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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 11:27 am 
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What concepts are covered by preverbs? Could someone provide a list?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 12:27 pm 
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Note to people reading this years later: this post is fairly inaccurate/misleading on some points, please disregard the actual Ojibwe examples

Since I'm lazy, I'll just quote something I said in another thread recently:

In another thread, I wrote:
Verbs ... can be preceded by prefixes called "preverbs," which provide information about the manner, time, location, or properties associated with the action(e.g., bimaadizi, "he lives," combined with the preverb oshki-, "young," yields oshki-bimaadizi, "he is young," and the root -biisaa-, "to rain," combined with the preverb ishkwaa-, "after," yields ishkwaabiisaa, "it stops raining"). ... [For examples of prefixes similar in function to preverbs,] consider the root -amanji'o-, "to feel." Among the verbs derived from this verb root are inamanji'o, "he feels thus, he feels a certain way" (initial in-, "a certain way"), dakamanji'o, "he feels cold" (initial daki-, "cold"), minwamanji'o, "he feels good" (initial minw-, "good"), and ayekwamanji'o, "he feels tired" (initial ayekw-, "tired"). Or take the verb root -batoo-, "to run." Among the verbs derived from this root are biijibatoo, "he runs here," gizhiikaabatoo, "he runs fast," maajiibatoo, "he starts off running," and bimibatoo, "he runs along, he runs by" (the closest equivalent to English "run;" examples from Nichols and Nyholm, A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe, 1995).


It gives you some ideas of preverbs, though. "Young," "after/stop," "a certain way," "good," "tired," "here," "fast," "start," "along/by." Not all of those are true preverbs, but most are, and they function in much the same way, and have similar types of meanings.

(Ojibwe also has prenouns, btw, which are just preverbs that are more commonly used with nouns than with verbs, e.g. misko-, "red," which for example combines with bineshiinh, "bird" to yield misko-bineshiinh, "cardinal").


Last edited by Whimemsz on Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 3:48 am 
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I had a play around with polysyntheticism today. I have a little softcover grammar of an obscure polynesian lang called "Big Nambas" (which, humorously, appears to mean "big penis-pouch".. incidentally, there is also a Little Nambas language) that I found in the university library. It inspired me to read over this thread and play around. Though not as synthetic as the languages in this thread, it has head-marking, very productive derivation, and adjectives which act like verbs, etc. And it has prefixing and apico-labials, which are damn awesome.

Anywho, I've been coming up with sentences like these:

'the cat leaps up onto the table'
si.siau.lul.ti le.hes.it.mun a.nan.sou.ti

it.always.sleeps.the it.do-with-feet.fall.her she.gives.rest.the

I suppose this sort of thing is leaning towards oligosynthesis.

I was wondering: are the types of serial verbs seen in creoles/West African languages like Sranan/Akan represented in any way in polysynthetic languages?

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 2:57 am 
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I've noticed that many verbs used to describe things are not marked for the thing itself. For example, JBurke named one of the wars in his conworld something to the effect of the-stars-lit-our-battles and another more general example mentioned is they-fought-nine-nights. The war itself is not actually headmarked in the verb (unless I'm misunderstanding something). In cases like that, how do other verbs agree with it? Do they take headmarking for the implied number and class?

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 24, 2006 3:18 am 
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Eddy wrote:
I've noticed that many verbs used to describe things are not marked for the thing itself. For example, JBurke named one of the wars in his conworld something to the effect of the-stars-lit-our-battles and another more general example mentioned is they-fought-nine-nights. The war itself is not actually headmarked in the verb (unless I'm misunderstanding something). In cases like that, how do other verbs agree with it? Do they take headmarking for the implied number and class?


I generally have the pronominal details of a free-standing descriptive word like 'the-stars-light-our-battles' be determined by the subject or agent of the word[1]; in this case, 'stars', which is animate proximate plural; thus, the free-standing descriptive word 'the-stars-light-our-battles' is marked as animate proximate plural. This is purely grammatical; speakers would understand the word to refer to the Starlit War.

