Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

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brblues
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Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by brblues » Wed 08 Aug 2018, 19:51

Hey, so I now wanted to make my first ever topic about my first-ever conlang. As is customary, starting out with the phonology, although that is something I have always struggled with. Obviously open to any kind of critique! I hope I haven't violated the rules and standards of phonology too much, and that the pictures will neither be so small/blurry as to cause headaches nor make the forum explode / stretch from being too big.


CONTENTS
PHONOLOGY
VERBS
NOUNS


PHONOLOGY

NB: Any information relating to orthography refers to the romanization. There exist two romanizations with very slight differences: the phonemic transliteration and the simplified transliteration. The purpose of the latter is to make typing on an English-layout keyboard easier by cutting down somewhat on the diacritical marks. In this text, the phonemic transliteration is preferred and often the only romanization provided; in cases where both are provided, it is always the phonemic transliteration that comes first, followed by the simplified transliteration after a semicolon.

Vowels

Image

Vowel phonemes, with the exception of the schwa, are divided into four front /i y ɛ ø/ <i ú á ó> and three back vowels /u o a/ <u o a>. Front and back vowels phonemically distinguish length. Orthographically, front vowels are distinguished by an acute accent; long back vowels are indicated by a macron (in the simplified transliteration, the relevant vowel is reduplicated) and long front vowels by a grave accent.

Allophony

When stressed, [ɛ] becomes /e/ and [ɛ:] turns to /e:/. While [o] is rendered as /o/ in open syllables, it becomes [ɔ] in closed syllables, including those ending with a silent consonant (see below under Consonants); under the same conditions, [ø] may be rendered as /œ/, but this is not realized by all speakers.

Consonants

Image

Allophony

Voiced plosives as well as the voiced fricative [v] plus [h] are silent in word-final position, although they re-appear in form of a sandhi (cf. French "liaison") if the following word begins with a vowel.

The alveolar fricatives [ s ] and [ʃ] (including its occurrence in [tʃ]) are voiced if they are the single consonant in either the onset or coda of a lengthened syllable.

Voiced consonant phonemes that have a voiceless counterpart become silent before nasals in the most common varieties, whereas they devoice in conservative varieties. Across word boundaries, this rule does not apply (except in the most conservative varieties).

Phonotactics
Here, I have so far merely come up with a few general rules - I hope I will manage to make this more systematic once I get round to it, though phonology and phonotactics in general are things I struggle with, as mentioned at the beginning!


The syllable structure is:
(C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)

- [h] only occurs as a single consonant, never in clusters [NB for formation of negatives: h+y=>y]
- In the onset, all approximants and the uvular trill may occur only in the position closest to the nucleus
- Lateral approximants may occur only in the position closest to the nucleus
- Three-consonant clusters:
- always involve a (lateral) approximant or the uvular trill as the third consonant
- second consonant is devoiced if it is a plosive
- Approximant reduction: in syllables with a lengthened vowel, <ʀ> is changed to /ɹ/ and <ʟ> to /l/ in syllable codas.

As I said, the above is not yet an exhaustive description accounting for all possible clusters and excluding all illegal - but I just wanted to get this out there for now :)

Stress

In nouns and verbs, stress is always on the first syllable of the (generally bisyllabic) nominal or verbal root. While this often happens to be the penultimate syllable, it is by no means granted due to compound words, lexical suffixes etc. In romanization, hyphens are often introduced to break words with many syllables down into the individual constituents, so that there is, where possible, only one unhyphenated "chunk" of word remaining that's made up of two syllables not separated by a hyphen, which will then be unambiguously identified as the root (the first syllable of which is stressed). Single syllables whose vowel is a schwa are not "hyphenated away".

I am well aware all this may read somewhat confusing - I will fill all of it (not only this section) in with examples in the near future!


