Zevy notes (Now playing: Vocatives)

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Zevy notes (Now playing: Vocatives)

Post by Sevly »

Hello! I'll be using this thread to share regular posts on different aspects of my conlang Zevy. Here we go!

Table of contents

Instrumental verbs
Exploring how Zevy wields the instrumental case on verbs to signal outcomes · 9 min read

Linking words
Exploring Zevy's two most critical connectors · 13 minute read

Basic syntax trees
Some not-too-rigorous generative grammar on Zevy phrase structure · 5 minute read

Possession
Exploring how Zevy forms possessive phrases · 12 minute read

Vocatives
Exploring how Zevy forms terms of address · 10 min read

Glossing guide

1 : first person
1s : first person singular
1p : first person plural
2 : second person
3 : third person
ABL : ablative case (e.g. "from", "away from")
ABS : absolutive case
AGR : agreement
COM : comitative case (e.g. "with", "and", "alongside")
ERG : ergative case
DAT : dative case (e.g. "to", "towards", "for")
FUT : future tense
IMM : imminent (modifies tense)
IMP : imperative mood
INST : instrumental case (e.g. "with", "using", "by")
INT : interrogative pronoun (e.g. "what")
LOC : locative case (e.g. "in", "at")
NEG : negative marker (e.g. "not")
POSS : possessive
PRS : present tense
PST : past tense
RSMP : resumptive pronoun
SUBE : subessive case (e.g. "under")
SUPE : superessive case (e.g. "on")
TOP : topic marker
Last edited by Sevly on 02 Sep 2022 04:24, edited 12 times in total.
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Re: Zevy notes

Post by Sevly »

Instrumental verbs
Exploring how Zevy wields the instrumental case on verbs to signal outcomes · 9 min read · back to table of contents

Note: You can read this post with it's original formatting over at the Zevy wordbook here, or you can read the inline version below.

Image

In Zevy, the term "instrumental verb" applies to a set of verbs which can be used in the following two different ways: they can either be the main verb of a clause, or they can modify the main verb of the clause by use of the instrumental case.

Verbs which follow this pattern include:
  • mot "need"
  • murst "want"
  • zeen "try"
  • ema "say"
  • er "think"
  • esa "believe"
  • heri "guess"
Some concepts which have verb forms in English only have noun forms in Zevy, and can also modify the main verb in the same way. Because of this, these are referred to as "instrumental nouns".

Nouns which follow this pattern include:
  • geen "hope"
  • gesa "appearance"
  • apoken "duty"
▾ How these work ▾

To understand these, let's start by looking at the verbs, which can be used in two different forms. We'll use the example of the verb mot "need", keeping in mind that this pattern applies to all of the verbs above.

Consider a scene where two siblings, Eurevi and Kamo, are at the beach. Eurevi sees a stand selling vurtsan, a smoothie-like mix of blended and solid fruit that's the perfect thing to hit the spot on a hot day. Mouth watering, he kicks off the following exchange:

Image

Eurevi says:
  • ¡Vurtsan mu mot si me!
    [ˈburθsã m̩ moh z me]
    mixfruit ABS need be.1 PRS
    I need a smoothie!
Kamo replies:
  • Dut me en.
    [ˈduθ me jẽ]
    house LOC have
    ⦗We⦘ have ⦗that⦘ at home.
Eurevi's declaration illustrates the first form. Here, mot is the main verb and appears near the end of the clause. Meanwhile, the item in need appears earlier in the clause, and is followed by the absolutive case marker mu.

For Eurevi, the item in need was a thing (the mixfruit) which might suggest that this position must be occupied by a noun. But note that if we want to indicate an action that's needed, rather than a physical thing, we can also swap in a verb:

Kamo continues:
  • Uttemu, eu mu mot si me deses.
    [htemʊ, ˈjeo m̩ moh z me ˈdes]
    besides, leave ABS need be.1 PRS 1p
    Besides, we need to leave.
Image

So taking in both examples above, we note that we can say Vurtsan mu mot si me "I need a smoothie", or Eu mu mot si me "I need to leave". Both illustrate the first form in which instrumental verbs can be used: as the main verb, towards the end of the clause. Straightforward enough!

▾ Adding another approach ▾

Let's now look at the second way that verbs like this can be used. In the second form, mot is no longer the main verb. Instead, it comes at the beginning of the clause and is followed by the instrumental case marker su. The action that's needed, which in this case must be a verb, appears near the end of the clause.

With this in mind, let's compare the two forms:

first form
  • Eu mu mot si me.
    [ˈjeo m̩ moh z me]
    leave ABS need be.1 PRS
    I need to leave.
second form
  • Mot su, eu si det.
    [moθ sə ˈjeo z deh]
    need INST, leave be.1 IMP
    I need to leave.
A more literal translation of the second form would be, "By need, I should leave." Note how in this translation:
  • "leave" is the main verb
  • "need" is introduced by the preposition "by"
Similarly, in the original Zevy:
  • eu "leave" is the main verb
  • mot "need" is introduced by the instrumental case marker su
In Modern Zevy speech, it happens that this second form occurs more frequently than the first. Beyond that, though, the choice between the two is largely stylistic. Both Eu mu mot si me and Mot su, eu si det are equally good translations for "I need to leave."

▾ Adding time ▾

As we dig in further, we'll see that our choices aren't always so freespirited. If we want to translate a sentence like "I needed to leave" or "I will need to leave", then the choice between the two forms becomes much more important.

Consider the past tense. In the examples below, we see that though the surface level meanings remain the same, they differ significantly in their implication:

first form
  • Eu mu mot si ti.
    [ˈjeo m̩ moh z ti]
    leave ABS need be.1 PST
    I needed to leave. (But did I do so?)
second form
  • Mot su, eu si ti.
    [moθ sə ˈjeo z ti]
    need INST, leave be.1 PST
    I needed to leave. (And I did.)
Similarly, in the future tense:

first form
  • Eu mu mot si te.
    ['jeo m̩ moh z tje]
    leave ABS need be.1 FUT
    I'll need to leave. (But will I do so?)
second form
  • Mot su, eu si te.
    [moθ sə ˈjeo z tje]
    need INST, leave be.1 FUT
    I'll need to leave. (And I will.)
If we look at the literal translation of the su forms, we see how the difference in implication arises:
  • In the past tense, the literal translation of Mot su, eu si ti is "By need, I left." The fact that the speaker did, in fact, leave, is presented straightforwardly.
  • In the future tense, the translation of Mot su, eu si te is "By need, I will leave." The fact of leaving is clear; the need is the motivator.
  • In contrast, in the form that place mot at the end of the clause, the fact of needing is made clear, but the result of it is not.
This is how we arrive at the world where the choice between the two reflects the speakers confidence that they did or will in fact leave.

At the beach, Eurevi tries to take advantage of this:

Image

Eurevi insists:
  • ¡Ve, mot su, utni en si te!
    [ˈba ˈmoθ sə ˈhʊɲ jẽ z tje]
    no, need INST, that=COM have be.1 FUT
    No, by need, I will have one!
but Kamo just replies:
  • Edati te mertmirati.
    [ˈjedatsitsˈmerθmirats]
    technique DAT award
    Nice try.
Alas, in some cases, one's confidence is misplaced.

