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free word-order conlangs (...)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Monday, July 17, 2006, 18:53

On Sun, 16 Jul 2006 19:41:33 +0100, And Rosta wrote:

> The discussion of Warlpiri prompts me to solicit information about conlangs > in which word-order is in some sense very free but without ambiguity > resulting from the freedom. > > 1. How free is free? Is freedom limited to within some subsentential domain > such as the clause? Within the domain of freedom are all orders permissible, > or just very many/most?
Word order in Old Albic is very free, though not totally so. Within a clause, constituents can be shuffled around quite freely; all six orders (VSO, SVO, SOV, VOS, OVS, OSV) are legal, though VSO is the unmarked order and SVO and OVS are frequently found as topicalization orders. Adjectives, while usually following the noun they qualify, can be moved elsewhere. A clause like _Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, polytropon_ could be translated into Old Albic without changing the order at all: Ndaromad man tala a Muse majapharathomad man-ABL 1SG-DAT tell-3SG:P-IMP oh Muse-VOC much-travelled-M-ABL The adjective _majapharathomad_ can only belong to _ndaromad_ because it agrees with _ndaromad_ in gender, number and case.
> 2. What mechanism allows the freedom (without ambiguity)? Rampant concord? > Or something else?
In Old Albic, nouns, pronouns and adjectives are marked for case, and verbs agree with the person and number of subject and object.
> 3. Is the freedom structural or just 'informational'? By 'structural > freedom' I mean that linear precedence is of little importance to syntax. By > 'informational freedom', I mean that even if syntax is highly sensitive to > linear precedence, the grammar nevertheless has resources such that for any > combination of a meaning and an order of content words, some syntactic > structure is available to express that combination. (An example of > 'informational freedom' would be "The farmer killed the duckling" vs "The > duckling was killed by the farmer", allowing both F-K-D and D-K-F orders, > but with structural changes.)
According to your definition, structural. The clause constituents can be rearranged without changing their inflections: O teliro amararara am veveam. the:M-AGT farmer-AGT AOR-kill-3SG:P-3SG:A the:C-OBJ duckling-OBJ 'The farmer killed the duckling.' Am veveam amararara o teliro. the:C-OBJ duckling-OBJ AOR-kill-3SG:P-3SG:A the:M-AGT farmer-AGT 'The duckling was killed by the farmer.' There isn't even a passive voice. (Poor duckling.)
> The Latin & Warlpiri natlang examples of freedom strike me as comparatively > uninteresting, because they can be analysed in terms of flat clause > structures without internal ordering -- nothing that looks like > thoroughgoing scrambling. But conlangs very possibly have more of interest > to offer here...
Well, Old Albic is pretty much like Latin in this regard. How it is to be described in terms of transformational grammar, I leave as an exercise to the transformational grammarians. I myself think of it in terms of NPs, etc., only that these manifest as agreement relations and not necessarily as groups of neighbouring words (although in the *unmarked* order, they do). ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf