(Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Nortaneous wrote: 16 Apr 2021 14:18
Dormouse559 wrote: 15 Apr 2021 18:43 This PHOIBLE client makes searching a bit easier. Unfortunately, you can't directly filter for aspiration, but +spread_glottis selects aspirated consonants, /h/, and breathy-voice segments.
+spread_glottis;+consonantal;-periodic_glottal_source will select only aspirated consonants (and breathy-voiced segments entered into PHOIBLE incorrectly)
[:O] *Takes notes*
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Post by Ahzoh »

I need help determining what kinds of words might be borrowed and even replace native vocabulary in Vrkhazhian as well "rules" for fitting the foreign vocabulary into Vrkhazhian triconsonatal root system.

The loaner language is question is Hussite, spoken by the Hussite peoples. They are long-standing enemies of the Vrkhazhians (~500 to ~1000 years) and frequently at war with them. That said, peace treaties are sometimes made and there is a fair amount of trade conducted. It is also the case that sometimes a territory is conquered by one party, the inhabitants forced to learn the language, and then reconquered by the original holders after some time.

So, given this rather complicated relationship, I'm not sure what kinds of words might be borrowed. At the moment I have:
Vrkhazhian < Hussite
uśśu-im "arm" < uššu "hand"
amb-um "comb" < amb
ilg-um "fish" < ilig
biğikk-um "hair" < biṟik
miği-um "mouth (of a river)" < miṟī "mouth, entrance"
ağann-im "scorpion" < aṟan
saśt-um "tree" < sašta "tree"
But I'm not sure if they would borrow the word for hand and use it to mean arm, because I'm not sure if they're close enough in contact to replace native vocabulary like that.

The other thing is, I'm not sure how I will fit some words into Vrkhazh's paradigms.
the (C)VCVC ones are easy enough, to preserve the syllable structure they usually just reduplicate the final consonant as in the words for hair and scorpion. Although there are exceptions, like the word for fish. Perhaps it's an earlier borrowing.
But I'm not sure whether the Vrkhazhians will choose to notice the final vowels (as in the word for hand and mouth) or drop them (as in the word for tree).
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Post by Ahzoh »

Although my previous question hasn't been answered yet, I have a new one:

I have created two particles/clitics that indicate which noun is the primary (or recipient) object and which is the secondary (or thematic) object. They have allomorphs depending on the first sound of the following noun
Spoiler:

Code: Select all

Primary Object : Secondary Object
m(e) egram     | s(e) egram
m(a) alādam    | s(a) alādam
ma nammağdam   | sa nammağdam
mu parāḫam     | su parāḫam
mu malladam    | su malladam
Is it naturalistic that these are completely optional and only really exist in ditransitive constructions?

Unrelatedly, I also have grammatical proximate vs. obviation distinction, but I only want it to be marked on pronouns, possessive suffixes, and verbs. Is that possible or is it now required to have it on nouns as well?
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Post by Omzinesý »

Alignments are probably the most interesting part of linguistics. I started thinking how I could copy your ideas.
Ahzoh wrote: 01 May 2021 03:29 Is it naturalistic that these are completely optional and only really exist in ditransitive constructions?
One could argue that no marker in no language is never completely optional. They mark some stylistic, lectal, information-structural etc. features.
Are you basically asking if there appears languages where both the theme and the recipient are marked with specific markers?
I have to say I don't know. Surely either of them can be marked separately. It's against efficiency to use the marker of the monotransitive object for neither, but languages don't have to be maximally efficient.
Ahzoh wrote: 01 May 2021 03:29 Unrelatedly, I also have grammatical proximate vs. obviation distinction, but I only want it to be marked on pronouns, possessive suffixes, and verbs. Is that possible or is it now required to have it on nouns as well?
I have to learn about inverse alignments generally.
It seems the most typical type is that it only appears in verbs. Languages with it seem to be quite verb-heavy and have pronouns as affixes of verbs. I think your idea is not attested but it doesn't mean you couldn't have it.
I don't know if possessor suffixes could develop to proximate/obviative markers. Maybe. At least they can code meanings of information structure, like focus.
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Omzinesý wrote: 01 May 2021 18:49 Alignments are probably the most interesting part of linguistics. I started thinking how I could copy your ideas.
One could argue that no marker in no language is never completely optional. They mark some stylistic, lectal, information-structural etc. features.
Are you basically asking if there appears languages where both the theme and the recipient are marked with specific markers?
I have to say I don't know. Surely either of them can be marked separately. It's against efficiency to use the marker of the monotransitive object for neither, but languages don't have to be maximally efficient.
A ditransitive sentence
Adu me-rēbali s-ūlā palalta.
We gave the man some dates.

