Monday, November 28, 2016

Detail #319: A Pronoun Quirk

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I have bragging rights

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

Go check out NextXen

It's pretty neat.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Detail #317: Indirect Object Marking and Possessive Suffixes

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Anatomy of the Description of a Conlang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dairwueh: Semi-genitive Adjectives

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Detail #316: An Indirect Imperative

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

Dairwueh demonstratives

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

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

xekem - thither
ŋekem - thither
ajkem - hither

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

xevki - to arrive there
avki - to arrive here

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

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