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

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

Post by DesEsseintes »

KaiTheHomoSapien wrote: 03 Dec 2020 19:36 How do you guys make your phonology more interesting and/or complex? Phonology has always been a weak point in my conlangs. The phonological inventories are small, the rules are few, and the pronunciation could be learned in 2 minutes. I don't necessarily want complexity for complexity's sake, but I want something more if I'm going to attempt a divergent third conlang. [:S]
One thing I like to do to add spice to phonologies is to limit distributions. For instance, rounded vowels might only occur following velars and bilabials, and palatals/palatoalveolars/alveolopalatals might only occur before front vowels and/or high vowels. This is a quick and easy way to fake diachronics when I don’t want to dwell on that aspect.

Once those distributions have been determined, it’s easy to figure out what morfofo you need to fix incompatibilities.
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Post by Khemehekis »

With my conlangs, I just have an immediate, intuitive feel of what the phonemic inventory and phonotactics would be like for the conpeople that speaks it.

For instance, my Kankonians speak a language that originated with brown-skinned people in the desert, and Kankonians usually have curly hair. Their national dish is kroitz az bwevizen (pickle dowsed in alcohol). They are a spacefaring people, but love their palm trees and have a holiday, Kankonia Day, whereon they celebrate environmentalism and wear green-and-blue polo shirts for the vegetation and water of their planet. Their flag is blue and brown, featuring a trapezoid. They wear a lot of flannel. Their government is a thelemarchy. Thus, the Kankonians have sounds like /x/, /ts/, and pharyngeals in their language, and words like khafsar, santz, themetz, tzenoreth, esid, absetz, mehim, *uth (the asterisk is a velar lateral), zoizhatzu, zhiwan, devesis, and gudum.

The Tentans, on the other hand, have blonde, red, or brown hair, and lots of freckles. They are a youthful people who dress casually. Their country is democratic (but not bogged up in an American-style broken system of democracy), like twenty-first-century Earth except postconventional (almost like Pan's Pangaea!) and spacefaring -- not far-advanced enough, though, that Tenta has formed a one-world government with the other nations of Junsu. They listen to trendy music, and eat a lot of candy and chew a lot of gum. Most of them are not religious, but they have a religious tradition and Fifunolu monks who created a personality typology revolving around the eight insos. Thus, the Tentans have lots of labials and affricates, as well as labialized plosives, and words like bein, piva, tumu, chen, kesu, chisu, wain, vija, gaibo, popo, popisa, ansi, ten, epa, loman, sichu, gwesa, cheiki, bina, doiva, gwebo, gopwo, bwonu, Cheitwekwi, peijanaitaji, and kampaji.

The Shaleyans have straight hair, either blonde or light-to-medium brown, and blue eyes, with white, often freckled skin. They are genetically engineered by the Greys of Bt!a to be able to do no evil. They are, however, sensual with no shame. They go to nightclubs and drink fancy drinks (although they are vegetarians) a lot, with their long hair, flips on boys, Dido flips on girls, and fancy clothes (a lot of sequins and futuristic fabrics). They often play diplomats to people on other planets, and include many pioneers in political theory. Many Kankonian words in the fields of politics and genetics/biochemistry are borrowed from Shaleyan. Thus, the Shaleyans have a "metal and nectar" aesthetic to their language, with words like hoy, shay, ziphel, phoda, nekash, ab, beshaw, sedon, sayaphaw, leña, kolowa, zisho, zidebaniphiphasham, webayiphasham, wowoy, wazab, yamila, Lepheya, kowañiz, Duwiña, dukhul, khemek, khayadasineph, ekemal, and ephina.

The majority of my Leholangs are for nonhuman people. Some of these, such as Javarti, sound rather like human languages; some, such as Hapoish, have phonologies that could not appear in natural human tongues; some, such as the many tongues of Psittacotia, are full of alien sounds; some, such as Cetonian or the languages of the hexamantoids, aren't even spoken by a human-like vocal mechanism; and there are even some, such as the cephalopod languages, that aren't even auditory.
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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by LinguoFranco »

How are slack voiced stops pronounced?

I get it in theory, but I have a hard time telling whether I'm doing it right.
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Post by eldin raigmore »

LinguoFranco wrote: 05 Dec 2020 12:26 How are slack voiced stops pronounced?

