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Polysynthetic Conlang
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Author:  Aurora Rossa [ Sat Apr 17, 2010 6:18 pm ]
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Since it seems that Vohp has finally returned, I wanted to ask how polylangs typically express concepts like "this" and "that", what we would call determiners. I know many of them use affixes on nouns to indicate possession and I imagine something similar could work for demonstratives and quantifiers, for example. Numbers don't seem to lend themselves to such treatment, though. It feels rather silly to expression "two hundred and fifty nine" as a prefix, and you need some way to express unbound numbers to count anyway. So how do the polylangs you have studied handle determiner concepts, Vohp?

Author:  vohpenonomae [ Sat Apr 17, 2010 6:46 pm ]
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Eddy wrote:
So how do the polylangs you have studied handle determiner concepts, Vohp?


With separate words or clitics; Cheyenne, e.g., uses a set of deictics that distinguish by number, distance and animacy. These are separate words from the nominals they're associated with. As for quantifiers, there are two types: counting and times; the lower numbers (and higher numbers to about 20) have incorporable forms that you can slip into a word to show how many things there are or how many times an act is done. Quantifiers for numbers above 20 are usually done with separate words.

You can also use preverbs to express times numbers; these can be constructed freely for any number one wishes. Preverbs are free particles that cliticize to (or are inserted into) compounded words. A preverb compound lies, morphologically speaking, between a phrase and a derived word; the elements in a preverb compound are treated more like words in a phrase, suffering little or no modification, though they are morphologically single units. This is contrasted with derived words, where all the elements are subject to internal sandhi.

Author:  vohpenonomae [ Sat Apr 17, 2010 6:57 pm ]
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Eddy wrote:
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.


The nominal morphologies of Algic/Algonquian and Iroquoian are very basic and sparse compared to their extremely rich and sophisticated verbal morphologies. There's nominal marking for person, number, gender, etc., and sometimes for augmentatives or diminutives, but little else. It's the verb that lies at the heart of these languages, and where most of the expression is realized.

Author:  Aurora Rossa [ Wed May 05, 2010 10:36 am ]
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vohpenonomae wrote:
The nominal morphologies of Algic/Algonquian and Iroquoian are very basic and sparse compared to their extremely rich and sophisticated verbal morphologies. There's nominal marking for person, number, gender, etc., and sometimes for augmentatives or diminutives, but little else. It's the verb that lies at the heart of these languages, and where most of the expression is realized.


I know some polylangs have a fair degree of nominal inflection. Inuktitut has eight noun cases, the ergative and absolutive plus some oblique and locative ones.

Quote:
A preverb compound lies, morphologically speaking, between a phrase and a derived word; the elements in a preverb compound are treated more like words in a phrase, suffering little or no modification, though they are morphologically single units. This is contrasted with derived words, where all the elements are subject to internal sandhi.


Does this go for all the morphemes you call preverbs, like the "white" in "he-thunders-whitely"?

Oh yeah, I have been wondering sometime about those verbs acting as nouns and how they fit into clauses. Imagine a sentence he-thunders-whitely he-writes-fantasy-novels which translates as "Vohpenonomae writes fantasy novels". Since both words are ordinary verbs in the original language, how do we know which is the predicate and which is the subject? Could not the sentence mean "The fantasy writer thunders whitely" just as easily?

Author:  vohpenonomae [ Wed May 05, 2010 11:58 am ]
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Quote:
Eddy wrote:
vohpenonomae wrote:
The nominal morphologies of Algic/Algonquian and Iroquoian are very basic and sparse compared to their extremely rich and sophisticated verbal morphologies. There's nominal marking for person, number, gender, etc., and sometimes for augmentatives or diminutives, but little else. It's the verb that lies at the heart of these languages, and where most of the expression is realized.


I know some polylangs have a fair degree of nominal inflection. Inuktitut has eight noun cases, the ergative and absolutive plus some oblique and locative ones.


Technically, you can say that Mohawk or Cheyenne nouns have "cases"--they can be marked as subject or object (via cross-reference in head-marking), for location, direction, and a host of other things. But when I say that verbs are the heart of these languages, I mean that the verbal morphology is more often called upon to bear the expressional burden; instead of, say, a noun being marked for location, rather you'll more typically find the location of the act specified in the verb. This even goes for instrumental ideas, which, in Algonquian languages like Cheyenne, you'll often find marked with finals on verbs; there are huge numbers of fused subject-object-instrumental finals in Cheyenne that show the subject, object and the means by which an act is done, all at the same time with the same affix; but you can also mark formal nouns with an instrumental affix, if you wish. It's just done far less often.