[1] Though in some cases the object or patient determines the pronominal details; the exceptions are complicated, and I won't go into them now.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 8:30 pm 
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Recently, I've begun revisiting my Socialese project (which has taken over for the old Terpish now that the new version is more 'Europeanized') and trying to correct the various absurdities and excesses of previous incarnations. One of these that really stuck out at me was the rather artless and disjointed treatment of both phonology and morphology, which struck me as something of a collage effect. Looking at natlangs like Latin, by contrast, I noticed how words felt much more unified and balanced, as though all the components were working together. Early Terpish fails especially badly here; not only do morphemes feel thrown together, they don't even feel very unified internally due to the ludicrous consonant clusters (like /st!/ ugh...)

To deal with this situation, I'm looking for ways to incorporate tonal and even phonemic sandhi and the like into Socialese. I've also tried to craft a certain feel and character for Socialese akin to the way Latin and Sanskrit both have an unmistakable sound. Grammatically, I intend to cut back on the overuse of incorporation and preverbs, since in the past, I basically piled them on until words regularly consisted of two compounded verbs, three preverbs stacked on eachother, several incorporated locatives, and so forth. Now I plan to limit myself to:

Preverb-locative/directional-verb_root-aspect/mood-personal_marking

I have also gone over the noun class system, though that term seems inaccurate and am considering a sentient/animate/inanimate/immaterial set of classes, though naturally I am open to any suggestions in this area.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:07 pm 
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XinuX wrote:
What concepts are covered by preverbs? Could someone provide a list?
chris_notts knows a lot about preverbs. AFAICT he'd agree with Whimemsz; I don't know if either of them could add to what the other would say, but if they disagree about something its probably something that a preverb-noob such as myself would find to be quite a fine distinction.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2007 4:43 am 
Avisaru
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weldingfish wrote:

I was wondering: are the types of serial verbs seen in creoles/West African languages like Sranan/Akan represented in any way in polysynthetic languages?


To a certain extent. Many meanings expressed by serial verbs in such languages tend to be expressed by morphology in polysynthetic languages: for example, whereas languages with serial verbs may use "go" and "come" to indicate movement away from or towards some reference point, a polysynthetic language may have affixes which express directionality, or instead of using a verb like "use" or "take" to mark instruments a polysynthetic language may have applicative suffixes for the promotion / addition of obliques to a core argument of the clause.
Leaving aside morphology which performs a similar function, many polysynthetic languages, although by no means all, allow the compounding of verb roots to achieve similar ends to verb serialisation. This simply reflects the fact that a polysynthetic language is, afterall, defined by its preference for synthetis over analytic solutions. For example, a polysynthetic language might contain examples such as the following:

1st.subj-past-hit-kill-3rd.obj
"I hit-killed him/her/it"
"I beat him/her/it to death"

Of course, there are also (what I think is a fairly small) minority of polysynthetic languages which do actually have serial verb constructions. Tariana is a good example: it is unquestionably polysynthetic by most definitions of the word (Thomas H Chappell can vouch for this, since he read a grammar of Tariana on my recommendation), yet serialising is extremely common. An example of a Tariana serial verb:

nu-eka nu-pinita-ka-na
1sg-run 1st-pursue-DEC-REM.PAST.VIS.EVID
"I pursued by running"

di-tuda-dhala di-pe-ka-tha-pidana di-na
3sgnf-break.by.splitting-DO.BY.UNSTICKING 3sgnf-throw-DEC-REM.PAST.REP.EVID 3sgnf-OBJ
"He split him (the evil spirit who was stuck on the tree) off (the tree) by unsticking him (in vain)"

ne-tha-pidana di-tuda-dhala di-apita di-na di-hña-kasu-tha-pidana-ta
then-FRUSTRATIVE-REM.PAST.REP 3sgnf-break.by.splitting-DO.BY.UNSTICKING 3sgnf-drag+CAUS 3sgnf-OBJ
3sgnf-eat-INTENTION-FRUSTRATIVE-REM.PAST.REP.EVID-AGAIN
"Then he split him off (the tree) by unsticking him and pulled (him) in order to eat him (in vain)"

The thing to notice here though is that Tariana follows the fairly common practice among serialising languages of only marking TAM on one verb, namely the last one, although subject (or actor, since Tariana is a split S language) agreement is present throughout the serial verb construction. I'd suggest that if an otherwise polysynthetic language possesses SVCs, it will probably do its best to avoid repeating vast amounts of morphology on every verb in the construction by doing similar things.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 9:55 am 
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chris_notts wrote:
Leaving aside morphology which performs a similar function, many polysynthetic languages, although by no means all, allow the compounding of verb roots to achieve similar ends to verb serialisation.


