Saturday, August 27, 2016

Dairwueh: Person-Specific Quirky Case

Certain verbs in Dairwueh have no forms for some set of persons, generally one or both of first and second person. Most of these in fact only have third person singular forms. Whenever the subject is "missing" for a verb, it can be formed by having that person's pronoun as a quirky case subject.

The entries below are given as root (meaning) (persons missing) case.
mogar (rot) (I, II) acc
ebas (lose, misplace) (I) dat
konav  (bequeath to*) (I) acc
atisal (have sufficient stature to reach something) (I, II) gen
embor (appear to be) (IIsg) loc-instr
adval (displease) (Isg, IIsg) acc
saŋəst (remain) (Isg) loc-instr
lohak (fear) (Isg, Ipl, IIpl) dat
All of these do permit having first and second person subjects. These, however, require oblique marking. The oblique marking will also extend to nouns coordinated or apposite to such a subject. Some examples:
it rots
I rot
Je, it, is third person, and therefore does not behave in any extraordinary way. Ver, I, however, cannot stand as a nominative subject of mogar, but mogar permits accusative subjects for first and second person, and therefore we get the accusative vena.

These kinds of subjects, unlike the nominative ones, require the 3sg II verb. As mentioned, coordination and apposition do also get affected:
I, the king, bequeath nothing
Normally, erha kona(v/š) would be permissible, but since it's in apposition with ver, which cannot stand in the nominative as subject of konav, it must agree in case therewith.
Contrast with the situation where only the third person subject is present:
with dis- similation of -rir
the king bequeathed (his) power to (his) daughter
Note that erha is in the genitive because it's a transitive verb with a definite subject - a slightly ergative pattern in Dairwueh. Contrast with the following, where both a first person and a third person NP is present - the first person pronoun that has to take accusative as subject of this verb also makes the other noun do so:
 I and the king appeared to be fighting/enemies
Contrast to the next clause, where both subjects are third person, and therefore do trigger person/number congruence, and do not have any curious case marking:



the king and the tribes appeared to be enemies
Since embor is intransitive, erha is in the nominative despite being definite.

* The noun to whom something is bequeathed is marked by the preposition gir, 'along, through'.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Detail #306: Pronoun as Comparison Strategy

This is, I think, a new comparison strategy. Consider a pronoun that indicates that a thing is being compared. I'll be using italicized comp as this pronoun:
Between John, between Eric, the company relies on comp_masc,sg.
 Between X between Y is considered to be similar to how Biblical Hebrew forms 'between', i.e. both nouns are preceded by the same preposition, possibly with an and, i.e. "between X and between Y".

If the compared things differ in gender, comp can by gender congruence relate to either of the nouns. For nouns of the same gender, the first noun is the more X:
between the brother and between the sister, their mother wants comp.fem.dat the painting as inheritance
the mother prefers that her daughter gets the painting as inheritance
between John and between Eric, comp.masc.nom is strong.
John is stronger than Eric

between Tor and between Sven, she likes comp.masc.acc
she likes Tor more than she likes Sven

between Schylla and between Charybdis, comp.fem.nom scares me
Schylla scares me more than Charybdis (does)

between John and between Tina, comp.fem.nom plays the guitar well
Tina plays the guitar better than John

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Detail #305: Social-Status Demonstrative Quality Pronouns

In languages with great amounts of social stratification, where this stratification has been grammaticalized, consider pronouns and determiners with meanings along the lines of
such a/such __s
a similar thing
the same
Now, consider having pronouns meaning things like
a person of
  • the same social status 
  • similar social status  
  • different social status
  • any social status
 So, now we have pronouns signifying:
  • statuswise, such a ...
  • statuswise, another kind of
  • statuswise, a similar kind of
  • statuswise, any kind of
This could be an interesting dimension for a language to seep into.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Musical Notation

Consider a culture of polyphonic improvization where the conductor has a sign language, using the position of the left and right arm to communicate what two of the voices do (probably the middle ones), and the left and right hands to communicate what the top and bottom voices do. Reading the middle lines' meanings requires being able first to read the top and bottom line symbols, because the arm position basically communicated how the middle voices' movements relate to the top and bottom ones.