Quote:
Oh yeah, I have been wondering sometime about those verbs acting as nouns and how they fit into clauses. Imagine a sentence he-thunders-whitely he-writes-fantasy-novels which translates as "Vohpenonomae writes fantasy novels". Since both words are ordinary verbs in the original language, how do we know which is the predicate and which is the subject? Could not the sentence mean "The fantasy writer thunders whitely" just as easily?


Context or pragmatics.

Author:  Aurora Rossa [ Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:13 am ]
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Quote:
This even goes for instrumental ideas, which, in Algonquian languages like Cheyenne, you'll often find marked with finals on verbs; there are huge numbers of fused subject-object-instrumental finals in Cheyenne that show the subject, object and the means by which an act is done, all at the same time with the same affix; but you can also mark formal nouns with an instrumental affix, if you wish. It's just done far less often.


Though I would imagine speakers consider it more elegant to use the final on the verb than marking the noun.

Quote:
Context or pragmatics.


That could certainly work, though it seems somehow too ambiguous or fluid, not clearly defined enough. I can't help but feel that leaving it up to context doesn't really impart the sense that "he-thunders-whitely" is a personal name and not just an ordinary verb. But maybe that just reflects my lack of feel for the languages.

Author:  vohpenonomae [ Wed Jun 16, 2010 10:36 pm ]
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Eddy wrote:
Quote:
This even goes for instrumental ideas, which, in Algonquian languages like Cheyenne, you'll often find marked with finals on verbs; there are huge numbers of fused subject-object-instrumental finals in Cheyenne that show the subject, object and the means by which an act is done, all at the same time with the same affix; but you can also mark formal nouns with an instrumental affix, if you wish. It's just done far less often.


Though I would imagine speakers consider it more elegant to use the final on the verb than marking the noun.

Quote:
Context or pragmatics.


That could certainly work, though it seems somehow too ambiguous or fluid, not clearly defined enough. I can't help but feel that leaving it up to context doesn't really impart the sense that "he-thunders-whitely" is a personal name and not just an ordinary verb. But maybe that just reflects my lack of feel for the languages.


You could theoretically turn such a word into a participle with a special ending (participles can function in many Algonquian languages like relative clauses), but this isn't frequently done in this context. Natlangs are full of formal/structural ambiguities like this that get sorted out by context or pragmatics; if you wanted to formally or structurally distinguish every possible usage or shade of meaning, you'd wind up with a philosophical language or engelang; i.e., not something natural. Natural language isn't an all-encompassing, perfectly-formed and immaculately expressed system; it's an heuristic system that evolves to meet the needs of its users. If the users can get by fine with such ambiguities, why would the language change? It's important to keep that in mind. (Even when, as in this case, a language can structurally distinguish certain things, speakers often don't; they may leave their words structurally ambiguous because the meaning is generally understood or obvious in context, or for other reasons. That can come in handy, as when you want to be deliberately vague or ambiguous.)

Author:  monoglot [ Fri Aug 20, 2010 5:56 pm ]
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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.


I had a silly thought when I read this (Which isn't very descriptive; I have silly thoughts when I read anything--or don't read anything at all). Wouldn't it be funny if this points in some small way to proto-World? Language started out in one place (somewhere in the Old World) as polysynthetic. As language moved out, the languages closer to the source changed more than the languages remote to the source, so the remote Siberian languages, North American languages and Australian languages retain their polysynthesis. Again, silly, not defensible, and I wouldn't try.

Author:  Nortaneous [ Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:47 pm ]
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monoglot wrote:
I had a silly thought when I read this (Which isn't very descriptive; I have silly thoughts when I read anything--or don't read anything at all). Wouldn't it be funny if this points in some small way to proto-World? Language started out in one place (somewhere in the Old World) as polysynthetic. As language moved out, the languages closer to the source changed more than the languages remote to the source, so the remote Siberian languages, North American languages and Australian languages retain their polysynthesis. Again, silly, not defensible, and I wouldn't try.

aw man, now some inbred fuck is going to pick up on this, base a website around it, and use it to say that the indo-european languages are more ~~evolved~~ than the durka durka durr languages grunted by primitive blackies in blackistan

Author:  MrKrov [ Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:51 pm ]
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I concur with the notion that it's very silly and indefensible.

