Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Detail #388: A Twist in Coordination and Gaps

Before getting to the main content of today, I'll give some updates about things I am working on:

Currently, I am working on three main conlanging-related projects, two of these being conlangs, the third being a tool for conlangers. The two conlangs, however, rely on the tool being workable, and it is as of yet in a bit of a planning stage. Until it is done, this blog will probably not be updated very often. Expect maybe half a year for the unveiling of the tool, depending on work, other hobbies and other inconveniences. Let's set a deadline at Hannukkah 5781. Another conlang-related tool is in the early early planning stages, but will probably not see the lights of day until 2021.

In addition, I am coding a microtonal pitch perception webapp; it is still in its early alpha test days (and due to getting a new, more challenging job and a dog last january, I have not had much time to update it over the last year or so, the alpha test period really got out of hand!)

Also, I've been doing a fair share of duolingo in recent months, and if you don't already use it, I would definitely recommend it!

But ... on to linguistics!

It is not unusual for languages to permit leaving a gap when coordinating things in some kind of subordinate construction:
I eat and _ sleep.
They both saw _ and heard you.
He spent some time in Germany and _ Austria.
You are a good singer, both with _ and without amplification.
 Now... we can imagine restrictions on this, and I am thinking of a few interesting ones.

1) Gender and Number Restrictions
One could imagine a restriction whereby any two nouns after a preposition need to be of the same gender and number - otherwise, the preposition needs to be repeated before the next noun(s).
This could even cut into subsets of the genders - one could require the same animacy as well. Also, some genders might be "closer" related to others, so e.g. masculine and neuter in German could maybe work?

2) Case 
This gets a bit trickier, and mostly applies in languages with a case system like that of conservative IE languages. The cases of both nouns have to have the same distribution in the paradigm. Here, I mean a rather odd sense of what a case is: a case is an ending. In Russian, the feminine dative has the same suffix as the feminine prepositional, and thus, they'd be the same case here - and maybe we could accept masculine prepositionals to coordinate with feminine prepositionals, because they take the same suffix as well. But masculine datives and feminine datives would be an odd mix, due to the masculine datives being distinct.

In the case of Russian, this would allow animate masculine nominatives and feminines to co-ordinate (because, although these are different suffixes, the suffixes have the same *distribution*), and it would let masculine and feminine instrumentals to co-ordinate, because their suffixes also have the same distribution.

Case, however, lets us also think about coordination of verbs and prepositions: only those that take the same type of case on their object can allow gaps over coordination.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Detail #386: A Gender-Based Quirk

Imagine a language with a gender system along the lines of German. Now, however, imagine that the society has gone through a quick but fairly successful modernization, where a formerly very strict division into 'female occupations' and 'male occupations' has over a generation or two become rather 'ideally equal' for some combination of those words. 

Ok, look, I am trying very hard not to take any stance in that debate. This is all set-up for a convoluted grammatical situation.

However, the titles associated with occupations persisted in the gender they previously had been associated with. So ... 

Sergeant is still masculine when it is a woman sergeant.
Secretary is still feminine when it is a male secretary.

Some limited examples of this can be found in Europe to this day, with some titles in French, for instance, only having masculine forms, and in some varieties of Swedish, sjuksköterska, "nurse", only having a grammatically feminine form.

However, the twist I am going for is one where pronominal binding still is lexically gender-based even when the gender of the particular person is known. When referring to Tim the secretary or Jenny the sergeant, the gender of the pronoun would follow the gender associated with the occupation.

However, when speaking of Tim or Jenny as persons having private lives and so on, they would get their expected pronouns.

This creates a situation where persons working in occupations associated with the other gender can get their professional person and their private person separated by pronouns, but people working in gender-typical occupations do not have this quirk available to them.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Detail #385: A Type of Letter Shape

I seldom have ideas about writing in this group, and I generally am not a very graphically oriented person. But I figured a language could have a few different types of letters:

positionwise absolute letters

The form of an positionwise absolute letter is predictable from its position in a word. Available positions might be script-specific: some language might distinguish initial from other, some may have initial, medial and final, some may have sentence-initial vs. others, etc. Some may have word-initial, second, and other, etc.

left- and right-outline adhering letters
Left-adhering letters shape their right side so at to adhere to the outline of the letter to their right. Thus, the curve or line simply doubles the neighbouring letter's left or right side. Say the J in "John" had a slight bulge to leave some space for the "o". (Of course, this idea can be turned 90 degrees for scripts that are vertical instead of horizontal.)

Edge cases might entirely be missing for these letters, or they behave in special ways at word boundaries - or there may be some placeholder letters for that situation.

dual-outline adhering letters
These only have some small medial detail and otherwise match the shapes of the left and right of the surrounding letters.

Letters that cross into other letters could of course be feasible, and their shape could be controlled by the properties of the other letter.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Detail #384: Making Adjectives more Dynamic

One word class that sometimes does not get all the love it deserves is adjectives. Sometimes, they are just made a special type of verbs (or barely even special, at that), and sometimes they are conflated with nouns.

I have previously suggested a language that splits them in two new classes but I imagine there may be other things to do with them.

Let's make something like cases but exclusively for adjectives, that operate separately from the cases of nouns.

Here's a few such cases:
1. Qualitative
The basic use of an adjective: tells us something about the noun. Can appear both as subject and complement:
I am hungry
the red house
2. Translative
Much like how this case is used in Finnish on both adjectives and nouns, it expresses a quality the noun acquires. Unlike in Finnish, however, this can mark an NP that is undergoing a transition due to the verb:
hungry-TRNSL wolf ran
the wolf ran (and therefore got hungry)
"the wolf ran itself hungry"
3. Terminative-translative
Like the translative, but restricts the verb's time span or aspect:
tired-TT man worked
the man worked until he got tired
4. Essive
Qualitative, but restricts timespans:
you can come to the new open-ess store
you can come to the new store when it's open

old-ess you can sleep
you can sleep when you're old
It can also inform about cause:
I hated the new loud-ess guitarist
 5.  Post-essive:
Marks 'after being', or direct cause:
small-PE you will have to pay taxes
I saw the shiny-PE clothing

Monday, October 21, 2019

Detail #383: Gender, First Person Pronouns and Reported Speech

Let's consider a language where even the first person singular pronoun is marked for gender. Now, this can provide an interesting situation with regards to reported speech.

Obviously, a person can report speech from a person of the same gender, or of the other gender. With the other gender, one could keep using the first person pronoun - but alter the gender marking - and still be entirely clear who one is speaking about.

With the same gender, however, one might be expected to replace first person pronouns with third person pronouns of the same gender.

Thus "She told me(masc) she doesn't like roses" comes out as "She told me(masc) I(fem) don't like roses", but "He told me he doesn't like her" comes out as "He told me he doesn't like her". 

Of course, one could permit for the ambiguous system where first person is used in both. One could of course also consider a system where first person in embedded contexts can be "restored" by reduplication:
a) he told me I-I don't know what I-I am talking about vs.
b) he told me I don't know what I am talking about
Where in a), it's me not knowing what I am talking about and in b) it's he who doesn't know.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Detail #382: Plurals, Gender and some Twists

In all of my conlangs this far, plurals have not distinguished gender on the morphosyntactical level (i.e. there's just "they", not a masculine-they and a feminine-they). The morphemes that form the plural nouns may well be somewhat gender-specific (but mostly in the nominative and possibly some other additional case), but syntactically, the languages don't care about gender once plurals are used.

In real languages, there are loads of languages that operate like that, but there's also languages that operate in a different way, and do distinguish plurals of feminines from plurals of masculines (or even greater systems). Sometimes, greater numbers of genders have some distinctions be conflated in the plural.

