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Re: Vjatjackwa (the result of all those sound changes!)

From:Isidora Zamora <isidora@...>
Date:Friday, December 19, 2003, 18:03
>No, my university (and my parents' place) are in the DC area. They're >crazy when it comes to snow.
Well, DC, IMO, is a nice area to live in. (Expensive, but nice.) My father-in-law owns an appartment in Bethesda very close to the District line. (Great view, too, seeing as he's got a penthouse, which is like a giant sunroom with a small kitchen and bathroom off one side of it. It's always fun to visit him.)
> > Modern (but not proto) > > Tovlaugadóis/Cwendaso is going to be a polysynthetic language and will be > > incorporating nouns. What does happen to the ditransitives? If you > > incorporate the direct object of the ditransitive into the verb, then you > > end up with a verb which cannot take a direct object but can take an > > indirect object. > >I'd be interested to know too. I'm wondering whether polysynthetic >languages with object-incorporation generally *have* ditransitives or >not. (The whole idea of using monotransitives only may have come from >my Mohawk language tape, where they conjugate two separate verbs, "to >tell (someone)" and "to tell about (someone)". That doesn't mean they >aren't necessarily ditransitive (the tape-book course doesn't go into >real linguistics), but it does suggest ways that they could speak >without needing ditransitives.)
Once I've studied enough basic typology, I think that the next step for me is simply going to be getting ahold of grammatical descriptions of as many polysynthetic languages as possible and seeing what conclusions I can draw from them and what ideas I can grab from them. In the end, though, I am going to have to do unique things, because Tovlaugadóis didn't start out as a polysynthetic language. It started out as a heavily agglutinating language with a full system of agreement markers on the verb (subject, direct object, and indirect object) and a fully developed case system for the nouns. Then it mutated into a polysynthetic language with an overdeveloped case system. I've come up with this idea lately that Tovlaugadóis could have extended its case system over the centuries because it is a postpositional language with case sufixes. If there were originally an all-purpose case corresponding to the Latin ablative or the Russian prepositional used with most of the postpositions, then the postposition would find itself adjacent to the case suffix, creating a redundancy. The redundancy, in the form of the postpositional case ending on the noun could be dropped and the postposition attatched directly to the noun, thus creating an extra case out of nearly every common postposition in the language. A variation on this would be for the case ending in question to be a non-low vowel and for many of the postpositions in the language to begin with a vowel. If the postpositions became cliticized, then the non-low vowel of the original case ending before another vowel would become devocalized, turning into a glide. This could eventually turn into a very overdeveloped case system. Kitchen sink syndrome, really. Which is why I might choose not to go with this idea.
> > That seems to be a sort of irregular situation to have an > > IO but no DO. > >What was in that they were saying about African languages with two >objects a couple of weeks ago? Those verbs worked differently than >English ditransitives.
Somehow, I don't remember even seeing the discussion, which is odd, because I usually try to at least skim everything on the list, unless I absolutely know that it is simply not of interest to me or too complicated to follow. Do you remember anything about it that would allow me to search the archives for it?
> > (Not that I haven't had other irregular things show up. It > > seems that every time I want to play around with Tovlaugadóis grammar, I > > end up by affixing an object marker to a linking verb, and that seems to be > > a bit irregular, since I was taught that linking verbs do not take > > objects. > >As an iron-clad universal, or just as a usually-done thing? :) Maybe >in Tovlaugadois, they can :)
In Tovlaugadóis, apparently they can, because, every time I turn around, it is happening. Part of it has to do with the newer method of subordinating clauses, which marks the verb in the main clause with an object marker indicating that the antecedant of that marker is an entire clause and not a noun phrase. There is also a similar subject marker, and maybe that was the one I was using with the linking verbs. I can't remember at the moment, and my notes are buried in my e-mail correspondence.
> > I'm glad that you've found it interestsing. I've come to realize lately > > just how long this project is going to take, though. The only right way to > > do it is from the proto-language forward. The syntax has changed a lot > > between the proto and the modern language, but a good deal of the earlier > > syntax is retained in the "ceremonial dialect," so I have to come up with > > two modern forms of the language. > >Yeah, now that I have the beginnings of a language tree I feel the need >to evolve everything exhaustively. I keep reminding myself that >language contains irregular changes as well as the regular ones! (I.e., >to make sure to include neologisms, back-formations, changes that took >place by analogy with other forms, and just plain unexplained things in >my later language! Not to mention much greater semantic drift than I'd >include if left to my own devices.)
