Polysynthetic Conlang

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

I took your suggestions about verbs as nouns, Jburke. Here's the word for camera.

K?nts?!i?lk?latuni
K?-nts?!i-?-lk?la-tu-ni
habitual.aspect-image-immaterial.plural-remember-3POI-3SSA
It remembers images.
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"There was a particular car I soon came to think of as distinctly St. Louis-ish: a gigantic white S.U.V. with a W. bumper sticker on it for George W. Bush."

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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:I took your suggestions about verbs as nouns, Jburke. Here's the word for camera.

K?nts?!i?lk?latuni
K?-nts?!i-?-lk?la-tu-ni
habitual.aspect-image-immaterial.plural-remember-3POI-3SSA
It remembers images.


I like that; Daszeria doesn't have cameras, but the Noyatukah for that is:

shonanammashe

shon-anam-mashe

images-rememeber-objective_final

(-anam- from -kanam-, with the /k/ eliminated by sandhi; there should be a high pitch on the first /a/ of -anam- to mark habituality, but I'm too lazy to do the diacritics.)

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

The word for democracy is k?t?l@u?@seniukus?(it-is-controlled-by the-people).
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Post by Salmoneus »

Could you show how a word like that would work in a sentence? Perhaps "[insert country of choice here] has not yet been able to achieve democracy", with a morpheme-by-morpheme translation?

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Kts?!kis@oi'a kno@seniuf?t?s? k?t?l@u?@seniukus?.
Kts?!kis@oi'a kno-@seni-u-f?-t?-s? k?-t?l@u-?-@seni-u-ku-s?.
Country yet-control-passive-not-3SOI-3SSI habitual-person-plural-control-passive-3POA-3SSI.
Literally: Kts?!kis@oi'a is not controlled by it is controlled by the people.
Kts?!kis@oi'a is not yet controlled by a democracy.

Eddy Edit: There is no country called Kts?!kis@oi'a in my conworld. I just made up the name because it fits T?l@uilgo// phonology.
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"There was a particular car I soon came to think of as distinctly St. Louis-ish: a gigantic white S.U.V. with a W. bumper sticker on it for George W. Bush."

jburke

Post by jburke »

Salmoneus wrote:Could you show how a word like that would work in a sentence? Perhaps "[insert country of choice here] has not yet been able to achieve democracy", with a morpheme-by-morpheme translation?


"Has not yet been able to achieve" is an example of sloppy English wording--or at least it looks sloppy compared to how Noyatukah would express it. Noyatukah has no word for "democracy," but here's what the formal structure would look like:

people-his, rule.not-yet-they

initual+possessive, root(infixed with negation)+yet(postverb)+final

'his-people, they-do-not-yet-rule'

There are any number of variations possible.

jburke

Post by jburke »

Addendum:

The final would be infixed with the unmanifest mood marker, since it speaks of something that is not (yet).

You could also substitute the 'his' for an actual country name and use a possessive on it.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

So it would be: Kts?!kis@oi'ait?l@u? kno@senif?t?m?.(Kts?!kis@oi'a's people, they do not control it.)
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"There was a particular car I soon came to think of as distinctly St. Louis-ish: a gigantic white S.U.V. with a W. bumper sticker on it for George W. Bush."

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Post by jburke »

Polysynthetic languages are the best antidote for purple and bloated English prose; whenever you're tempted to pile on the adjectives and get tangled in a mess of subbordinate and helper verbs, just think: "How would Mohawk express this?" I actually think, largely because of its lack of copulas, that Mohawk expresses ideas much more clearly than we tend to in English.