Vowel mutation
The morphology of Ancient Vaal noun and verb forms is rooted in vowel mutations, with vowels changing from a specific back vowel to the relevant "complementary" front vowel, and vice versa. In the Vaal grammatical tradition, this is referred to as "vowel melody", which is based on the relationship between the vowel phoneme in the primary (stress-bearing) syllable and secondary syllable (following the primary syllable) of the bisyllabic root. Vowel phonemes, with the exception of ə <e>, which is regarded as neutral, are divided into four front /i y ɛ ø/ and three back vowels /u o a/. Vowels are usually short, but can be lengthened in the process of changing the vowel melody. This "vowel melody" of a noun/verb can be described as:

Neutral: both primary and secondary syllable either front (verbs) or back (nouns)
Falling/drop: primary syllable front, secondary syllable back (ergative case in nouns; deontic modality in verbs)
Rising: primary syllable back, secondary syllable front (third or "copular/declarative" case in nouns; epistemic modality in verbs)

Rising and falling melodies can be transformed into a so-called "sharp" rise or drop, respectively, by lengthening the vowel of the primary syllable, resulting in:

Sharp drop: lengthened primary syllable front, secondary syllable back (ergative case in possessed state; deontic modality combined with interrogative mood)
Sharp rise: lengthened primary syllable back, secondary syllable front (third case in possessed state; epistemic modality combined with interrogative mood)

These five permutations plus a sixth, a variant of the neutral melody with lengthened primary vowel, form the basis of case declension (including variants of all cases in the possessed state) and verb conjugation (solely into moods - indicative, epistemic and deontic mood - with a fourth modality, the interrogative, which can be combined with any of those three).

The "backness" of the vowel is changed according to following mutations:
a <=> á / i
o <=> ó
u <=> ú

The brief overview above already discloses the first small complication; when changing [a], it is unpredictable whether it should become [á] or from the word; the reason for is the existence of an obsolete phoneme (most likely /ɯ/), which has merged with /a/. In word lists for this document, the nature of the change will be indicated by "a=>i" in square brackets after the word; otherwise it is assumed that [a] is fronted as [á]. If both syllables in a word contain [a] as vowel, changes are indicated in the form of "a1/2=>i".

The second complication is that a sizeable number of nouns, only one syllable of the root shows in the absolutive case, which is the common citation form. For such words, the part of the root missing in the citation form is indicated herein by attaching it in parentheses directly after the word without a space).



The dictionary form of the AV word for "wind" is tusa; i.e., this is in the absolutive (ABS) case, and in the non-possessed state (AV nouns do not form plurals). The ergative case is formed by changing the neutral melody of tusa into a falling melody - so the primary syllable must feature a front vowel, while the secondary syllable needs to have a back vowel. In the secondary syllable no change is needed, but the primary syllable must undergo mutation according to the mutation rules provided above:
tusa (ABS) => túsa (ERG)
['thusa] => ['thysa]

The following table shows a full example noun paradigm - this is all the morphological changes a noun can undergo:

Image


That's it for now - thanks if anybody really did read through (at least parts of) that [:3]
Last edited by brblues on Fri 31 Aug 2018, 18:53, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by k1234567890y » Wed 08 Aug 2018, 20:58

not bad (: seems a good start.

by "Melody" I think you mean the backness of a vowel at here? (:

Also I wonder what is the basic word order? what are the noun cases? do they have plural in nouns? how do verbs conjugate? do verbs have things like tense-aspect-mood, person, etc.? how do they form things such as possession, definiteness, relative clause, nominal clause, etc.?
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by brblues » Wed 08 Aug 2018, 21:38

k1234567890y wrote:
Wed 08 Aug 2018, 20:58
not bad (: seems a good start.

by "Melody" I think you mean the backness of a vowel at here? (:

Thanks for the kind words!

"Melody" might not be the most fitting term here, I was kind of trying to come up with something similar to harmony (which it is not, as vowel harmony is regularly violated during morphological changes). The term interprets back vowels as "deep" vowels and front vowels as "high" vowels, and then analyses a given two-syllable root in terms of a "melody", i.e. a "low" vowel (back) followed by a " high vowel" is given the designation "rising", a long "high" (front) vowel followed by a back vowel as "sharp falling melody" etc. But yeah, actually it's an idiosyncratic way of referring to permutations of the vowel qualities (back or front) in a two-syllable root.

