Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Detail #287: Suppletion and Voice

Let's consider a language with a relatively rich verbal morphology. One thing in this language is a set of voice/transitivity operators, including passives, causatives, applicatives and a variety of others.

Now, for most verbs, these only come as some kind of affix, but for a handful, there's a suppletive causative root. The usual situation would be this:
regular root: die-
causative root: die-
applicative root: die-
passive*: die-
* The passive of an intransitive verb might default to being parsed as the passive of the causative.
Some verbs might have a causative alteration going, where the causative has a distinct root - English die/kill is of course an example of that kind of situation.

However, for some verbs – maybe specifically movement verbs - the causative root is used for all voices except the unmarked one, making, for instance, the following set:
regular root: go-
causative root: send-
applicative root: send-
passive: send-
Now, applicatives include several potential subforms, of course, but e.g. a lative applicative, 'to go to', would thus have the same root as the causative send. 

This would be pretty neat.

The bulk of this post was contributed by an American gentleman.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Detail #286: Some Fun with Grammatical Gender

It turns out that gender systems sometimes bring along syntactical complications. This post is not well structured, it just provides some ideas to put into a power-blender and run together.

A few ideas and example phrases are taken straight away from a paper by Bobaljik, which is linked at the end.

The following situation is kind of interesting with regard to syntax and gender:
  1.  he's an actor, and she is too 
  2. *she is an actress, and he is too 
We have another class, where prince/princess form a good example:
  1. *he's a prince, and she is too
  2. *she's a princess, and he is too
A third class, where the nouns are clearly fairly adjective-like, morphologically, exist, where both ways go. English lacks this class, though. Spanish medico is an example, however, where both
  1. he's a medico, and she is too
  2. she's a medica, and he is too
are permissible, even if #2 might be slightly less favoured than #1. 

Now, what if a language had morphologically marked gender for all nouns, and each noun had a lexically determined default gender, a gender that (although explicitly marked) we could call the unmarked gender for that word. Now we could have situations where
  1. she's a danceress and he is too
  2. *he is a dancer and she is too
  1. he's a singer and she is too
  2. *she's a singeress and he is too
occur in the same language. Thus neither masculine nor feminine are systematically 'preferred'.

We can go on to imagine some further complications. An example Bobaljik mentions is Spanish medica/medico, which apparently go both ways. 

Now, what if we imagine nouns where the gender change also marked a meaning change - imagine that medica meant 'nurse', while medico meant 'doctor'. Let's further imagine they still can be coordinated, but of course mean different things even when coordinated.
he is medico and she is too
he's a doctor and she is a nurse
Alternatively, the coordination might not overrule the meaning:
he is medico and she is toohe's a doctor and she is a doctor (despite medica signifying nurse in this imaginary language)
Maybe we'd obtain a situation where medico ... (___a) is ambiguous - we are never told whether she's a doctor or a nurse; and of course, the other way around could apply for other nouns where the default gender is feminine.
Maybe, to obtain the "higher ranking" meaning for subjects of one gender with predicate nouns of the other gender, we need some kind of dummy pronoun situation:
hedummy pronoun and she is a medico
'she is a doctor'
Notice that the discongruence in the verb is intentional there.

Let's go further! Let's imagine the nouns always default to the "highest" meaning for the leftmost noun, and "decline" with each gap:
she is medica and he is too
she's a doctor and he is a nurse
What if it could decline even further:
he is medico and she is too
he's a doctor and she's a nurse

she is medica and he is too
she's a nurse and he's a nurse's assistant
Let's go one step worse, and have this happen even when the nouns have the same gender:
she1 is my mother, and she2 is too
she1 is my mother, and she2 is my sister ('is also my close relative' is the parsing the speakers would have)
This no longer has to do with gender, necessarily, but would be "nouns whose meaning changes over referents in a list", so e.g.
lexical item 1: mother, sister, cousin, female member of the same tribe
lexical item 2: high priest, assistant high priest, clergyman in general

Jonathan David Bobaljik, Cynthia Levart Zocca, May 2009,

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ŋʒädär: A Few Verbs with Suppletive Incorporation of Recipient

