Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to handle Tsrai compounds?

I tend to worry about lexical expansion early in the creation of a language. It's entirely possible for me to have several bits of derivational morphology tested and ready before I've even started seriously with, say, the verb system. I favor rather complex derivational systems (see the madness of Vaior's derivational system), but in Tsrai I'm trying to be more restrained. So, there will be much more compounding using root words and little or no bound morpheme use. I'm currently thinking I'll follow the Vietnamese practice, and write each element of the compound separately.

Since Tsrai so far has been head-initial for noun phrases, it seems best to use head-initial compounds (although the typology on this isn't so clear-cut). The big question now is — how to mark plurals? Since most noun plurals are marked with the suffix -ne, do I tack that onto the compound head, or the full phrase? What if the head noun reduplicates for plurals? Using syur person (pl. sisyur), véu study; inspect:

syur véu student (person-study)
?sisyur véu students?
?syur véune students?

Right now I'm leaning toward sisyur véu, but I'll worry about this for a few more days before deciding. Hopefully it won't take as long as Bixwá's relative clauses took — I worried about that for longer than a month before making a decision.

And I'm not even ready to worry about verb compounds. Do they keep the same headedness pattern? Right now I'm inclined to make N-V compounds follow that order, verb last, dli word, ba see:

?syur véu ba dli a student reads
?syur véu dli ba a student reads

And verb compounds will have the same puzzle for plurals. Again, for now I'm inclined to make the plural and tense marking go into the original V element, wherever it ends up in the compound.


  1. Whoa wm, cool stuff. I've been thinking about conlanging in my spare time as well (what little there is of it) so I'll be looking to you for inspiration! Thanks for the link to the World Atlas of Language Structures, I'm going to go check that out. Any other good links you have to share?

    -Kale (Keyl ta LearnNa'

  2. For the budding conlanger, the Language Construction Kit is probably the best start. There's also a larger print edition now. The author is opinionated, in ways not always related to language, but it's still a great resource.

  3. This is very interesting stuff. In Spanish we have this kind of agreement between subject and verb in a compound, for instance, literally translating from this Tsrai compound you can get "persona (que) estudia" for the singular and "personas (que) estudian" for the plural, note that both bear a plural marking, although in Spanish the "que" is mandatory in those cases.

    Regarding the last question you pose... I would lean towards "ba dli" I think it sounds better, so I would say 'verb' then 'noun' in that case.

    Best of luck!