Ojibwe does this sort of thing sometimes. Kind of. For example, the verb baasindibeshin, "fall and crack one's head", is composed of the morphemes: baas-indib-e-shin, "split/crack-head-BODY.PART.VERB-fall/lie". -indib- is the incorporated form of the noun "head", and -e is the suffix generally used when a body part is incorporated into the verb (which I've chosen to gloss here as BODY.PART.VERB or BPV). -shin is a very common suffix on verbs, and conveys, depending on the verb, connotations of falling, lying, sitting, or being situated in a place. It's not strictly a verb itself--rather, it's what's known in Algonquian linguistics as a "final", a suffix on the verb which identifies the verb class/valence, and optionally adds additional semantic information--but in a case like this it's essentially performing the same job. There's a number of other similar verbs too:

ozhaashaabikishin = "slip and fall on stone" (slip-stone-fall/lie)
wiinzideshin = "fall and get one's feet dirty" (dirty-foot-BPV-fall/lie)
biimiskonikeshin = "fall and twist one's arm" (around/in.a.circle-arm-BPV-fall/lie)
bookogaadeshin = "fall and break one's leg" (break-leg-BPV-fall/lie)


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 15, 2007 5:34 pm 
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weldingfish wrote:
I was wondering: are the types of serial verbs seen in creoles/West African languages like Sranan/Akan represented in any way in polysynthetic languages?
Not contradicting anything chris_notts said, but rather emphasizing a tendency:
There is a stastical correlation between isolating languages and serial-verb languages. That is, SVC languages tend to be isolating, and an isolating language is likelier to have SVCs than a synthetic one.
But as Chris points out there are polysynthetic languages with SVCs.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 11:50 am 
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Vohp posted some really good stuff in the thread on Socialese syntax and I thought it ought to be preserved, so I'm posting some of it here.

Jeff on the duration of proximate and obviative:

Assignment of the proximate/obviative persons is set for a "discourse segment" and stays constant throughout the segment; but what constitutes a segment can vary--it's a vague and amorphous term, by necessity; sometimes it can mean a single sentence, or series of related sentences, or an entire conversation; a discourse segment is what any given pair of speakers wants it to be. The proximate/obviative assignments can be changed at will, for any number of reasons, or kept constant.

Jeff on compound agents or patients:

I don't recall compound participants being an issue for me. When only one participant is compound, it's easy:

"Bill and Ted ate peyote."

For this, you'd mark the verb with a 3rd person plural animate agent and a 4th person singular patient; both Bill and Ted would be marked as 3rd/proximate--they're treated as a unit, as part of the same thing (compound subject/agent), with regard to the marking. The same would be true if the object/patient was compound instead--it would likely be obviative, and you'd mark it on the verb as a plural obviative patient (while obviating any free-standing words that represent the compound participants).

Dual compound participants is a little trickier:

"Bill and Ted killed John and Adam"

For this, you'd incorporate John and Adam as a compound object/patient into the verb; and mark Bill and Ted as described above.

These rules, or something like them, should allow you to handle any manner of complex subjects or objects.

The N. grammar has this to say on the subject (this was written sometime in 2004, according to a note):

Quote:
There are two exceptions to the above prohibition on two animate or inanimate third persons in an expression. First, when two or more identical (in terms of animacy) third persons are part of a complex subject or agent--i.e., a subject or agent composed of more than one distinct entity--they will all be third person; obviation will not occur among them. Of course, as above, in the context of complex participants obviation may be reversed in an expression, so that the subject or agent is obviated over the object or patient when one or the other must undergo obviation; if this occurs, a complex object or patient behaves just like and is subject to the same rules as a complex subject or agent. Also, when any one member of a complex participant is obviated, all members will likewise be. Second, in cases of dual subject agreement with identical (in terms of animacy) subjects, both participants are considered to be the same, usually third person.


An animate and an inanimate person in a complex participant is treated as a plural animate with regard to the verb marking.

If you're wanting to use free-standing participants with a pronominal in a complex participant (e.g., "Ted and I"), you'd simply use a form of "we" here, and not use "Ted" as a free-standing nominal; you'd make Ted's identity and presence understood by context or earlier sentences.