If the marker was obligatory then a monotransitive sentencewould have:
Adu m-ūlā palalta.
We gave some dates away.

But I want it to be mainly this:
Adu ūlā palalta.
We gave some dates away.
I have to learn about inverse alignments generally.
It seems the most typical type is that it only appears in verbs. Languages with it seem to be quite verb-heavy and have pronouns as affixes of verbs. I think your idea is not attested but it doesn't mean you couldn't have it.
I don't know if possessor suffixes could develop to proximate/obviative markers. Maybe. At least they can code meanings of information structure, like focus.
My lang doesn't have direct-inverse alignment. I don't think such an alignment is required to have proximate vs. obviate distinction. The Nilo-Saharan languages as far as I know do not have direct-inverse but have obviation. There isn't much knowledge how the Nilo-Saharan languages do obviation.

I don't have polypersonal marking, so the obviative on verbs is to mark the subject, while the pronoun marks the object. But I don't want the marking on non-pronouns but all the examples of langs with obviation have it on nouns too...

I presumed that if a lang has obviative pronouns and they have possessive affixes then those possessive affixes would have such a distinction as well.
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It would seem odd to have obviation so important as to need marking on the pronouns, yet not be necessary to mark on the nouns. It also means that you have to deduce the reference of the pronouns simply from context, despite it being important enough to have this entire grammatical system built around it! [whereas with obviate nouns, the reference of the obviate pronoun is immediately clear].

That said, I doubt it's unavoidable. Marking subject obviation on the verb could go a long way to removing ambiguity in noun/noun sentences, and you could have some other systematic way to define obviation - perhaps a topic-prominent or focus-prominent syntax?


----


regarding direct/inverse, I found a helpful way to think about it in a paper:

- there are two types of argument: participants (1st and 2nd person) and non-participants (3rd person). The former are very often privileged over the latter.
- so all transitivity can be reduced to four cases: participant>participant (1); participant>non-participant (2); NP>P (3); and P>P (4). A language has to find a way to make subject and object clear in each of these four cases.
- Direct/inverse is a way to mark (2) and (3) (that is: (2) is unmarked, (3) is marked).
- Proximate/obviate is a way to mark (4) - they say which non-participant is acting on which.

So they're not really the same thing at all. You can have one without the other - D/I languages mostly aren't P/O, except in North America. However, it's not a coincidence that in North America languages are often both - both strategies resolve their respective problems through hierarchies, so they 'go together' in some way - if you have D/I, you can do P/O as an extension of your D/I system. But you can do either without the other.

[(1) is often marked through an extension of D/I, by specifying either 2>1 or 1>2. However, there are also D/I systems that don't deal with (1) at all.]
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Post by Omzinesý »

Salmoneus wrote: 02 May 2021 00:31 - Proximate/obviate is a way to mark (4) - they say which non-participant is acting on which.

So they're not really the same thing at all. You can have one without the other - D/I languages mostly aren't P/O, except in North America. However, it's not a coincidence that in North America languages are often both - both strategies resolve their respective problems through hierarchies, so they 'go together' in some way - if you have D/I, you can do P/O as an extension of your D/I system. But you can do either without the other.
So, what does obviative do?
It just says 'this NP is lower in the hierarchy' and semantic roles and information structure are coded by cases or word order or something else?
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Post by Omzinesý »

Ahzoh wrote: 01 May 2021 23:31 A ditransitive sentence
Adu me-rēbali s-ūlā palalta.
We gave the man some dates.

If the marker was obligatory then a monotransitive sentencewould have:
Adu m-ūlā palalta.
We gave some dates away.

