Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

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~otheb
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Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by ~otheb »

Hello!

Whilst conlanging, I've got some processes figured out for creating words and that works pretty well, but it only really works for "content" words ("house", "person", "aubergine", etc.). I can use onomatopoeia or sound symbolism to figure out some root and then put that through derivational morphology to get my words. What I find I struggle a lot with is deciding what to make each of the little grammatical words and affixes and things that I can't really apply my process to i.e. anything where a root needed doesn't represent any thing or concept but instead something completely abstracted at the grammar level like pronouns, articles, tense markers, and the rest - I guess also the affixes and things that make up the derivational morphology.

For context, I'm talking entirely within the realms of a priori languages, so there's no existing content that I could derive these things from.

In the past, I've created them near-randomly where needed, and elsewhere tried to combine already-made ones to try and make it coherent. It's these tiny little bits of word where there's no point to start from that I just cannot wrap my head around. Having some method or thought process with which to build up these things then means they're justified in being what they are, which makes my brain happy.

Any pointers or suggestions? Thanks for any help.
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Re: Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by Pabappa »

Poswa gets its verb markers from the evidentials: "I feel", "I see", and "I know" became 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person. These are not pronouns though because Poswa doesnt have any pronouns. I dont know of this ever happening in any natlang, but it felt right to me. Of course that only helps you if your parent language happens to have at least three evidentials.

Perhaps another idea you could use is to derive them from verbs .... a different language, Pabappa, gets its 1st person singular pronoun from "one speaking", and the 2nd person singular pronoun comes from "one listening". I think that some languages have only 1st & 2nd person, so you could stop right there, as I have done, and just use full words like "man", "woman", "child" etc instead of 3rd person pronouns. "Speech act participants" is a cover term for 1st & 2nd person.
I'll take the theses, and you can have the thoses.
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Re: Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by sangi39 »

For pronouns, it might be worth looking into the origins of words that act as pronouns in languages that have them as an open class (like Japanese), or languages where pronouns are a closed class, but have different roots depending on social register. You might find languages here where first person forms derive from words meaning "follower", "servant", "child", etc.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by Pabappa »

Yes I should have added that my languages are spoken by cultures with a very flat social hierarchy and no politeness distinctions. My idea might seem the most logical at first, but humans are complicated, so it's possible that the straightforward "speak"/"listen" origin has never actually happened.

Might as well add Spanish usted, from vuestra merced "your mercy" .... Spanish did not go through a stage without pronouns, but if it had, it could have gotten its 2nd person polite form along the same lines as this by just using "mercy" unaccompanied.
I'll take the theses, and you can have the thoses.
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Re: Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by Sequor »

~otheb wrote: 10 Feb 2020 23:55In the past, I've created them near-randomly where needed, and elsewhere tried to combine already-made ones to try and make it coherent.
No need to feel bad about that. In natlangs, function stems and affixes very often have completely obscure etymologies that lie far deep into the past. For example, the Mandarin 3rd person pronoun tā 'he/she/it' comes from an ancient Chinese word meaning "other(s), someone else", but the 1st person pronoun wǒ and the 2nd person pronoun nǐ are descendants of personal pronouns in Proto-Sino-Tibetan with unreconstructible etymologies. You can make etymologies for function words and affixes, but be aware that naturalistically they may probably go back to nouns several thousands of years before.

Also, very often, function words and affixes descend from longer extended variants of old function words and stems. For example, Old Spanish nos '1PL' and vos '2PL' were reinforced with otros 'other (people)' creating modern nosotros and vosotros. For another example, Latin had a diminutive -ulus/-olus (from -ol-os, with cognates in Germanic) and a further colloquial "double diminutive" -ellus (descended from -ol-ol-os > -əllos > -ellus). -ulus/-olus survives in fossilized form in Spanish (pull-ulum > *pullólum > polluelo) or as part of a new reinterpreted despective/insulting suffix -zuelo, but in many dialects the Latin double diminutive survives as the new default diminutive (-illo).

(Funnily, modern Spanish allows n-diminutives: dedo 'finger', dedito 'little finger', deditito 'wee little finger', dedititito 'eeny wee little finger'... besides n-augmentatives like dedote 'big finger', dedotote 'huge finger', dedototote... and n-intensive adjectives like chistosísimo 'very funny', chistosisísimo 'very very funny', chistosisisísimo.)



