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.


  1. Zeroth person like in Finnish is not really a person, or at least not in terms of 'speaker > listener > other'.

    It's like when you say 'there was once a kingdom' in the beginning of a story, the 'there was' would be zeroth person in Finnish as I understand it. It can be also translated as 'one' such as in Marvin J. Ashton's quote (I have no clue who that is; it's just an example), 'Be the one who nurtures and builds...'. The 'one who' would be zeroth person.

    But that's just one different 'person-like-thing'. Another grouping of verb forms like this could be 'topical'. It is who you are addressing in the topic. This could work differently depending on what type of language it is. There are so many ways to go about it.

    Even another couple persons could be the person(s) (with the '(s)' depending on singular or plural) near the speaker, even if they are not spoken to, and the person(s) away from the speaker or not near the speaker. This is similar to second person, but not the same, and could be vastly different in some circumstances.

    Another option is no person, and to make no distinction between people in inflections and 'personal-like pronouns'. Thus 'I/we' would be the same as 'thou/ye/you' and 'he/she/it/they' would also be the same. However, this would be so confusing.

    1. I don't think you quite understand zeroth person in Finnish - existential verbs do not factor into zeroth person at all. "Olipa kerran kuningaskunta" is very much a third person VP.

      Finnish does have a passive that sometimes is considered a fourth person - basically this passive form implies that the action is carried out by some human agent that is not stated.

      Beyond this, Finnish also has impersonal constructions, but these include two different kinds of things: verbs that just don't have subjects ('sataa', '(it) rains') and verbs whose 'subjects' are not nominative:
      minun täytyy mennä -> me.gen must go -> I must go

      The thing I was thinking about in the post was rather making something that doesn't just split third person into two, or temporarily blur the lines - but something that blurs the lines completely and then draws new ones at a different slant.