Yeah. I have to keep reminding myself that there is going to be semantic drift, and I wonder if I can really get creative enough to take it to a realistic level. I am pretty good at making some far-off semantic connections in real life with real languages, but I have doubts about my ability to do it artificially. I've also realized that a lot of the words I make up are going to be compounds of one sort or another, and that I am going to have to assign a rough time frame to each compound that I come up with so that I know which phonological rules to take it through and which it bypasses. This may turn out to be especially important for Trehelish, because word-final short vowels were lost entirely and word-final long vowels became short. You *really* need to know whether this had already happened or not by the time your compound was formed; otherwise the form of the word could be entirely wrong. I have also *got* to figure out the full list of sound changes for the language and get them correctly arranged in the order in which they occurred before it drives me nuts. The order of sound changes seems to matter more for Trehelish than it does for either of the other two languages. Trying to put in the inconvenient little naturalistic, irregular quirks is going to be murder. I will have worked so hard to make the language conform to the appropriate sound changes, phonotactics, etc. that I am going to hate to go and put something messy in it. Then there are the things that shouldn't be exceptions and slipped through. As we were getting ready for bed last night, my husband and I were talking over a certain Trehelish word. The plural is "tefin." The singular could be either "tef," which he doesn't like, or "tefi," which he likes better. We turned out the light and got in bed. He asked if "tefe" were possible as the singular. I told him that it wasn't, considering that there was an "i" in the plural. Then there was dead silence, and I got a look on my face, which you couldn't see in the dark, and I said, "That violates vowel harmony. It can't be 'tefi.'" I realized that the word had to be "tefe" in the singular and "tefen" in the plural. The (now defunct) vowel harmony rule that creates that situation is not one that I can make this word an exception to. The problem here was that the word "tefin" has been in the language for many, many years longer than the vowel harmony process has.
> > Then there's the problem of coming up > > with the sound changes that took place in the 1500-2000 year interval > > between the proto-language and the modern language. Somehow, I'm not > > looking forward to coming up with the sound changes and applying them. > >I never liked sound changes before now. I didn't have the patience to >try enough different changes to find one that I liked. Hence the asking >for help from the list, which came through marvelously. It all depends >on getting the *right* sound changes.
I really think that part of my problem with getting motivated on the sound changes in Tovlaugadóis are that I start this knowing that this is a completely oral culture (this will change within a generation) and that practically all the sound changes will be lost to the speakers of the language; they will never know that they have occurred. I probably need to throw in one or two sound changes capable of throwing off the meter of poetry in a minor way, just in order to be realistic, but I need to keep the number of syllables and the stress patterns within the words largely stable. They have a large oral corpus, a good deal of which is poetic, and that needs to remain intelligible to them. I guess I may have some ideas. After reading the online article about the chain shifts going on in the northern and southern US, it has occurred to me that I could do a chain shift with all the vowels. I could also start the protolang out with long vowels as well as short and have the long ones all turn into diphthongs, which the language seems to have a goodly number of. I could also have (short only) schwa and barred i in the protolang and have them drop out entirely (early on, so as not to disrupt poetic meter), leaving us with the very important syllabic sonorant consonants that are all over the place. I'm not certain exactly what to do with the consonants. The /x/ phoneme could, perhaps, be derived from some earlier phoneme. Is it possible or likely for /h/ -> /x/? Or maybe /s/ -> /h/ -> /x/, and /z/ -> /s/; then bring some surface-level [z]'s back into the language by assimilating voicing from adjacent segments. The problem here is that /z/ -> /s/ implies several other changes of a similar nature. I would have to devoice all the fricatives, and I am not sure that I'm willing to do that. I really want to keep my /D/, and I think that I want to keep it contrastive with /T/. I suppose that I could solve that problem by having a /S/ in the protolang and having /S/ -> /s/ instead of /z/ -> /s/. I guess that all of this is something of a start. How's it look to you? I'm going to have to find out what degree of change is necessary for the 1500 year time depth that I am looking at for a language that remains fairly isolated. I will end up asking the list for help with the sound changes, as you did, because they're just not going to happen, if I dont get some help. Reading a textbook on historical linguistics first might also give me some decent ideas. Put that in the queue to read. _Universals in Linguistic Theory_ arrived yesterday while I was reading the list, and that will give me something to apply my mind to. It's not a particularly long book. However, I'm in the middle of a phonology book that is long, and I also *desperately* need to read some typology books. I suppose that there's no rush. I am a little impatient to get the language truly underway, but I very much need to do it right the first time, because this is not a practice project that can be discarded if I don't like the way it turns out; it's the language spoken by a conculture that I really care about. Same goes for Trehelish, though I'm having more luck on the phonological front there. (I was so proud of myself the night that I figured out how to have an entire "gender" of nouns pluralize by labialization of the final consonant.)
