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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 2:31 am 
Sanci
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An idea I was floating around for Fyrthir is a system of what I call inherent case. I seem to vaguely recall reading about something similarish, here I think, so if you had the idea that I've mistakenly thought of as my own, I apologize.

Anyway, let's consider a toy language for illustrative purposes:

Nominal roots have the form CVC. Case suffixes have the form -VC. Verbal roots have the form CVCV. Basic word order is SOV.
The toy language has the following phoneme inventory:
Vowels: /a e i o u/
Consonants: /m n f v p b t d k g s r l j/

This language features the following cases:
  • -us nominative
  • -um accusative
  • -is genitive
  • -it dative
  • -at locative
  • -ol temporal
  • -ar instrumental

Now, in some languages there a sort of system wherein words have an 'inherent' number (e.g. the word for 'eye' might have an inherent number of two) and only numbers which aren't inherent are explicitly marked. So the idea I had was to extend this to case. All words would have an 'inherent' case, which is unmarked, which corresponds to one of the aforementioned. That is, the inherent case would be the bare CVC root, sans any case suffix.

Here's a few auto-generated noun roots:

  • tet man nominative
  • lit woman nominative
  • bet hill locative
  • koj home locative
  • mev morning temporal
  • vur apple accusative
  • pev hammer instrumental
  • sol pen instrumental
  • kif letter accusative

Similarly, here's a few verbs:

  • bebi give
  • paja hit
  • jamu sleep
  • poto run
  • lopa eat

Alright, let's write some sentences!

tet litum paja
man.NOM woman-ACC hit
The man hit the woman.

lit vur koj mev lopa
woman.NOM apple.ACC home.LOC morning.TEMP eat
The woman ate the apple at home in the morning.

Notice how in this most recent sentence, complex meaning can be communicated without any explicit case marking. Nevertheless, this system also allows for free word order:

koj vur lopa mev lit
home.LOC apple.ACC eat morning.TEMP woman.NOM

This sentence still expresses the same idea as the above, but with a different word order. However, suppose you wanted to express something a little more unusual:

vurus tetum lopa
apple-NOM man-ACC eat
The apple eats the man.

It appears to be that this system is something along the lines of an animacy hierarchy, just more generalized, but I'd curious to hear what you all think. Is there a case of ANADEW lurking out there somewhere?

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Last edited by Duns Scotus on Mon Feb 20, 2017 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 12:33 pm 
Avisaru
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So if a word needed to be used with a different case than its inherent case, only then would it receive marking for the case? Or, would every single case for every noun have a different word, essentially making suppletion the standard method of indicating case?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:09 pm 
Avisaru
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Duns Scotus, a note on glossing conventions: when a morpheme/inflectional form cannot be separated from a root, an underdot is used, not a hyphen. Therefore your first two examples would be like so:

tet litum paja
man.NOM woman-ACC hit
The man hit the woman.

lit vur koj mev lopa
woman.NOM apple.ACC home.LOC morning.TEMP eat
The woman ate the apple at home in the morning.

As for the actual system, it feels somewhat natural to me, but with the following caveats: basically the main distinction between inherently nominative nouns and nouns which have some other inherent case is that of animacy, as you say, which is a common basis for splits in grammatical alignment. In this case I'd be tempted to make animate nouns follow a nominative-accusative pattern with nominative being unmarked ("inherently nominative" in your scheme), while inanimate nouns (however you define them) take no marking at all whether they are subject or object. Thus there is no real proper need to have "inherent accusative" nouns.

As for your other cases, I'd merge the temporal with the locative: there's so few nouns which can take that case anyway, and I'm not sure if it's even attested naturally. Apart from that, having some nouns be inherently locative makes a good deal of sense: indeed something like that is going on in the Bantu noun-class system, where there are a few classes which express locations. Having and instrumental as the inherent case is weirder, but I would be perfectly OK with it being there if that particular case was used in cases other than your standard instrumental (e.g. as a transitive subject like "the key opens the door" or a ditransitive theme like "I gave John the key").

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:24 pm 
Smeric
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This sounds like a system on its way to gradually eliminating case.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:45 pm 
Lebom
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I agree, it specifically looks like a snapshot of a language at the moment when a lot of its nouns are being grammaticalized as prepositions or adverbs. Not that that's bad, I think it's very interesting, and such a stage could last a considerable amount of time.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 20, 2017 10:08 pm 
Smeric
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I like it.

A note on glossing - as Frislander said, a full stop should link your non-endings. Or, a way that I think would make it clearer that the absence of an ending marks case, indicate the non-ending with -Ø. E.g.

tet-Ø
man-NOM

Alternatively, going back to the full stop idea, you could keep the inherent case marking as part of the glossing of that morpheme in all situations. This might look confusing, but would have the benefit of always indicating which noun-class the word belongs to each time it appears.

tet
man.NOM

tet-um
man.NOM-ACC

(PS. Tetum is one of the main languages of East Timor. :-))

In terms of how the language works, as Frislander said, it's a kind of noun-class system. I don't like the idea of inanimate nouns not marking NOM or ACC... sure it's naturalistic, but it's been done and I don't like the loss in functionality. My suggestion would be to make the inanimate (inherently accusative) nouns follow an ergative pattern, so that they wouldn't have to be marked to be the subject of an intransitive verb. Eg.

