Struggling to grasp cases and voice

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Doranwen
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Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Doranwen » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 03:48

I may not be completely lost, but I feel like my brain just hits walls reading even the Wikipedia articles. I'll feel like I understand some and then I just am totally confused by how to apply anything I've just read to what I'm working on, and when I read words I don't understand, I feel even more lost and it becomes incredibly discouraging. At which point I give up for the moment and wander off to do something I can be successful at, and then I never get anywhere. Self-study of linguistics isn't working very well for me, but then self-study of few things works well for me without someone to dialogue with about the concepts. I have to talk things out, get clarity, feedback, etc., and when I first started conlanging I didn't have that option (besides the listserv which intimidated me entirely), so I never got around to finding a forum until recently.

So I'm trying to redo a conlang I started over a decade ago (and only worked on in bits and pieces now and then, never got beyond a few hundred words and a mostly "complete" grammar). I already settled on the phonology, that was the easy part for me. This language doesn't have so much of a separate world and culture as it's sort of my language, the way I'd like to be able to express myself and just be creative and all that. So I'm choosing features not based on what I think some hypothetical culture would have or what fits with them, but more on what I'd like to be able to do with it, if that makes sense.

Where I got entirely lost was trying to settle on cases. I know I want cases. I like the idea of cases a LOT. I'm not even daunted by big charts of inflections--I think that sounds fun, lol, as long as I know how to use them and all that. The trouble is, I go to look at the various systems--nominative/accusative, ergative/absolutive, active/stative, tripartite, etc.--and I understand the subject/agent/patient stuff, if the definitions are in front of me. (Well, I don't really get the trigger thing in the Austronesian system, but that's nothing I want to use so it doesn't concern me.) But as soon as it starts to go into things like passive and antipassive, I'm lost.

Equally, I found it easy to grasp the distinctions between the various levels of valency in impersonal, intransitive, transitive, ditransitive, etc., but as soon as it came to trying to figure out how to apply those concepts to my conlang, I found myself bewildered.

All I know at this point is:
- Part of why I like cases is that I want to free up word order to be able to use it for emphasis without duplicating things (as in English's "bananas, I love them", in order to emphasize that it's bananas that are being loved - is that a good example? English has to use both "bananas" and "them", I'd like to be able to say "bananas I love"--but to do that I'd have to settle on a default word order, which I lean towards SVO anyway) - or maybe I want to use some sort of particle/affix for emphasis, but either way, I want freer word order
- I love cases and would be happy with lots of them; I do not want a ton of loose prepositions floating around and would like to replace them all with cases if possible
- I totally don't mind ending up with long words that include a ton of things in them, as long as I can get my head around what I'm doing with them
- I'm leaning towards more inflections than agglutinating affixes, because I like the compactness of them (I don't think this is entirely contradictory with the previous point, either--that's the awesome part of inflections, making them carry a ton of meaning in just a couple phonemes)
- I like the idea of more clarity in communication, being able to be very precise about things, because I am always trying to express myself to make myself perfectly understood, so the grammar may end up more complicated just to be able to enable precise expression

Basically, I guess what I'm asking is:
- If I choose a tripartite system (I don't really care about rarity in real languages so much as I care about it making sense to me and being able to use them), what inflections do I need to create for my nouns--an unmarked for the ergative and two markings for the accusative and absolutive cases? Beyond the classic examples of using those cases, are there special situations I'll want to take into consideration with regards to marking case?
- What are they talking about with regards to passive and antipassive? Can someone show me examples--a very simple mock-conlang demonstration (with a simple set of phonemes) or use of English words with -ACC or -ABS tacked onto words to show where marking would occur will be more helpful than natural or other conlang language examples, as I think part of my brain shuts down when I see too many phonemes I can't pronounce in an example for grammatical concepts.
- Does anyone have any ideas that will help me figure out where I want to go with word order? This is sort of only tangentially related to the case thing, but I'm sort of needing to sort that out at the same time.
- Is there anywhere that lists all the possible other cases (dative, locative, etc.), or are cases one of those things you can always invent if it doesn't exist? Wikipedia had something of a list, but I'm not sure if it's exhaustive, and I found examples of English prepositions that I couldn't figure out how I'd map to those, so I wondered how to handle them.
- Given the desire to use cases in order to eliminate prepositions, plus the desire for clarity and precision in communication, it seems to me that I would likely end up with a lot of cases. How many do you think a reasonable number (without being ridiculous)? I don't want to just mirror English prepositions (because it'll just end up a relexification of English to an extent, that way), but with only background in English and Spanish, I don't think I'll have a lot of luck thinking of new ways to do things. I'm also not going to get very far with studying other languages "just to see how they handle those concepts". I'd welcome suggestions of cases to include, along with an illustration of the equivalent in English, but that's not a necessity.

If I'm asking too much, I apologize. I don't know where to begin, and I've hit the frustration wall so many times with this, it's ridiculous. I just really really want to be able to understand this so I can create my conlang and use it privately, and I know I'll be unsatisfied with it as long as I feel some grammar thing is vague in my mind (which there were several areas I was confused by, cases being one of them). Everything seems to assume a prior level of knowledge, or the ability to pick things up from Wikipedia, and sometimes that just doesn't work for me, leaving me bewildered.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by qwed117 » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 05:40

Doranwen wrote:- Part of why I like cases is that I want to free up word order to be able to use it for emphasis without duplicating things (as in English's "bananas, I love them", in order to emphasize that it's bananas that are being loved - is that a good example? English has to use both "bananas" and "them", I'd like to be able to say "bananas I love"--but to do that I'd have to settle on a default word order, which I lean towards SVO anyway) - or maybe I want to use some sort of particle/affix for emphasis, but either way, I want freer word order
If that's what you seek, then you will need a separate accusative and nominative case. The example you gave would be banana-ACC love 1SG-NOM, but could also be 1SG-NOM banana-ACC love, with the exact same meaning.
Doranwen wrote:- I love cases and would be happy with lots of them; I do not want a ton of loose prepositions floating around and would like to replace them all with cases if possible
- I totally don't mind ending up with long words that include a ton of things in them, as long as I can get my head around what I'm doing with them
- I'm leaning towards more inflections than agglutinating affixes, because I like the compactness of them (I don't think this is entirely contradictory with the previous point, either--that's the awesome part of inflections, making them carry a ton of meaning in just a couple phonemes)
- I like the idea of more clarity in communication, being able to be very precise about things, because I am always trying to express myself to make myself perfectly understood, so the grammar may end up more complicated just to be able to enable precise expression

