Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Detail #348: Finely Grained Reciprocals (and potentially reflexives)

One of the structures English uses for reciprocals is "one another". This, I've always interpreted as a sort of parallel implicit clause that tells us how to interpret the first clause. This is a very naive model, I know, but think of it as
(each) one verbs another
Russian has a rather similar structure, with  друг друг- drug drug(obj/obl case), i.e. other(nom) other(object or oblique case), or even potentially friend friend(object or oblique case). In the case of Russian, I am pretty sure this is understood in terms of other other rather than friend friend – friend and other are homonyms but distinct lexemes despite sharing their etymology, but one could imagine a language where similar structures could be made from a much larger set of nouns or pronouns, possibly also including additional information, e.g. "child child(...)" would tell us that the group who acted reciprocally consisted entirely of children, etc. Of course, not all nouns would fit in there, and maybe there'd be some particular quirks, such as some slight reduction of the case markers or of the root or whatever, so e.g. "child chi's" for "each other's (wrt children)". One could go further with this idea, and for instance mark differences in the reciprocality - does each agent act on one other agent or on multiple ones, etc. (Not that that can't be marked by other strategies as well, and not that that really is all that interesting in most contexts.)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Detail #343, pt 2: Differential Number

One position where differential number can make sense is after numbers themselves.

In many languages, numbers are followed by singulars rather than plurals, giving phrases which, if translated morpheme-for-morpheme, would be along the lines of
five man
three ship
Other languages obviously have plurals there (and some have some non-obvious case, e.g. Finnish has partitive singular for nominative and accusative NPs, and for other cases, there's agreement between the numeral and the noun. Except for nouns that lack singular forms altogether, the noun is in the singular, and for those nouns that lack singular forms, the noun is in the plural and the numeral also is inflected for the plural (which numbers otherwise mostly are not!)

Now, let's consider how to use this to differentiate things. One difference number sometimes can contain is that of a number of things being seen as a number of individuals, or as a group containing some number of members. Imaginably, a singular noun after a numeral would be more likely to indicate groupness, whereas plurals would be likely to indicate an individuated plural. However, collectives vs. singulatives imaginably would go the other way in languages that have those.

Further, of course, one can consider the interaction of this with determiners like many, some, etc. Here, we get two possibilities: maybe plural by itself indicates individuated plurality, and collective plurality needs some kind of pluralizing particle in combination with a singular root - so many mother would signify '(a group of) many mothers), whereas mothers would signify several mothers acting without coordination. On the other hand, we could imagine that words like many could overrule the plural's individuation, and so many mothers would signify mothers as a group. Again, the collective-vs-singulative situation could provide the very opposite interpretation, where the collective itself implies groupness, but some extra particle indicates individuation; or the singulative with some particle indicates individuated plurals.

Detail #347 pt II: A Meatier Description of Quirks by Featural Design

One of my faithful readers asked for a meatier description of the thing I described in the previous post. Here goes.

Let's consider a system that can be decomposed into four binary features, A, B, C and D. Let's pretend we're building a verbal system, so this is some kind of TAM++ system we're describing. So, let's consider what the four things could be:
A: transitive vs. intransitive
B: perfective vs. imperfective
C: past vs. non-past
D: irrealis vs. realis
However, the markers do not simply mark a single feature at a time, so the markers that exist may be:
א perfective + transitive + realis + past
ב past + perfective
ג irrealis + intransitive
ד transitive
ה past + intransitive
ו imperfective + intransitive

The idea is there should be more of these, but working out a nice system is tedious so I skipped that bit. With the system above, if you want to express transitive irrealis, you have to construct it using ג and ד - irrealis intransitive + transitive, where transitive overrules the intransitive bit of the previous morpheme. Thus the system is fusional, in part, and agglutinating in part.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Detail #347: A Possible Quirk of Featural System Design

Ever since I read an analysis of the Russian case system in terms of binary features, I have been thinking a lot about featural analyses of systems in my conlangs, and also of featural design, i.e. coming up with a set of features, introducing some distortion in the system (i.e. merging some combinations, or adding a feature that only combines with some particular combinations of features) and deriving some grammatical subsystem from such principles.

One idea I came up with recently, but which I am pretty sure I might not ever actually implement, is the following: have some markers that fuse more than one feature, but do not fill out the full space with these. So, e.g. if we have features A, B, C, D and E, we may have markers for
1: A
2: B
3: C ^ D
4: ¬ D ^ E
5: ¬C
6: ¬E
Evaluation happens from left to right -i .e. 4, then 5 would leave D positive, 5, then 4 would 
You cannot obtain "purely" D by just going for one morpheme, you need to combine 3 with 5, so C ^ D, but correct the C to o ¬C.

