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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:35 am 
Lebom
Lebom

Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:50 pm
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Hey folks!

So, last autumn I did a lot of development of Feayran's aspect system, and I discovered some interesting dynamics that arose with regard to telicity of verbs, especially when negation was involved. I found it interesting how the three different systems managed to interact in surprising and useful ways, so I thought I'd put it up for critique and discussion.


Design Goals:

Feayran is an artlang designed for a fictional tribe of shapeshifters. It is intended to be naturalistic, but notably divergent from your Standard Average European languages, with perhaps some vague resemblance to North American languages like Oneida, Navajo, Lakhota, Mohawk, and Apache. Sociolinguistics and ethnography are two of my primary interests in conlanging, so a primary goal for Feayran is that it be closely tied to the culture and thought patterns of its speakers. The feayr frame their thoughts in terms of geographic locations and smells, so the language should reflect that. It does not, currently, have the benefit of a diachronic reconstruction to aid on the naturalism front.

Major Terms As Used Here:

Telicity

In Feayran, I use "telicity" to differentiate two classes of verb roots--any given root is inherently either telic or atelic.

Telic roots carry the implication of a completion state. K*ra, "going," is a telic root, because at some point you will get to where you are going.

Atelic roots do not have a completion state. Mazh*, "being red/yellow," is atelic, because the state of being red does not imply progression toward any kind of goal.


Aspect

Aspect is obligatorily marked on all verbs via an infix. There are seven different morphemes that can be used for the aspect marking; some make very aspect-like distinctions while others venture more into the realm of evidentiality and other things. For the purpose of this discussion, I deal primarily with three aspects:

-v- "Stative" aspect: This is one of two "descriptive" aspects, indicating a non-inherent state of being. With atelic roots, it indicates the participants have the property which the root describes (though that property is not inherent to their identity). So, mazhuvávu means "I am (currently) red," perhaps due to anger or exertion but not because my face is inherently red. With telic roots, it indicates the participants are in the process of progressing toward the root's completion state: Kaùvára, "I was going."

-sh- "Imperfective" aspect: This is one of two "eventive" aspects, indicating a progression toward a change of state. With atelic roots, it indicates the participants are in the process of taking on the property which the root describes: Mazhushávu, "I am turning red." With telic roots, it indicates the participants are progressing toward the root's completion state: Kàushára, "I was going." (This is distinct from telic stative verbs like kaùvára in that the imperfective raises the saliency of the verb's completion state, along with other differences that get into discourse structure and other things not relevant here.)

-k- "Perfective" aspect: This is the other "eventive" aspect, indicating a change of state. With atelic roots, it indicates the participants have changed from a state of not having the property described by the root to a state of having it: Mazhukávu, "I turned red." With telic roots, it indicates the participants have reached the root's completion state: Kaùkára, "I arrived."

In pseudo-picture form:

Code:
ATELIC VERBS

                                           sh                     k                   v
                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ X = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =...

doesn't have the property     developing the property     gets the property     has the property


TELIC VERBS

                                           sh/v                   k
                              ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ X

not progressing toward goal     progressing toward goal     completes goal

What surprised me about this was the way the -v- aspect jumps from one side of the timeline to the other; that is, for many roots, if you reference something in the past with the -k- perfective aspect, this implies that the thing currently has a certain property. However, if you do the same thing with other roots, you find exactly the opposite: the thing you're talking about used to have the property but now does not (because it was completed).

I doubt this would seem strange to a native Feayran speaker. It just caught my attention because, thanks to English, I'm used to thinking in tenses.


Negation

Feayran has two main strategies for marking negation:

"Internal negation" is accomplished by adding the -n- infix to the verb. This kind of negation can be seen as directly negating the base meaning of the root: where k*ra means "going," k~n~ra means "not going." Interestingly, this has the effect of converting telic roots into atelic roots; "going" has a completion state (reaching the destination), but "not going" does not.

