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.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Detail #390: Participles Used in Odd Ways

In many Germanic languages, one can form adjectives that describe 'being equipped with' (or something along those lines) by forming the past participle of a noun.This is a peculiar idea, but there's multiple examples:

Now, this thing every now and then inspires me a bit to try and apply participle morphology on other parts of speech with some lightly unpredictable meanings.

For this, we can imagine a language with active and passive participles (to get rid of the weird tense * voice con[flation/fusion] that English has). What if, say, passive participles of cardinals signify fractions? If we by an imaginary verb 'to three' mean 'turning a thing into three things (by splitting it)', a 'threed thing' would be a third of the thing. We could of course here come up with some way of distinguishing between full things split in three parts and some number of thirds. Maybe through, say, case/number congruence or adpositions or numerals or whatever? (So, e.g. 'two threed cakes' is six thirds, whereas 'two threed cake' is two thirds?) Next step: active participles could imply ordinals?

Or maybe active participles could imply coordinated groups of N members?

And of course, all of these could imaginably be applied to indefinite pronouns like 'some', 'any', 'none', 'all'.

We could of course try and go further and include tense - or maybe just have tense-based participles with voice being marked in some other fashion. Now, for numerals, expressing any voice would maybe be superfluous, and so we only keep the tense marking (rather, maybe, numerals are normally intransitive participles?).

A different potential meaning: an active participle of the number x would imply being the leader over a group of size x.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Detail #389: A Set of Affixes on some Adpositions

This gets a bit abstract, and in some way feels familiar. I had envisioned this idea as fitting into one of my conlangs, but I don't really see it as part of any one of them right now.

Since I formulated it with a rather clear idea of whether to use pre- or suffixes as well as pre- or postpositions,, the post will assume prefixes and prepositions. I guess fixing this might make the text significantly easier to read. 

Let us imagine a system whereby prepositions are marked as to what kind of a constituent they pertain to. By this, I mean 'whosoever moves or is moved,  whosoever is located or has been made to be somewhere'. Now, we get maybe three obvious markers, and we could of course let these be similar to, say, the relevant case morphology or something. Hold on.

When a subject moves somewhere, the preposition expressing this movement could be imagined to have a pronoun standing in front of it, something like
he goes he in the house
Now, we can imagine the pronoun becoming reduced, and also that the person congruence is lost, so it always becomes
I go e into the house
he goes e into the house
Next, we can imagine when an object is placed somewhere or seen somewhere or whatever, that an object pronoun goes somewhere:
Tina saw the man him in the park
Tina saw the man min the park
and as the reduction and loss of congruence happens, we also get
Eric put the shoes mon the shelf
We can imagine one more obvious distinction here without going too fine-detailed, that of oblique objects. Let's use i- for this.
He went eto sea iin winter
The distinction between 'he went eto sea iin winter' and 'he went ein winter' is that in the latter, it is just a statement about what he did, in the former, the point is that it is in winter he in fact went to sea.

Now, finally, let's imagine that some kind of indefinite pronoun (any, one, some?) appears when there's an object or tool implicit in the verb itself. Let's use ni- for this (from 'any').
he painted nion the wrong wall.
he fired niat the thief
Now, I imagine such implicit tools or objects (or obliques) may sometimes get quite culturally quirky, and one possible path one could see is having, for instance, verbs of sex omit a lot of nouns, such that, for instance, penetration would be expressed as
pushing ni-in it,
oral sex as
licking ni-on it,
 Here, we can imagine two rather opposite situations:
  1. omission is something that is naughty, used to quickly get to the point, and so the 'non-naughty' way of talking about these use more, uh, referential nouns. In this case, ni- becomes a bit of a "naughty" morpheme in some contexts.
  2. omission is something that is used for euphemism, and in this case, ni- becomes a "polite" morpheme for talking of certain things.