This could get even more interesting if we didn't just have binary features, but also some form of intensive that could be used to form certain constructions. But there may be a future post coming up about three-way feature systems where the values are "yes, no, intensely yes".

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dairwueh Case System: Cases as Bundles of Features, pt II

Dairwueh has five cases,
  • nominative
  • accusative
  • dative
  • genitive
  • locative-instrumental
The following treatment only deals with the use of these cases when they are not accompanied by prepositions. Prepositions basically just ignore this stuff.

Basically, all cases except the locative-instrumental sometimes are subjects, giving us the following feature: potential subject? Of course, this is a very limited feature of most cases - the accusative being subject of a few verbs, the dative likewise. Thus it is not a very strong feature; however, as for subjects go, nominatives and genitives both very frequently occur as subjects. We basically can assign those two the value +subj.

Before going on with this, I need to explain quickly the use of the genitive for subjects in Dairwueh: the genitive stems historically from an ergative case. It is used for definite subjects of transitive verbs.

Now we have (nom, gen) vs. (acc, dat, loc-instr). We want for the next feature to pick out one or more out of both these sets. Obviously the feature needs to distinguish nom from gen. Genitive and loc-instr both do adnominal things, but we can also consider how dative and genitive both imply some kind of control over something else: the dative receives control, the genitive has control. The nominative, however, also can have control over something - in the case of an indefinite subject it has control of a transitive verb, so, this particular feature would only serve to divide up the (acc,dat,loc-instr) set: (acc, loc-instr) vs. (dat) which pairs with (nom, gen) as far as this feature is concerned.

subjectgenitive (nominative)nominative
¬subjectdativeaccusative, loc-instr

This is not even really all that ineffective, but helps us envision how to split the next pair of pairs: (nom, gen) and (loc-instr, acc). Alas, I cannot come up with any feature that would distinguish loc-instr in particular from accusative while also distinguishing genitive from nominative, except for the dialects where the locative-instrumental marks all possessums. For such dialects, a "possessor/possessum" diagonal split would work. However, this diagonal only splits the cells it passes through, not including the two other cells of the table at all.

Here's a different option:

subjectnominative, genitivegenitive
¬subjectdative, accusativeloc-instr

The two tables above should suffice together to distinguish all the cases except for the nom-gen definiteness distinction. This distinction is explained above, and is unique to that pair.

This featural decomposition basically hints at how these cases are used beyond the implications their names imply: recipients, locatives and instrumentals, possessors, subjects, objects.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sargaĺk: 2nd Person Interaction with Demonstratives

In Sargaĺk, the demonstratives can interact with the 2nd person pronouns in two interesting ways.

When redirecting attention to a new listener in a group with people, the pronoun can combine with the intermediate distance demonstrative. Thus
ʒu-ta-te-tta nen omər ulət
this.peg-you.peg  me comfort give
you, give me comfort
(A rather exasperated call for support when, for instance, talking to an idiot)
This is maybe most often used when talking to someone not directly in front of yourself, such as someone slightly behind you. Some speakers omit case congruence on the ʒur demonstrative. The demonstrative does exhibit gender marking, however, and thus this compound pronoun has gender marking in the second person. Plural marking is also possible. In case of combined genders, the default is the feminine.

If the new addressee is in a reasonable location for being considered the 'primary' addressee, one can, after two or three uses of the ʒur-te pronoun let the new addressee replace the previous one as the main addressee, thus warranting the use of te, rather than ʒur-te. However, if the second addressee is, say, behind your shoulders, or the primary addressee still is referred to often enough, ʒur-te may remain ʒur-te throughout a whole situation.

The next level of demonstratives, the ʒiki/ʒisi-pair, this often is used with a listener who is unknown, probably unseen, or at least far enough that facial features aren't easily recognizable. This would be used, for instance, when calling out to someone unkown or when not even sure anyone is there, such as "hey, is anybody there?". The default gender is feminine, but context may call for masculine - e.g. out on the sea, masculine pronouns are often assumed because men more often travel by boat than women.

Detail #346: Another Alignment

This alignment is a special case of inverse alignment. However, it does not have a hierarchy, it has a pairwise association between noun classes and verb classes. The association can be subject or object.