For a number of verbs, there are suppletive roots depending on the person and number of the recipient. The number of the recipient for third person is absent, but may be marked by a reduced form of the pronouns. Some person distinctions not present in the pronominal system are present in these verbal suppletions, and vice versa, however, making their use rather complicated.
give temporary control over
I sgmasət-
I plmadot-
II sgkep'är-
II plyüvür-
III refl. poss.melezm-
III indef/neg/atelicmelige-
III reflčehme-
give ownership of land or housing
I sgnocotr-
I plnodot-
II sgnop'ar-
II pltüvür-
III refl. poss.naɣazm-
III indef/neg/atelicnaruga-
III refl(d)ɣaɣma-
give ownership over other property
I sgp'əsıɣ-
I plp'ədıɣ-
II sgvap'ıl-
II pltöp'ül-
III refl. poss.p'aɣasp'-
III indef/neg/atelicp'aruga-
III refl(d)ɣaɣma-
bestow a title upon
I sgɣosat-
I plɣodot-
II sgvabal-
II plyöbül-
III refl. poss.k'öɣözb-
III indef/neg/atelick'öɣ-
III reflN/A
give someone authority as chieftain over
I sgsöčösäm-
I plsöčödäm-
II sgöčövör-
II plsüčüvör-
III refl. poss.kammazm-
III indef/neg/atelickazm-
III reflN/A
give religious authority over
I sgsödösü-
I plsödödü-
II sgödövör-
II plsüdüvör-
III refl. poss.tarazm-
III indef/neg/atelicN/A
III reflN/A
give someone a blessing*
I sgdise-
I pldidiev-
II sgdevm-
II pldeir-
III refl. poss.dinihni-
III indef/neg/atelicdinizm-
III reflN/A
* there are a number of nouns corresponding to different types of blessings
give an order
I sgp'aru-
I plk'alu-
II sgsarvo-
II plyarvo-
III refl. poss.xuzm-
III indef/neg/atelicxugu-
III reflxuɣmu-
obtain someone as a godparent**
I sglavır-
I plɣavır-
II sgkavir-
II plɣövür-
III refl. poss.ɣäzm-
III indef/neg/atelicɣägü-
III reflɣäɣmü-
** there are a number of nouns corresponding to different kinds of godparents; the subjects and objects can either be the parents of the child or the child itself
Syntactically, most of these are ergative verbs - the thing that is bestowed or given to the embedded recipient, thus:
p'orga masət
herd I_was_given_temporary_control
I was given temporary control over a herd

ehi p'orga masə(t)-z
he herd I_was_given_temporary_control-direct
he gave me temporary control over a/his herd

The reflexive possessive third person means a third person was given control over something that previously was also his or her or theirs in some other sense. A pronoun in the dative can serve to disambiguate number for the recipient. 

The indefinite/negative/atelic is used when the action in the third person is not telic, not reflexive, not reflexive-possessive, and not telic, i.e. transferring the property was interrupted or failed or was just underway. The reflexive sometimes is used to imply taking something unjustifiedly, and can sometimes have recipients of other persons given as explicit dative pronouns.

There are obvious almost-regularities in here, but also some pretty wild variations; historically, these seem to originate with roots under various stages of contamination with other synonymous roots with incorporated pronouns.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ŋʒädär: 'The More the Merrier' and the like

Ŋʒädär has a construction that can express the notion of 'the X, the Y:er'. The quality or quantity  or even noun labelled X in the English construction above would be in the comitative-genitive; either the copula or a verb of perception is required, and another quality or quantity in the instrumental. These two adjectives or quantifiers need to be placed just before the verb.

The verb can have subjects and objects, and the adjectives may in fact take inverse markers in these cases - markers that go before the case marker - which 'agree' with the role of the nouns with regards to the main verb. So, e.g. 'hunter prey good-com.gen.-direct more-instr.-inverse catch-direct' - 'the better the hunter the more prey he catches'
jalt'ar k'ıvər maba-z-hus dov-jut-rok söly-z
hunter prey-plur good-direct-com.gen many-instr catch-direct
Although the notion 'the more the merrier' might not have been uttered, it would come out as
dovhos malırık ıh
many-com.gen joy-instr is

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Detail #285: A Multi-Inverse Alignment

Consider a language where each noun belongs to a multitude of binary categories, e.g. masculine vs. feminine, human vs. non-human, animate vs. inanimate, older vs. younger, upper social class or lower social class. Some of these are absolute, e.g. human vs. non-human, but some are mutable: older vs. younger is dependent on the other nouns involved.