I get it in theory, but I have a hard time telling whether I'm doing it right.
Basically by not trying.
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Post by Nortaneous »

Omzinesý wrote: 24 Oct 2020 11:36 How could the three affricates and the three sibilants have arisen? I find Slavic/Romance k => t͡ɕ change a bit boring. High German had t => t͡s but such an unconditioned change doesn't create interesting morphological alterations.

Consonants
p t t͡s t͡ʂ t͡ɕ k q <p t c č ć k q>
s ʂ ɕ <s š ś>
m n ŋ ɴ <m n nk nq>
l r ʀ <l r r̠>
ʋ j <v j>
Tocharian went from (effectively) */p t d k s/ to /p t ts tɕ s ʂ ɕ/ through several rounds of palatalization:
*ty > ts
*t k s > tɕ ɕ ʂ / _V[+front] (k s also _y)
something or other with *d which isn't settled; conventionally *d > ts without palatalization and *d > ɕ with it but IMO there's a stronger case for *d > t without palatalization and *d > ts with it
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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by LinguoFranco »

So, I noticed some natlangs where /b/ is the only voiced stop.

I'm wondering what could have given rise to this asymmetry, as I want to incorporate it into my own phonology.

One podcast I listen to says that in Arapaho, it's because the /m/ shifted to /b/ or something like that. Yet, there are some languages where /b/ is the only voiced stop, but also retain /m/. Such is the case in the Alabama language and at least one dialect of Mixtec.

Yucatec Maya has a voiced bilabial stop, albeit it's an implosive.
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Post by Pabappa »

maybe from /w/. I dont know of any such languages offhand, but I've done a similar shift in my own conlangs, which typically favor labial consonants over all others.

I could see a language where the voiced set is indifferent to articulation ..... varies allophonically between stop, fricative, and approximant .... but where the labial member is most likely to surface as [b] whereas the coronals might be [ɾ] and [ɣ]. This would be enough to analyze /b/ as the dominant allophone of the labial stop and use something else for the others.

Check for allophones if you can.

Navajo, I think, has done something similar to this. Its contrast is between voiceless and voiceless aspirated, but it seems plausible that it may have gone through a stage in which the labial stop /p/ was [b]. However, this language also has a complete set of other plain stops, so it is not an example of a language with just one stop in the lenis series, .... merely an example of how /w/ might shift to /b/.
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Post by sangi39 »

The other option is that there originally was both /p/ and /b/, but /p/ later became something else (like /ʔ/, /f/, /h/, or nothing, etc.), leaving /b/ as the only voiced plosive in that POA alongside pairs like /t d/ and /k g/ (this is what happened in Arabic, IIRC).

In languages that have, say, /b t k/, but no voicing distinctions in the plosives at any particular POA, from what I can remember, this is sometimes
because /p/ is "weaker" than /b/, in the same way that /g/ is "weaker" than /k/ (I've completely forgotten the actual terminology used here), so the bilabial plosive is realised primarily as a voiced sound where the other plosives are voiceless (this is similar, I think, to why some of the Mayan languages have /ɓ/ where you might otherwise expect /pʼ/, i.e. it's a "glottalic" sound, but it's appeared as an implosive to increase the distinction between it and /p/).

EDIT: Just realised the first part didn't actually deal with your question, since those languages do have other voiced plosives [:P]
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Post by Creyeditor »

I think the first part of sangi's answer can be extended to systems like the one suggested. If you start out with /p b t d k g/, lenition might target non-labial voiced plosives, leading to a system like /p b t z~r k ɣ/. I actually think this is more likely than the emergence of a new /n/, but I cannot really tell you why.
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Post by Omzinesý »

Nortaneous wrote: 07 Dec 2020 00:34
Omzinesý wrote: 24 Oct 2020 11:36 How could the three affricates and the three sibilants have arisen? I find Slavic/Romance k => t͡ɕ change a bit boring. High German had t => t͡s but such an unconditioned change doesn't create interesting morphological alterations.