Sew belongs to a class of verbs consisting of actions demanding fine motor skill. A patch belongs to a class of nouns, basically 'small, inanimate, artificial things'. These two sets together default to object.

The argument which is relevant for verb marking is the leftmost noun-phrase that is not marked by any adposition. Thus, any pro-dropped pronoun is ignored - except if the VP only has pro-dropped pronouns, in which a person-hierarchy and an animacy-hierarchy is used. 

Thus, if the clause were
I sew-1sg-3sg a patch onto my jacket
the marking would be direct. However, if it were
a patch sew-1sg-3sg I onto my jacket
the verb would be inverse. If the construction were
sew-1sg-3sg a patch onto my jacket
you'd get the inverse. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sargaĺk: Demonstratives

Demonstratives in Sargaĺk come in three levels of deixis,
ʒaŋ - this
ʒur - yon
ʒiki - that, there
These have gender congruence even in the absolutive, for the following feminine forms:
ʒem - this
ʒin - yon
ʒisi - that
Feminine case forms are suffixed to these roots, masculine ones to the masculine roots. The root for each of these consists of the first three phonemes - ʒaŋ-, ʒur-, ʒik-, ʒem-, ʒin-, ʒis-.
These have several related derivations, which also can showcase gender marking:
ʒarʒas, ʒerʒes - right, fit, suitable, the right one out of a set of alternatives
ʒurʒur, ʒinʒin - different, 'another one'
ʒirʒiki, ʒiʒisi - too distant, unreachable

ʒakal - bring
ʒukal - be moved between places none of which are 'here'
ʒikal - remove

ʒaŋlus, ʒemlus - this _____ of yours, this particular _________
ʒurnus, ʒinlus - a similar ____
ʒiklus, ʒislus - another, different,

ʒaŋluʒəŋ, ʒurnuʒəŋ, ʒikluʒəŋ - intensive versions of the demonstratives.
ʒemluʒəm, ʒinluʒin, ʒisluʒis
There is a special dual for couples formed by simple apposition: zaŋʒem, ʒurʒin, ʒikʒis.
 ʒik-ta-ʒis-tat nen keršo sadra-mic vitnət-ju-an
that couple provided me a knife and a net
The negative pronouns are sometimes prefixed to the demonstrative pronouns in Sargaĺk. The meaning of this construction differs by the type of demonstrative pronoun:
pinʒaŋ, pinʒem -  unfit
pinʒur, pinʒin - just anyone out of a set
pinʒiki - close by (adjective-like)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Bryatesle-Dairwueh-Sargaĺk Adjective Type

In the BDS family, certain particles with adjective-like distribution are present in all languages. These adjective can be used with any NP in almost any position, even though the most similar translation in English cannot: 'what about/how about ...'

In Bryatesle, the adjectives are kyne- and sudu-, in Dairwueh xən- and orə-, and in Sargaĺk you find cin- and asku-. The pairwise distinction between these differ between the languages: the Dairwueh pair differ by animacy (xən- being animate, orə- being inanimate), the Bryatesle kyne- and sudu- differ by number (sudu- being plural), and the cin- and asku- pair of Sargaĺk differ by definiteness (asku- being indefinite).

It should be clear that kyne-, xən- and cin- are cognate. One rather typical vowel correspondence pattern in monosyllabic roots can be spotted here.
Bryatesle /ɨ/ <y> : Dairwueh /ə/ <ə> : Sargaĺk /i/ <i>
The sound changes on the initial consonants are a bit more complicated though. The cin- in Sargaĺk suggests the original sound was /k/ rather than /k'/, since /k'/ is more stable against sound changes in Sargaĺk. This fits well with Dairwueh, where k > x, k' > k. The three other forms do not seem to be cognate at all.

Some examples of use would be these:
tvem kynë mindë gavari livytri

tvem kyn-ë mind-an gava-ri livyt-ri

how aboutdef.acc.femgirlacc.femmeet2sg.atelicwent2sg.atelic
how aboutthegirl
that you meeting
how about the girl you were meeting
xənŋa srotoŋa misandeb
how aboutinstr/locsmall boatinstr/locarrive2sg.past
how aboutwiththe boat
How about (with) the boat (with which) you arrived 

We notice in both Bryatesle and Dairwueh that the case function of the noun is somewhat ambiguous - it is never quite clear in past tense expressions whether the case pertains to its relation to the past tense verb or how it relates to the inquiry. Therefore, the case forms often may get somewhat confusing.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

To Be Right in my Conlangs

To express the sentiment of being right in my conlangs, a number of slightly different constructions are used. However, first a quick overview of being right in the languages I speak and a few more.