Basically, I guess what I'm asking is:
- If I choose a tripartite system (I don't really care about rarity in real languages so much as I care about it making sense to me and being able to use them), what inflections do I need to create for my nouns--an unmarked for the ergative and two markings for the accusative and absolutive cases? Beyond the classic examples of using those cases, are there special situations I'll want to take into consideration with regards to marking case?
To my knowledge, the unmarked case should be the absolutive (the subject of the intransitive), with the ergative (the subject of the transitive) and the accusative (object of the transitive). A reduplicative marker could be used here making that only 1 maker really is used but that's just being picky.
Doranwen wrote:- What are they talking about with regards to passive and antipassive? Can someone show me examples--a very simple mock-conlang demonstration (with a simple set of phonemes) or use of English words with -ACC or -ABS tacked onto words to show where marking would occur will be more helpful than natural or other conlang language examples, as I think part of my brain shuts down when I see too many phonemes I can't pronounce in an example for grammatical concepts.
Hmm. Is an English sample okay?
Active = He hurt the dog
Passive = The dog was hurt by him
The point is that the subject and object are switched (technically this is the secondary effect, the main effect is that the subject is no longer the subject of the verb, and is instead relegated to a minor position as a causative), and a different variant of the verb is used to show the change. The causative object can now be deleted. The anti-passive is the same except in an ergative language. (Technically I'm reversing the proper steps, but oh well.
Doranwen wrote: - Does anyone have any ideas that will help me figure out where I want to go with word order? This is sort of only tangentially related to the case thing, but I'm sort of needing to sort that out at the same time.
You have free word order, so you shouldn't worry too much. It can be any of them. Or potentially, it could be free enough that it has multiple in prose.
Doranwen wrote: - Is there anywhere that lists all the possible other cases (dative, locative, etc.), or are cases one of those things you can always invent if it doesn't exist? Wikipedia had something of a list, but I'm not sure if it's exhaustive, and I found examples of English prepositions that I couldn't figure out how I'd map to those, so I wondered how to handle them.
- Given the desire to use cases in order to eliminate prepositions, plus the desire for clarity and precision in communication, it seems to me that I would likely end up with a lot of cases. How many do you think a reasonable number (without being ridiculous)? I don't want to just mirror English prepositions (because it'll just end up a relexification of English to an extent, that way), but with only background in English and Spanish, I don't think I'll have a lot of luck thinking of new ways to do things. I'm also not going to get very far with studying other languages "just to see how they handle those concepts". I'd welcome suggestions of cases to include, along with an illustration of the equivalent in English, but that's not a necessity.
I am not exactly sure as to the answer. I guess most if not all prepositions can be replaced partially by cases. I don't think the Wikipedia page is necessarily comprehensive and exhaustive. I would wonder how you would represent "before the clock" and "before the clock strikes two". It seems rare, but not impossible. I'd suggest maybe 15 cases at maximum.
Doranwen wrote: If I'm asking too much, I apologize. I don't know where to begin, and I've hit the frustration wall so many times with this, it's ridiculous. I just really really want to be able to understand this so I can create my conlang and use it privately, and I know I'll be unsatisfied with it as long as I feel some grammar thing is vague in my mind (which there were several areas I was confused by, cases being one of them). Everything seems to assume a prior level of knowledge, or the ability to pick things up from Wikipedia, and sometimes that just doesn't work for me, leaving me bewildered.
It's okay, we are all here to help.
Last edited by qwed117 on Mon 18 Jul 2016, 15:56, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Doranwen » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 07:05

I think some of the quotes didn't work because you typed my nick without the middle N? A lot of people do that; I blame Dora the Explorer for making people see Dora+wen instead of Doran+wen, lol.
qwed117 wrote:If that's what you seek, then you will need a separate accusative and nominative case. The example you gave would be banana-ACC love 1SG-NOM, but could also be 1SG-NOM banana-ACC love, with the exact same meaning.
Well, if one uses tripartite, there is no nominative case, but moving the words around will add the emphasis while leaving the cases alone, yes? That was what I was aiming at with my poor example, lol.
qwed117 wrote:To my knowledge, the unmarked case should be the absolutive (the subject of the intransitive), with the ergative (the subject of the transitive) and the accusative (object of the transitive). A reduplicative marker could be used here making that only 1 maker really is used but that's just being picky.
OK, so I'd mark the ergative and accusative both, in that situation? (And poking around Wikipedia, I do see the following sentence: "As a distinct intransitive case has zero marking in all languages known to have one, and is the citation form of the noun, it is frequently called absolutive, a word used for an unmarked citation-form argument in various case systems." Which seems to say that absolutive case doesn't get marked and the others do.)
qwed117 wrote:Hmm. Is an English sample okay?
Active = He hurt the dog
Passive = The dog was hurt by him
The point is that the subject and object are switched (technically this is the secondary effect, the main effect is that the subject is no longer the subject of the verb, and is instead relegated to a minor position as a causative), and a different variant of the verb is used to show the change. The causative object can now be deleted. The anti-passive is the same except in an ergative language. (Technically I'm reversing the proper steps, but oh well.
Wikipedia had some bit about how in a tripartite system (why do I like that, but I do, lol), you'd get both the passive and antipassive. That's what I have absolutely no idea, how that would work.

