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Unattested... but possible?

From:Patrick Littell <puchitao@...>
Date:Saturday, March 19, 2005, 19:54
I'm writing a document about linguistic typology for conlangers --
more specifically, students of mine whose interest in fantasy,
science-fiction, games, and the like gives me a lever to teach them a
bit about how real human language works.  Interspersed throughout the
text are snapshots of actual languages that illustrate some features,
random digressions about the human brain, and the like.

I want to scatter some idea-seeds throughout the text about language
features (and combinations thereof) that are not attested in any
actual language but nonetheless don't seem to violate any linguistic
universals.  Here's a passage from Comrie's Language Universals and
Linguistic Typology that inspired this:

"Although there is a correlation between isolating and monosyllabic
languages, the two parameters are in principle distinct... one could
imagine a language with some morphology but where the morphology was
restricted to changes in consonants and tone, without affecting the
monosyllabic nature of the word."

This sort of language -- a monosyllabic language inflecting through
consonant mutation and ablaut -- is incidentally my favorite
"conlang-template".  What I'm looking for is more ideas of this sort.

Take, as another example, "prefixaufnahme".  Suffixaufnahme is
vanishingly rare, and really only found in adjunct-head,
overwhelmingly suffixing languages.  Since case-marking in general is
not  as common in head-adjunct languages, it's not surprising that
"prefixaufnahme" is so rare as to be nonexistent.  It doesn't,
however, appear to be *impossible*.  I think "prefixhaufüng", too,
would fall under the category of unattested-yet-possible.

I would love to hear other ideas along these lines.  Any takers?

Patrick Littell
Voice Mail: ext 744
Spring 05 Office Hours: M 3:00-6:00


Patrick Littell <puchitao@...>
David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>