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Re: Conlang Irregularities
On Sun, 7 Mar 1999, Sally Caves wrote:
> Here's a new question that I'm curious about,
> and that I didn't ask on the Lunatic.:
> I know that one of the difficult tasks of getting
> a conlang up and running is to make the rules
> of grammar. How many of you established
> conlangers, after having done that, deliberately
> introduce irregularities and contradictions into
> your conlang with an eye to giving it dimension
> and realism? Or maybe you don't do it so
> deliberately... maybe it just happens and you
> decide to leave it be?
To my way of going about it, the irregularities are not "deliberately
introduced" (the reason being, I don't "design" languages); rather they
are simply found as I stumble through the discovery of said language. One
strange irregularity I found in Kernu is that a plain nominative (no
articles) in sentence first position acts as an instumental. In K. the
instrumental is normally acheived with the object in second position
(accusative case) and having an appropriate preposition and articles:
stila il doctoers ys yscriv
(with a) pen the scholar he writes
il doctoers cunny stille ys yscriv
the scholar with a pen he writes
I suppose it may as well be called some kind of adverb; but being
something of a traditionalist I stuck with "Nominative of Instrument".
Anyway, it's there now and I'll just let it be.
A peculiarity of adjectives is that there are four [magnos (large, great);
medios (middle, half-sized); matos (good); amatos (ill, bad, ailing)] who
retain the ability to decline fully (gender, case and number). A few
decline for gender: nevos/a (new); finos/a (bright, fair; white); beccos/a
(small); senos/a (old); magnos/a (big, great); seccos/a (dry). Most
adjectives (often including these) are undeclined. The stress of these is
also somewhat odd, in that the ending in -os receives the accent.
On the verbal front, somewhen in the distant past the poetic language
borrowed the middle participal from Greek. The common language nicked it
from Bardic tongues and has given it a kind of reflexive usage:
dela uniwersitate bacclariament, ys la medicine o la lech ys dev
from the univ. having bachelorated himself, he medicine or law he
ought to study
(having graduated from univ., he ought to study med. or law)
There's also the threefold system of possession (do + acc. (dat. of
pronouns!); possessive adjectives; genitive construction -- each with a
set of rules governing when and how they may be used.
"do" constuctions can be used in nearly every situation, must be used with
"aver" (there is), frequently takes 1st and 2nd pers. enclitic pronouns.
do mi il cats ys henny teva togge ys pissasot
at me the cat he on thy cloak he pissed
This sentence includes two kinds of possession, a do construction and a
daw ay yn re e do li y lattes le reth
to you there is a (legal) argument, and to it the panels of a
(or idiomatically: your argument doesn't hold water)
Possessive adjectives may not be used with "aver", may be used with any
pronouns, may not be used with nouns (i.e., it is for poss. adjs. only)
The (more or less) pure genitive can't be used with pronouns at all, only
la ocla le carfe finne sont il cocs le sang
the eyes of the stag white are the red of blood
ya? e ma matoer at la rigo lor Francor
yeah? and my mother's the queen of France (lit. "of the
French") (i.e., pull the other one, it's got bells on)
There's a "dual of body parts" (somewhat akin to Brithenig's
"transgendered" plurals): il orels, ear (m., was n. in latin); la orela,
the ears of the head (f., -a neut. pl. from Lat.); ils orelli, ears in
general (reg. m. of il orels). [cf. Brithenig ill breich / lla freich /
llo freich meaning arm, arms of the body, and arms in general.]
There're a number of wonky verb subclasses: -es perfects which have no
personal endings; -i perfects that have personal endings in the plural but
only one in the sing.; and then there's the verb "ir" (to go). Ir's
suppletivity encompasses five different roots: the 1.sing.pres. and
3.pl.pres.fem. come from i-, while the rest of the pres. comes from va-;
the impf. & fut. come from mon-; the perf. comes from fu-; the cond. comes
from vad-; the 1st and 3rd plural come from mon- as well. Esser is the
same way, five different roots: am-, er-, fu-, bod-, and es-.
There's -ment v. -wisa for adverbs: most adverbs take -ment, rapedment
(quickly), etc. Adverbs of direction and state take the borrowed (from
OE) ending -wisa: aciwisa, hitherwards; orlogawisa, clockwise;
> In other words, how many exceptions to the rules
> you' ve made will you tolerate? One of the
> criticisms leveled at invented languages is that
> they are too regular. Does that bother you?
There's more to be sure, but it's all quite tolerable. People that level
such criticisms have probably only looked at Interlingua or Esperanto.
It's like looking at martial arts and saying "oh yes, all that hi-ya-
kung-fu-woodblock-chopping business". Such people have never considered
fencing or quarter-staves or Philippine stick fighting or some of that
bizzare stuff Cu Chullain got up to in the Tain (salmon leaps and running
on the chariot wheels and similar. Or was it running on the shield rim?).
> I have the choice of modifying my volitional verbs
> that end with an "n" and that have done so for twenty
> years. _Euan_, for instance, means "to go," volitionally..
> But I've fairly recently made it a rule that non-volitional
> verbs will end in "n" in their absolute form (retaining the
> vestige of the gerundive suffix that marks them as
> non-volitional: -ned.) So: teprorem, y tepro, "touch,"
> "I touch"; but teproned, y tepron, "feel," "I feel." Brilliant!
> But what do I do with euanrem y euan, "go," "I go," denrem
> y den, "tell, I tell," and uenrem, y uen, "take, I take"?
Could these three (and similar) verbs have undergone some kind of
(ancient) process whereby in an older level of T there _were_ volitional
forms of these verbs (e.g. y eua); but something caused this kind of verb
to undergo a change such that all forms ended up "nonvolitional", and more
recently it has come to have the force of the volitional? A new
nonvolitional form could then be created using some other bit for these
verbs -- do you have any old negative or imperative particles or moods
lying about unused? Or perhaps some old bondage or slavery terminology
that could be reinterpreted as a nonvolitional affix (or whatever)? These
three verbs conjure up in my mind considerable aspects of force: go -->
exile; tell --> compel to reveal; take --> rapine and pillage, etc. I'm
sure other verbs could fit into this category; but things like "sing" and
"churn butter" probably would not. ;-)
> Except to make them exceptions to the rule? These are beloved words
> that I've had for decades and don't want to mess with.
The above might give you a justification for why the volitional has a
nonvolitional form (in some verbs, anyway); and you get to satisfy your
sense of euphony by keeping long treasured forms intact.
> And yet I can predict how they might
> change in subsequent usage: _euaned_ "go" but not with
> volition, and a new vol. form, euarem, y eua--which I'm not
> crazy about. And an epinthetic vowel inserted between
> root and suffix for uenrem and denrem: _uenarem, denarem_.
> which are other verbs. Yikes, what to do?
> Sally Caves