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Existential voice

From:Gregory Gadow <techbear@...>
Date:Monday, May 2, 2005, 1:13
I've had a lot of time recently to give my conlang a good going-over, and
I'm discovering all kinds of odd things about it that I never really
looked at before.

What has my attention at the moment is the "existential voice." The
construct in English of "it is raining" has always bothered me: what is
"it", and why should "it" be raining and not me or the dog or Aunt
Matilda's Studebaker? My solution was to create a distinct voice for when
a verb has no specific do-er or done-to, the existential voice. It is
expressed by putting the verb in a special form (the "indefinite"
inflection); the verb can take modifiers (definitiveness, tense, "nowness"
and duration) and qualitatives (a generic grammar class that includes
adjectives and adverbs) but has no nouns associated with it. Thus:

plüva'n [pluvA'n] - to sprinkle (water)
plüvawne [pluva'h\nE] - it is raining

Rather than creating something just for weather, I want to extend this
voice to include political and social climate. That would give expressions
that are succinct in Glörsa but a bit awkward to translate in to English:

dhëghösan [DeGo'sAn] - to make war on
dhëghösawne [DeGo'sAh\nE] - "it is warring" (the countryside is at war)

yövïnan [jovi'nAn] - to harvest
yövïnawne [jovi'nAh\nE] - "it is harvesting" (the crops are ripe and
everyone is busy harvesting them)

I know what I'm trying to say, but the use looks very strange. Even
stranger was when I put the verb "to hope" in this voice and adding the
modifiers for strong definitiveness (föle) and habitual action (zëthe):

hütawne föle zëthe [hutA'h\nE fo'lE ze'TE]

This sentence could be translated as, "it has a habit of repeatedly
hoping, most definitely" or more loosely, "hope springs eternal."

What I would like to ask is,

* Am I using the term "voice" correctly?
* Given my description, does it look like I'm using this voice correctly?
* Are there any natlangs with something similar that I could use as a model?
* Any suggestions on how I can extend to other uses I haven't thought of?

Thanks for your input.

Gregory Gadow


Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>