However, I was thinking of something that might exist in the world, but which I would be surprised if it does. For the sake of simplicity, I'll stick to a two-gender system: masculine and feminine.

Let's have three plural markers: masculine, mixed and feminine.
Now, consider a noun, and a noun for which we sometimes might have mixed-gender plurals. Let's go for, say, "person". Now, "male person" is obviously "man", and "female person" is "woman", so let's go for these words.
Now man+masc.plur means "men", man+mixed = "persons". Woman+fem.plur = women, women+mixed = "persons".
"Mixed" plurals are referred to by the pronouns of the gender of the lexeme onto which the suffix is added, so "man+mixed" would get the masculine pronoun.

Now for the twists: some words lack forms! Some words use the other gender's root with the three suffixes. Some words have a separate suppletive root for one, two or all three of these. Some words just cross the lines: the masculine plural of "shaman" is based on the feminine root, and the feminine plural is based on the masculine root (this might be to confuse evil spirits). On some words, the morphemes are out of whack - "mixed" might mean either feminine or mixed, or masculine or mixed, depending on the lexeme. And finally, for some nouns, the "regular" suffix might also include the mixed meaning, while the "mixed" morpheme is not used at all.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Detail #382: Restrictions on Reflexives

Soo... I encountered a phrase from somewhere that launched some thoughts.

You dare try to control Aughra? Aughra can barely control Aughra!
Apparently an old-timey meme from Dark Crystal. I started thinking about reflexives, and in this case, my intuition is that since it's a person speaking of herself in the third person it would be really weird if there was a reflexive pronoun there.

Basically, my conclusion is: nouns that actually have first person referents cannot be referred to by reflexive pronouns, but will prefer to take the whole noun anew.

One could imagine other similar restrictions, with a variety of justifications. Let's have some ideas:

1. Types of Conditioning Factors
The following factors seem like reasonably likely to restrict permissibility of reflexives:
  • Animacy. It may seem weird to think of inanimate things acting upon themselves? 
  • Certain types of verbs may not permit reflexives due to the normal reflexive meaning being too unrealistic. In such cases that the reflexive meaning indeed is intended, some more cumbersome construction where other verbs combine to form the intended meaning are required.
  • The referent of the noun. The English example above is weird - a proper noun that is coreferent with the first person singular pronoun - but similar restrictions based on some notion of courtesy may exist.
2. Types of  resolution
  • The animacy restriction could easily be resolved by making the inanimate noun the object of either a subjectless verb, the subject of a passive verb or the object of a verb with a dummy subject. Repeating the noun might also be reasonable.
  • Repeating the noun seems reasonable with courtesy-based restrictions, but one might also use some kind of smaller set of nouns that can refer to the same person: titles, for instance.
  • Where the verb is the restricting factor, one might imagine separate verb phrases added after a conjunction that take the reflexive marker ('the man helped it, did for himself' where it is a dummy pronoun), or again, the use of nouns that share referents ('his majesty helped the king'). Here, some extra marking would be needed whenever ambiguities arise, but words such as 'the same' or 'the other' probably would be available.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Detail #381: Zero-Copula and Zero-Have with some Animacy Hierarchies and Noun Class Considerations Thrown in

Let's consider a language where
Tiffany boss
means 'Tiffany is (a/the) boss' , but
Tiffany skateboard
means 'Tiffany has a skateboard'.

What could be the strategies that differentiates the two?

1. Semi-Word Classes
Even if the language conflates, say, adjectives and nouns, certain nouns will sort of tend to be applicable to things in a very general way - e.g. if colours are expressed as nouns (or nominal adjectives), it seems as though 'red(noun)' could refer to things of a whole lot greater range of variation than 'tractor' could. If it turns out a noun is statistically very likely to be used as an attribute, we could consider it "more adjectivey" than nouns that are less likely to appear as attributes. The more adjectivey a noun, the more likely it is to be understood as something that the person is rather than has. However, of course, in certain contexts
Tiffany cold
might signify that Tiffany has a cold one. Maybe when describing what she and her colleagues are drinking at after-work, in parallel with others:
Jean irish coffee, Lisette mulled cider, Tiffany cold.

For some nouns, there may not even really exist a difference in parsing:
John is sick
John has sick(ness)
The parenthesis is mainly there to show that for that particular adjective-noun, there's no difference between the abstract notion of 'disease' and the quality of being sick, or being a sick person. Again, parallel constructions could break this parsing:
Sean healthy son and John sick
 Sean has a healthy son, but John has a sick one.
2. Noun Classes and Animacy Hierarchies
Nouns of the same 'class' are parsed as 'be' rather than 'have', unless there are syntactical or contextual reasons not to. (See 4). Words close together on the animacy hierarchy are considered 'be'-words unless there are semantic clashes:
John husband: John is a husband
Patricia husband: Patricia has a husband
For some words where some kind of symmetry is implied, both ways of parsing kind of pass:
Lyndon friend: Lyndon is a friend, Lyndon has a friend
Regardless of the parsing, if Lyndon has a friend, he also probably is a friend of that friend.

3.  Abstract nouns depend on the concept itself and the subject: take 'guilt', for instance.
police guilty: police (have) the guilty one (in jail)
suspect guilty: the suspect is guilty
man guilty: depends on the man!
4. Things that 'force' a different parsing:

With symmetrical structures - "friend", for instance - some kind of reflexive marking or other transitivity marking could potentially "steer" the meaning in a less symmetric direction. This could also go for less symmetric things like husband/wife: John refl-poss husband: John has a husband.

With abstract nouns, pronouns could break the implicit 'bond' that affects meaning:
police he guilt: the police is guilty
suspect refl-poss guilt: the suspect has (apprehended?) the guilty part
man he guilt: the man is guilty
man refl-poss guilt: the man has the guilty one
The same structure also probably could override differences in the animacy hierarchy. This also gives a great reason to sometimes double a pronoun:
he guilt: ambiguous
he he guilt: he is guilty
he refl-poss guilt: he has the guilty one

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Sargaĺk: Mistaken Ideas about Biology

The gender of certain nouns in Sargaĺk showcase that biology and grammatical gender sometimes are mismatched. Several genderless animals have nouns for both genders. No regard is given to whether there actually are gender distinctions in the actual species, and sometimes the speakers have misconstrued what particular traits characterize the genders.
saləb a small common species of worm (masc)
saluta a small common species of worm (fem)
kaxar tadpole (masc)
ipxaž tadpole (fem)
Many tadpoles in the Sargaĺk area only differentiate by gender after reaching the (almost) mature stage.
karč scallop, oyster (masc)
əltas scallop, oyster (fem)
the gender distinction is made by the colour of the shell, which has no actual implication visavis the actual gender of the oysters of the Sargaĺk world. However, different communities may map the colours to genders in different ways.

sreb snail (masc)
srewta snail (fem)

tirs slug (masc)
tirast slug (fem)

əktəl a slightly larger species of worm (masc)
əkta a slightly larger species of worm (fem)
k'ets a type of crayfish (masc)
k'enast a type of crayfish (fem)
The Sargaĺk do not eat this particular crayfish because it's poisonous. However, they assume small claws imply feminine gender, which is not entirely accurate.

inis ant (fem)
inast a different, slightly larger species of ant (masc)

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bryatesle: Adpositions vs. Location and some thoughts on Subjecthood and Adpositions

I will be talking about a technical notion of subject for a lot of this post, but at times, I will need to also refer to a less technical notion of subject. Not quite topic, since it's clearly not a role that can be filled by any old NP, nor necessary is it the topical NP. It rather is some vague notion of the quality that distinguishes the NP which in some way is active, whose state or change thereof the verb describes or whose active part in the interaction with some other NP or itself is expressed by the verb. Subjects are defined by certain subjecthood tests, but would almost all exhibit that vague notion (except maybe the subjects of passive verbs), but not all nouns that exhibit these vague notions are strict subjects, nor would pass subjecthood tests.

