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Telona grammar, part 2

From:Jonathan Knibb <jonathan_knibb@...>
Date:Sunday, February 3, 2002, 16:27
Having gone through the basic syntactic and semantic principles in my last
post, I can get on to more meaty topics, and maybe even discuss a complete
sentence or two :)

At the end of part 1, I used the phrase 'tyha dene' (tall man) to illustrate
the way a phrase is composed of two halves, in this case linked by the O
operator, indicating the intersection of the referent sets of the two words.
As I mentioned, it is important to keep track of which words refer to the
same entity and which do not; note here that all pairs of phrases linked by
the O operator co-refer.  Two phrases linked by any other operator do not
have to co-refer, and by and large do not do so (there are exceptions, but
they can be safely ignored at this stage).

There are two other operators, which are really two opposite forms of the
same operator.  Before explaining them, it is necessary to point out that
Telona phrases are strictly head-first - that is, the referent of a given
phrase is a subset of the referents of the first word in the phrase, and not
of those of any other non-co-referring word later in the phrase.  Even when
all the words co-refer, as in 'tyha dene', there are good pragmatic reasons
for considering 'tyha dene' to be a kind of 'tyha' (man), and 'dene tyha' to
be a type of 'dene' (tall thing).

The next operator is known as the + operator.  Like the other operators, it
links a pair of words or phrases, and indicates that the referent of the
first phrase is operating on that of the second.  Rather like the
relationship between a verb and its object, the way in which the first
phrase operates on the second is determined by the identity of the first
phrase, or rather by the identity of the first *word* of the first phrase -
the dictionary entry for each word specifies its relationship to its object
under the + operator (hereafter simply 'its object').  In fact, the +
operator is often used in translating English verb-object combinations,
although it has many other roles as well.  For example:

T:  lome enechini
Ti: lome + cechini
Ei: eat + apple
E:  eating (the/an) apple(s); (an/the) apple-eater

(I'll come back to the phonology later.)  Remember that the word for 'eat',
'lome', refers to the agent described as performing the action - so 'eater'
is a perfectly good translation of 'lome', although 'eating' is another way
of looking at it.  In accordance with the rule given in the last paragraph,
the phrase 'lome enechini' is a type of 'lome' - thus, the phrase as a whole
refers to the person doing the eating; an eater of apples is an eater, not
an apple.  Note that 'lome' and 'cechini' do not co-refer in this phrase; as
mentioned above, this is typical of the + operator.  Compare it with the
unlikely phrase:

T:  lome cechini
Ti: lome cechini
Ei: eat apple
E:  an apple which is eating something

...which describes the bizarre situation where 'eat' and 'apple' do co-
refer, being linked by the O operator.  Now, in the previous situation where
the apple is being eaten, one might want a phrase which referred to the
apple rather than to the eater, for example in a sentence which described
the apple further ('the apple he was eating was unripe').  It would be
incorrect to use:

T:  cechini loime
Ti: cechini + lome
Ei: apple + eat
E:  ??? an apple acting in some way upon an eater

...although this would indeed refer to an apple - in this phrase, it would
be appling an eater, so to speak ('apple' does not generally take an
object!).  (Note, however, that this is perfectly correct from a syntactic
point of view, albeit nonsense semantically.)  We need a way of saying that
the head of the phrase is acted upon by the second part of the phrase, and
this is accomplished by the third operator, called the - operator.  It
describes exactly the same relationship as the + operator, but reverses the
arguments.  So, the correct translation is:

T:  cechinos lome
Ti: cechini - lome
Ei: apple - eat
E:  an apple being eaten

Like any other phrase, 'cechinos lome' refers to the referent of its first
word, i.e. 'cechini', an apple.  Because the operator is '-', the second
half operates on the first half, so 'apple' is being operated on by 'eat'.
Note 'is being operated on': if the + operator corresponds to the active
transitive verb, then the - operator corresponds to the passive equivalent.
Just as in the 'tall man' example, where I emphasised that the entity had to
be both tall and a man simultaneously at the time of reference, so here the
apple has to be both an apple and being eaten at the same time - an apple
which has completed the process of being eaten, an 'eaten apple' is *not*
'cechinos lome' any more (even if it is still 'cechini', which is doubtful).

