(Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Evynova » 03 Jan 2017 12:31

I used to have an idea for a conlang that I wished to make naturalistic, but I don't know if that's any realistic at all.

I wanted to have a noun system with 3 genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, with each gender having an attributed vowel ending (masculine was -a, feminine was -i and neuter was -e). I gave up on that idea months ago because it felt extremely artifical and unnatural to do so, but is it really? I mean, I've never seen a language do that consistently; most gendered languages have endings commonly associated with a gender but that is not always the case and there are also other endings a particular gender can have. Is it a bad idea to stick to my original idea or is it alright to keep it?

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Creyeditor » 03 Jan 2017 13:30

clawgrip wrote:So I made the following sound changes a while ago (back-deriving a proto-language):
kʰ k g → q ʔ ɢ
kʰʷ kʷ gʷ → k g gʱ

Seems like it would have made more sense the other way around, with the labiovelars becoming uvular, but I don't really feel like adjusting every word I have made based on this, though I could do it, because the back-derived lexicon is not particularly extensive right now.

I would appreciate if anyone had any explanation for how this could have occurred. Maybe the loss of labialization causes the originally non-labialized ones to be pushed back to compensate?

Also, I am working on another descendant that distinguishes kʰʲ kʲ kʰ k. I think that will just be done as:

kʰ [k g] → kʰʲ kʲ
kʰʷ [kʷ gʷ] → kʰ k

Anyway, as I said, any opinions would be appreciated.
Maybe a bit of a Duke-of-York derivation might help. My idea is also a bit of a chain shift. So what about:
kʰʷ kʷ gʷ → kp gb gbʱ
kʰ k g → q ʔ ɢ
kp gb gbʱ → k g gʱ
Evynova wrote:I used to have an idea for a conlang that I wished to make naturalistic, but I don't know if that's any realistic at all.

I wanted to have a noun system with 3 genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, with each gender having an attributed vowel ending (masculine was -a, feminine was -i and neuter was -e). I gave up on that idea months ago because it felt extremely artifical and unnatural to do so, but is it really? I mean, I've never seen a language do that consistently; most gendered languages have endings commonly associated with a gender but that is not always the case and there are also other endings a particular gender can have. Is it a bad idea to stick to my original idea or is it alright to keep it?
You could have a look at bantu noun classes. I actually don't see why that shouldn't work for sex-based gender, especially if you also use it as derivational morphology. It get's more realistic if you have some thing agreeing with the gender of the noun, IMO.
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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by clawgrip » 03 Jan 2017 15:11

Thanks for the recommendations. Creyeditor, your idea is pretty interesting.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Evynova » 03 Jan 2017 15:29

Creyeditor wrote: You could have a look at bantu noun classes. I actually don't see why that shouldn't work for sex-based gender, especially if you also use it as derivational morphology. It get's more realistic if you have some thing agreeing with the gender of the noun, IMO.
Thank you for your reply.

Of course, I planned to make the adjectives agree with the nouns, and yes, gender was sex-based (objects/inanimate terms are neuter, animate-female is feminine, and animate-male is masculine).

The thing with bantu noun classes is that they're prefixes added before the root, and not a vowel suffix. But I'll look into it and see if I can use a similar system. Thank you :)

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Creyeditor » 03 Jan 2017 15:48

Evynova wrote:
Creyeditor wrote: You could have a look at bantu noun classes. I actually don't see why that shouldn't work for sex-based gender, especially if you also use it as derivational morphology. It get's more realistic if you have some thing agreeing with the gender of the noun, IMO.
Thank you for your reply.

Of course, I planned to make the adjectives agree with the nouns, and yes, gender was sex-based (objects/inanimate terms are neuter, animate-female is feminine, and animate-male is masculine).

The thing with bantu noun classes is that they're prefixes added before the root, and not a vowel suffix. But I'll look into it and see if I can use a similar system. Thank you :)
I don't see a plausible reason, why such a system should be more natural with prefixes than with suffixes. From a perceptual perspective you might even expect the opposite.
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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by LinguoFranco » 03 Jan 2017 21:28

What are some things to consider when making pronouns and verb conjugations? For example, I have three different words for the first person pronoun because I don't know which one I like best.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by TwistedOne151 » 04 Jan 2017 01:55

Considering languages with a word (stress or pitch) accent which isn't fixed (e.g. Hungarian, Polish, Armenian), nor placed by a predictable rule, (e.g. Latin, Hindustani), but instead a contrastive property of specific words (e.g. English, Spanish, Russian, Standard Japanese, etc.), we have some (like Standard Japanese) where the accent varies unpredictably between words, like with 箸 "chopsticks" vs 橋 "bridge" vs 端 "edge" (all hashi, but with accent on the first syllable, second syllable, or absent, respectively), but is fixed for a given word with regards to inflection. We have others (like Russian, Greek, Proto-Indo-European, etc.), where the accent can vary within the inflectional paradigm as well, like with Russian гора, "mountain", where the nominative plural is горы with stress on the first syllable and the genitive singular is горы with stress on the second syllable. My question is how might a language of that first subtype (accent varying between words but not within inflected word forms) shift to the second subtype, and have the accent moving within the inflectional paradigm? Does anyone know of any real-word precedents?