I will call any NP that carries these vague notions - including proper subjects - subjectids, and any subjectid that is not a subject is a subjectoid.

Proto-BDS did not strictly speaking have grammatical subjects, and their evolution in all the daughter languages showcases traces of the pre-subject state of the language. This statement requires a rather technical notion of what a subject even is, but for now, let's look at what NPs in Bryatesle with any kind of certainty are proper subjects, starting at the most certain:
1st and 2nd person pronouns that trigger verb congruence
proper nouns pertaining to humans that trigger verb congruence
These are, in all analyses, beyond doubt  as far as subjecthood goes.
Third person pronouns with human referents that trigger verb congruence are almost certain to be subjects as well
Here, congruence only really helps determine those cases where explicit congruence is present, e.g. plurals or non-neuters. (The neuter congruence is in fact a kind of zero congruence, as can be seen with the many instances where a verb gets neuter congruence despite no neuter argument being present).

A verb lacking a subject does not necessarily signify that no one or nothing is doing that, or even that who- or whatever is doing is not present in the clause. It simply means there is no noun phrase present with certain syntactical properties - it cannot control reflexives, it cannot undergo certain syntactical operations, it cannot be relativized, etc.

Now, this lax subjectness can be seen with inanimate masculine or feminine subjects:
winteryouaccRESLTkill3sg neuter

winter will kill you
The non-subjectness of aryk, winter, is not obvious from the example above, but  if we change the structure of the clause a bit we find for instance, the following permissible construction:
ark-ity tëk-u të-tyrn-ai

winterABLyouACCRSLTkill3sg neuter
winter will kill you
It turns out most inanimate nouns can be somewhat subject-like even in the ablative and dative cases.

A similar lack of subjecthood even occurs with intransitive verbs, and we find, for instance, that verbs like 'cease, end', 'begin' or 'last' basically can take an inanimate subjectoid in any case, but is more picky with the case marking on animate subjects. Plural animates may also behave as subjectoids at times, and this seems to correlate with the extent to which the plural animates act as a group or as a bunch of independent agents. Funnily enough, the 'independent agents' end of the spectrum behaves more like inanimate subjectoids than like animate subjects; it seems there is, among Bryatesle speakers a sense that the less internally organized a plural NP is, the less it is like an animate NP.

Neuter nouns fall even lower, however, on the rank of animacy, than inanimate feminine and masculine nouns, and it seems this is the reason why a separate ergative construction has emerged specifically for them. The assumption has been so strong when parsing that a neuter noun is an object if the verb is not intransitive. We shall divert our attention for a while to the formation of the ergative case:

Neuter nouns, when subjects of transitive verbs, take a masculine nominative pronoun as a particle. This pronoun is somewhat phonologically reduced, and comes immediately before the noun. Adjectives preceding the noun mark masculine congruence.

A piece of evidence that quirky case subjectoids are proper subjects in Bryatesle emerge in some dialects: quirky case neuter noun subjects of ~transitive verbs in fact also take the masculine pronoun – in some dialects in the appropriate quirky case, in some only the noun (and adjectives!) are marked for the appropriate quirky case. This could arguably be called 'quirky ergative case'.

Now that we have looked at the notions of subjectids and subjectoids, let's delve further into a different relation that oftentimes is one between two nouns; that encoded by adpositions. An adposition can relate not just a verb to a noun, e.g. telling the location of a verb's occurrence, but also of nouns related to that verb, or even more specifically, telling us about the location or direction of a noun. Like with subjectids, we sometimes get nouns displaced from their adposition, either due to them being fronted as topics, or due to some other noun being more strongly attracted to the adposition. Maybe we could name this relation anchors in lack of any better term. We get a similar set of anchors, anchoroids, anchorids. 

The oblique/obliquid/obliquoid generally sort of is analogous to the object of a verb phrase, but sometimes, an adposition also has something similar to a subject as well - e.g. in simple statements of where something is - "John is in Western Papua". In English - and mostly in Bryatesle - such NPs are not just similar to subjects, they are subjects. However, we do get situations where the notional subject of the adpositional phrase is not the subject of the VP:
I put the bottles in the refrigerator
The children found berries in the forest
Bryatesle has a tendency of not wanting to have the topic be the object of an adposition, but it also has a tendency of not wanting to have adpositions without NPs. Thus, if we were to topicalize 'refrigerator', we would get the following transformations:
I put [bottle.acc.] [[refrigerator.dat.def] in]
refrigerator.dat.def I [put bottle.acc] [[_____(.dat.def)] in]
refrigerator.dat.def I [Ø →] [[put bottle.dat] in] 
Secondary case is not as closely tied to morphosyntax as primary case is, and so does not carry over, whereas the primary case is morphosyntactical in nature, and therefore the erstwhile 'subject' of the postposition now does adopt the case the object previously had, but usually remains on the left-hand side of the adposition.

In some sense, verbs and objects behave in a similar manner here: verbs push certain types of subjectids away from being actual subjects, but rather some kind of oblique argument with subject-like properties. Somethings, postpositions push anchorids away from being anchors and into being oblique objects with anchor-like properties.

However, looking at it from a different direction they seem very different:
Verbs permit non-subject subjectoid nouns to be parsed as agents, and do not require syntactic gaps to be filled. Postpositions do not permit gaps, but permit anchors to become objects in order to fill them.

This treatment is probably a bit too technical, but this should be read as a policy statement rather than an actual grammatical treatment. This is a post clearing up some of my thoughts on this issue, attempting to form a coherent idea of the Bryatesle subjects

Monday, June 24, 2019

Bryatesle: Comparison (An Introduction)

Bryatesle has some interesting uses of its case system with regard to comparison. It sort of falls in several categories: it has both fixed case and derived case. The fixed case is of a locative type, viz. the ablative. Strictly speaking, though, the Bryatesle ablative is only marginally locative, so we can pretend that this is not comparison of the locative type at all.

In line with not considering it a locative type, the verbs used are not of a locational nature, i.e. 'grow', 'hold', 'continue, keep doing', 'cease, run out', ''. The quality may be a finite verb in a subordinate syntactical position, a noun or an adjective after the contextual preposition ('du') or a more complex predicate.

In addition to the ablative case, the secondary subject or reciprocal object or partitive case will be further applied to the compared nouns, depending on what is being compared.

The comparative clauses generally begin with the verb that signals comparison, one out of the following:
seler ('grow', atelic)
tuzla ('remain', atelic)
agza ('continue', no specific telicity, and the telicity morphology shifts in different persons)
symta ('win, "beat"', telic)
If the subject is compared, the verb will be congruent with it, but if some other NPs are compared, this verb will invariantly be 3 p. sg. n. This reduces the possibility of distinguishing the two with 3 sg. n. nouns.

Congruent examples:
Selei Talim Aris-ëta-nisr valm selei
grow Talim from-Aris-2nd_subj old reach
Talim is older than Aris
Selei Aris Talim-ity-nirs perxai
grow Aris Talim-abl-2nd_subj hear_3sg
Aris hears (more) than Talim
Implicit superior quantities or qualities of comparison
Seler Aris ard-ë-sus perxai
grow Aris doctrine-acc-recipr.obj. hear
Aris hears (more) than the (explicit) doctrine
With no object or other complement, the verb 'seler' signifies increase in the quantity or quality:
Seler Aris tasdai
Aris knows more (now than before?)
With 'tuzla' instead:
tuzler Aris tasdai
It would imply  that Aris knows more than he lets on, or has told us.

Cross-cutting comparison
Cross-cutting comparison is when the comparanda are not of the same type. In English, we could go for something like 'Elrem is the chieftain of more people than the number of people that hate Avkir".