Something like:
Active = He-ERG hurt the dog-ACC.
Passive = The dog=?? was hurt by him-??. <- which cases should be where, and I assume what you mean by the causative object being able to be deleted that I could leave out the "by him" then and it would still be understood.
Antipassive = ??
qwed117 wrote:You have free word order, so you shouldn't worry too much. It can be any of them. Or potentially, it could be free enough that it has multiple in prose.
I like the idea of being able to use flexible word order in poetry and song for sure, and it occurred to me that one could switch word order for different registers of speech, even. Like being more polite/formal might involve putting the verb first, or the object first, or something like that. Does that make sense?
qwed117 wrote:I am not exactly sure as to the answer. I guess most if not all prepositions can be replaced partially by cases. I don't think the Wikipedia page is necessarily comprehensive and exhaustive. I would wonder how you would represent "before the clock" and "before the clock strikes two". It seems rare, but not impossible. I'd suggest maybe 15 cases at maximum.
Not the 64 cases of Tsez, then. *g* Though Hungarian apparently has 18, so I guess that's not unreasonable.
qwed117 wrote:It's okay, we are all here to help.
:)
Last edited by Doranwen on Mon 18 Jul 2016, 08:11, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Trailsend » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 07:49

Doranwen wrote:This language doesn't have so much of a separate world and culture as it's sort of my language, the way I'd like to be able to express myself and just be creative and all that. So I'm choosing features not based on what I think some hypothetical culture would have or what fits with them, but more on what I'd like to be able to do with it, if that makes sense.
Conlanger jargon has a shorthand for this kind of language: a "heartlang".
Doranwen wrote:If I choose a tripartite system (I don't really care about rarity in real languages so much as I care about it making sense to me and being able to use them), what inflections do I need to create for my nouns--an unmarked for the ergative and two markings for the accusative and absolutive cases? Beyond the classic examples of using those cases, are there special situations I'll want to take into consideration with regards to marking case?
Short answer: yes.

Longer answer: All you strictly need to do is define three different ways of "handling" noun phrases to mark them as transitive agents, transitive patients, and intransitive subjects. Having transitive agents take no case marking, transitive patients take one case marking, and intransitive subjects take a different case marking accomplishes that. (It isn't the only way to accomplish that, though. I can elaborate if you're interested.)

qwed117's point about the absolutive being unmarked is probably more an issue of terminology, here. In natural languages it's extremely rare for the ergative to be unmarked while the absolutive is marked, which leads to an interpretation of "absolutive" as meaning "the unmarked case". But this is a heartlang, and you're explicitly not concerned with whether features are rare in the wild, so there's no reason not to make your ergative case the unmarked one. You'll probably just want to clarify, when you're describing your language, that what you mean by "absolutive" is "the case used to mark subjects of intransitive clauses".
Doranwen wrote:What are they talking about with regards to passive and antipassive? Can someone show me examples
The passive and antipassive voices are ways of twisting the structure of sentences to convey some kind of extra meaning, or to dodge a difficulty with the usual structure.

I'll use qwed117's example, but with a twist:

1. The dog hurt him.

The verb "hurt" here is transitive, meaning there are two slots that need to be filled. In English, this is the subject (the one doing the hurting) and the object (the one being hurt). English marks subjects by putting them in front of the verb (and, if they're pronouns, using a particular case), and objects by putting them after the verb (ditto pronouns with cases).

Occasionally, this structure has drawbacks. The subject has a way of drawing attention, but sometimes you really want the focus to be on the object. (Maybe it doesn't really matter that his wounds were dog-inflicted, it just matters that he has them.) Also, sometimes you don't know (or don't want to mention) who the agent was, but you can't omit it because in English verbs have to have subjects.

The passive voice is a syntactic maneuver that gets English speakers out of this bind. It consists of a few transformations:

1) Delete the original subject: _____ hurt him.

2) Move the original object into subject position, changing its case accordingly: He hurt ___.

3) Twist the verb into a special form to signal that unlike normal, the subject here is actually the patient. He was hurt.

And voilà, you have a sentence that leaves out the agent of the hurting, while still following English's rules about verbs having subjects.

There's an important observation to make, here: this dance transforms the transitive verb "to hurt" into an intransitive verb, "to be hurt". Before it needed two arguments, but afterwards it needed only one.

The antipassive is a similar structure you find in ergative-absolutive languages, which may have the reverse problem. Suppose an erg-abs language has, like English, a rule that verbs must have subjects. Because this language is erg-abs, the subject is the patient of transitive verbs. So what do you do if you don't want to include a transitive verb's patient?

Suppose we speak an erg-abs language, and you come to visit me. I want to warn you about my dog, who is not very nice.

na ruff-mi ak-ta ketek.
my dog-ERG you-ABS bite
My dog will bite you.

I don't want you to think that my dog has anything against you personally, he just bites everybody. But by the rules of this language, every verb has to have an absolutive subject, so I can't just say

* na ruff-mi ketek.

There's no -ta noun filling the absolutive slot, which this language says is not allowed.

To solve this problem, the language has an antipassive voice I can use. I'll twist the verb into a special form, and then move the dog into absolutive position. The twist on the verb ensures that you understand that the dog is the one doing the biting, while allowing me to not mention who specifically gets bitten without breaking the required-absolutive rule.

na ruff-ta i-ketek.
my dog-ABS ANTIPASSIVE-bite
My dog bites.

(Notice how the case on ruff changed from the ergative -mi to the absolutive -ta.)

For a tripartite language, the situation might be a bit different. Maybe all of your verbs are classified as "transitive" or "intransitive", and aren't allowed to be used like the other class. (This could be true, but doesn't need to be. Suppose your language has the verb ketek for "bite." Presumably ketek can be used with an ergative noun and an accusative noun to talk about something biting something else. But is it allowed to be used with an absolutive noun? If it can be, what would that mean? If it can't be, do other verbs work the same way? That is, for any given verb, if it can be used with an ergative and accusative noun, can it not be used with an absolutive noun, and vice versa?)