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Post by Salmoneus »

From my point of view, one of the wonderful things about English is its ability to produce, as you call it, "sloppy wording" - it can be beautifully unconcise. I don't want clarity and precision from my language, I want nuance and suggestion - and that's something English is good at. Your example seems to translate back into English as "it's not ruled by its people." No sense of progress, as suggested by "achieve"; no sense of fate or inevitability, as suggested by "yet"; no sense of internal readiness, as suggested by "been able to achieve", rather than just "achieved". "Been able to achieve" also suggests a desire for the achievement, yet also an idea that no overt attempts need have been made, that "achieved" or "managed to achieve" does not quite capture - on the other hand "managed to achieve" has far more effort and struggle implicit in it. And of course, democracy itself is a vague, unconcise, imprecise term, but one laden with conotations. For a country not yet to have acheived democracy is something soaked with implicit ideas about the attitudes of the speaker and listener, and of the country itself, about progress and history and an organic view of nations. Its also very different in tone to "not achieved democracy yet". "It's not ruled by its people" seems to be a plain unvarnished statement of fact. Although, of course, I'm sure that there are many fine nuances of you language that I am unaware of - but the more nuances the less clarity.

My general view is that most things cannot exactly be expressed with words (nor can they be exactly expressed with words, nor by words - but those are very different things); a word is a small thing compared to meaning. In order to express the most possible meaning, words should be spread out, like twisted filaments, or opening nets through clouds of nuance. The smaller, the finer, the more exact, precise and clear the words, the less capable they are of expressing the vast, imprecise inexpressible.

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Post by butsuri »

You are of course right that jburke's gloss does not say exactly what the English says (it does include "yet", though, which you've left out), in terms both of semantics and register. I suspect that it would be possible to write a sentence expressing the same concepts in e.g. Mohawk*, but such a sentence would be clumsy and unnatural.

I also suspect (and this is perhaps the more important point) that a similar loss of nuance would occur in translating from Mohawk to English.

* At least, to a closer approximation. The kind of thing that a Mohawk student of English might produce if they read the sentence and said "well, what does this mean, literally?"

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Post by jburke »

From my point of view, one of the wonderful things about English is its ability to produce, as you call it, "sloppy wording" - it can be beautifully unconcise.


English is sloppy when we try to absolutely pin down overly complex thoughts with it, like your nuanced description below--i.e., when we try to morphologically indicate every nuance.

I don't want clarity and precision from my language, I want nuance and suggestion -


...which is exactly what Mohawk gives you. See the post at the bottom of my latest blog page, discussing fluidity of meaning of Noyatukah:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/daszeria/2802.html

Your example seems to translate back into English as "it's not ruled by its people." No sense of progress, as suggested by "achieve"; no sense of fate or inevitability, as suggested by "yet"; no sense of internal readiness, as suggested by "been able to achieve", rather than ust "achieved". "Been able to achieve" also suggests a desire for the achievement, yet also an idea that no overt attempts need have been made, that "achieved" or "managed to achieve" does not quite capture - on the other hand "managed to achieve" has far more effort and struggle implicit in it.


All this stuff could be suggested by a Mohawk word, without explicit indication; it would depend in a large part on the thoughts of the speakers, what they believed about democracy, their history, etc.

"It's not ruled by its people" seems to be a plain unvarnished statement of fact. Although, of course, I'm sure that there are many fine nuances of you language that I am unaware of - but the more nuances the less clarity.


The wonderful thing about Mohawk is that it doesn't unnecessarily complicate expression; "unvarnished statements of fact," as you call them, can be just that, or a whole lot more. It depends. The language is wonderfully rubbery.

The smaller, the finer, the more exact, precise and clear the words, the less capable they are of expressing the vast, imprecise inexpressible.


I agree.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Can you explain this animate vibration thing? How are noun-verbs inflected? Can I treat them like normal nouns in that sense?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:Can you explain this animate vibration thing? How are noun-verbs inflected? Can I treat them like normal nouns in that sense?


The "animate vibration thing" is taken from Cheyenne. In Cheyenne, she?she is an animate vibration; it's also the word for 'duck', and refers to the sound/motion you experience as a duck is walking away from you (likely through underbrush or the like). Now, the morpheme -novot (-novotse after you apply Cheyenne morphophonemic rules) means 'goes down a hole'. When you suffix it to she?she and get she?shenovotse, the resulting word is 'snake'. If you believed she?she actually meant 'duck' instead of an animate vibration generally, you'd be confused: a snake is a duck that goes down a whole? Huh? What are these people smoking?