This system is later on turned into a notation system, whereby each symbol consists of partial symbols for arm position, arm movement, hand signs and so on, so you basically get a series of very stylized 'conductors', with each conductor representing a pulse of the rhythm. Omissions of partial symbols may either mean 'silence' or 'continue previous pitch', depending on stylistic conventions. Sometimes it is unclear which is meant.

Notation for dynamics are done by simply bolding or weakening the lines - this does not, though, communicate which particular voice(s) is (/ are) strengthened or weakened.

As in most conducted musics, the facial expressions and other aspects of body language are interpreted by singers as well, and may sometimes be expressed by stylized faces inserted before a symbol. There is a convention as to what direction the eyes of the stylized faces are directed to direct an instruction at some particular voice.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

#305: Telling Time

In non-earth conworlds, telling time could use non-number-based lexemes. Consider giving hours or their analogies their own names, and giving names to various intervals of time as well.

Beyond this, special times on special days may have their own designations, so e.g. the midnight hour on midsummer has its own specific designation, and would not be referred to in the singular by the same name as other 'hours' at the same time.

In the plural for each "general" hour, the specific exceptions are included, though. Here's some space for fun things: if the language has mandatory definiteness marking, maybe definite 'hours' (which yet are indefinite based on the discourse) exclude the special-name hours, while indefinite hours include special-name hours; finally, discourse-definite definite hours of course only refer to particular hours that have been specified previously.

Sargaĺk: A Common Saying and some Grammar

mist od kaməŕtat od (tućś): all our oars (are still here)
"All", od is a bit peculiar, in appearing both to the left and right of the core NP it represents. In the nominative, it takes its head noun in the pegative, whereas in all other cases, it takes its head noun in the relevant case. With the other cases, the first od- also is marked for congruence. In the plural, for the nominative and pegative the head noun is plural for animates, but singular for all other nouns. With other cases, it is singular throughout, even if the semantics of the situation is plural.

Od is also closely related to the word odka- which signifies 'the whole, all of the (sg), a full, etc'.

tućś signifies 'still, yet, continuously, at least up to now, now'.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sargaĺk Personal Pronouns

I suddenly noticed I have not posted a table of personal pronouns in Sargaĺk, so I guess I might just as wellpost such a thing:

1sg2sg3sg masc3sg
accnəna, nətna, -natetna, tet (fem)isavatmisatfiʒatnistnisar

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Sargaĺk Discourse Particle Suffix

In Sargaĺk there is a discourse suffix that goes on the focus of an utterance, whenever the statement also is in agreement with a previous speakers utterance. 

The morpheme -sal thus marks any explicit agreement:

It is, however, bimorphemic. In the negative, the final -l is dropped, giving -sa. The -l, taking the form -(ə)l is suffixed to the negation particle. Some dubitive particles (astap, 'is that so?', igar, 'apparently (dubitive)', zoba '(denial of allegation by other part') can also take -(ə)l although sometimes the focused noun takes the full -sal instead. Some dialects of Bryatesle retain traces of a secondary case that might be related: -s as a marker on personal pronouns and demonstratives in focus positions.

A similar distribution can be found for the word 'dəg' in Ćwarmin. It, however, is reduplicated after the negation particle (and not at all attracted by dubitive particles). It goes before postpositions, but after the head of an NP.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Detail #304: Quirky Case (in)direct Objects

The study of quirky case mainly seems to have focused on subjects and direct objects. However, one could imagine some quirks of quirky case extending onto indirect objects as well.