In Finnish, the usual way would be olla oikeassa, essentially 'to be in (the) right'. In Swedish, however, the expression is ha rätt, 'to have right'. This also seems to be the way of expressing it in German, recht haben. Russian has прав, 'right, true' as a complement, so e.g. ты прав, "you (are) right/true". Onto languages I don't speak: The French and Italian expressions seem to be analogous - although 'to have reason' seem to be more literal translations. Spanish is a bit like Finnish, although with 'in truth' (en cierto) rather than 'right'.  Bear in mind that I might be wrong on any of those beyond Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian. As a side note, for Finnish, English, German and Russian, there's a clear connection to right (the direction or side).

So, onto the conlangs!

In Bryatesle, being right is expressed using a verb that is closely related to the verb 'carry', verg, in the perfective aspect, with a quirky case subject, viz. the ablative.
tërty virg-a
you.abl carry-perf.3sg
you're right
In isolation, virga sometimes is used to express 'you're right'.

In Ćwarmin, being right is expressed by the demonstrative adverb olba/elbə ('this') in an adverbial form, olbaru, elbəri (essentially 'like this, like so, thus') or in the nominative definite olbutu, elbiti.  The construction with olbaru/elbəri uses the reflexive possessive accusative:
bec olbarsun
you thus-refl.poss.acc
~you have thus
you are right
The olbutu/elbiti form comes with the dative of whomever is right:
un olbutu
(s)he.dat right.nom.def(s)he is right
Unlike Bryatesle, Dairwueh uses the verb əduin, 'hold', but like Bryatesle, it uses a quirky case subject: the genitive. The verb is in the 3rd person II.
vedin ŋe ədu-ar
I.gen was.3sg hold-past.prtcpl
"my was held"
I was right

Ŋʒädär has a reflexive, locative expression. 
(sint) prä-ŋä-bürs-äz ŋul-ər
(they) right-at-3pl/3pl-direct self-plur
they are right
Prän does in fact have a slight typological similarity to 'right', although it signifies a different type of direction: in fact, it signifies the east. prä-ŋä thus also signifies "in the east", but the only situation in which this appears with transitive marking is when signifying 'being right'. For those who haven't read how the reflexive works in Ŋʒädär, here's a post.

Sargaĺk uses a reduplication-like construction:
(ne-tta) tvadas tvadas yəra-si
I-peg truth truth put-1sg
I put truth (to) truth
I am right
Clearly, the pegative of the subject suggests that the two instances of "truth" are considered different constituents, however - one being a direct object and one an indirect object. Hence the (to) in the word-for-word English translation. Here, as well, the subject pronoun can be omitted.

Dairwueh: Relative Clauses

Relative clauses in Dairwueh reuse a certain idea I quite recently had – the relativizing auxiliary. In Dairwueh, it is kadal. Its main forms are
present tense:
3sg I: kada (masc, neut) | kado (fem) | kaduni (plur)
3sg II: kadal (also infinitive)
past tense:
3sg I: kadiŋ | kadari (plur)
3sg II: kale
3sg I: kadəyi (masc, neut) | kadəvo | kadəŋan (plur)
3sg II: kaləy
negative present and irrealis:
3sg I: kadešne
3sg II: kaleš
negative past and irrealis:
3sg I: kadeyš | kadeyšin (plur)
3sg II: kaleš
3sg I: kadeŋa
3sg II: kaleŋ
The difference between 3sg I and 3sg II is somewhat different than elsewhere in the language - 3sg I is restrictive, 3sg II is nonrestrictive. The main verb appears in an infinitive or participle form. If the relativized noun is some form of oblique or non-nominative argument of the subclause, a resumptive pronoun appears in the clause in the relevant case (or with the relevant adposition). 

If the relative clause lacks an eternal head, the verb will almost always be 3sg I. If the implicit external head is not nominative or accusative, there has to be some external resumptive pronoun in that case. Often, this is a demonstrative, but a personal pronoun is also possible, and comes immediately after or before the subclause.

Whenever the external head is a personal pronoun, there may be a person discongruence - and there may even be a personal subject person in the subclause itself, e.g.
ekadašor ver samotəg, (ver) samotas
rel_verb.pass_neg I win.inf, win.1sg
I, who is not won over, win
Intonationally, the subclause is often introduced with a slight drop in pitch for first word of the subclause - which is not necessarily the relative auxiliary verb, followed by a relatively quick rise, followed by a slow descent to the end of the subclause.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Detail #345: Alignment-Thing with Locative Cases

Let's consider (and extend) the notion of cases for nouns located somewhere, and nouns heading somewhere. I.e. this wouldn't be "the man is at the lake", this would be "the man who ats is (at, with regards to) the lake" or some other silly way of expressing it. Let's consider how this interacts with
  • subjects vs. objects and alignment more generally
  • more metaphorical uses (e.g. becoming, being, being averb, going to verb)
  • indirect objects and such
  • more general effects throughout the language
Ok, so we come up with two cases, the stationary case and the motionary case. The stationary case is used when we state that the subject (or object) is located somewhere, or that the object is located somewhere as a result of a static VP: e.g.
A holds B.stat (in place)
A encloses B.stat
A contains B.stat

The motionary case is used whenever motion is involved, obviously:
A.mot approaches B
A.mot runs
A.mot leaves B
but also when A sets B in motion:
A scared B.mot (away)
A threw B.mot
A pushed B.mot

Verbs like 'leave' and 'come' may not be distinguished, and are not strictly speaking morphologically distinguished either: both involve a motionary subject, and both involve motion (obviously). Adverbs may serve to indicate the direction, but also context. As far as cases go, this seems to behave entirely unlikely both subject and object marking, and one would expect there to be some kind of object marking (or ergative marking) to balance this system up, so that the non-motionary non-stationary argument's role can be unambiguously parsed. However, it's not entirely unconceivable that each verb's semantics is clear enough that no subject/object distinction is needed: the motionary/stationary and the unmarked noun may well have easily parsed roles.

As for more metaphorical uses, we can consider the way many languages use locative expressions with infinitives, similar to how the 'to' in 'to VERB' became part of the infinitive construction in English. At this point we can consider the regular locative as 'being averbing', and the lative as 'going averbing'. In this case, a subject that is averbing would be stationary, and one that is going averbing would be motionary. However, in causative utterances (or utterances of, say, seeing someone verbing) the causee (or the object) could easily be in the stationary, or motionary, depending on the aspect and tense and whatnot of the situation.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Detail #344: V2 to the Extreme

V2 is an interesting word order type, and as a speaker of a language with it (Swedish), I am interested at what happens sometimes when the brain exaggerates it by accident.

Swedish permits using intransitive verbs in a copula-like fashion more than English does. English permits similar things - e.g. 'stand tall' - but such examples are far fewer in English than in Swedish. Examples would include "he sits tired", "I went confused to my destination", etc. So basically, conflating both expressing something about physical position or movement as well as something about the state of the subject. 

I've noticed that I tend to overuse that construction to reduce the size of the NP to the left of the verb, and I think this is a result of V2 on overdrive.

However, the most extreme thing I've accidentally done is split coordinated NPs on the left and shifted the first half to a sentence-final position:
John brought wine Lisa and
Lisa and John brough wine.
I imagine one could take any syntactical feature of a language and exaggerate it in similar ways, have other syntactical features' use change to accomodate the exaggeration of such a trait, etc. I'd recommend looking at features of your native language (or any other language you know), and exaggerating that trait and having other traits pick up that slack. It'll definitely contribute to coming up with interesting conlanging ideas.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Detail #343: Places to Put Differential Case Markings

Differential case marking is something that to me is mainly associated with:
  • subjects and objects (c.f. Turkish or Finnish objects, Turkish subjects of some infinitive verb types; also, fluid-S languages kind of qualify for this!)
  • adpositions (Latin, German, Russian, Greek, etc prepositions)
  • some kinds of secondary subjects (e.g. the agent that is caused to do something with some types of causative constructions)
Conversely, the features I associate it with are:
  • negative vs. positive
  • aspect (telic vs. atelic, for instance)
  • direction vs. location (the adposition thing)
  • definiteness (Turkish object and (infinitive) subject marking)
  • volition (fluid-S)
  • in some Finnish causatives, "permit X to ..." vs. "have X do ...", so basically sort of volition again?
Could we go for some different things? For contexts where differential case could make sense, how about:
  • relative pronouns
  • resumptive pronouns
  • interrogative pronouns
  • reflexive pronouns pronouns
With relative and resumptive, we could consider for, say, subjects and objects, whether  the relative clause is restrictive or not. For interrogative pronouns, a relevant distinction could be analogous to what vs. which. For reflexives, maybe reflexive vs. reciprocal.