But I want it to be mainly this:
Adu ūlā palalta.
We gave some dates away.
We have very different definitions about what optional means. IMO, you must have a minimal pair of clauses that only differ in having/lacking the prefix that both "mean the same" for the prefix to be optional. Surely, two clausal constructions can have different rules for their object marking.
If that was your original question, yes, it is very naturalistic.
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Post by Ahzoh »

Omzinesý wrote: 02 May 2021 02:01 We have very different definitions about what optional means. IMO, you must have a minimal pair of clauses that only differ in having/lacking the prefix that both "mean the same" for the prefix to be optional. Surely, two clausal constructions can have different rules for their object marking.
If that was your original question, yes, it is very naturalistic.
What? both monotransitive clauses are equally grammatical, with or without the primary object clitic mV- The question is can I make it optional, so monotransitive sentences don't require it to be grammatical, especially since such a marker would be redudant in most cases.

Even in ditransitive sentences it's optional.
So, what does obviative do?
It just says 'this NP is lower in the hierarchy' and semantic roles and information structure are coded by cases or word order or something else?
That definition is wrong, obviation just marks that one third-person entity is less salient than another and is thus more background information.

There are two main possibilities:
"the quick brown fox (PROX) jumped over the lazy brown dog (OBV)" and then you can either say "and he (PROX) ran away" or "and he (OBV) ran away"
"the quick brown fox (OBV) jumped over the lazy brown dog (PROX)" and then you can either say "and he (PROX) ran away" or "and he (OBV) ran away"
Last edited by Ahzoh on 02 May 2021 06:30, edited 1 time in total.
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Salmoneus wrote: 02 May 2021 00:31 It would seem odd to have obviation so important as to need marking on the pronouns, yet not be necessary to mark on the nouns. It also means that you have to deduce the reference of the pronouns simply from context, despite it being important enough to have this entire grammatical system built around it! [whereas with obviate nouns, the reference of the obviate pronoun is immediately clear].

That said, I doubt it's unavoidable. Marking subject obviation on the verb could go a long way to removing ambiguity in noun/noun sentences, and you could have some other systematic way to define obviation - perhaps a topic-prominent or focus-prominent syntax?
I developed my obviation markers in pronouns by grammaticalizing the distal determiner liʔ-; liʔ + kan > likkan. The subject markers on verbs kinda went some other route involving involving the development of a suffix -hha

But yea, so I could mark obviative nouns using a distal determiner without grammaticalizing it, because I don't want to have an affix because it makes my words clunky and ugly.

Although maybe I could use the definite state to mark obviates.

I don't know, maybe I'll just throw out obviation marking because I don't understand when and when not to use it and figuring out when one noun needs to be marked is kinda stressful. Besides, if I have object markers then the main purpose of obviation for me is moot. But I like the pronouns and suffixes I've developed...
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Post by Omzinesý »

Ahzoh wrote: 02 May 2021 06:16
So, what does obviative do?
It just says 'this NP is lower in the hierarchy' and semantic roles and information structure are coded by cases or word order or something else?
That definition is wrong, obviation just marks that one third-person entity is less salient than another and is thus more background information.

There are two main possibilities:
"the quick brown fox (PROX) jumped over the lazy brown dog (OBV)" and then you can either say "and he (PROX) ran away" or "and he (OBV) ran away"
"the quick brown fox (OBV) jumped over the lazy brown dog (PROX)" and then you can either say "and he (PROX) ran away" or "and he (OBV) ran away"
What does salience mean?
How does it differ from (non-)topic marker? (I mean discourse topic, not topic prominence.)
Is it anything to do with the animacy/empathy/Silverstein/indexability hierarchy, like inverse alignments?
My current understanding is that it is a combination of the two, topicality only mattering if the entities are at the same level in the hierarchy. But it seems I know very little about the issue.
Or is it really just a marker of syntactic pivot?

I guess you guys are bored with my stupid questions.
Is there a book on obviatives? I found books on inverse alignment quite easily, but this is more difficult.
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Omzinesý wrote: 02 May 2021 01:41
Salmoneus wrote: 02 May 2021 00:31 - Proximate/obviate is a way to mark (4) - they say which non-participant is acting on which.

So they're not really the same thing at all. You can have one without the other - D/I languages mostly aren't P/O, except in North America. However, it's not a coincidence that in North America languages are often both - both strategies resolve their respective problems through hierarchies, so they 'go together' in some way - if you have D/I, you can do P/O as an extension of your D/I system. But you can do either without the other.
So, what does obviative do?
It just says 'this NP is lower in the hierarchy' and semantic roles and information structure are coded by cases or word order or something else?
Proximate and obviate are essentially markers of information structure: proximates are more foregrounded than obviates. The assignments are typically long-lasting, so can potentially be contrasted with other structuring devices like topicalisation.

