Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kahtsaai: the Irresultative

I recently ran across a line in reference to the mass of British politicians suddenly turning on Murdoch, "if you strike at the king you must kill him." That, and the slides from LCC4 about Dothraki, reminded me I needed to tackle the irresultative for Kahtsaai.

The irresultative is a bit of an odd beast — is it an aspect? lexical aspect? mood? Some languages are quite sensitive to telic irresultatives, such as Finnish which uses an irresultative construction for verbs of emotion, so that direct objects are marked with the partitive instead of the accusative. In English we have various ways to mark a failed attempt, such as the example above, "strike at someone," or the ever-popular, "she was talking at me."

For Kahtsaai, I'm less interested in lexical aspect, but wanted a way to encode an action that didn't quite work out, or didn't quite meet expectations. The most interesting formal marking for this I've been able to find is in Tariana, which repeats the verb with a suffix, -kane,

We will tell you (but not all of it)

I decided to go with an idiomatic expression, using the verb łom, a transitive verb which usually means "throw at, pelt." When suffixed to a verb, the resulting expression means either (1) that an act was attempted but somehow didn't succeed, or (2) that the speaker's expectations were somehow unfulfilled. So,

The snake struck me.


The snake struck at me.

For a thwarted expectation,

It was supposed to rain (but didn't).

Finally, in irrealis or dependent clauses, the irresultative is more purely conative ("try to"), though with a strong sense that success is harder to come by. This let's me translate the sentence that started this all:

If you strike at the king you must kill him.

The adverbial clause suffix, C-ne V-hte, means something "if, when" and the like.

Words of Immiseration

You never know what's going to lead your conlang to new grammar. More than a month ago I was reading a bit by and about Hannah Arendt,...