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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:36 pm 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 5:07 pm
Posts: 2482
Paren pindās ma paned bi-yakus asen pasneddā!

Part 1/2

Every so often, a thread appears asking for help with creating a triconsonantal conlang. And indeed, there is a severe shortage of a priori triconsonantal conlangs.

As someone who is in frequent use of 4 or 5 Semitic languages (depending on how you count) and acquainted with others, as well as well-read on Semitic linguistics, I feel the need to step in and write an accessible tutorial on how to create an a priori triconsonantal conlang that is realistic and follows current understanding of the history of triconsonantal languages.

This tutorial will guide you through setting up and beginning your first a priori triconsonantal conlang, with illustration. I will be creating a conlang along the way. This initial post is intended to build a foundation to springboard off of. At the moment, it is a draft, and is rather rough in my opinion. It may be edited in the future based on feedback and resulting questions, to clean up its sloppiness, and to be expanded with more demonstrations from actual triconsonantal languages. It will be followed by a post on finalizing your triconsonantal system. Depending on the demand and apparent usefulness, I may write future posts that will address more specific and more advanced topics.

By the end of this two-part tutorial, you should have your own a priori triconsonantal conlang, like the one I developed for this tutorial and opened the post with:
Paren pindās ma paned bi-yakus asen pasneddā!
paren pind-ās ma paned bi-yakus asen pasneddā
I post-ACC DEF.ACC write.PAST in.order.to-you.PL it subscribe.SUBJ
I wrote this post, that you might subscribe to it. (Three words with root √p-n-d).


Introduction and Guiding Principles

What follows in this section is a brief explanation of how to conceptualize triconsonantal languages and your conlang. It is dense, but useful. We do not start developing a conlang until the next section. Feel free to skip this section if you are antsy. I recommend skipping it if you are a more hands-on learner.

The phenomena behind triconsonantal languages are not unique to them. They are widespread and exist worldwide. Despite the Semitic languages having a reputation of being unique in having a triconsonantal system, there are probably many other languages that have similar systems but the ones whose systems have been studied have been analyzed through a more informed linguistic lens. (That is, triconsonantalism is not really a scientific linguistic feature). I always intend to look into this more, but have never quite gotten around to anything more than a quick glance.

Many people, especially (but not only) people venturing on snobbishness regarding triconsonantal systems, prefer to refer to nonconcatenativity. This relates the triconsonantal system to a wider range of linguistic phenomena characterized by adding, deleting, or altering internal parts of a word or stem in order to change it morphologically. This is very common in synthetic, non-agglutinating, usually fusional, languages. Nonconcatenativity exists even in English. However, triconsonantal systems are a specific and identifiable subset of languages with nonconcatenative morphology, and I do not believe there should be any qualms about identifying them as a specific subset.

However, knowing that triconsonantal languages are a subset of languages with nonconcatenative morphology, you can refer to non-triconsonantal languages with nonconcatenativity in order to inform your triconsonantal conlang. Moreover, this allows us to begin setting up guiding principles.

1. Be fusional

It is helpful to know that nonconcatenativity necessarily requires a language to be synthetic, and that triconsonantal languages necessarily must be fusional. This is helpful in determining how morphology will even work in your conlang. But if you aren’t well aware of what fusional morphology is, it’s not too important that you grasp what they are – just helpful.

Note that it is not necessary that every bit of morphology be fusional. Fusional languages, including triconsonantal languages, also typically have both analytic and agglutinating features as well.

Fusional morphology will be the result of our triconsonantal conlanging, not necessarily the beginning of our conlanging.

2. Be systematic

One of the most common problems with a priori triconsonantal conlangs is that they are not systematic. The conlanger just changes vowels here and there without rhyme or reason. That’s not only unrealistic, but virtually impossible.

It may surprise many people to know that the relationships between triconsonantal vowel structures are complex and intricate. It may even surprise some people to know that the vowels are morphemes in and of themselves, and carry multiple bits of grammatical information that should be repeated in similar grammatical contexts.

3. Use umlaut and vowel assimilation (or vowel harmony)

Triconsonantal languages are sometimes described as “ablaut on steroids.” This is oversimplifying, of course, but it correctly highlights one of the most important historical processes that create triconsonantal systems. I highly advise you have a basic understanding about ablaut, umlaut and vowel assimilation and how they come about before endeavoring on your triconsonantal language. The Indo-European languages are a great place to look for these.

4. Use vowel reduction, vocalic epenthesis, and metathesis

Vowel reduction is the shortening or deletion of vowels. Vocalic epenthesis is the insertion of a vowel where it didn’t exist previously. Metathesis is the switching of the order of phonemes. The dialectal variant of “aks” for the English word “ask” is an example of metathesis.

Like vowel assimilation, these processes are key. This is what causes vowels to appear between some consonants, and not others, depending on the grammatical context. In tandem with vowel assimilation, it is also how you get shifting vowel structures in what are similar or identical syntactic contexts at first glance.

Take for example, Hebrew mɛlɛk shɛlo and malko, both phrases meaning “his king,” but one using an independent pronoun and the other using an affixed pronoun. The base word “king” significantly changes morphologically, but has no change in meaning. Moreover, these two vocalic structures for “king” actually originated from the same historical vowel structure.

4a. Have a well-defined stress regime from the onset

As I understand it, vowel reduction and vocalic epenthesis in triconsonantal systems are entirely dependent on stress patterns and shifts in stress due to both word- and phrase-level syntax. I am open to other phenomena influencing vowel reduction and vocalic epenthesis, but every situation I have seen can be explained by shifting stress patterns.

You don’t have to worry too much now about how this works, it will simply suffice to say that stress is a phonological feature you should work out early on.