Consonants
p t t͡s t͡ʂ t͡ɕ k q <p t c č ć k q>
s ʂ ɕ <s š ś>
m n ŋ ɴ <m n nk nq>
l r ʀ <l r r̠>
ʋ j <v j>
Tocharian went from (effectively) */p t d k s/ to /p t ts tɕ s ʂ ɕ/ through several rounds of palatalization:
*ty > ts
*t k s > tɕ ɕ ʂ / _V[+front] (k s also _y)
something or other with *d which isn't settled; conventionally *d > ts without palatalization and *d > ɕ with it but IMO there's a stronger case for *d > t without palatalization and *d > ts with it
I must look at Tocharian.
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Post by Backstroke_Italics »

LinguoFranco wrote: 09 Dec 2020 16:52 So, I noticed some natlangs where /b/ is the only voiced stop.
I'm wondering what could have given rise to this asymmetry, as I want to incorporate it into my own phonology.
One podcast I listen to says that in Arapaho, it's because the /m/ shifted to /b/ or something like that. Yet, there are some languages where /b/ is the only voiced stop, but also retain /m/. Such is the case in the Alabama language and at least one dialect of Mixtec.
In all the West/Central Muskogean languages /b/ comes from /k_w/. In other words, labialization led to a labial stop, but since there was a pile-up of labial stops, voicing was used to contrast them. It's also possible that /k_w/ was voiced to begin with, but that just shifts the question to a different POA, and since it's /k/ in Creek, that's unlikely anyway.
IIRC, Japanese also has some /m/ > /b/ in loans from Chinese, while still having /m/.
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Post by LinguistCat »

Backstroke_Italics wrote: 10 Dec 2020 18:35 ...
IIRC, Japanese also has some /m/ > /b/ in loans from Chinese, while still having /m/.
Japanese voiced stops used to be prenasalized, so instead of contrasting /b/ and /p/ per se, they contrasted /mb/ and /p~b/. Also, in various dialects of Japanese, there is variation between /m/ and /b/ in native words with identical or very similar meanings.

There's also the issue of when an On'yomi reading of a kanji was borrowed over, often with differences between meaning depending on the reading used. (Example: 猫 has the earlier borrowed reading of myou, and a later borrowed byou. Myou is often used in scientific names of beetles, while byou - like the kun'yomi reading neko - has the meaning of "cat" or things related to such.)

But! for the purposes of this question, this points to having a prenasalized stop series where /nd/ and /ŋg/ become /n ŋ/ respectively, while /mb/ just denasalizes.
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Post by Salmoneus »

Omzinesý wrote: 10 Dec 2020 15:38
Nortaneous wrote: 07 Dec 2020 00:34
Omzinesý wrote: 24 Oct 2020 11:36 How could the three affricates and the three sibilants have arisen? I find Slavic/Romance k => t͡ɕ change a bit boring. High German had t => t͡s but such an unconditioned change doesn't create interesting morphological alterations.

Consonants
p t t͡s t͡ʂ t͡ɕ k q <p t c č ć k q>
s ʂ ɕ <s š ś>
m n ŋ ɴ <m n nk nq>
l r ʀ <l r r̠>
ʋ j <v j>
Tocharian went from (effectively) */p t d k s/ to /p t ts tɕ s ʂ ɕ/ through several rounds of palatalization:
*ty > ts
*t k s > tɕ ɕ ʂ / _V[+front] (k s also _y)
something or other with *d which isn't settled; conventionally *d > ts without palatalization and *d > ɕ with it but IMO there's a stronger case for *d > t without palatalization and *d > ts with it
I must look at Tocharian.
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Post by Nortaneous »

Backstroke_Italics wrote: 10 Dec 2020 18:35
LinguoFranco wrote: 09 Dec 2020 16:52 So, I noticed some natlangs where /b/ is the only voiced stop.
I'm wondering what could have given rise to this asymmetry, as I want to incorporate it into my own phonology.
One podcast I listen to says that in Arapaho, it's because the /m/ shifted to /b/ or something like that. Yet, there are some languages where /b/ is the only voiced stop, but also retain /m/. Such is the case in the Alabama language and at least one dialect of Mixtec.
In all the West/Central Muskogean languages /b/ comes from /k_w/. In other words, labialization led to a labial stop, but since there was a pile-up of labial stops, voicing was used to contrast them. It's also possible that /k_w/ was voiced to begin with, but that just shifts the question to a different POA, and since it's /k/ in Creek, that's unlikely anyway.
IIRC, Japanese also has some /m/ > /b/ in loans from Chinese, while still having /m/.
m > b in Chinese loans is due to denasalization in Chinese.

kʷ > b could be kʷ > kp > ɓ > b - spontaneous implosivization of labial-velars is attested somewhere in Africa or something, I think.
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Post by Davush »

I have realised in Hakuan the following "problem":

When both agent and patient are 3rd person, and one is pronominal, it is impossible to retrieve which one is the A and which the P. Although both arguments are marked on the verb, they don't have separate A/P forms to distinguish. For example:

saps-oa tupu
see-3sg.3sg man
'the man saw him/her'
OR
's/he saw the man'

Would (or is) this type of ambiguity tolerated in any natlangs?

