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On Sun, May 08, 2005 at 04:57:30PM -0400, Alex J. Man wrote:

> Okay, I've been developing a language that uses a trigger system and
> have decided that there will be no "to be." State verbs,
> particularly, replace its role. Eg, He is good would be translated as
> He goods. However, I have come across the problem when addressing
> infinitives. How, exactly, would a sentence such as "To defend is to
> attack" for example be handled in this case?

I think a little Russian might be instructive.

Russian has no copula (what we call "to be" when it connects two things)
in the present tense.  So how would Russian say this?

Well, you just put the two nouns one after the other.  "My mother is a
doctor": "Moya mat' - doktor".  (I forget if there's a feminine form of
"doktor" I should be using.)

Why the dash?  Because these sentences are pronounced with a pause between
the subject and the thing to which it is being equated.  Not only is there
a pause, there's a very specific intonation that goes with the sentence:
slightly rising or sustained high on the first half, dropping sharply to
a sustained low on the second half.  The pause and the intonation help
disambiguate what might otherwise be a confusing construction.

The only thing I don't *quite* remember is whether Russian would use
infinitives in the same construction.  I think so.  So then it would be
"To defend - to attack."  Anyway, you can certainly use infinitives
this way in your conlang, although if you also link infinitives together
as English does ("to want to go"), you'll have ambiguity.  If so, it's
up to you to decide whether tone of voice (and, in writing, punctuation
such as a dash) is enough to resolve this ambiguity :)

Amanda