Tet-Ø poto
man-NOM run

Vur-Ø poto
apple-ABS run

Tet-Ø vur-Ø lopa
man-NOM apple-ABS eat

Vur-us tet-um lopa
apple-ERG man-ACC eat

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2017 3:04 am 
Smeric
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I agree, this is an interesting idea. I dont think that the erg/acc idea is that much different than some things that are found in natlangs, and perhaps even the exact system youre describing is found. I havent heard of it being extended to the locative for placenames, though, or for the instrumental for tools, etc. This could perhaps be described as a "split abs/erg" setup, but extended such that it could be called "split abs/erg/loc/instr" and perhaps more.

One slight modification you may or may not choose to go with is to get rid of the nominative case ending entirely. ( I think in your setup either "nominative" or "ergative" would work equally well but Im going to call it the nominative case. Likewise I'll use "accusative" instead of "absolutive".)

The idea is that, for animate nouns, the nominative case is the default and therefore if any case deserves a zero morph, it's the nominative case.

For inanimate objects such as food, the accusative case is the default because an apple is going to be in the accusative case in almost every sentence, possibly occasionally in the locative ("there's a blemish on this apple") or the instrumental ("I killed the ant by crushing him with the apple") or one of the less common cases your language might have. But let's not get distracted. The noun case that an inaimate object is almost never going to use is the nominative case. An apple doesnt get up and walk around the room or sing you happy songs or tell you what farm it came from so you can go get more apples that are just as tasty. So why should there even be a nominative case ending?

Now wait, you might say, what if the apple was really sour, and it hurt my stomach and gave me heartburn when I tried to sleep last night? Shouldnt there be a nominative case ending for situations like that, where an inaimate object behaves as if it's animate after all?

Well, do you really need it? Youve already mentioned that the apple hurt your stomach and gave you heartburn. That's two nouns, perhaps even three depending on your grammar, that are going to be marked as either direct or indirect objects and therefore will make it clear that the apple did something to them, even if it didnt mean to. The accusative case and perhaps dative case markings on the object will suffice to make the meaning of the sentence clear in every possible context, so why bother attaching a nominative case ending, particularly since it will only ever appear in rare sentences like this where an otherwise inanimate object is being personified as if it were animate?

The same situation would apply to placenames. If I say "the school sent me home early", clearly the building itself didnt slam a door in my face and tell me to get out using an automatic loudspeaker. Im just using the word metonymically to refer to someone inside the school who actually sent me home.

And likewise, if I say "the hammer hit my thumb", that generally means either I had really bad aim, or someone knocked the hammer off of an upper shelf and my thumb just happened to be right underneath it.

Most natlangs probably have exceptions where things that are clearly not alive are treated as animates. For example, I imagine that weather is often animate, since nobody can really control it and many insurance policies today read as if all severe weather phenomena are acts of God.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 3:19 pm 
Niš
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I believe the Ancient Greek double accusative is similar to this idea:
Observe a sentance involving the verb "διδασκειν" ("to teach"):
"φῐ́λον τὸν λόγον διδάσκω" or "τὸν λόγον φῐ́λον διδάσκω" ("I teach a friend logic")
In this situation both "φῐ́λον" ("friend") and "λόγον" ("logic") have the accusative case and the syntax AFAIK doesn't matter. Clearly, though, an abstract thing such as logic can't be taught something and an animate being such as a friend can't be taught to something. Therefore the semantic role is embedded in the meaning.

Soap wrote:
For inanimate objects such as food, the accusative case is the default because an apple is going to be in the accusative case in almost every sentence, possibly occasionally in the locative ("there's a blemish on this apple") or the instrumental ("I killed the ant by crushing him with the apple") or one of the less common cases your language might have. But let's not get distracted. The noun case that an inaimate object is almost never going to use is the nominative case. An apple doesnt get up and walk around the room or sing you happy songs or tell you what farm it came from so you can go get more apples that are just as tasty. So why should there even be a nominative case ending?

Now wait, you might say, what if the apple was really sour, and it hurt my stomach and gave me heartburn when I tried to sleep last night? Shouldnt there be a nominative case ending for situations like that, where an inaimate object behaves as if it's animate after all?

Well, do you really need it? Youve already mentioned that the apple hurt your stomach and gave you heartburn. That's two nouns, perhaps even three depending on your grammar, that are going to be marked as either direct or indirect objects and therefore will make it clear that the apple did something to them, even if it didnt mean to. The accusative case and perhaps dative case markings on the object will suffice to make the meaning of the sentence clear in every possible context, so why bother attaching a nominative case ending, particularly since it will only ever appear in rare sentences like this where an otherwise inanimate object is being personified as if it were animate?

Logic behind neuter nouns in Ancient Greek and Latin there.

Interesting stuff.

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