5. Use extreme leveling

This historical phenomenon is very commonly undercounted as key to developing triconsonantal systems. Leveling is a complex aspect of historical linguistics comprising of a whole set of processes that produce a similar result, but a nutshell explanation is enough for now. Leveling is the extension of a vowel structure from one grammatical context to another by analogy. An illustrative example of nonconcatenative levelling by English speakers is the application of goose – geese and mouse – mice to make moose – meese. (Note that leveling is paradigmatic, which is not clear in this example).

Leveling is a necessary historical simplification that allows triconsonantal systems to function and prevent them from becoming overloaded.

Arabic is particularly productive with leveling. Its extreme regularity has led many observers to postulate that it is extremely conservative in terms of Semitic morphology. In reality, Arabic is nearly as innovative as most other Semitic languages, but part of its innovation was leveling to produce regularity.

6. Don’t go crazy on the vowel phonology

The more vowels you have, the harder it is for a triconsonantal system to develop. Paucity of vowels enables the processes of analogy and leveling necessary for nonconcatenativity to reach the extreme of a triconsonantal system.

Until you are experienced and have a good grasp on what you’re doing in conlanging a triconsonantal language, I would recommend starting off with 6-8 vowels, with the same short vowel/long vowel symmetry of Proto-Semitic.

7. Be primarily--but not exclusively--triconsonantal!

Similar to the previous point, too few or too many consonants in your system will make it statistically more difficult for a triconsonantal system to develop. From what I can tell – though, again, this is an area I need to research more about – the only consonantal root system possible is triconsonantal. There are no biconsonantal systems and there are no quadriliteral systems.

This is an appropriate time to squash the pervasive rumor among hobbyists that Semitic languages developed out of a biconsonantal root system. This is a theory floating around in academia, but fringe and rejected by most Semitists. The theory originates in the fact that some Semitic roots were originally biconsonantal. The vast majority of roots do not reflect this, however, and it is statistically unlikely (if not impossible) and the would-be scenario would require a substantive cognitive load unnatural to language development. The explanation for biconsonantal roots is very simple – they were words with only two consonants in an ancestor of Semitic! That is hardly an argument that triconsonantal roots were also words with only two consonants in an ancestor of Semitic.

What these historically biconsonantal words do tell us, though, is that triconsonantal systems have a strong tendency to force words into the triconsonantal paradigms. Likewise, Semitic languages commonly adapt quadriliteral roots to its triconsonantal system too. Dealing with and conforming non-triconsonantal words is an advanced topic to be explained and tutorialized in a future post.


Let’s Make A Conlang!

Above, we established the principles “Be systematic,” “Use umlaut and vowel assimilation,” “Use vowel reduction and vocalic epenthesis,” and “Use leveling.”

This is going to force us beyond the usual scope of a priori conlanging. These are historical processes that are dynamic and not easily incorporated synchronically in a conlang. The easiest approach is to begin by creating a proto-language.

Note that the proto-language is a means to an end, however. You will not be creating a full-fledged or functional conlang as your proto-language. You’ll be creating just enough to sort out the triconsonantal system systematically.

So let’s begin. In this tutorial, I will be creating my own conlang in order to guide you through illustration. What I demonstrate is not the only way to do it, but will provide a structure for you to work off of. I will attempt to suggest alternatives to what I do here and there, without overwhelming you by being too abstract.

Phonology

We will begin, as typical in conlanging, with the phonology of the proto-language. It’s not necessary to work out the consonant inventory at this point, but you may if you want. Instead, we want to focus on vowels and stress patterns.

Vowels

In accordance with principle #6 (“Don’t go crazy with vowel phonology”), we won’t go crazy with vowel phonology. I recommend 6-8 vowels, with symmetrical distinction of long/short vowels. I suggest one of these three systems:

1. 6 vowels: Three vowel qualities, two lengths. /a i u a: i: u:/. The exact realization of these vowels is unimportant, but they should conform to the extreme phonemes /a i u/. (That is, they might be, e.g., [æ eɪ ʊ] in quality. But since this is the proto-language, it makes no difference to our project if it is [a i u] or [æ eɪ ʊ]).
2. 7 vowels: The 6 vowel system, but with a “neutral” centralized vowel. /a i u ə a: i: u:/.
3. 8 vowels: Four vowel qualities, two lengths. You have a little more flexibility with this, but it should approach the four extremes of the mouth. Example: /a ɔ i u a: ɔ: i: u:/.

For my proto-language, I will stick with the 6 vowel system.

Stress

In accordance with principle #4a, we should have a well-defined stress regime from the get go. You should avoid static stress systems that are strictly “ultimate”, “penultimate”, on the first syllable of the stem, etc. You should have a dynamic system wherein the stress of a word can shift depending on morphemes affixed to a word.

Let’s take a cue from Semitic. Semitic stress patterns are universally derived from the following system:

Syllables consist of two possible constituents, C(onsonant) and V(owel). Long vowels are two constituents: VV. Every syllable must begin with a consonant, and consonant clusters are forbidden within a syllable. This allows Semitic to categorize two types of syllables:

1. Heavy syllables: Syllables that are CVC, CVV.
2. Light syllables: CV syllables.

The last heavy syllable in a word is stressed. If there is no heavy syllable, the antepenultimate (third-to-last) syllable is stressed. This creates a dynamic stress system because sometimes an affix can cause syllables to open up or close, allowing syllables to shift from heavy syllables to light syllables and vice versa.

This is a good system to stick with. If you do something different, you might find it’s not as dynamic as you intended it to be.

My proto-language is going to have a different system, just because the Semitic system is an easy one for you to grasp on your own, and so I can introduce an alternative to you. Note that if you devise your own system, you should be prepared to go back and revise it to be more favorable to shift stress.