Jeff on relative clauses:

Mohawk doesn't distinguish these at all, morphologically, except perhaps in using a different mood/aspect combination for them (the fromer would be aorist, since it's expressing something generally true, while the latter would be imperfective). "He who X" doesn't exist in Mohawk; it's more direct--"He Xes"; and it can encompass the meaning of the former. (A lot of Amerindian names get translated into English as "he who does such and such"; but in most cases, the "who" is an English addition and not present in the original.)

Complex sentences and syntax:

I can show you how Mohawk would handle that complicated sentence you used earlier (subsituting 'meat' for 'malt', because I don't know the Mohawk word for the latter):

tsi ehlal lawatakotelonhv~i. ne takohs latsinokelyo?s. ne tsinowe~ sako?owalak?s. ne o?walonka sawalaokanonhsakonye~?s sak.

'This dog made the cat afraid. The cat had killed the rat. The rat had eaten the meat. The meat had lain in Jack's house.'

(A more literal translation: 'This nearby dog cat-frightened. The cat had rat-killed. The rat had meat-eaten. The meat had in-the-house-(of)-lain Jack.')

Mohawk, being constrained in its clause-forming abilities, can't handle complicated clauses like the above as single sentences, not anymore than English can produce a single word like sawalaokanonhsakonye~?s 'it had lain inside his house'. A similar method would be used to handle a long possessive construction--it'd be broken down; there'd be no need for 20 or 30 different sets of pronominal and possessive markers. I've never seen or heard such a long possessive construction in Mohawk, but that's how it would be translated.

Mohawk word order marks topicality and importance; and it's certainly used rhetorically. But it isn't associated with grammatical relationships, as far as I can see; who is doing what to whom, and who belongs to whom, are marked by verb prefixes. When we say "free word order," we typically mean free with regard to expressing grammatical relationships; but there are other pragmatic principles at work in Mohawk syntax, as I've said before.

psygnisfive wrote:
I don't think you're getting my point tho. -3sSEN and 3sSEN.poss don't do anything to mark the car as being possessed by the man, without needing to ASSUME that. I mean, consider:

Bob-3sSen ... Frank-3sSen ... car-3sSen.poss ... bike-3sSen.poss

There's no way to tell, just by the idea that the words agree in gender, number, and person, that it's Bob's car and Frank's bike, or vice versa.


I can only speak for the languages I know, but Mohawk or Cheyenne would handle this by obviating the possessed thing (Cheyenne) or switching the gender of one of the 3rd person singulars (Mohawk), so that, e.g., a 3S masculine nominal would match up with the 3S masculine possessive; they'd be identified as the same person. Rarely in a Mohawk or Cheyenne sentence are you going to have three or more 3rd (or 4th) persons of identical animacy, gender and number. In Cheyenne, you can theoretically have up to five distinct 3rd persons: an animate 3rd singular, an inanimate 3rd singular, an animate 3rd plural, an inanimate 3rd plural, and an obviative (4th person); Mohawk has three numbers and four genders, so the possibilities there are even larger. And in cases where there are multiple persons that fall into identical pronominal categories, remember what I said earlier: they'd break down such a complicated or confusing clause into smaller pieces. (It's likely that obviation in Algonquian and the multiple numbers and genders of Iroquoian evolved from a need to disambiguate 3rd persons; so the pronominal distinctions that these language families possess are well-suited to the uses and needs of the speakers--the languages have as many pronominal distinctions as they need for everyday conversation; when things get more complicated, there are ways to work around that, just as English has its share of work-arounds.) (Another strategy of Mohawk/Iroquoian here is to incorporate the patient or object into the verb; when you do this, you don't mark the incorporated participant on the verb with a prefix; this typically frees up a pronominal category you can then use elsewhere in the sentence.)

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 15, 2007 9:52 am 
Avisaru
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Eddy wrote:
Mohawk, being constrained in its clause-forming abilities, can't handle complicated clauses like "This is the dog that worried the cat that ate the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built" as single sentences, not anymore than English can produce a single word like sawalaokanonhsakonye~?s 'it had lain inside his house'. A similar method would be used to handle a long possessive construction--it'd be broken down; there'd be no need for 20 or 30 different sets of pronominal and possessive markers. I've never seen or heard such a long possessive construction in Mohawk, but that's how it would be translated.
Informative. Thanks. Is it true that statistically languages that allow unlimited-depth subordination tend toward being analytic rather than highly synthetic, and languages that are polysynthetic tend to have limits on the number or depth of subordinate clauses?

