Sunday, October 28, 2018

Kílta metaphor: SALT IS VITALITY

One standard feature of my current grammars for new languages is a separate section after the dictionary where I focus on particular areas of interest or difficulty. For example, copulas and verbs of existence in Kílta have a few complications, so there's a section on those. This lets me limit cross-references in the dictionary definitions to something reasonable, while still being able to give a thorough overview later.

A subsection on conceptual metaphor (Conlangery Podcast #66) is now standard in my grammars. I've recently been working out the metaphor SALT IS VITALITY (for some reason, conceptual metaphors are often given in all-caps like this). 

When I first thought about this metaphor, I spent a little while first thinking through the implications. In this instance, I already had an idiom involving salt that would interact a bit oddly with it —

Ches si tirat vuëtiso.
salt ACC give.1R-INF try-PFV
They tried to bribe me. (lit., "they tied to give me salt")

I decided this wasn't a vital problem, and in fact slightly enhanced the idiom and the conceptual metaphor I was about to develop.

Kílta has a modest set of derivational affixes, so I first thought about how some of those might work:

  • chesámin - "saltless," has the standard meanings of dull, lifeless, with an additional sense of mildly ill
  • chesëtin - "salty, having salt" is the core sense, but also means vital, lively, vigorous
For now, no other derivational elements have suggested themselves for this metaphor. In general, I try to take these metaphorical derivations only if they have a clear literal use, too.

Next, Kílta, as a verb-final language, favors N-V combinations for creating new verbal senses from nouns, rather than derivational affixes. These are more obviously idiomatic, with less clear-cut literal use:
  • ches si raho - literally, "throw (the) salt," has the same basic sense and tone as the English idiom "kick the bucket," but is a touch less respectful than the English
  • ches tëníto - literally, "(the) salt is gone," matches the idea of being dejected, or "the life has gone out of him/her/it"
  • ches si kwilë relo - literally, "carries too much salt," is for someone who has too much nervous energy, or a pet having the zoomies
That's as far as I want to take things for now with a new metaphor. I've made a notation in the dictionary entry for ches salt which reminds me of this sense if I add new examples to that headword, in addition to the conceptual metaphors section after the dictionary. Maybe that's as far as this metaphor will go, but it's always nice when a new metaphor-based idiom suggests itself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Two Notes on Walman

The Walman language of Papua New Guinea has two interesting grammatical features: a conjugated and, and an inflectional diminutive.

Conjugated Conjunction

Walman's verbs have polypersonal agreement on transitive verbs, marking both subject and object. Conjunction is handled with two verb stems, -aro- and <-a-> (subject is a prefix, object is a suffix):

nyue w-aro-n ngan
mother 3SG.F.SUBJ-and-3SG.M.OBJ father
a mother and father

Since verb serialization is already present in Walman, it looks like a verb got grabbed to mean and and got dropped into the serialization chain. There is also a non-conjugated and, which may be used instead of the conjugated form, but seems to be preferred for inanimate constituents and clauses. Interestingly, the Lamaholot language of Indonesia also has an inflecting and, but it can be used to join clauses.

See Verbs for 'And' in Walman for all the glorious details.

Inflectional Diminutive

Walman also has a third person singular diminutive marker which occurs on verbs and adjectives.

Pelen l-aykiri.
dog 3SG.DIMIN-bark
The puppy is barking.

Pelen w-aykiri.
dog 3SG.FEM-bark
The female dog is barking.

Pelen n-aykiri.
dog 3SG.MASC-bark
The male dog is barking.

Pelen y-aykiri.
dog 3SG.PL-bark
The dogs are barking.

The authors of the paper below believe that the diminutive marker was originally a neuter gender.

See Diminutive as an Inflectional Category in Walman for details.

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,...