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.