▾ Jumping back to the present ▾

Let's return to the present tense. Recall that we illustrated the two possible forms as Eu mu mot si me and Mot su, eu si det. The first form ends with the present tense marker me, while the second ends with the imperative mood marker det. But that imperative marker isn't the only way we can go.

It turns out that we can make the same distinction we made in the past and present tense by replacing that imperative mood marker with either the present tense marker, me, or the imminent present tense marker, mant:

second form + imperative
  • Mot su, eu si det.
    [moθ sə 'jeo z deh]
    need INST, leave be.1 IMP
    By need, I ought leave. → I need to leave. (But will I?)
second form + imminent present
  • Mot su, eu si mant.
    [moθ sə ˈjeo z mãh]
    need INST, leave be.1 PRS.IMM
    By need, I'm about to leave. → Leaving, have to! (Getting ready to leave)
second form + simple present
  • Mot su, eu si me.
    [moθ sə ˈjeo z me]
    need INST, leave be.1 PRS
    By need, I'm leaving. → Leaving, have to! (In the process of leaving)
Image

And so in this way, speakers using instrumental verbs have a full set of tools for indicating the expected outcome of their pronouncements. Indeed, constructions like the examples above are very common in Zevy writing and speech, so being aware of both their literal and implicit meanings is critical to understanding Zevy in practice.

▾ Other examples ▾

Here are some examples with a few of the other verbs that follow this pattern:

verb + second form
  • Daadi mu, murst su, mantseu me, mata te at hi te.
    [daz mə ˈmwəs sə ˈmãseo me ˈmata ts a j tse]
    kid TOP, want INST, today LOC, park DAT go be.3 PRS
    The kid wants to go to the park today. (and probably will)
verb + first form
  • Eesen me zui ni en mu zeen hi det.
    [ˈjezə me zəi ɲ jẽ m̩ 'ʑeə j deh]
    match LOC victory COM have ABS try be.3 IMP
    Try to win the match. (no pressure)
verb + second form
  • Zeen su, eesen me zui ni en si mant.
    [ʑeə sə 'jezə me zəi ɲ ˈjẽ z mãh]
    try INST, match LOC victory COM have be.1 PRS.IMM
    We're trying to win the match right now. (duh)
verb + first form
  • Sopu te at mu ema hi ti datiis.
    [ˈsopʊ ts a m̩ jemə j ti ˈdas]
    party DAT go ABS speak be.3 PST that:person
    They said they're coming to the party. (but who knows)
verb + second form
  • Utenen me ema su, sopu te at si te.
    [ˈhunəme jemə sə ˈsopʊ ts a z tje]
    before LOC speak INST, party DAT go be.1 FUT
    I already said I'm coming to the party. (So stop asking!)
Here are some example with a few of the nouns which follow this pattern. Note that nouns take the second form only:

noun + second form
  • Geen su, eesen me zui ni en si det.
    [geə sə ˈjezə me zəi ɲ ˈjẽ z deh]
    hope INST, match LOC victory COM have be.3 IMP
    I hope we win this match.
noun + second form
  • Utdou, gesa su, amat ni en si te.
    [hdəu ˈgesə sə 'wamaθ ɲ̩ jẽ z tje]
    that:despite, appearance INST, loss COM have be.3 FUT
    But it seems (likely) we will lose.
noun + second form
  • Utte, apoken su, mtemu at si mant.
    [htse ˈwapken sə ˈmtem a z mãh]
    that:to, duty INST, above_now go be.3 PRS.IMM
    So we need to do better now.
back to table of contents
Last edited by Sevly on 26 Aug 2022 04:05, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Instrumental verbs)

Post by Creyeditor »

I actually really like this feature. Reminds me of Indonesian, e.g.

Dia ber-kata kalau kamu mau pergi.
3SG have-say COMPL you want go
'He said that you want to leave.'

Kata-nya kamu mau pergi.
say-3SG.POSS you want leave
'People say you want to leave.'

but also,

Kamu kayak mau pergi.
you like want go
You seem like you want to leave.

Kayak-nya kamu mau pergi.
like-3SG.POSS you want go
It seems like you want to leave.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Instrumental verbs)

Post by Sevly »

Ooo neat, super cool to see the natlang example. Thanks for reading and sharing that!
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Instrumental verbs)

Post by Salmoneus »

Sevly! Great to see you still around. I was actually thinking of you a few months back (well, more specifically, of the little web-app-page-thing you made to let us play a board game I'd invented).


Gorgiously illustrated post!


I'm afraid I don't think I understand. In two ways. I didn't think I had any problem with your presentation, except that I don't know what that "be.1" is doing in each example (and then suddenly a "be.3" for some reason, in an imperative of all things!). Or what the absolutives and imperatives are doing, really. Perhaps you could... well, I guess you've glossed, but... break down the gloss somehow and explain how an example sentence actually works syntactically and what all of the words are doing in it?

The other thing is that I must be misunderstanding something because I don't see the Indonesian example as being the same sort of thing that I thought you were doing. You seem to be using the instrumental case to create a clause or phrase indicating a modality, whereas Indonesian seems to be using a possessive construction to create the equivalent of an impersonal verb. What am I missing?

[although ironically English - well, old-fashioned English - can do both(ish) with one construction. Where you gloss "need INST leave be.1 IMP", Old-Fashioned English (OFE) has "need-POSS I leave" (where the verb may as well be imperative if you want, since the imperative isn't marked). That is, "needs I leave", or more often "I needs leave". (more often supplemented by a more generic modal, "needs will", or increasingly "needs must", and now distinctly old-fashioned even then. But the same construction still occurs idiomatically to create an impersonal modal: "needs must", or more poetically "needs must when the devil drives" - 'must' is an impersonal verb, as the speaker is saying that somebody must do something but not specifying who.]
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Instrumental verbs)

Post by Sevly »

Hi Sal! *waves*
Salmoneus wrote: 25 May 2022 01:21 Sevly! Great to see you still around. I was actually thinking of you a few months back (well, more specifically, of the little web-app-page-thing you made to let us play a board game I'd invented).
Ahhhh yes I've thought of that too! Sadly the website is down now but I've been feeling like I might try my hand at a third version of that web app one of these days. (You know what they say, third try's the charm.)

Salmoneus wrote: 25 May 2022 01:21 Gorgiously illustrated post!
Ty ty

Salmoneus wrote: 25 May 2022 01:21I'm afraid I don't think I understand. In two ways. I didn't think I had any problem with your presentation, except that I don't know what that "be.1" is doing in each example (and then suddenly a "be.3" for some reason, in an imperative of all things!). Or what the absolutives and imperatives are doing, really. Perhaps you could... well, I guess you've glossed, but... break down the gloss somehow and explain how an example sentence actually works syntactically and what all of the words are doing in it?
Mmm, indeed indeed. One of the problems of my style of conlanging is that I like to jump straight into the tidbits I find most interesting which can make it a bit of a puzzle to put together the entire picture. I do plan on doing a proper "Intro to Zevy" in the next month or so which will explain sentence structure from the ground up, and then eventually get around to explaining the sound system (you know, that "phonology" thing that everyone is always talking about), but I'll likely throw up a few more targeted posts first. But yes, fair critique of this parachute-you-in style.