Author:  jmcd [ Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:15 pm ]
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Nortaneous wrote:
monoglot wrote:
I had a silly thought when I read this (Which isn't very descriptive; I have silly thoughts when I read anything--or don't read anything at all). Wouldn't it be funny if this points in some small way to proto-World? Language started out in one place (somewhere in the Old World) as polysynthetic. As language moved out, the languages closer to the source changed more than the languages remote to the source, so the remote Siberian languages, North American languages and Australian languages retain their polysynthesis. Again, silly, not defensible, and I wouldn't try.

aw man, now some inbred fuck is going to pick up on this, base a website around it, and use it to say that the indo-european languages are more ~~evolved~~ than the durka durka durr languages grunted by primitive blackies in blackistan
People would do that shit anyway. The main real problem with it is the same with Proto-World anyway: unfalsifiability and all that jazz.

Author:  Nortaneous [ Sat Aug 21, 2010 12:20 am ]
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jmcd wrote:
People would do that shit anyway.

Yeah, it's probably already out there somewhere.

Also, holy fuck I'm tired. I just read the bolded bit in this:
vohpenonomae wrote:
Eddy wrote:
So how do the polylangs you have studied handle determiner concepts, Vohp?

as "hamster declension".

Author:  Nesescosac [ Sat Aug 21, 2010 1:16 am ]
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Nortaneous wrote:
Also, holy fuck I'm tired. I just read the bolded bit in this:
vohpenonomae wrote:
Eddy wrote:
So how do the polylangs you have studied handle determiner concepts, Vohp?

as "hamster declension".


I like your version more.

Author:  monoglot [ Sat Aug 21, 2010 1:53 pm ]
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MrKrov wrote:
I concur with the notion that it's very silly and indefensible.


You know, the post really is silly. I thought the fact that I said twice that it was silly and then the obvious silly nature of the post itself sufficed, but apparently that was too subtle, and it had to be said again, so just to be on the safe side, I said it again too. But if that is still too subtle, I'll reiterate: it's silly.*

* Please refer to previous statements about its being silly.

p.s. I was being silly, and I hope that came across.

Author:  Nortaneous [ Sat Aug 21, 2010 2:42 pm ]
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Kicgan Vekei wrote:
Nortaneous wrote:
Also, holy fuck I'm tired. I just read the bolded bit in this:
vohpenonomae wrote:
Eddy wrote:
So how do the polylangs you have studied handle determiner concepts, Vohp?

as "hamster declension".


I like your version more.


Yeah, I want to study hamster declension consonants now.

(edit: errr, consonants? apparently I'm still tired)

Author:  MrKrov [ Sat Aug 21, 2010 7:55 pm ]
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monoglot wrote:
MrKrov wrote:
I concur with the notion that it's very silly and indefensible.


You know, the post really is silly. I thought the fact that I said twice that it was silly and then the obvious silly nature of the post itself sufficed, but apparently that was too subtle, and it had to be said again, so just to be on the safe side, I said it again too. But if that is still too subtle, I'll reiterate: it's silly.*

* Please refer to previous statements about its being silly.

p.s. I was being silly, and I hope that came across.

Do you need a dictionary to learn what *concur* means?

Author:  Kai_DaiGoji [ Sat Aug 21, 2010 11:13 pm ]
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This reminds me of the scene in "Catch me if you can" where the one intern, after being grilled by DiCaprio's fake doctor says to himself "Why didn't I concur?"

Author:  tezcatlip0ca [ Sat Aug 21, 2010 11:29 pm ]
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Nortaneous wrote:
Kicgan Vekei wrote:
Nortaneous wrote:
Also, holy fuck I'm tired. I just read the bolded bit in this:
vohpenonomae wrote:
Eddy wrote:
So how do the polylangs you have studied handle determiner concepts, Vohp?

as "hamster declension".


I like your version more.


Yeah, I want to study hamster declension consonants now.

(edit: errr, consonants? apparently I'm still tired)


Consonants? lollollollollollollollol!

Author:  monoglot [ Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:35 am ]
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MrKrov wrote:
Do you need a dictionary to learn what *concur* means?


