Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ŋʒädär: Introduction to the Perfective side of the TAM system

Beyond the reduplication mentioned here, Ŋʒädär is rich in moods and aspects. Its tense system permits rather complicated things by auxiliaries, but for a clause without an auxiliary, there are two tenses: past and non-past, which are not distinguished in all moods. Auxiliaries are used for specific times such as 'yesterday', and in combination with aspect forms, obtain forms like 'until yesterday', 'since yesterday', 'intermittently a long time ago', etc.

Non-past is generally not marked by any morpheme, although a handful of verbs do get the marker -vul/vıl/vil/vül- in the inverse when the verb is non-past, instead of the usual marker. These are verbs of perception, of opinion, and of mental states in general. The morpheme originates with the noun *vurl that in Proto-ŊƷD signified the 'soul' of animals. The reason for this only appearing in the non-past tense may originate with some kind of belief that animal cognition did not much care about the past - that animals were more present-centered than man, and this fits with ideas about animal psychology in ŊƷD superstitions throughout the ŊƷD tribes.

The past is marked by a suffix after the aspect marker, but before the person marking. This suffix appears in the realis, optative and dubitative, and takes the form -(I)c'l(I)-.

Beyond this, we get the aspect system. The location of the aspect marker is immediately after the verb root, sometimes causing slight morphophonological alterations of the root itself. The perfective marker has somewhat merged with modal markers.

Perfective, realis:

After stops, this mutates into
Before velar sounds and -w-, the -l- is lost, and before -v-, it's lost while turning the -v- into -w-.  The -m-/-w- part can cause a variety of other things as well: -pw- and -tw- tend to become -kw-. -nm- becomes -m(:)- or -n(:)-. Depending on dialect, -wm- becomes -m(:)-.

Note: intrinsically perfect verbs do not take this marker, unless the perfectivity is emphasized.

Infinitives do not form perfectives by agglutination, but rather as phrases consisting of two infinitives, with the second infinitive being 'modan', which never appears in any inflected form (since it has been subsumed into the morphology of the finite verb.)

Perfective, optative:
After stops, this mutates into
-wUksA-, where if U = u, the w- further vanishes.
The -m(closed vowel)- part of these morphemes comes from a particle, 'mod', which was a reduction of the verb 'took' and came to signify perfectiveness. -ksA- comes from a similar particle, 'okta', which signified 'maybe'. The optative perfect is always intransitive. If the verb usually would be transitive, the perfect optative is understood as a passive.

Perfect, conditional
If followed by a morpheme beginning in a labial, this turns into -OlwO-.
The historical origin is a noun olob, signifying 'circumstance, case, chance, fate'.

Perfective, imperative:
-rOn (sg)
-rOndA (pl)
From the imperative form of the verb 'go'. The marker that exists in other related languages had been lost, and the auxiliary 'go!' slowly was merged into the verb morphology. Certain verbs have their own exceptional forms.

Perfective, dubitative
The dubitative marks things that are somewhat unsure. The historical origin is a suffix -EŋdzE, whose further origins probably lie in an assimilated auxiliary. The suffix now is -ŋŋE

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Detail #380: Stealing a Thing from Georgian but Refactoring it so It Applies to Nouns Instead

Consider a system of nouns with a rich derivational morphology, where a single root can be used for a variety of vaguely related concepts, e.g.
aras: 'a thing or person in some way related to return of an action'
arat: an opponent or an accuser
aras-in: answer
aras-uk: responsibility
aras-tab: resistance
aras-tuk: physical support or counter-force
v-aras-k: payment
at-aras: reaction
er-ras: a replacement
Now, one could imagine that in a variety of positions, these affixes are omitted, and I am going to go by the Georgian verb route and omit them in the least marked instance. For Georgian verbs, it's the present imperfective that omits semantically significant prefixes, but for these nouns, it will be the definite subject that does so.

Thus, an answer, an opponent, a responsibility or a payment all will be 'aras' in the definite nominative, and the rest of the morphemes appear in non-nominative contexts. How does this work out with regards to understandability?

Well, the verb itself will by sheer semantic content help the listener figure out what type of noun the subject can be in the first place. In such a language, it could help if the verb also encoded some information about the speaker's opinion of or relation to the subject.

Here, we could also imagine a situation wherein the personal pronouns also permit for a slightly richer semantic range than just persons, e.g. "I" also encoding for 'me and my family' or even things like 'these concerns of mine', 'my business', 'my past actions', 'my intentions' and such, just by means of what verbs one uses. Thus something like
"I worked out like planned"
would signify
my plans worked out like I planned
"I settled the new house"
works out as
me and my family moved into the new house
Different verbs would obviously need to have rather complicated associations.