Salmoneus wrote: 25 May 2022 01:21The other thing is that I must be misunderstanding something because I don't see the Indonesian example as being the same sort of thing that I thought you were doing. You seem to be using the instrumental case to create a clause or phrase indicating a modality, whereas Indonesian seems to be using a possessive construction to create the equivalent of an impersonal verb. What am I missing?
Yeah I don't think the Indonesian example is the same either, I took it more as "this is something I was reminded of when reading this" as opposed to "this is something that has the exact same mechanic". I would say your description of what the Zevy and Indonesian examples are doing is accurate.

Salmoneus wrote: 25 May 2022 01:21[although ironically English - well, old-fashioned English - can do both(ish) with one construction. [...]
Ahhhh I've heard "needs must" before but never truly understood where it came from, very interesting
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Instrumental verbs)

Post by Sevly »

Linking words
Exploring Zevy's two most critical connectors · 13 minute read · back to table of contents

Note: You can read this post with its original formatting over at the Zevy wordbook here, or you can read the inline version below.

Image

The words hi and si are derived from the Middle Zevy verb root -i-, which was productive as the copula "to be" and as an auxiliary used in certain aspects. Apart from having irregularities in its conjugation, it fell squarely in line with other verbs of the time with respect to its properties.

In Modern Zevy, however, the question of whether the descendant forms hi or si are best analyzed as verbs or as something else entirely is a tricky one. To figure out how to gloss these, let's go over their properties, using "?" as a placeholder in the gloss for now.

▾ Property 1 ▾
They can occur on their own to link a subject to its predicate adjective or noun. The predicate comes first, then hi or si, and then the subject last:
  • Hat hi utdut.
    [ˈhah ji huduh]
    tall ? that=house
    That house is tall.
  • Kisi si dit.
    [ˈkizi z dih]
    doctor ? 1s
    I am a doctor.

▾ Property 2 ▾
The choice between the two depends solely on whether we have a first person subject, i.e. whether the subject includes the speaker or not. When the subject includes the speaker, use si; otherwise, use hi:
  • Kisi si dit. Kisi si deses.
    [ˈkizi z ˈdih ‖ ˈkizi z ˈdes]
    doctor ? 1s. doctor ? 1p
    I am a doctor. We are doctors.
  • Kisi hi dovund. Kisi hi donimen.
    [ˈkizi j ˈdovð ‖ ˈkizi j ˈdommə]
    doctor ? 2:friend. doctor ? 2:sir
    You, friend, are a doctor. You, sir, a doctor.
  • Kisi hi datiis. Kisi hi ditau.
    [ˈkizi j ˈdas ‖ ˈkizi j ˈditəu]
    doctor ? that:person. doctor ? 1sPOSS-son
    That person is a doctor. My son is a doctor.

▾ Property 3 ▾
They are often followed by me, ti, or te, which precede the subject and mark the following handful of semantic roles:

Time
  • Seudi hi me meti.
    [ˈɕeozi j me ˈmets]
    morning ? LOC show
    The show is in the morning.
Location
  • Dut si me deses.
    [ˈduh zi me ˈdes]
    house ? LOC 1p
    We are in the house.
Source
  • Taba hi ti zeti.
    [ˈtabə j ti ˈzets]
    city ? ABL visitor
    The visitor is from the city.
Destination
  • Teke si te dit.
    [ˈteke z tje ˈdih]
    country ? DAT 1s
    I am ⦗going⦘ to the country.
Beneficiary
  • Dovuindi hi te mant mendi.
    [dwəĩzi j tse ˈmãh mẽz]
    you friend ? DAT current gift
    This gift is for you.

▾ Property 4 ▾
Though me, ti, and te occur most frequently, we can in fact fill this slot with any case marker or postposition:

Simile
  • Mizien hi u doteken.
    [ˈmiʑjə j wu ˈdotekə]
    ocean ? like 2=color
    This color of yours is like the ocean.
Cause
  • Vetai ane anen hi tide dideten.
    [ˈbetəi waɲe wanə j tiz ˈdidetə]
    solid foundation ? because of 1sPOSS-success
    My success is because of a solid foundation.

▾ Property 5 ▾
When followed by the postposition ni "with" (also known as the comitative case marker), things get extra wonky: the entire construction takes on an idiomatic sense similar to that of "to have":
  • Mendi hi ni tattiis.
    [ˈmẽzi j ɲi ˈtas]
    gift ? COM child
    The child has a gift. literally → "is with a gift"
  • Koru hi ni dut.
    [ˈkoru j ɲi ˈduh]
    window ? COM house
    The house has a window. literally → "is with a window"
  • Ttemu kepoi si ni deses.
    [ˈtstem kepəi z ɲi ˈdes]
    above all crew ? COM 1p
    We have the best friends. literally → "are with a crew above all"

▾ Property 6 ▾
When we don't have a postposition or case marker, the subject is mandatory. When we do, the subject can be dropped whenever it is recoverable from context:
  • Seudi hi me. Dut si me.
    [ˈɕeozi j me ‖ ˈduh zi me]
    morning ? LOC. house ? LOC
    ⦗It⦘ is in the morning. ⦗We⦘ are in the house.
  • Taba hi ti. Teke si te
    [ˈtabə j ti ‖ teke z tje]
    city ? ABL. country ? DAT
    ⦗They⦘ are from the city. ⦗I⦘ am ⦗going⦘ to the country.
  • Dovuind hi te. Mizien hi u. Vetai ane anen hi tide.
    [ˈdwəĩz ji tse ‖ ˈmiʑjə j wu ‖ ˈbetəi waɲe wanə j tiz]
    you friend ? DAT. ocean ? like. solid foundation ? because of
    ⦗It⦘ is for you. ⦗It⦘ is like the ocean. ⦗It⦘ is because of a solid foundation.
  • Mendi hi ni. Koru hi ni. Ttemu kepoi si ni.
    [ˈmẽzi j ɲi ‖ ˈkoru j ɲi ‖ ˈtstem kepəi z ɲi]
    gift ? COM. window ? COM. above all crew ? COM
    ⦗They⦘ have a gift. ⦗It⦘ has a window. ⦗We⦘ have the best friends.
but we can't say:
  • ❌ Hat hi.
    _ tall ?
    ⦗It⦘ is tall.
and must instead, say:
  • ✅ Hat hi da.
    [ˈhah ji ˈda]
    _ tall ? that
    It is tall.

▾ Property 7 ▾
When we take the construction that we saw in Property 3, we find that we can place a verb root like met "happen" or bet "read" in place of the noun and the sentences remain valid:
  • Seudi hi me meti.
    [ˈɕeozi j me ˈmets]
    morning ? LOC show
    The show is in the morning.
  • Met hi me meti.
    [ˈmeh ji me ˈmets]
    happen ? LOC show
    The show is happening. literally → "is in happen"
and:
  • Dut si me deses.
    [ˈduh zi me ˈdes]
    house ? LOC 1p
    We are in the house.
  • Bet si me deses.
    [ˈbeh zi me ˈdes]
    read ? LOC 1p
    We are reading. literally → "are in read"
One thing we notice that's different, however, is that the role of the markers that intervene between hi/si and the subject has become much more fixed. Rather than marking a wide variety of temporal, spatial, or other semantic roles, they now mark strictly temporal ones. In particular, me, ti, and te have now come mark the present, past, and future respectively:

present
  • Met hi me meti.
    [ˈmeh ji me ˈmets]
    happen ? LOC show
    The show is happening. literally → "is in happen"
past
  • Met hi ti meti.
    [ˈmeh ji ti ˈmets]
    happen ? ABL show
    The show happened. literally → "is from happen"
future
  • Met hi te meti.
    [ˈmeh ji tse ˈmets]
    happen ? DAT show
    The show will happen. literally → "is to happen"
and:

present
  • Bet si me deses.
    [ˈbeh zi me ˈdes]
    read ? LOC 1p
    We are reading. literally → "are in read"
past
  • Bet si ti deses.
    [ˈbeh zi ti ˈdes]
    read ? ABL 1p
    We read. literally → "are from read"
future
  • Bet si te deses.
    [ˈbeh zi tse ˈdes]
    read ? DAT 1p
    We will read. literally → "are to read"