I have not been able (in, admittedly, a short time) to come up with any smooth English examples. Bryatesle's comparison system handles these systems using two separate systems woven together: a resumptive pronoun approach, and the secondary case system.

Tuzla Elrem kjevam-dureh resren-isr ka tërsi tekjëz raga-rsi-nyx Avkir-ak  tejleis
remain Elrem many-abl chieftain*-2nd-sub gives
they-them.part people-pl.abl.-2nd-subj Avkir-acc  hate-3pl
Elrem give from many chieftain, they exceed the people who hate Avkir.
We also find here a special use of the verb 'give', signifying 'to be something to someone'. The complement might, due to the complex clause structure, actually omit the secondary subject marking that otherwise is common for this particular meaning.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Detail #380: A New Spot For Alignment

I recently came across this, a post whose content I am not really going to comment (due to the feeling that I don't know enough about this particular topic.) However, it sparked an idea in my mind:

Why not make an alignment-like system with regards to symmetrical vs. reciprocal actions? Some verbs could imaginably only take one or the other type, and here we could get an interesting set of situations:
  • verbs that are exclusively symmetrical
  • verbs that are exclusively reciprocal
  • verbs that can be either one or the other
Let's use s and r for arguments of exclusively s/r verbs, and S and R for verbs that can take one or the other. The way any particular marking works may differ from the way others are marked: reciprocal pronouns with differential object marking distinguishing different meanings, verbal affixes, particles, auxiliaries, adverbs, etc.
Potential solutions:

Trivial bipartite:
s = S
r = R

Asymmetrical bipartite:
s = S = r


s = R = r

Unhelpful bipartite (unlikely)
s = r
S = R

Tripartite I
s = r

Tripartite II
s = S


r = R

Diagonal Tripartite (unlikely)
s = R


S = r

Unhelpful Tripartite (unlikely)
S = R

Quadripartite (unlikely)
s S
r R
One thing that feels realistic, though, is that for some verbs, you may also have occasional exceptions like so:
Exceptional Marking I
S' = R
R' = other way that coincides with some other thing in the language?
The ' there marks that these are exceptionally marked ones, and that the "R" on the right hand of the equals mark stands for the marking, not the meaning.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Detail #379: Inverse Alignment of an Unusual Type

I think I promised to stop doing alignment things a good while ago, but I am like some kind of addict I guess with regards to alignment.

So, ... let's consider participles. Let's assume participles are uniformly created by affixing some morpheme onto the verb stem. All verbs form their participle this way.

Let us reuse English words, and create the morphology as we go. The participle marker might be -b.

run - runeb
go - goeb
live - liveb
do - doeb
take - takeb
Now we run into the inverse alignment bit, and here we get the unusual twist. Instead of having an animacy hierarchy, we have each verb having a preferred voice. 

'Take', for instance, might prefer active, 'catch' might prefer passive. This is not so much regarding what one is likely to be doing, or even close to an animacy hierarchy, but close to which sense is likely to be used. You are more likely as a hunter-gatherer, for instance, to catch things and talk of things you've caught, than you are to talk of things that are catching things.

The inverse marker then would be a separate morpheme altogether, maybe at the opposite end of the word from the participle morpheme. It could also serve some other role in finite verbs (say, aspectual or temporal or some kind of congruence-like thing?) 
Let's imagine the inverse morpheme is a prefix: en-.
taking: takeb
taken: entakeb

caught: catcheb
catching: encatcheb
Now we get to a part where we can start varying our approach: intransitives. Maybe they're split? Maybe the split is a differential way of marking things (e.g. volition), or maybe it's lexically split.

Maybe intransitives exclusively use the marker that normally marks inverse? So now you'd get
enrun, engo
Just some thoughts.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

An Entirely Unrelated Thing

I mentioned a while ago two life changes that conspire to keep me posting a bit less; indeed, the two changes keep doing so, and due to the nice perks of my new job, I also got a third life change: I've started working out. So that also keeps me a bit occupied, but I think it might be good for the mental faculties in the long run and thus probably will be beneficial for my creativity as well.

However, what I really wanted to mention - and this is a thing I intended to do way back but forgot about in all the every day hassle - is the instagram account of one of the life changes. For readers who are so inclined, meet Oswald the tibbie.

Currently, I am really thinking a lot about my main big conlangs, and this is also reducing the posting frequency significantly. Trying to figure out how to make Bryatesle, Sargaĺk and Dairwueh descend from a single proto-language – and the same for Ŋʒädär and Ćwarmin - does take quite an effort, and developing them all simultaneously also takes some thinking.

Finally, a personal project I've been doing for a while, and which I intend to make into a full-fledged, uh, thing, is my microtonal pitch perception and theory exercise webapp. Currently it is in an alpha stage, and the sound only works on firefox and edge (maybe safari?). Future features will be:
  • persistent states (i.e. it will remember where you left)
  • better sound that also works in chrome
  • a better menu system
  • a login system
  • the app will gather stats about progress in order maybe to be able to improve the exercises to have a better effect?
  • achievements
  • more content, esp. with regards to chord progressions
  • Just Intonation, well-temperaments, more equal temperaments
    • Just Intonation will almost necessitate some type of hexagonal key layout as an option in addition to the piano-based layouts
  • some generative content
  • some ability for the users to generate their own exercises
  • The basic engine also seems rather well-suited for some kind of 'microtonal scale and chord encyclopedia' type of use.
I figure the microtonal pitch perception exercise thing may be of some interest to conworlders. However, I am also interested in hearing feedback! Known issues at the time are:
  • sound engine timing
  • sound quality in general
  • navigability
So, don't complain about those quite yet ...  they're under work.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Nominative Plural Bryatesle

Plural Nominatives

Finally, the one remaining case form in Bryatesle. We have seen some patterns in the previous post about the nominative, and some of these provide us with the nominative plural. Going through the classes schematically, we get:
singular syncretisms implying parallel syncretisms

nom sg
voc sgnom pl voc pl
for one noun in this wider class, knavum, there is a dat pl syncretism, but this is basically the only exception to the rule. Tunsïm is a different exception, with even more syncretism thrown in.
nom sg excl sg(nom pl (excl pl or acc pl))
nom sg acc sg → nom pl acc pl
nom sg
dat sg → nom pl dat pl

For these, do not read AB as a commutative thing, read it rather as 'A is formed using the same morphological suffix as B'. I opted for the symbol '≡' in order that the reader realize that there is some non-standard notations in place. It is also important to note that these are implications, not equivalences, A → B does not imply B → A.*

* Talking about implications not implying something might feel a bit weird if you are not used to reasoning about logic. "A implies B" is essentially the same as "If A is true, then also B will be true", but says nothing about B in case A is not true - if "A implies B" holds and "A is false" holds, we do not know whether B is true or not, or in this rather prescriptive situation, the truth of B cannot be ascertained from the given information.
singular-plural syncretism
Some neuter nouns have a singular-plural nominative syncretism. With the exception of nayga (pine cone), these end in consonants. Thus we can't really say that there exists any specific nominative (singular or plural) suffix for these nouns.

Now that the weirder nouns have been dealt with, we can look at the vanilla regulars. There is some level of "mild" irregularity going on even here, though. Beyond these, some loans from Dairwueh keep their plural nominative for about a generation or two, at least among the intelligentsia. The situation is not entirely similar to Latin in English, since the two languages are in a rather different relationship: both are quite likely at any given moment to be the dominant language of the area.
regular masculine plurals
A large number of masculine nouns have, in the singular, nominative suffixes in free variation. In the standard language, this situation does not obtain in the plural, but some tendencies exist that connect the singular and plural, along the following lines, where the higher up a rule is, the higher it ranks (i.e., a noun for which the suffixes {-a, -i} appear in the singular, the {-a, ...}-rule will be applied.
{-u, -y} → -yri (tho' some -iri or -ere also appear)
{-a, ...} → -ere
{-i, ...} → -ini, sometimes -uny (mainly after velars)
{-e, ...} → -ini, sometimes -uny (mainly after velars)
Nouns ending in a consonant tend to have -ere as plural nominative suffix as well.

