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Playing with dialect variations

From:Logan Kearsley <chronosurfer@...>
Date:Wednesday, August 27, 2008, 15:48
Thinking about English dialects and lazy speech, I came up with two
modifications to English, and I wonder if the relevant features occur
in any natural language (or, if not, in any conlangs).

First- single particles combining tense, aspect, and implied subject.

Illustrated with the sentence "I'm going to jump off the roof."
-> "I'm gonna jump off the roof" [The infinitive particle has fused
with the tense & aspect marking gerund.]
-> "I'ma jump off the roof" [Not sure if that's a contraction
eliminating 'gonn' or an addition of the archaic progressive particle
"a-" as in "a-building" and then dropping "gonna".]
-> "Ima jump off the roof" or just "Ma jump off the roof", since the
"m" encodes the same subject information as the "I".

The original verb "am" has been completely contracted away along with
the infinitive particle, so we can re-analyze "jump" as a finite verb
modified by a particle "ima" which encodes tense, aspect, and the
first person subject.

You can go through a similar process with other subjects, to get
particles like "esa/shesa" (he/she is going to), "yura" (you are going
to), "theyra", etc. And when the implied subjects encoded in those
particles aren't sufficient, then you'll need agreement between the
particle and the subject. Sort of like verb conjugation, except that
it's a separate particle altering, not the verb itself. The agreement
is already set up in dialects that use constructions like "Bobby, he's
going to jump off the roof", where "Bobby" refers to the subject, not
the addressee (in which case, a vocative particle like "yo", or "hey"
is required to disambiguate the addressee). That conveniently
transforms into "Bobby esa jump off the roof."

Second- verbs as a closed class.

Take the afro-american dialect example "I done gone" for "I left" or
"I am gone", or "I done went to the store" for "I went to the store,
but now I'm back again". "Done" is actually being used as an aspect
particle, rather than as a verb, but what if I re-analyze "done" as
the verb and "gone" or "went" as its object?
You get a situation where most everything that is expressed as a verb
in English becomes a noun for the action of that verb, and verbs
become a fairly small closed class (to be, to do, to become, probably
a few others).

"I go" becomes "I do go" / "I do going"
"I work" becomes "I do work"- same as in normal English, since "work"
is both a noun and a verb.



Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>