Polysynthetic Conlang

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Eddy the Great

Post by Eddy the Great »

So a subject or object would both be incorporated in the same place.

jburke

Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:So a subject or object would both be incorporated in the same place.


The rules are language-specific; there aren't many universals. But whatever you decide to do, try to do it consistently.

Eddy the Great

Post by Eddy the Great »

K'ulau'ikesmoomaa.
K'ula-u-'ike-smoo-ma-a.
building-plural-build-3IP-1OS-past.
I built buildings.

and this

K'ulau 'ikesmoomaa.

are both valid?

jburke

Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:K'ulau'ikesmoomaa.
K'ula-u-'ike-smoo-ma-a.
building-plural-build-3IP-1OS-past.
I built buildings.

and this

K'ulau 'ikesmoomaa.

are both valid?


They both look the same to me. What you ought to do is work out a morphological equation; here's a simplified one for Mohawk:

modal(s) + pronominal_prefix + incorporated_noun_root + verb_root + suffix(es)

Each element generally has its own slot in the morphology.

Eddy the Great

Post by Eddy the Great »

One has the noun incorporated and the other doesn't.

In my conlang, it seems to be:

conjuction_like_prefix-capabilty-aspect-incorporated_noun-verb-voice-negation-object/subject-tense-question/command_etc.

jburke

Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:One has the noun incorporated and the other doesn't.


Ok; I see. Yeah, that works fine.

Eddy the Great

Post by Eddy the Great »

Do I have to include the object marker in transitive sentences all the time?

Lkama(I like it)vs. Lkanima(I like it)

jburke

Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:Do I have to include the object marker in transitive sentences all the time?

Lkama(I like it)vs. Lkanima(I like it)


Yes; that's what distinguishes transitive from instransitive expressions: the presence or absence of an object marker.

A while back, when we were planning a newbie FAQ for the board here, I wrote a description of polysynthism that you may find helpful; it mentions that one of the key feature of poly languages is the marking of both subject and object within the verb. This is a mininal requirement to be considered polysynthetic (some people think object incorporation is key, but it's not; Miami does not allow object incorporation, but is poly just the same).

Here is that description:

Polysynthesis is a grammatical phenomenon most famously present in many North American Indian languages; the Algonquian and Iroquoian tongues are the most well-known. These languages, instead of using case endings on nouns and conjugatational endings on verbs, mark both subject and object inside the verb; further, subject and object inflections are considered the actual arguments of the verb, while any free-standing nouns associated with a verb are like dislocated topic phrases. Here is an example from Mohawk, an Iroquoian language spoken in upstate New York and southern Ontario:

Teiotahi?:kton w?:keke'

Nominalized and rendered in normal English, this is 'I-ate a-banana'; but a more faithful translation would be 'A-banana, I-ate-it'. The pronominals 'I' and 'it' (the arguments of the verb root -k- 'eat') are expressed via the prefix ke-, which indicates a singular first-person subject and a singular third-person object. ke- is, then, akin to noun case and verb conjugation fused into a single marker and attached to the verb. Mohawk has some fifty-odd of these pronminal prefixes that express subject-object combinations; and a prefix is mandatory on every verb. By contrast, the noun teiotahi?:kton 'banana' stands in relation to the verb w?:keke' only indirectly, as a topical phrase stands in relation to a central clause in English.

Cheyenne, an Algonquian language spoken in southern Montana and Oklahoma, also marks subject and object on the verb, but does so differently; instead of a fusional marker, it uses a prefix for subject and a suffix for object. Witness:

Hetane n?v??mo

Faithfully translated, this means 'A-man, I-saw-him'. Hetane is the noun 'man' standing in relation to the verb n?v??mo 'I-saw-him' like a topical phrase. N?- is the prefix for a singular first-person subject; -o is the marker for a singular third-person object.

In addition to marking both subject and object inside the verb, polysynthetic languages often make use of noun incorporation. This is a phenomenon where a noun becomes, in essence, an inflection on a verb. Incorporated nouns can be, depending on the language and circumstances, direct objects, indirect objects, subjects, locatives, and
of other kinds. Mohawk makes heavy use of incorporation, as in:

Watia’tawi’tsher?:io

This translates as 'It-is-a-good-shirt', where the noun root atia’tawi (a word that can be used to refer to basically any upper-body garment) is present inside the verb. Cheyenne also uses noun incorporation on a regular basis:

N?tahpe'emaheona

This verb, meaning 'I-have-a-big-house', contains the noun morpheme maheo 'house'.

Noun incorporation can look bewildering, but is best understood in terms of English compounding. Babysit is an example of a word with a incorporated direct object; and words like deer-hunter and manslaughter make use of the same kind of incorporation.

