No verbs?

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Aurremerion
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No verbs?

Post by Aurremerion » 13 Oct 2018 00:16

Greetings, fellows!
A thought dashed through my mind a few days ago and I've been puzzling over it since.

I've started studying linguistics, which has opened my eyes to the vast variety of languages there are, how they mandle meaning, how they view the world and how all that is reflected in the grammar. Yet I could not help but realise that, although every single tongue is different and unique, they all have one thing in common: the verb.
No matter which language you look at (as far as I know), it always has words which convey an action, e.g. something that happens.
I was wondering, does (can?) a language without this even exist? Could one develop a language that is fundamentally different from every other language on earth? Is a verb something innately human, or is it something completely arbitrary? How would a language of an alien race function?

I look forward to your responses.
Salutations,
Aurremerion

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Pabappa
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Re: No verbs?

Post by Pabappa » 13 Oct 2018 04:52

Kēlen is the name of a conlang which has only four verbs, and therefore verbs are a closed class and thus quite unverblike.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kēlen

It can be said to have no verbs at all.... Sotomayor says that the language is perfectly naturalistic in all ways except that it has no verbs.

Basque is the closest I know in natlangs, where verbs are also a closed class but there are more of them.
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sangi39
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Re: No verbs?

Post by sangi39 » 13 Oct 2018 05:02

Pabappa wrote:
13 Oct 2018 04:52
Kēlen is the name of a conlang which has only four verbs, and therefore verbs are a closed class and thus quite unverblike.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kēlen

It can be said to have no verbs at all.... Sotomayor says that the language is perfectly naturalistic in all ways except that it has no verbs.

Basque is the closest I know in natlangs, where verbs are also a closed class but there are more of them.
I was going to say, doesn't Basque only have like 4 verbs that conjugate fully as verbs (which some have suggested as evidence for the way verbs work in extant Celtic languages)?

I could be wrong. but there might be a native Australian language that only distinguishes two verbs, but, like modern Celtic languages, it relies heavily on a subset of verbal nominals, i.e. words which are morphologically nouns but which still differ from "nouns" in general because of their interaction with "actual verbs".

At least in natural languages, while there is a distinction between "thing" and "thing the thing does" or "thing the thing is", a fair few languages take that to the extreme, but as far as I know, known of them take it to the point of deleting on group. Even in Semitic languages or Navajo, which are "verb heavy" languages, nouns never disappear, but languages in the opposite direction seem to be much much rarer. I can't think of a single example, if I'm being honest.
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elemtilas
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Re: No verbs?

Post by elemtilas » 13 Oct 2018 05:46

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Re: No verbs?

Post by Omzinesý » 13 Oct 2018 13:46

Yes and no.

Cognitive linguistics, which is a theory not a fact, sais that the distinction between things and actions is fundamental for human cognition and it's expressed someway. We can define the prototypical coding of actions and things as verbs and nouns, respectively. Then there is an ever-lasting debate on non-SAE coding of actions can be called verbs, that is are there verbs in all languages.

Natlangs

Kalam, for example, is a language where verbs are a closed class with some tens of members. Goodle "Kalam verb".

Basque, Modern Welsh among others have just periphrastic verbs with some inflecting auxiliary verbs. I would though say that it's just about morphological organisation of verbs not lack of the category.

Tongan maybe comes closest to lacking verbs. It rather has a category of specific things, marked with an "article", and a category of generic entities, without the "article" that can and usually do function as predicates, either copular or not. Many Salishan languages are similar.

Many analytic languages have verbs grammaticalized as adpositions, i.e. they function as adjuncts also. Thay are however a small number of all verbs in the languages.

Conlangs

Huttese in Star Wars is a lang without verbs. It rather has NPs that can function as predicates. They can have prepositions to differentiate "belonging to a class", "being somewhere", etc.


So making a lang without verbs is evidently possible, but it seems that some kind of a verb-like category exists in all natlangs. We can speculate if that's because of human cognition, monogenesis of languages or what.

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Re: No verbs?

Post by lsd » 13 Oct 2018 21:18

I think we have to distinguish between actions and verbs ...
the roots of actions are present in my linguistic experiments, but I no longer use verbs as the center of speech, nor any other part of speech ...

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