Vampire dialogue again
|From:||J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>|
|Date:||Monday, January 22, 2001, 19:20|
Well, I think I've come up with an analysis of Prof. Fromkin's
vampire dialogue that I can live with. Arriving at this analysis
involved some fudging (readjustment of word boundaries, liberal
rehearing of some sounds, etc.), but at least I've achieved a
certain amount of internal consistency, and come up with a
syntactic structure which is somewhat appealing to my personal
For the curious, I'll give the lines again, with
morpheme-by-morpheme glosses and comments:
Krat pruchiri busistampol protolukchano, Frost.
"You are a disgrace to the vampire nation, Frost."
kra-t p-ruchir-i busistampol proto-lukch-an-o,
you-Erg Stat-bring-Pst disgrace collectivity-vampire-Pl-Obl
I've decided that Vampiric is a split-ergative language of the
Georgian/Hindi type: It has ergative/absolutive marking in past
tense sentences and nominative/accusative marking in present and
future tense sentences. Since this sentence is past tense, the
word for "you" is marked with the ergative suffix _-t_ (this
particular word for "you", _kra_, is used by a social superior to
address a social inferior, the Vampiric equivalent of Romance
The verb in this sentence is _ruchira_ "bring (forth)". The
suffix _-i_ marks past tense, while the prefix _p-_ is a stative
marker, used to derive adjectives and perfective verbs:
kra ruchira "you bring, you are bringing"
krat ruchiri "you brought, you were bringing"
krat pruchira "(it) is brought by you"
krat pruchiri "(it) was brought by you, you have brought"
The word _busistampol_ "disgrace" is probably complex, but I'm
not sure how to analyse it.
The noun _protolukchan_ is marked with the oblique
(genitive/dative) case suffix _-o_. _Lukcha_ means "vampire",
and the plural is _lukchan_. The element _proto_ means something
like "collectivity"; prefixing it to a plural noun forms a noun
referring to a group of individuals acting together. Thus,
_protolukchan_ can mean a house or coven of vampires--or by
extension, the supreme house/coven, vampiredom, which in the
movie is translated as "vampire nation".
Yachtu spuli litwa, ochach planika dura saazdo ...
"If we break the treaty, if we gather in numbers ..."
yachtu s-pul-i litw-a, ochach p-lani-ka dura
if Nzn-agree-Nom break-Fut 1incl Stat-together-Fut many
There are two words for "if", _yachtu_ and _chaaz_, which are
perhaps historically related. The former is used to form
conditionals (denoting events which might come to pass), and
takes verbs in the future tense. The latter is used to form
counterfactuals (denoting events which might have come to pass
but didn't), and takes verbs in the subjunctive.
The root _pul_ means "agree"; adding the nominalising prefix _s-_
gives _spul_ "agreement, compact, treaty".
_Ochach_ is the nominative/absolutive form of the first person
The word _lani_ means "together" or "assembled". Adding the
stative prefix _p-_ gives a verbal form meaning "be together, be
in a group". The suffix _-ka_ (or _-a_ in some cases) marks
Mabochachi ma taihoranta orastupraka ritsa!
"The human politicians will make our lives very difficult!"
mab-ochach-i ma tiahor-an-ta orastu-pra-ka ritsa
life-1incl-Nom from politician-Pl-Erg difficult-make-Fut truly
Possession is indicated by suffixing a person/number marker in
between the stem and the case marker (if any; the
nominative/absolutive is sometimes unmarked, depending on the
mab-ochach-i "our life"
mab-ochach-o "to/of our life"
Note that _maba_ means "life" in the sense of "way of life".
_Mabi lukcho_ "the vampire way of life" is a common euphemism for
the Thirst, the need for vampires to feed on human blood.
The ablative preposition _ma_, which takes a noun phrase in the
ergative case, marks indirect causation, among other things.
The word _tiahora_, translated as "human politician", really
means something like "authority figure who colludes with vampires
to keep their secret hidden, in exchange for money/favours". It
is mildly perjorative. I suspect it is a borrowed word, although
I have yet to identify the language it comes from.
The word _orastu_ "difficult" is formed from _orast_ "difficulty"
plus an adjectival suffix _-u_ (also found in _siznu_ "awake").
Adding the suffix _-pra_ forms a causative verb _orastupra_ "make
Umfalat poskani krat ko dobranko, chaaz kalinka paskolzo.
"You would understand this, if your blood were pure."
um-fal-at p-osk-an-i kra-t ko dobra-nk-o
well-hold-Cond Stat-speak-Pl-Nom you-Erg in heart-2s-Obl
chaaz kali-nka pa-skolz-o
if blood-2s Stat-pure-Subjunct
The speaker of this sentence is an old vampire chastising the
villian for transgressing the vampire code. He employs the
demeaning second person pronoun _kra_ (used by a superior to
address an inferior--e.g., a servant, vampire child, or potential
victim). He further seeks to humiliate the younger vampire by
employing an archaic idiom for "understand", namely _umfala ko
dobro_ "hold fast in one's heart". The sentence is thus
literally "These words would be held fast by thee in thy heart,
if thy blood were pure".
The root of _umfalat_ is _fal_, meaning "hold". Adding the
emphatic prefix _um-_ gives _umfala_ "hold fast, hold tightly".
The suffix _-at_ forms the conditional ("would hold fast").
The verb _osk_ means "speak". Adding the stative prefix _p-_
forms a participle "spoken", which is then nominalised to give
"that which is spoken" (i.e. "word, utterance"). The plural
nominative form is _poskani_ "words, pronouncement(s)".
Notice the second person singular possessive suffix _-nk(a)_,
used twice in this sentence.
Sika-lu pala tat kapro Blade?
"Don't we have enough trouble with Blade?"
sika-lu p-ala ta-t kapro Blade?
trouble-Qu.Neg Stat-suffice 1incl-Erg on.account.of Blade
The particle _lu_, which attaches as a clitic after the first
phrase in the clause, marks the sentence as a negative question.
_Tat_ is the ergative form of _ochach_, the first person
inclusive pronoun. Note that there is no word for "have" in
Vampiric; instead, possession is marked with ergative case. Thus
_sika pala tat_ is literally something like "trouble is
sufficient by us".
The preposition _kapro_ normally takes a noun phrase in the
oblique case (e.g., _kapro lukchano_ "on account of the
vampires"). However, foreign names are exempt from this rule,
hence the absence of an oblique suffix on _Blade_.
Redani protowuchano siznupraka umportaa, umpanuwa
"The spirits of the twelve will awaken La Magra, the Blood God"
red-an-i proto-wuch-an-o siznu-pra-ka umporta-a
spirit-Pl-Nom collective-twelve-Pl-Obl awake-make-Fut La
Notice the element _proto_ "collectivity" from the first sentence
repeated here. _Wuch_ means "twelve", so _protowuchan_ is a
group of twelve individuals acting together.
Since this sentence is in future tense, the subject is marked
with nominative case (rather than ergative case) and the object
is marked with accusative case (rather than nominative). The
accusative suffix for animate nouns is _-a_, which becomes _-wa_
when attached to a noun ending in a rounded vowel.
Well, that's about it. Comments welcome!