Polysynthetic Conlang

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Salmoneus

Post by Salmoneus »

I can believe that someone with no linguistic training would use rotation to show changes in syllables; what I find more difficult to believe is that they would use a syllabary at all, and not just an alphabet.

I agree that other languages have other world views - Afro-Asiatic, for instance, is said to focus more on hearing than seeing (hence all those "Hear, O Israel"s in the bible) - but they don't seem to have penetrated as far into the language; afro-asiatic languages seem to have simialr wordlists to IE ones, whereas the tactility of NA languages appears to greatly affect how they name things, from what you say.

I still wonder - even if the mindset is not, as you suggest, all that remarkable - why these languages have such polysynthesism.

jburke

Post by jburke »

afro-asiatic languages seem to have simialr wordlists to IE ones


Bare Cheyenne wordlists don't give away the kinesthetic game; if they did, it wouldn't have taken 300 years for us to recognize that. Raw wordlists with simple English translations tell you very little about what's going on under the surface. I could give you a Cheyenne wordlist that would make the language appear to be as classically IE as Latin; I'd just nominalize everything.

I still wonder - even if the mindset is not, as you suggest, all that remarkable - why these languages have such polysynthesism.


Come a little closer; I have to whisper this.

<Clears throat> I can't prove it, but I strongly suspect that polysynthesis was the hallmark of the most ancient human languages; moreover, I think most or all human languages began as kinsesthetic, too. The typical scenario we construct when thinking about how language originated--of proto humans hanging word-tags on things, of roaming about creating nouns by naming animals and trees--I think that's a totally false picture. I think language began with man's body feelings and his own motions, and he extended those concepts by analogy to describe the world. Naturally he would have described the world in verbal terms then. Over time, as we see in the Algonquian languages, certain morphemes tend to break away and become nouns, and take on classic nominal characteristics, and no longer refer back to any motion or process. Thus begins the development of a separate nominal morphology.

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MODERATOR EDIT: this post is by Salmoneus

But etymologically you could tell that they were different to Latin, by the way they grouped snakes and ducks, or mosquitos and shirts.

jburke wrote:Naturally he would have described the world in verbal terms then. Over time, as we see in the Algonquian languages, certain morphemes tend to break away and become nouns, and take on classic nominal characteristics, and no longer refer back to any motion or process. Thus begins the development of a separate nominal morphology.


Don't languages in isolation, and with few speakers, show most conservatism? Then how did isolated (and relatively unpopulated) Australian languages not only develop nominal morphology, but drop verbal morphology, while other, more populated and more interacting languages, only went halfway?
(This is based on my having heard that many australian languages are noun-orientated polysynthetic languages - i don't know this, but I have heard it repeatedly.)
Or was it a direct thing, do you think - straight from verbs to nouns, not via nouns+verbs? I guess such a change might be easier, as there is probably less distinction between nouns and verbs. But maybe it is more difficult, if nouny-ness and verby-ness reflect deeper worldviews.

What we really need is someone who knows as much about Australian languages as you know about American ones.



General question: when did the original colonisations (ie the first settlers, not the first europeans) of a) North America and b) Australia occur?

Second question: What about SA? Are the languages there polysynthetic/show signs of prior polysynthesism?

Third question:
a) What is the earliest point when we can be "certain" that a full language existed? (ie by inscriptions/reconstruction of proto-language, etc)
b) When do theories suggest that a complete language came into being? (and by complete language I mean something capable of having conversations of the same level of complexity as modern languages, not just words for "cold", "hungry", "food", "lion", and no real grammar.)

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Post by Glenn »

jburke wrote:
Eddy the Great wrote:What time period is your conworld in?


It stretches over 7000+ years; it has a mythological period, and the "contemporary" period is approximately the early 19th century, without guns. But it's more complicated than that.


To veer off the topic for a moment: Jeff, could you tell us a little bit more about the "contemporary" period in Daszeria? You've mentioned that there are no guns; what kind of weapons are used? Are there any examples of technology comparable to "early modern" developments such as widespread printing presses, cotton gins, mechanical looms, etc.?
Or is the general makeup of the world something different?

p@,
Glenn

jburke

Post by jburke »

Are there any examples of technology comparable to "early modern" developments such as widespread printing presses, cotton gins, mechanical looms, etc.?


No[1], when I said "early 19th century," I meant the dress and architectural styles recalled that period; and so do the politics to a degree--representational democracy has developed, e.g. If someone were to read GODS OF DASZERIA, particularly the first parts of it, they'd get the feeling it was set in the early 19th century; kind of how LOTR feels Middle-Ages without being so. A general feel; not a reproduction.

[1] There are some isolated exceptions to this lack of gadgets. One person in particular has invented a version of the wax cyllinder recorder.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

The rotating syllabary is a very cool idea for a writing system. You ahve en excellent point on the theory. how old would you say the scripts are?
Last edited by Aurora Rossa on Sat Aug 30, 2003 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:The rotating syllabary is a very cool idea for a writing system.


Indeed; that's why I stole it for Noyatukah. Plus, that's my own little joke: if its origin can be attributed fictionally to an English missionary, I can attribute it fictionally to someone who at least has some cultural and historical relation to those who did really invent it.

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Post by Mecislau »

Eddy the Great wrote:The rotating syllabary is a very cool idea for a writing system.