In dialects, simplified systems exist (-iri or -ere for all), as well as systems with multiple permissible allomorphs (often in less elaborate systems than in the singular). Common consonants in the masculine plural suffixes are -r, -n, -l and -z. Atnel Bryatesle, however, has masculine (and neuter) plural suffixes with -k or -t in them, likely originating with a different particle in PBD than the particles giving rise to the standard set of suffixes.
regular feminine plurals

The most common regular plural feminine nominative suffixes are
-a, -(V)l, -(V)r/-r(V)
The feminine nouns ending in consonants all are somewhat irregular:
ib, ebel (eye)
sud, sadal (hub)
tsyl, tsular (feather) (dissimilation of -al following -r-)
The feminine plural nominative morpheme depends on the singular nominative morpheme according to this pattern:
-a → -al (dissimilated as -ar)
-i → -ir (dissimilated as -il)
-y → -yr (dissimilated as -il)
-e → -er (after a stem ending in -l, comes out as -ur)
mxera , mxeral ointment
nanmi, nanmir hook
tapsy, tapsyr birthmark
mekse, mekser mare
xable, xablur spear
 Occasional exceptions exist; some former hiatus situations have come out as follows:
...ai, ...ail → ...a, ...il
ya, ...yal → ...e, ...al
ue, ...uel → ...ve, ...ul
Some historical examples of these have been hit by analogy and rendered similar to the regular plurals, but some regular plurals have also hit and been turned into examples of these patterns.
Examples (with + marking examples that have appeared due to analogy):
gara, garil (bread roll)
rame, ramal (standard-sized wooden container for salted fish)
+nime, nimal (a flute)
sepe, sepul (grass turf)
gyle, gylar (chopsticks)
+rile, rilar (small drinking vessel)

regular neuter plurals
Regular neuter nouns form their plural by suffixes -veku or -uku. If the final syllable of the stem carries stress (or secondary stress), -uku is used. Otherwise, -veku is used. (This is not entirely true, the truth is "if the final syllable carried stress before the -ve- → -u- reduction in unstressed syllables, it is -uku", however, the previously stated rule of thumb will almost always be accurate, but does account for some dialectal differences. This rule has one absolute consequence, however: monosyllabic neuters always have plurals with -uku. A secondary development that has a similar outcome is -veku after consonant clusters becoming -uku. Here, ' marks stress, appearing before the stressed syllable)
ran-uku wool socks
min-uku fox pelts
tert-uku pebbles
'baset-veku mushrooms
ti'rik-uku straws
'tegarks-uku branches
a'gixn-uku riches

Monday, April 22, 2019

Detail #394: A Type of Discongruent Adjectives

I might have had this idea before?

Some adjectives have congruence with a perceiver rather than with the NP it describes. These adjectives convey the mental effect the quality of the NP has on the perceiver.


beautiful*-masc.def woman
a woman who a particular man finds beautiful

deep-masc.indef river.def
a river that is deep to a man

Now, we could maybe introduce a way of deriving these, so e.g. "tired" could mean both 'tired' and 'tiring (for X)', maybe simply by double marking?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Syntax and Semantics of Gender in Dairwueh, Bryatesle and Sargaĺk

In the DBS family of languages, gender/noun class, much like in Indo-European, Semitic, Northeast Caucasian and Bantu languages, is an important feature that has remained present over a long span of time. Only one dialect of Sargaĺk has lost the gender system, viz. Inraj Sargaĺk, which has done so under strong influence from a gender-less substrate.

For a conlanger, it's very easy to say 'my conlang has so-and-so many genders' without thinking much about the semantics of the system. This is a post that tries to set a different tone.

Syntactical and Morphosyntactical Properties of Gender
In both Dairwueh and Sargaĺk, there is an independent morphology for adjectives and pronominal determiners that conveys agreement with the head noun. This congruence extends to adjectival complements of verbs, and may also affect verb congruence.

Sargaĺk seems to have an innovative feature in its having dropped the neuter, shifting the nouns over to masculine and feminine.

In Bryatesle, syntactically gender only affects pronouns and determiners, and to a limited extent verbs: neuters and non-neuters have different verb forms in the third person. Morpohologically it also has a strong effect on the morphology of nouns.

Only Sargaĺk retains the gender distinction in the plural.

The obvious semantic split in the gender system of all three is one corresponding to biological sex. However, this only applies to humans: the biological sex of 'generic' animals does not strongly correlate with the gender used. In part, this disconnect has a practical epistemological basis: if you see a horse in the distance, you may not be able to tell what sex it is. (And indeed, animals for which it is likely that a speaker can distinguish the sexes, it is more likely that no generic noun at all exists. This especially holds for some tamed birds, some livestock and dogs, but also in the case of Sargaĺk with regards to some really huge seals.)
When speaking of individuals of the species you either have morphological devices for clarifying the sex of the generic noun, or gender-specific nouns at your disposal.

In Bryatesle and Dairwueh, there also exists a neuter gender. It would be easy to say the neuter gender is for inanimates, but this does not hold; the only strict rule in regard to the neuter is that it does never refer to humans.
For many of the tendencies described here, conflicting tendencies sometimes appear due to the Sargaĺk gender system.

The animals that are neuters are generally not very well "respected" - in both Bryatesle and Dairwueh there's a surprising agreement: certain small predators that kill poultry, stinging insects (except the bee in areas where beekeeping is practiced), frogs, lizards, snakes, and inedible tiny kinds of fish.

Regarding inanimate things, it turns out that there is a rather elaborate distribution between the genders: nouns that provide a context tend to be of the same gender as the gender associated with the context - i.e. men and fishing boats in all of the languages, women and the house in all these languages. A context mostly is a place (natural or a building), or something within which a person can be and act. However, any prevalent and topical tool smaller than a boat is likely to be of the opposite gender (but also possibly neuter in Dairwueh and Bryatesle), whereas objects that appear in many contexts tend to have a rather equal distribution over the available genders. Thus, the hammer is feminine, the spinning wheel is masculine, a net is feminine, a bread paddle is masculine.
teməri ( hammer, feminine )
yənera ( spinning wheel, masculine )
muliri ( net, feminine )
eskəna (bread paddle, masculine )
demby ( hammer, feminine )
yinvinu ( spinning wheel, masculine )
nvuly ( net, feminine )
iska ( bread paddle, masculine )

This distribution probably has emerged to increase the likelihood that a thing and a person spoken about will be of distinct genders, and thus have distinct pronouns. In the case of Dairwueh and Bryatesle, of course, the use of neuters facilitates distinct references to an additional noun if it happens to be neuter.

This also extends to verb nouns: a verb noun that is associated with women will generally be masculine (or neuter), and vice versa, thus
gistas ( breastfeeding, masc )
zexnas ( cooking, masc )
bagrasi ( the act of hunting, fem )
vyrnasi ( participation in a battle, fem )
from the verbs
gistër, gistai, breastfeed
rexnër, zexnai cook
begrer, bagrai hunt
vyrner, vyrnai fight a battle
In both D and B, verb nouns that are not particularly associated with either of these genders tend to go with neuter, but so do verb nouns that are associated with non-human subjects regardless of gender.