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by All4Ɇn » 04 Jan 2017 02:23

I can't really point to any specific examples but I think a plausible case would be for an inflected ending to end with a long vowel, causing stress to allophonically shift, followed by the shortening of the vowel and then contrastive status of the stress

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Isfendil » 04 Jan 2017 04:32

What exactly is pitch accent? Is it a dramatic change in tone coupled with deliberate syllable stress? That's what I get from it.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by eldin raigmore » 04 Jan 2017 06:30

Isfendil wrote:What exactly is pitch accent? Is it a dramatic change in tone coupled with deliberate syllable stress? That's what I get from it.
As near as I can tell, it's when stress and pitch-tone are exactly the same thing.
In a language with pitch-accent, tone is pitch-tone rather than register tone; furthermore, tone is (mostly) not lexical (doesn't change the root meaning of a word or syllable), nor morphological (doesn't act like an inflection, changing a word into another form of the same word), nor primarily syntactic nor primarily pragmatic. Rather, the main use of (pitch-)tone is that it is the main way stress is manifested.

That's what I've gathered. I could be wrong, especially since I haven't looked up any references.

Text in green added in edit 2016/01/08 20:38 Sun Jan 8 8:38 PM
Last edited by eldin raigmore on 09 Jan 2017 02:38, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by ajh » 04 Jan 2017 08:44

I'm reviving an old conlang project of mine for another project I'm doing, and I've decided that I want it to be synthetic/polysynthetic. I'm wondering if anyone knows of any books/online resources that really dumb down how they work, because so far the videos and articles I've found haven't really helped.
High Borogravian, to Vanglemesht, Sumtri and even Black Oroogu, the language with no nouns and only one adjective, which is obscene.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Evynova » 04 Jan 2017 11:03

eldin raigmore wrote:
Isfendil wrote:What exactly is pitch accent? Is it a dramatic change in tone coupled with deliberate syllable stress? That's what I get from it.
As near as I can tell, it's when stress and pitch-tone are exactly the same thing.
In a language with pitch-accent, tone is pitch-tone rather than register tone; furthermore, tone is not lexical (doesn't change the root meaning of a word or syllable), nor morphological (doesn't act like an inflection, changing a word into another form of the same word), nor primarily syntactic nor primarily pragmatic. Rather, the main use of (pitch-)tone is that it is the main way stress is manifested.

That's what I've gathered. I could be wrong, especially since I haven't looked up any references.
That's pretty much it, it is a stress system in which stress is expressed by a higher tone. Japanese is a good example of a pitch accent language.
However, just like stress, if you put this pitch on another syllable, you can definitely change the meaning of the word. Swedish and Norwegian are almost considered pitch-accent languages because sometimes, the final syllable of certain words require another stress (just like having two consecutive stresses). There are pairs of words only distinguished by this stress/pitch thing: anden (without the double stress) means "the duck", but it means "spirit" if you stress the 2nd syllable as well.
ajh wrote:I'm reviving an old conlang project of mine for another project I'm doing, and I've decided that I want it to be synthetic/polysynthetic. I'm wondering if anyone knows of any books/online resources that really dumb down how they work, because so far the videos and articles I've found haven't really helped.
It doesn't surprise me: polysynthetic languages are rather confusing for people who don't speak them. From what I understand, sentences revolve around a verb. A verbal proposition can mean an entire sentence in a polysynthetic language. "I accidentally fell in the stairs" could be a single, inflected verb decorated with a ton of affixes. How you add them is up to you: you can leave the root unchanged, just as much as you can create a complex morphological change system. You will also need to decide on the affixes for the personal pronounds, as well as affixes that connote meaning (aspect, basically). Unfortunately, I don't speak a polysynthetic language and I'm not familiar enough with them to explain in much detail, but I can advise you to look up polysynthetic languages and try to analyse their grammar, see how they build up sentences and the kind of affixes they make use of. Inuktitut or Nahuatl are known examples of such languages. Good luck with your conlang, I'm curious to see what you came up with :D

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by clawgrip » 04 Jan 2017 13:24

Isfendil wrote:What exactly is pitch accent? Is it a dramatic change in tone coupled with deliberate syllable stress? That's what I get from it.
Pitch accent is rather self-explanatory: variation in the pitch at which words/syllables are pronounced based on lexical and/or grammatical considerations.

