Monday, August 29, 2022

Things I would like to research or develop

A while ago, in a post I said something like "more research required" regarding a particular feature of Swedish grammar. This made me think of things I'd like to research, but which I probably never will. These would all be at least somewhat original research.


A variety of tiny syntactical and typological questions that have occurred to me over the years:

  • Does the Swedish relative pronoun or relativizer "som" permit exceptional coordination over gaps?
  • How uniform are the rules for partitive-vs-accusative among speakers of Finnish?
  • What case do speakers of Swedish prefer for the complement of a copula in contexts where the subject of the copula is a non-subject syntactically? ("We will let you be you").
  • How does congruence and number work in coordinated-over-gaps compounds in Swedish?
  • Do speakers of English naturally prefer the accusative for complements of the copula? I am pretty sure that examples like "it is difficult to be me" and a few others showcase that accusative in fact is the natural case that everyone prefers, and that most "it is I"-speakers have a cultivated and artificial case selection that fails whenever a single complication arises. The test could be one of "select the correct case" with sentences with a gap, and measuring response times. Needs to start out with simple clauses and progress into increasingly long ones, with some of them there only to be able to calibrate for expected response time. Comparably complex structures also need to be used.
  • Syntactical differences between standard Finland Swedish and middle  Ostrobothnian.
  • Figuring out the full set of sound changes of Björkö dialect. (Conlang idea: apply all these sound changes to late proto-norse and create a 'fully björkö' dialect.)
  • How common is it for existential statements to have quirks in terms of congruence, case marking, word order, ...)
  • To what extent are 'than' and 'as' (and 'än' and 'som' as element of comparison) objectively speaking prepositions in the grammars of speakers of English and Swedish - even among those who claim they exclusively are conjunctions.
  • To what extent can we find evidence that the rule against definite form after 'denna/detta/dessa' in prescriptivist Swedish is made-up to spite southern and southwestern Swedes?
    • Swedish has two patterns for forming "this": "denna" and "den här". (Both are further inflected for gender and number.) 'Den här' is always followed by the definite form of the adjective as well as the definite form of the noun. 'Denna' is - in prescriptive usage - followed by definite adjectives but indefinite nouns.
    • In texts predating the middle of the 18th century, you find variation on this: both the definite and indefinite noun are used in the nominative. (Other cases only take the definite.)
    • 'Denna' is predominantly used in the south and southwest, 'den här' is predominantly used everywhere else.
    • "denna + indef" quickly gains ground in books printed in the "den här"-area towards the end of the 18th century, and basically becomes mandatory in writing in the 19th century, but "denna + def" never goes extinct in the south and southwest.
    • There seems to be at least some 18th century correspondences between publishers that hint at this actually being an intentional change to turn southern Swedish "wrong".


  • It is my firm belief that even many apparently philosemitic Christian clergymen in their sermons plant the seeds for antisemitism. The research would require the following steps:
    Finding a corpus of sermons and sermon-like texts that in one way or another discuss Judaism and the Jews, and their role and their beliefs from a Christian p.o.v. In this corpus, statements that misrepresent Jewish beliefs in ways that may lead to negative perceptions about Judaism, and statements that use Jews as a negative example - when similar negative examples can be found within Christianity itself - have to be found, and the "actual" fact about Judaism needs to be verified. (Examples: does Judaism teach that all who are born non-Jewish will automatically burn in hell? I have heard this claim from Christians. I know it is false. It is often presented in order to prop up certain Christian dogmas and to make Christianity seem the compassionate alternative.)
    • The way in which such mistaken statements nurture antisemitism needs to be evaluated in some way, and the effect on listeners - both believers and non-believers alike - need to be estimated. 
    • Some measure as to how common this is would either reassure me that it's just a few bad apples, or confirm my own experience that it's fairly common.
  • it would also interest me to research the use of fabricated Jewish traditions to prop up Christian theology. It is not entirely uncommon for Christian preachers to claim that there is an ancient Jewish tradition about so-and-so, and this tradition explains some detail in the NT or even later Christian traditions. Sometimes it might hold up, most of the time it doesn't.
  • It would greatly interest me to find examples of humour in the Bible, in the Talmud, in the midrashes and targums, in the baraitha literature, and even in more general literature from ancient Mesopotamia - that have failed to be identified as humour. I am convinced that the cultural gulf between modern humans and those of antiquity is so great that we may fail to appreciate just how some of the statements in the literature mentioned above very well may been intended as jokes to convey some point. Many Jewish scholars - and even fairly "average yeshiva-level" students seem to be aware of some of these jokes, but secular scholars often seem to fail to spot such jokes. I am not saying this is a universal problem, but I get the impression that there may be a fair share of humour that no one's identified as such. It is not inconceivable that greek philosophers as well have jokes that have been missed.


  • Tymoczko has (and possibly other theorists have) identified that modulation and chord progressions are very similar phenomena. He doubts that listeners could manage keeping any kind of track of a third similar level. Using, say, pentatonic scales embedded in diatonic scales embedded in uneven extended meantone chromatic scales could provide a way of creating exactly that structure. Extended meantone chromaticism could also be used for extending the chord_progression-modulation complex to a chord_progression-modulation-metamodulation complex.
    • What kind of notion of "keeping track of" do we have in mind?
  • To what extent can listeners appreciate functional harmony using isoharmonic triads that are not predominantly 4:5:6 (and its utonal version). Do they need to be rooted at powers of 2? Does 8:11:14 do a better job  than 6:7:8, 7:9:11, 7:10:13 or 9:11:13 because 8:11:14 is rooted at 2³? How important is root motion of 3/2 (i.e. by perfect fifths)? (I believe the tritone substitution G7 → C 🠮 G7 → F# shows that a root motion of a fifth is not necessary.) (Normally, the tritone substitution is given from p.o.v. of the tonic, so G7 → C 🠮 Db7 → C, but sometimes, it's good to think of it in other ways as well.)
  • Can asymmetric chords in the wholetone scale help facilitate a functional tonality in it?
  • Temperaments such as mavila warp familiar relationships. Can this warping be 'eased in' by modulating into successively more warped regions of a very warped temperament while fully maintaining the relationships - i.e. the relation between root and third still feels as though it passes through the cycle of fifths in the same way?
  • Figuring out how to use sushalf sharp4-chords as an extension to normal harmonic praxis? (Notice the half sharp - not♯.) Other uses of quartertones as subtle additions to harmonic praxis are also of some interest.
  • Can we somehow formalize the "similarity" between the use of chords in functional harmony and jins in maqam?

 Maths and CS

  • How well can games make players get used to weird geometries and topologies?
  • Can a player discern things about the geometry of a game from hearing warped intervals in the music that directly correspond to the geometry? 
  • Comparing the complexity of a variety of geometrical problems in different types of geometries.

Design of things

  • A string instrument with plastic frets ('fishing line'). The frets are attached to two beams that are easy to attach to the neck. At least one of the beams needs to be small enough to fit under the strings.

Software design:

  • Some cursed versions of gomoku.
  • Improve my pitch perception practice app
  • Some basic topology/geometry toolkit, especially with the intention of visualizing some of the topologies and geometries present in microtonal theory
  • A set of scripts that utilize some sound change applier and git to make managing multiple a priori conlangs easy. (Separate repos for sound changes, for input vocabulary, and for output. Also, the sound change applier can parse certain extra commands for splitting a language, for borrowing vocab from a different language at some particular step, etc)
  • An AI for writing microtonal harmony and counterpoint.
  • A duolingo-like web engine for conlangers to use.
  • Some games that utilize weird topologies and such.
  • A game with very forgetful terrain generation

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