Because these assignments generally endure across clauses, they can be used to make anaphora more specific - instead of saying "it", you say "it (the important one)" or "it (the unimportant one)". In this sense, it has a role similar to gender: you have two pronouns to choose from instead of one. But of course you also need to mark the nouns in some way, otherwise the pronouns have nothing to match against. ['marking' need not mean an affix]

This allows you to say "there was a bear and a cat, and it saw it", and have the second clause be unambiguous - one 'it' links to the bear and one to the cat, if you mark one of the two as proximate and the other as obviate.

However, some languages uses P/O to do more. P/O most often occurs in languages without cases, where a further problem arises: how do you know which noun is the subject and which is the object? If you don't want to have fixed word order, how do you know whether "saw cat bear" means that the bear saw the cat, or vice versa?

If your language is D/I, then you have a system where you can tell the role of the two arguments if one is a speech act participant and the other is not - one order is assumed and the other is expressly marked on the verb. But this doesn't help if neither argument is a SAP. But if you have the D/I system, and you also have P/O, then you can merge them together by analogising O>P action to NSAP>SAP action.

Since most (or at least the best-known) P/O languages are also D/I languages, this is commonly thought to be part of the same system. And likewise, many D/I languages are P/O. However, core, definitional D/I is only about the marking of NSAP>SAP actions, and many languages do NOT extend it to cover NSAP>NSAP (or SAP>SAP) actions, which must instead be disambiguated in some other way. [and if they do extend it, it doesn't have to be by P/O - lexical animacy can accomplish the same objective; P/O's role in an extended D/I system is simply to divide nouns into two groups, to provide the raw material that the extended D/I system can then use in role-marking]. Conversely, some languages have P/O but do not have D/I, so don't use P/O for this sort of purpose.
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Post by Salmoneus »

Omzinesý wrote: 02 May 2021 12:14
Ahzoh wrote: 02 May 2021 06:16
So, what does obviative do?
It just says 'this NP is lower in the hierarchy' and semantic roles and information structure are coded by cases or word order or something else?
That definition is wrong, obviation just marks that one third-person entity is less salient than another and is thus more background information.

There are two main possibilities:
"the quick brown fox (PROX) jumped over the lazy brown dog (OBV)" and then you can either say "and he (PROX) ran away" or "and he (OBV) ran away"
"the quick brown fox (OBV) jumped over the lazy brown dog (PROX)" and then you can either say "and he (PROX) ran away" or "and he (OBV) ran away"
What does salience mean?
How does it differ from (non-)topic marker? (I mean discourse topic, not topic prominence.)
Discourse salience is how important something is to the conversation. This is intertied with topicality (and focus), which I'd (as a non-linguist) argue are forms of salience. However, the sort of salience marked by P/O is a little different in at least two ways:

- topic and focus are really about established and new information. The topic is a known thing, and the focus is a surprising thing. Proximate and obviative, however, are about some sort of theoretical 'importance' to what's going on.

So imagine this sentence: "the bazooka was knocked over by a mouse". The bazooka is probably the topic - it's definite, it's the subject, there's a clear sense here that the listener knows about the bazooka being there already. The mouse is the focus - it's a bit of new information that the speaker couldn't have predicted. And the bazooka may also be very important - bazookas usually are. However, we can also say: "the mouse knocked over a bazooka". Now the mouse is probably the topic, and the bazooka is the focus. But we might still want to mark the bazooka as the proximate - it's a bazooka, it's going to be important, pay attention to it!

- proximate and obviative assignments often last for many clauses, or even across entire conversations. The bazooka remains important throughout! By contrast, topic and focus assignments often change regularly - the bazooka may be focused when it's introduced (look, bazooka!), but once we know there's a bazooka there it's quite likely to be the topic (so, as you know, there's this bazooka, and...).
Is it anything to do with the animacy/empathy/Silverstein/indexability hierarchy, like inverse alignments?
My current understanding is that it is a combination of the two, topicality only mattering if the entities are at the same level in the hierarchy. But it seems I know very little about the issue.
We should distinguish between P/O in the abstract, and actual P/O systems in specific languages. In the abstract, it's about salience. However, in specific languages, actual P/O assignment may be only partly defined by salience, and partly by other features, which may be lexical (some words happen to have priviliged rights to claim the proximate assignment) or syntactic (a word introduced as subject might by default be presumed to be proximate unless otherwise specified). Or it might interact with other structuring systems, like topicalisation, focus, or definiteness. It can also interact with possession (possessors may be proximate, and possessions obviative).

