Polysynthetic Conlang

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Exactly. Speakers would consider trying to express the notion of 'can' redundant and inelegant. It's a cultural difference from English.


How would you say something like "He can make starships, but doesn't"?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:
Exactly. Speakers would consider trying to express the notion of 'can' redundant and inelegant. It's a cultural difference from English.


How would you say something like "He can make starships, but doesn't"?


Something along the lines of "He once made starships, but does not make them now." 'Can' here naturally implies did, whether that doing is past or present; if I say "I can speak Mohawk, but don't now," it's obvious that I _did_ speak it at some point in the past, in some context; otherwise, "I can speak Mohawk" would not be true.

English grammaticalizes some things that often don't need explicit expression; 'can' is usually one of these things. If you dig deeper into a lot 'can' expressions, you'll find they're products of sloppy thinking, like expressions that use 'to be.' This is how we express our thoughts in English culture; thoughts are expressed differently elsewhere.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

But what if he never actually made starships, but had the ability?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:But what if he never actually made starships, but had the ability?


Do you think such a person could exist? How we he know he could do something, if he'd never actually done it? Let's take a hypothetical situation: a great mechanical engineer, as he's dying, loads all his knowledge into my brain. Could I really say then "I can make starships?" I know how starships work, yes, but maybe I don't have the manual dexterity to work on the components; maybe I don't have the people skills necessary to hire a team and keep it together; maybe I don't have the patience to see it all through. To claim I actually could make starships would be an overtstatement; the only way to find out if I can would be to make one.

Instead of "I can make starships but don't," the better statement would be "I know how starships work, but I don't make them." (English grammar can actually trick us into believeing certain things are true when they're really not.)

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Post by Dudicon »

Just out of curiousity, what about all those inspirational movies, where the character has struggled and struggled to achieve something and he says, at one point, "I can do it! I know I can!"?

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Post by jburke »

Dudicon wrote:Just out of curiousity, what about all those inspirational movies, where the character has struggled and struggled to achieve something and he says, at one point, "I can do it! I know I can!"?


"I will do it! I know I will!" or something of that nature.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Instead of "I can make starships but don't," the better statement would be "I know how starships work, but I don't make them." (English grammar can actually trick us into believeing certain things are true when they're really not.)


That seems to be a bit long.

To claim I actually could make starships would be an overtstatement; the only way to find out if I can would be to make one.


That seems a bit skeptical but I see your point.

"Can I eat?" could probably be expressed as "Would you allow me to eat?"
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Post by jburke »

"Can I eat?" could probably be expressed as "Would you allow me to eat?"


Even more simply: "I may eat" + question marker.

BTW, why were you using the obviative above?

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Post by Salmoneus »

"I can kill myself". "I can eat caviar". I haven't done either, but I'm reasonably certain that I could.

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Post by jburke »

Salmoneus wrote:"I can kill myself". "I can eat caviar". I haven't done either, but I'm reasonably certain that I could.


Theoretically, there could be a way of expressing the English notion of 'can' in Mohawk, but there isn't. One thing about the worldview embodied in a language like Mohawk is that it's far less speculative and hypothetical than English; and a lot goes unsaid that's assumed to be obvious. It would really be un-Mohawk to claim that you could do something unless you had actually done it; and if, e.g., you were about to attempt something, you wouldn't say "I can do this," but rather something like "I wish/desire to do this," placing the statement in the unmanifest realm, instead of making a factual (manifest) claim. (Similarly, Mohawk future aspect expresses a desire that something happen, or an intent to do something, instead of a factual claim about the future.)

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Post by Glenn »

jburke wrote:Theoretically, there could be a way of expressing the English notion of 'can' in Mohawk, but there isn't. One thing about the worldview embodied in a language like Mohawk is that it's far less speculative and hypothetical than English; and a lot goes unsaid that's assumed to be obvious. It would really be un-Mohawk to claim that you could do something unless you had actually done it; and if, e.g., you were about to attempt something, you wouldn't say "I can do this," but rather something like "I wish/desire to do this," placing the statement in the unmanifest realm, instead of making a factual (manifest) claim. (Similarly, Mohawk future aspect expresses a desire that something happen, or an intent to do something, instead of a factual claim about the future.)


Interesting...particularly the info about Mohawk's use of manifest/unmanifest and, especially, the expression of future as desire or intent (I've seen forms of this sort (possibility and intent) referred to as "future tenses" in descriptions of Kazakh as well). In English, on the other hand, a "factual" claim about the future sounds quite natural ("The sun will come out tomorrow"--insert music from Annie here :wink: ), although some statements of this kind can be interpreted as intent as well ("I'll drive to Pittsburgh on Friday").

