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Re: Telona grammar, part 2

From:Jim Grossmann <steven@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 12, 2002, 16:12
Thanks for another cool post!

You're certainly right about dative and plural;   IIRC, Chinese gets along
just fine without a bound plural morpheme, and uses quantity-words to
express plurality when necessary.   I've designed a language in which  a
modifier meaning "more than one" does the work of plural "-s."   That word
is also used as a pronoun meaning "more than one of them."    As for dative,
English provides examples almost too obvious to mention.   No dative case?
Word order and a preposition or two will do in a pinch.

As for the divided lexicon, I agree that it would present more problems, but
I would have to try to solve them if I took this project on.    As you
pointed out, strings of same-class words, all interpreted as existential
clauses, would be very boring at best.   If I took this project on, I would
try for two or three word classes, each with TONS of affixes.   Yes, the
idea that such a grammar could work is no more than a wild hunch on my part.

Alas, I don't have time to take on this project.   I'm working on two
grammars that need vocabulary and sample-texts, a third grammar in the oven,
and several non-conlang projects as well.

One nitpick:   techically, are pidgins natlangs?    I've heard that they're
contrived by definition, although they take their lexicons from natlangs,
and often serve as the ancestors of natlangs (namely creoles) in the space
of a generation.

----- Original Message -----
From: <jaspax@...>
To: <steven@...>
Cc: <conlang@...>
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2002 12:05 AM
Subject: Re: Telona Grammar, part 2

> > > Actually, I think the better question is: is this possible? How > could > > > one conceivably make a language in which ANY sequence of morphemes is > > > well-formed? If such a language were to exist, it would have to > accept > > > sentences like this just-created example: > > > > > pa toko rana but gaw dom pes hama zeju. > > > PAST PL SUBJ DAT QUOT fish take bubble bite. > > > > %% Past and subjunctive markers could occur anywhere in a > > sentence without impairing understanding. Also, the target language > in > > question would not necessarily have dative, plural, or "QUOT" > (referring to > > direct quotes?) morphemes. > > Good points, all. And yes, the QUOT particle is used to introduce direct > quotes (my conlang, Yivríndil, has one, which is why I probably thought > of this. Yivríndil, oddly enough, doesn't have a way to do what we call > indirect discourse.) Note, however, that even if a language has no > morphemes for dative and plural, it must have ways of expressing these > ideas. > > > So let's look at what's left, which I'll > > render strictly in glosses, since this is a nonce language. > > > > FISH TAKE BUBBLE BITE > > > > As you probably realize, we're talking about sentences that are > > *syntactically* well-formed, not necessarily semantically > > interpretable. > > I overlooked this initially. An important point. And in fact, once I > look at this sentence with an open mind, I *can* interpret it: "The fish > takes a bubble and bites it." > > > Also, we're not excluding the possibility that word order could > > change the meaning of the sentence; we're merely saying that all the > word > > orders would be grammatical. Also, we are not excluding a lexicon > divided > > into two or more word-classes (like nouns vs. verbs). > > I think a divided lexicon would provide you with the most problems, > actually--even though I think every natlang has more than one lexical > category. This may be the intractable problem--how does this language > interpret strings of words in the same class? If I say: > > FISH BUBBLE ABSOLUTION COW CALCULUS > > . . . what relationship can these elements hold? The easy answer, which > I consider a cop out, is to say that it's a conjoined set of existential > sentences: "There exist fish, a bubble, absolution, a cow, and calculus." > You can obviously deal with verb strings the same way: > > UNDERTAKE CARRY SCRIBBLE BLEND CONFUSE > > means "Someone undertakes to carry and scribble and blend and confuse." > But this isn't interesting, or even all that unusual. If a friend walked > up to me and simply named a bunch of nouns, I'd probably say "What are > you talking about?", but I wouldn't consider his sentence ungrammatical. > The real challenge would be to come up with something in which long > strings of nouns have an interesting structure and still are > interpretable. > > In fact, there *is* a class of natlangs in which any or nearly string of > words is grammatical--pidgins. Early stages of pidgins are known for > their loose word-order principles and lack of grammatical operators, > which is strikingly like this. A lot of pidgin sentences do essentially > boil down to a couple of nouns and a couple of verbs thrown together at > random, and with enough context they're still understandable. But this > feature is what makes pidgins unstable and primitive--and most > importantly, this property is never retained in the creole. When pidgins > are nativized, they suddenly start rejecting some sentences as > ungrammatial. > > So I retract my earlier objection, and offer another one. It's perfectly > possible to create a language in which every sentence is syntactially > well-formed, but it would be an unstable and non-native grammar. You're > still welcome to try, though! > > Jesse S. Bangs Pelíran > jaspax@ > "Skin and tragedy always attract a crowd." > --Pedro the Lion


Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>Are pidgins natlangs? (was Re: Telona Grammar, part 2)