Quirky case is a phenomenon in morphosyntax whereby the expected case marking for a subject or object is systematically deviated from with certain verbs. Examples include the genitive subjects of Finnish täytyy, on pakko, and a bunch of other auxiliaries and some constructions. Another example is the German verb hilfen, whose direct object is in the dative. Icelandic vanta takes an accusative subject (as well as object). Non-morphological subjecthood tests can demonstrate in some languages that these are true subjects (or objects), while in other languages they are less so. (IIRC, for instance, Russian quirky subjects are not true subjects.)

Some languages draw the line between direct object and indirect object differently from what we might consider the "standard alignment" - some languages conflate "monotransitive object" with "ditransitive indirect object", and mark "ditransitive direct object" differently - so called dechticaetiative or secundative languages.
Let's call the monotransitive/indirect object-case the accusative, and the ditransitive direct object the dechticaetiative case. Here, we get two spots to put quirkiness, and both options are somewhat compelling:
If the same verb permits both monotransitive and ditransitive use, we find an interesting alteration as to which referent is marked quirkily if the accusative is marked - somehow this feels as though it should be against some universal. The other option is the dechticaetiative, which sounds like a more reasonable NP to be quirky, even though the alteration we now get is whether the DO is quirkily marked or not.

Unlike direct objects and subjects, I've never encountered a list of cross-linguistic syntactical and semantic properties of indirect objects, or maybe cross-linguistic typologies of them, thus I really have no idea what one would expect from a quirky case i.o. (or a quirky case argument in a dectichaetiative system), that would distinguish them from some more oblique argument.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Detail #303: Number Congruence Quirks

Consider languages that have adjectives that mark congruence for grammatical number. So, e.g.
red house
red-s house-s
Now, also consider for such a language that it, like many languages, does not mark number after numerals:
three house
We can insert a quirk here. Let's say the language has some form of suppletive congruence with some adjectives (and maybe verbs):
little house
small-s house-s
(that's actually pretty much the suppletion that the cognates of "little" and "small", "liten"/"små" showcase in Swedish.) Unlike the Swedish case, this imaginary language doesn't just do suppletion in order to mark the plural, though, it also has an actual plural morpheme on top of the adjective - in essence having these adjectives mark plurality twice.

So, we go further: numerals do not interact with the suppletive part, but do interact with the suffix:
red little house
red-s small-s house-s
three red small house
Here we thus see a limited amount of plural marking in the NP in addition to the numeral.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Sargaĺk Vocabulary: Hand Anatomy

Before the actual conlanging content of this post, I need to share a really strongly heartfelt hate with you all. Anatomy is not a thing I am very good at, at all. Like, I know my vocabulary as far as anatomy goes in my non-native languages are beyond incomplete. However, my true cause of shame is my vague knowledge of anatomical terminology even in my native language. The body just didn't interest me enough when I was younger, and now I have to look things up.

Of course, internet has helped a lot, but it's still kind of hard to google for some particular thingy-like thing next to the thingy-like thing on the foot, or whatever. Sure, trivial things are easy - fingers, toes, nose, eyes, the obvious stuff. But e.g. shoulder blades - sure, convenient at times.  For a while, my favoured term for the scapula was 'vientikahva' - 'leading handle'. This was a term my lindy hop dance instructor had used, (although he did mention 'lapaluu' at the time), because at least it related to some 'relevant' experience of the world. Beyond that, man, the body is full of parts whose names I very seldom care to know.

Now, looking for detailed terminology about the palm's and hand's different parts, all I find online is superstitious nonsense about the astrological significance of this or that part of the palm, or which part of it I should massage if I want to alleviate pain in my blood sugar. Or pain in my chest pain.Or pain in impotence, or pain in nocturnal incontinence. Fuck you, superstitious pseudoscientific new age parts of the internet. Also, please fucking learn to make your headings fit your content. Now, on to the hand terminology in Sargaĺk, the English terminology of which, alas, ended up somewhat unclear on account of superstitious assholes.

