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Humbly beg a critique of a role-marking system for my language.

From:Steven Williams <feurieaux@...>
Date:Thursday, August 19, 2004, 16:30
For my dearest conlang, /gi-an-nain/ [],
I've come up with a way of marking roles that I like a
lot. Since I know that I'm ignorant and a big, goofy
monkey, I lay this before the more knowledgeable of
the list for suggestions.

Essentially, it's three core roles are the 'agent',
the 'patient' and the 'experiencer'. I think I saw a
similar system in Mandarin, but I took only a cursory
glance at the grammar, so I might have misunderstood.

The agent is, predictably enough, the voluntary actor
in a sentence. Example:

/a-t tsaia-s'a/
3sg.ACT twitch.PER
'he/she has twitched' (as a voluntary action; perhaps
the actor was pretending to have a tic)

The patient is the recipient of an action done by the
agent (whether or not the agent is specifically

/a-s'ah tsaia-s'a/
3sg.PAT twitch.PER
'he/she *was twitched' (he or she was caused to twitch
by some tangible outside force, like a shock of
electricity or a bad Ernest movie)

The experiencer, however, is something a bit stranger
than both. In meaning, it comes close to the German
tendency to use dative objects to express things like
'I'm cold' ('mir ist kalt'); the experiencer can be
either the doer of an action without a patient ('she
is going on a walk') or the experiencer of some state
('he is cold').

/a-nu tsaia-s'a/
'he/she has twitched' (he or she just twitched,
nothing more to it and any speculation on the matter
is irrelevant)

The actual usage varies quite a bit. One experiencing
a state can be marked as an actor, implying that the
state was his or her own doing ('he is cold [because
he forgot to pack his coat]').

This completely removes the need in gi-an-nain to mark
valency on the verb, except in reflexive and
'applicative' functions (where an oblique object is
raised to a patient and the specific marker is placed
on the verb, as in 'he *underswam the bridge').

But at any rate, I haven't really developed this
system in any great detail, so I welcome any
suggestions or critiques the more-learned among you
may have to offer.

"Alle Idole müssen sterben."
"All idols must die."

--Einstürzende Neubauten, "Seele Brennt" (Soul is on Fire)

"Where am I? What is this thing called 'the world'? Who is it who has lured me into
the thing, and now leaves me here? How did I come into the world? Why was I not

--Søren Kierkegaard

"You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need
not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and
solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no
choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."

--Franz Kafka, Journals


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