Now, most verbs have an associated category, and the direct form generally prefers the older, the animate, etc, [...] noun as the subject. Feminine and masculine, however, do not form a typical hierarchy, and both of them have verbs where 'direct' assumes one or the other gender.

A few verbs have two categories - breast-feed, for instance, assumes older and female, teach assumes older and higher social class. Resolving a situation where both participants fail to have both requires some special morphology.
The exact function of the inverse in such a situation is not a thing I care to think about right now, and it can safely be left as an exercise for the diligent reader.

However,  a situation that will appear often enough is that both arguments have the same properties - both are animate, both are human, both are masculine, etc. In this situation, a different system sets in: the highest ranked class in which the subject "wins" gets a class-specific marker present on the verb; however, if the subject does not win, the verb is detransitivized, and the object gets demoted to an oblique position.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Detail #284: A 'Count' Case

Imagine a case that is associated in some way with counting. So, in its normal form, it appears on nouns after non-singular quantifiers. However, it can also turn other things into quantifiers?
how X-count did you see?how many X did you see?
I saw five-acc men-count.
This is not per se particularly interesting. So let's try and add some stuff to it!

Some nouns lack this form, and force the number to carry the count-case, whereas the main case appears on the noun itself:
five-count father-gen
Maybe, just maybe, the count case replaces both nominative and accusative on both noun and number: five-count men-count, but five-dative men-count.

Without a quantifier, the count case indicates that some implicit or previously stated quantifier is relevant in some way - e.g. coordinated nouns over a numeral;
we have five-acc wrenches-count, dollars-count and three-acc hours-count to solve this problemwe have five wrenches, five dollars and three hours to solve this problem

The count marker also appears on the number when it's an ordinal, and on infinitive verbs when they express the number of times something has occurred.

Other uses include subjects of predicates that express quantities ('we were only five at work today'); if the numeral expresses some other fact about the subject, other cases may be used, and the number may take the count case ('he-gen is ninety three now').

I had some more ideas for this while bicycling home, but it seems they are entirely lost now :(

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

ANADEWS: Yukaghir: The Core Case System

It turns out that Yukaghir has a rather unusual split-intransitive core case system: Yukaghir combines pragmatic roles with syntactic roles in this cool little system:

So, unlike most languages - which get by with two cases for this (and I mean two cases even for isolating languages - many languages, including English, do have syntactical features that distinguish subjects from objects in a very case-like manner) - Yukaghir has four here. Further, the O-Topic (green) is marked as S/A-topic if the A-topic outranks the O-topic in a person hierarchy (speaker > non-speaker).

A-focus is the least marked form, and apparently for most nominals mostly identical to S/A-topic - third person pronouns being the exception where they're always distinct.

This interacts in weird ways with the verbal system, to which I will return in a follow-up post. For now, grasping this should be a good start.

Elena Maslova, Tundra Yukaghir, Languages of the World/Materials 372, 2003, Lincom Europa.

Link: The Index Diachronica

This is some pretty good stuff. Sound changes, and lots of them.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Detail #283: An Unusual Origin for Person Morphology on Verbs

Imagine a language with a long-lasting split-ergative system, split by person rather than by TAM. (This, for the record, is common in Australia.) Unusually, for such a language, it has unique forms for all of nominative, accusative, ergative and absolutive. Now, the following system obtains in the language:

subjobjcase alignment







The earlier system of congruence was eroded by a sound change that just so happened to lop off the verbal morphemes entirely (but the nominal morphemes survived by virtue of not having any sounds subject to that change). The new verbal congruence appears from present active participles, that have case congruence with their subject. Thus, the first person morpheme is identical to the ergative case suffix; the second person verb is unmarked, as is the third person verb. 

The reflexive forms are somewhat special - the verb itself has no weirdness in the first person, just a first person object, with maybe a reflexive pronominal morpheme added, much like 'myself'. In the second person, the verb agrees with the subject, but in the third person, the reflexive participle agrees with the absolutive of the object.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Detail #282: Case and Number Marking and Pronouns

Many languages have suppletive number on their pronouns, and some languages have a similar situation going for their case markers.