Beyond the basic words for hand and arm in Sargaĺk, there's some more detailed terminology in existence. The fingers, first of all, have names – much like in pretty much every language.

rok (m) - thumb, from *rokt

This term also is used for a variety of clinches and the like.

roxe (m) - middle finger

The term is a historical diminutive of 'thumb'. Both the thumb and the index finger are considered 'supporting fingers' for the index finger.

laba (f) - index finger.
This is cognate with the verb labəj, 'to touch, to manipulate'.
marak (m), ring finger
marxe (m), little finger

The two final fingers are not considered to be per se very important. Telling someone they're a marak or a marxe is essentially saying they're useless, at the very least on their own.
The four non-thumb fingers and the section of the palm closest to these fingers can be referred to as bilon (f), which seems to be a primitive morpheme - not derived from anything. The complete palm is salp (m), which also is the term for the blade of an oar.

Fingers in general are k'uris (f), nails are impik (m). The back of the hand is gari (f).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Detail #302: Comparing and Contrasting

Comparing things is common enough that pretty much every language has some grammaticalized way of comparing the extent to which things exhibit some property. However, not all comparison is comparison along one axis, c.f.
Moscow is expensive, but Vladivostok is far.
Clearly this attempts to compare the two in some sense, even though the qualities compared probably do not have the same weight for the comparer's purposes. Such comparison is maybe better called contrasting. However, what if a language's comparison strategy generally was very similar to the IE+*, but the morphemes didn't quite work the same way.

We can play with a few options. One would be marking all contrasted qualities:
Moscow is expensiver, but Vladivostok is further.
This does not seem particularly outlandish, even, despite the fact that we're not really comparing the extent to which the two are far away or expensive, we're rather contrasting qualities that we associate with the two towns.

Going on, we could have the suffix not even be specific to adjectives:
John likes coffee.
Erin likes tea.
John likes coffee-er but Erin likes tea-er.
Eric sings.
Johanna plays.
Eric singser but Johanna playser.
However, we find that often when we compare or contrast, one statement is more central and the other is in some sense subordinate. We could let the comparative marker go on only one of them, and I can't really decide at this stage which of these is better:
1) John likes coffee-er but Erin likes tea
2) John likes coffee but Erin likes tea-er
Maybe both are permissible, but one or the other is triggered based on pragmatic concerns; 'but Erin likes tee' is syntactically subordinate, but might be pragmatically the more central part - imagine something like 'sure, John likes coffee, but Erin, she likes tea (so we need to serve at least both tea and coffee)"

Let's go on further to even less obvious contrasts:
First, I learned to sing, then I strived to maintain that skill.
Clearly we're contrasting two periods here - that of learning, and that of maintaining, a skill. What if we had a rule that, for such not quite obvious comparisons, the marker goes on the verb that marks the more recent or more future of the verbs. (Alternatively, the more past or less future verb). We could further have the marker go in different spots morphologically: when we compare the verbs themselves, the marker goes on the stem; when the marker just defaults to going on the verb, it goes after the person and tense markers. (I would, however, like having the regular comparative verb be marked by an auxiliary that carries the comparative marker, and the tense-comparison go on the actual verb. However, this seems rather unlikely.)

* IE+ implies, in this context, Indo-European, Finno-Ugric, Kartvelian and NW Caucasian.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Finnish and Agglutinativeness

Every now and then - although I think it's getting less common now - people on conlanging communities online mention Finnish as a  typical "cartesian product" language - i.e. its morphological subsystems are very clear examples of systems that just line up morphemes in a perfectly orderly manner. So, the noun morphology consists of root-[number]-[case], and since you have two numbers and 14 cases*, you have 28 case-number forms, and once you add in the various discourse clitics you do get a huge number.

However, the case system is not as trivial as that. First, the purely odd gaps in it:

singular pluralpronouns
accusative Iminut
accusative IIauton

Secondarily, the local cases form a thing suggestive of cartesianness. First of all, yes, with these, we do have the full number * case thing going, (almost**) by simply putting -i- between the root and the case suffix.