▾ Property 8 ▾
Just as for the sentences in Property 6, we can drop the subject. Unlike the sentences Property 1, we cannot drop the marker, which is now perhaps best described as a tense marker:

present
  • Met hi me.
    [ˈmeh ji me]
    happen ? LOC→PRS
    ⦗It⦘ is happening.
past
  • Met hi ti.
    [ˈmeh ji ti]
    happen ? ABL→PST
    ⦗It⦘ happened.
future
  • Met hi te.
    [ˈmeh ji tse]
    happen ? DAT→FUT
    ⦗It⦘ will happen.
but we can't say:
  • ❌ Met hi meti.
    _ happen ? show
    The show ??? happen.
and:

present
  • Bet si me.
    [ˈbeh zi me]
    read ? LOC→PRS
    ⦗We⦘ are reading.
past
  • Bet si ti.
    [ˈbeh zi ti]
    read ? ABL→PST
    ⦗We⦘ read.
future
  • Bet si te.
    [ˈbeh zi tse]
    read ? DAT→FUT
    ⦗We⦘ will read.
but we can't say:
  • ❌ Bet si deses.
    _ read ? 1p
    We ??? read.

▾ Analysis ▾
Given the behaviour described in the points above, what is the best description for si and hi? Overall, they seem to be doing pretty light work. Clearly, they continue to act as copulas, as they link subjects to their predicates. Next, they link verb roots to their tense markers. Finally, they distinguish the first person from other persons. That's about it.

Because of this, there are two approaches which are popular for glossing these words in Zevy linguistics:

gloss as copula with person agreement
  • Met hi te meti.
    [ˈmeh ji tse ˈmets]
    happen be.3 FUT show
    The show will happen.
gloss as person agreement marker
  • Met hi te meti.
    [ˈmeh ji tse ˈmets]
    happen SBJ.AGR.3 FUT show
    The show will happen.
In this set of notes, will generally use the first approach, which highlights the etymological similarity to sentences like the following:
  • Vund hi te meti.
    [ˈbũð ji tse ˈmets]
    friend be.3 DAT show
    The show is for a friend.
In addition, I have chosen to gloss the subject agreement with the exact person of the subject, even though the second person and third person are identical. Some Zevy linguists instead use the gloss "N1" to indicate the "nonfirst" person:
  • Bet hi te.
    [ˈbeh ji tse]
    read be.N1 FUT
    ⦗You/they/she/he/it⦘ will read.
A third competing analysis is that Zevy verbs are in the process of becoming inflecting. In this analysis, hi and si, along with the marker that follows, are affixes rather than separate words:
  • Bethite.
    [ˈbehjitse]
    read-3-FUT
    ⦗You/they/she/he/it⦘ will read.
The copula is then simply a verb which has a null root, as well as (perhaps less parsimoniously) a null tense marker as well, obligatorily the present:
  • Hat hi disurau.
    [ˈhah ji ˈdisurəu]
    tall be-3-PRS 1sPOSS-daughter
    My daughter is tall.
This analysis is especially compelling when we consider the spoken forms of the language. Zevy writing is very conservative, which can no doubt nudge analysis towards an etymological bent. In speech, though, we see that these phrases do in fact form a single phonological word:
  • Bet hi te naka?
    [ˈbehjitse ˈnakə]
    Will the teacher read?
In fact, si and hi quite frequently reduce to a single spoken consonant:
  • Ema si te dit.
    [ˈjemə z tje ˈdih]
    I will speak.
  • Veha hi te dovund.
    [ˈbeɣə j tse ˈdovð]
    You, friend, will sing.
Still, this approach comes with several problems. If these are affixes, do they affix to nouns and adjectives as well? Why can any postposition fit in the marker slot that comes after them? Phonologically, it seems equally sound to treat them as clitics rather than affixes. As such, we will reject this analysis, though it is certainly tantalizing when considering what Zevy might look like several hundred years down the line.

▾ Other copulas ▾

A final note that si and hi are only a subset of the copulas in Modern Zevy. Though they are the simplest ways to link a predicate to its subject, they can only operate in the present tense and simple aspect (though they do span a gamut of moods). So, for all other tenses and aspects, Zevy relies on an additional set of linking words which are fully verb-like:
  • dee "stand"
  • isi "sit"
  • mii "lie"
These forms first expanded from their original meanings to indicate figurative position, and have now been fully grammaticalized as auxiliaries and linking verbs. Here are a few examples:

perfect aspect
  • Nes hi me meti. → Nes ti isi hi me meti.
    [ˈnes ji me ˈmets → ˈnes t jiɕi j me ˈmets]
    start be.3 PRS show → start ABL/PST sit be.3 PRS show
    The show starts. → The show has started. literally → "sits started" or "is in sit from start"
imperfective aspect
  • Nes hi ti meti. → Nes me isi hi ti meti.
    [ˈnes ji ti ˈmets → ˈnes me jiɕi j ti ˈmets]
    start be.3 PST show → start LOC/PRS sit be.3 PST show
    The show started. → The show was starting. literally → "sat starting" or "is from sit in start"
As you can see, the aspectual difference is conveyed by the relative tense between the main verb and the linking verb. Look out for more on this in a future post.

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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Instrumental verbs)

Post by Creyeditor »

Sevly wrote: 28 May 2022 22:13
Salmoneus wrote: 25 May 2022 01:21The other thing is that I must be misunderstanding something because I don't see the Indonesian example as being the same sort of thing that I thought you were doing. You seem to be using the instrumental case to create a clause or phrase indicating a modality, whereas Indonesian seems to be using a possessive construction to create the equivalent of an impersonal verb. What am I missing?
Yeah I don't think the Indonesian example is the same either, I took it more as "this is something I was reminded of when reading this" as opposed to "this is something that has the exact same mechanic". I would say your description of what the Zevy and Indonesian examples are doing is accurate.
Sorry, I forgot a crucial example.

Saya harus mandi.
1SG must take.a.shower
I must/should take a shower

Harus-nya saya mandi.
must-3SG.POSS 1SG take.a.shower
I should take a shower.

So, Indonesian can also encode modality in this way. I was thinking that 3SG.POSS and INSTR mark sentential adjuncts in the respective language, but I might be wrong.

Sevly wrote: 30 May 2022 05:30
▾ Property 3 ▾
They are often followed by me, ti, or te, which precede the subject and mark the following handful of semantic roles:

Time
  • Seudi hi me meti.
    [ˈɕeozi j me ˈmets]
    morning ? LOC show
    The show is in the morning.
Location
  • Dut si me deses.
    [ˈduh zi me ˈdes]
    house ? LOC 1p
    We are in the house.
Source
  • Taba hi ti zeti.
    [ˈtabə j ti ˈzets]
    city ? ABL visitor
    The visitor is from the city.
Destination
  • Teke si te dit.
    [ˈteke z tje ˈdih]
    country ? DAT 1s
    I am ⦗going⦘ to the country.
Beneficiary
  • Dovuindi hi te mant mendi.
    [dwəĩzi j tse ˈmãh mẽz]
    you friend ? DAT current gift
    This gift is for you.