"External negation" is accomplished by adding the negative particle úung/íing in front of the verb. This kind of negation affects the surface-level meaning of the inflected verb. In a way, you can think of internal negation as meaning "It is the case that (not (X))," and external negation as meaning "It is not the case that (X)." What this means will be shown more concretely next.


What happens when telicity, aspect, and negation interact:

I first noticed some interesting quirks of this system when I was working with the root h*sh, "searching," which is telic with the completion state of "finding what you were looking for." Its internally negated form is atelic, meaning "not searching."

Code:
WITHOUT EXTERNAL NEGATION

                        Without internal negation    With internal negation
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Stative                 haaùvúlkush                  haaùnvúlkush

                        we are in the process        we are in a state of
                        of looking for him           not looking for him

                        "we are looking for him"     "we are not looking for him"

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Imperfective            haaùshúlkush                 haaùnshúlkush

                        we are in the process        we are progressing toward a state of
                        of looking for him           not looking for him

                        "we are looking for him      "we are losing hope of
                        and expect to find him"      finding him"

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Perfective              haaùkúlkush                  haaùnkúlkush

                        we completed the process     we reached a state of
                        of looking for him           not looking for him

                        "we found him"               "we gave up looking for him"

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


WITH EXTERNAL NEGATION

                        Without internal negation    With internal negation
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Stative                 úung haaùvúlkush             úung haaùnvúlkush

                        we aren't in the process     we aren't in a state of
                        of looking for him           not looking for him

                        "we aren't still looking     "we aren't not looking for him"
                        for him" (perhaps he was     (probably a response to an
                        already found)               accusation)

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Imperfective            úung haaùshúlkush            úung haaùnshúlkush

                        we are not in the process    we are not progressing toward a
                        of looking for him           state of not looking for him

                        "we aren't still looking     "we aren't losing hope of
                        for him"                     finding him"

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Perfective              úung haaùkúlkush             úung haaùnkúlkush

                        we didn't complete the       we didn't reach a state of
                        process of looking for him   not looking for him

                        "we haven't found him yet"   "we haven't given up looking for him"

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


I was surprised how much nuance I was able to get out of just a couple of inflections whose meanings are independently fairly simple. I also found it interesting to compare different forms to each other; for example, the internally negated form means the opposite (or at least some manner of contrast) of the unmarked form in every case except the externally negated perfective, in which both forms mean essentially the same thing.

So, what do you think? What could I think about to develop this further?


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:33 pm 
Avisaru
Avisaru
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Very interesting and cool!

How does tense play into this? Is tense grammaticalized at all?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:02 pm 
Lebom
Lebom

Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:50 pm
Posts: 169
Ah, right! Should have mentioned that. If at all, tense is marked periphrastically (although in some cases the time word can be incorporated into the verb, but once established, they can be omitted, so I don't consider it inflection per se).


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:04 pm 
Avisaru
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Trailsend wrote:
Ah, right! Should have mentioned that. If at all, tense is marked periphrastically (although in some cases the time word can be incorporated into the verb, but once established, they can be omitted, so I don't consider it inflection per se).

Okay.

It would be nice to hear more about the differences between the stative and imperfective aspects with telic roots, if you've got them figured out. You mentioned discourse structure, for example.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:13 pm 
Lebom
Lebom

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Posts: 169
Ulrike Meinhof wrote:
It would be nice to hear more about the differences between the stative and imperfective aspects with telic roots, if you've got them figured out. You mentioned discourse structure, for example.

Right then!

I group Feayran's seven aspect morphemes into three families based on similarity of function and roles in discourse:

Descriptive aspects (which include the stative and essential) are used for establishing background to the discourse; they usually occur toward the beginning of conversational narratives. When they occur in phrases with other verbs, they often resemble relative clauses, providing identifying background for participants involved in more focal verbs. E.g.,

Ulkaùkúktur gehakuváktu.
I_hunt_big_game_animal.PERF big_game_animal_is_sick.STAT
I took down a (large) animal that was sick.

Descriptive aspects raise the saliency of a property as a state. The state may semantically be progressing toward a change, but this development is not salient.