The syllabification is going to be more diverse. A syllable can be V, VC, VVC, CV, CVC, CVV, or CCV. I’ll restrict the types of syllables in my triconsonantal conlang later on. I’m also going to consider how these syllables will interact with surrounding syllables, and define the following rules:

- VC.CV > CCV
- CVC.V > CV.CV
- CV.V > CVV
- CV.VC > C.VC > CVC
- CV.VVC > C.VVC > CVC
- CV.CV.VVC > CVC.VVC
- (C)VC.CV.VC > (C)V.CCV.VC

Stress will fall on the final syllable, or on the last syllable that is VVC, CVV, CCV, or syllables that were combined from two syllables. CVC syllables are not automatically stressed.

Just Ignore: Allophones, Sandhi, etc.

While consideration of phonemic consonants in the proto-language is up to you, it is not advisable to sort out details about allophones or phonemic realization or sandhi in the proto-language. The proto-language might have it, but these phonological features probably aren’t going to carry over into a triconsonantal system, which tends to block those types of considerations. One exception is with sandhi of syllabic structures and stress, as alluded to above.

Morphosyntactic Outline

The next step is to make an outline of the morphological features of our proto-language. As a rule of thumb, I make proto-languages relatively simple. Along with taking sides in theoretical debates of what a proto-language is, I just find this easier to manipulate complex features in the resulting conlang.

First, I start with broad syntactic considerations, such as word order.

I’m going to go with SOV, on the simple fact that I find SOV word order the most aesthetically pleasing.

Just for fun, I’m going to add that my proto-language is going to have head-marking tendencies. Don’t worry too much about what that means if you don’t already know. I’m adding it just to give me more direction, and because triconsonantal systems are easier to develop from head-marking.

Because my proto-language will be more head-marking, I’ll start outlining the verbal system.

I want three marked tenses: Past, Present, Future.

I want two marked moods: Indicative and Subjunctive.

I am also going to conjugate verbs according to their subjects, as head-marking languages are apt to do. I will do this with prefixes that vary by person and number (singular and plural).

I now have an idea of what I need to conjugate verbs. I can now make a chart to come back to later which contains my verbal system. Because I already know I want subject-marking to be an invariable prefix, I can just leave subject marking off the chart, and make a chart for tense and mood:

Image


The other main component of triconsonantal systems are nouns.

Head-marking languages don’t have a tendency towards noun cases. But I imagine a lot of you will want to play around with noun cases, so my proto-language will have noun cases. As an admonishment: the more complex your noun declension system is, the more difficult it will be to develop a triconsonantal system.

I will have Nominative, Accusative, Dative, and Genitive cases.

I will also suffix definite articles to the case in order to mark definite nouns.

Finally, just to keep things simplistic in the proto-language, I am going to treat adjectives identically to nouns.

We can now build a chart for nouns:

Image


At this juncture, I can make more minute syntactic considerations. How will I deal with relationships between two nouns, such as in possessive phrases?

What is the order of direct objects and indirect objects; of nouns and their adjectives? How will I deal with prepositional phrases?

The possessed noun will precede the possessor: house-NOM-the dog-GEN-the.

I want indirect objects to come after direct objects.

I want adjectives to come after their nouns.

I’m going to have prepositions follow the head noun in a prepositional phrase: dog-NOM-the house-DAT-the in blue-DAT-the is. This syntax is a bit odd for prepositions that are not enclitic, but I could explain it somehow. This is not important for this tutorial.

Derivational Morphology

The next thing we need to consider is how we are going to derive words from each other. At this point, we are going to begin creating dummy words and stems in our proto-language.

English puts us at a disadvantage for this part, because our derivational morphology is all over the place. If you don’t have much experience with derivational morphology, it might be helpful to read up on how different languages treat derivational morphology. You might also look into productive derivational morphemes in English such as -ify, -ate, -ation, re-, -ity, co-/con-, etc., as well as less productive derivational morphemes like de- (intensifying), pro-, circum-, etc. I may do an advanced post on derivational morphology later, but it proves too messy to try to sort out here.

Below is a chart of words we can use for our dummy stems. We can derive them all from a single dummy root, meaning “scribble.”

Image


Note that many of the words I used above require semantic shifts. I decided, for example, to follow English’s lead in shifting “dictator” from “someone who dictates a spoken word for someone to write” to “someone who regulates single-handedly.” I also derived a “registry” from an instrument with which one “writes to oneself.” Semantic shifts are natural in derivation. A good method for employing this in your conlang but keeping it grounded in plausibility is to look at what real languages do, using tools such as etymological dictionaries or Wiktionary.

Your proto-language does not require this natural phenomenon. However, in a case like this where I use a proto-language to derive one single conlang, I just go ahead and plug in the desired meaning of the word in the resulting conlang. After all, if you were reconstructing a proto-language using attestations from just one language, you would probably just plug the attested meaning into the proto-language anyway, instead of trying to imagine up previous meanings of the word with no other data.

I went even a little further here and added “listserv” – I intend this to be a modern coinage in my conlang. That means this word did not actually exist in the proto-language, even with some other meaning. There was no semantic shift leading to it. Native speakers just used the derivative morpheme of “place” productively to derive the word!

Note also that I did not fill out every possible square. This is also natural in derivation. Rarely do you find roots in any natlang that employs every possible derivative morpheme to create a new word.

Filling in the morphology

Next, we are going to take those charts we made, and fill them out like you would with a more typical conlang: take the dummy stem and add affixes.

But first, we need to know how you’re going to inflect verbs and nouns. Fill in those charts.

Verbs:

Image


I’m also at this point going to sort out my subject prefixes for verbs:

Image


Nouns:

Image


Pick out a stem for the [b]base[/u] stem. I’m going to go with: panda. The base stem can be either the basic verb or the basic noun of action. I’m going to make the stem of the verb and noun of action identical – they’ll be distinguished by inflection, and will better animate the potential of a triconsonantal system.

