On Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 11:07 PM, Alex Fink <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hey, wait a minute, that physical / mental split of the verb class is what
> Elkarîl does!
> So, I take it back, there's at least one language that has gone for
> weirdness in this fashion.  And delightfully so.

Ooh – this is lovely. My personal aesthetics make me want to see what would
happen if you made this language more inflecting and then allowed word
order variations for information structure. Or, more generally, gave
significantly different morphology to the four classes (two verb-like, two
noun-like) outlined in that section. Mental verbs, i.e., might not inflect
for tense. Or, hey, you could have evidential systems on both, but
different systems – given that the mental verbs would be unlikely to be
direct-observation knowable, anyway.

> It's also brought to mind a word class which some Mesoamerican languages
> have -- what's it called? -- oh yeah, _positionals_.

> That's somewhat like these depictives but, from the examples I've seen,
> with a greater focus on _configuration_; "in a heap on the ground" or
> "wound around something" or "crouching" would be typical members.

Hadn't come across this, before! Yes – depictives are quite similar to
this, but as a distinct morphosyntactic category. Also, *configuration*! I
knew there was a better word to describe what I was after than "spatial
relationships"... Many depictives would be configurational – I believe I
had a "curled up" one, for instance – though they would explicitly never
have denoted points of reference, e.g. "on the ground" – they might have
"on a flat surface", I suppose, but more likely "on something" where the
thing could be specified by a nominal argument.

> That also sounds awesome (give this man a Smiley award!), but I think I
> need to see some examples.

Wow, with a complement like that I may need to dust this language off and
get back to work! :)

Ok, for example, you might have a sentence of the form:

1) woman city
"A woman went to a city by boat."

In this sentence, the woman and the city are both discourse-new. The first
element is the depictive and in this form would be uninflected (or, rather,

If one or both of the nouns is discourse-old, we can move it up to be the
depictive's topic. In this case, the depictive semantically wants one
nominal argumement (the goal), so the least marked option is to move up

2) city-TOP woman
"The woman went to the city by boat."

The depictive declines to show that the city is an oblique argument to the
verb phrase.

3) woman-TOP city
"It was the woman who went to the city."

The above would sound a little funny – a case where a different depictive
(one that isn't goal oriented, perhaps) might describe the action better.

4) woman-TOP move.wanderingly-Ag city
"The woman wandered toward the city by boat."

Note that this, not being goal-oriented, does not necessarily mean that the
city was her destination – only that she was moving in the direction of the
city. If we raised "city" to topic, this interpretation would change – she
would now be bound for the city (but not necessarily getting there).

5) woman-TOP distributed.stochastically.through.volume-Ag
"The woman went to the city by boat now and again."

Depictives that have no immediately obvious physical interpretation often
metaphorically take on aspectual interpretations.

6) distributed.stochastically.through.volume me
"I'm scatter-brained."

Depictives are the one syntactically necessary category in every sentence,
and select either a noun or a verb phrase as argument. (6) is thus a
minimal sentence in tükwäi.

(7) me-TOP teacher
"I'm becoming a teacher." (or "became" – unmarked for tense)

An example of a nominal predicate. The marking on the depictive can change
interpretation – if it were marked agent, this might be something more like
"I'm trying to become a teacher." It wouldn't be "I'm going towards a
teacher" – that requires a verb.

Not that I think it'd be tòo much of a failure to have something similar to
> two-part verbs.  But it seems to me that it would help matters that not
> every depictive would appear with a verb.  Actually, taking up the physical
> / mental sphere verb split from before, you could reinforce it by demanding
> physical verbs appear with (under?) a depictive but not having a slot for
> depictives with mental verbs.

Mm – see the last two examples, above. Depictives don't require verbs, but
all verbs require depictives – which I think works syntactically, I just
didn't necessarily cut up semantic space well enough for this to make
sense. (For one, I didn't really think about how this would work
differently with physical and mental verbs...! Or any other subclasses of
verbs, for that matter.)

> Hah, you know what?  A way to make depictives rèally clearly a word class
> of their own like none other would be to have them _realised_ as gestures
> in an otherwise spoken language!  This gestural iconic stuff is a forte of
> sign languages, as you surely know.  If that's a bit too out there for
> one's taste, maybe one could at least make them all mimetic...

I was just starting to study ASL for the first time when I created this
version of the language (I was your typical serial monogamist,
conlang-wise) and thinking primarily about productive signing / classifier
predicates, yes. I conceived of it as basically inverting classifier
predicates: lexicalize the motion, not the noun-class. I had always wanted
to do a dual-channel conlang, but was more interested in the idea of
transposing sign-like things into spoken language, in this case.