Monday, January 30, 2017

Detail #330: Interrogative Article

In a language with indefinite and definite articles, have an article that is historically related to the interrogative pronoun/determiner 'what'. Unlike 'what', however, it signifies that a definite noun is the topic of a yes/no-question. In the pseudo-English used to illustrate this, I'll form it analogously to a/an: wha, whan.

you saw wha car?
have you heard whan opera?

the emissary gave wha gift to the king?
the emissary gave a gift to wha king?
wha emissary gave a gift to the king?
A cool thing about this is that definiteness is neutralized in polar questions. Also, other determiners might be forced to behave in quirky ways of the syntax of determiners is anything like that of English:
* you saw wha my car
you saw wha car of mine
(or quirks analogous to that).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Detail #329: A Verbal System and Noun Classes

Consider a system with several noun classes, and a complicated system of moods, aspects, aktionsarts and tenses. Now, different noun classes – both as subjects and objects – force different conflations of the actual available TAMs.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Dairwueh Preprepositional Construction

In Dairwueh, having is expressed using the preposition edə in combination with the third person II copula -

Thus, baud ŋe edə vena  - I had a farm (farm was by me).

The preposition edə occurs in some temporal expressions and some fossilized locative expressions, but is otherwise not used much.

However, edə can also take a preprepositional noun or adjective (or even adverb). In combination with the possessive construction, the adjective corresponds to the bolded elements below:
  • to have object as/for complement
  • X's object is complement
  • object is X's complement 
  • object is complement by X/for X
  • owner perceives object as complement
In a few dialects, the complement can also be an infinitive, in which case it's a causative structure, or an active(!) participle, in which case it's a passive.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sargaĺk: Some Spatial Postpositions

A short translation of the table would be something like
out ofaroundinto




out of



This image should be fairly self-explanatory: the circle expresses insides of things, the upper half circle represents the outside of a convex surface (hill, convex structure, etc), the lower half circle express the outside of a concave surface. 'ule', with regards to a convex surface expresses 'under, beneath', etc. It's worth noting that the surface of the sea also patterns with the concave surfaces.

This is not an exhaustive description of Sargaĺk spatial postpositions, nor does it fully exhaust the spatial usages of the ones presented.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Detail #328: Deixis for Verbs

This set of ideas were inspired by discussions with the author of Ayeri.
Let's have a look at deictic marking in the verb complex. We can consider some obvious things - deictic marking can sort of be dependent on person – one could have here unmarked on first person verbs, there unmarked on third person verbs, and maybe put second person in a situation where here is unmarked in the present, but there is unmarked in the past.

Now, since some are marked and some are unmarked, we could go for a direct-inverse kind of situation here:



Certain third person NPs could of course doubly inverse this: the demonstrative 'this' itself, as well as a third person listener pronoun.

Now, with verbs of movement, there may be two slots, although both are not necessarily filled. If both are empty in a verb meaning 'depart', a first person subject in the present would be parsed as 'I am leaving (from here to there)'.
Here and there are obviously distinguished, but movements can also happen between two distinct theres, or even from or to an indefinite place - which have their own morphemes, cognate to indefinite pronouns. For verbs of movement, the deictic markers also become more complicated, interacting with aspect in various ways. Perfective movements towards will by default be oriented herewards, so direction towards there is marked by a distinct morpheme, movement towards anywhere is marked by the same indefinite morpheme previously mentioned. Perfective verbs of departure will by default be parsed the opposite way to the table given above, and likewise perfectie verbs of movement along. Imperfective verbs of movement depend on the person in the same way as given in the table above.

The indefinite morpheme previously mentioned is also used when interrogative pronouns are used.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Challenge: Person-like Things

Person is quite common in conlangs, but we can even almost find other person-like structures in human languages - some Asian pronoun systems rather may be ranked by social stature than by speaker > listener > other.

We could imagine some other system, though - the simplest being some way of adjusting how social stature is determined (age, with gender as tie-breaker? gender, with age as tie-breaker? some other type of social structure than any known human structure); maybe to some not entirely 'ordered' type of ranking (so it's more of a social network than a social hierarchy).

Suggestion: come up with a different system than person, and post in a comment.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Detail #327: Gender, Anaphora, Hierarchies and Definiteness

Let us consider a language different anaphora depending on whether the NP it refers to is definite/specific or indefinite.The definite anaphora are the baseline - the pronoun for the masculine definite noun we call the masculine pronoun, the pronoun for the feminine definite noun we call the feminine pronoun, etc.

Now, we have a hierarchy of genders and numbers:
plur anim > masc sg > fem sg > neut
plur inanim > neut
For each indefinite noun, an anaphora referring to it will use the noun from the class to the right, so 
If any people arrive, he(=they) must wait here.

Iif any man arrives,  she(=he) may wait here.

If my boss arrives, he(=he) must wait here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Detail #326: Remnants of the Dual

A language with remnants of a defunct dual number can have many interesting peculiarities - consider, for instance, the case of Russian, where nominative numbers from two to four take singular genitive nouns - because historically, the nominative dual was identical to the singular genitive. However, even today, some exceptional nouns exist with an exceptional form in this context.