1. Size
Things of extreme sizes - very small or very big - tend to be neuter. In Sargaĺk, they tend to be masculine unless they have some kind of cultural prominence, in which case they may be feminine. If there is a progression of sizes (e.g. mountain - hill, river - ditch, tree - bush).
burts - mountain
xyles - snowflake
- valley
sarn - the sky
lyvmat - the world
mal - a grain of sand
nibit - a drop
yfir - a louse
ebik - a birthmark
ryts - a scale (of fish or reptiles)
sinis - a very tiny amount
pəltən - mountain
- a valley
xorm -
the night sky
- the world
ʒiks - the 'details' in a coarse surface
nəf - a drop
ifrəl - a louse

2. Edibility
The more edible a thing is, the more likely it is to be neuter (or in Sargaĺk, masculine). Flavour, nutrition and texture all are factors in this. Live animals are obviously an exception to this. Things that are entirely outside of the scope of even consideration for edibility are not affected by this tendency.

An inedible root or plant is likely to be feminine, as is animal considered to be inedible.

3. Social roles and professions
In all these languages, nouns denoting social roles and professions will follow the gender they are most closely associated with, even if the particular referent is of a different sex: thus, it is grammatically ok in all of these languages to say something like
she is a fisherman
he is a seamstress
However, pronouns that are not determiners will adhere to sex.

In Bryatesle, there is an analogous extension in the function of buildings of different types (i.e. a wooden hut used for storage or for living in or for doing some kind of work in). A storage room for firewood is a
which is masculine , but if the building is a 'hut', it is a  
which is feminine. In this case, the 'actual sex' of the building follows the building type rather than the building 'profession', and so you could have a feminine pronoun referring to an yvalk, if it is known that the yvalk is a sira.

Named buildings also have genders, which tend to be building-specific.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Formation of the Singular Nominative in Bryatesle

I have this far evaded discussing the formation of the nominative case in Bryatesle. Even in the tabular representation of the nominal morphology, the nominative column basically consists of varied all the way down, for both singular and plural. The feminine vocative likewise is varied.

It is now time to take a closer look at the singular part of this, with some early hints about the plural nominative as well. There are a few important phenomena we will encounter: a) case syncretism, b) free variation, c) lexically determined allomorphy, d) zero marking.

A phenomenon we'll also encounter is that of me not having planned the format very much ahead of time, and as I wrote this over several months of time, the format for lexical entries varies over the scope of the post, and I will not go and fix that.

I've spent a lot of time on this and there's a risk there's inconsistencies. Currently I feel that if I do not commit to this now, I'll never post it, so here goes.

There is some amount of free variation for a bunch of nouns, with several masculines having, for instance, one of these sets of permissible suffixes:
{-a, -e, -u} or {-e, -i, -ε} or {-i, -u}
as a common set of permissible masculine nominative suffixes for a bunch of nouns. However, some nouns have more restricted sets.

A final word before getting into the actual nitty-gritty on the case morphology of the nominative is that nearly all nouns adhere to the table here insofar as secondary case markers go.

Note: is the empty string, which usually is to be taken as 'no suffix on the stem'. The stem usually will end in a consonant in Bryatesle. may appear in several of the paragraphs below.

Historical linguistics of the situation

It is conceivable that the Sargaĺk-Dairwueh-Bryatesle proto-language had an alignment similar to that of Sargaĺk, viz. subjects of ditransitive verbs had a distinct case (called the 'pegative'), whereas all the other core NPs of ditransitive, transitive and intransitive verbs were in a default 'absolutive' case. The absolutive was not necessarily unmarked, but may have had morphemes correlating with the gender of the noun. It seems that a system of three genders was already in place by the proto-language.

Bryatesle and Dairwueh quickly shed the pegative case, but traces of the alignment can still be found: mainly nominative-accusative syncretism and nominative-dative syncretism in the case of Bryatesle. A nominative-accusative alignment has emerged, with a few ergative traces. The ergative subsystem in Dairwueh likewise might have emerged out of a similar tension with regards to the pegative alignment of the proto-language. A secondary complication is that for some nouns, the pegative form was in such prevalent use that it eventually became the nominative.

The nom-vocative and nom-exclamative syncretisms are harder to explain historically, but potentially, some semantic explanations can be posited: things that relatively often are invoked may receive the vocative or exclamative as their nominative through semantic bleaching of the voc/excl case suffixes.

Patterns in All Genders

All genders have examples where case syncretism between the nominative and some other case occurs. This is most thoroughly present in the neuter, where case syncretism with the accusative is near-universal. However, some 'extensions' exist there as well: the same syncretisms that occur in the masculine and feminine can occur in the neuter, but will extend the syncretism to the accusative for neuters. (Of course, the neuter lacks the vocative, so a nominative-accusative-vocative syncretism does not occur.)
Nominative-Vocative syncretism
The nominative-vocative syncretism is common with names for totemic spirits, ritual objects as well as objects that carry cultural roles without carrying actual kinetic functions, such as written deeds, testaments, and so forth.

Thus, a testament is xvuntam (f), and this syncretism is paralleled in the plural, with xvuntvim. A banner is a tunsïm, with the plural tunsïm as well. Most non-living masculine nouns will conflate the singular and plural vocative as well, bringing this syncretism quite far. A deed is a knavum, but exceptionally has a plural nominative distinct from the vocative nominative, viz. knavia (Thus falling in the nom-dat syncretism group in the plural).

Nominative-Exclamative syncretism
This comes in two subforms, one having nom-acc syncretism in the plural, the other having nom-excl consistently in the plural as well. Most of these nouns are 'semantically strong' - either abhorrently so, or less commonly positively so.
A few examples would be:
raxny (m, plural raxunu) a wolf
tineny (f, plural tivin) an omen
ruleny (n, plural ruluku) an abomination
parteny (
n, plural partuku) a destructive fire
pileny (f, plural pilvin) a beauty
kysëny (m/f, plural kyrunu/kyrvin) a village elder, a wise (wo)ma
Most neuter nouns in the nom-excl category fall in the plural nom-acc subcategory, and most nouns in that subcategory are neuter, but neither of these implications hold fully.
Nominative-Accusative syncretism
In addition to the neuter nouns, a number of inanimate feminines have nominative-accusative syncretism.
tabe (f, plural taviku) ladle
tutë (f, plural tutviku) hood (the clothing detail)
rimbe (f, plural rimiku) ember
juzë (f, plural juzviku) basket
guge (f, plural guriku) bean (also, in the plural: testicles)
As mentioned, nom-excl syncretism oftentimes is paired with nom-acc syncretism in the plural. For singulars with nom-acc syncretism, this syncretism almost invariably also holds in the plural.
Nominative-Dative syncretism
Especially common in the masculine, but also has some 'partial' examples with masculines whose nominative is in free variation and one of the free variants happens to be identical to the dative.
gzare (pl. gzarmex) - shin
ulzë (pl. ulzumex)- mitten
kintë, kinti (pl. kintumex) - trapping pit
skare, skari (pl. skazumex) - road
 A very few feminines also have this, namely
yara (pl. yarvia) bride
bura (pl. burvia) pregnant woman
kmuta (pl. kmutvia) widow
kuǧa (pl. kuvia) a feminine supernatural being
ylna (pl. ylvia) a different type of feminine supernatural being
imba (pl. imbia) uterus
All nouns with nom-dat syncretism in the singular also have it in the plural, but the opposite does not hold. Thus, at least the following are attested with singular nominatives distinct from the dative, but the nominative and dative plurals conflated:
elet (pl. eleveku) roof
spen (pl. spenuku) thread

Patterns limited to the Masculine

Many masculine nouns end in consonants. (This is basically stolen from Russian!) However, way more than in Russian, there is also a number of masculines whose stems are followed by a vowel or even end in a vowel, and sometimes there are several possible nominative suffixes in free variation. This variation seems only to be a feature of the literary language, as different dialects rather seem to fix one or another, with at most two freely alternating forms existing in just a handful of "natural" dialects for just a handful of nouns. There is a systematic counter-exception, though: some nouns have both a singular ending in a consonant and a vowel in quite a few dialects, and this seems to be partially conditioned by prosodic cues.