What confuses the issue is that many people frequently take stress accent as a given without actually sitting down and thinking about what exactly "stress" is. In English, stress is a combination of raised (or lowered*) pitch relative to the prevailing intonation pattern, increased loudness, an increase in vowel length, and a greater variety in possible vowel qualities. These all combine at once to mark a syllable as distinct from others. Unstressed syllables in English have no deviation from the prevailing intonation pattern, lowered loudness, are short in duration, and have limited options for vowel quality (hence comes the schwa).

Thus, pitch accent is when pitch is the only one of these qualities at work to differentiate words/syllables.

*In my accent, polar questions take rising intonation, which is the reverse of wh-questions and statements, so stressed syllables take low pitch rather than high pitch.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Frislander » 04 Jan 2017 13:52

Evynova wrote:
eldin raigmore wrote:
Isfendil wrote:What exactly is pitch accent? Is it a dramatic change in tone coupled with deliberate syllable stress? That's what I get from it.
As near as I can tell, it's when stress and pitch-tone are exactly the same thing.
In a language with pitch-accent, tone is pitch-tone rather than register tone; furthermore, tone is not lexical (doesn't change the root meaning of a word or syllable), nor morphological (doesn't act like an inflection, changing a word into another form of the same word), nor primarily syntactic nor primarily pragmatic. Rather, the main use of (pitch-)tone is that it is the main way stress is manifested.

That's what I've gathered. I could be wrong, especially since I haven't looked up any references.
That's pretty much it, it is a stress system in which stress is expressed by a higher tone. Japanese is a good example of a pitch accent language.
However, just like stress, if you put this pitch on another syllable, you can definitely change the meaning of the word. Swedish and Norwegian are almost considered pitch-accent languages because sometimes, the final syllable of certain words require another stress (just like having two consecutive stresses). There are pairs of words only distinguished by this stress/pitch thing: anden (without the double stress) means "the duck", but it means "spirit" if you stress the 2nd syllable as well.
Pitch accent is a rather misleading term, I find: it is used to cover several different phenomena which are not necessarily that closely linked. It is used for languages where words can have one of a set of pitch contours, e.g. North Germanic, some dialects of Japanese or or Ok languages. It is also used for that thing in Standard Japanese of movable downstep at the edge of syllables. It is used in Serbo-Croat for what is basically a tonal distinction which only appears on "stressed" syllables, where the stress is on any syllable bar the last one. A similar phenomenon is observed in Mohawk, though there the stress there is pretty much fixed on the penult. And that's not even considering what on earth is going on in Arapaho.
ajh wrote:I'm reviving an old conlang project of mine for another project I'm doing, and I've decided that I want it to be synthetic/polysynthetic. I'm wondering if anyone knows of any books/online resources that really dumb down how they work, because so far the videos and articles I've found haven't really helped.
It doesn't surprise me: polysynthetic languages are rather confusing for people who don't speak them. From what I understand, sentences revolve around a verb. A verbal proposition can mean an entire sentence in a polysynthetic language. "I accidentally fell in the stairs" could be a single, inflected verb decorated with a ton of affixes. How you add them is up to you: you can leave the root unchanged, just as much as you can create a complex morphological change system. You will also need to decide on the affixes for the personal pronounds, as well as affixes that connote meaning (aspect, basically). Unfortunately, I don't speak a polysynthetic language and I'm not familiar enough with them to explain in much detail, but I can advise you to look up polysynthetic languages and try to analyse their grammar, see how they build up sentences and the kind of affixes they make use of. Inuktitut or Nahuatl are known examples of such languages. Good luck with your conlang, I'm curious to see what you came up with :D
Polysynthesis is really a matter of scale and gradiation (like much else in linguistics). Polypersonal marking is generally advisable, though if you otherwise have really really complex morphology you can get away with only marking one argument (see Nuu-Chah-Nulth). Noun incorporation is also a good idea except in a few circumstances:
  • Large numbers of derivational/verbalising suffixes a la Eskimo-Aleut and Wakashan
  • Large-scale verb-root compounding a la Yimas and Alamblak
It's also interesting to what extent some grammar in polysynthetic languages is carried out more by clitics than affixes. This is particularly prominent in the Pacific-Northwest.

