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Re: A gripping language, and a question about suprasegmental analysis (WAS: re: conlanging partners)

From:Leland Kusmer <lelandpaul@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 25, 2008, 5:53
On Sat, Nov 22, 2008 at 9:41 PM, Sai Emrys <sai@...> wrote:

> On Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 11:48 AM, Sai Emrys <sai@...> wrote: > > recently we started figuring out how we might be able to make a conlang > entirely mediated > > by touch (of the sort where we could talk to each other discretely, > > masked by normal behavior like holding hands). > > So, we discussed this again more recently.
Hmm. This idea has occurred to me in the past, though usually I took it along the English-code lines that a few others above have suggested. Of course, it's far more interesting this way. :)
> > Second, we made a preliminary pass at enumerating the phonological > inventory. This is divided into a few semi-parallelized channels: > > * grip: A-dominant, B-dominant; possibly other variants also, not > fully enumerated
Looking below, it seems to me that the dominant person always has the more flexible position, phonologically speaking, and so my temptation is to build in the asymmetry as a discourse element: The person with the dominant (thumb outside) grip speaks, and turns are taken. (I find this slightly unsatisfying, but it seems most practical.)
> > > * thumb disposition: default, dominant thumb under sub thumb > (sub-dominant?), and dominant pointer over sub thumb (double > dominant?) > - I do double dominant by leaving dom thumb as is, and just moving dom > pointer over the tip of sub thumb, in a somewhat side-by-side > position)
I like having both the sub and double positions with just touching the tip of the sub thumb (which, to me, implies a naming scheme in which these are named for the thumb and index finger, respectively – so maybe the three positions are default, "thumb-up" and "index-up"). Of course, each of these places it's own limitations on the movements possible at that point: "thumb-up" doesn't allow a thumb squeeze; "index-up" doesn't allow the index finger to perform any movements at all (it seems to me). Another possibility: What about extending dom thumb so that it makes contact with the sub wrist? Or, thumb sticking straight out, making no contact?
> > > * disposition transitions: short-short, short-stroke, or stroke-* (I > found stroke-stroke and stroke-short to be too hard to reliably do > differently) > - short = minimal contact w/ other finger except as needed to transition > - stroke = stroke up or down other finger during that segment of the > transition
I'm not certain I understand what you mean by these. As far as I can interpret your descriptions, I'm unable to differentiate the second half of these transitions at all (it's all just "put finger into place"; perhaps this has to do with my interpretations of the dispositions as always having the point of contact on the tip of the sub thumb?).
> > > * motions: > - 1..5th knuckle press (coded by recipient's knuckle, thumb = 1st) > - 1..4th gap press (1st gap = thumb web) > - 1..4th short gap press (gap press is made w/ finger extended, short > gap press w/ finger pad pulled back to be against the fleshier bit) > - ? 1..5th finger squeeze (coded by squeezer's lower-ordinal squeezing > finger, e.g. dom 1st squeeze = squeeze sub thumb w/ thumb & pointer) > - ? finger separation (only possible from double-dominant grip) > - ? some subset of the combinations thereof
It strikes me that the first three of these have a markedness order: Knuckle
> short gap > gap, in that knuckle press requires lifting and twisting the
finger and short gap requires lifting. (The exception is thumb knuckle press, which seems fairly unmarked. I should note that I'm assuming that the person with the sub thumb is always the recipient, here.) I have no trouble differentiating ring finger and pinky presses; I have lots of trouble differentiating middle/ring squeeze from ring/pinky squeeze. Not certain what you mean by finger separation. Do you possibly mean extending all fingers so that the pads no longer make contact with the recipient's hand? If so, I don't see why this needs double-dominant grip; if not... well, it's another movement to add to the list. Also, what about lifts of various fingers, as movements unto themselves?
> > > * elbow-dominance (walking hand-in-hand, dominant elbow is in front)
In my experience, this is completely decided by some combination of difference in height and hand/thumb dominance preferences. I'd think it would be rather clunky to use it in any way here.
> > > * torsion (?neutral, dominant out, and dominant in - e.g. dominant out > has the whole dominant thumb base outside the sub thumb) > - ? possibly these can be characterized as motions instead of states
I prefer these as motions, definitely. And along the same lines: a palm press seems a fairly distinctive motion to make (it's really just tortion but along the other main axis); similarly, a palm withdrawal might work out. Starting to think about phonotactics a bit: I definitely prefer words to be all in one disposition, with any disposition change indicating the start of the word. (This ends up with the flavor of a self-segregating morphology, at least at the word level: a disposition change always signals a word boundary. In cases where no disposition change would be necessary, you could add a movement derived from the disposition change: So a tap on the tip of the sub thumb in "thumb-up" and "index-up" positions, etc., though differentiating short and stroke changes then becomes tricky.) This, of course, means that the initial phoneme of a word determines a particular subset of phonemes allowable for the rest of the word (i.e. a 1st knuckle press is impossible if the thumb is positioned on the sub wrist). Certain of the movements listed above can be superimposed, while others can't. So a press and a squeeze cannot (fluently) be done at once; I also feel as though (for instance) 3rd and 4th gap presses at once would be hard to distinguisgh from just one or the other, while 1st and 4th together would be highly distinct. I see two routes here: Either we should ennumerate the possible movement combinations as phonemes unto themselves, or allow them as allophonic variations conditioned by quick speech (contractions, more or less). I see benefits and disadvantages to both sides. It's now too late at night, and I ought to be sleeping. -Leland


Sai Emrys <sai@...>