However, what if the duals leave different types of traces? Let's consider a language where the dual has been thoroughly present - in verb morphology, in pronouns, etc - but since the society has become more complex and bigger numbers have become commonplace, the dual has mainly fallen out of use. However, it survives in a few contexts:
  • things that often come in pairs
  • socially pairwise things
However, it also survives in certain participles and verbs with a variety of unexpected meanings:
  • With some applicative participles, formerly signifying the use of both hands for carrying out the action, now signifying intensity and without the applicative meaning preserved.
  • With applicative participles of verbs of perception, the dual signifies 'with the ears' or 'with the eyes' and thus basically just serves to enhance the fact that the speaker has seen or heard what he's speaking of.
  • With some active participles that formerly just signified pairs doing something, now the dual marker signifies reciprocality within socially important structures of two. 
  • With some gerunds a dual morpheme indicates repetition, whereas plural marks habituality.

Also, as a side note: yay, definitely 100k views in total, although no idea to what extent those are bots.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ŋʒädär Cases: Grammatical Subsystems as Bundles of Features pt I

Sometimes systems in languages can be analyzed in terms of feature bundles. This can work for cases, tenses, moods, lexical subsystems (say, family terminology, or such), etc. This article will look into the case systems of several of my languages, attempting to find some economical yet powerful description of the case systems.

Ŋʒädär has a fairly simple case system:
The absolute marks subjects and objects. The dative marks recipients. The genitive-comitative marks possessors or accompanying participants. The three locatives - locative, lative and ablative - have similarities, but there is an odd one out among them. The complement case has certain similarities to the absolute case.
We find beyond these that there is an unabsolutive case for certain nouns. Counting the regular cases we have seven, and the unabsolutive would give us eight. log28 is 3, so the most optimal case would only have three binary variables. Let us first look at the seven 'common' cases before taking a look at the unabsolutive.

It seems three basic qualities distinguish the three cases: involvement, direction and centrality. Involvement is whether the noun is a participant in any way whatsoever, or just a frame or scaffold for the action. Direction is whether there is a spatial progress involving the noun as some form of source or sink, and 'centrality' largely corresponds to likelihood of being topicalized or focalized but also the likelihood of being an argument.

The question marks indicate that the relevant spots seem to go both ways. The ablative thus can acquire the same meaning as the lative in some contexts, but can also acquire a distinct meaning. We can expand this by having both the complement and the ablative appear as two versions of themselves - giving a total of nine, but this is ok since ablative2 is the same as lative as far as its features go.

here, the cases are ordered assuming participant > central > directional

By now we have exhausted the number of states three binary variables can occupy, so the unabsolutive wouldn't fit into this. We could attempt to rearrange this so that we get rid of the question marks and express both the complement and ablative in terms that do not require them to occupy two different states - however, this particular setup will prove useful to understand the shenanigans of the case systems. We shall rearrange the system a bit for a truly full three-variable system without any cases occupying two slots, and using a different set of features that better catch the "morphological reality". The middle column has different values for the upper and lower half.

core case/
This model also has its drawbacks; 'active core case' signifies cases that (can) participate in an action, but obviously the absolutive can be the object as well, and quirky case verbs can take datives that do things. Framing is a question of locating a VP or subject either spatially or conceptually. Associate reference is whether a noun in such a case necessarily refers to a noun's referent itself or possibly to things associated therewith - i.e. the locative may be marked upon a noun the vicinity of which is referred to (whereas the lative more usually goes on the name of a place, or a noun on the inside or top of which something moves). 

Asking what features an NP satisfies for these two schemes gives a pretty good idea of what case an NP in Ŋʒädär takes, but even then the two models give some mistakes. Similar models for Ćwarmin would be huge, but Bryatesle, Sargaĺk and Dairwueh may get their own treatment among these lines. On the other hand, the interaction of number, case and definiteness in Ćwarmin could make for interesting models that demonstrate how weirdly intervowen those three really are in Ćwarmin.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Detail #324: Another Uncommon Voice

Consider a situation whereby a speaker community reinterprets the argument structure of a verb depending on the person of the subject. An example where this might be reasonable to occur is various verbs for 'like' in a variety of languages:
I like → I like
you likeyou like
he likeshe appeals to X
much like, say, 'es gefällt mir' structurally is something like 'it appeals to me', but is semantically probably closer to 'I like it'. It is easy to imagine that first and second person more often perceive the appeal, and third person are the cause thereof, and semantic wear turns the structure, rather than the verb, into the meaning-carrying element.

This could imaginably lead to an inverse-direct thing for verbs with such a behaviour. Another thing it imaginably could lead to would be an exceptional voice whereby the behaviour of the verb for first and second person is recreated for the third person as well.

This would differ from other voices in the language, since
  1. it is restricted with regards to person
  2. it does not demote anything
  3. it does not promote anything
  4. it only permits that a certain type of NP behave like another type of NP with regards to the verb
(Now, we can imagine that it doesn't even permit first and second person "objects" – i.e. with this voice, you still can't say 'she likes me'. This would be somewhat interesting, but let's not go there.)

A tiny challenge: what could naturally grammaticalize into this function?

Onwards with the idea, this could of course combine with a passive - since normally, the stimulus is the subject, we could now go for a situation where you first make the perceiver the subject, then passivize so the stimulus again is the subject - maybe in order to get rid of the perceiver altogether, for a meaning along the lines of 'X is appealing (in general)'.