Eddy wrote:
Rarely in a Mohawk or Cheyenne sentence are you going to have three or more 3rd (or 4th) persons of identical animacy, gender and number. In Cheyenne, you can theoretically have up to five distinct 3rd persons: an animate 3rd singular, an inanimate 3rd singular, an animate 3rd plural, an inanimate 3rd plural, and an obviative (4th person); Mohawk has three numbers and four genders, so the possibilities there are even larger. And in cases where there are multiple persons that fall into identical pronominal categories, remember what I said earlier: they'd break down such a complicated or confusing clause into smaller pieces. (It's likely that obviation in Algonquian and the multiple numbers and genders of Iroquoian evolved from a need to disambiguate 3rd persons; so the pronominal distinctions that these language families possess are well-suited to the uses and needs of the speakers--the languages have as many pronominal distinctions as they need for everyday conversation; when things get more complicated, there are ways to work around that, just as English has its share of work-arounds.) (Another strategy of Mohawk/Iroquoian here is to incorporate the patient or object into the verb; when you do this, you don't mark the incorporated participant on the verb with a prefix; this typically frees up a pronominal category you can then use elsewhere in the sentence.)
Good motivation for extra numbers, for extra genders, and for object-incorporation. Quite useful. Thanks.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:01 pm 
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Quote:
Informative. Thanks. Is it true that statistically languages that allow unlimited-depth subordination tend toward being analytic rather than highly synthetic, and languages that are polysynthetic tend to have limits on the number or depth of subordinate clauses?


I would imagine so. For all the positives of polysynthesis, it does have its limitations and it wouldn't surprise me if this turned out to be one of them.

Incidentally, why do Nahuatl and Inuktitut fall into the polysynthetic category when neither marks agreement for noun class the way Jeff says polylangs must do in order to identify the arguments of a verb? Does this represent a difference in definitions or something?

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:16 am 
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Eddy wrote:
Incidentally, why do Nahuatl and Inuktitut fall into the polysynthetic category when neither marks agreement for noun class the way Jeff says polylangs must do in order to identify the arguments of a verb? Does this represent a difference in definitions or something?


I doubt that anyone's really saying that noun-class agreement, or the existence of noun classes at all, is a requirement for a language to be "polysynthetic". The definition of that term is fuzzy at best. Nahuatl and Inuktitut may not have noun class agreement, but look at the overall lineup of traits that they do have in common with other languages generally agreed to be "polysynthetic":

* very high numbers of morphemes per word
* single verbs that translate in English to substantial sentences
* marking person+number of subject and direct object on the verb
* frequent use of noun incorporation into verbs (and in the Eskimoan languages, verbs are often incorporated into nouns as well)
* huge arrays of derivational and adverbial morphemes affixable to the verb complex
* greater reliance on morphology than syntax to express relationships between sentence elements

It's really hard to not call Nahuatl and Inuktitut polysynthetic, given these characteristics. If they lack something additional that Algonquian and Iroquoian languages have, well... so what? I'm sure there's things both those families lack that are present in Nahuatl or Inuktitut instead, too.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:53 am 
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Eddy wrote:
For all the positives of polysynthesis, it does have its limitations and it wouldn't surprise me if this turned out to be one of them.


You're only now realizing this? Languages like Mohawk are constrained in their clause-forming abilities generally; instead of adding new words or clauses to express something, they tend to build bigger words. This is their way of adding detail to an expression, whereas in English we add words or clauses. Mohawk is capable of morphology that's way beyond anything English can do; and English syntax and clause-formation eclipses Mohawk's considerably. All languages have ways of adding detail; it just varies how they do it, i.e., the degree to which they use synthesis or analysis. Some languages, like Finnish, are a middle-ground between syntax/clause formation and morphology.

Quote:
Incidentally, why do Nahuatl and Inuktitut fall into the polysynthetic category when neither marks agreement for noun class the way Jeff says polylangs must do in order to identify the arguments of a verb?


