Monday, February 14, 2011

A cute little word

I have in the last few months been spending more time working on natural languages. In particular, a treasure trove of documents on Uto-Aztecan languages has been interesting. Unfortunately, the English translation of Michel Launey's "Introduction to Classical Nahuatl" keeps having its release date pushed back. I look forward to getting my hands on that. Most Nahuatl textbooks in English currently available make the old-fashioned philological approach I learned Greek with look like progressive language pedagogy.

As an experiment, I started working on a new language back in October, not using my normal methods of notebook-then-webpage, but straight into LaTeX. The results certainly look more impressive once the major sections start to fill out. The cross-referencing is nicer, too. I think I need to work on a few more style tweaking macros. In any case, the language, Tsariku, started off as a cross between inspiration from Uto-Aztecan languages and ancient Greek. However, it has evolved somewhat from there. I realized last week that I had snuck in a variant on split-ergativity, with the split working along animacy. Inanimate subjects of transitive verbs get a case marker, -s, but are unmarked as the direct object of a transitive verb or the subject of an intransitive.


aiku-stsi-nepá-n
this-ERG3IN-hurt-1SG
This hurt me.


aikuni-nepá-h
this1SG-hurt-3IN
I hurt this.


tsi-lemyaaiku
not3IN-functionthis
This didn't work.




Note that the conjugation, obligatory for both subject and object in transitive verbs, is still nominative-accusative alignment.

In any case, a tasty little tidbit of vocabulary. A noun recently concocted is kwehtsa, fear and uncertainty in response to sudden and uncertain social or political developments. This is less interesting than a recent compound, kwehtsulatú the sudden hush that comes over a conversation when an unexpected person approaches because one is uncertain of their loyalties.

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