And we find a very clear implication here: -l- = on, -s- = in, doubled consonant = at or to, -tA = from, -A without t = at, -e = to. However, obviously, *-sse does not exist.

What makes this system less convincing as a cartesian product is the non-local usages of these forms, which do not really seem to form any "semantically cartesian" thing at all. E.g. -ltA and -lle both mark what something appears to be or what impression something gives, -llA marks instruments, -stA marks by whose opinion something is or does something, and -ssA weirdly enough also mark some relations that would sort of really rather more logically seem to desire the other noun to be marked (e.g. a ship is in a load of something, whereas one'd kinda expect that to be phrased as 'in the ship there is a load of something'), etc.

We further have two outliers, -ksi (to, role) and -na (at, role); they do not look alike at all, and in addition in almost no Finnish dialects does a (from, role)-case exist.

Furthermore, we have the comitative case - which signifies 'with'. It lacks morphologically singular forms altogether, although the forms can have singular meaning, so a form like 'vaimoineni' - which superficially looks like 'with my wives' - means 'with my wife'. A thing that makes this case peculiar, is that it cannot stand without a possessive suffix - meaning that the number of permissible forms is one less than half of the forms permissible for most nouns (i.e. for most numbers, you have two numbers times {five personal suffixes or no suffix at all}, this one only has plural times five personal suffixes.

The possessive suffixes introduce one more complication: for most cases, you just stick the possessive suffix at the end of the word, but for the whole of nominative (singular and plural) and accusative (singular and plural) and genitive singular, the possessed forms are indistinguishable - thus e.g. "my brother (nom)", "my brother (acc)", "my brothers (nom/acc)", and "my brother's" are identical - veljeni. Without a possessive suffix, these would be veli, veli/veljen, veljet, veljen - thus three surface forms of five underlying forms are conflated into one surface form once the possessive suffix is added.

From a more purely morphological point of view, it is well worth keeping in mind that Finnish has dozens of conjugations and declinations, and which conjugation or declination a word belongs to is not necessarily entirely obvious from its 'shape', and sometimes one form of a verb might coincide with another form of another.

In the verb system, the first obvious irregularity is the formation of the negative and of the negative past; the negative uses a negative particle inflected for person. The past tense negative uses the same negation particle, followed by a past participle. The past tense positive uses a suffix -i-. However, some verbs have an -i- in the stem, and thus have no distinct positive past tense.
kello soi = the bell rings
kello soi = the bell rang
kello ei soi = the bell doesn't ring
kello ei soinut = the bell didn't ring
 A peculiar situation indeed - a language that for a significant number of verbs only distinguishes their tense when they're negated. The passive provides a further oddity with regards to tense and negation:
syö[+ person] = [person] eats
e[+ person] syö = [person] ate
syödään noun = noun is being eaten
ei syödä noun = noun isn't being eaten

syötiin noun = noun was eaten
ei syöty noun = noun was not eaten
The passive in the present tense has a two-part suffix, of which the latter half is lost when negated. (Oftentimes, this will end up identical to the infinitive, but not always). In the past tense, it has a single suffix, -tiin, which, when negated, is replaced by the past passive participle.

The point of this post is to showcase some ways in which a morphology can be made somewhat non-cartesian; other ways exist - Chukchi, for instance, only distinguishes singular and plural in the absolutive case for most nouns. Russian conflates accusative and nominative for some nouns, accusative and genitive for some nouns, and has a separate accusative for feminine singulars.

* maybe more? who knows, man?

** In reality, what you do is take the partitive plural - which is by no means all that trivial to form, then cut off the -(t)a suffix, then maybe turn the -j- that might precede that into -i-, and voila, you have the plural root.

*** this one misbehaves a lot, being realized as V:n, hVn, sV:n, etc.