That said, personal pronouns seem to often come from nouns, phrases involving a noun, or other sorts of pronouns. Examples:
- Spring and Autumn Chinese 寡人 (Mandarin reading: guǎ rén) 'few people, widowed person/people' > (as a metaphor of "lonely person") Warring States Chinese 1SG pronoun used by kings
- Spring and Autumn Chinese 臣 (Mandarin: chén) 'servant' > (from a sense of "I, your servant") Warring States Chinese 1SG pronoun used by a man talking to a superior
- Old Japanese watakusi 'private, personal private thing(s)' > Japanese wata(ku)shi 1SG pronoun
- Early modern Spanish vuestra merced 'your mercy' > modern usted 2SG formal pronoun (with the noun-y plural ustedes 'you guys' too; now also a neutral pronoun that can be used colloquially in a few dialects, notably Costa Rican Spanish)
- Mandarin 大家 dàjiā 'great family' > colloquial 2PL pronoun
- Latin ipsum 'he himself' (emphatic pronoun) > Italian esso 3SG pronoun 'he/she/it' (in common use until recently, today near-obsolete)
- Mandarin 人家 rénjiā 'household, family' > rénjia colloquial but tactful/respectful 3SG or 3PL pronoun

Indefinite pronouns and adverbs are very susceptible to noun > pronoun derivations: some-body, no-thing, al(l)-ways, Literary Chinese 到处 dàochù ("arrive.to-place") 'everywhere', 处处 chùchù ("place-place") 'everywhere', 歷來 lìlái ("history-come") 'always', French personne 'person' > 'nobody' (after a reinterpretation of how negation works).

Among interrogatives, the determiner "what X?" and the pronoun "who?" tend to survive for a very long time, but overall, interrogatives commonly get re-created from "what X?" + a generic noun, e.g. Literary Chinese 何处 héchù 'where?' ("what place?", largely replacing Classical 胡 and 安). A rather funny interrogative: Italian cosa 'thing' > 'what?; thing'. A similar development is found in Mandarin 什麼 shé(n)me 'what?; what X?; something' which probably comes from Middle Chinese 是物 dʑe mjut 'this thing' (later Old Mandarin *[ʂɛmɔʔ], tones here unmarked).

Demonstratives tend to be very conservative, simply getting reinforced/lengthened by things like other demonstratives or a presentative (French voilà le X, here's the X), e.g. Latin iste 'that (of yours)' later a pejorative demonstrative < PIE anaphoric *ey-s + deictic *tod, Arabic هذا haaðaa 'this' < ها‎ haa 'voilà' + ذا‎ ðaa 'this', Old Spanish aqueste 'this' < Late Latin eccum 'voilà' + iste 'this'. In similar ways, all of the demonstratives of Literary Chinese seem to have cognates either elsewhere in Sino-Tibetan (是 斯 此 夫 彼) or in demonstratives of non-Sino-Tibetan languages of the area (其 那 爾 若).

Latin ille 'that' may be an example of an innovative demonstrative, if it is true that < Old Latin olle < PIE *h2el- 'other' + -n-o-s '(adjectival suffix)', which would mean it has the same historical cognate root as Latin alius '(an)other' and alter 'the other (of the two)'.
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Re: Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by sangi39 »

There's Inuktitut uvanga, "I" (as a stand alone pronoun), which etymologically derives from a demonstrative meaning "here" followed by the fist person singular suffix -nga. I don't know if igvit has a similar etymology, but it does appear to end in the second person singular suffix -it.
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.
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Re: Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by k1234567890y »

Articles can arise from demonstratives. i.e. English “the” is from “that”.

Indefinite Pronouns can be from nouns or interrogative pronouns i.e. “someone”, “anyone/anybody”, “everyone/everybody”, “nobody” can arise from compounds involving the word for “person”, “body”, “one” or “who”; “something”, “anything”, “everything”, “nothing” can arise from compounds involving “thing” or “what”

Adpositions and conjunctions can come from nouns and verbs. For example(these are my speculations):

“to accompany with” > “with” > (comitative case affix)

“with”(comitative) > “and”

“to use”, “to take” or “to hold” > “with” > (instrumental case affix)

“place” or “to be(locative) > “at” > (locative, dative or accusative case affix)

“to go” > “to” > (allative or dative case affix)

“inside”(noun) > “in”

“outside” (noun) > “out”

“above” (noun) > “up”, “above”(adposition), “on”

“below” (noun) > “down”, “below”(adposition), “under”

“time” > “when”(conjunction)

“from” > “because”

also you can take a look at the article for Jespersen’s cycle to see how negations can arise: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jespersen%27s_Cycle
I prefer to not be referred to with masculine pronouns and nouns such as “he/him/his”.
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Re: Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by Sequor »

Etymologies of basic Chinese conjunctions, based mostly on Schuessler's ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese:

