Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Changing worldviews with language (LONG)

From:David Peterson <digitalscream@...>
Date:Sunday, November 3, 2002, 11:54
Harald wrote:

<<Consequently, we lazily specifiy one location for three (!)
parts of the utterance: the subject "I", the object "pizza" and the
present-tense activity
"eat".>>   (A representative phrase from a section which I've snipped most

Wow.   It's like you've just pointed that, sometimes, you can't tell the way
English words are pronounced from the way they're spelled...   ;)   Sorry,
but this all seems a tad presumptuous.   In fact, we had just this discussion
a few weeks ago, didn't we?   Dealing with ambiguity.   I remember I listed
an example from my language Zhyler on how the ambiguity was resolved.   I
don't want to post it again, but it was via word order: If you put the
"prepositional" phrase (there are no prepositions in Zhyler) directly before
the verb, then it describes the place where the action is done; if you put it
before any of the verb's arguments, it describes the place of those
arguments.   Thus, no more ambiguity.   However, I also suggested that you
don't necessarily *have* to get rid of ambiguity, and that getting rid of
ambiguity is not necessarily a good thing.   If the ambiguity of a given
language is completely consistent with the ambiguity present in the first
language of the creator (or whatever language s/he's modeling the created
language after), then the ambiguity is suspect.   Otherwise, what's wrong
with ambiguity?   There's a reason that all languages have it, and you can't
just say it's due to laziness.

<<First we could of course expand our
freshly defined predicate "eat", thus: eat(x,y,z) - whereas "z" is the
location where the
eating takes place.>>

And you could also have a verb where the location argument is y, and the
thing eaten has to be alluded to obliquely, or an "inherently passive" verb,
where the agent is the thing eaten, and the direct object is the eater.   Or
you could get rid of the eaten thing all together, and get a verb meaning
something like "to dine at", and the eaten thing would be rendered obliquely.
  You could even have a verb where the subject is the place at which eating
is done, the object is the eaten thing, and the eater is rendered
obliquely--or vice versa.   Natural languages do this with applicatives,
usually.   But anyway, the point is, this is not new.   True, there are
language creators who don't do it, or don't think about it, but I bet you a
lot more have than haven't.   I do it all the time.   One purposeful one is
like the word having to do with "disappointment" in Kamakawi, /fula/.
/fula/ translates best as "to be disappointed."   So you could say...

A fula ei.   /new subject, disappoint-PRES., 1sg./   "I am disappointed" or
"I feel disappointment".

You can't turn that into a transitive verb and say, "I disappoint you."   If
you want that other argument in there, the only way to do it is with the
oblique/instrumental, /ti/:

A fula ei ti ia.   /new subject, disappoint-PRES., 1sg., INS., 2sg./   "I'm
disappointed because of you" or "You disappoint me.

This is the only way to do it.   I did it this way because of this idea I
have of taking personal responsibility for one's emotions.   So in English,
the verb "disappoint" is inherently transitive, suggesting that if someone is
disappointment, it's because something else caused him/her to be that way.
In Kamakawi, the idea is that no matter what causes it, it's oneself that's
responsible for how one feels, so the subject is the agent and patient of the
disappointment, and the verb is just an emotion verb, like "to be happy" in
English (we don't say, "I'm happied", or "You've happied me", or anything
like that).   That's just what I wanted for Kamakawi.   I'm not suggesting
it's the best way or the only way, by any means.   I do it different ways in
different languages.   You could, for example, go the other way, too, and
make the base verb of a different language "to be made happy" or "to be
happied", like the example I made up.   It all depends on what you want.

<<If we wanted a most universal and generic language with a lexicon full of
then why restrict those concepts by any pre-defined valency?>>

What if you *don't* want that kind of a language?   I'd suggest that if not
most people on the list, then a fair number, at least, don't.   I like to try
to make my best to make languages look like they could exist or could have
come to exist in the world as we know it.   As such, real world languages
aren't very universal or generic--aren't universal grammar.

Anyway, though, it's nice to hear when other people are thinking about things
like this.   :)   It can always lead to more ideas.


"imDeziZejDekp2wilDez ZejDekkinel..."
"You can celebrate anything you want..."
               -John Lennon