I will get to all the things you asked for in due time; much of it has alreasy been thought out, but is still undergoing revision (a neverending story obviously...).

Word order will be boring old SVO though, and nouns do not have a plural form, I can already say as much :)
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by k1234567890y » Wed 08 Aug 2018, 22:13

brblues wrote:
Wed 08 Aug 2018, 21:38
k1234567890y wrote:
Wed 08 Aug 2018, 20:58
not bad (: seems a good start.

by "Melody" I think you mean the backness of a vowel at here? (:

Thanks for the kind words!

"Melody" might not be the most fitting term here, I was kind of trying to come up with something similar to harmony (which it is not, as vowel harmony is regularly violated during morphological changes). The term interprets back vowels as "deep" vowels and front vowels as "high" vowels, and then analyses a given two-syllable root in terms of a "melody", i.e. a "low" vowel (back) followed by a " high vowel" is given the designation "rising", a long "high" (front) vowel followed by a back vowel as "sharp falling melody" etc. But yeah, actually it's an idiosyncratic way of referring to permutations of the vowel qualities (back or front) in a two-syllable root.

I will get to all the things you asked for in due time; much of it has alreasy been thought out, but is still undergoing revision (a neverending story obviously...).

Word order will be boring old SVO though, and nouns do not have a plural form, I can already say as much :)
ok (:

well I think you can use "umlaut" or "ablaut" for "melody"

also I have a suggestion on word order: how about using SOV instead?
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by brblues » Thu 09 Aug 2018, 11:24

k1234567890y wrote:
Wed 08 Aug 2018, 22:13
brblues wrote:
Wed 08 Aug 2018, 21:38

"Melody" might not be the most fitting term here, I was kind of trying to come up with something similar to harmony (which it is not, as vowel harmony is regularly violated during morphological changes). The term interprets back vowels as "deep" vowels and front vowels as "high" vowels, and then analyses a given two-syllable root in terms of a "melody", i.e. a "low" vowel (back) followed by a " high vowel" is given the designation "rising", a long "high" (front) vowel followed by a back vowel as "sharp falling melody" etc. But yeah, actually it's an idiosyncratic way of referring to permutations of the vowel qualities (back or front) in a two-syllable root.

I will get to all the things you asked for in due time; much of it has alreasy been thought out, but is still undergoing revision (a neverending story obviously...).

Word order will be boring old SVO though, and nouns do not have a plural form, I can already say as much :)
ok (:

well I think you can use "umlaut" or "ablaut" for "melody"

also I have a suggestion on word order: how about using SOV instead?

I considered "umlaut" and "ablaut" and wasn't quite sure whether it would be appropriate, though that's based solely on wikipedia, because it says there (I know it's not the perfect source, but usually has good fundamentals about linguistics) that umlaut refers rather to a vowel changing its quality to assimilate to the following syllable, which isn't the case here; ablaut seems to be quite fitting, but might be closely associated with Indo-European Languages? Maybe "apophony" (according to wiki it's synonymous with "ablaut") might be fraught with less "IE-ness"? Otherwise I could also simply use "vowel mutation", which I like best actually. I would still keep the "melody" metaphor as an "internal" term of grammar though, i.e. how the language is analysed by tha native speakers themselves.

Interesting that you mention SOV, as I actually still wanted to research that yesterday, but couldn't find the relevant WALS chapter / features, as I got the feeling ergative languages seem to be predominantly SOV, and then you opened the relevant thread ;) I will look into it for sure, just hope it won't interfere with any other stuff I've already outlined for myself. One reason I wanted SOV was not to make the conlang a) too kitchen sink-ey - but then again, making an SVO one with ergative-absolutive alignment would be more unusual! and b) I didn't want to model it on some languages I've been looking at (primarily Korean), which have SOV. SOV will have an impact on the use of preopositions vs postpositions though, but I could still change stuff round there.