When did I say this? I've never (TMK) offered any set criteria for a language's inclusion in the "polysynthetic" catgeory. It's a vague term that I try to avoid, usually, unless someone else uses it first.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 11:02 pm 
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Quote:
When did I say this? I've never (TMK) offered any set criteria for a language's inclusion in the "polysynthetic" catgeory. It's a vague term that I try to avoid, usually, unless someone else uses it first.


Ah, you did say that they were the hallmark of polythesis more or less near the beginning of the thread, unless I misunderstood your quote.

JBurke wrote:
One of the hallmarks of poly languages is the marking of subject and object on the verb. While not absolutely necessary for comprehension, it greatly helps. E.g., in Mohawk, a word stem is made of a verb root and a noun root; the noun root is not inflected, so you need some indication of the person and number of the object--and this comes from the pronominal prefix (which for transitive expressions provides information on both subject and object). Another instance when object agreement markers are useful is when using free-standing objects. Object incorporation is always optional in Mohawk, e.g.; and if you have a free-standing object and subject both, you often need that object agreement marker to help you discern which free-standing noun is the subject and which the object.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2008 11:35 pm 
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Wow! That does look promising. I like the fact that this language has all those moods and voices; I love languages/conlangs like that. Also what an unique way to write the language, even in its latin equivalent!

Well done.

Yours,

julianallees

3rd April, 2008 2:35pm :D :) :!:

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:57 am 
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Eddy wrote:
Ah, you did say that they were the hallmark of polythesis more or less near the beginning of the thread, unless I misunderstood your quote.
(1) You meant "polysynthesis" rather than "polythesis", I'm sure.
(2) You misunderstood Voh's emphasis. It is the fact that the verb has polypersonal agreement -- it agrees with at least two participants, for instance the subject and the object -- that is highly correlated with being polysynthetic. Whether or not this agreement includes marking the verb for the noun-class or gender of any of these participants, is not a major issue.
(3) Nevertheless, it is a shorter step from polypersonal agreement to object-incorporation, if the polypersonal agreement includes marking the verb for the gender or noun-class of the object(s), than if it doesn't. The same can be said for grammatical number. Voh mentioned instances where the polypersonal agreement system amounted to cross-referencing; incorporating (possibly reduced versions of) the pronouns for the participants, into the verb.

@Voh; Did I get any of that right?


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 11:58 am 
Niš
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one of my pet peeves about polysynthetic languages is that I wonder "How do they know if it's polysynthetic? It might not be. What if the speakers of the languages just talked really fast so that it sounded like one word, so the linguist thought that it was one word with many morphemes?". Just something that irritates me about them.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 12:36 pm 
Sanci
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*face-palm*


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2008 1:43 pm 
Avisaru
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Hroþgard wrote:
one of my pet peeves about polysynthetic languages is that I wonder "How do they know if it's polysynthetic? It might not be. What if the speakers of the languages just talked really fast so that it sounded like one word, so the linguist thought that it was one word with many morphemes?". Just something that irritates me about them.

Obviously this depends on what a "word" is.
If you don't think they know what a word is, or if the language doesn't have words; or you think they don't know what a morpheme is, or the language doesn't have morphemes; then maybe the linguist doesn't know for sure the language is, or isn't, polysynthetic.
If there are two concepts reasonably called "word" in the language that are significantly not co-extensive, also, the problem might arise. (Similar to the question of "subject" in Tagalog and related languages in that type/area/family.)

------------------------------
[EDIT]:
I note from a post in Ephemera that you are in the 8th grade; so you probably don't know some of the definitions of "word".
There are probably around four definitions of "word" used in linguistics. For most of the "major" "world" languages, most of these definitions pick out the same things as words as most of the other definitions.
See for example
What is a word?
Definition
A word is a unit which is a constituent at the phrase level and above. It is sometimes identifiable according to such criteria as
  • being the minimal possible unit in a reply
  • having features such as
    • a regular stress pattern, and
    • phonological changes conditioned by or blocked at word boundaries
  • being the largest unit resistant to insertion of new constituents within its boundaries, or
  • being the smallest constituent that can be moved within a sentence without making the sentence ungrammatical.

A word is sometimes placed, in a hierarchy of grammatical constituents, above the morpheme level and below the phrase level.

