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Polysynthetic Conlang
http://www.incatena.org/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1253
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Author:  monoglot [ Tue Aug 24, 2010 3:07 am ]
Post subject: 

Okay, so some of the links off of the earlier link for the Australian Languages are dead. The following still work:
Aboriginal English
Malyangapa Workshop -- Merely a course outline
Dyirbal -- Seems like it has some good stuff, and includes German translation.
Jiwarli
Martuthunira -- Provides a link to request a grammar.
Mawng -- Suggested texts and contact information for the Warruwi Literacy Centre.
Nhirrpi

So, just skimming over what little I can find, I have a question. When we're talking about these languages as being "nouny," how nouny are we talking? Are we talking as "nouny" as the Iroquois and Algonquian languages are "verby," or do we simply mean they act largely like those two language groups but rely more on nouns (I.e. there are more unicorporated nouns and more noun forms in general). Because I'm already seeing terms like "noun incorporation" just in what little I've looked at.

Also, I can't for the life of me find it to prove I'm not making it up, but I seem to recall reading a posting by Jeff somewhere (I thought it was in this thread, but if it is, I missed it) talking about diachronic change in these languages.

Mods, I'll try to make sure I take care of it, but feel free to delete this if I'm remembering incorrectly or misunderstanding what I remember.

I seem to remember the statement being that when sound change happens, it happens on a morpheme by morpheme basis.

So, if you had an expression (broken into morphemes) an-aki-k-on-ati (jibberish--I'm not making up a whole language for the example) and you had sound change -voice>+voice V_V instead of getting anagigonadi, you'd get anagikonadi, because even though the second k is between two vowels, it's treated as being in isolation since it's its own morpheme. But if k>p _ then the expression would become anapiponati.

Am I at all remembering that correctly? It's possible I'm thinking of this post and this post and later combined the two in my mind without realizing it.

Edit: I've deleted part of my question, because it occurred to me after thinking about it that one of the things I remembered Jeff saying about poly languages was actually something Maknas said about triconsonantal languages.

Author:  Radius Solis [ Thu Sep 16, 2010 6:58 pm ]
Post subject: 

monoglot wrote:

I seem to remember the statement being that when sound change happens, it happens on a morpheme by morpheme basis.

So, if you had an expression (broken into morphemes) an-aki-k-on-ati (jibberish--I'm not making up a whole language for the example) and you had sound change -voice>+voice V_V instead of getting anagigonadi, you'd get anagikonadi, because even though the second k is between two vowels, it's treated as being in isolation since it's its own morpheme. But if k>p _ then the expression would become anapiponati.
Generally no, sound changes normally occur everywhere that the environment exists, regardless of morpheme boundaries. However, it is possible (if maybe uncommon) for morpheme boundaries to be a conditioning environment of their own. So if you had a change like "k > p at the beginnings of morphemes" that would produce anakiponati.

Another related thing you might be thinking of is called analogical leveling, or just analogy. Analogical changes normally take the form of a rule that replaces a less common allomorph (form of a morpheme) with a more common one. So if a sound change voices intervocalic stops, you would normally see anakikonati > anagigonadi. It is possible that analogy would then kick in, changing it back to anagikonadi, only if voiceless [k] remained a common form of that morpheme among other words (but not necessarily even then; the irregularity may also just be allowed to stand). This would be unlikely to happen to the -aki- or -ati- morphemes because the voicing rule would have applied in every instance of each morpheme, leaving no voiceless forms to analogize back to.

Author:  monoglot [ Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:21 am ]
Post subject: 

I was and am fairly certain I was remembering incorrectly, because it seemed unlikely.

I have however won Bonvillain's Mohawk Grammar on eBay, and it should be in the mail as we speak. I'm also thinking heavily about getting The Polysynthesis Parameter by Mark C. Baker . . . unless anyone here is readily familiar with the book and recommends strongly against it for good reason. It apparenty touches on the Aboriginal Australian languages as well.

Author:  OlgaNaft [ Mon Jan 17, 2011 12:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

monoglot wrote:
I was and am fairly certain I was remembering incorrectly, because it seemed unlikely.

I have however won Bonvillain's Mohawk Grammar on eBay, and it should be in the mail as we speak. I'm also thinking heavily about getting The Polysynthesis Parameter by Mark C. Baker . . . unless anyone here is readily familiar with the book and recommends strongly against it for good reason. It apparenty touches on the Aboriginal Australian languages as well.

Languages Aboriginal Australians - it is very interesting! :)

Author:  Aurora Rossa [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 1:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

I have gotten some complaints recently from people who say I have focused too much on what Jeff Burke / Vohpenonoma'e has said regarding polysynthesis. Given that few other people here (from what I can remember anyway) have discussed polysynthesis, I have generally relied a lot on his posts for my own work. I would find it genuinely interesting, though, to hear from anyone else on the forum who has studied polysynthetic languages. It wouldn't hurt to hear how other language families, like the Inuit and Meso-American languages, handle polysynthesis.