Eddy the Great

Post by Eddy the Great »

I see. It will take weeks to update my pages and unlearn my conlang and relearn it again, but I thank you. I'll assume that cases other than nominative and accusitive are handled or can be handled on the noun itself. Also, why are a lot of Native american languages polysynthetic, but polysyntheticism is seen little elsewhere?

jburke

Post by jburke »

I'll assume that cases other than nominative and accusitive are handled or can be handled on the noun itself.


No need for nominative and accusative noun cases--that's what the subject and object markers within the verb are for. You can get rid of those cases.

Also, why are a lot of Native american languages polysynthetic, but polysyntheticism is seen little elsewhere?


No knows why that is. Aussie aboringinal languages are also poly, I believe, but feature a different style of polysynthism than what you find in North America.

Eddy the Great

Post by Eddy the Great »

No need for nominative and accusative noun cases--that's what the subject and object markers within the verb are for. You can get rid of those cases.


I know that. I was talking about other cases.

No knows why that is. Aussie aboringinal languages are also poly, I believe, but feature a different style of polysynthism than what you find in North America.


I'll look at Australian languages some time. My conalng has 3 "genders": inorganic, organic, and non-material.

jburke

Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:
No need for nominative and accusative noun cases--that's what the subject and object markers within the verb are for. You can get rid of those cases.


I know that. I was talking about other cases.


I misunderstood what you were saying. Yeah, some cases can be handled on the noun itself; some you might want to handle with directionals and locatives within the verb.

No knows why that is. Aussie aboringinal languages are also poly, I believe, but feature a different style of polysynthism than what you find in North America.


I'll look at Australian languages some time. My conalng has 3 "genders": inorganic, organic, and non-material.


I don't know anything about the Aussie languages, other than that they're said to be nouny (where American languages are verby). They're not really within my cultural interests.

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Post by Xephyr »

jburke wrote:
Eddy the Great wrote:Do I have to include the object marker in transitive sentences all the time?

Lkama(I like it)vs. Lkanima(I like it)


Yes; that's what distinguishes transitive from instransitive expressions: the presence or absence of an object marker.

A while back, when we were planning a newbie FAQ for the board here, I wrote a description of polysynthism that you may find helpful; it mentions that one of the key feature of poly languages is the marking of both subject and object within the verb. This is a mininal requirement to be considered polysynthetic (some people think object incorporation is key, but it's not; Miami does not allow object incorporation, but is poly just the same).

Here is that description:

Polysynthesis is a grammatical phenomenon most famously present in many North American Indian languages; the Algonquian and Iroquoian tongues are the most well-known. These languages, instead of using case endings on nouns and conjugatational endings on verbs, mark both subject and object inside the verb; further, subject and object inflections are considered the actual arguments of the verb, while any free-standing nouns associated with a verb are like dislocated topic phrases. Here is an example from Mohawk, an Iroquoian language spoken in upstate New York and southern Ontario:

Teiotahi?:kton w?:keke'

Nominalized and rendered in normal English, this is 'I-ate a-banana'; but a more faithful translation would be 'A-banana, I-ate-it'. The pronominals 'I' and 'it' (the arguments of the verb root -k- 'eat') are expressed via the prefix ke-, which indicates a singular first-person subject and a singular third-person object. ke- is, then, akin to noun case and verb conjugation fused into a single marker and attached to the verb. Mohawk has some fifty-odd of these pronminal prefixes that express subject-object combinations; and a prefix is mandatory on every verb. By contrast, the noun teiotahi?:kton 'banana' stands in relation to the verb w?:keke' only indirectly, as a topical phrase stands in relation to a central clause in English.

Cheyenne, an Algonquian language spoken in southern Montana and Oklahoma, also marks subject and object on the verb, but does so differently; instead of a fusional marker, it uses a prefix for subject and a suffix for object. Witness:

Hetane n?v??mo

Faithfully translated, this means 'A-man, I-saw-him'. Hetane is the noun 'man' standing in relation to the verb n?v??mo 'I-saw-him' like a topical phrase. N?- is the prefix for a singular first-person subject; -o is the marker for a singular third-person object.

In addition to marking both subject and object inside the verb, polysynthetic languages often make use of noun incorporation. This is a phenomenon where a noun becomes, in essence, an inflection on a verb. Incorporated nouns can be, depending on the language and circumstances, direct objects, indirect objects, subjects, locatives, and
of other kinds. Mohawk makes heavy use of incorporation, as in:

Watia?tawi?tsher?:io

This translates as 'It-is-a-good-shirt', where the noun root atia?tawi (a word that can be used to refer to basically any upper-body garment) is present inside the verb. Cheyenne also uses noun incorporation on a regular basis:

N?tahpe'emaheona

This verb, meaning 'I-have-a-big-house', contains the noun morpheme maheo 'house'.

