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Language subleties (Was: Re: Optimum number of symbols,)

From:H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Date:Friday, May 24, 2002, 4:23
On Thu, May 23, 2002 at 11:47:50PM -0400, John Cowan wrote:
> (and pointless)! (Another example: "I do appreciate" sounds sincere, > whereas a simple "I appreciate" might be sincere or sarcastic. Who's to > know these things outside the L1 community?)
[snip] Well, I learned some of these distinctions through observation and experience. (The fact that I think in English might be a factor too... :-P) But then again, every language has its own peculiarities which non-L1 speakers have a hard time grappling with. For example, I'm composing my magnum opus in LaTeX right now -- it is the reference grammar / language description -- and I'm in the middle of writing the section about stative sentences. The language uses subtle distinctions between noun cases to express different attributes, which is really hard to describe (if at all possible) in an unambiguous way. One example is the difference between 1) jub0' d3m3'l and 2) jubi' d3m3'l. _jub0'_ is the originative case of the feminine pronoun _jubi'_; _jubi'_ is the locative case of the same. _d3m3'l_ means "prettiness". (1) is the normal way a native speaker would say it, "you(fem.) are pretty" -- prettiness being regarded as an expressive attribute, and hence the pronoun is put in the originative case. (2) is slightly unusual in using the locative case, which, in this context, indicates *inherent* beauty. Now, put (1) and (2) together, and change the pronoun in (2) to refer to another person, and suddenly (1) becomes a sarcastic statement: it is effectively stating that the woman only has skin-deep beauty, compared to the other woman in (2) who is pretty on the inside as well. All this, just from the difference of a single vowel that marks a different case. Who would have caught it if I hadn't explained it in detail? (Excluding my conlang's imaginary L1 speakers, that is.) T -- Music critic: "That's an imitation fugue!"