Now, what we could do with pronouns that already mark number, thus making the marking on the case markers superfluous, is shake things up! Take some forms from the singular case markers, some from the plural ones. In the first person, maybe use plural case markers for inclusive? In the third person, maybe use plural case markers for proximate-like and singular ones for obviative-like reference.

In the 2nd person, just go wild.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

More Sargaĺk Vocabulary

A further bunch of Sargaĺk vocabulary with, what I hope, can be Proto-SBD vocabulary. Some trial runs of some sound changes will be needed before I can be sure of that, however.

magic, ritual *tahri incantation

hand *knəkw reach
sken elbow *xkein bend
veŋ knee *weiŋgə
impik fingernail *ep:ig
k'uris finger *k'ur
ip'i eye *ujp'i
niks cheek *mnik: jaw
lep ear, certain mushrooms, funnel *lebt ear
nose *tń nose, protrusion, tip, acute angle
ŕmatń branch, *wŕməh- tree, *nose
sum mouth *sıwmb
k'uip lip *k'ıwipt

sadŕ stomach, belly, also torso
vitkas chest, ribcage, bust, torso, *vit lung, *kas heart
kinve female breast *kin breastfeed, -v- instrument marker
izgər breathe, *jizgır inhale (c.f. *tamgır, exhale) (c.f. niz 'full', tam 'empty')

tobĺ penis *tops penis
tobmat testicles (formally singular) *tops, *-mat- ~"-ery"
tidixu vulva *tidi
git'nu uterus *git'əj, intercourse
mobe buttocks (formally singular)

fĺga funeral pyre *fl:ka
cremate, -m- causative or applicative derivative marker

doŋur signal pyre *dweŋı warn
doŋum warn by signal pyre (direct object: the thing you warn due to, recipient: whoever is expected to see it (often implicit), subject: whoever lights it)

git'e intercourse *gıt'əj intercourse
targit'e simulated ritual intercourse *tahri, 'magic, ritual' and *git'e
git' -
fuck (object is in any locative case, and can only be human)
targis - perform simulated ritual intercourse (object is in any locative case, and can only be human, subject is invariably pegative)

mĺni  hair *ml:nəj
gurs beard *gur:ıš

turn *mrw:i
t'amup fall *t'nwk
k'osoj rise up from a seated position k'wır- stand, -s- a derivative dynamic aspect morpheme.

tuŋ piece, part *tŋ́ a share
(t)ŋop share, divide, *tŋ́, *hob give

rul cloud *rudĺ
insa sun *jinsəh
obń full moon *wubn full moon
ŕma tree *wŕməh

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Detail #281: A Really Unnecessary Ordinal

I was considering how 'enough' could be distinguished for mass and count nouns, and the idea of an 'enough' with numeral-like properties occurred, and suddenly, the idea of an ordinal 'enough' (the enoughth, an enoughth) occurred. 

I've previously probably pointed out how Finnish (and Swedish in Finland) have an ordinal form of 'how many', roughly 'how manieth the X'.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Detail #280: Quirky Case Adjectives

Much like verbs, we could have quirky-case adjectives. A quirky case adjective would, in a construction with a copula, require the noun to be in some atypical case - e.g.
me-dat is tired
We find that e.g. German sort of does this with kalt and such, but with kalt in particular, the meaning is different depending on the case of the ~subject, whereas the thing I am going for is simply that these adjectives always have quirky subject things going on.

What other things would we expect from such an adjective? I would posit that lack of congruence would be probable, and maybe that some comparative structures would be missing due to this lack of congruence.

Let's, however, imagine something even weirder to happen: when used as attributes, these adjectives start requiring pronouns that mark the case that the adjective triggers, but that agree in animacy (or gender or whatever) with the noun:
tired he*-dat man
the tired man
* here, "he" should only be seen as 'human', not as 'masculine' for now.
We go on one step further, and use indefinite pronouns with non-definite nouns, and regular personal pronouns with definite nouns:
tired one-dat man
a tired man

tired he-dat man
the tired man
As time goes by, these are merged into the adjective, but slightly worn so e.g. number morphemes are lost:
ADJ-[def/indef × animacy]-[animacy × case]
Suddenly, we have this situation:

Regular AdjectiveQuirky Adjective
with Copulas:

Number-Animacy Congruenceyesno
Adjective forces case marking on subject NPnoyes
as attributes in NPs:

Number Congruenceyesno**
Animacy Congruenceyesyes
Case Congruence(optional*)no

Definiteness Marking
Adjective has case marking, without correlation to case marking of NPnoyes
* here, it's up to the conlanger really, whether they want case congruence or not. I like case congruence a lot so I'd go for it, but to each his own. ** as can be seen below, while writing this post I slightly changed my mind on number congruence for quirky case adjectives; however, I still find the idea of not having it rather appealing.
So, now we have a strong/weak adjective dichotomy much like in the Germanic languages, but only for a subset of the adjectives. The origin of the number and animacy congruence markers in the regular and quirky adjectives is historically different - granted, they may be cognates, but the regular adjective markers have probably been worn down a bit since being grammaticalized - so at most we'd expect similarity rather than formal identity between these markers. (This holds even if we don't wear down the number-morphemes of the dummy pronouns, similarity rather than identity still is to be expected.)

One further thing one could consider with these adjectives is restricting their use in causative constructions, and mayhap some other "not entirely trivial" circumstances?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Detail #279: Morphophonology to the Extreme

I bet this is attested in some real-world language, although it might be the case that this kind of analysis hasn't been applied to that language. 

So, my idea is that instead of a morpheme consisting of a set of allomorphs, each consisting of a string of phonemes, one could have morphemes consisting of features. This means instead of, say,
you would have something a bit like
{+vowel, +front, +closed, ...}{+nasal, +velar, +consonant ...}
The main difference, however, would be that some of the elements would underspecify what phoneme to be realized. Instead of -ing or the featural form of -ing, we'd have
{+front, +closed}{+back, -obstruent}
Different combinations of features would have different 'favoured' realizations, but morphophonological context would sometimes lead to a different realization. Sometimes, two different sets of features would be forced to merge, with hierarchical rules resolving what feature wins if there's a conflict - say between +obstruent and -obstruent, for instance.  

Now, if your morphology is no richer than that of English, this wouldn't be very interesting, but once we go hugely agglutinating, this could lead into interesting things where morphemes that underlyingly are very agglutinating, end up looking almost fusional, as features get suppressed, assimilated, meta-phonemes get merged into new phonemes that drop some features, etc.

The verbal morphology of Sargaĺk will be an example of this, but working it out has turned out to be pretty challenging.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Detail #278: A System of Noun Affixes

The rich systems of verbal morphology in the world's languages is very impressive - and oftentimes, it seems nouns just cannot compete at all with some of the insanity that goes on with verbs.

Here's a first attempt at even slightly getting there:
  • two levels of definiteness (not necessarily morphologically marked!)
  • some kind of case-system, probably, but not necessarily
  • a set of affixes with the following meanings, some of which are changed by definiteness. These are in complementary distribution:
    • topic
    • different demonstratives (can also be topic)
    • possessum
    • 'another' ('the next' in the definite) (can be topic)
    • no one ('the wrong one' in the definite)
    • old ('the previous one'  in the indefinite)
    • big (in the definite, it can also mark the object of comparison, which can also have case?)
    • small
    • sexual gender for animates
    • this noun is only associated with the intended referent in some way (e.g. the noun is a possessor, or relative or 'a thing of this quality' etc)
    • a marker that intensifies the adjective that is closest to the noun
  • a set of affixes in complementary distribution that express
    • number
    • mass noun
    • collectiveness
    • singulativeness
    • distributedness
      • in combination with "small", this signifies lots of independent, unaffiliated things of the same type; in combination with "big", this signifies lots of things that do act in some form of concord.
  •  whether to parse case suffixes as proper case suffixes or as general statements of type of motion without actual reference to the noun. Thus 'man-IMPROPER_CASE-in went' means 'the man went in' - in just has to settle on whatever noun it can if no other noun can carry it.
This is very much half-baked. But the idea of a language with really baroque nouns and rather simple verbs appeal to me.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Detail #277: Probably Blocked by Universals

So, apparently in some historical version of Czech, there was a situation where nouns with suppletive plural stems had the dual paradigm switch between the singular and the plural stem for different cases. This inspires the next post, which I am not sure if it's attested or not. Similar things has happened with umlauts in Germanic languages - even Old English, if I recall correctly - but I am unaware of any wholesale suppletion doing this.

Imagine something slightly weirder though. This table gives the stems for the noun forms, not the suffixes that express the case, in a language that would be slightly weirder:

case 1AB
case 2AB
case 3AB
case n-1BB
case nBB
Notice that the numbers assigned to the cases is done so that A/B-cases go first, A/A cases go second, B/A cases go third, B/B cases go last. This is done just to make a reasonable way of speaking about these cases without having to name them or anything.
The morphology does clearly indicate as to whether a form is plural or singular, the stem itself is (mostly) not the only thing to determine that. How would a situation like this come about? (I doubt it would!)

Less weird would be something more regular like this:

case 1AB
case 2AB
case 3AB
case n-1AA
case nAA
So, the most prominent cases have a suppletive root in the plural, which is lost in some oblique cases. Does not seem all that unbelievable? How about having the plural stem intrude on the singular instead?

Should these have the same pattern for all suppletive nouns? Should some permit using both in some forms? 

Finally, an option few conlangers seem to go in for is reducing the number distinctions in several cases - Chukchi only distinguishes singular from plural for inanimates in the absolutive, so it's attested in natural languages. One could imagine suppletive forms appearing in some cases and in the single plural form, although how that situation would have come about seems unclear to me.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Verbs for Death in Ćwarmin

Ćwarmin has several verbs related to death – so, in some sense, much like English. Much like in English, there are differences related to register with some of them. There's also a pair that behave syntactically a bit different from other verbs, viz. narmras and mićsis. The subject is a family member or friend (or tribe or village member) of the deceased, and the deceased person appears in the possessed object form. If the subject is a personal pronoun, it appears in the distant genitive form. If the deceased person is a personal pronoun, it'll appear in the accusative. These verbs are defective, lacking all participle forms as well as the regular past - only the recent past exists for them. 

Tosman signifies succumbing to a disease. A variety of not entirely medically sound named afflictions exist. What case such an affliction takes is lexically determined - some are instrumental, some are in some locative case, some in the genitive case, some in the reflexive possessive case. 

Tosmatan signifies succumbing to the damage done by a physical accident or fight, sometimes with the causer of the damage or the event that caused it in the genitive. Matnan signifies dying rather immediately in a battle, fight, or accident.

Paran signifies killing someone accidentally. Guknan signifies manslaughter or murder. Gukvarn signifies carrying out capital punishment on someone. Nisnən signifies killing in a war or raid. 

Nəvrən signifies killing a mammal for food, tunogzan signifies wringing the neck off a bird (for food) (from tunog, neck), makman signifies hitting a fish to a rock.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Some Sargaĺk Vocabulary with Etymologies

I have been thinking a bit about Sargaĺk historical linguistics, and while trying to come up with some kind of sound change history, I've come up with a bunch of historical roots and a bunch of words derived from those, which I hope form a sufficiently interesting system to be able to use for Dairwueh and Bryatesle as well, while being able to maintain the rather considerable divergences between the three languages. This is a very tentative attempt, and thus subject to lots of future changes. I have not even verified that there's a reasonable sound change path from the roots to the Sargaĺk lexemes, but I should get on that soon.
ak'ot fishbone (mass noun), *erk'ot
anməs leaf, blade (of knife) *almats leaf
ar foot, *aḍe foot
banil lid, *barner, lid
bak'am mute, *bak',mute
garəc whale oil, *ngerta slide, slip, glide
gigu lip, from *bwikbi lips
i about, for, by, *iji, say of, speak of, be spoken for by
oar, *jilıt stick, beam
seal, *ıjka crawl
iknur seal-skin jacket, *ıjka crawl, *nowr skin
j slight, small, irrelevant, *
jajas weight, *ʒiagea to carry something heavy
jajra of unit weight
jax path, sequence, melody, *jaska walk
joŋa tooth, *ʒoŋər tooth
kolom a largeish fire made in a somewhat constant fireplace, *kolv
k'epar the heart, from *k'aipka, 'thump'
ĺp'a musk ox *lẹp' wool
luŋta crooked, *rungru bend
ĺy tasty, c.f. Bryatesle lim! (mm!), Dairwueh lien!
a small fire, *nuks, a spark
pelyant roll of rope, *pal knot, *lyanta pile, bunch
ŕvosk slut, whore, *rəwatsk
sxome knife *sfaumei steel
toxon a type of mushroom *tasko mushrooms
uvas a member of a whale-hunting team, *ıbaa fetch
uvra a fully manned whale-hunting team
xorga eager, enthusiastic, avid, well-rested *skour?e

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sargaĺk: Polarity, Relevance and Knowledge

Negation and Intense Affirmation

In most Sargaĺk dialects, negation is done by inserting the particle pin or pic before or after the main verb; it can also be sentence-initial in order to emphasize the negation. An intense form, pinta also exists.

Negation and intense affirmation have certain similarities morphosyntactically.
In most dialects, the markers go after or before the main verb, but can be fronted as well in order to really emphasize the marker. In Savk'e and Tńga dialects, the negation and intense affirmation morphemes are part of the verb morphology, and differ significantly from other dialects. Savk'e and Tńga speakers  generally double their negations when speaking to outsiders, using both the regular pin morpheme as well as their usual affix. 

In Savk'e, pin- forms the root for the indefinite negative pronouns, however, and jok- has been restricted a bit in distribution. In Savk'e, the negative pronoun comes in two forms, pin(s)- and pic-, pin(s)- being the animate negative pronoun and pic- the inanimate one.

There is also an intensive affirmative morpheme that has the same syntactical distribution as pin: sad. Sad is a bit like 'verily', 'certainly', 'absolutely'. Sad- also has nominal forms that emphasize a noun phrase, but also can serve as a very emphatic third person pronoun.

Syntactical differences between negated and positive verb phrases exist:

The Agnostic and Irrelevant Moods

The two usual polarities in Sargaĺk serve as the morphological and syntactical basis for two grammatical modalities – the agnostic mode and the irrelevant mode. These modes actually lack polarity of their own altogether. The markers go where the negative marker pin or the intensive affirmative marker sad would go. For the agnostic mode, ḿt'et'e, əmt'et or even ḿt'e marks that the speaker is not aware of the truth-value of his statement. With a rising intonation, this is one way of forming yes-no questions, although not a very common way.

The irrelevant mode uses the marker gos. It signifies that whether the statement is true or not is not interestinging at all. It uses the same syntactical features as the negated verb, however.

As a reminder to myself, I'll note down here that the Tńga and the Savk'e dialects will deal slightly differently with the agnostic and the irrelevant moods as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Detail #276: A Quirk for Comparatives and Superlatives

Imagine that certain nouns require comparative congruence. I.e. for these nouns, the comparative is the regular form, and the superlative is used instead for comparative purposes. A double superlative might exist, but it might be more interesting not having that but leaving that to context.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Detail #275: Counterfactuals, Tense and Other Stuff

This post in part is a contribution! Thanks!
In many European languages, counterfactuals are somehow 'contaminated'* with the past tense. What else could we have them contaminated with?
"If I were in Albania, ..."
The contributor suggests polarity - negate the counterfactual in some way.
Albania-LOC not be-COND-1s
"If I were in Albania (which I am not) ..."
Now, the next idea was that negated counterfactuals would drop the negation:
 Albania-LOC be-COND-1s
"If I were not in Albania (which I, however, am) ..."
Not sure I buy that idea in particular, although I could imagine some marking that is derived from the negative participating in the formation of counterfactuals.

Aspect seems somewhat plausible as well - maybe contaminate counterfactuals with atelic aspect or something. However, let's go a bit further afield? How about contaminating it with some form of evidentiality - say, counterfactuals are always hearsay? Or maybe, just maybe, counterfactuals are always things of one's own observation (since one's observed them with one's mind's eye). 

Another idea that feels partially clever is for a language with a non-future vs. future tense system to have counterfactuals that are marked with future tense.

Going further off into contamination, how about person? All counterfactuals inflect for third person plural? Not maybe all that odd, Estonian apparently partially inflects evidentiality by the same morpheme as plural third person (well, historically both come from the active participle, so there's that bit), so why not do counterfactuals in that way?

Conflating counterfactuality with anything really could be interesting - but so would conflating any kind of modal marking with any other kind of marking, to some extent.

Funnily enough, I think I've been raving about this kind of thing in nouns for years, but never really gotten around to raving about it in verbs. A brave new world opens!

* This is the word the contributor chose to use, and I am inclined to sort of agree.