This is one of the classic examples of the kinesthetic base of the Algonquian languages. Algonquian morphemes usually point to some body feeling, personal motion, or external motion or process; the Algonquian world is described in these terms. I do a decent job of explaining this for Noyatukah, in the introduction to the grammar (including an example of this kind of thing in Noyatukah). It's critical in understanding the Algonquian languages (and Noyatukah) to any deep degree.

I'm not sure what you mean by "noun-verbs," unless you mean verbs that function like nouns do in IE languages. I'll assume that. They're inflected just like verbs--in fact, in Noyatukah, there is no morphological distinction between them; Noyatukah has but a single morphology. This is a projecting backwards of how Cheyenne and Mohawk were in the deeper past, before their nominal morphologies developed.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

How do cases work then?

Eddy Edit: I figured it out. A case like -ts@i is not actually a case, but a morpheme that indicates the location of the occurance.

F//?am? k?@q?!ek'?lil?nidks?tq?.
F//?-a-m? k?@q?!ek'?lil?ni-dsk?-tq?
walk-past-3PSA bank-near-movement.
We went to the bank.

The suffixes on bank(it-stores-money) indicate that the walking is moving to be near the money storing.
Last edited by Aurora Rossa on Fri Aug 29, 2003 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:How do cases work then?


There aren't cases in the IE sense (though in a vague way you could describe any language as having cases).

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

I get it now. Verbs in T?l@uilgo// are not simply verbs, they are occurances and sentences show the relationship of these occurances to each other. It-job-is-to-fly it-crashes because-it runs-out-of-fuel.(The starship crashes because it runs out of fuel.)
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"There was a particular car I soon came to think of as distinctly St. Louis-ish: a gigantic white S.U.V. with a W. bumper sticker on it for George W. Bush."

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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:How do cases work then?

Eddy Edit: I figured it out. A case like -ts@i is not actually a case, but a morpheme that indicates the location of the occurance.

F//?am? k?@q?!ek'?lil?nidks?tq?.
F//?-a-m? k?@q?!ek'?lil?ni-dsk?-tq?
walk-past-3PSA bank-near-movement.
We went to the bank.

The suffixes on bank(it-stores-money) indicate that the walking is moving to be near the money storing.


Yeah, I think you're getting it now.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

I have the word, kl'?, rock. I can make the following sentence: Kl'?df?lami.(he smashes the rock) I can also make: Kl'?df?lamits@a k'?la'ik?lama.(I build a building to the right of the person smashing the rock.) The -ts@a means that the other occurances are occuring to the right of it.
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"There was a particular car I soon came to think of as distinctly St. Louis-ish: a gigantic white S.U.V. with a W. bumper sticker on it for George W. Bush."

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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:I have the word, kl'?, rock. I can make the following sentence: Kl'?df?lami.(he smashes the rock) I can also make: Kl'?df?lamits@a k'?la'ik?lama.(I build a building to the right of the person smashing the rock.) The -ts@a means that the other occurances are occuring to the right of it.


Noyatukah has no word for 'rock'; but it has words for different kinds of rocks. Two rock words (initials, really) that appear in the grammar are those for soapstone and alabaster. The same holds true for stuff like trees and animals--e.g., in em?nloa˙sh?nan 'he-runs-among-cedar-trees', the -loa- (changed by sandhi from -foa-) is the proper initial for 'cedar trees'.

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Post by jburke »

* At least, to a closer approximation.


Yes; you can produce words or sentences that a Mohawk speaker would probably understand, but would nevertheless find odd. Kind of like how we'd understand "I not want to home-go."

The kind of thing that a Mohawk student of English might produce if they read the sentence and said "well, what does this mean, literally?


...or the kind of thing a theoretical linguist might produce when trying to prove one silly theory over another. Like: is Mohawk noun incorporation lexical? Who cares? That amounts to arguments over terminology, which tell us nothing about the language. (I make it a point personally only to read anthropological linguists.)

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Isn't Cherokee the one with the syllabary?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:Isn't Cherokee the one with the syllabary?