▾ Property 4 ▾
Though me, ti, and te occur most frequently, we can in fact fill this slot with any case marker or postposition:

Simile
  • Mizien hi u doteken.
    [ˈmiʑjə j wu ˈdotekə]
    ocean ? like 2=color
    This color of yours is like the ocean.
Cause
  • Vetai ane anen hi tide dideten.
    [ˈbetəi waɲe wanə j tiz ˈdidetə]
    solid foundation ? because of 1sPOSS-success
    My success is because of a solid foundation.
I was wondering why the copula comes in between the first noun (phrase) and the case markers here. I was expecting the case marker to go with the noun phrase it belongs to. This looks very mysterious, in a good way.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Linking words)

Post by Salmoneus »

The only way I can make sense of it in terms of human languages is that it's VS with clefting and these are all like English "it is" constructions, just with no overt marking of this:

Dut si me deses.
house COP in us
[it is] the house [that] we are in

Mizien hi u doteken.
ocean COP alike colour
[it is] the ocean [that] the colour is like

Met hi me meti.
happening COP in show
[it is] happening that the show is in

[to make that last one more idiomatic, picture an Irish person saying "it's in happening that the show is"...]


I don't think it's helpful to call 'happening' here a verb, since it's acting just like a noun.


Obviously the construction is reminiscent of austronesian alignment (with the 'prepositions' being voice markers on the copula), but I don't think that would be realistic as such, since you'd need as many voices as prepositions. And that wouldn't explain the aspectual uses.

Whereas an 'Irish' solution - verbal nouns, clefting, extensive use of prepositions to denote non-prepositional things - kind of explains everything, I think?
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Instrumental verbs)

Post by Sevly »

Creyeditor wrote: 31 May 2022 00:11 Saya harus mandi.
1SG must take.a.shower
I must/should take a shower

Harus-nya saya mandi.
must-3SG.POSS 1SG take.a.shower
I should take a shower.
Ah, this contrast is quite similar indeed. "I must take a shower" vs "Its need I take a shower." I would be curious to learn more if these are semantically equivalent or if they have different connotations, and how those differences play out, so I might do some more reading here.

Creyeditor wrote: 31 May 2022 00:11I was wondering why the copula comes in between the first noun (phrase) and the case markers here. I was expecting the case marker to go with the noun phrase it belongs to. This looks very mysterious, in a good way.
Salmoneus wrote: 31 May 2022 01:28an 'Irish' solution - verbal nouns, clefting, extensive use of prepositions to denote non-prepositional things - kind of explains everything, I think?
First, lemme say that "mysterious, in a good way" is a wonderful compliment. Second, the 'Irish' solution is quite neat. And with respect to both, I really appreciate your comments and insights since I'm a big fan of a conlanging approach where I treat it as if I'm a field linguist trying to figure out what's going on in this wonky data we've run into. So thank you!

Salmoneus wrote: 31 May 2022 01:28 I don't think it's helpful to call 'happening' here a verb, since it's acting just like a noun.
From a Doylist perspective, it's perhaps worth noting that Zevy started it's life as an attempt to create a "verbless" language. Since then I've become much less interested in defining it as such, but it remains the case that its "verbs" are not particularly syntactically different than its nouns.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Linking words)

Post by Omzinesý »

Sumeri famously puts all case endings in one word. Somali also has all the adpositions of the clause before the verb. So, I don't see the discontinuity of NPs such a problem and unnaturalistic that it should have some complicated syntactic analysis.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Linking words)

Post by Salmoneus »

Omzinesý wrote: 01 Jun 2022 02:13 Sumeri famously puts all case endings in one word. Somali also has all the adpositions of the clause before the verb. So, I don't see the discontinuity of NPs such a problem and unnaturalistic that it should have some complicated syntactic analysis.
You're assuming that Somali and "Sumeri", whatever that is (a Papuan language? But in any case, if 'case endings' are all in one word, and not attached to their nouns, then by definition they aren't 'case endings') don't also have complicated syntax. In reality, Somali at least has very complicated syntactic analysis, because it's a very unusual language.

What Somali does is effectively polysynthesis, with big verb complexes that encode the entire structure of the sentence, and that don't actually require any nouns: effectively, the verbal complex has pronominal argument incorporation, with the actual noun phrases that the pronominal clitics corefer with not only being superfluous, but in some accounts not even being part of the same clause when present (but rather being parallel to topic-extracting constructions in English: so, rather than "I ate the spaghetti", it's "I ate it - the spaghetti"); these noun phrases aren't controlled by syntactic rules, at least on the sentence level, and can occur before or after the verb or in any order.

But six things should be borne in mind:
- as I said about voice/focus constructions in Austronesian, adpositional clitics in Somali are not unlimited, but are instead severely restricted to only four options (is it a coincidence that this is the limit in most Austronesian languages as well?).

- actual adpositional relations instead occur outside of the verbal complex as in a normal language, though diachronically they take the form of possessive constructions with locative nouns rather than of unanalysable adpositional particles

- the "adpositions" inside the verbal complex are NOT unattached to the pronouns they govern - instead, the pronouns are also incorporated, adjacent to the adpositions as expected, and even fusing with them; 'bare' adpositions do occur, but only with some third-person referents, and this could be explained as there being a zero-pronoun for some third persons depending on the discourse structure

- while it might seem ad hoc to resort to this, it must be remembered that discourse structure is The Big Thing about Somali: I don't know the details of when an overt third person pronoun is needed and when it is dropped (/uses a zero form), but Somali goes to obsessive lengths to overtly mark known and new information, with multiple focusing constructions, constructions only used when all referents are predictable, AND topicalisation constructions as well.

- on top of this, Somali has complicated patterns of agreement and anti-agreement, which both help make the sentence structure clear and might be related to pronoun dropping and the production of 'bare' adpositions

- finally, in addition to the 'adpositions' embedded with pronouns in the verbal complex, AND the locative nouns used adpositionally outside the verbal complex, AND role-sensitive patterns of focusing, topicalisation an agreement, we should of course note that Somali ALSO has actual noun cases marked by tone on the full noun itself (albeit only two of them).



So, to sum up: yes, Somali does some weird things; but no, that doesn't mean we should just throw our hands up in the air and say "anything can go anywhere, there's no point trying to explain things". In reality, some of the weird things Somali does make OTHER weird things it does LESS weird, and some things probably wouldn't happen in Somali if those other things didn't also happen; and as a result there has been, in technical terms, a metric shit-ton of "complicated syntactic analysis" of exactly what Somali does and when and how and why.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Linking words)

Post by Omzinesý »

Salmoneus wrote: 01 Jun 2022 17:40
You're assuming that Somali and "Sumeri", whatever that is (a Papuan language? But in any case, if 'case endings' are all in one word, and not attached to their nouns, then by definition they aren't 'case endings') don't also have complicated syntax. In reality, Somali at least has very complicated syntactic analysis, because it's a very unusual language.