Essentially the process is as usual: rummage around many different languages (I recommend looking for resources on Greenlandic, Mohawk, Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Navajo, rGyalrong, Yimas, EDIT:Enindhilyangkwa (probably spelled that wrong) and Kabardian) and see what sort of things you want your verb to have (e.g. you could include modals, direction marking, instrument-marking affixes, evidentiality, negation, the list is pretty long.).

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by clawgrip » 04 Jan 2017 14:34

The main idea behind pitch accent (and stress accent, for that matter) is that there is a binary distinction: any given syllable (or mora) may be accented or unaccented, which, in the case of pitch accent, can be high or low, rising or falling, contoured or not. Stress accent also has a binary distinction between stressed or unstressed. Pitch accent differs from stress accent in that pitch is the only feature employed to distinguish accented syllables from unaccented ones. A tonal language, on the other hand, will have at least three pitch-based options for any given syllable.

This binary distinction holds true for the North Germanic languages with their acute and grave accents, for Japanese with its pitch drop-carrying and non-pitch drop-carrying morae, and probably Mohawk, though I don't know the details. It also holds for Arapaho as well, with its high and normal accents. Though Arapaho has contour tones as well, from what I see, these are limited to sequences of two vowels, thus making it rather clear that this is simply allophonic interaction between two adjacent accents. The Wikipedia example hóu3íne-, where hóu has a falling tone, can be explained as being high and u being normal. Here, allophony takes over to create a falling tone. The same thing happens in standard Japanese, e.g. Kyōto has a falling pitch on kyō, but this is analyzed as interaction between two morae, kyo-u, where kyo is high and u is low. Because there is no intervening consonant, the pitches merge to create a falling contour.

However, as is often the case with language categories, things are not as clear-cut as they seem. Both Serbo-Croatian, as a pitch accent language, and English, as a stress accent language, have three options: Serbo-Croatian has a binary distinction between rising and falling pitch in stressed syllables, but also has a third option, i.e. unstress syllables. English as well, in addition to unstressed syllables, has primary stress and secondary stress, the main distinction being that secondary stress lacks the pitch change present in primary stressed syllables.

So take these as general categories that you can play around with.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Creyeditor » 04 Jan 2017 15:41

LinguoFranco wrote:[...] For example, I have three different words for the first person pronoun because I don't know which one I like best.
That's okay, Indonesian does it. You could assign nuances (like politeness or sociolinguistic factors) to the different forms.
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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Isfendil » 04 Jan 2017 16:03

Creyeditor wrote:
LinguoFranco wrote:[...] For example, I have three different words for the first person pronoun because I don't know which one I like best.
That's okay, Indonesian does it. You could assign nuances (like politeness or sociolinguistic factors) to the different forms.
Or they could just be dialect differences if you want them to be equivalent.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Evynova » 04 Jan 2017 17:03

I have another question for my conlang K'anerhtówhí. Is it natural to have 2 genitive forms coexisting in the same language, one for human possessers and the other one for object or abstract possessers? I've had a short look and I can't seem to find real-life examples of this. Would it be unnatural?

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Isfendil » 04 Jan 2017 19:27

Evynova wrote:I have another question for my conlang K'anerhtówhí. Is it natural to have 2 genitive forms coexisting in the same language, one for human possessers and the other one for object or abstract possessers? I've had a short look and I can't seem to find real-life examples of this. Would it be unnatural?
I feel like it's an important enough distinction to make that it would be natural. I myself have thought of this very thing independently, though I've never put it into practice.

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Re: (Conlangs) Q&A Thread - Quick questions go here

Post by Clio » 04 Jan 2017 19:47

Evynova wrote:I have another question for my conlang K'anerhtówhí. Is it natural to have 2 genitive forms coexisting in the same language, one for human possessers and the other one for object or abstract possessers? I've had a short look and I can't seem to find real-life examples of this. Would it be unnatural?
If I understand your question, it seems like you're describing something close to what Czech (and other Slavic languages?) has: a distinct declension on the basis of animacy. In Czech, for instance, the genitive ending of a masculine animate noun is the same as the accusative ending; but for masculine inanimate nouns, the genitive ending is -a and the accusative ending null. You seem to be describing the same basic phenomenon, but expanded to all genders (or without any gender distinction).

I suppose my question for you is why you don't just think of this as being two genders: human vs. object/abstract. Do adjectives, for instance, take the genitive form appropriate to the nouns they modify (e.g., man-GEN.HUMAN good-GEN.HUMAN vs. idea-GEN.INAM good-GEN.INAM)? It's just that the only formal difference between the two genders would be in the genitive.
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