However, all the forms attested in the literary language are attested in some dialect in the vicinity of some of the Bryatesle linguistic centres.
The following 'clusters' of nominative forms can be found:
{-a, -e, -u}, we find for instance
karna, karne, karnu (stone for ballast)
this has the dative karnë
xebsa, xebse, xebsu (puppy)
this has the dative xebsë
tata, tatë, tatu (thorn)
the dative is tatë, but dialects with either tete, tate, tetë or tatë as the nominative form often have other one for the dative.
saxa, saxe, saxu (link in a chain)
the dative is saxe. It turns out forms with nominative-dative conflation in some dialects have had a tendency to trigger innovation of new forms that are distinct, such as both the saxa and saxu forms here. -u is probably by analogy to the -u neuter suffix.
kydla, kydle, kydlu (glove)
the dative is kydlë. Dialectally, a nominative kydlë also appears, but this is not attested in the literary language.

{-ε, -e, -i }
stal, stalë, stali (knight)
The distribution of the monosyllabic vs. bisyllabic forms seems to follow some stress-based pattern, i.e. avoiding that stressed syllables come too close together. Many dialects thus have the form for the next few nouns, but many also have one or the other of the longer forms. Stale as dative is known, probably emerging to restore the case distinction. (FYI: diareses in the Bryatesle orthography mark that a previous 'alveolar' actually is dental)

yrf, yrpe, yrpi (a scar, a nick in a knife blade, a tear in a piece of fabric or paper)

ibs, ibse, ibsi (mouse)
Conflation of dative and nominative is fairly common for this noun throughout the Bryatesle area, even to the extent that ibsi replaces the more regular dative ibse in several dialects. 'Ibs' as a nominative seems to be an innovation by analogy with other nouns in this class, with *ibse or *ibsi being the original form.

tnap, tnape, tnapi (sack)
{-u, -y}
gazu, gazy (makeshit bridge)

ambu, amby (hammer)
Nonsyncretic Masculines
Most masculine nouns do not exhibit any syncretism, and so have their own unique forms in the nominative. 

Many of them have their stem identical to the nominative. Not all of them end in consonants, but most do. However, some have suffixes such as -i, -a or -u after the stem.

The following examples will have the stem bolded, and nominative suffixes italicized, with an added dash just to be completely clear:
bagr-u (carpet)
yry-a (wool (mass noun))
dulr-u (hat)
safk (dust (mass noun))
fyn-i (toe)
gen-u (bronze, bronze item)
imin-u (ditch, really minor river)
guv-u (mushroom, also penis)
Patterns Limited to the Feminine
In the feminine, there are few hard and fast rules as to what singular nominative and what plural nominative go together (plurals will be the topic of the next post). Some nom-voc syncretism also exists, but for most nouns there are some fairly regular vocative patterns, i.e. -e feminines tend to have -ele vocatives, -a feminines tend to have -ala, etc.

The full set of potential regular feminine nominative singular formations is:
(V)-e*, (V)-ε*, -e, -i, -y, -a
* These unusual forms, i.e. a stem ending in vowel is unique to the feminine, and only appears in six words: ala, 'mother', yjala, '(maternal) grandmother', diri-e, '(paternal grandmother)', myni-e, 'daughter', dajnu, 'granddaughter'. If we consider to be the actual nominative suffix, we can in fact eliminate -u from the set of feminine nominative suffixes altogether.

In monosyllabic stems, the -i, -e and -y nominative suffixes sometimes cause an umlaut-like effect where u > y or a > e, but you also find the -a suffix causing some monosyllabic stems having i,y > e or e > a, thus
*matë > metë, mat- (chain)
*buli > byli, bul- ( mushroom, count noun)
*kera > kara, ker- ( knee )
*brytsa > bretsa, bryts- ( wind )
*glita > gleta, glit- ( candle )
*ykte > ekte, ykt- ( cheese )
*ansë > ensë, ans"- ( liver )
These effects are lacking in the masculine due to differences in prosody: the feminine -i/-e/-y suffixes were stressed at the time the sound change occurred.

A small number of feminines end in consonants:
ib - eye
sud - navel, middle, hub (of a wheel),
tsyl -
Patterns Limited to the Neuter

A unique syncretism for the neuter is singular-plural nominative syncretism, i.e. the nominative having no distinct plural form. This occurs for at least the following nouns:
ilenk shoe, shoes
unsyt a particular small type of fruit
keb a particular small species of fish
varal brick(s) - probably a former feminine plural?
surux wart(s)
ayg sinew
nayga pine cone(s), nipples
kirip seeds
selyg refuse, waste, any fairly useless by-product
vreg small stone
kun shape, mould, baking mould
kifut bug, insect, spider
ryp bug, insect, spider
yts wound
rifs needle (of coniferous trees)
For many of these, it is also occasionally seen that other cases are used in the singular even when the referent is plural, but at the very least the plural forms are possible, permitted and fairly well attested for the other cases.

Almost all neuter nouns end in -C, and most of the time, this is also the stem. However, a few have -ig, -eg, -yg, -ip, -ut or -yt as a nominative suffix, thus having the stem be shorter than the nominative.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Dairwueh: Personal Names and Cases

An Indo-European-like trait that Dairwueh and Sargaĺk share (but that Bryatesle lacks!) is case congruence on adjectives. What makes this particularly Indo-European-like (and not, e.g. Baltic-Finnic like or Kayardild-like) is the existence of distinct sets of morphemes for the adjectives and for the nouns. 

I have understood that the origin for this in Indo-European is that morphemes originally used with pronouns for some reason migrated onto the adjectives, although this of course leaves open the question of the origin of the distinct morphemes on the pronouns. (However, typologically I doubt whether that's very unusual. We find small examples of similar things elsewhere, such as the Finnish -t accusative for personal pronouns, or the comitative requiring possessive suffixes on the noun - the latter possibly leading, over time, to a situation where the noun and adjective have distinct forms.)

What's this to do with names? In Dairwueh, personal given names can behave both like nouns and like adjectives, depending on the presence of a clan name. A patronymic can behave like a noun if no other part of the name is present.

nom: Doras
acc: Doranna
dat: Doraar
gen: Doraat
loc: Doraŋa
would be the noun-like forms, and if Doras' father was Elti, you get
nom: Eltikar Doras
acc: Eltikan Doranna
dat: Eltikarz Doraar
gen: Eltikarz Doraat
loc: Eltikari Doraŋa
however, if a clan-name was involved, Doras too would - except in the nominative - inflect by an adjectival paradigm:
nom: (Eltikar) Doras Marzi
acc: (Eltikan) Doran Marzinna
dat: (Eltikarz) Dorarz Marziar
gen: (Eltikarz) Dorarz Marziat
loc: (Eltikari) Dorari Marziŋa
In the nominative, the patronymic has its own feminine form e.g. Eltikama (derived from the father's name, though), but in all other forms, it basically used feminine congruence instead on the masculine patronymic stem.

Nick-names of course exist, and tend not to adhere to this pattern. However, a nick-name nearly never is used in apposition with patronymics or clan-names.

As linguistic history goes by, other forms of 'family names' besides clan-names start appearing, with the usual suspects: professions, places of origin, remarkable attributes, etc.

// TODO: I should definitely finally get around to getting those adjective case markers done for Dairwueh.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Detail #393: Differential Alignment

This kinda gets on the border of what makes sense, but hear me out:

Let's consider a split-S language, where e.g. 1st and 2nd person singular and plural are the triggers for one alignment. However, 1st person singular exclusive is excluded from this, and thus alignment communicates clusivity.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Copulas and Objects

I wrote this as a comment in a facebook conlanging group, regarding the assumption that the copula is transitive.