Plug this stem into each derivation on the chart. Then add some derivative morphemes! In most cases, you should use one morpheme per derivative column or row. This isn’t fusional, but remember that fusional morphology is simply the desired result.

I recommend marking the stressed syllable, too, to get an idea when or if it will change based on your derivation. It may also help to break up syllables with a period (.), if types of syllables determine stress, as is the case in my proto-language. Remember that the stress will not be static, and your stem may not reflect this stress pattern when it is actually inflected!

Below is my table, followed by some commentary about what I did.

Image


Now we have the stems. Now let’s create words by adding inflections. You can choose which inflections to plug in. I’ll conjugate verbs for 3rd person indicative past tense and decline my nouns in the definite accusative.

Image


Notice in the reflexive stems, the prefix s- metathesizes. This is because my proto-language does not like a word to begin with the cluster sp-. It deals with this phonological constraint by metathesizing the s and p, a phenomenon frequent in the world’s languages. This is where infixes (morphemes inserted into a word rather than added to the beginning or end) come from. We will talk about this more in the next post on leveling.

Diachronics: Simplify with Principles #3 and #4

To begin creating your triconsonantal system, it is now necessary to work out some diachronics that include umlaut, vowel assimilation, vowel reduction, and vowel epenthesis. You do not need all four processes, but I would recommend mixing at least 3 of them. Optionally, you may also consider sound changes, resyllabification, and/or a slight and logical shift in stress patterns.

You will probably want to pay attention to the following types of syllables vis à vis stress:

1) Tonic: A stressed syllable
2) Pretonic: The syllable before a stressed syllable
3) Propretonic: Two syllables before a stressed syllable. It may also refer to any syllable that is two or more syllables before stress. If you want to treat such syllables differently, you may distinguish between propretonic and pro-propretonic syllables.
4) Post-tonic: The syllable after a stressed syllable
5) I don’t actually know how to refer to a syllable that is two syllables after a stressed syllable. I pretty much always use propretonic syllable rules for this category.

These distinctions tend to be key motivations in vowel reduction.

Because the diachronics get pretty messy – as you will see shortly – it is very important that you set and apply processes in the order in which they occur over time. You can adjust this order as you go, but be sure you apply the adjustment uniformly in your chart.

Your diachronics can create new phonemic vowels. But be wary about creating more than 1 or 2; this will make it more difficult to become a triconsonantal system. I will create 2 phonemic vowels, one long and one short, in order to demonstrate how this might happen, and how this becomes phonemic.

Here are my diachronics, in order of occurrence and application. Don’t worry too much about what I do. It’s just an example for you to see and mimic if you’d like. You probably will get a better idea of what I’m doing from the actual chart below.

1. Sound change: VnC > ṼC > VC; Vn#, VsC > VʰC > VC (i.e., preconsonantal n and s are elided; n at the end of a word is elided)
2. Progressive vowel assimilation:
  1. Initial i: #i(C)CV, a,u > i / V # a,u (i.e., initial vowel i causes subsequent vowels a and u to become i)
3. Umlaut and Vowel epenthesis:
  1. Final short vowels are elided if unstressed.
  2. VCu#, a,i > u / V # a,i (i.e., final short u causes previous a and i to become u)
  3. VCi#, a > e / V # a; u > I / V # i (i.e., final short i causes a to become new phonemic vowel e and u to become i)
  4. CCV# > CC# > CeC# (i.e., resulting CC# cluster takes epenthetic vowel e)
4. Vowel reduction and Vowel epenthesis:
  1. CV.CV > CVC (i.e. two open short syllables in a row collapses the final vowel)
  2. CV.CV́ > CCV́ (i.e. two open short syllables in a row with the second vowel stressed collapses the first vowel)
  3. CV.CV.CCV > CCV.CCV (i.e. two open short syllables in a row followed by a consonant cluster collapses the first vowel)
  4. Pretonic CV syllable before an open syllable metathesizes: (CV > VC).
  5. Propretonic syllable V is elided.
  6. Short vowels (a,u) in a propretonic open syllable becomes e.
    1. Pro-propretonic vowels are unaffected.
    2. Short vowel (i) is unaffected, but assimilates a pro-pretonic vowel.
    3. This change is blocked if the pretonic vowel is e.
    4. Resulting CCC clusters from vowel reduction result in CeC.C
5. Resyllabification: The resulting conlang now strongly prefers syllables that begin C. General tendency towards CVC syllabification.
  1. #VCC > CVC (i.e., initial vowels are metathesized in between consonant clusters)
  2. #VCV > CVV (i.e., initial vowels are metathesized and lengthen the following vowel)
    1. #aCV > #Cā / V # a,u (i.e. initial vowel is metathesized, then the following vowel becomes long ā, when vowel V is a or u)
    2. #aCi > #Cē / V # i (i.e. initial vowel is metathesized, then the following vowel becomes long ē, when vowel V is i)
    3. #uCV > #Cū (i.e. initial vowel is metathesized, then the following vowel becomes long ū)
  3. CV.CCV > CVC.CV (i.e., consonant clusters are split at syllabic barriers when preceded by a vowel)
  4. CV́ > CV́V (i.e., stressed CV syllables are compensatorily lengthened due to stress)

As mentioned earlier in this tutorial, do not apply sound changes to the consonants of the stem that depend on any surrounding phonological feature. These phonemic sound changes are blocked in the development of triconsonantal systems through leveling.

Below is what happens in my table diachronically. Although it’s a bit messy, I show what happens to these words step-by-step, and bold the outcome:

Image


Now let’s take a look at the chart, cleaned up a bit more, with the stem underlined.