An alternative way of designing this idea would conflate everything in the accusative instead (or even absolutive or ergative), and let the verb influence how to parse the object instead.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ŋʒädär: The Conditional

The conditional verb in Ŋʒädär (marked by -OlOb- directly on the stem) can be used for a variety of uses, even strictly indicative/realis uses. It has three main usages:

1. Irrealis / Conditional
The presence of -OlOb- on a verb is most commonly used to signal a conditional construction. Usually, both the protasis and apodosis are marked with -OlOb-, especially if they are of the same tense. However, if if the protasis is in the past, and the apodosis in the present, you sometimes only get -OlOb- on the protasis. The protasis often comes before the apodosis, but this is not mandatory. In the case of the protasis coming after, however, the postposition -ok'an is mandatorily suffixed to the verb or to a third person dummy obviative pronoun. Here, a slight indication that the irrealis is somewhat 'infinitive-like' appears.

2. Statements about VPs
What in English would be expressed as 'it is unfortunate/good/... that ..." would, in Ŋʒädär be constructed as
unfortunate/good/... VP (with V having -OlOb-)
An interesting difference is that for proper adjectives, use of the absolutive indicates that the statement is realis, whereas use of the complement case indicates that the statement is irrealis. For nouns, it is dative vs. complement, where the dative indicates realis. For "improper adjectives" (or adverbally inclined adjectives, see this), the distinction is maintained by omitting the absolutive marker in the realis, and the use of the complement case in the irrealis.

3. Denoting wishes and desires
If used in a statement with no apparent apodosis, and no apparent adjective or NP (or even other VP) to parse as qualifying the quality of the statement,  -OlOb- cannot be parsed as marking neither a condition nor a result, and will be parsed as expressing a desired circumstance.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Detail #379: Differential Object Marking with a Twist

Many languages have some type of differential object marking, even, arguably English, if we consider verb pairs like shoot x vs. shoot at x to be distinguished not by 'shoot at' being a phrase, but by the object phrase containing a preposition. In English, it gets a bit complicated due to being lexically determined to a great extent.

However, other languages have a more predictable system: Turkish, for instance, uses the nominative with indefinite objects, and accusative with definite objects. This is fairly simple. For a more complex system, let's look at ... Finnish. Now, I'm leaving out a truckload of details here.

Finnish uses the partitive whenever the verb is either of
  • atelic
  • negative
  • certain verbs just generally use it
 It uses the partitive whenever the verb is all of
  • telic
  • positive
This asymmetry between the two is sort of notable:

Now, let's imagine a language where the differential marking really serves to distinguish a three-valued thing, let's call the values A, B and C. This system only has two surface forms, however. Singulars merge B and C, plurals merge A and B.

However, we could imagine that a language may want to distinguish all three of these on, for instance, pronouns. And we can imagine a multitude of ways that this distinction is done: unique morphemes, reduplicated morphemes, change of roots or some more shenanigansy approach.

1. Unique Morphemes
Trivial, really. whereas regular nouns use two morphemes (whereof maybe one is a null morpheme), the pronouns have a unique case morpheme here.

2. Overlap Elsewhere
A bit like the previous, but here, the pronouns overload some other case here. Maybe the pronouns can use the genitive for direct objects to distinguish this third option, whereas regular nouns can't.

3. Reduplicated Morphemes
A bit like the 'unique' morphemes solution, but simply just have the accusative suffix go twice on the pronoun. A simple alternative would be to have both the accusative and the genitive combine to form this case.

4. Change of Roots
This is an obvious and simple solution, ... but. We can do something interesting about it. Much like the I-me suppletion in English, this would have a unique root involved. However, to make this interesting, we could have one of the object cases conflate several pronouns. For instance, maybe gender distinctions are fewer for the special root? Maybe number is not distinguished in third person? Or even in first person? Or hey, let's be radical and let's not distinguish first and second person at all!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Detail #378: An Unlikely Type of Numeral

Consider imprecise numbers. In normal usage, one can assume some leeway with the unstated digits, so e.g.
permits any number in the range [370.25, 370.35[. However, final zeroes offers a small problem here, as 370 can be imagined to be 37 * 10 or 37.0 * 10, giving us the following possible ranges:
[369.5, 370.5[
[365, 375[
A jargon for some mathematically inclined profession, or the language of a highly technological culture could potentially include these distinctions in their spoken numbers by having a significant zero. This significant zero would appear in the same kinds of constructions giving higher numbers as do regular numbers, with the exception that it only appears once, at the least digit position that is significant (not the least significant such). 

Thus, you'd get numbers like zeronty, zero hundred, zero thousand, and these would cut off the number at the desired level of precision.

The tens would in addition need two tens - one that is just ten, the other is ten and zero.

Thus ten thousand would signify 'ten +/- 500', 'ten and zero' would signify 'ten +/- 50', and ten thousand zeronty would signify ten thousand +/- 5, and finally 'ten thousand zero' would signify ten thousand +/- 0.5.

Smaller fractions could also be formed using the regular ways fractions are formed.