Suppose this is true: if a verb can be used with ergative and accusative arguments, then it isn't allowed to be used with an absolutive argument. What do you do when you want to omit one of the arguments? One answer would be to have passive and antipassive voices.

Say you have -mi for the ergative case, -ta for the absolutive case, and -in for the accusative case.

na ruff-mi ak-in ketek.
my dog-ERG you-ACC bite
My dog bit you.

If, as above, I want to talk about my dog biting without mentioning who it bit, I can apply the antipassive voice to transform the transitive verb ketek into an intransitive verb. And, as an intransitive verb, it can be safely used with just one argument.

na ruff-ta i-ketek.
my dog-ABS ANTIPASSIVE-bite
My dog bites.

But maybe I have the reverse problem: maybe something bit my dog, and I don't know what or don't want to say. Then I can apply the passive voice:

na ruff-ta o-ketek.
my dog-ABS PASSIVE-bite
My dog was bitten.

Just as before, the transitive verb ketek, which would require an ergative -mi argument and an accusative -in argument, has now become the intransitive verb oketek, which requires just an absolutive -ta argument. But unlike the antipassive form, the passive form indicates that the single absolutive argument is the patient of the verb, whereas with the antipassive it was the agent.
Doranwen wrote:Is there anywhere that lists all the possible other cases (dative, locative, etc.), or are cases one of those things you can always invent if it doesn't exist? Wikipedia had something of a list, but I'm not sure if it's exhaustive, and I found examples of English prepositions that I couldn't figure out how I'd map to those, so I wondered how to handle them.
You can definitely make up cases; there's no such list of all cases that could conceivably exist.

I would caution you, though, against trying to "eliminate prepositions" with cases. It's a common instinct, especially when you start playing with case systems, but they get unwieldy and usually don't come together very nicely. This isn't to say you shouldn't try to eliminate prepositions, but don't try to eliminate them all with cases. Handle some with cases, and some with things that aren't cases. Also, use cases to handle things you wouldn't have thought of as prepositions!

I don't have a good number for "feasible number of cases". Finnish gets away with about 16, and Tsez, depending on your analysis, has 126. A good rule of thumb, though, may be to lean toward having fewer rather than more. Don't add a new case every time you find a gap in your system. Instead, look for ways to fill the whole with the system you already have, or use different approaches. Make adding a new case not your first resort, although (since you like them) not your last resort either.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Doranwen » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 08:50

Heartlang! I knew artlang and engelang and loglang and auxlang, but I'd never heard of heartlang. I love it. :) Yes, that's exactly what it is.

It'd be more natural to me to make the ergative non-marked, and mark the absolutive, as far as that goes, though as I'm still in the early stages, I could learn whichever way I set it, I'd think. My research on Nez Perce seems to indicate that they mark both the ergative and accusative and leave the absolutive unmarked--except in certain situations where they can't get the object to agree somehow, and then they leave everything unmarked. At least that's what I picked up from trying to wade through some academic paper, lol. I can handle not marking the absolutive, or else use nominative instead of ergative and then just not mark that... as long as I'm being consistent, not trying to call something what it isn't, etc.

Ahh, so the passive/antipassive is markers on the verb itself (I so did not understand that part!) that allows the verbs to change the transitivity (valency?) from transitive to intransitive while still sticking with the rule that a verb has to have a subject. I also hadn't picked up that that required consciously sorting verbs into transitive vs. intransitive classes. And then of course there are verbs like "eat" which can be either transitive or intransitive, right? Well, in English they do. "She ate" vs. "She ate the apple". Are there languages that require the "ate" from "She ate" to be marked antipassive, then? I can't think of an example the other direction, because English would toss in a dummy subject. The closest I can think of is something like "It hurts" which is really "It hurts me" with the "me" part being implied. That's a verb where you can leave out the agent (who or what is doing the hurting) but the patient is sort of required (someone or something is being hurt, and it doesn't make sense not to say who/what). Am I sort of accurate there? Or getting confused, lol?

In a tripartite system, then what does one do about impersonal verbs, like the classic "to rain"? It's sort of both passive and antipassive at the same time, because it has no arguments at all. Does it get a marker all its own, or no marker at all, or something I haven't thought of? Obviously, if this is my conlang, I can do whatever, but if I take that attitude to the extreme, it'll make no sense to anyone, much less myself, so I'm trying to at least understand how natural languages do it (when possible), or what might make the most sense.
Trailsend wrote:I would caution you, though, against trying to "eliminate prepositions" with cases. It's a common instinct, especially when you start playing with case systems, but they get unwieldy and usually don't come together very nicely. This isn't to say you shouldn't try to eliminate prepositions, but don't try to eliminate them all with cases. Handle some with cases, and some with things that aren't cases. Also, use cases to handle things you wouldn't have thought of as prepositions!
Yeah, I don't want to dump TOO many cases on the language (Tsez is a bit over the top, lol). But I'm also not particularly fond of a lot of prepositions as individual words in their own right. Especially since I want to free up word order, prepositions seem to be the exact opposite of that. You mentioned "things that aren't cases"; what other options for expressing things like that are there, without resorting to prepositions?

I'm also seeing a lot of languages combining functions of different cases, which I wouldn't be opposed to except I specifically want to avoid some degree of ambiguity (not every bit, that's sort of impossible unless you're trying something like maybe Ithkuil, and I don't want to be overly specific anyway). I'd want to be careful which I merged so that I didn't suddenly create a common situation where you can't tell if I meant THIS or THAT, and the case became somewhat nonproductive, forcing me to use something else anyway.


Regarding cases, the next challenge I found was how to express the differences between sentences such as the following:

A: He left without a horse.
B: He left without his horse.