What Somali does is effectively polysynthesis, with big verb complexes that encode the entire structure of the sentence, and that don't actually require any nouns: effectively, the verbal complex has pronominal argument incorporation, with the actual noun phrases that the pronominal clitics corefer with not only being superfluous, but in some accounts not even being part of the same clause when present (but rather being parallel to topic-extracting constructions in English: so, rather than "I ate the spaghetti", it's "I ate it - the spaghetti"); these noun phrases aren't controlled by syntactic rules, at least on the sentence level, and can occur before or after the verb or in any order.
This is Sevly's thread so I don't think we should go to very philosophical discussions here.
You can well make those analysis for Somali. I'm just saying the things can be described in a much easier way. All scientific theories are just instrumental means for understanding and forecasting things, not truths. Syntax theories are probably the most instrumental ones.
I am not assuming they do not have complicated syntax. I'm just saying you don't have to (if you don't want to) have such a complicated analyses for it. You can also just say that the PPs are discontinuous.

I mean Sumerian. It does funny things with genitives. (I'm not sure if it's just a writing convention, though.)
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Linking words)

Post by Sevly »

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On this note, here's what my analysis of Zevy sentence structure has been in a loose generative grammar. First, I posit that its sentences are headed by a tense phrase which, in the simplest sentences, goes empty:

Image

Zevy is generally head-final, and postpositions follow their complements. However, the tense slot prefers to be filled rather than empty, and the topmost postposition of the predicate can be (in fact, must be) raised to fill this slot:

Image

The postposition on its own does not carry tense, but it can "borrow" tense from its complement noun phrase, if and only if that noun phrase carries tense. (This is another way of saying, if it's complement is a verbal noun):

Image

Adjectives can also carry tense:

Image

But true nouns cannot:

Image

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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Basic syntax trees)

Post by Omzinesý »

I hope I didn't kill this thread. It's still interesting.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Basic syntax trees)

Post by Creyeditor »

The syntactic analyses is interesting in being unexpected, because instead of starting from V-preposition-O-S and clefting the subject (as Sal suggested), you start from O-postposition-V-S and move the postposition to an intermediate position. Of course, reading mostly Minimalist Programm stuff, I am just not used to rightwards specifiers and rightwards movement. Anyway, building up expectations and not fulfilling them is kind of what makes this conlang interesting.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Basic syntax trees)

Post by Sevly »

Omzinesý wrote: 22 Jun 2022 11:04 I hope I didn't kill this thread. It's still interesting.
Not at all! Thank you for your comments, I appreciate hearing different perspectives. I've just been away due to a busy summer, one part COVID (ugh), the other part travel (yay!)
Creyeditor wrote: 22 Jun 2022 14:56 The syntactic analyses is interesting in being unexpected, because instead of starting from V-preposition-O-S and clefting the subject (as Sal suggested), you start from O-postposition-V-S and move the postposition to an intermediate position. Of course, reading mostly Minimalist Programm stuff, I am just not used to rightwards specifiers and rightwards movement. Anyway, building up expectations and not fulfilling them is kind of what makes this conlang interesting.
Thank you! I admit I may be straining certain boundaries of plausibility, very likely so in my analyses, but at least in the underlying data I like to think that this is exactly what makes language fun.

And now, on to the next post:

Possession
Exploring how Zevy forms possessive phrases · 12 minute read · back to table of contents

Note: You can read this post with its original formatting over at the Zevy wordbook here, or you can read the inline version below.

Image

Zevy has two primary ways of indicating possesion:
  • The first is through the possessive prefixes di- "my", a- "your", and des- "our"
  • The second is through the dative case, i.e. dit te "to me", dote "to you", and deses te "to us"
To understand the difference between them, we'll look at two different ways a thing can be possessed:
  • The first way is that a thing can be possessed inalienably, meaning that it cannot be separated from its owner. An example of this is a body part: a hand is always someone's hand. Another example is a kinship terms: a sibling is always someone's sibling
  • The second way is that a thing can be possessed alienably, meaning that it may be owned by one person at one time and then separated from it's first owner and owned by another person, or no one at all, at another time. An example of this would be a home, a pen, an idea, and so on

▾ Inalienable possession ▾

In Zevy, inalienably possessed items are often not marked for possession at all. Since the item must be possessed by someone, the owner is automatically inferred even when it hasn't been mentioned directly:
  • Dose me, baro te mu zo si ti.
    [ˈdoɕe me ˈbaro tsem̩ ˈzo z ti]
    mirror LOC, face DAT SUPE look be.1 PST
    I looked at ⦗my⦘ face in the mirror.
In the example above, there is no word corresponding to "my" in the original Zevy text. Instead, it is implied. Hypothetically, this sentence could mean "I looked at a face in the mirror" and refer to a face that was not the speaker's own. In practice, since that interpretation is the less common one, it is more likely that the speaker would specify if it were the case:
  • Dose me, deren baro te mu zo si ti.
    [ˈdoɕe me ˈderə baro tsem̩ ˈzo z ti]
    mirror LOC, other face DAT SUPE look be.1 PST
    I looked at another face in the mirror.
As such, inalienably possessed items are most often not marked for possession at all. It is possible, though, to mark them explicitly. And when they are, we get our first hard rule: objects which are possessed inalienably can be marked only by possessive prefixes, never by the dative. So, the following are grammatical:
  • ✅ ades
    [-- ˈwades]
    -- 2.POSS-hand
    your hand
  • ✅ dibaro
    [-- ˈdibaro]
    -- 1s.POSS-face
    my face
  • ✅ desoken
    [-- ˈdezokə]
    -- 1p.POSS-sister
    our sister
while the following are NOT grammatical:
  • ❌ dote des
    [-- ˈdots̩ des]
    -- 2-DAT hand
    your hand (incorrect)
  • ❌ dit te baro
    [-- ˈdiθ ts̩ baro]
    -- 1s DAT face
    my face (incorrect)
  • ❌ deses te oken
    [-- ˈdes ts̩ wokə]
    -- 1p DAT sister
    our sister (incorrect)
As an example, consider two friends, Tome and Eurevi, playing a game together in the schoolyard. Tome issues an instruction:
Image Tome says:
  • Soret su, ahoki mu agi hi det.
    [ˈsoreθ sə ˈwawoxi m̩ waɣi j deh]
    teacher INST, 2POSS-ear ABS touch be.3 IMP
    Teacher says, touch your ear.
Note that Tome could have equally said:
  • Soret su, hoki mu agi hi det.
    [ˈsoreθ sə woxi m̩ waɣi j deh]
    teacher INST, ear ABS touch be.3 IMP
    Teacher says, touch ⦗your⦘ ear.
Both are equally correct, though the latter is more common.