The comment about worldviews reminds me of a phemonenon I've come across in Russian with regard to Russian-speakers and English-speakers who speak Russian. Speakers of English, as a rule, are more likely to preface a statement with "I think that..." or something of the sort, especially if they're uncertain if a statement is factual. For students of Russian, this can carry over into their Russian as well (lots of "Ya dumayu, chto..." (I think that...) or "Mne kazhetsya, chto..." (It seems to me that...). A Russian in the same situation would be more certain to state even an uncertain proposition as a fact, and assert that it is fact, unless proven otherwise. This may seem like a small thing, but i my experience it's quite noticeable--I'm heard it remarked on by both sides--and it is indeed a sign of the cultural differences involved. I can well imagine that a viewpoint such as Mohawk could be even more different. Does this "less speculative and hypothetical" approach, in which more is "assumed, but unsaid", have any other implications?

...However, I also don't want to get away from the last topic of the thread, which was Jeff's question to Eddy about the use of the 4th person in his Jedi sentence. Eddy: could you explain why you used the 4th person, and does that use of the 4th person apply to "Jedi" or to "Force"?

p@,
Glenn

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Post by jburke »

Interesting...particularly the info about Mohawk's use of manifest/unmanifest


The manifest/unmanifest is not explicitly marked, but is inherent in the aspect/modal system.

In English, on the other hand, a "factual" claim about the future sounds quite natural ("The sun will come out tomorrow"--insert music from Annie here :wink: ), although some statements of this kind can be interpreted as intent as well ("I'll drive to Pittsburgh on Friday").


Also, expectation--if I say "The sun will set tonight," I'm speaking of an unmanifested exptectation. If we think of the future as a thing that's not real (yet), onto which can only project our desires and expectations, it all makes sense.

Does this "less speculative and hypothetical" approach, in which more is "assumed, but unsaid", have any other implications?


Yes; you don't hear many if/then statements, though there is a way to make these. (Mohawk-based programming languages would have very different from ours, I think. ;) ).

Mohawks are famously late for appointments, and tend to regard time far more casually than we do; hence, the phrase I've heard a lot, "Indian Time" (the name even graces an Akwesasne newspaper). This, says David Maracle, is a natural outgrowth of the Mohawk view of "future as desire or exptectation"--you may desire or expect to meet someone at an appointed time, but may not always make it.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Why would you be using the obviative there? There's just a subject.


I don't know. I forgot. Maybe I was thinking of something else. You're right, though. It is saying that the Jedi is two things at once. I'll keep that in mind. I wonder why I made thta mistake.
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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Theoretically, there could be a way of expressing the English notion of 'can' in Mohawk, but there isn't. One thing about the worldview embodied in a language like Mohawk is that it's far less speculative and hypothetical than English; and a lot goes unsaid that's assumed to be obvious. It would really be un-Mohawk to claim that you could do something unless you had actually done it; and if, e.g., you were about to attempt something, you wouldn't say "I can do this," but rather something like "I wish/desire to do this," placing the statement in the unmanifest realm, instead of making a factual (manifest) claim. (Similarly, Mohawk future aspect expresses a desire that something happen, or an intent to do something, instead of a factual claim about the future.)


If anything, T?l@uilğo/ seems to be even more hypothetical and speculative than English. There is a special prefix for expressing hypothecal situations:

!?k'?la'ik?alami.-You would have built the building.
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Post by Mecislau »

jburke wrote:
This is just a basic question, but what is a "prenominal prefix"?


A pronominal prefix is required on every Mohawk verb; it gives subject and object information, and provides for agreement. Mohawk has three classes: subjective, objective and transitive prefixes.

Now, pretty much everyone agrees that the current Mohawk agreement system is fucked up from a non-native POV; and that this is due to semantic drift. The roots randomly trigger subject or object agreement; but this system evolved from an earlier one that was active and semantic-based (and which I reconstructed and used as the agreement system for Noyatukah). It went like this:

Subject agreement is triggered when an instransitive root has just a subject participant. Object agreement is triggered when an intransitive root has both a subject and object participant, but the subject is not acting directly on the object (e.g., 'He-tells-stories'). Transitive agreement is triggered when there is an agent and patient, i.e., when there is a subject acting directly on an object; in these cases, there is an active relationnship between subject and object.

In Mohawk, subjective prefixes are often analyzable into parts corresponding to person and number; and objective prefixes are
subject prefixes + an object marker. Transitive prefixes, however, are fused morphemes that deny analysis; they give both agent and patient information.


What other expression arrangements are there?

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Post by jburke »

Maknas wrote:
jburke wrote:
This is just a basic question, but what is a "prenominal prefix"?


A pronominal prefix is required on every Mohawk verb; it gives subject and object information, and provides for agreement. Mohawk has three classes: subjective, objective and transitive prefixes.

