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Re: Telona grammar, part 2

From:Jim Grossmann <steven@...>
Date:Monday, February 11, 2002, 7:18
Reply to message inserted between original text, and introduced with %%.

----- Original Message -----
From: <jaspax@...>
To: <steven@...>
Sent: Saturday, February 09, 2002 10:31 AM
Subject: Re: Telona Grammar, part 2

> > I still have one question. I'm not sure if it applies to Telona, > > but it > > may apply to other a priori conlangs. > > > > Is it wise to construct a syntax in which all--or most--possible > > sequences > > of morphemes constitute syntactically well-formed utterances? > > 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. 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. 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). Hence, these examples: One word sentences are existential. 1. FISH = There is a fish. 2. TAKE = There is taking. Taking is happening. Taking is occurring. 3. BUBBLE = There is a bubble. 4. BITE = There is biting. Biting is happening. Biting is occurring. 5. FISH BITE = The fish bites. 6. BITE FISH = The fish is bitten. 7 & 8. FISH BITE BUBBLE; BUBBLE BITE FISH = (the obvious) 9. BITE FISH BUBBLE = The bubble and the fish are bitten. 10. FISH BUBBLE BITE = The fish and the bubble bite. 11. FISH BITE BUBBLE TAKE = The fish bites the bubble (that is) taking. 12. BITE FISH BUBBLE TAKE = The fish is bitten as the bubble takes. 13. FISH BUBBLE BITE TAKE = The fish and bubble bite and take. 14. BITE TAKE FISH BUBBLE = The fish and bubble are bitten and taken. 15. FISH BITE TAKE BUBBLE = The fish bites and takes the bubble. 16. BITE FISH BUBBLE TAKE = The fish is bitten and the bubble is taken. Now, I'm not claiming that the syntax here is rigorous. Furthermore, your question remains valid. After all, it's not as if I've worked out a complete reference grammmar. Maybe a scheme like the one I've just illustrated would fail once we got into modifiers and complex sentences. But I have at least started a tiny nonce-grammar in which all the strings are well-formed.
> Now, one could conceivably invent syntactic relationships between those > elements and make something sensical, but how would a native speaker do > this? Does PL refer to fish or bubbles? What's QUOT doing in there? > Etc, etc. I'm pretty sure that this impossible--every language has to > have restraints on word order and morpheme order.
%% Not all languages have syntactic restraints on word order; affixes can do the work of word order in a pinch. I guess each language has restraints on morpheme order at some point, but with the right number of word classes, I think that one *might* be able to devise a syntax in which all the utterances are well-formed, as roughly illustrated above.
> However, if you'd like to challenge this, I'd love to see some examples > of what you're thinking of.
> Jesse S. Bangs Pelíran > (since I actually have time to answer conlang e-mails today :-) )
Well, that's what I was thinking of. Thanks for the e-mail! Jim G.