender is intrinsic to the root, and is not marked morphologically in the basic form. Thus, you cannot predict the gender of a word from its spoken or written citation form.

There exist three markers, however, that are used when changing the gender, or under certain other situations. The markers are +masc, +fem, +poss/inv.

The gloss "poss/inv" may seem weird, but we'll get to that in a moment. A possessum will either be marked by '+poss/inv', if the possessor is the same gender as the possessum, or by the gender marker of the possessor's gender, if there's a difference. 

However, '+poss/inv' is also used to derive nouns that are the other gender. The derivation for 'agentive nouns', for most nouns, for instance, is masculine; adding +poss/inv, with no overt possessor, forms a feminine agent. Some verbs, however, do default to female agents, and for these, '+poss/inv' forms the male agent. Various animals also have default genders.

The basic outline here should also provide a framework to come up with even more convoluted possession- and gender-marking strategies.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Onwards with #258: Dummy Subjects for essentially intransitive verbs

A way of taking idea #258 further could be to permit intransitive subjects to become objects, if the subject of a previous, coordinable verb also is made the formal subject of the new verb phrase.

Anyways, let us assume there is no distinction between third person pronouns - he/her/it are all the same word, here represented as "E". The object form is 'em'.
John walks e's dog. E is happy.In this, John is happy.

John walks e's dog. Is-BIZARROVOICE happy em.
Here, John is not the one being happy, the dog is.

John walks e's dog. John/EJohn is happy emdog.
Here, again, the dog is happy. John serves only as a formal subject with no actual semantic relevance to the dog being happy. (Although, of course, the language could develop such connotations as well!)

John walks and is happy e's dog.Here, the verbs are coordinated; both are parsed as transitive, and therefore, it's the dog that is happy.

John walks his dog and is happy
Here, the verbs are coordianted. Since the object is close to the first verb, the only permissible parsing has the second verb intransitive, and therefore John being happy.
As for what it means for verbs to be coordinable, which as you may recall is a requirement I set up above, I left that somewhat unclear. Maybe the language only permits coordination of verbs of similar TAM? Maybe there are syntactical restrictions - some types of embedded verbs cannot be coordinated (e.g. a verb in a relative subclause cannot be coordinated with a verb in a matrix clause), etc. I leave this up to the interested conlanger to decide (although I might come up with ways of classifying verbs by 'coordinability' for conlanging purposes later on).

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Detail #259: Splitting the Tense System in Two Parts

Tense systems come in a few different kinds, but two common, and clearly distinct types are the following ones:

past vs. non-pastpastnon-past
future vs. non-futurenon-futurefuture
An apology for my lack of an aesthetic sense with regards to colour would probably be justified about now.

One possibility is to have a conlang where both of these types appear, and even in the same contexts. Split the verbs into two "natural" classes, distinguished by how the action they depict reasonably interacts with tense.

Thus, habituals are likely to be of the past/non-past typ, as are non-dynamic states. Perfectives and more 'dynamic' actions, however, might be more likely to be of the non-future/future, etc. Some verbs might, for semantic reasons, be more likely to belong to one or the other - and there may be things like the nature of the subject or the nature of the object to influence the meaning.

The same morpheme could naturally mark non-future as well as non-past (with separate morphemes for past and future), or non-past and future vs.  non-future and past.

These are just some ramblings about possible things to do with the verbs in your language.