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Re: a "natural language" ?

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 16:24

On Mon, 29 Nov 2004 08:16:51 +0000,
Chris Bates <chris.maths_student@...> wrote:

> After English, Spanish and other Indo-European languages I am constantly > shocked by the regularity of some (especially agglutinating languages, > although Hungarian is a bit of an exception to this rule) like Swahili > and Basque that in the main don't have different noun declensions, large > numbers of irregular verbs/nouns etc... I don't think there is any > completely regular language, but its still surprising how regular some > languages can manage to be. Of course, very isolating languages are also > extremely straightforward when it comes to morphology, but that's just > because they don't have much. :) > I'm not saying that I think they seem fake but... sometimes I think of > naturalistic as partly meaning full of irregularities, which is one of > the reason I find some of my own (half finished) conlangs "fake", so its > nice to know that there are nice regular languages out there.
I also have the impression that the majority of the world's languages have fewer irregularities than most IE languages. Perhaps the Europe/Middle East/India area is one of above-average irregularity. But if you look at the (well-known) history and prehistory of the Indo-European languages, you'll see that a great chunk of their grammatical "messiness" (multiple declensions and conjugations, etc.) is due to regular sound changes wreaking havoc with the inherited paradigms. Proto-Indo-European seems to have been more regular than most of its descendants. However, the verb aspects (the so-called "present" and "aorist" stems) were formed irregularly even in PIE, or at least no-one could yet come up with a set of rules which give the forms observed. Apparently, IE languages (and Semitic languages, which are also full of irregularities such as "broken plurals") are more resistent to regularizing analogous change than, e.g., Altaic ones. In my own conlang family, Albic, irregularities are also the results of regular sound changes. Proto-Albic is a pretty regular, mostly agglutinating language; Old Albic has a few more irregular forms due to various sound changes which are themselves regular; the modern Albic languages will probably be even more irregular. Greetings, Jörg.


Joe <joe@...>
Stephen Mulraney <ataltanie@...>