Image


Observations and Outlook

Some things to notice:

  • Notice correlations in vowel changes and stems. There is rhyme, reason, and pattern!
  • For instance: most of the difference between the base stems and the associative stems is a prefix added to the stem – not changes in the vowels! The reflexive and the causative-reflexive mostly differ only in reduplication – the morphemic marker for the causative. Notice also a tendancy for the doer of the verb (the agent) to have the same stem as the place where they do the action. In fact, in the base stems, the stem is almost the same in agent, profession, instrument, and place, depending simply on whether the vowel in the open syllable collapses or not.

    So: Triconsonantal systems don’t just stick vowels in willy-nilly! And this is why people get snobbish about referring to triconsonantal languages as nonconcatenative languages instead.
  • Though I have rules for vowel assimilation and umlaut, I actually apply it very little here. This was because my vowel assimilation rules are mostly related to the vowels i and u, which are in very few of these words. If these words had more u’s and i’s in them, or if I have vowel assimilation rules related to the vowel a, the stems would see even more variation.
  • Morphemes must also be involved in this diachronic process! Notice how the subject marker on verbs as- has entirely disappeared. The Tense-Aspect-Mood morpheme -an also diverges into two separate morphemes, depending on stem. The next post will address stabilizing such morphemes, so that they evolve naturally, but don’t get out of control.
  • These words are quite long for a system that should be highly fusional (principle #1). But as the stems become more diverse from one another, the more information they carry – and thus the more fusional they become! As this happens, we can start dropping morphemes as they become redundant. Earlier in the post, I already showed you how I reduced the words “scribble” and “post.ACC” from panedná and pindārā́zen to paned and pindās respectively. Doing this in an effective way will also be addressed in the next post.
  • Finally, look at what a mess the associative is! This sort of mess is entirely possible in a realistic triconsonantal system. However, it does create a cognitive burden. In the next post, we will look at how leveling plays a key role in reducing cognitive burdens, regularizing our paradigms, and yet reinforce the triconsonantal system we’re developing.
  • Congratulations! You now have the beginnings of a working triconsonantal language. We’re not done yet. So far these patterns we have developed only work if all root stems in our proto-language are modelled CaCCa. This is quite unlikely. Moreover, as mentioned just above, the language has too many morphemes to be stable. The next post will address these problems and smooth out our triconsonantal language into a functional and sustainable one!

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Last edited by tiramisu on Wed Aug 16, 2017 9:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:42 pm 
Smeric
Smeric

Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 5:07 pm
Posts: 2482
The next post will be a while coming. It took nearly two days to put this first post together for you. It's still sloppy and incomplete, and needs a lot of editing and improvement still. I have some regrets, since I expected the total project to be a one-day project when I began, and now I either have to fulfill it to completion or abandon something I spent a lot of time in.

So, I probably won't even begin writing the next post until I see that this is actually helpful for people. I'm almost afraid it's not simple enough.

Please do let me know of any issues in the post, which was composed in BBCode in a word processor, as well as any suggestions or comments or questions.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 4:36 am 
Šriftom
Šriftom
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Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2002 4:43 pm
Posts: 7919
Location: Three of them
tiramisu wrote:
I have some regrets, since I expected the total project to be a one-day project when I began, and now I either have to fulfill it to completion or abandon something I spent a lot of time in.


I know all about that!

tiramisu wrote:
So, I probably won't even begin writing the next post until I see that this is actually helpful for people. I'm almost afraid it's not simple enough.

Please do let me know of any issues in the post, which was composed in BBCode in a word processor, as well as any suggestions or comments or questions.


It's very interesting and I'm sure I'll find it, or its successors, useful in the future. Ideally it should be presented with proper headings, subheadings, and so on for ease of reading :-)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 5:23 am 
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I have plans for a vowel-root language and this will definitely help me with that (I'm working on other stuff currently).

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 6:39 am 
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I'm not sure that it is unrealistic to just throw in random vowels.

If your only knowledge of IE languages were English, would you really immediately see our vowel alternations as the result of regular processes, or would they just look random?

I have to take issue with the claim that metathesis "is where infixes come from". Many, many infixes in world languages have not been demonstrated to have derived from any source. And even if we assume that all infixation must derive from a non-infixing source, it needn't be through metathesis. We might also imagine, for example, a process similar to English tmetic expletives, which derive from stress-based analogy; or, we might imagine the fusion of a previously prefixed (or suffixed) element, such as an old gender marker or the like, trapping another affix as an infix.

You might also want to explain why you're using so much circumfixion, which isn't exactly a common default way of deriving such basic things as "patient". And certainly in the case of "profession", which isn't a basic grammatical operation, it might be worth explaining where that came from, diachronically?

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:21 am 
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Salmoneus wrote:
"Many, many infixes in world languages have not been demonstrated to have derived from any source. And even if we assume that all infixation must derive from a non-infixing source
Next thing they'll say that all affixes are derived from something else, and in the end all morphemes descend from a single root!

I agree that deriving the vowels via sound change is much better than doing it randomly, if only because I non-fluently speak a triconsonantal language and seeing people just use vowels randomly looks awful. Especially as the modern language actually preserves the system (so it is not like English!)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 8:52 am 
Smeric
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Thanks guys.

Salmoneus wrote:
I'm not sure that it is unrealistic to just throw in random vowels.


It is very unrealistic to just throw in random vowels. Maybe not for you, Sal, who I suspect could write up a decent triconsonantal conlang on your own and using your own method. Certainly diachronic isn't the only approach. I do think, however, a diachronic method is an easier approach if you're not sure what you're doing or where to begin. This has been a huge problem in triconsonantal conlanging, because people do not know what they're doing or how to go about it, and their conlang ends up doing crazy things that make no sense. The fact is, triconsonantal languages are well-patterned, and yes, synchronically.