Assuming that one uses the abessive case, how would I distinguish them? I would rather combine affixes to create one long word than have multiple small ones, but for sentence B you've got really three nouns, right? (counting pronouns as nouns) He, horse, him. Mind you, I rather liked the clitic idea, throwing shortened or special versions of the pronouns onto the verb to get rid of pronouns except for emphasis, so it would then turn out: he-left horse-ABE he-GEN
So I guess what I'm asking is, I know that for possessive I'd use the genitive case; would there be a way to attach a possessive *pronoun*, sort of like the clitic on the verb, to the noun it's possessing? Is there a name for that? (Wikipedia had something called the "possessive affix", is that it?) If not, does that mean I need to have some sort of marking so that it's clear which noun "his" applies to if I make the sentence more complex? (I came across the Wikipedia page on Suffixaufnahme but it says it's basically only found with agglutinative languages, and I'd like to aim for more inflecting this time--my last attempt was more agglutinating than I wanted.)

Which brings me to the next question:

How do I express things like conjunctions such as "and" when there's free word order? I'm assuming cases help. So if I have the English sentence "Alice loves Bob and Chris", how do I mark it to express that? The only thing I can come up with is: Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-AC
(Note that I'm sticking with the tripartite system here, and I'm typing the case abbreviations just to keep things straight in my head--I can sort out the actual marking, whether it's ergative or absolutive that's unmarked. And obviously I can stick Alice after the verb, if I so choose; it appears that the only tripartite languages I can find anything about are either SOV or have no dominant word order.) Essentially keeping them both in the same case and letting one assume that it means they're both the "object" of her love. Is this something that's done? Is it doable? Or is there an existing standard way to do this?

Then I come to how to combine two sentences, and wonder if there I need a particle or whether an affix can be applied to the beginning of the second phrase (this may only be tangentially related to the case thing, but it's all mixed up in my mind). So if I had the sentence "Mary ate the apple and went into the house", this is as far as I can figure out how to mark: Mary-ERG ate apple-ACC "and"(?) went house-ILL. Are there any other ways to express the "and" in this sentence besides a particle/word like the English "and"?

That's probably enough of my questions for one post. *g* You can see where I got confused a lot. The more complex the sentence, the more I had no idea what I was doing.
Last edited by Doranwen on Mon 18 Jul 2016, 11:11, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Lao Kou » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 09:55

Trailsend wrote:Stuff.
Nicely explained.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Keenir » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 10:09

Welcome to the forum! have some tea and cake!
Doranwen wrote:Regarding cases, the next challenge I found was how to express the differences between sentences such as the following:
A: He left without a horse.
B: He left without his horse.
Assuming that one uses the abessive case, how would I distinguish them? I would rather combine affixes to create one long word than have multiple small ones, but for sentence B you've got really three nouns, right? (counting pronouns as nouns) He, horse, him.
at least in English, you only have two nouns there: he, and the horse. (yes, its his horse, in example B, but that's possessive)

that said, there may be languages where the possessive is indeed two nouns, which would indeed make B a 3-nouned sentence.
Which brings me to the next question:
How do I express things like conjunctions such as "and" when there's free word order? I'm assuming cases help. So if I have the English sentence "Alice loves Bob and Chris", how do I mark it to express that? The only thing I can come up with is: Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-AC
well, you could have it be almost-free word order, and if the nouns are next to each other, that indicates some relation - like "Alice Bob", with "loves" either before or after the names.

(? "Alice-both Bob Chris loves" ?)
That's probably enough of my questions for one post.
you have a lot of great questions.
*g* You can see where I got confused a lot. The more complex the sentence, the more I had no idea what I was doing.
I'd suggest starting with less complex sentences, and building from there. (such as, work out how to say "Alice loves Bob" before saying "Alice loves Bob and Chris")
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Lao Kou » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 10:13

Keenir wrote:"Alice Bob"
The forgotten Walton.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Doranwen » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 10:48

Keenir wrote:Welcome to the forum! have some tea and cake!
Thanks! :)
Keenir wrote:
Doranwen wrote:Regarding cases, the next challenge I found was how to express the differences between sentences such as the following:
A: He left without a horse.
B: He left without his horse.
Assuming that one uses the abessive case, how would I distinguish them? I would rather combine affixes to create one long word than have multiple small ones, but for sentence B you've got really three nouns, right? (counting pronouns as nouns) He, horse, him.
at least in English, you only have two nouns there: he, and the horse. (yes, its his horse, in example B, but that's possessive)

that said, there may be languages where the possessive is indeed two nouns, which would indeed make B a 3-nouned sentence.
Well, from what I read, English's possessive isn't actually a case, so English isn't a very good example. I'm only using it here to show which words I would have and how they'd be marked, as it keeps my brain from being overwhelmed by trying to process a bunch of words I don't know at the same time that I'm sorting out the grammar. When I get more of this sorted out, I'll dig up some of the words I'd created for the earlier incarnation of this conlang and check them over to make sure I can still use them with the revised phonology, then use some of them for examples.

That said, that's what I wondered, whether I can use possessive affixes (if that's what they're called) to keep it down to two nouns, or whether I need three nouns to do it.
Keenir wrote:
Which brings me to the next question:
How do I express things like conjunctions such as "and" when there's free word order? I'm assuming cases help. So if I have the English sentence "Alice loves Bob and Chris", how do I mark it to express that? The only thing I can come up with is: Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-AC
well, you could have it be almost-free word order, and if the nouns are next to each other, that indicates some relation - like "Alice Bob", with "loves" either before or after the names.

