Telmona: Tǝɣra pretty scripty? Plus a longer text.
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? dewrad posts: 5
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So... recently I've been dicking around with this largely isolating language called Tǝɣrâ, which is spoken on Telmona by an ethnic group by the name of Tǝɣor (and their conquests). I'm pretty pleased with the argument structure. So here it is.

Person marking and word order in Tǝɣrâ



Stated baldly, the underlying morphosyntactic alignment of Tǝɣrâ is deceptively simple: ergative-absolutive marking with EAV word order. A number of factors, however, conspire to make the surface instantiation of this irksomely complex.

Let us begin with the least marked species of sentance we can- a verb in the imperfect aspect with two animate third person arguments:

lɨɣaolord yeERG tǝshâbeat.IMP kuaboy
The lord is beating the boy.

We can immediately see that there is a deviation from the canonical argument order stated above: we have EVA, not EAV. This is due to the verb-second constraint in Tǝɣrâ. If we look at the same sentence with the verb in the perfect aspect, which is marked by an auxiliary verb, we see the following:

lɨɣaolord yeERG nduPRF kuaboy beat.PRF
The lord has beaten the boy.

(Ignore the tǝshâ~tâ change: a number of verbs in Tǝɣrâ have wholly dissimilar suppletive stems used in the perfect aspect. It does not pertain here.)

Another complication is when we add agent pronouns: canonically these always follow the verb:

kuaboy tǝshâbeat.IMP ṅe1SG
boy beat.IMP 1SG
I am beating the boy.

Here we see AVE order. In the perfect:

kuaboy nduPRF ṅe1SG beat.PRF
boy PRF 1SG beat.PRF
I have beaten the boy.

Note in both sentences that the agent is not marked with the ergative particle ye. This particle is only obligatory with 3rd person agents. When used with first and second person agents, it has a disjunctive force. Additionally, when first or second person pronoun co-occurs with the ergative particle, it behaves in the same manner as a full noun, thus:

ṅe1SG yeERG tǝshâbeat.IMP kuaboy
I am beating the boy.

Incidentally, we've just seen how to emphasise a 1st/2nd person subject there. To emphasise the object, we move it to the left edge of the phrase:

kuaboy tǝshâbeat.IMP lɨɣaolord yeERG waWA
The lord is beating the boy.

Two things to note here: if you're keeping up, you will have expected the AVE word order here, on account of the verb-second constraint. On the other hand, you might not have expected the particle wa at the end of the sentence. We'll explore this in greater depth below, but for now let's just note its position. This wa is one of the few preposed verbal particles- it is not a sentence-final particle. This is more evident in the perfect:

kuaboy nduPRF lɨɣaolord yeERG waWA beat.PRF
The lord has beaten the boy.

It gets just a little bit more complex when we have a pronominal agent rather than a nominal:

kuaboy tǝshâbeat.IMP waWA ṅe1SG
I am beating the boy

kuaboy nduPRF waWA beat.PRF ṅe1SG
I have beaten the boy

So... from this, we might assume that the wa-particle serves to emphasise the object/patient, right?

Wrong. It's the inverse particle, and henceforth we'll be denoting it as INV in the gloss. Tǝɣrâ, like some Athabaskan languages and one or two Tibeto-Burman languages, has a species of direct-inverse argument structure. Wikipedia's as good as any to quote at this stage:

"The definition of a direct–inverse language [...] is widely understood to involve different grammar for transitive predications according to the relative positions of their "subject" and their "object" on a person hierarchy, which in turn is some combination of saliency and animacy specific to a given language. The direct construction is the unmarked one. The direct construction is used when the subject of the transitive clause outranks the object in the person hierarchy, and the inverse is used when the object outranks the subject."

Until we met kua tǝshâ lɨɣao ye wa, we had been dealing with direct constructions. Tǝɣrâ's direct-inverse system does not correspond to the canonical definition given above precisely: in the sentence kua tǝshâ lɨɣao ye wa, the nominal constituents were still marked for agent and patient as they are in a direct construction, rather it is the verbal marking which differed, triggered by the abnormal word order of A preceding E.

The saliency hierarchy in Tǝɣrâ is 1st/2nd person > 3rd person animate > 3rd person inanimate. If the two arguments of a verb both occupy the same "rank" on the hierarchy and we have unmarked word order, a direct construction is used. If the agent outranks the patient and we have unmarked word order, a direct construction is used. However, if the patient outranks the agent, or if there is a marked word order, an inverse construction is used.

For example, taking the sentence "the lord is beating me", we might expect the Tǝɣrâ

*lɨɣaolord yeERG tǝshâbeat.IMP ṅe1SG
*The lord is beating me.

based on the sentence with a nominal patient seen above:

lɨɣaolord yeERG tǝshâbeat.IMP kuaboy
The lord is beating the boy.