Quote:
I have to take issue with the claim that metathesis "is where infixes come from". Many, many infixes in world languages have not been demonstrated to have derived from any source. And even if we assume that all infixation must derive from a non-infixing source, it needn't be through metathesis.


Sure. I'm not trying to be comprehensive about historical processes. As I said, I might make subsequent "special topic" posts to expand on many things. Infixing may be one of them. I, however, used metathesis for infixing, and wanted to demonstrate how it could be used for infixing a prefix. That certainly isn't unheard of, and is logical for me to use if I'm trying to promote metathesis as a common, productive historical process in triconsonantal languages (as it is).

Quote:
You might also want to explain why you're using so much circumfixion, which isn't exactly a common default way of deriving such basic things as "patient". And certainly in the case of "profession", which isn't a basic grammatical operation, it might be worth explaining where that came from, diachronically?

Hm. You're right it should be explained. The point isn't to build my own conlang, but as you said, circumfixion is a less common way to derive things. Honestly, I went with it to show things happening on both sides of the stem, but you're right that that isn't exactly the best way to go about it. Instead of explaining, I'll probably just go through and edit it at some point to take out either a prefix or suffix here or there. It shouldn't really matter in the outcome, but I don't want users thinking they have to or should use circumfixion.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 11:02 am 
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tiramisu wrote:
Thanks guys.

Salmoneus wrote:
I'm not sure that it is unrealistic to just throw in random vowels.


It is very unrealistic to just throw in random vowels. Maybe not for you, Sal, who I suspect could write up a decent triconsonantal conlang on your own and using your own method. Certainly diachronic isn't the only approach. I do think, however, a diachronic method is an easier approach if you're not sure what you're doing or where to begin. This has been a huge problem in triconsonantal conlanging, because people do not know what they're doing or how to go about it, and their conlang ends up doing crazy things that make no sense. The fact is, triconsonantal languages are well-patterned, and yes, synchronically.

But those patterns don't necessarily have to be diachronically transparent. Maybe they are in Semitic languages, but I guess that's part of my concern: in the arena of conlanging, "triconsonantal" and "Semitic" don't need to be synonyms!

Personally, I'm mostly interested in naturalistic conlanging, and personally I find that much of the entertainment of this sort of system is working out how it derives, so I would myself mostly follow the diachronic method. But it's also legitimate to have a non-naturalistic triconsonantal language... or, indeed, a naturalistic but non-transparant language in which the diachronics are left as an exercise for the reader. For instance, it's very easy to imagine an IE-style triconsonantal language in which the ablaut patterns are non-transparant, but the conlanger has not chosen to develop the precise diachronics.

Anyway, just a thought.
Quote:

Quote:
I have to take issue with the claim that metathesis "is where infixes come from". Many, many infixes in world languages have not been demonstrated to have derived from any source. And even if we assume that all infixation must derive from a non-infixing source, it needn't be through metathesis.


Sure. I'm not trying to be comprehensive about historical processes. As I said, I might make subsequent "special topic" posts to expand on many things. Infixing may be one of them. I, however, used metathesis for infixing, and wanted to demonstrate how it could be used for infixing a prefix. That certainly isn't unheard of, and is logical for me to use if I'm trying to promote metathesis as a common, productive historical process in triconsonantal languages (as it is).

OK - if you just meant it's where infixes come from in this instance, rather than everywhere.
Quote:
Quote:
You might also want to explain why you're using so much circumfixion, which isn't exactly a common default way of deriving such basic things as "patient". And certainly in the case of "profession", which isn't a basic grammatical operation, it might be worth explaining where that came from, diachronically?

Hm. You're right it should be explained. The point isn't to build my own conlang, but as you said, circumfixion is a less common way to derive things. Honestly, I went with it to show things happening on both sides of the stem, but you're right that that isn't exactly the best way to go about it. Instead of explaining, I'll probably just go through and edit it at some point to take out either a prefix or suffix here or there. It shouldn't really matter in the outcome, but I don't want users thinking they have to or should use circumfixion.

OK. Though on the other hand we should probably reassure people that circumfixion IS possible.

----------

Anyway, I thought I'd share my own, simpler, guide to making a realistic, Semitic-style a priori triconsonantal language:
don't.

Obviously that's tongue-in-cheek. There can be good examples. I'll probably attempt it one day.

But in general, I think that the attempt to make "a tricon lang" weds the maker too closely to the style of one particular language family, making it hard to seem original, and encouraging too much slavishness and hesitation.

That doesn't mean such languages shouldn't be looked at, of course, or that guides such as this one shouldn't exist. It's just that I think people should see this sort of thing not as "how to make a triconlang", but as "an example of how one language family uses non-concatenative morphology". But non-concatenative or templatic morphology is more interesting, IMO, taken out of the grammatical and phonological context of Semitic.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 11:50 am 
Smeric
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Thanks for your input.

Glad, also, that your response to my draft of something this community has been lacking for a long time is "Don't bother. I'll create a better example for people to follow one day, maybe" instead of "I would have taken a different approach, but here's some constructive feedback on your approach." As I've already said a couple of times, there is not just one way to go about it, but people certainly are looking for (and needing) guidance on how to go about it. Certainly you are not one of these people looking for direction -- you not only already have an idea of how you would go about it, but also you are more well-read, and more knowledgeable than most people on this forum, who tend to be much younger and less studied than you. Hopefully the fact that I did it differently than you would have preferred does not mean the time I put forth in putting this together was in vain or that what I did do was poorly crafted, meriting the abandonment you so freely and perhaps unthinkingly suggested.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:54 pm 
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Err... sorry if I had a brief fugue state, posted something horribly offensive, deleted it just after you saw it and then woke up with no memory of having posted it? I mean, I don't remember that happening, but I guess I wouldn't, and it would kind of explain your reaction?

tiramisu wrote:
Glad, also, that your response to my draft of something this community has been lacking for a long time is "Don't bother. I'll create a better example for people to follow one day, maybe"

Is it? Nobody told me. I'm certainly not going to write a better one of these guides! I'm also almost certainly not going to create a great triconsonantal language at any point, although I may try putting together a toy version if the fancy takes me, many, many years from now*. Certainly I don't intend to create anything anyone else ought to follow (I don't think I've actually created, to a presentable stage, ANY conlang...**). No offence, but this feels a little paranoid.