> > One of the confusing things with the lexicons of my three main conlangs is > > going to be figuring out who borrowed which words from whom at what stage > > in the languages' developments. > >Ooh, now that's depth. If I do anything like that, it'll be random words >on a whim. I couldn't do the work necessary to have wholesale interaction >between different languages in the family, even though it provides some >of the most interesting semantic effects in real languages.
I'm pretty much forced to do this with the loanwords. The Tovláugad were absolutely a Stone Age culture before they came over the western mountains. They were unfamiliar with metal. They had some experience with agriculture, having domesticated amaranth and the khúno (essentially, an angora guinea pig, domesticated for meat - they only figured out what to do with the fur much later.) They had never seen sheep or chickens. They didn't know how to spin or weave cloth, so they dressed in leather. (They may have had some rudimentary spinning techniques, and I'm sure they wove baskets, but they had never thought of weaving cloth or of using a drop spindle.) They called themseves "People," not knowing that there existed any other races of men in the world. When the Tovláugad (a subset of the People) migrated over the western mountains, they met other sorts of people who possessed all sorts of things that they had never dreamed of before. And the Tovláugad happily adopted all sorts of novelties, such as bronze knives, chickens, sheep, drop spindles, looms, cloth, possibly linen, hand mills (for grinding grain), wheat, yeast-raised bread, mead, metal cooking pots, and the list goes on. Some of these things they might coin their own words for, but the words for many of these things would simply have been borrowed, primarily from the Nidirino language, which has a very limited phonemic inventory and constrained syllable structure, making it very easy to borrow from. *But* I will have to know what surface phonetic form Nidirino words took over 1000 years ago in order to know how to properly borrow these words into Tovlaugadóis. I will also need to know what sort of phonological rules Tovlaugadóis had at that point that might have had an effect on how the loan words came out, especially if I do a chain shift. (I just got a cool idea. I could time the chain shift so that it is happening during the same period that the major borrowing from Nidirino is taking place so that you do not get a one to one correspondance in the vowels of the borrowed words. That might be exciting.) The chronology becomes really crucial when we get to borrowings to and from Trehelish, since that language has undergone some phonological change radical enough to turn *siotuni (or maybe it's *siutoni) -> shohon [So?On], and it did it all in a particular order. (I know that the example that I gave is not as radical as your Vjatjackwa, but it's still a lot of change, and it all has to get layered in the right order and assigned an absolute time range. For instance, had Trehelish already lost all it's long vowels by the time it came in contact with the other two languages? For Tovlaugadóis borrowings from Trehelish, it wouldn't matter, because, if Tovlaugadóis ever had long vowels, they were already probably turned to diphthongs long before any contact with Trehelish, but it matters for Nidirino, because Nidirino has short and long vowels to this day. (Oops, and it matters very much whether the long vowels in Tovlaugadóis had become diphthongs before or after contact with Nidirino and all those borrowings.) Actually, it gets worse than that. I believe that there are three major dialects of Modern Trehelish: one which retains the long vowels, except in word-final position; one which has lost all of the long vowels but retains the stress patterns associated with them; and one which has lost both the long vowels and the effect that they had on stress. The last dialect is the "standard" one (because of where it's spoken), and I am surprised if it is mutually intelligible with the other two. Poetry from the two more conservative dialects would certainly lose its meter in the standard dialect. You know, the more I type, the more horribly complex things get. Maybe I'd better stop. I would say that this is giving me a headache, except that my migraine has been getting progressively better since I started typing this :-) BTW, Trehelish, Nidirino, and Tovlaugadóis belong to to three completely unrelated language families. I know of at least one sister language to each of the three languages, and Trehelish has a whole handful of sister languages and cultures. Conculturing all of those should be interesting, if I ever do it. I'll have to take what I know about the earliest state of shared common culture, including mythology, and project it forward taking each culture in a slightly different direction than the other ones, taking geographical proximity and contact with the other cultures into account. Right now, though, that's not a priority, since the story I am interested in revolves entirely around Trehelan and the Tovláugad.