Eventive aspects (which include the imperfective, perfective, and punctual) are used for recounting rising action and focal events in discourse; they are more common in the middle of conversational narratives. Eventive aspects raise the saliency of a change (or imminent change) in some property. So, for comparison:

Haaùvúlkush.
we_search_for_him.STAT
We are looking for him, but we are not necessarily making any progress.

Haaùshúlkush.
we_search_for_him.IMPF
We are looking for him, and we expect to find him (soon); we are getting closer to finding him.

The stative aspect refers to searching as a constant descriptive state, while the imperfective raises the saliency of an impending change of state--namely, of finding the target. The verb is telic in both cases, the implication of progress is still present, but with eventive aspects it is salient, while with descriptive aspects it is not.

There is a third family, the modal aspects (the conjectural and confident), but these behave less like true aspects and more like evidential markings (I call them aspects anyway due to their morphological resemblance). They occur most often toward the end of conversational narratives.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:48 pm 
Avisaru
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I can only applaud you for having worked this out so thoroughly! If the rest of the language has the same amount of detail, I'm sincerely impressed and would love to read a grammar of it.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 05, 2011 8:26 pm 
Lebom
Lebom

Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:50 pm
Posts: 169
Thanks! I'm working on a pretty beefy grammar, hopefully to go out later this year. I'll be putting up a couple of other threads in the near future to clarify some points and collect community wisdom to help with that.

Any other thoughts or guidance?


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 7:29 pm 
Avisaru
Avisaru

Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 2:58 pm
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Trailsend wrote:
I was surprised how much nuance I was able to get out of just a couple of inflections whose meanings are independently fairly simple. I also found it interesting to compare different forms to each other; for example, the internally negated form means the opposite (or at least some manner of contrast) of the unmarked form in every case except the externally negated perfective, in which both forms mean essentially the same thing.

So, what do you think? What could I think about to develop this further?

(1) Excellent! Looks like you understand aktionsart (lexically-inherent "aspect").
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_aspect#Categories talks about states (no change), achievements (telic point-events), accomplishments (telic with duration), semelfactives (atelic point-events), and activities (atelic with duration). Have you made sure you covered everything?

Look up Hopper, Paul J.; Sandra A. Thompson (June 1980). "Transitivity in Grammar and Discourse". Language 56 (2): 251–299. See whether you've got that covered. Note that negation is one of the things that makes something less transitive. Here's their "shopping list";
1. Participants: 2 or more participants (e.g. A and P) correlated with higher transitivity; 1 or fewer participants correlated with lower transitivity.
2. Kinesis: Action ("I kissed Shelly") correlates with higher transitivity; non-action ("I love Shelly") correlates with lower transitivity.
3. Aspect: Telic and/or perfective correlates with higher transitivity; atelic and/or imperfective correlates with lower transitivity.
4. Punctuality; Point-events correlate with higher transitivity; non-point events correlate with lower transitivity.
5. Volition: Volition correlates with higher transitivity; non-volition correlates with lower transitivity.
6. Polarity: Affirmative correlates with higher transitivity; negation correlates with lower transitivity.
7. Mood: Realis correlates with higher transitivity; irrealis correlates with lower transitivity.
8. Agency; Agent high in potency (whatever that means; I think it means animacy) correlates with higher transitivity; agent low in potency (e.g. inanimate) correlates with lower transitivity.
9. Affectedness of Patient; Patient totally affected ("I ate it all up") correlates with high transitivity; patient unaffected ("I looked for it but didn't find it") correlates with low transitivity.
10. "Individuation" of P (distinctness from verb and from agent); P highly individuated (e.g. definite or at least specific/referential) correlates with higher transitivity; P poorly individuated (e.g. weather verbs such as "rain" -- is that the verb or the patient or the agent?) (also, indefnite, nonspecific/nonreferential) correlates with lower transitivity.

Do you have all of those covered? For instance, if the animate agent is not exercising volition, maybe the verb should be in Middle Voice. Also, maybe, if the patient is unaffacted but the agent is. And, if it's tough to tell agents and patients apart, maybe the verb should be Reciprocal or Reflexive.