*I've actually made a triconsonantal language once. It was the second language I ever made and was pretty much covered by two sides of A4 (and not lined A4, and I had big handwriting). It tried to use all the vowel sounds, and my only knowledge of semitic languages was derived from very short dictionary/encyclopedia entries written in the very, very early 20th century. I probably don't have a copy anymore, but somehow I don't think that's a great loss to the art...
**well that's depressing...

Quote:
instead of "I would have taken a different approach, but here's some constructive feedback on your approach." As I've already said a couple of times, there is not just one way to go about it, but people certainly are looking for (and needing) guidance on how to go about it.

So if it's OK to follow other ways of going about it, what was so terrible about my saying "I agree that that's how I'd do it, but it's probably not the only way"? What's not constructive about pointing out how the comment about metathesis could be misinterpreted, and what's not constructive in asking for clarification on the use of circumfixion?
If pointing out alternatives, asking for more details and querying a potential minor error aren't "constructive feedback", what sorts of constructive feedback will you allow? You specifically asked for comments, questions and suggestions! You didn't give any indication that I'd strayed into some forbidden area with my first post, so I had no way of knowing that saying 'OK' to your responses was going to trigger anything.
Quote:
Certainly you are not one of these people looking for direction

Well, I'd be happy to learn. I only barely remember what I learned last time someone did this.
Quote:
-- you not only already have an idea of how you would go about it, but also you are more well-read, and more knowledgeable than most people on this forum,

Sadly unlikely.
Quote:
who tend to be much younger [...] than you.
I'd like to contest "much"!
...but I'm not sure I can.
Quote:
Hopefully the fact that I did it differently than you would have preferred does not mean the time I put forth in putting this together was in vain or that what I did do was poorly crafted, meriting the abandonment you so freely and perhaps unthinkingly suggested.


I'm baffled where you thought I said anything was poorly crafted (I had minor queries about three sentences out of the entire post!), and I certainly didn't suggest you abandon it. If I thought it wasn't worth reading, I wouldn't have read and repeatedly replied to it.

Again, I've put forward no substantial disagreements with anything you wrote, nor have I commented negatively on how you wrote it, nor have I made any comment about the idea of writing it, so... I don't know what the hell just happened here. I'll let you finish the thread in silence, and I'm sorry if anything I wrote was offensive, although I really can't think what it might have been.

Look, I know it's frustrating when people don't praise you for your efforts. Over the years, I've spent thousands of words opining, explaining, correcting, suggesting, collating, on a great many topics, here and elsewhere, and in all but a couple of cases the general response has been for nobody to ever give a fuck, and to say pretty much nothing (despite how many people I know have opened the thread/blog post/etc). I mean, right now I've got a thread up in ephemera that's taken me hours of research and writing, and has had nearly 400 reviews, but only two semi-substantial comments from readers and one of those was a chastisement over modern German sociopolitical attitudes to 18th century knighthoods. Only one has included a thank-you (thanks, Raphael!) and even that was one word added in a post hoc edit. It kind of sucks. It's deflating to think "oh, this is worth it, somebody might actually get something out of this!", only to be met with deafening disinterest. Ultimately, if you don't enjoy, or at least value, the writing of stuff like this, then it's not worth it, because if you're looking for external validation, you'll never get it, no matter how brilliant your post is. [although it is nice to know that some people do appreciate things and just can't be arsed to say so - on more than one occasion I've had somebody mention in passing that they really liked something I posted years ago, even though they never said so at the time.] And look, you've only just made the first post in this project of yours and already you've had two people thanking and praising you and one person politely discussing peripheral issues so, frankly, you're already way ahead of the game!

So yeah, it kind of sucks there isn't more support on this board and i'm sorry about that. But hey, don't take that out on me. If you want to abandon the thread, that's on you, don't try to invent some "oh, Salmoneus implied I should give up!" excuse, because I implied nothing of the thought sort (interesting typo retained for posterity there).

Anyway, I'll leave you alone now; do have fun without me.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 2:13 pm 
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Well I added almost of the music links to my playlist, and it gave me ideas for one of projects. So thanks! A lot of the time after reading I great post I just don't think of saying thanks or I can't think of anything to write that doesn't sound lame. But I reaally liked your posts, and I really liked tiramisu's (even the ones where we argued politics, because even if it ruined my mood, it made me think critically about my own views and practice debating)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:13 pm 
Smeric
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Anyway, sorry about that. Please do leave constructive feedback if you have any, folks. Most of Sal's feedback was helpful and welcome, especially in his first post, but in his second as well; thank you, Sal. Just please be thoughtful about the fact that I just spent way more time putting this together than I had wanted to, before you end your post with something like "Anyway, I thought I'd share my own, simpler, guide to making a realistic, Semitic-style a priori triconsonantal language: don't." Like I said in my response above, I don't think Sal meant it the way it came off, but it really was inconsiderate in phrasing and argument, and I believe I had the right to confront him about how rude it was, precisely because I didn't think he was at all aware how rude it was.