What type of strategies might arise to disambiguate, without the need for case?

Thanks!
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Post by Creyeditor »

Some languages have restrictions on pro drop, e.g. in a 3sg on 3sg scenario, only the object pronoun can be dropped. Other languages just tolerate similar ambiguities, but have a default way of interpreting such sentences.
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Post by Davush »

Creyeditor wrote: 12 Dec 2020 14:02 Some languages have restrictions on pro drop, e.g. in a 3sg on 3sg scenario, only the object pronoun can be dropped. Other languages just tolerate similar ambiguities, but have a default way of interpreting such sentences.
Thanks! Do you happen to know any languages in particular which do this type of thing?
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Post by Creyeditor »

German is a language that allows for ambiguities of a similar kind. In dependent clauses, the order of full noun phrase arguments is free. Since NOM vs. ACC is not marked on nouns with female or neuter gender and verbal agreement does not disambiguate, such sentences are ambiguous. Usually, however, the first noun is assumed to be the subject, but with marked intonation this can be reverted.

Ich sage, dass die Frau das Mädchen bewundert.
I say that the.F woman the.N girl admires
I say that the woman admires the girl. OR I say that it is the girl that admires the woman.

I looked up the case of restrictions on pro drop again, and it is slightly different than what I remembered. In Kambera (Malayo-Polynesian), the theme and the recipient of a ditransitive verb (both potebtially only marked on the verb) can only be first/second person (recipient) and third person (theme). Other combinations are not allowed. This has been termed Super Strong Person Case Constraint. I can't think of a more similar example right now.
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Post by LinguoFranco »

Davush wrote: 12 Dec 2020 13:51 I have realised in Hakuan the following "problem":

When both agent and patient are 3rd person, and one is pronominal, it is impossible to retrieve which one is the A and which the P. Although both arguments are marked on the verb, they don't have separate A/P forms to distinguish. For example:

saps-oa tupu
see-3sg.3sg man
'the man saw him/her'
OR
's/he saw the man'

Would (or is) this type of ambiguity tolerated in any natlangs?

What type of strategies might arise to disambiguate, without the need for case?

Thanks!
It looks like your conlang has polypersonal agreement, from what I can tell.

In many such languages, the third person subject is left blank, so you could get a way by marking only the object.
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Post by Salmoneus »

Davush wrote: 12 Dec 2020 13:51 I have realised in Hakuan the following "problem":

When both agent and patient are 3rd person, and one is pronominal, it is impossible to retrieve which one is the A and which the P. Although both arguments are marked on the verb, they don't have separate A/P forms to distinguish. For example:

saps-oa tupu
see-3sg.3sg man
'the man saw him/her'
OR
's/he saw the man'

Would (or is) this type of ambiguity tolerated in any natlangs?
Yes. English is one example. In English, it typically arises when both arguments are purely pronominal:
"he saw him" - do I mean that he saw him, or that he saw him?

However, it also arises in certain topical and focusing constructions with a full nominal argument that is reiterated with a pronoun:
"as for the man, he saw him" - the man is almost certainly the semantic agent or patient of the verb here... but which?

More generally: yes, these ambiguities can arise in languages even where one argument is nominal.
What type of strategies might arise to disambiguate, without the need for case?
A good question. When a verb has two third-person arguments, how can you tell which is subject and which is object?

The first solution would be: case. Remember that case need not mean morphological case. You could easily adopt a rule where subjects preceded the verb and objects followed it, for instance. Or you could have, say, VSO order. How would that help where one argument was dropped? Simple: don't let the argument be dropped. Either in general, or just for disambiguation.

The second solution would be: better indexing. Your pronouns, or pronominal affixes, could more precisely indicate their reference - they could indicate the gender of their referent, for instance, or relative status.


The third and much broader solution is to look at context. There will usually be one "most likely interpretation" (let's call this MLI for short), and one "less likely interpretation" (LLI). The question then becomes: given that the MLI will occur most often, how do I spot when LLI is intended?

The easiest way is: context! The LLI is rarely intended. If it is, it'll often be in an unusual context where the possibility is very obvious, and the speaker may even overtly flag the oddness of the situation. People can usually spot this from context.

But if you do want an overt LLI marking, you then have a further question: how do you define it? That is, how do you define the MLI (the LLI then being the absence of MLI)? Different languages do this differently.