Now, pretty much everyone agrees that the current Mohawk agreement system is fucked up from a non-native POV; and that this is due to semantic drift. The roots randomly trigger subject or object agreement; but this system evolved from an earlier one that was active and semantic-based (and which I reconstructed and used as the agreement system for Noyatukah). It went like this:

Subject agreement is triggered when an instransitive root has just a subject participant. Object agreement is triggered when an intransitive root has both a subject and object participant, but the subject is not acting directly on the object (e.g., 'He-tells-stories'). Transitive agreement is triggered when there is an agent and patient, i.e., when there is a subject acting directly on an object; in these cases, there is an active relationnship between subject and object.

In Mohawk, subjective prefixes are often analyzable into parts corresponding to person and number; and objective prefixes are
subject prefixes + an object marker. Transitive prefixes, however, are fused morphemes that deny analysis; they give both agent and patient information.


What other expression arrangements are there?


What do you mean by "expression arrangements?"

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Post by Mecislau »

jburke wrote:What do you mean by "expression arrangements?"


Oh, sorry. I meant like what you said for Mohawk:

jburke wrote:modal(s) + pronominal_prefix + incorporated_noun_root + verb_root + suffix(es)


Give me a better word for it and I will use it. :wink:

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Post by jburke »

Maknas wrote:
jburke wrote:What do you mean by "expression arrangements?"


Oh, sorry. I meant like what you said for Mohawk:

jburke wrote:modal(s) + pronominal_prefix + incorporated_noun_root + verb_root + suffix(es)


Give me a better word for it and I will use it. :wink:


It's commonly called a morphological equation. Here's the basic ones for Cheyenne and Noyatukah, where word =

pronominal_prefix+aspect+directional+preverb+root+medial+object_marker+final (Cheyenne)

initial+root+postverb+locative+directional+medial+pronominal_final (Noyatukah)

Noyatukah uses a lot of infixes in that equation--e.g., negations are infixed to the root, mood and aspect infixed to the final; and some of the elements can move ariound--e.g., the locatives, directionals and medials can come in any order after the postverb and between the final.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Here's an interesting word that has many elements you have in your conlang:

k?qatl?/mik?mi
k?-qatl?-/mik?-mi
habitual-flee/be.refugee-reptile-3SSA
the reptile that flees
lizard

The noun root qatl? means reptile or amphibian and is not used in isolation often. The word for the lizard is because lizards allow their tails to be broken off just to escape and are associated with fleeing.
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Post by jburke »

natoleyamewatlol

What does that mean?


It should be natoseyamewatlol; it's the word for 'sandhill crane' with a revised final.

nato.se.yamewa.tlol

neck.his.outstretch.3SAA+4SP

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

It should be natoseyamewatlol; it's the word for 'sandhill crane' with a revised final.

nato.se.yamewa.tlol

neck.his.outstretch.3SAA+4SP


What does 3SAA+4SP mean?

Also, is the concept of "also" or "too" found in the languages you know?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:
It should be natoseyamewatlol; it's the word for 'sandhill crane' with a revised final.

nato.se.yamewa.tlol

neck.his.outstretch.3SAA+4SP


What does 3SAA+4SP mean?


3rd person singular animate agent + 4th person singular patient

(The animacy distinction collapses in the 4th person; and I use the terms "agent" and "patient" for transitives, "subject" and "object" for intransitives.)
Also, is the concept of "also" or "too" found in the languages you know?


Sure; e.g., the Cheyenne preverb hapo'e 'likewise, also'.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Sure; e.g., the Cheyenne preverb hapo'e 'likewise, also'.


I'm trying to decide whether it should be a prefix like i- which indicates contrast as in itq?ksami which means "But he's smart." A prefix like that would work well, I think.

What about something as in "he's so smart that..."?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:
Sure; e.g., the Cheyenne preverb hapo'e 'likewise, also'.


I'm trying to decide whether it should be a prefix like i- which indicates contrast as in itq?ksami which means "But he's smart." A prefix like that would work well, I think.

What about something as in "he's so smart that..."?


eve's'he 'he's-so-bright'; 'that' isn't necessary. Then you'd follow this with a second word that contains what would follow the 'that' in the English expression.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Ğamn?/aak?ma mafsqu x?s@a!?emi.
Ğa-mn?/a-a-k?-ma ma-fsqu x?-s@a!?-e-mi.so.much.that-write-past-3SOA-1SSA my-hand need.to-rest-future-3SSA.
I wrote so much that my hand will need to rest.

I've had this for a while, although I wanted your advice. I was surprised that this existed in Cheyenne considering how you said that many things English expresses aren't in other langs and vice versa.

Eddy Edit: My example was a bit messed up.
Last edited by Aurora Rossa on Tue Sep 09, 2003 9:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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