I'm fully aware of the meaning of the word. I'm also fully aware--as are you--that connotation trumps definition. So either you were implying something, which I believe to be the case (based on the only other time I've interacted with you when your decision to insult came before any constructive communication), and now that push has come to shove you're going to pretend like you never even pushed to begin with, or you're wasting time with an inane-ass comment that simply parrots what I already stated twice, at which point I'll apologize both for assuming you meant insult and for attempting to assume you were adding something new to the conversation.

Author:  Aurora Rossa [ Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:39 am ]
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I don't find these statements about declining hamsters entirely consonant, myself.

Quote:
I had a silly thought when I read this (Which isn't very descriptive; I have silly thoughts when I read anything--or don't read anything at all). Wouldn't it be funny if this points in some small way to proto-World? Language started out in one place (somewhere in the Old World) as polysynthetic. As language moved out, the languages closer to the source changed more than the languages remote to the source, so the remote Siberian languages, North American languages and Australian languages retain their polysynthesis. Again, silly, not defensible, and I wouldn't try.


Maybe so, though a lot of people argue, based on evidence from creoles, that we actually lean toward isolation with synthesis evolving later. On the other hand, a great many creoles develop out of near isolating languages like English and Pacific island languages. With a background like that, it makes sense they would go isolating. What about creoles of more synthetic languages like Spanish or American Indian languages?

Author:  Nesescosac [ Sun Aug 22, 2010 12:58 pm ]
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Sango, a Ngbandi-based creole, is much more isolating than Ngbandi, losing many aspects of Ngbandi's morphology.

Author:  MrKrov [ Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:55 pm ]
Post subject: 

monoglot wrote:
MrKrov wrote:
Do you need a dictionary to learn what *concur* means?


I'm fully aware of the meaning of the word. I'm also fully aware--as are you--that connotation trumps definition. So either you were implying something, which I believe to be the case (based on the only other time I've interacted with you when your decision to insult came before any constructive communication), and now that push has come to shove you're going to pretend like you never even pushed to begin with, or you're wasting time with an inane-ass comment that simply parrots what I already stated twice, at which point I'll apologize both for assuming you meant insult and for attempting to assume you were adding something new to the conversation.

Assumptions and guessing at hidden implications are bad for your health.

Just for you: if I want to want to add something significantly new, I'll put NEW at the start.

Author:  monoglot [ Mon Aug 23, 2010 2:50 am ]
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MrKrov wrote:
Assumptions and guessing at hidden implications are bad for your health.

Do you need a dictionary to learn what *concur* means?


So then I shouldn't assume you're mocking me here, just that you're apparently having some type of problem figuring out how to post. I'll be helpful then really quickly. Cut out all of the brackets and everything in between them. In the future, those little buttons below the subject line . . . don't hit them, and your post should look normal.

Anyway, I'm done if you're done . . . or honestly even if you're not done. In the future, you can keep your insults--clever though they may be--to yourself, and I'll read all of your posts without any appreciation for anything beyond the strict dictionary definition of the words. We'll get along awesomely.

Author:  monoglot [ Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:08 am ]
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So I'm potentially scaring myself, but I may take a look at starting one of these myself. I've always had in mind one of the languages I wanted to work on would be polysynthetic. I'm only a couple pages away from completing this thread, but I'm tired, so I stopped retaining any information a couple pages before that. Scaring myself more, I'm going to take a look at the Australian languages link a couple pages back and see if it doesn't scare me toward verbs, which are scary enough in their own right.

Eddy wrote:
Maybe so, though a lot of people argue, based on evidence from creoles, that we actually lean toward isolation with synthesis evolving later. On the other hand, a great many creoles develop out of near isolating languages like English and Pacific island languages. With a background like that, it makes sense they would go isolating. What about creoles of more synthetic languages like Spanish or American Indian languages?


I'm gaining increasing interest in pidgins and creoles, but I imagine my interest will wane before I really get around to looking at even broad generalizations.

Author:  MrKrov [ Mon Aug 23, 2010 10:20 am ]
Post subject: 

monoglot wrote:
MrKrov wrote:
Assumptions and guessing at hidden implications are bad for your health.

Do you need a dictionary to learn what *concur* means?


So then I shouldn't assume you're mocking me here, just that you're apparently having some type of problem figuring out how to post. I'll be helpful then really quickly. Cut out all of the brackets and everything in between them. In the future, those little buttons below the subject line . . . don't hit them, and your post should look normal.

That was on purpose. If you don't get why...

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