Kinds
Here are some kinds of words:
  • What is an adjective?
  • What is an adposition?
  • What is an adverb? (Linguistics)
  • What is a classifier?
  • What is a conjunction?
  • What is a determiner?
  • What is a dummy word?
  • What is an emphasis marker?
  • What is an exclamative?
  • What is an existential marker?
  • What is a fossilized term?
  • What is an honorific?
  • What is an ideophone?
  • What is an interjection?
  • What is a particle?
  • What is a pro-form?
  • What is a substantive?
  • What is a verb? (Linguistics)
  • What is a clitic? (Grammar)

Generic
A word is a kind of
What is a construction?

Sources
Hartmann and Stork 1972 256
Crystal 1980 168, 383–384
Cruse 1986 35–36
Mish 1991 1358
Pike and Pike 1982 462

Context for this page:
Concept module: word
In overview module: Glossary (Linguistics): W
In modular book: Glossary of linguistic terms, by Eugene E. Loos (general editor), Susan Anderson (editor), Dwight H., Day, Jr. (editor), Paul C. Jordan (editor), and J. Douglas Wingate (editor)
In bookshelf: Linguistics
This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]
Page content last modified: 5 January 2004
Using that definition, linguists can decide what a word is.

Look up some of SIL's references above.

Also look up
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word (especially http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word#Definitions )
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexeme
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemma_%28linguistics%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polysynthetic_language


Also, look up:
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... rpheme.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... ordfor.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... hAllom.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... Phrase.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... Clause.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... ntence.htm

- - - - - - - - - -

Some linguists think the idea of "word" shouldn't apply to some languages. One piece of evidence in favor of this is that not every natlang has a word for "word". (Although apparently every natlang has a word for "name".)

- - - - - - - -

Also, look up
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... rticle.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... nguage.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... nguage.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... nguage.htm
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/Glossary ... nguage.htm

I hope that helps.

[/EDIT]


Last edited by TomHChappell on Fri Apr 10, 2009 6:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 8:37 pm 
Lebom
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Great thread. Sorry if this would be considered clutter, but I have a question relating to some stuff discussed here.

In the beginning of the thread, vohpenonomae, you mentioned using a nominal morphology. Is this necessary, for polylang that is? What are some of its advantages/disadvantages?

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:07 pm 
Smeric
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Quote:
Is this necessary, for polylang that is?


To my knowledge, no, and I believe some polylangs inflect their nouns very little if at all though I'm not absolutely sure.

Quote:
What are some of its advantages/disadvantages?


Having at least some nominal inflection is handy since at the very least you probably want to distinguish singular and plural nouns. That goes a long way toward helping you parse agreement and so forth. On the other hand, you can probably get away without marking case if your lang includes a decent substitute on the verbs. Disadvantages mainly arise with more elaborate nominal morphology and often involve nominal and verbal inflections becoming redundant.

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 Post subject: Affixial poly conlangs
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2009 1:02 pm 
Sanci
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Hi, Sauo is an affixial poly conlang. It allows only one root morpheme per word and has an etreamly agglutinative morphology. I use Semantic affixes instead of incorporated nominals, and there is a weak distinction between nominals and verbs. For example, using Abi, which is the name of my cat (full name is Abeygail) It can be used as ether "Feline" or "to purr". Similarly with Sauo's Hawaiian Loanroot Pu'a (from hawaiian Pua) for "flower" in nominal form and "To wish joy upon" in verb form.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:52 pm 
Avisaru
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jburke wrote:
<Clears> I can't prove it, but I strongly suspect that polysynthesis was the hallmark of the most ancient human languages; moreover, I think most or all human languages began as kinsesthetic, too. The typical scenario we construct when thinking about how language originated--of proto humans hanging word-tags on things, of roaming about creating nouns by naming animals and trees--I think that's a totally false picture. I think language began with man's body feelings and his own motions, and he extended those concepts by analogy to describe the world. Naturally he would have described the world in verbal terms then. Over time, as we see in the Algonquian languages, certain morphemes tend to break away and become nouns, and take on classic nominal characteristics, and no longer refer back to any motion or process. Thus begins the development of a separate nominal morphology.
But it can go the other way as well, with noun roots becoming verbs, which is very common in English (to google, to xerox, etc.). IMO there is a constant tug of war between forces that create distinctions between word classes and forces that erode such distinctions.


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