> > So, who are the speakers of Vjatjackwa, or was it simply an excercize in > > turning Polynesian into Slavic? :-) It's deifinitely cool. > >Well... I made up a word for "reindeer" early on when the Polynesian >flavor was making me think coconuts too much :)
That's always a good antidote.
> So they're up there in >the north. They're warlike,
Whom do they go to war against? Themselves or other peoples? Why do they make war? (e.g. Back before there were Tovláugad, when they were all Éimikhad (the People), they all made war constantly against neighboring villages in order to carry off booty. They had (and have) no concept of slavery; they were only after material goods. It was basically armed robbery on an large scale, and women and children did get hurt if they tried to protect their belongings. However, the style of warfare that the Éimikhad engaged in did not generally lead to the extermination of entire villages. The Trehelish conduct war rather differently. They waged a war of conquest in order to have the rather extensive land that is now Trehelan, and they did exterminate entire villages in order to succeed in this. But they also had no concept of slavery and were not looking for captives, unless it was to sacrifice them to their chief god. The Trehelish were looking chiefly for land, not for goods.)
> the men die young and the widows rule the >village.
Are they matrilineal or matrilocal as well?
> They have European-style circle folksongs (I want to translate >a version of "The Rattlin' Bog" that I hunted down online after hearing >it years ago at a Midsummer revels!)
I haven't given enough thought to dancing and music style in my concultures. Actually, it's not really that I haven't given thought to it, it's that not much has come of the thought that I have given. I know that each of the three cultures needs a different style of music and dance, but not one distinct style has popped out of my head, perhaps because I am not familiar enough with folk dances of any tradition.
> I see them by firelight, indoors >on a winter evening,
What sort of structures do they build? And out out of what sorts of materials?
> wearing the Norse-type clothes (overdress pinned at >the shoulders, necklaces of amber) that I know from the reenactors I used >to hang out with.
The presence of amber (if it is of local origin) tells you something about the region where they live, since amber is not found everywhere. (Anyone know just where amber is found?)
> Dogs underfoot,
Reminding me, once again, that I need to give dogs more of a place in my conworld. They have sort of gotten mostly left out, since I am not that much of a dog person.
> mead being quaffed. They farm and >keep animals.
What sort of animals? For example, Tovláugad keep animals, but it is limited to sheep, chickens, khúno (or maybe I need to pluralize it as khúnoma or khúnwad), perhaps donkeys, and, just maybe pigs, but probably not. (In addition to dogs and cats.) That's not much of a livestock inventory. The peoples to the south of them keep a much wider variety of livestock.
> Their ancestors travelled with reindeer herds - perhaps >they have moved south since then. They have metal.
What sorts of metal and how advanced is their ability to work it?
> Their mythology >is not Indo-European. The Sun is the Moon's mother.
What more do you know about their religion? My Nidirino culture worships the Sun, Moon, and visible planets. I know some of the details on how they worship, but haven't developed too much of the underlying mythology. For that matter, I haven't developed too much of the underlying mythology for any of my cultures.
>I don't know if >they write.
And, if they do, there is the question of whether they invented writing for themselves or whether they got the idea from contact with a neighboring culture. Of the three concultures that I now have, only the Trehelish figured out writing for themselves. (They also figured out moveable type on printing presses; they're very clever people.) The Nidirino learned about writing from the Trehelish, but then went and developed their own syllabary. Trehelish writing is alphabetical, and the Nidirino language is well suited to a syllabary. When the Tovláugad begin to write, it will be with a modified Trehelish alphabet. Anyway, this post is way more than long enough, and it is well enough time for me to go heat up some leftover catfish for lunch. It's nice to chat with you about various stuff. It's also nice to see another woman on the list. (Not that anyone ought to take offense at that remark; it's just that males are statistically vastly overrepresented around here.) Isidora