Vohp said that the Algonquin and Iroquois languages do not mark nouns for case, but I have heard at least some polylangs do have case marking of some sort. Anyone know of such languages and why they mark case?

Author:  Astraios [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

Eddy wrote:
It wouldn't hurt to hear how other language families, like the Inuit and Meso-American languages, handle polysynthesis.
Could you maybe perhaps possibly ask a question that's a little more specific?


Eddy wrote:
Vohp said that the Algonquin and Iroquois languages do not mark nouns for case, but I have heard at least some polylangs do have case marking of some sort. Anyone know of such languages and why they mark case?
Why shouldn't they?

Author:  Aurora Rossa [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

Astraios wrote:
Could you maybe perhaps possibly ask a question that's a little more specific?


Ok then. Jeff Burke explained that the languages he studied have noun classes for the purpose of agreement. How widespread are noun classes (animacy, gender, and similar concepts) in polysynthetic languages?

Quote:
Why shouldn't they?


The concept of polysynthesis, at least as Jeff describes, involves marking the verb to agree with both the subject and object so you can identify both in the sentence without relying on word order. This represents the inverse case of what languages with case typically do, inflecting the subject and object nouns themselves to indicate which has which role in the sentence. Marking both the verbs and the nouns is quite redundant.

Further muddying this whole discussion is the fact that polysynthesis has some very different definitions depending on who you ask. Jeff emphasized compulsory agreement for subject and object on verbs. Other sources make much of more esoteric points like the absence of infinitive verb forms, although sources seem to contradict each other frequently.

Author:  cromulant [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

Has there really been nothing to your research aside from your correspondence with Jeff?

Yes, case marking is alive and well in the Americas.

Quote:
Marking both the verbs and the nouns is quite redundant.


And yet it is done.

Author:  finlay [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

Redundancy is useful because if you miss the case marker because of garbled speech or loud noises (as a simplistic example) you can then hear the agreement later. This also reinforces the case marking. It's also why, even when languages have cases, a lot of them still have a default word order, for instance.

Author:  Astraios [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

Eddy wrote:
Ok then. Jeff Burke explained that the languages he studied have noun classes for the purpose of agreement. How widespread are noun classes (animacy, gender, and similar concepts) in polysynthetic languages?
I don't know how widespread it is generally, but Lakota is another one that has an animacy distinction (it does only show up in the plural though, where animate plural is always marked by the verbal enclitic =pi, but inanimate plurality can either be marked by reduplication or by zero-marking).


Eddy wrote:
The concept of polysynthesis, at least as Jeff describes
What Jeff said isn't The Great And Wise Bible Of Polysynthesis.

Author:  cromulant [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

Eddy wrote:
How widespread are noun classes (animacy, gender, and similar concepts) in polysynthetic languages?


Apparently, somewhat uncommon?, though hardly unheard of.

The glaring absence on this map, to me, is Navajo, which has 11 noun classes.

Author:  ná'oolkiłí [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

Are those really noun classes? Isn't something's shape only marked on verbs of handling or throwing or something?

Author:  TomHChappell [ Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

cromulant wrote:
Eddy wrote:
How widespread are noun classes (animacy, gender, and similar concepts) in polysynthetic languages?

Apparently, somewhat uncommon?, though hardly unheard of.
The glaring absence on this map, to me, is Navajo, which has 11 noun classes.

Look at this: http://wals.info/feature/combined/22A/30A
and this map
(I've turned off all the icons for langs with no noun-classes and all those with 5 or fewer inflectional categories per verb).
19 languages in WALS.info's sample database are recorded as having 6 or more inflectional categories per verb and also as having at least two noun classes.
Among them are:
Apurinã, Arabic (Egyptian), Berber (Middle Atlas), Cree (Plains), Hausa, Mundari, Oromo (Harar);
Grebo, Khoekhoe, Mangarrayi, Nicobarese (Car);
Burushaski, Pirahã;
Hunzib, Oneida, Luvale, Alamblak, Abkhaz, Ingush.

Out of the 113 sample languages with both features recorded, 49 (about 43%) have 6 or more inflectional categories per verb, and 45 (about 40%) have noun-classes.
Of the 49 of them with 6 or more inflectional categories per verb, 19 (about 39%) have noun-classes.

In case we really need 8 or more inflectional categories on the verb to call the language "polysynthetic", there are 21 of those languages recorded with 8 or more categories per verb, and 7 of them (about 33.33%) are recorded as having noun-classes. Four of those languages -- Burushaski, Pirahã, Luvale, and Ingush -- have four or more noun-classes.

Author:  Drydic [ Wed Sep 14, 2011 1:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Polysynthetic Conlang

Astraios wrote:
Eddy wrote:
The concept of polysynthesis, at least as Jeff describes
What Jeff said isn't The Great And Wise Bible Of Polysynthesis.


It is in Eddyworld.

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