▾ Modifying inalienably possessed nouns ▾

An important extension is that depending on which of the two strategies is chosen above, there are different rules for what to do when the noun has another modifier such as an adjective. If the inalienably possessed noun was not marked, then the modifier appears in its usual location before the noun:
  • Gevan oken te nist mu men.
    [ˈgeβə wokə ts̩ ˈnism̩mẽ]
    older sister DAT trust ABS put
    I trust my older sister.
In contrast, if an inalienably possesed noun is marked with a possessive prefix, then it exhibits a unique behavior where the modifier appears after the noun, inverting the usual order:
  • Aoken gevan te nist mu men.
    [ˈwawokə ˈgeβə ts̩ ˈnism̩mẽ]
    2POSS-sister older DAT trust ABS put
    I trust your older sister.
If the modifier is a postposition phrase, then it must be headed by the resumptive pronoun ha:
  • Aoken dit te ardon mu ema ti ha te nist mu men.
    [ˈwawokə ˈdiθ ts̩ wardõ m̩ jemə h ha ts̩ ˈnism̩mẽ]
    2POSS-sister 1s DAT promise ABS speak PST RSMP DAT trust ABS put
    I trust the sister of yours who made me a promise.
In fact, this turns the modifying postposition phrase into a noun phrase, which suggests that this is a case of apposition. So, another way of translating the example above would be:
  • Aoken dit te ardon mu ema ti ha te nist mu men.
    [ˈwawokə ˈdiθ ts̩ wardõ m̩ jemə h ha ts̩ ˈnism̩mẽ]
    I trust your sister the one who made me a promise.
This would explain why this word order differs from the norm. Taking this further, we also analyze adjectives which follow nouns as apposition, through zero-derivation of the adjective to a noun:
  • Aoken gevan te nist mu men.
    [ˈwawokə ˈgeβə ts̩ ˈnism̩mẽ]
    2POSS-sister older_one DAT trust ABS put
    I trust your sister ⦗the⦘ older ⦗one⦘.
This leads us to our next example in action:

Image

Tome says:
  • Soret su, ahoki deren mu agi hi det.
    [ˈsoreθ sə ˈwawoxi ˈderə m̩ ˈwaɣi j deh]
    teacher INST, 2POSS-ear other ABS touch be.3 IMP
    Teacher says, touch your other ear.
Finally, note that many inalienable nouns have compound forms which already incorporate common modifications. For example, all body parts that come in pairs have specific forms to distinguish right from left, derived from gaki "right hand" vs saoki "left hand". So, Tome could have equally said:
  • Soret su, ahogaki mu agi hi det.
    [ˈsoreθ sə ˈwawoxi m̩ waɣi j deh]
    teach INST, 2POSS-right_ear ABS touch be.3 IMP
    Teacher says, touch your right ear.
In fact, in most Zevy dialects, gevan "older" and samien "younger" are replaced by specific words for older and younger siblings, with the Kuuvi (i.e. Capital) dialect illustrated here happening to be an outlier.

▾ Alienable possession ▾

Let's jump now to alienable possessions. This is the more common type, as it simply means that the object could be possessed at one moment and then not possessed the next. "My face" is always my face, but "my book" today could be "your book" tomorrow.

First, it's worth noting that there are cases where Zevy also leaves alienable possession implied rather than explicit. This occurs less commonly than for inalienable possession, but it can be triggered quite reliably by certain phrases such as ttemu tere "favorite":
  • Ttemu tere teva mu, deu?
    [ˈtstem̩tere teβə m̩ ˈzeo]
    favorite book TOP, what
    What's ⦗your⦘ favorite book?
As with the inalienable examples, there is no "your" in the original Zevy sentence. In theory we can speak of "a favorite", but usually favorites are "a favorite of someone's". So, just as before, the "someone" can be dropped when the meaning is obvious from context.

Again, though, we have the option of explicitly marking the possessor. For alienable possessions, we can use either the prefix form or the dative form, and the choice between the two is entirely stylistic.

Tome chooses to use the dative form:

Image

Tome says:
  • Soret su, dote iizo mu agi hi det.
    [ˈsoreθ sə ˈdots̩ jizo m̩ waɣi j deh]
    teacher INST, 2=DAT belt ABS touch be.3 IMP
    Teacher says, touch your belt.
She could have equally said:

Tome could have said:
  • Soret su, aiizo mu agi hi det.
    [ˈsoreθ sə ˈwajizo m̩ waɣi j deh]
    teacher INST, 2POSS-belt ABS touch be.3 IMP
    Teacher says, touch your belt.

▾ Modifying alienably possessed nouns ▾

The freedom of choice we had before goes away when the noun is modified. As with the inalienably possessed nouns we saw above, Zevy does not allow a noun marked with a possessive prefix to take another modifier. However, unlike inalienably possessed nouns, which must work around this using apposition, alienably possessed nouns have the option of using the dative case, and that's exactly what they do:
  • Hat teva mu, deu hi me?
    [ˈhaθ teβə m̩ ˈzeo j me]
    long book TOP, what be.3 LOC
    Where is the long book?
  • ❌ Hat ateva mu, deu hi me?
    [-- ˈhaθ wateβə m̩ ˈzeo j me]
    -- long 2.POSS-book TOP, what be.3 LOC
    (ungrammatical)
  • ❓ Ateva hat mu, deu hi me?
    [-- ˈwateβə haθ m̩ ˈzeo j me]
    -- 2.POSS-book long TOP, what be.3 LOC
    (grammatical, but stilted/formal/poetic)
  • Dote hat teva mu, deu hi me?
    [ˈdots̩ haθ teβə m̩ ˈzeo j me]
    2=DAT long book TOP, what be.3 LOC
    Where is your long book?
Note that using apposition is still possible, but rare, as it tends to care a formal or poetic tone for nouns that do not strictly require it.

▾ Third person possession ▾

When the possessor is another noun, or any of the third person pronominals, then the possessive is always formed through the dative. Compare and contrast:
  • Dibaro te mu zo hi det. not → "❌ Dit te baro"
    [ˈdibaro tsem̩ ˈzo j deh -- -- -- --]
    1s.POSS-face DAT SUPE look be.3 IMP
    Look at my face.
  • Datiis te baro te mu zo hi det.
    [ˈdas ts̩ baro tsem̩ ˈzo j deh]
    that:person DAT face DAT SUPE look be.3 IMP
    Look at their face.
  • Zeti te baro te mu zo hi det.
    [ˈzetsi ts̩ baro tsem̩ ˈzo j deh]
    viewer DAT face DAT SUPE look be.3 IMP
    Look at the viewer's face.
And there you have it! Possession from abaro to diveragi - your head to my toe 😜

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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Possession)

Post by Creyeditor »

I like how the case particles almost act like some kind of 'light noun'.
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Re: Zevy notes (Now playing: Possession)

Post by Sevly »

Creyeditor wrote: 26 Aug 2022 15:23 I like how the case particles almost act like some kind of 'light noun'.
Ooo could you share more on what you mean by this? I'm not sure I quite understand.

And next up...

Vocatives
Exploring how Zevy forms terms of address · 10 minute read · back to table of contents

Note: You can read this post with its original formatting over at the Zevy wordbook here, or you can read the inline version below.

The vocative is a way of identifying the person whom one is speaking or writing to. In Zevy, there are two prefixes which are commonly used to do this:
  • do- for the second person
  • dese- for the first person plural
Here are some examples:

Image

Image

As seen from the examples, the pronunciation of the morpheme to which these prefixes attach is often reduced.

▾ How they're used ▾

Strictly speaking, these aren't simply vocative forms but are rather noun phrases that act as pronouns. By another name, we call them pronominals.

As such, they can appear anywhere in a sentence:

if someone asks:
  • Deu mu, mata te at?
    [ˈzeo m̩ ˈmatə ts a]
    INT ABS, park DAT go
    Who is going to the park?
one can reply:
  • Dovund mu at.
    [ˈdovð m a]
    2:friend ABS go
    You, friend, are going.
  • Dan ha me, dovund tedu rese mu mu moema.
    [dã ˈha me ˈdovð tjed reze m̩ m̩ ’mojmə]
    COMP RSMP LOC 2:friend at house of arrive ABS ABS IMP-say
    Tell me when you get home, friend.
  • Vedesetritiis te make mu vemet hi me utnaka.
    [ˈβedezetris ts̩ ˈmake m̩ βemeh ji me ˈhnakə]
    NEG-1p-student DAT respect ABS NEG.AGR-put be.2 PRS teacher
    The teacher doesn't respect us students.