méþru wrote:
I really liked tiramisu's (even the ones where we argued politics, because even if it ruined my mood, it made me think critically about my own views and practice debating)

=)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:49 pm 
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Wait, that's what you didn't like? I said that was tongue-in-cheek! And it's obviously, I thought, not denigrating your guide at all, because your guide doesn't address not making a language like the one you're making. My comment was thus intended as an addendum, not a correction. As I said, I think that guides like this can be valuable. I just think that people should read them bearing in mind that they're not just narrow guides to construct a specific language, they also can be applied more broadly. In the same way that if you were writing a guide on composing canons, I'd point out that one didn't have to just use that to compose strict canons, one could also apply those techniques to enrich compositions in other, less rigid genres. Non-concatenative morphology and counterpoint more broadly are more interesting, in my view, than a priori pseudo-semitic languages and strict canon - but of course that shouldn't be taken to abnegate the value of guides to the latter as a way of understanding the former - indeed, they should expand their interest (because you don't have to want to make a semitic language to be able to gain something from understanding semitic languages). Even Mozart read Gradus ad Parnassum (I think?). But if you found the comment rude, of course I'm sorry about that.


[methru: thanks. And don't worry - we none of us are good enough at being supportive of one another, so no blame attaches to anyone in particular. But feel free to share, over in that thread, what you liked and didn't like...]

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 7:11 am 
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This idea came to me when I was trying to sleep, so it probably isn't the greatest ever, but: how about showing an example of a triconsonantal conlang derived from (a necessarily tweaked version of) PIE, or something like Latin?

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 7:28 am 
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That sounds like a great idea!

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:52 am 
Smeric
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alice wrote:
This idea came to me when I was trying to sleep, so it probably isn't the greatest ever, but: how about showing an example of a triconsonantal conlang derived from (a necessarily tweaked version of) PIE, or something like Latin?


It would be interesting. Maybe I'll take a stab at it in the future, unless someone else beats me to it (which I welcome and prefer if anyone is so inclined). I've never done an a posteriori triconsonantal lang that wasn't Semitic. I'm not sure how possible it is either. The conditions for a triconsonantal lang to develop kind of need to be just right, but in theory enough diachronics could do the trick... I feel like nort must have done one of these at some point.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:05 pm 
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alice wrote:
This idea came to me when I was trying to sleep, so it probably isn't the greatest ever, but: how about showing an example of a triconsonantal conlang derived from (a necessarily tweaked version of) PIE, or something like Latin?

The end result won't look much like the extant Indo-European languages, but the weird thing is just how Afro-Asiatic PIE itself looks. Makes me wish I had the time to give the idea a try myself.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 8:08 am 
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I should try to develop a triconsonantal root language from PIE some day. Well, some day. I have enough other things to wrap my mind around already.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2017 11:21 am 
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Zaarin wrote:
The end result won't look much like the extant Indo-European languages, but the weird thing is just how Afro-Asiatic PIE itself looks. Makes me wish I had the time to give the idea a try myself.

*insert comments about Nostratic*

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 22, 2017 7:48 am 
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I found this incredibly interesting, and will be sure to use the ideas here if I ever plan a language such as this. I'll definitely bear this in mind. Thank you for taking the time to do this.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 26, 2017 7:18 pm 
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Zaarin wrote:
alice wrote:
This idea came to me when I was trying to sleep, so it probably isn't the greatest ever, but: how about showing an example of a triconsonantal conlang derived from (a necessarily tweaked version of) PIE, or something like Latin?

The end result won't look much like the extant Indo-European languages, but the weird thing is just how Afro-Asiatic PIE itself looks. Makes me wish I had the time to give the idea a try myself.

Perhaps PIE should be seen as a failed natural attempt to create a triconsonantal language. By the time one gets to Germanic, the strong verb is most typically ablauting *CeRC. Could the problem be that the second consonant weakened to a fricative or resonant too often?

Interestingly, PIE, like Semitic, has lots of 'root extensions'. Attempts to equate the PIE and Semitic extensions fail miserably.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:00 am 
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If by "failed attempt" you mean "developed ablaut but didn't happen to undergo the developments that generalise it" then sure. But "failed attempt" is loaded af for that.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2017 10:29 am 
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Also, fricatives haven't affected Semitic's triconsonantal system: begadkefet hasn't made Hebrew or Aramaic lose their tricon system, wholesale p > f hasn't caused Arabic or late Neo-Punic to lose their tricon system, even losing all the laryngeal consonants didn't cause Akkadian to lose its tricon system (with the obvious exception that words with laryngeals became biconsonantal...). Also NB that Ancient Greek had a very minimal fricative inventory of /s h/ and was no closer to being tricon than Germanic.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 29, 2017 1:40 am 
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alice wrote:
This idea came to me when I was trying to sleep, so it probably isn't the greatest ever, but: how about showing an example of a triconsonantal conlang derived from (a necessarily tweaked version of) PIE, or something like Latin?

i've been kicking around ideas for a germanic triconsonantal conlang for a while, which is why i beelined for this thread when i saw it. really great post, tiramisu, hope to see more


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 01, 2017 2:32 pm 
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KathTheDragon wrote:
If by "failed attempt" you mean "developed ablaut but didn't happen to undergo the developments that generalise it" then sure. But "failed attempt" is loaded af for that.

I was thinking more of the pattern of CeRC verb roots and, to some extent, CeHC verb roots, which makes PIE seem to have a predominantly triconsonantal root system, An attempt to develop a triconsonantal system that went wrong might look something like PIE. What would do the damage is a massive merger of medial consonants - *tepk just doesn't look right as a PIE root.

How much did Akkadian actually lose its laryngeals? We can easily see signs of word-internal glottal stops, and there's well-known internal evidence of at least two laryngeals.


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