We would be wrong to expect this. As the 1st person outranks the 3rd person, we should rather expect an inverse construction:

lɨɣaolord yeERG tǝshâbeat.IMP waINV ṅe1SG
The lord is beating me.

Given that "animate" in Tǝɣrâ thought indicates "capable of language", animals are outranked by humans. So in a sentence where we have a non-human agent and a human patient, we need the inverse construction:

rɨsordog yeERG ñjuabite.IMP lɨɣaolord waINV
A dog is biting the lord.

Moving on, like many languages with absolutive alignment, Tǝɣrâ lacks a "passive voice", allowing instead free deletion of agents in transitive clauses. However, in such a construction, while the agent is no longer overtly instantiated, it is considered to still be underlyingly present. And an unstated agent requires the inverse construction:

lɨɣaolord ñjuabite.IMP waINV
The lord is being bitten.

That is, unless an instrument is stated. (Obviously.) Let us take the straightforward direct construction "the lord beats the boy with a stick".

lɨɣaolord yeERG tǝshâbeat.IMP lǝlaṃstick taINST kuaboy
The lord is beating the boy with a stick.

(Note the unmarked position of the instrument here: between E and A.)

To say "the boy is being beaten with a stick", we delete the agent as we did with the lord getting bitten, but instead of using the normal inverse particle, we meet a new particle: mɛṃ (which for the sake of argument we'll call the "instrument focus", or IFO):

lǝlaṃstick taINST tǝshâbeat.IMP kuaboy mɛṃIFO
The boy is being beaten with a stick.

This instrument focus particle also crops up when an instrumental phrase is left-dislocated for emphasis:

lǝlaṃstick taINST tǝshâbeat.IMP lɨɣaolord yeERG kuaboy mɛṃIFO
The lord is beating the boy with a stick (and not e.g. another boy).

The same particle also occurs with intransitive verbs of motion where the destination or origin is emphasised:

suafield seALL cugo.IMP lɨɣaolord mɛṃIFO
The lord is going to the field.

Now, what about transitive verbs lacking a stated patient? (I hear you cry.) Unexceptionally, Tǝɣrâ has an antipassive for this kind of thing. It is expressed by a particle from the same family as wa and mɛṃ. This is mo, which promotes the agent to a patient (i.e. it loses its ergative marker), and cannot co-occur with another particle from the same family.

lɨɣaolord tǝshâbeat.IMP moANT
The lord is beating somebody.

The complication here is that the antipassive particle is found with a number of verbs which (to English sensibilities) are semantically intransitive anyway. As an example:

lɨɣaolord hohsleep.IMP moANT
The lord goes to sleep. (On account of being exhausted from all the beating, presumably.)

This is because this same set of verbs are actually transitives in Tǝɣrâ, with causative meaning:

lɨɣaolord yeERG hohsleep.IMP kuaboy
The lord puts the boy to sleep.

Finally, because this isn't complex enough, there are actually two antipassive particles: the already-encountered mo, and yi. The distinction between the two is one of control or agency: mo indicates a deliberate act on the part of the agent (and has an inceptive/inchoative nuance), while yi indicates a lack of intention or volition:

lɨɣaolord hohsleep.IMP yiANT
The lord is sleeping.

Now, if you're keeping up, all this should be fairly straightforward. Happily, negation and relativisation add a further layer of complexity, and will be explored in a later post.
? Morrígan Witch Queen of New York
posts: 303
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This is pretty cool, I like the V2 constraint. I forget which one, but a few years ago I was looking at the typological properties of a Penutian language, which I think used inverse marking which was somehow complicated by an animacy hierarchy. This feels vaguely familiar in that respect.
? Radius C / 2π
posts: 113
, Hydrogen, United States
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This looks quite thoroughly thought through, which I always appreciate seeing. Not to imply you'd ever do anything less, of course.

A question, though: Erg-abs marking and a direct-inverse alignment? That's certainly... unexpected. If you have a rationale worked out, I would be quite interested to hear it.
? dewrad posts: 5
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Cheers guys.

Embarrassingly, I forgot I forgot to answer this.  Simply put, the direct-inverse alignment with erg-abs marking I'm making use of is a vague riff of what happens in the rGyalrong languages, influenced by marking structures my source language (which I'd prefer to remain a bit cagey about at the moment, for sheer perversity.) I don't have a rationale per se beyond "a natlang's done something pretty damn similar!"

? dewrad posts: 5
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Here's a sample text demonstrating the nduo-cɔr, the writing system used for Tǝɣra. The text is quite interesting linguistically, and the script is a fuckup (no, it's not a straightforward abugida)- but translating this has taken me long enough that I just want it off my screen before I start any commentary.

sicsemper.png

Cyuo cwɔʔ a yao, wɔʔ a rɛr xe yiṃ. Mbe wor xe tǝtoṃ wa aṃ, mbe ci-ṅgae xe ci.
cyuoonce_opon_a_time cwɔʔday_of_rest aGEN yaomorning, wɔʔsun aGEN rɛrrise xeALL yiṃbefore. mbeCONJ worcity xeALL tǝtoṃlead waINV aṃ3SG, mbeCONJ ci-ṅgaeplace_of_execution xeALL ciin.
It was the morning of the Day of Rest, before the sun rose. And they bought him into the city, to the place of execution.