I'm sure you're all panting to hear about the phonology of the operators, so
I shall oblige. :))  For obvious reasons, the operators can only occur
between two words, never initially or finally in a sentence.  The + operator
attaches to the following word as a prefix, and the - operator to the
preceding word as a suffix.  The prefix is referred to as the E- prefix,
capitalised to indicate that it is not always realised as 'e-', and
similarly we have the -S suffix.

The E- prefix is realised as either 'e-' or 'a-', to harmonise with the
initial vowel of the word (remember that the Telona vowels are divided into
front /e i y/ and back /a o u/, pairing in those orders respectively).  In
taking the harmony feature from the word's initial vowel, that vowel itself
loses that feature, and comes to harmonise with the vowels in the rest of
the word (which all harmonise together, according to Telona's vowel harmony
rules).  There is a (more or less!) 50/50 chance that it already harmonises
with the rest of the word, and therefore will not change.  The other change
that takes place is that the initial consonant of the word softens,
according to the following rules:

p > m
t > l
c > n
k > w
b > f
d > s
r > h

Essentially, voiceless sounds become voiced and vice versa, and a stop
becomes a (roughly) homorganic continuant.  In the example above, 'lome +
cechini' > 'lome enechini': the prefix becomes 'e-' to harmonise with the
'e' of 'cechini', and the 'e' of 'cechini' remains 'e' to harmonise with the
remaining 'i' vowels, while the 'c' of 'cechini' becomes 'n' according to
the above lenition rules.  A few more examples: E-cyle > enyle; E-tosa >
alosa; E-doce > asice; E-telona > elalona.  In the latter two examples, the
first vowel of the word has changed to harmonise with the later vowels.

If the word already begins with a soft consonant (/m l n w f s h ch/) or a
vowel, something rather different happens.  The E- prefix is not realised as
a prefix at all, but causes diphthongisation of the first vowel of the word.
In this diphthong, the first element is either 'e' or 'a', corresponding to
the form the prefix would have taken, and the second element is either 'i'
or 'u', harmonising with the remaining vowels of the word.  (The sharper-
eyed among you may have noticed that the back counterpart of /i/ is actually
/o/, not /u/ ... but phonetically the sound is certainly [u], whether or not
it may underlyingly represent /o/, and the orthography reflects this.)  Some
examples: E-seni > seini; E-chota > chauta; E-honeli > haineli; E-ledaco >
leudaco; E-alo > aulo; E-irece > eirece; E-odire > aidire.  In phonetic
terms, the diphthong is an off-glide; i.e., the first element is the
stronger: /ei/ > [ej], /eu/ > [ew], /ai/ > [aj], /au/ > [aw].

The suffix -S is a little simpler.  It takes one of two forms, either '-s'
or '-l', depending on the last consonant of the word - if the consonant is
/p t c k m l n w/ or null (two consecutive vowels in final position), the
suffix is realised as '-s'; while if the consonant is /f s h ch b d g/ , the
suffix is realised as '-l'.  The final vowel of the word also changes to its
back counterpart (if it is already /a o u/, it does not change).  Some
examples:  seta-S > setas; liro-S > lirol; celi-S > celas; nade-S > nadal;
riniwi-S > riniwos; cakie-S > cakias.

Some examples of the syntax and phonology so far in action:

T:  tyha hiche
Ph: [ty:Ca Ci:xE]
Ti: tyha hiche
Ei: man run
E:  running man

T:  sosada kade
Ph: [so:sAdA ka:dE]
Ti: sosada kade
Ei: parrot dead
E:  dead parrot

T:  chilo laubama
Ph: [xi:lO lawbAmA]
Ti: chilo + lubama
Ei: kick + ball
E:  kicking a ball

T:  heki eiferesete
Ph: [Ce:kI ejf\E4EsEtE]
Ti: heki + eferesete
Ei: climb + Everest
E:  climbing Everest

T:  deredol pekoco
Ph: [de:4EdOl pe:kOcO]
Ti: deredi - pekoco
Ei: patient - operate-surgically-on
E:  a patient undergoing surgery

T:  chelas ma
Ph: [xe:lAs ma:]
Ti: chele - ma
Ei: lady - two
E:  two ladies

Oof!  I'm exhausted.  Sentences will have to wait for next time.


'O dear white children casual as birds,
Playing among the ruined languages...'
W. H. Auden, 'Hymn to St. Cecilia'
CMD v1.1 !l cN:R:S:H a++ y n2d:1d B? A-- E-- L++ N3 Is/v !k ia+++:++ p++ s++
m-- o--- P S---- Telona