Usually, for European languages, copulas are considered intransitive. They do not have objects in any European language. (Some African languages, however, do seem to have their copulas be properly transitive).

OK, hey... wait a sec. What's the thing that goes on the right side of 'is' then, if not an object? Isn't SVO the rule of the day in English? Let us call the noun that typically is on the right-hand side of a verb the ... 'right-hand noun'. However, do not take this to mean that the 'right-hand noun' has to be on the right hand of the verb.

Objects have more properties than being right-hand nouns! These properties enable us to make tests for determining whether something is an object or not. One thing you can do to objects in English, that you can't do to other things, is turn them into the subjects of passive verbs (Note: some speakers can do this to indirect objects too). So,

he kicked the ball → the ball was kicked
Nearly no speakers, however, will permit
he was the CEO of ACME Industries →
the CEO of ACME Industries was been by him
(This might happen in modern poetry, however, but modern poetry intentionally violates grammatical patterns on occasion)

Another thing English permits is coordinating objects of different verbs:

he saw him and acknowledged him →
he saw and acknowledged the man

Try this with a typical transitive verb ('saw', for instance) and a typical copula ('was') and you'll find a problem.

*he was and saw a man
*he saw and was the man in the mirror

I imagine these may appear in poetry, but they feel weird and at the very least will fail to be considered grammatically well-formed by most speakers.

However... you can coordinate the right-hand noun of 'to be' with the right-hand noun of some other verbs:
he suddenly became, and maybe still is, a good chess player

Another test which English kinda-sorta lets us do, but which is bad for a variety of reasons, is case assignment.
Some speakers require the nominative for right-hand nouns of copulas: 

"it is I". 
This seems inconsistently applied, though, and I bet it's rather associated with the particular verb × person pairing, i.e. the same person may have
"it is I", but "it is him!",
"it is he" but "the stem cells that became him". 
In English, apparently, for some speakers, the accusative case is tied to the right-hand noun, rather than to objecthood. English case assignment is inconsistent from speaker to speaker, and even for speakers it is inconsistent from verb to verb, and even for speakers may be inconsistent with the same verb from person to person.

What we further can notice, is that the copula can take arguments that are not nouns, but are e.g. adjectives or adverbs or prepositional phrases, and these are still as closely tied to the subject as would a right-hand noun be. It can take 'red', whereas a transitive verb usually takes 'a red one'. (With weird exceptions like 'see red', which basically is sorta intransitive, since it rather just encodes 'to rage' or somesuch - i.e. 'red' in 'see red' does not really have an actual referent!)

Summary: in very many languages, verbs can take noun arguments that are not objects. Assuming that a verb is transitive just because there is a noun in the same position that an object would normally go does not necessarily work out, and a verb is not necessarily transitive just because it lets you do NOUN VERB NOUN.

Exceptions, however, exist, and in several African languages apparently 'to be' is indeed transitive in the sense that the 'right-hand noun' in fact passes objecthood tests in these languages.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Detail #392: Participles, Alignment, Congruence and Restricted Voice Marking

What if a language did not distinguish by any uniquely dedicated morpheme what voice a participle has, but instead did so by having congruence follow an ergative pattern; thus, an intransitive participle has no congruence, nor does a passive participle, but an active, transitive participle does have congruence.

Of course, this would assume all noun classes have explicit congruence markers.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Detail #391: A Number

And by 'a number', I mean a grammatical number. Not a new integer or uniquely weird algebraic entity in some odd field or algebra.

So, let's consider the paucal. This is of course a familiar number, I bet, to most readers. A plural of few. We can consider some potential twists to spice this number up! I doubt combining too many of these in one language works, but potentially some of them may combine. If other numbers also take up some of the

1. Using it with comparatives or superlatives.
In a language with plurals and paucals, and also comparatives and superlatives, comparing sizes of finite sets becomes trivial: comparative on a noun in the paucal means 'fewer', comparative on a noun in the plural means 'more'.  The superlative can of course extend this in trivial ways.

2. Using it to signify 'too few'
One could imagine using a marker that derives, say adverbs or maybe a case marker such as instrumental (or just any case), to signify 'too few'. This could of course also extend to 'too little', and produce a situation where mass nouns only have singular forms and an instrumental paucal.

3. 'one out of', 'a few out of'
One could imagine a situation where partial inclusion of the referent (man, am I trying to sound technical?) is always done by use of the paucal. Here, one could imagine that e.g. the case system or the congruence system intentionally 'breaks' a bit whenever this happens. Since there's so many potential scenarios in my mind right now, I will need to describe them a bit.
We shall call this the 'paucal partitive'.

3.1 Northern Eurasian-style case systems
We could imagine that the paucal partitive is restricted only to some syntactical roles. Let's say objects and subjects.

We could imagine that the paucal noun is exceptionally in the genitive for subject and object (or some other non-canonical subject or object cases). We could also imagine that the congruence on the verb has a number mismatch.

3.2 Noun Class Congruence systems
We could imagine that the congruence for the partitive paucal is reset to some inanimate/default type, or potentially to the singular of the relevant noun-class. This might apply even if we're referring to more than one member of the group.

Conversely, we could imagine paucal congruence on a verb with plural marking on the noun phrase? In this case, the construction would conserve noun class but not number. We can, however, imagine that this particular structure would demand that the NP and the verb congruence only differ by one step in the hierarchy plural > paucal > singular.

3.3 Other discongruences:
We can imagine that numerals, adjectives, articles, etc are discongruent in number, case or animacy, and even gender.

We could imagine that the paucal partitive construction also is considered syntactically non-canonical, and sufficiently so as to alter the transitivity of the verb, leading to the use of valency-reducing morphology on the verb, even if the syntactical situation is conserved (e.g. the paucal partitive subject still is the subject, and the object is still the object, despite a passive marker having been introduced on the verb).

3.4. Alignment change
We could imagine that the use of the genitive paucal for partitive paucal subjects could trigger a change in alignment. This use could also well use some kind of infinitive (participle or verb-noun or whathaveyou), and there you go - split ergativity. Split ergativity with objects seems less likely, but could maybe arise from the use of the same participle or verb-noun after the paucal partitive use of the participle has been well-enough established, then extending to the nominative paucal as object of the participle.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Link About Trigger Systems and ideas about dogs that lead to ideas about pronouns

This link was posted at the ZBB recently, and I figured readers who do not frequent that board might find this interesting.

Paul Kroeger's Phrase Structure and Grammatical Relations in Tagalog. This will be my spare-time reading in the coming weeks, whenever some units of time slip between the cracks of folk dance, job, exercise and being the happy 'husse' of Oswald the tibbie.

The last actually brings up some interesting points:
  • Swedish has a term for 'master' of dogs that is way more familiar than 'master' is. "Husse" (and in the feminine "matte"). Apparently these come from husbonde (actually cognate with 'husband', but rather signify 'master of the household'), and matte is from 'matmor' (food-mother).
  • This is sometimes almost used like a first-person pronoun when talking to dogs (and other pets), but since they're gendered, and most couples that exist are heterosexual, the two first-person pronouns sort of become gender-distinct and can flip between first and third person. Thus I would call myself "husse", but would refer to my girlfriend as "matte", and she would do the opposite.
  •  One could imagine that pronoun systems with similar twists exist in languages around the world? E.g. Some pair of pronouns is either first- or third-person depending on the gender of the speaker.
The language games with which humans interact with dogs are of course rather limited, due to the cognitive and more specifically linguistic abilities of dogs being so different from our own. However, one might imagine a conworld where pets have significantly greater linguistic abilities without still achieving quite the same levels as their ~human-analogue masters.