Mbe su-cǝhoʔ ñɨsyer ṅgae a ṅae nɛṃ a mruo ñjeṃ wa. Mbe nɨyea wa aṃ, yɛʔ sua-ṅao ndu yi suo, rɨñer yɛṃ ye nɨyea wa ñji nde yɛʔ.
mbeCONJ suhand-cǝhoʔ=foot ñɨsyerbind ṅgaeexecution aGEN ṅaecustom nɛṃ3PL aGEN mruoamong ñjeṃEQU waINV. mbeCONJ nɨyeacurse waINV aṃ3SG, yɛʔQUOT sua-ṅaomighty nduPRF yiINV suofall.PRF, rɨñergod yɛṃPL yeERG nɨyeacurse waINV ñji2SG ndeOPT yɛʔQUOT.
And they bound his hands and his feet as was their custom for executions. And they taunted him him, saying, the strong have fallen, may you be cursed by the gods.

Mbe nɛṃ ye ñɨsyer cǝhom ta efaṃ, mbe nɨyea wa aṃ ndreo, nɛṃ kǝsɔr aṃ a lǝhreṃ yɛṃ a mu-nɔ-lɨɣao, yɛʔ rɨñer yɛṃ ye nɨyea wa ñji nde, ñji ñjer cɨɣao xe nde yɛʔ.
mbeCONJ nɛṃ3PL yeERG ñɨsyerbind cǝhoṃrope taINST efaṃneck, mbeCONJ nɨyeacurse waINV aṃ3SG ndreomore, nɛṃ3PL kǝsɔrpraise aṃ3SG aGEN lǝhreṃenemy yɛṃPL aGEN muname-nɔ-lɨɣao=title, yɛʔQUOT rɨñergod yɛṃPL yeERG nɨyeacurse waINV ñji2SG ndeOPT, ñji2SG ñjergo cɨɣaounderword xeALL ndeOPT yɛʔQUOT
And they placed the rope around his neck and they taunted him again, praising the names and titles of his enemies, and saying, may the gods curse you, may you go to the netherworld.

Mbe aṃ mboe mo, yɛʔ nio nɔ-nɨsɔh ñji he? Nio çiʔ a hǝsa.
mbeCONJ aṃ3SG mboereply moANT, yɛʔQUOT niothis nɔ-nɨsɔhmanhood ñji2PL heINT? niothis çiʔshame aGEN hǝsagibbet.
And he replied, saying, is this your manhood? This is a gibbet of shame.

Mbe nɨsɔh yɛṃ ye nie wa aṃ, yɛʔ rɨñer sǝsɛr nde por nde yɛʔ, mbe rɨñer rɔe wa aṃ yɛʔ rɨñer-cwor ye crao mu a ṅu nde yɛʔ.
mbeCONJ nɨsɔhman yɛṃPL yeERG niespeak waINV aṃ3SG, yɛʔQUOT rɨñergod sǝsɛrprepare ndeOPT pormeet ndeOPT yɛʔQUOT mbeCONJ rɨñergod rɔepray waINV aṃ3SG yɛʔQUOT rɨñergod-cwor=servant yeERG craoremember muname aGEN ṅu1SG ndeOPT yɛʔQUOT
And again they spoke to him, saying, prepare to meet the gods. And he prayed to the gods, saying, may the gods and their servants remember my name.

Mbe nɨsɔh yɛṃ ye lao wa aṃ. Mbe reo kǝçeo ci-ṅgae a ci, cir-cio a ci, kar a ci. Cwɔʔ a yao, wor wɔʔ rɛr Kǝñer a mbor a wao mo.
mbeCONJ nɨsɔhman yɛṃPL yeERG laohang waINV aṃ3SG. mbeCONJ reogreat kǝçeojubilation ci-ṅgaeplace_of_execution aGEN ciin, cir-ciostreet aGEN ciin, karmarket aGEN ciin. cwɔʔday_of_rest aGEN yaomorning, worwhen wɔʔsun rɛrrise KǝñerPN aGEN mborwall aGEN waoover moANT.
And so they hanged him. and a great shout went up in the place of execution and in the streets and in the markets. It was the morning of the Day of Rest, as the sun rose over the walls of Kǝñer.
? Rhetorica Your Writing System Sucks
posts: 1279
, Kelatetía, Koitra, Illera
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Dumb suggestion: try reversing the stress on the letters in your script, so that they have thick lines on the vertical instead of the horizontal. You want to maximize the stroke weight on the most semantically important parts of the glyphs, which isn't being done very well currently.