('and NP/VP')
與: 'to be with' > 'and NP' (classical, imperial, formal modern)
和: 'to be harmonious' > 'to be in harmony with sth' > 'and NP' (Mandarin)
同: 'to be together' > 'to be together with' > 'and NP' (Cantonese)
同埋: 同 reinforced with 埋 'to bury sth' > 'to hide sth' > 'to close sth' > 'to move sth closer' > 'close together': 'and NP' (Cantonese)
跟: 'to follow sb' > 'and NP' (Mandarin)
及: 'to arrive somewhere' > 'when [sth gets to happen]' > 'and NP' (preclassical, revived in imperial, formal modern)
以及: 以 'with it' + 及 'to arrive somewhere' > 'and NP' (imperial, formal modern)
暨: 'to reach sth' > 'to be together with sth' > 'and NP' (preclassical, with occasional further use down to formal modern)
而: perhaps 'to be like sth' > 'thus' > 'and VP, but VP' (all eras)
且: 'moreover' > 'and VP' (classical, imperial, formal modern)
而且: 而 + 且: 'and VP' (imperial, Mandarin, Cantonese)
跟住: 跟 reinforced with 住 'to stop walking' > 'to dwell somewhere': 'and then VP' (Cantonese)

('or NP/VP')
或: 'there is' + distributive marker > 'to some extent; someone' > 'maybe' > 'or (in statements)' (later imperial, Mandarin, Cantonese)
或者: 或 reinforced with 者 '(agent nominalizer of verbs); (topicalizer of NPs and VPs)' > 'or (in statements)' (later imperial, Mandarin, Cantonese)
一係: 一 'one' > 'all, altogether' reinforced by 係 'to be connected to sth' > 'to be': 'or otherwise sth (in statements)' (Cantonese)
還是: 'still' + 'to be' > 'still is' > 'or [NP,VP] (in questions)' (Mandarin)
定: 'to settle sth, establish' > 'determine sth' > 'or (in questions)' (Cantonese)
定係: 定 reinforced by 係: 'or (in questions)' (Cantonese)
抑或: 或 reinforced by preceding 抑 'also': 'or (in questions)' (later imperial, formal modern)

('but VP')
但: 單 'single' + a deriv. suffix > 但 'only' > 'but' (imperial, Mandarin, Cantonese)
單係: 單 'single' + 係 'to be connected to sth' > 'to be': 'singularly is' > 'but' (Cantonese)
但係: 但 reinforced by 係: 'but' (Cantonese)
但是: 但 reinforced by 是 'this' > 'to be sth': 'still is' > 'but' (later imperial, Mandarin)
惟: 'to be sth' > 'to be only sth' > 'only' > 'but' (classical, imperial)

Classical Chinese didn't have a word for 'or', but used strategies such as topicalization followed by interrogative/indefinite resumption (along the lines of "north, south, which direction do you want to go to?", or "wine, water, I shall accept any of that"), coordination with an adverb such as 'otherwise' ("I will head north, otherwise head south"), or straightforward juxtaposition ("I shall accept wine, water").
Last edited by Sequor on 23 Feb 2020 10:16, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Creating pronouns and grammatical words/affixes

Post by Salmoneus »

Why not?

Origins of Some English Conjunctions

and - same meaning in PGmc, ultimately from locative form of PIE 2ent-, "forehead, front" (so semantically 'in front of')
or - abbreviated form of 'other', probably from a Middle English glomping together of 'either' and 'oththe'. 'Either' is from 'always' + 'whether' (so semantically probably from a use parallel to modern 'whichever'); 'oththe' is from a PGmc for 'or' ('efthau'). Can't find an etymology for that.
but - from 'by' + 'out' (parallel to modern 'outside of')
although - from 'all' + 'though', the latter allegedly from the PIE demonstrative, though I'm not sure how. Tempting to say it's + PGmc 'hw', from PIE suffix meaning 'and' (cf Latin -que), which would make it roughly "and that"
so - from an adverbial use of the PIE reflexive pronoun ('itself' > 'precisely itself' > 'just so' > 'in this way', I think?)
yet - from GMc word meaning 'already' or 'now' (from PIE "a long time", via 'always'), plus suffix from PIE *do, and "emphatic or contrastive particle".
because from "by" plus "cause", the latter borrowed from Latin
if from PGmc dative form of noun meaning 'condition, doubt' (so "on condition")
once - genitive form of "one"
since - from word meaning "late", plus demonstrative plus genitive (so, "late of that")
that - PIE demonstrative.
until - 'und' + 'till'. The latter means 'point in time'. The former is from the allative of 'and' - so "to the forehead' or 'to the front of'
when - from the interrogative (probably interrogative > indefinite pronoun > relative pronoun > conjunction)
while - from a word meaning 'period of time', from PIE word meaning 'rest'
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