The most famous P/O systems occur in languages with animacy, so animacy can play a role in assigning P/O - more animate is assumed to be proximate, less animate is assumed to be obviative. [so in practice the mouse in many languages would be proximate, not the bazooka - perhaps because the traditional speakers of these languages did not have bazookas...]
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Ahzoh wrote: 02 May 2021 06:28
Salmoneus wrote: 02 May 2021 00:31 It would seem odd to have obviation so important as to need marking on the pronouns, yet not be necessary to mark on the nouns. It also means that you have to deduce the reference of the pronouns simply from context, despite it being important enough to have this entire grammatical system built around it! [whereas with obviate nouns, the reference of the obviate pronoun is immediately clear].

That said, I doubt it's unavoidable. Marking subject obviation on the verb could go a long way to removing ambiguity in noun/noun sentences, and you could have some other systematic way to define obviation - perhaps a topic-prominent or focus-prominent syntax?
I developed my obviation markers in pronouns by grammaticalizing the distal determiner liʔ-; liʔ + kan > likkan. The subject markers on verbs kinda went some other route involving involving the development of a suffix -hha

But yea, so I could mark obviative nouns using a distal determiner without grammaticalizing it, because I don't want to have an affix because it makes my words clunky and ugly.

Although maybe I could use the definite state to mark obviates.

I don't know, maybe I'll just throw out obviation marking because I don't understand when and when not to use it and figuring out when one noun needs to be marked is kinda stressful. Besides, if I have object markers then the main purpose of obviation for me is moot. But I like the pronouns and suffixes I've developed...
Shortly on optional case markers.
You could have a look at Nonpamangunnan languages. They seem to have many case markers that can but don't have to appear. The languages are badly documented, so it can be because researchers just didn't find the rules determining the use of the markers, but anyways, they are as simple as in, say, Latin.

Now that I - more or less - know what we are speaking about, I can say my impression on P / O appearing in pronouns, only.
Im no expert of programming either, but as far as I understand, in programming languages, you save an object in a memory place and thereafter refer to that object by calling the memory place. Would a proximate pronoun work similarly?
i) First you save it. In a natlang, I guess, one would just understand from context that this entity is salien, or you could have a construction saying 'this entity is PROX and will be later referred to by PROX pronoun', a bit similar process than topicalization, i.e. fixing a new topic. "As for my wife, PROX went jogging (and a long narrative)."
ii) Then you just refer to it with the PROX pronoun and the OBVIATIVE pronoun can change its referent more fluidly.
I don't think this is "natural" but why not.

So the main point is that it could be easier to make the proximative the more marked alternative, because it's fixed like pronouns are. It could even appear in some clauses only, in some genres.
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Salmoneus wrote: 02 May 2021 12:44
Thanks!
I guess i more or less understood.
It's always nice to find new linguistics features, which doesn't happen as often as earlier.
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Post by jimydog000 »

What are some different excuses for having a word for person, and a word for human?
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I don't understand your question?
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Post by Khemehekis »

jimydog000 wrote: 05 May 2021 14:34 What are some different excuses for having a word for person, and a word for human?
Well here's an easy one, maybe your speakers know of two or more sapient species in your galaxy (human and Grey, or human and reptoid, or human and Klingon, or human, Grey, reptoid, and Xenomorph), in which case both the humans and aliens will be spoken of as people, but only Homo sapiens will be spoken of as humans.
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Salmoneus wrote: 05 May 2021 14:54 I don't understand your question?
It's the same word in many languages. And from some small research, the ones that do have an etymological reason.

Ye, I should have mentioned from a background of choosing simple root words. But also from a cultural perspective as Khem replied. In the language I'm working on, I'm not sure if the speakers know of any other sapient species, but it's not too hard to imagine they have a mythological race that they consider to be still be people, but have green skin and four eyes or what-have-you.
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Post by Omzinesý »

Half of peoples call themselves just "people", and they they surely know other peoples.
languages can tolerate much polysemy. 'Person human' and 'man' are also same in many languages.
My meta-thread: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=5760
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