Thursday, August 19, 2010

Plurality in Teutla

I like to develop specific features for each of my languages, kind of a theme for each of them, even if I am the only person who gets what the theme actually is. In my mind it just makes sense. That's why when leading with Teutla I decided to endow it with different kinds of plurality a little like class plurals and a little like quality plurals. For instance in Teutla you have at least 5 kinds of plurals. The first plural is -tʼu for inanimate concrete nouns, then you have -neh for inanimate abstract nouns and -tla for animate nouns. These three are the basic ones, apart from them you have -tʼash for 'complete' as well as -net for 'a lot of'. So for instance 'man' she would have a plural shetla 'men', and noa 'cat' would have noatla 'cats', but then kʼinoa 'mountain' would have kʼinoatʼu 'mountains' and then nuk 'night' would have nukneh 'nights'.

But you can also use the different kinds of plurals to mark differences. For example, while *shetʼu makes no sense, the word sheneh would mean 'Men' as in a group or the idea of Men, Mankind. Something similar would happen with shu 'earth', shuneh 'the Earth as a whole' which can also be rendered shutʼash with subtle differences. The last 2 plurals, of course, can be used independently of the class of noun.

shetʼash wakkan All men are big
/ʂeˈtʰaʂ wak'kan/

Would be perfectly correct. Note the stative verb wakkan 'to be big'.

chaknet ihopneh yixnen A lot of ashes cover his feet
/tʃakˈnet iˈhopneh jiʃˈnen/

And that's the last plural marker with the meaning of 'a lot'. That's why the plurals are divided into the two groups as shown above. Note the usage of the plural verbal prefix yix- which is a plural only used for verbs. Some even include the verbal plural marker as the last kind of plural in Teutla, a heated argument among Teutla grammarians.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A proto-language project

A long time ago I was very enthused to become a part of a proto-language project, where a group of people get together and receive a common proto-language to derive their own daughter languages from it. The language was called Cramarian or proto-Cramarian and I worked quite happily making 5 different daughter languages for it, then it became inactive to my disappointment. Some time later it enjoyed a small revival and I decided I would use the experience of that year-long break to make some new daughters, I wanted to make 4 new ones, I ended up making almost a dozen of them (can't help myself...).

In any case, there were only two examples given to us, and for this second term working on the project I decided to turn them into kind of a proverb so to have a real reason to translate the fragmentary example sentences. The first sentence was in IPA

nau gseɯ-siː-ʔi-mɯ
cat finger-PL-CONS-ERG
The fingers of the cat...


So I took this sentence and in one of my languages called Wakensi, an African semi-Bantu type of daughter language, the sentence became a proverb

mimi nau siseiʼi waruusesin
The fingers (nails) of the cat will keep growing


I will not get into a detailed explanation of this sentence at this time, but let me just point out how the ergative became kind of a particle at the head of the sentence and the plural is actually marked twice, first by this head-particle and then by the noun itself. The meaning of this proverb in Wakensi is that you don't have to worry about some things, because even the bad things will pass in time. A very pacific proverb in a way. The second sentence in the proto-language was even more odd

kxinau-siː-ʔi-kxeɳ
mountain-PL-CONS-on
On the mountains of...


This one evolved in two different proverbs in two of my cramlangs. In Wakensi it developed into

(mimi) lun kikinauʼi ken
On the mountains of the Moon


As there is no verb the particle is optional in this case. Note the usage of reduplication in the noun, the reduplication in this language has a couple of uses. I created the proverb to mean 'nowhere' or some 'utopic place non-existing' in this language, used in such situations as when someone says 'Gee, I would like to make a living being an artist', and being answered 'Yeah, right, on the mountains of the Moon maybe...' as in 'that's not going to happen ever'. On the other hand a somewhat related, but yet different, proverb emerged in my other cramlang called Teutla

tlagabatla kʼinoatʼu kʼen...
On the mountains of the Forefathers...


Here the ʼ doesn't stand for a glottal stop but marks an aspirated stop. Again the meaning is that of 'in the beginning of times' or 'in an utopic past', it can be used to denote 'when dinosaurs roamed the Earth' as well as 'when humans were mighty', and so it is used in Teutla, because they have the belief that in the beginning their ancestors came from caves and they were mighty, much more so than in modern times. Also they lived in a Golden Age, which ultimately came to be oftenly parodied in later literature, one such sentence was

tlagabatla kʼinoatʼu kʼen xok garanhan mot
On the mountains of the Forefathers there was no darkness


To show how utopian this kind of past was thought of, a past with no shade, no illness, no hunger or want, a past free from the perceived miseries of human life.

So I thought this was a good way to acknowledge the example sentences and at the same time giving them a place in the daughter languages, as if they were quite important in this culture, because... hey! They must have a reason, right? In any case I quite liked my attempts on Cramarian languages, and I am quite honored to have been able to be in a project alongside such fine conlangers as I have for the Cramarian project.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Unnai genitive specifier

Unnai has three kinds of genitives: a possessive, a genitive, and a 'specifier' which is a kind of genitive particular to this language. The specifier is used to overtly mark that something belongs to the possessor expressed and to no one (or nothing) else. So you can have a sentence where you can say

shagay ajnaiyiq kran my friend's pencil
me.POSS friend.GSP pencil


Here the meaning is that I'm talking about that particular pencil which belongs to my friend, no other pencil. So the same sentence can even be rendered 'the pencil which belongs to my friend', with no problems, serving also as a relative clause marker. It can also be used in such constructions as 'The city of Athens' or also 'The Age of Courage' Hence the Unnai proverb

ajnai ölgayiq, ajnai akayiq
ɑʒ͡nˈaĭ ˈɛlgajiq͡χ ɑʒ͡nˈaĭ aˈkajiq͡χ
He who is friend to everyone is friend to no one.


Similarly the Unnai translation of the Pater Noster employs this kind of construction.

öttay tall ogrurtiq Our Father who art in heaven
ɛt̪t̪ˈaj t̪all oˈgɾuɾt̪iq͡χ
we.POSS father heaven.FER.GSP


Which actually translates more accurately to "Our Father who is heaven-ridden" or "of the heaven-ridden kind" more precisely. In this doing a clear distinction is made between this father and any other father and to this father is the prayer directed.