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What is an IE language (was: Re: Workshops Review from Yitzik the

From:John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Date:Thursday, December 19, 2002, 15:16
A few nits.

Christophe Grandsire scripsit:

> (grammatical prefixes > are extremely rare, derivative prefixes are a bit more common)
The only grammatical prefixes that come immediately to mind are German ge- (the past participial marker) and older English a- (lexicalized "on" before present participles, now mostly lost).
> - case and number marked on nouns, using a nominative-accusative system.
Ergativity is common in Indic, which is the largest single branch.
> When the neuter is present and there are cases, the neuter > is *always* specific in having an identical form in the nominative and the > accusative.
Yes, this is a *very* IE trait.
> (although Slavic languages > like Russian seem to have a pretty thorough system where each and every tense > is doubled according to aspect),
Better I think to say that each *verb* is doubled according to aspect in derivational but unpredictable ways; sometimes pfv is derived from impfv, sometimes the other way.
> Person marks tend > to disappear on the verb, obliging people to use personal pronouns), although > many IE languages seem to do very well without it :)) (look at Russian for > instance :)) ).
I think this is overgeneralizing from Germanic and French (which toked a heavy hit of Germanic in the past). Most IE languages are pro-drop, as are most languages worldwide, I think.
> relative subclauses > always follow the noun
There is a world-wide tendency to postpose heavy modifiers.
> (and are introduced with a relative pronoun referring > back to the noun the subclause completes, giving its function in the > subclause).
Not always. In Germanic, that-clauses are dominant. (Funny how Germanic's so often the outlier.)
> In questions, reordering the sentence is common. VSO becomes the > predominant word order, and when a question word is present it is normally > always first, whatever its function in the sentence.
I think these things are universal in IE.
> And if your conlang's most features are found among the list I gave, you can > safely say that it's an IE or IE-based conlang.
I don't think that any set of grammatical features can make a language IE without a vocabulary derivable from PIE. -- He made the Legislature meet at one-horse John Cowan tank-towns out in the alfalfa belt, so that hardly nobody could get there and most of the leaders would stay home and let him go to work and do things as he pleased. --Mencken, _Declaration of Independence_


Padraic Brown <elemtilas@...>
Joseph Fatula <fatula3@...>