In essence, languages make assumptions about what the subject is likely to be. The most straightforward assumption would be: the subject of the previous clause will be the subject of this one. A more indirect assumption would be: the topic of the previous clause will be the subject of this one. Or, indeed: the topic of this clause will be its subject. Or even more generally: a high-saliency referent will be the subject. Or: a high-agency referent will be the subject.

In each case, you then have to mark (assuming you're not leaving it to context) clauses where the MLI is not correct. You can do this by:

- marking the noun(s), either morphologically or syntactically. You can mark case, topic or focus; you can also make a proximate/obviate distinction, which basically is directly specifying the saliency of the noun

- marking the verb. When you're indicated a switch in the subject, this is called switch reference. When you're indicating that the subject is actually lower-agency than the object, this is called direct/inverse marking. It's worth mentioning here that verbs don't have to be marked with affixes. You could also, for instance, use a serial verb construction incorporating a univalent verb, to force the interpretation you want.

- upgrading or downgrading an argument. There's a hierarchy of styles of reference: elided subjects > pronouns > nouns. You could have a rule like: unexpected subjects cannot be pronouns, but must be full nouns. Or you could have a rule like: expected subjects are elided. Likewise with agreement on verbs.


---------------

Some concrete examples? Let's assume we're trying to disambiguate "a hunter shot the bear" and "the bear shot a hunter". This language is VSO, and both arguments must be indexed on the verb. Arguments can, we'll say for now, be elided. So, our basic form is: "shot-he-he hunter". How do we tell if the hunter is shooting, or being shot? Some ways:

Fronting/topicalisation of unexpected argument:

enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear. - the hunter shot the bear.
enter-33 hunter wood. bear shot-33 . - the bear shot the hunter.

Topicalisation:
hunter enter-33 wood. shot-33 bear. - the hunter shot the bear. [topic is subject]
bear enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 - the bear shot the hunter. [topic is subject; the bear is the topic of both clauses, despite not being an argument in the first]

Obviation:
enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 some bear. - the hunter shot the bear. ['some' marks an obviate]
enter-33 some hunter wood. shot-33 bear. - the bear shot the hunter.

Proximal marking overriding definiteness:
enter-33 a certain hunter wood. shot-33 the bear. - the hunter shot the bear.
enter-33 a hunter wood. shot-33 the bear. - the bear shot the hunter.
[the bear is assumed to be subject because it's definite and hunter is indefinite. But the hunter can be promoted above bear with special marker, here 'certain']

Switch reference:
enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear. - the hunter shot the bear.
enter-33 hunter wood. but shot-33 bear. - the bear shot the hunter. [well, or 'the wood shot the bear', but context...]

Direct/inverse:

enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear. - the hunter shot the bear.
enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33-wow bear. - the bear shot the hunter. [human hunters outrank bears, hence the low-ranked bear shooting a hunter must be marked.]
[Direct/inverse implies a fixed hierarchy, usually not very precise. This example could also instead be admirativity: just marking any pragmatically surprising news]

And then, going back to same-reference as an exemplar assumption, to show other methods for encoding LLI (could also be used with other assumptions, such as with direct/inverse...)

Switch reference by elision of expected subject pronoun:

enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear. - the hunter shot the bear. [pronoun dropped because expected subject]
enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear it. - the bear shot the hunter.

Switch reference by elision of expected subject agreement AND pronoun:

enter-33 hunter wood. shot-3 bear. - the hunter shot the bear. [pronoun and agreement dropped]
enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear. - the bear shot the hunter.

Switch reference by non-pronominalisation/non-elision of unexpected subject:

enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear. - the hunter shot the bear. [subject elided leaving only agreement]
enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear hunter. - the bear shot the hunter. [unexpected subject cannot be elided]

Switch reference by intransitive verb:

enter-33 hunter wood. shot-33 bear. - the hunter shot the bear.
enter-33 hunter wood. come-3 bear shot-33. - the bear shot the hunter. [adding the intransitive verb with 'bear' unambiguously as subject changes the expect subject of following 'shot']



And so on and so forth....


N.B. these rules can be different depending on whether the preceding clause is in a different sentence, and whether any conjunction appears. For instance, in English we can say "the hunter entered the wood and shot the bear", but not (in formal speech) "the hunter entered the wood. Shot the bear." - elision rules are different with and without conjunctions.

Also N.B. sometimes rules can exist for determining OBJECTS, rather than subjects - Kiowa can have switch-reference for objects. But this is much rarer.
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