Thanks for your input!
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by brblues » Sun 12 Aug 2018, 12:12

I haven't abandoned the project yet, just busy with work right now, but will try and get a revised version of the phonology introduction up soon, including more examples, and a first peek at the grammar. After trying around a wee bit, I still feel drawn more to SVO than SOV despite liking SOV in general too. It kinda seems to work better with some things as I have them now. But will look into it in more detail too!
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by k1234567890y » Mon 13 Aug 2018, 20:54

brblues wrote:
Sun 12 Aug 2018, 12:12
I haven't abandoned the project yet, just busy with work right now, but will try and get a revised version of the phonology introduction up soon, including more examples, and a first peek at the grammar. After trying around a wee bit, I still feel drawn more to SVO than SOV despite liking SOV in general too. It kinda seems to work better with some things as I have them now. But will look into it in more detail too!
well

considering the disrinction between the agent and the patient in transitive verbs, I guess you have have a free word order?
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by brblues » Wed 15 Aug 2018, 19:52

Revised a tiny tiny bit, more to come soon!
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by brblues » Wed 15 Aug 2018, 19:59

k1234567890y wrote:
Mon 13 Aug 2018, 20:54
brblues wrote:
Sun 12 Aug 2018, 12:12
I haven't abandoned the project yet, just busy with work right now, but will try and get a revised version of the phonology introduction up soon, including more examples, and a first peek at the grammar. After trying around a wee bit, I still feel drawn more to SVO than SOV despite liking SOV in general too. It kinda seems to work better with some things as I have them now. But will look into it in more detail too!
well

considering the disrinction between the agent and the patient in transitive verbs, I guess you have have a free word order?
Not quite, due to some other constraints, but it will be SOV now (unless I change it), although I think some adverbial phrases will follow after the verb!
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by brblues » Sat 18 Aug 2018, 20:33

VERBS

NB: The following all refers to absolutely regular usage - i.e. I haven't quite figured out much about the irregularity yet ;)

Verb roots are often closely related to noun root forms (i.e., the absolutive form in non-possessed state), but their bisyllabic root form contains only front vowels. All verbs are generally prefixed with a single unstressed long vowel in both the infinitive form (identical to the indicative form) and all conjugated forms; verbs solely conjugate according to mood.

The verbal prefix marks transitivity and definiteness of absolutive nouns (S in intransitive clauses, O in transitive clauses):
  • ò = [ø:] => transitive + definite object - use without object implies an unnamed object (i.e., it replaces third person pronouns) [in glosses: TR.DEF]
  • à [ɛ:] => transitive + indefinite object - use without object encodes reflexive usage [in glosses: TR.INDEF]
  • ì= [i:] =>intransitive + definite subject- use without a subject implies an unnamed subject (i.e., it replaces third person pronouns) [in glosses: INTR.DEF]
  • ù = [y:] =>intransitive + indefinite subject [in glosses: INTR.INDEF]
For instance, gfata (n., ABS) is the root for "death", and the related verbal root is "gfátá" (replacing back vowels by the corresponding front vowels). The following simple and completely regular examples (all in the indicative mood, but in the past - expressed by the particle dam) illustrate the use of the different verbs formed from this:

Image

Image

I hope this makes some sense! Sorry about the differently-sized screenshots of the pages containing the glosses.
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Re: Ancient Vaal - my first conlang scratchpad

Post by brblues » Wed 29 Aug 2018, 19:41

NOUNS

As outlined in the phonology section, noun root forms generally have two syllables, the first of which is stressed, and with both syllables containing back vowels only. This root constitutes both the dictionary form of any given noun and the absolutive case in the non-possessed state. There may be affixing and compounding, but this does not affect the form of the noun root.

Grammatical number is generally not marked in AV, and the definiteness of nouns in the absolutive case is marked on the verb; they are otherwise considered indefinite. On the contrary, nouns in the ergative case are as a rule considered definite, and it is standard usage to introduce a referent before using it as the agent (in the ergative case).

POSSESSION
With regards to possession, Ancient Vaal - which is otherwise dependent-marking - uses head-marking: the dependent noun is marked by the possessed state, which can be combined with any of the three morphological cases (ABS, ERG, COP), while the possessor noun, in the absolutive case, precedes the posssessed noun.

Morphologically, forming the possessed state is as basic as it gets - the stressed vowel is simply lengthened.

Image
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