(? "Alice-both Bob Chris loves" ?)
I think I'm getting confused by the last two examples.
Keenir wrote:you have a lot of great questions.
Thanks! Most of these are things I'd wondered about before I finally went "forget this, I clearly don't know what I'm doing and I designed this all wrong" and decided to start over. Since I'm trying to work out the cases, I wanted to bring them up so I don't totally mess up the design by putting things in that don't make sense with what else I have.
Keenir wrote:I'd suggest starting with less complex sentences, and building from there. (such as, work out how to say "Alice loves Bob" before saying "Alice loves Bob and Chris")
Well, yeah. As I said, most of these come from when I'd already sorted out the simple ones, and had trouble with the hard ones. I think at this point I know how to say "Alice loves Bob" ("Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC" or "Alice-ERG Bob-ACC love" or something of the like, given my free word order), but I need to figure out how to handle some of these trickier sentences because I think it'll help me with the concepts overall. I might find out I had a misconception about something and need to rethink a whole different area of the language, too.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Frislander » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 12:41

Doranwen wrote:
qwed117 wrote:I am not exactly sure as to the answer. I guess most if not all prepositions can be replaced partially by cases. I don't think the Wikipedia page is necessarily comprehensive and exhaustive. I would wonder how you would represent "before the clock" and "before the clock strikes two". It seems rare, but not impossible. I'd suggest maybe 15 cases at maximum.
Not the 64 cases of Tsez, then.
The thing with that is that it seems to be more of the language showing several locational cases ("on", "in", "under" etc.) and then also marking direction with those cases ("to", "from", "through"), which multiplies the apparent number of "cases" considerably.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Doranwen » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 16:01

Frislander wrote:
Doranwen wrote:Not the 64 cases of Tsez, then.
The thing with that is that it seems to be more of the language showing several locational cases ("on", "in", "under" etc.) and then also marking direction with those cases ("to", "from", "through"), which multiplies the apparent number of "cases" considerably.
Yeah, there did seem to be an element of combining in some way. Finnish or Hungarian seem to have about the max number one can really use before it gets out of hand.

I'm already starting to see how to extend case usage some, like other languages have, to maximize what I can get out of it without having to have a separate case for every English situation (and it feels really awesome), such as using the ablative for time after the hour. :D More practice will, I'm sure, help with that.

At this point, regarding cases, I think I currently only have the questions I raised in my post responding to Trailsend, and beyond that I'm going to start working on some other areas of grammar besides just cases. I think I need to get at least some choices made with regards to the things I want to encode morphologically, as well as the actual affixes involved, and then try putting some sentences together to test what I've come up with. I know for sure I'll have more questions later--there were quite a few things I ran into trouble with when it came to more complex sentences.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Keenir » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 19:28

Doranwen wrote:Well, from what I read, English's possessive isn't actually a case, so English isn't a very good example. I'm only using it here to show which words I would have and how they'd be marked, as it keeps my brain from being overwhelmed by trying to process a bunch of words I don't know at the same time that I'm sorting out the grammar. When I get more of this sorted out, I'll dig up some of the words I'd created for the earlier incarnation of this conlang and check them over to make sure I can still use them with the revised phonology, then use some of them for examples.

That said, that's what I wondered, whether I can use possessive affixes (if that's what they're called) to keep it down to two nouns, or whether I need three nouns to do it.
that...depends.

If each noun is separate, like Alice & Bob & Chris and their little love triangle, that's one thing.

but if some of the nouns are not separate, like, "Alice's restaurant burned down"...that's another.
aaaand I just lost my train of thought. sorry.

Keenir wrote:
Which brings me to the next question:
How do I express things like conjunctions such as "and" when there's free word order? I'm assuming cases help. So if I have the English sentence "Alice loves Bob and Chris", how do I mark it to express that? The only thing I can come up with is: Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-AC
well, you could have it be almost-free word order, and if the nouns are next to each other, that indicates some relation - like "Alice Bob", with "loves" either before or after the names.
(? "Alice-both Bob Chris loves" ?)
I think I'm getting confused by the last two examples.[/quote]

sorry about that.

the last one, in the (? ?)s, was me taking a wild guess as to how it might be done. before that...

I was guessing that perhaps the nouns could be next to one another, to show that they have some sort of relation to each other...making the word order almost completely free, but not quite. so, you'd have these:
[tick] Alice Bob loves
[tick] loves Alice Bob
[tick] loves Bob Alice
[tick] Bob Alice loves
[cross] Bob loves Alice
[cross] Alice loves Bob
...in the first four, the verb has to do with the nouns, clarifying just what Bob and Alice are to one another (in love!)
I think at this point I know how to say "Alice loves Bob" ("Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC" or "Alice-ERG Bob-ACC love" or something of the like, given my free word order), but I need to figure out how to handle some of these trickier sentences because I think it'll help me with the concepts overall.
hmmm.....perhaps a way of saying "Alice only loves Bob" as contrasted with "Alice loves both Bob and Chris"....would that be "Alice-ERG Bob-ACC love-SINGULAR"?
I might find out I had a misconception about something and need to rethink a whole different area of the language, too.
have fun playing with it; sometimes misconceptions can lead to interesting ways of handling things in a language.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by kiwikami » Mon 18 Jul 2016, 23:06

Image

Welcome to the board! Have a cake with vowel formants on it.
You've got some excellent questions! [:D]
Doranwen wrote:I'm already starting to see how to extend case usage some, like other languages have, to maximize what I can get out of it without having to have a separate case for every English situation (and it feels really awesome), such as using the ablative for time after the hour. :D More practice will, I'm sure, help with that.
As for extending case usage, and hearkening back to what Trailsend said about other ways to eliminate prepositions, verb markers might help with that; in the case of motion verbs, for instance, you could have separate words (or roots/stems/(branches/bark/leaves)/etc.) indicating movement towards an object, through an object, encircling an object, and so forth. And there are always nominal constructions for things like location and direction; those can be remarkably versatile while cutting down on how specific (and therefore numerous) locative cases need to be:

bird top-LOC tree-GEN
the bird above the tree

house middle-LOC mountains-GEN
the house between the mountains
Edit: Substituted a string instrument for a French interjection.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Doranwen » Tue 19 Jul 2016, 00:18

Keenir wrote:that...depends.

If each noun is separate, like Alice & Bob & Chris and their little love triangle, that's one thing.

but if some of the nouns are not separate, like, "Alice's restaurant burned down"...that's another.
aaaand I just lost my train of thought. sorry.
I read about some language (now I forget which) that uses double-marking with genitives; the noun that's possessing has to agree in case with the noun that's being possessed, in addition to having the genitive marker. I wonder if that wouldn't solve the problem.
Keenir wrote:
Doranwen wrote: Which brings me to the next question:
How do I express things like conjunctions such as "and" when there's free word order? I'm assuming cases help. So if I have the English sentence "Alice loves Bob and Chris", how do I mark it to express that? The only thing I can come up with is: Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-ACC
Keenir wrote: well, you could have it be almost-free word order, and if the nouns are next to each other, that indicates some relation - like "Alice Bob", with "loves" either before or after the names.
(? "Alice-both Bob Chris loves" ?)
Doranwen wrote:I think I'm getting confused by the last two examples.
Keenir wrote:sorry about that.

the last one, in the (? ?)s, was me taking a wild guess as to how it might be done. before that...

I was guessing that perhaps the nouns could be next to one another, to show that they have some sort of relation to each other...making the word order almost completely free, but not quite. so, you'd have these:
[tick] Alice Bob loves
[tick] loves Alice Bob
[tick] loves Bob Alice
[tick] Bob Alice loves
[cross] Bob loves Alice
[cross] Alice loves Bob
...in the first four, the verb has to do with the nouns, clarifying just what Bob and Alice are to one another (in love!)
Well, that I figured was easy enough, since I have the cases to identify which way the love is going, lol. (We are presuming Alice loves Bob, but we don't know if he returns the love. That might be another interesting thing, whether there's a way to mark mutuality.)
Keenir wrote:
I think at this point I know how to say "Alice loves Bob" ("Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC" or "Alice-ERG Bob-ACC love" or something of the like, given my free word order), but I need to figure out how to handle some of these trickier sentences because I think it'll help me with the concepts overall.
hmmm.....perhaps a way of saying "Alice only loves Bob" as contrasted with "Alice loves both Bob and Chris"....would that be "Alice-ERG Bob-ACC love-SINGULAR"?
I was perhaps unclear; I have not hardly looked at my verbs yet (beyond noting passive/antipassive, and the whole love of clitics to get rid of pronouns), so rather than deal with them, I put just the meaning of the root of the verb and left off any marking. It could be "Alice-ERG loves Bob-ACC" just as easily; since I haven't actually dealt with marking on the verb thoroughly yet, I didn't go into that. (My verb system also needs a ton of overhauling, lol, so I figured I'd get into that when I got to it in the LCK; I have some idea of what I want to mark but want to examine each area thoroughly so I don't find myself planning poorly and redoing it all because I forgot I had wanted some particular thing marked.)
Keenir wrote:have fun playing with it; sometimes misconceptions can lead to interesting ways of handling things in a language.
Hee, I may run across a few as I look at my old version of this conlang, then; it wasn't a kitchen sink but I went overboard in a few areas and found certain others very confusing, so I'll probably make a new thread soon with questions in a different area.
kiwikami wrote:Welcome to the board! Have a cake with vowel formants on it.
You've got some excellent questions! [:D]
Hee, that is one awesomely geeky cake. And thanks! I have lots and lots of questions. :D
kiwikami wrote:As for extending case usage, and hearkening back to what Trailsend said about other ways to eliminate prepositions, verb markers might help with that; in the case of motion verbs, for instance, you could have separate words (or roots/stems/(branches/bark/leaves)/etc.) indicating movement towards an object, through an object, encircling an object, and so forth. And there are always nominal constructions for things like location and direction; those can be remarkably versatile while cutting down on how specific (and therefore numerous) locative cases need to be:

bird top-LOC tree-GEN
the bird above the tree

house middle-LOC mountains-GEN
the house between the mountains
Ooh, I like that! (Thanks for the examples, I would have stared at the words "nominal constructions" and not really been able to picture what you meant.) And could you give me an example of the verb markers you were referring to?
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Keenir » Tue 19 Jul 2016, 00:44

excellent ideas.
Doranwen wrote:Well, that I figured was easy enough, since I have the cases to identify which way the love is going, lol. (We are presuming Alice loves Bob, but we don't know if he returns the love. That might be another interesting thing, whether there's a way to mark mutuality.)
perhaps mutuality is the unmarked default?

so, "Alice Bob bathes" means Alice and Bob are washing each other....while "Alice bathes" means Alice is washing herself?

(My verb system also needs a ton of overhauling, lol, so I figured I'd get into that when I got to it in the LCK; I have some idea of what I want to mark but want to examine each area thoroughly so I don't find myself planning poorly and redoing it all because I forgot I had wanted some particular thing marked.)
well, don't scrap it completely...the "poorly" one could be a regional dialect, that isn't accepted by the upper-class or somebody; or maybe its the Oscan to the Latin that is the redone language?
And thanks! I have lots and lots of questions. :D
ask any time. however many you have.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 19 Jul 2016, 01:05

How do I express things like conjunctions such as "and" when there's free word order? I'm assuming cases help. So if I have the English sentence "Alice loves Bob and Chris", how do I mark it to express that? The only thing I can come up with is: Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-AC
Latin, despite its basic SOV format, has a lot of free word-order, thanks to a number of cases (oh boy).
Latin could say the above sentence using the suffix-particle /que/ "and", and come up with various combinations.
Spoiler:
E.G.
Alicia Robertum Christopherumque amat.
Alicia Robertum amat Christopherumque.
Alicia amat Robertum Christopherumque.
Robertum Alicia Christopherumque amat.
Robertum Christopherumque Alicia amat.
Robertum Christopherumque amat Alicia.
Christopherumque.... These sentences cannot have Christopherumque come before Robertum.
Amat Alicia Robertum Christopherumque.
Amat Robertum Alicia Christopherumque.
Amat Robertum Christopherumque Alicia.
Languages like :rus: and Ancient :grc: have Comitative cases. Well, they have other cases that double for a Comitative function (technically, :lat: does, too. But you need to use a PRP with it, which is not the streamlining you initially said you were looking for). :grc: uses the Dative case for this, while :rus: uses the Instrumental case with the preposition 'with' (like :lat: ).

Here's a link to Comitative Dative in Greek
https://books.google.com/books?id=e9JMA ... 20&f=false

Understand, in all three of these languages, the Comitative is not a whole case by itself. It is just one of many uses for that particular case in that particular language: Ablative in :lat:, Dative in :grc:, and Instrumental in :rus:.

As was suggested above, it may be better to start out with a few cases with a broad range of uses in discrete situations, rather than nailing down a host of grammatical situations with its own particular grammatical case.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Doranwen » Tue 19 Jul 2016, 01:33

Keenir wrote: perhaps mutuality is the unmarked default?

so, "Alice Bob bathes" means Alice and Bob are washing each other....while "Alice bathes" means Alice is washing herself?
It's an intriguing idea, but I have a feeling I'd have to mark that it wasn't mutual far too much, and if there is a way of marking mutuality, it would have to be the special form, and leave unmutual (Alice-ERG Bob-ACC bathes meaning Alice is the only one doing it). Don't think I'd find enough use for it to make it the default.
well, don't scrap it completely...the "poorly" one could be a regional dialect, that isn't accepted by the upper-class or somebody; or maybe its the Oscan to the Latin that is the redone language?
Hee, there is that idea... but I need to scrap the old language for sure. For one, it had a few phonemes that I decided I no longer wanted in the language. Got rid of three vowels and at least three consonants, and really worked on the orthography to come up with a version that didn't rely on digraphs, and that used accents logically (the same way across the board). I'm fairly happy with it, though still learning to recognize some of the sounds, lol.
Lambuzhao wrote:
How do I express things like conjunctions such as "and" when there's free word order? I'm assuming cases help. So if I have the English sentence "Alice loves Bob and Chris", how do I mark it to express that? The only thing I can come up with is: Alice-ERG love Bob-ACC Chris-AC
Latin, despite its basic SOV format, has a lot of free word-order, thanks to a number of cases (oh boy).
Latin could say the above sentence using the suffix-particle /que/ "and", and come up with various combinations.
I...think I actually sort of re-invented that myself in the old version. I tacked it on with a hyphen, but yes, I had a particle that got added to the second noun. I didn't realize that that actually worked, lol. I left apostrophes out of my orthography entirely, just in case it would work to add it in that way. I like the look of that better than a hyphen, really. Not sure if any other language does that, though, I'm curious...
Lambuzhao wrote:Understand, in all three of these languages, the Comitative is not a whole case by itself. It is just one of many uses for that particular case in that particular language: Ablative in :lat:, Dative in :grc:, and Instrumental in :rus:.

As was suggested above, it may be better to start out with a few cases with a broad range of uses in discrete situations, rather than nailing down a host of grammatical situations with its own particular grammatical case.
Yeah, I'll have to try things. I like the nominal constructions that were suggested. Am also curious what verb markers they were thinking of, so I'll take a look at some of these other options and see if I can extend cases with those usages to cover more specific meanings so I don't end up with a ridiculously large case system.
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Keenir » Tue 19 Jul 2016, 02:07

Doranwen wrote:I...think I actually sort of re-invented that myself in the old version. I tacked it on with a hyphen, but yes, I had a particle that got added to the second noun. I didn't realize that that actually worked, lol. I left apostrophes out of my orthography entirely, just in case it would work to add it in that way. I like the look of that better than a hyphen, really. Not sure if any other language does that, though, I'm curious...
not sure what the question was...you're asking if there are languages that use hyphens to link a word to its particle?

if I remember one of Comrie's books on major languages, Persian does that: -i- linking words.
(can't recall concrete examples - it was at least five years ago and I was skimming the book; sorry)
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Doranwen » Tue 19 Jul 2016, 02:42

Keenir wrote:
Doranwen wrote:I...think I actually sort of re-invented that myself in the old version. I tacked it on with a hyphen, but yes, I had a particle that got added to the second noun. I didn't realize that that actually worked, lol. I left apostrophes out of my orthography entirely, just in case it would work to add it in that way. I like the look of that better than a hyphen, really. Not sure if any other language does that, though, I'm curious...
not sure what the question was...you're asking if there are languages that use hyphens to link a word to its particle?

if I remember one of Comrie's books on major languages, Persian does that: -i- linking words.
(can't recall concrete examples - it was at least five years ago and I was skimming the book; sorry)
I meant linking with apostrophes, actually. Hyphen is a natural linking tool, but apostrophes are not so obvious. However, if one wasn't using them for anything else...

*tests with some old vocab from the previous version, with as much of the grammar that she's halfway worked out for this one, along with the particle she'd used in the old version*:

Anas sarin Lucét Francét-si
vs.
Anas sarin Lucét Francét'si.

Which would be:
Ana-s sarin Luc-ét Franc-ét-si
Anna-ERG love Luke-ACC Frank-ACC-and

Or something like that? Anyway, that's what I meant, whether it worked to put the apostrophe instead of the hyphen. I think it looks better, but wondered if I'd be trying to do something completely weird, lol. (I'm not keeping the specific particle there, but that's the mixture I have at this point for example purposes.)

I could stick with Alís and Bab and Crís if you prefer (that's how their names would be written), but I thought Ana and Luc and Franc might be easier. (Yeah, I grew up on Tolkien and cannot resist a hard C everywhere, lol. I really cannot.)
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Re: Struggling to grasp cases and voice

Post by Keenir » Tue 19 Jul 2016, 03:14

Doranwen wrote:Or something like that? Anyway, that's what I meant, whether it worked to put the apostrophe instead of the hyphen. I think it looks better, but wondered if I'd be trying to do something completely weird, lol.
no, you wouldn't. I can't say it's looking odd, but then, I need a bo"le of root beer. :)
{would not \ can not \ it is \ bottle}
(I'm not keeping the specific particle there, but that's the mixture I have at this point for example purposes.)
one thing to remember: with your conlang, you are the deity: you have the final word (and the right to have a final word later on as well)
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