Minimum grammar?

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Nachtuil
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Minimum grammar?

Post by Nachtuil » 05 Aug 2016 03:11

Forgive me if this question is impossible to answer in a satisfying way. It may be so nebulous to be uninteresting but I want to ask it anyway since I am new enough to this craft to hopefully be excused and this forum iisfor potentially dumb questions. That said, I don't know how to phrase it better. Is there a minimum amount of grammar a conlang needs to be considered reasonably functional?

clawgrip
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Re: Minimum grammar?

Post by clawgrip » 05 Aug 2016 03:40

With respect, because it's a hard thing to figure out, the question is sort of a heap paradox, i.e. we can identify the two extremes distinctly, but there is no cutoff point, because it slides around depending on the purpose of the language. This is because there is no clear definition to "functional" beyond what you personally assign to it. If you want a language that you will only use to list the reigns of various kings, then you need very little in order for it to be functional. If you want a language that is functional enough to write contacts, you will need a lot of complex grammatical rules, yet you can easily do without defining how to make questions, apologies, suggestions, disagreements, polite requests, informal requests, how to address strangers, etc., meaning this language would be woefully inadequate for everyday conversation, even if you're able to translate the PlayStation Network's EULA flawlessly. Certainly the reverse is also true. So answering your question first requires defining "functional ".
Last edited by clawgrip on 05 Aug 2016 06:53, edited 1 time in total.

Nachtuil
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Re: Minimum grammar?

Post by Nachtuil » 05 Aug 2016 04:06

You raise excellent points and I take no feel no disrespect whatsoever. I had in mind the sort of grammar that would allow day to day life in a civilian unspecialised context but maybe I really need to reapproach this question when I can better describe what i am after. Perhaps simply looking at a number of existing grammars and seeing what they contain will suit my needs.

HoskhMatriarch
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Re: Minimum grammar?

Post by HoskhMatriarch » 05 Aug 2016 06:46

Well, any language that's useable by people for everything people do is quite complicated, so if you're talking about the "amount of grammar" a "finished" language has, I think that's nonsensical (I've heard people talking about making "simple" languages before, I'm not saying that's what you're doing, I just don't understand what you're doing). On the other hand, if you're wondering how much grammar you have to have to use your language, that depends on what you want to do with it.
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elemtilas
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Re: Minimum grammar?

Post by elemtilas » 06 Aug 2016 18:44

Nachtuil wrote:Forgive me if this question is impossible to answer in a satisfying way. It may be so nebulous to be uninteresting but I want to ask it anyway since I am new enough to this craft to hopefully be excused and this forum iisfor potentially dumb questions. That said, I don't know how to phrase it better. Is there a minimum amount of grammar a conlang needs to be considered reasonably functional?
Ah, Tolkien's Paradox.

This is one of those trade secrets, that back in the day, they wouldn't share with newcomers until after they'd already fumbled through their first relex. But anymore, I guess we can share!

The simple answer is "yes, there is a minimum amount of grammar" in order for an invented language to be functional. The complicated answer is "the minimum amount of grammar you need for a reasonably functional invented language is exactly and precisely the amount of grammar you would need to make an invented language reasonably functional."

See, wasn't that easy! And no dumb question that! That was very philosophical.

All kidding aside, it will largely depend on where you start your language and how much you try to do with it. Now, I tend to start a new language with some "big" idea in mind. Take a look at this language. That language started out requiring some understanding of word order, animacy, inceptivity and kennings. All that without doing much more than rudimentary work on phonology and morphology.

In order to make this poem, the grammar is "sufficient to the task". If I want to express other ideas, I would of course need more grammar to do so. It's just like a little tyke learning her native language. Little bits at a time.

Other people start out manking around with phonology and never move any further. I would hazard the guess they don't really need any grammar at all to make their language functional, because they never need their language to be functional in the first place!

I understand you're pretty new to the making of invented languages. This is certainly no nebulous or uninteresting question! A long-time glossopoet, over on Conlang-L, has run smack into this very question. After years of working on a collaborative conlang project, they've stumbled upon an area of their language's grammar that has proven to be insufficient to communicating a particular idea.

All this is a round-about way of saying as your grammar grows, your language will be more useful (more functional) and as you use and flex your language, you will spur the growth of the grammar in parallel. The more things you want to be able to express, the more functional it will need to be and thus the more grammar you will need to have. Grammar and functionality and lexicon and metalinguistics all work along parallel scales. A language is "reasonably functional" when its elements are in balance.

Hope that helps a little bit!
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Nachtuil
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Re: Minimum grammar?

Post by Nachtuil » 07 Aug 2016 17:27

That is useful actually. It reinforces the idea that a language's grammar is functional in regards to how effectively it meets it's intended or needed application. What I get from it is that it is perfectly fine to make up grammar only as I need it :)

I no longer think it is really applicable but initially when I asked the question I supposed a list could have been formulated like the following:
Ability to connect entities with actions.
Ability to describe the quality of entities.
Ability to describe the quality of actions.
Ability to place actions in time, relative to the statement's creation.
Ability to differentiate realis and irrealis mood.

It now seems implausible and unrealistic.

mahagugu
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Re: Minimum grammar?

Post by mahagugu » 19 Sep 2016 13:34

Just don't go for the 100% of everything. Even natives have troubles to express certain ideas new to them
sometimes. Just go for 95 % covering of everyday speech. At least that what I plan to do and still
asking myself what could be the "minimum grammar" or "essential grammar" but to mean that means
95% coverage of ... . (in both vocabulary and syntax)

For every percent more requires a lot more and the hardest part probably is from 99,8% to 99,9% ...

I started this "idiotic minimalist approached conlang" thread by the way and as for word building and
word derivation or generally building up vocabulary so called "verbal roots" seem to me a lot to offer.

I also read it makes grammar a lot easier by dropping out the adjectives and replacing them by verb
and noun constructions. ( something "like a flash" instead of "fast" )

Also considering or believing that the primary purpose of grammatical endings was basically word building
or word construction to increase vocabulary could ease up a lot of things. I mean it could help to construct a
very complicate language by starting with a very simple proto-language.

So what I want to say is that you need not begin with dual, plural , singular and twenty different cases but
rather how it came to be they were used. Plural and singular can be pretty good expressed with adjectives.
Adjectives can be expressed by phrases using verbs and nouns. Nouns can be created from phrases using
verbs and "pronouns" ( I have something slightly different in mind than "he,she,it,..." ). So probably verbs
and pronouns and affixes for derivation are a good start. I prefer to call those affixes "idiotics" for their unclear
and arbitrary use sometimes.

You probably might have done it already when translating texts into other languages. I mean breaking up complicated
sentences into smaller ones, explaining complicated words with sentences and so on and so trying to make the text
simpler and easier to translate.

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