▾ How they compare to third person forms ▾

Similar pronominals exist in the third person, formed using the following:
  • da "that"
  • ut "previous"
  • ne "next"
We won't go deeply into these in this post, but here are some quick examples:

one student asks:
  • Danaka ti zo hi me?
    [ˈdanakə h zo j me]
    that-teacher ABL see be.2 PRS
    Do you see that teacher? ⦗over there⦘
the other replies:
  • Det, utnaka mu, deu?
    [ˈdeh ˈhnakə m̩ ˈzeo]
    yes previous-teacher TOP INT
    Yes, what about that teacher? ⦗that you just mentioned⦘
the first continues:
  • Utnaka mu, nenaka temu hat: avaven!
    [ˈhnakə m̩ ˈɲenakə tem̩ hah ˈwaβaβə]
    previous-teacher TOP next-teacher above tall 2POSS-father
    That teacher is taller than this teacher ⦗that I'm about to mention⦘: your dad!
the second replies:
  • Utnaka te det.
    [ˈhnakə ts̩ deh]
    previous-teacher DAT good
    Good for them.
The key takeaway here is that in Zevy, these types of prefixes prefixes extend so far as to be the most common way of referring to others. Among ordinary pronouns, only the first person singular dit "me" is regularly used. Other simple pronouns exist, but generally speaking, referring to others using a simple pronoun is rude or overfamiliar unless you know them well.

▾ Their other extensions ▾

It turns out that do- and dese- can be used in several other ways. In fact, these prefixes are so overloaded that we're just might have to watch out for power failures as we explain all the work they have to do....

Jokes aside, here wo go!

▾ The transient possessive ▾

In the notes on Possession, we talked about how Zevy expresses ownership; here, we revisit a variation of that. But to explain, let's go back in time and observe that the prefix do- is actually derived from the demonstrative do "this", which is the partner to da "that". As such, the historical meaning of phrases like dovund and donaka is simply "this friend" and "this teacher". Only over time did they come to be used as second-person terms of address.

This semantic drift has lead to the following intermediate meaning which appears when do- is used with inanimate objects. Here, the vocative interpretation makes little sense, as one would be unlikely to talk to an object. Instead, when used with inanimate objects, do- refers to something that is either physically close to the listener, or logically associated with them. For example:
  • Doteva mu men hi det donaka?
    [ˈdoteβə m̩ mẽ j deh ˈdonakə]
    2-book ABS give be.3 IMP 2-teacher
    ⦗Could you please⦘ give me that book ⦗near you⦘, teacher?
Here comes the overlap with possesion: this usage of do- can be translated as a second person possessive, "your", with the implication that the object is something that the addressee temporarily "owns" by virtue of being near it either spatially or temporally. So, the above example can also be translated as:
  • Doteva mu men hi det donaka?
    ⦗Could you please⦘ give me your book, teacher?
This sense is distinct enough that it gets its own dictionary entry: do (possessive). But if, by contrast, the possession is stronger, then one of the other constructions detailed in Possession must be used instead. For example, contrast the example above, "your book", with "your eyes" below:
  • Azoi mu ini hi det dotritiis.
    [ˈwazəi m̩ jiɲi j deh ˈdotris]
    2POSS-sight ABS open be.3 IMP 2-student
    Open your eyes, student.
In this case, "eyes" must be marked with the second person possessive prefix a- rather than do- because eyes are inalienably possessed.

▾ A note on politeness ▾

Note how in English, politeness is marked through indirection, using phrases like "Would you please." Those words don't appear in the original Zevy text. Instead, I've added them to the dynamic translation to reflect the politeness that Zevy conveys through other means.

First, intonation is critical: polite imperatives are coupled with the same rising intonation as questions, indicated in writing with the question mark. This parallels how English also uses questions rather than commands for politeness, though again Zevy has no additional auxiliaries.

Second, the choice of pronominal is crucial: the use of donaka in the original Zevy sentence is the mandatory polite form of "you" in this sentence, even if an idiomatic English translation might also simply be "Could you please give me that book near you?" in the context of a student speaking to a teacher. In phrases like these, the pronominal must be carefully selected to signal the speaker's stance towards the listener, and respect for the relationship between them.

▾ Vocatives vs. possession in the first person ▾

We saw above how in the second person, do- blurs the line between vocatives, demonstratives, and possession. This doesn't occur in the first person, however, where the pronominal and the possessive are instead distinct.

Here, dese- is strictly used for the pronominal, i.e. "we X" or "us X", while the related form des- is used for the possessive, "our X". These are derived from the same historical form, literally differing only in the addition or omission of an epethentic vowel. For example:

vocative:
  • Desetritiis mu tri hi det!
    [ˈdezetris m̩ tri j deh]
    1p-student ABS teach be.3 IMP
    Teach us students!
vocative:
  • Destritiis mu tri hi det!
    [ˈdestris m̩ tri j deh]
    1p.POSS-student ABS teach be.3 IMP
    Teach our students!

▾ The temporal vocative ▾

Finally, there is one more neat way in which these prefixes can be used. Consider the following examples:
  • Desetesnei me dee.
    [ˈdezetesɲəi me deje]
    1p-patience LOC stand
    Stand in the patient us.
  • Doku me isi.
    [ˈdoku me jiɕ]
    2-quiet LOC sit
    Sit in the quiet you.
These sentences show a very peculiar construction. What do they mean? The general formula is:
  • do- or dese-,
  • then some noun or adjective
  • then the locative me
  • then an auxiliary verb, either dee "stand" or isi "sit"
Put together, this conceptually means that the speaker is seen as entreating the listener (and in the first person plural, themself as well) to embody some quality. Then, the choice of auxiliary conveys how long the quality should be embodied. Choosing "stand" suggests that the quality is to embodied for a short period of time, while "sit" indicates a long period.

As a result, the examples above can be translated as follows:
  • Desetesnei me dee.
    Stand in the patient us. → Let's be patient for a moment.
  • Doku me isi.
    Sit in the quiet you. → Be quiet for a while.
And there you have it! A neat little construction that we refer to as the temporal vocative because it attributes a state to the addressee for some period of time.

Note that the examples above are interpreted in the imperative even though there is no mood marker. This is the default, but not the only possibility, as the temporal vocative can be explicitly marked for other combinations of tense, aspect, and mood. For example:
  • Naka mu tri mu nes me, deseku me isi si te.
    [ˈnakə m̩ tri m̩ nes me ˈdezeku me ˌjiɕi z tje]
    teacher ABS teach ABS start LOC, 1p-quiet LOC sit be.1 FUT
    When the teacher starts talking, we will be quiet for a while. literally → "We will sit in the quiet us."
There can even be multiple auxiliaries stacked on top of each other:
  • Dotesnei me dee ti isi hi me?
    [ˈdotesɲei me deje h jiɕi j me]
    2-patience LOC stand ABL sit be.3 PRS
    Have you just been patient? literally → "Do you sit from standing in the patient you?"
Voila! Thanks for reading, you friends. Till next time 👋🏿

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