Noun incorporation can look bewildering, but is best understood in terms of English compounding. Babysit is an example of a word with a incorporated direct object; and words like deer-hunter and manslaughter make use of the same kind of incorporation.


Is time indicated in any way in the verbs of these examples?
"It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be said, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is.' Rather, the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it."
The Gospel of Thomas

jburke

Post by jburke »

Is time indicated in any way in the verbs of these examples?


Just indirectly, via aspect and mood.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

I have one final question. How would sentences with multiple verbs be handled?

They saw an insect fly=insect they-saw-it it-fly or insect they-saw-it object.is.now.subject-fly or some other way?
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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 »

Eddy the Great wrote:I have one final question. How would sentences with multiple verbs be handled?

They saw an insect fly=insect they-saw-it it-fly or insect they-saw-it object.is.now.subject-fly or some other way?


Mohawk would handle this kind of a construction with an evidential. The flight of the insect would be central, and 'fly' the root; like: They+insect+fly+known_by_sight. For something like "I thought I wanted to kill him," you'd use the subjunctive mood and an affix on the verb stem denoting desire. (I think Mohawk really forces you to cut away the verbiage common in a lot of English expressions and get to the heart of an action; you really have to know what you're wanting to say to speak it properly; you have to know what's central and what's not, and make the central element the root.)

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

OK, how would a sentence like "My hand will need to rest" or "I constructed a starship that fires photn torpedoes"? Would free word order still be possible?
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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 »

Eddy the Great wrote:OK, how would a sentence like "My hand will need to rest" or "I constructed a starship that fires photn torpedoes"? Would free word order still be possible?


"My hand will need to rest," again, would be handled by a modal affix (for the "will"); and at least in Mohawk, there's single root that means 'need rest' or 'must rest' or the like (-vhk-, where the /v/ is a mid-central, schwa vowel). If there weren't such a root, I imagine that the 'need' would be handled by an affix on the root for 'rest'.

"I constructed a starship that fires photon torpedoes" would take topic-comment form in Mohawk. Like: "That-ship-I-made, it-fires-photon torpedoes." The demonstrative clitcizes to the nominal ("ship-I-made," or more literally, I+perfective+ship+make).

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

That may result in hundreds of affixes for that, but I guess it wouldn't hurt considering that can and can't are affixes.
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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:That may result in hundreds of affixes for that, but I guess it wouldn't hurt considering that can and can't are affixes.


No, not hundreds of affixes; expressions that are rendered as subbordinate verb phrases in English are handled in many different ways in Mohawk. Many of them just require an evidential or a modal; and many of the notions that are separate words in English (like "need X") are single roots in Mohawk; only a relatively small number actually use affixes such as for 'need' as in 'need rest'. There are some other ways of handling subbordinate phrases, but they're harder to describe.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Can you show me some examples with Mohawk, Cheyenne, etc.?
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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 Aurora Rossa »

I still haven't figured out how you'd say "I want you to work."
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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 »

Eddy the Great wrote:Can you show me some examples with Mohawk, Cheyenne, etc.?


I don't often include direct examples in explanations because they're
unenlightening--you're wanting to know how the formal structure works,
not the vocabulary. But here's one example from Cheyenne of a more
complicated kind of "subbordinate":

_nevehne?me_ 'I want you to come toward me'

_ne_ 'you' prefix

_me_ 'I' suffix

(Normally, the agent is marked with the prefix; but this is an
inverse construction, with the agent marked by the suffix, because
2nd person is higher on the person hierarchy than 1st person.)

_veh_ root 'want'

_ne?_ directional meaning 'toward speaker'

Here, the 'want' is the root, while the 'come' is handled with
a directional.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Also, would there be an affix in a word that means "I build a building" for agreement with building even if it's incorporate into the verb?
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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 »

Eddy the Great wrote:Also, would there be an affix in a word that means "I build a building" for agreement with building even if it's incorporate into the verb?


Mohawk does it this way, yes; it's part of the redundancy built into the language. Let's take this:

ne o'wahru wahrake? 'He-ate-(the)-meat'

Now, you can incorporate 'meat':

waha?wahrake? 'He-ate-(the)-meat'

(?wahr is the noun root for 'meat'; the only change in the verb is the incorporation--the agreement prefix wahra- remains the same in both versions.)

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