Speaking of writing systems, are there any other Native American writing systems in use (or used to be used) other than the Cree and Cherokee systems?

jburke

Post by jburke »

Maknas wrote:
Eddy the Great wrote:The rotating syllabary is a very cool idea for a writing system.


Speaking of writing systems, are there any other Native American writing systems in use (or used to be used) other than the Cree and Cherokee systems?


Most languages were not written pre-1492. Cherokee, Blackfoot, Cree, Mohawk, Seneca and Micmac were the only North American languages known to be written then. The Blackfoot have a syllabary that they say is the origin of the Cree's (that's a thorny issue); the Mohawk and Seneca used pneumonic devices; and the Micmac did pictoral birchbark writing.

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Post by Mecislau »

jburke wrote:
Maknas wrote:
Eddy the Great wrote:The rotating syllabary is a very cool idea for a writing system.


Speaking of writing systems, are there any other Native American writing systems in use (or used to be used) other than the Cree and Cherokee systems?


Most languages were not written pre-1492. Cherokee, Blackfoot, Cree, Mohawk, Seneca and Micmac were the only North American languages known to be written then. The Blackfoot have a syllabary that they say is the origin of the Cree's (that's a thorny issue); the Mohawk and Seneca used pneumonic devices; and the Micmac did pictoral birchbark writing.


Are there any others used today?

jburke

Post by jburke »

Are there any others used today?


Several languages are written with Cree syllabics, including Objiwa and Inuit. But most are written in Roman characters, when written at all.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Tell me more about this kinestetic thing. What other mindsets are there in languages?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:What other mindsets are there in languages?


I don't have much experience with other language families to that depth. But there's the very visual orientation of our culture's English; and someone else mentioned Hebrew having an auditory bent.

As for kinesthia, I have some notes on motion and process consciousness that will be included in the morphology section of the Noyatukah grammar, since it fits well there. But it'll be around a month before I start in on the morphology; I have some revisions to make to the phonology before that, and I work very slowly. (The language has been eight years in the making, so I don't feel any need to rush; and it would be hard for me to work any faster than I do.)

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

T?l@uilgo//'s mindset seems to be very similar to English, although spacial location is very important in it and there are 20 suffixes just for it.
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Post by Jaaaaaa »

This is jus tto provide an example of another "mindset", but in Gonardoi (and most of the other Relanian languages) the roots are usually somewhat abstract in nature, not really showing emphasis on any of the senses (though visual, I guess, is used often). The words less so; but they're similar. For example, take the words ruca "mountain" and rutai, rucyai "to hide". They are both derived from the CR root RUK. Strange, aye? To add to the puzzle, ruca can also mean things like "a place deep underground", or "seafloor", along with some others, thoug the primary/usual meaning is "mountain". This is (to some extent, at least) explained by the fact that the root RUK conveys a sense of being hard to reach. ruta (present tense of rutai) comes from ruk-y?, that is, the stem RUK with a causative suffix, thus "to cause to be hard to reach". Ruca (which originally meant "mountaintop", not "mountain") is RUK plus a basic noun prefix, thus "something that is hard to reach".

EDIT: As an addition to the example, the word marruc means "kingship (or more generally "ruler-ship")" (from the roots BHAZ "authority" and RUK above), though marnaia, which could be literally translated as "ruler-hood", can also be used.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Here are some interesting words-k?ftimi(bird), k?ftini(airplane). Both mean "it flies", but the subject is animate on the first and inanimate on the second.
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Eddy the Great wrote:Here are some interesting words-k?ftimi(bird), k?ftini(airplane). Both mean "it flies", but the subject is animate on the first and inanimate on the second.


This is like the two Cheyenne words for pipe: he?ohko 'sacred ceremonial pipe' and he?ahko 'whiteman's pipe'. The former is animate; the latter inanimate.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

Here's another interesting one: Anarchy=k?'slimlu@seniut?s?(it is controlled by no?ne). The suffix -s? is for a 3rd person immaterial subject because no?ne is considered and idea rather than a person.
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Post by Glenn »

jburke wrote:
Eddy the Great wrote:Here are some interesting words-k?ftimi(bird), k?ftini(airplane). Both mean "it flies", but the subject is animate on the first and inanimate on the second.


This is like the two Cheyenne words for pipe: he?ohko 'sacred ceremonial pipe' and he?ahko 'whiteman's pipe'. The former is animate; the latter inanimate.


Very interesting! Thank you both for these examples of what can be done with the idea of animacy...

p@,
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Post by Aurora Rossa »

What if two noun roots have the same animacy and number? How are they distinguished?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:What if two noun roots have the same animacy and number? How are they distinguished?


In the Algonquian languages, this is what the proximate/obviative distinction is for; for every two third persons, one will always be obviative.

The Mohawk, the indefinite gender helps here; you can change a noun to indefinite to help distinguish it.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

How do I add proximate/obliviate?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:How do I add proximate/obliviate?


Proximate and obviative are persons; proximate = 3rd person, obviative = 4th person.

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Post by Aurora Rossa »

How do I make the nouns have these persons?
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Post by jburke »

Eddy the Great wrote:How do I make the nouns have these persons?


Usually, nouns are in the 3rd person--e.g., 'apple' is not 'I' or 'you', but an 'it'. You just add another person dimension, and markers for it, which you affix to a noun.

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