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Some scattered thoughts about Kaman (YAC)

From:Mangiat <mangiat@...>
Date:Friday, February 27, 2004, 19:20
Ok... here are some scrappy ideas I've been working on over the last two

Kaman is only a new label for an old ongoing project (formerly known as
Senquarian and later as Engrian). God only knows how long this name will
last. I've been spending an awful lot of time trying to rough out the basics
of its phonology, but after all this effort I'm still unsure whether I want
to explain some phonological alternations using consonantal length or
syllable contact... My ideas about the issue are now even in a worse
disarray than a year ago... So I decided to move on and try to outline the
morphological and syntactical structures of the language and let the
phonology stray for a while...

Kaman is going to be an accusative language. After reading the paper about
unaccusativity in Italian I mentioned a couple of days ago I may want to
introduce in this language something similar to what happens in my mother
tongue, but that is something much beyond the current development of the
project. I've been playing around with SOV word order long enough to
understand I like it and I'm going to stick to it. The general structure of
the language owes much to a grammatical description of Tuvan (a Turkic
language spoken in the Russian Altay, around Kyzyl) I'm currently reading.
The little I've read about Hindi also constitutes a major inspiration. This
means that Kaman will be a consistently OV language, with modifiers always
preceding heads- be they adjectives, adverbs or subordinate clauses. The
morphological structure of the language is somewhere between the
agglutinative and the fusive types, much closer to the former than to the
latter. Nouns should inflect for 4/5 cases (nom, acc, dat, gen; loc should
be used with proper names only); adpositional phrases are obviously realized
by means of postpositions.

The part of the system I'm now working on is verbs. I'm going to steal from
Turkic languages (and Hindi, too) a wide use of auxiliary verbs and
converbs. The verbal system has just turned from an aspect-based to a
tense-based one (the process has been evolving over the last five centuries,
probably). The original system displayed only an opposition between two
aspects,  perfective vs. imperfective. Tense wasn't consistently expressed,
and had to be deduced from context (Chinese does it, doesn't it?). For

1)    [ol] suhe põs
       he water drink.IMPF.3s

2)    [ol] suhe põste
       he water drink.PF.3s

1) could mean "he was drinking, he is drinking, he will be drinking",
whereas 2) generally meant "he drank up, he has drunk, he will have drunk".
Perfect, however, was only seldom used to describe a perfective action in
the future, and started to be used for the past only. The Imperfect
consequently developed a 'tensy' present/future meaning. Meanwhile an
interesting system of auxiliaries accompanied by converbs (verbs with an
adverbial function within the sentence; see French and Italian gerund(ive))
evolved. Basically, some semantically bleached auxiliary verbs (to be, to
stand, to lie, to do...) combine with converbs to create a predicate with
new aspectual values.

3)    [ol] suhe põskon ha
       he water drink.CONV be.P/F.3s
       he is/will be drinking water (progressive aspect)

4)    [ol] suhe põse tur
       he water drink.CONV do.P/F.3s
       he (usually) drinks water (label for this aspect?)

5)    [ol] suhe põsol õve
       he water drink.CONV lie.P/F.3s
       he has/will have drunk water (a new perfective formation)
       The converb used in this last sentence (-Vl) has a perfective
meaning: the literal meaning of the sentence is "he lies having drunk/after
drinking water".

In the examples above auxiliaries are given in the present/future (P/F)
tense (the former imperfective aspect), but they can also be used in their
past (formerly perfective) forms, yielding the following meanings: 3b) he
was drinking water; 4b) he (usually) drank water; 5b) he had drunk water.
The menaing of 3b) evolved from a previous "he has (will have) completed
(perfective auxiliary verb) the action of drinking water (progressive
converb)" etc. The traditional simple verbs (i.e., with no auxiliaries) are
now slowly disappearing, but I think they will be retained in writing, where
they should keep much of their former aspectual connotation...

Well... does this aspect->tense shift make sense? All comments will be
greatly appreciated.