Sunday, February 18, 2018

Detail #371: Quirky Coordination

I previously posted a list of quirky things beyond case suggesting a few different places to place systematic quirks. So, I acquired the help of a bunch of rabbit mining engineers, just in order to figure out how deep the hole of quirkiness in grammars could go. For now, "quirkiness" is badly defined, and I am happy to leave it at that. I am happy as long as some kind of 'mismatching' is forced or required or permitted in some way or this mismatching permits some kind of differential marking. So, here's the first out of many weird ideas this line of thinking has lead me to:
Quirky Coordination
So, maybe in some circumstances, some given type of noun will trigger a case mismatch (or some other mismatch) in the coordinated structure. Even weirder, what if certain nouns force coordination even if the level is different? Let's imagine nouns for siblings and cousins force coordination whenever a pronoun also is a sibling of that NP.
Here, we can imagine some interesting distinctions:
I and brother = I met my brother
I and brother = I and my brother met (each other)
I brother = I met the brother (of someone else that is salient)
I brother = I and (someone else's) brother met
In a language with paucal and plural in the verb morphology, we could further, of course, introduce the same difference in the plural, with paucal signifying the more transitive, and the latter the more reciprocal reading. Of course, 'meet' need not be the only verb behaving this way, we could have it happen for every verb, so
I and my brother a story = I told my brother a story
Here, we can imagine that the siblings as proper subject would let personal pronouns go to object positions instead:
sister met me = my sister met me
However, we could also imagine a situation whereby even as a proper subject, family members also force pronouns into coordinated positions:
sister and I = my sister met me
I and sister = I met my sister

Thinking up situations where neither is the subject, we can of course imagine that the same rules go there, but object congruence on the verb or whatever distinguishes the way it is to be parsed. Maybe there is a role hierarchy where e.g. the noun or pronoun is moved to whatever position is higher in the hierarchy, or maybe the pronoun always forces the other noun to go wherever it is.

However, we can also imagine that this rule only applies for some spots: subjects, maybe objects and indirect objects. In other spots, the nouns remain in their usual positions:
I told the police about (my) brother
In such spots, maybe the distinction between my brother and someone else's brother is made non-mandatory, or maybe marked by means of possessive pronouns (or possibly reflexive pronouns if possible). Of course, in the language we're designing, "telling about" maybe has the told-about thing as a direct object, so it wouldn't work like this, so you're of course supposed to substitute in anything where an oblique appears, and we're golden.

Now, how about something like
the PR office favoured my sister over me
Such a language could easily permit for this kind of construction with regular NPs in a way similar to how English does it, but handle pronouns + these particular nouns like this:
the PR office favoured sister and not me
the PR office favoured me and not sister


the PR office favoured the computer scientist over the amateur
Of course, there's a whole lot of ideas that can be turned into binary decisions about which way to go once you start developing this idea, and documenting all of the potential choices would require a huge post, I think I stop here and leave further thinking to the reader.

ALSO, yay, just passed 3/4 of the way to a thousand posts! (And still leading over badconlangingideas in total post count, despite getting comparably few contributions from elsewhere! Is the race to a thousand posts on?)

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