It has a syllabary, yes; but many Indian languages do. Supposedly, the Cherokee syllabary was ivented by Sequoyah (AKA George Guess), but the Cherokee themselves deny this; and supposedly the Cree syllabary was invented by missionary James Evans. For the last 200 years, it's been standard operating procudure among white historians to attribute any Indian writing systems but the Mayan[1] to missionaries or white influence. (Funny, though, how non-linguistically-trained missionaries could come up with a system as radical as the Cree syllabary, when all they knew were alphabetic systems, and, at most, the Hebrew abjad. Funnier how they could do such a wonderful job on a syllabary when they consistently misunderstood Indian languages, and produced awful orthographies, such as Petter's old Cheyenne.)

[1] Historians would probably try to attribute Mayan writing to the Spanish if they could get away with it.

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Post by Salmoneus »

I must say, the focus on motion and tactile impression rather than form and vision is rather interesting; I wonder how many philosophers have taken it into consideration when constructing their theories about language and knowledge.


Doesn't the Cherokee syllabary use lots of Latin letters, though? (For different purposes, but the same letters). doesn't that suggest that there was at least some white influence, and doesn't it limit the possible age of the syllabary?

Why are North American languages so very different from the rest of the world? Not just in their formal polysynthesism, but in this different perception of the world?

Incidentally, to what extent do these two things occur in other NA language famillies than the Algonquian and Iroquois? What Athapaskan, or Uto-(I can't remember what)?

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Post by jburke »

Doesn't the Cherokee syllabary use lots of Latin letters, though? (For different purposes, but the same letters). doesn't that suggest that there was at least some white influence, and doesn't it limit the possible age of the syllabary?


The definitive story is told in TELL THEM THEY LIE. It's a native account of the Cherokee syllabary and of Sequoyah. What seems to have been the case is thet George Guess updated an older Cherokee syllabary to make it more easily adapated for printing presses; thus, the presence of Latinate characters. But the age and non-European origins of the syllabary are still detectable in some of the syllabics he couldn't replace with Roman letters, due to there only being so many Roman letters and variations thereof. Guess' syllabary is, in some ways, a botched job, but it helped his people become widely literate, which was the intent; what it lacked in aesthetics it made up for with practical application.

The Cree syllabary is another interesting story. Missionary James Evans took credit for it, but there's no evidence that he created it, besides his word; there are no rough drafts that show its development, because, according to legend, he burned all his papers. How convienent. But the Cree have always strongly objected to his claims, and the case is heavily on their side (though most books still give Evans credit). A missionary without linguistic training who comes up with a rotating syllabary? Uh-huh.
Moreover, a syllabary that fits Cree phonology like a glove? Algonquian linguists in the 60s and 70s had to construct entirely new orthographies for Cheyenne, Blackfoot and other languages because the old missionary orthagraphies were so pathetic. And yet we're supposed to believe that one James Evans was a supermissionary who invented an entire writing system for a language he'd known only a short time? Hogwash. The missionaries had ample reasons to lie--they needed to present Indians as ignorant savages; the Indians had no reason to lie at all, because writing was not, in their cultures, a very prestigous thing (oral tradition was more important).

Why are North American languages so very different from the rest of the world? Not just in their formal polysynthesism, but in this different perception of the world?


Your question betrays an assumption that all other langauges besides those of North America view the world is some unified way. I suggest this is mistaken, or at the very least, unproven. The idea that there's a worldview implicit in every language has, for 40 years, been a no-go thesis; it's only recently become a legitmate area of research. In North America, the Algonquian linguists like Leman, Alford and Frantz were pioneers of this new approach, which owes something to Sapir and to Whorf. I suspect there are any number of divergent worldviews hidden in the languages of the world; linguists have just been so concerned with their trees and formal structures and universal grammar that they never looked for them.
"Semantics" is a dirty word among most linguists.

Incidentally, to what extent do these two things occur in other NA language famillies than the Algonquian and Iroquois? What Athapaskan, or Uto-(I can't remember what)?


I can't really say, because I don't know much about either the Uto-Aztecan or Anthapaskan languages.

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