Have you thought about grammatical voice, or modality/mode/mood, yet? Maybe you've decided not to have them?

Any valency-changing morphological operations? Or any marking for valency and/or transitivity? If so, will that be limited to "voice", or not?

Those are just suggestions, of course. It's not at all unlikely that you won't want to follow up every one of them. But I hope something I've said helps!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:56 pm 
Lebom
Lebom

Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:50 pm
Posts: 169
TomHChappell wrote:
Good questions!

Thanks!

Quote:
states (no change), achievements (telic point-events), accomplishments (telic with duration), semelfactives (atelic point-events), and activities (atelic with duration). Have you made sure you covered everything?

The majority of roots can be inflected for all of these via aspect, as described above; states using the stative or essential aspects, achievements using the perfective (though in semantically strong achievements which really don't have any development process leading up to the completion state, the imperfective can be used either as an iterative or inceptive aspect), semelfactives either by the perfective or punctual, and activities by the stative (or conceivably the imperfective, I suppose).

Quote:
Do you have all of those covered? For instance, if the animate agent is not exercising volition, maybe the verb should be in Middle Voice. Also, maybe, if the patient is unaffacted but the agent is. And, if it's tough to tell agents and patients apart, maybe the verb should be Reciprocal or Reflexive.

This branches away from the original topic a bit, but it's a good point of discussion.

Feayran features a fluid-S morphosyntactic alignment, with the role of particular participants indicated by the location of the participant's agreement marker within the verb. Agent-like participants (including intransitive subjects acting with volition) are marked before the aspect infix, while patient-like participants (including intransitive subjects not acting with volition) are marked after.

Numnukálkush.
sleep<PERF-he>
He fell asleep. ("He" is patient-marked)

Numnulkukásh.
sleep<he-PERF>
He went to sleep. ("He" is agent-marked)

Other behaviors may be exhibited when participants deviate from typical "volitional agent acts on change-experiencing patient" roles. For example, in cases where an agent affects a patient without volition, the patient may be marked normally while the agent is incorporated as an ablative argument (rather than marked as a true agent):

Tìirivàikúlshi.
hurt<1<ABL>-PERF-TR-she>
I hurt her (but I didn't mean to).

To lessen the implication of volition even further, the verb could be marked as intransitive:

Tìirivàikálshi.
hurt<1<ABL>-PERF-INTR-she>
She got hurt because of me.

Quote:
Any valency-changing morphological operations? Or any marking for valency and/or transitivity? If so, will that be limited to "voice", or not?

As mentioned above, verbs are obligatorily marked for either transitive or intransitive voice. When the verb is marked with both an agent and a patient, the transitive voice must be used. Voice marking doubles with placement of agreement markers to provide functions similar to causative, active, passive, and reflexive voices:

Tìirilshikú.
hurt<she-PERF-TR>
She hurt someone.

Tìirikúlshi.
hurt<PERF-TR-she>
She was hurt by someone.

(Note that in the above, a second participant marker could be added to specify who hurt/was hurt, but it may be omitted.)

Tìirilshiká.
hurt<she-PERF-INTR>
She (volitionally) hurt herself.

Tìirikálshi.
hurt<PERF-INTR-she>
She got hurt / She (unintentionally) hurt herself.

Roots which are semantically intransitive can still be inflected as transitive, producing a causative structure:

Numnulshikútush.
sleep<she-PERF-TR-child>
She put the child to bed.

A function like a reciprocal voice can be accomplished by doubling a plural participant marker at both the agent and patient site:

Toèrrurhrùukúrhruùk.
death<they-PERF-TR-they>
They killed each other.

C.f. the reflexive form:

Toèrrurhrùukák.
death<they-PERF-INTR>
They killed themselves.

Quote:
Have you thought about...modality/mode/mood, yet?

I have! There are eight distinct moods, marked fusionally on the voice infix. I'm out of time at the moment, but I'll put up descriptions of those when next I'm able.


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