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Hallo conlangers!

On Friday 04 January 2013 07:36:27 Gary Shannon wrote:

> My 30-day language is SOV, which is similar to RPN it seems.

Only superficially.  I have been maintaining for long that RPN is
a word order type in itself that is actually very different from
the SOV word order found in about one half of all human languages.

Before tackling the problems you are discussing below, first make
up your mind which of the two your conlang is meant to be: SOV
or stack-based.  From the discussion below I get the impression
that you are going for the latter.

> Now I'm debating some different constructions like: (stripped down to
> bare bones)
> 
> Ria ki juko se naga uro. (man this sees, that boy runs.) S ki V se SV
> 
> vs.
> 
> Ria naga uro juko. (man boy runs sees.) S(SV)V with (SV) as O
> 
> In the first case the construction ki..se puts "ki" in the direct
> object slot as a place holder, and "se" introduces the deferred object
> clause "the boy runs". In the second case the the object clause is
> embedded in-line forcing two verbs at the end. This second
> construction is a sort of garden path sentence in that it mislead the
> reader into believing, momentarily, that "boy" is the direct object
> after the subject "man", rather than a possible second subject of
> another verb. I find it confusing.

Is case marking out of the question?  In a case marking language,
it would be obvious that 'boy' is not the direct object because it
is marked with nominative/ergative/whatever.  But I think that
constructions of the type "man boy runs sees" are typical of SOV
languages.

>        And yet the deferred "ki..se"
> construction becomes confusing with deeper sentence/clause nesting.
> 
> I'm uncomfortable putting a marker on the object clause (man THAT boy
> runs sees) even though that solves the garden path problem. But
> somehow putting the marker first doesn't feel right in SOV with
> NOUN-ADJ order and VERB-ADV order. A pre-positioned marker feels out
> of place, and a post-positioned marker comes too late to prevent
> misunderstanding.

A preposed marker indeed seems out of place in a rigorously SOV
language (but those languages also usually have adjectives before
nouns and adverbs before verbs, unlike your language).
 
> Since I am not fluent in my 3-day old conlang, the question is, could
> I ever become fluent in a language that potentially could put two, or
> three, or four verbs on the stack and dump them all at the end?

Who will ever become fluent in a stack-based language?  Such
beasts are outside what the human language facility can cope
with in real time, I think.  Stack-based grammars are very
economical with regard to rules (which is the reason they are
sometimes used in computing), but require a prodigious short-
term memory in order to handle the stack properly (which
computers of course have).

>       Or is
> it better to put two or three "ki..se" pairs on the stack and dump the
> deferred clauses at the end? (Or would the "ki..se" clauses daisy
> chain together rather than nest deeply? I'm not sure.)
> 
> In English I have no trouble with a bunch of verbs leaving up to five
> prepositions on the stack and dumping them out at the end: "Daddy,
> what did you bring that book that I don't want to be read to out of up
> for?" So apparently human brain stacks are at least five items deep.

I must confess that your example is confusing and when I read it,
I completely lost track.
 
> Or will I have to resort to decomposition into shorter sentences? "Boy
> runs." "Man this sees." That sounds like a less than useful language!

It sounds like what one may expect from _Homo erectus_, or whatever.

> I've never worked with an SOV language, and I don't really want to
> just copy some other SOV grammar. Nor do I want to write an RPN
> language. I had enough of that programming inf FORTH.

Also, Jeffrey Henning has done it in Fith.

>       I want my
> language to be naturalistic, and I want it to be at least
> theoretically possible to become fluent in the language.

Two strong reasons to forsake a stack-based approach!  Stack-based
languages are not naturalistic, and you'll never become fluent in
them!

> So I guess my
> question is this: In natlangs, how deep does the deferred elements
> stack generally go? What depth does it never exceed? Does anybody have
> a handle on these questions?

At any rate, "stack depth" (I sincerely doubt that "stack" is the
right concept here, we are rather dealing with tree structures here)
in human languages is quite limited, and deep center-embedding is a
no-no.  Most people feel uncomfortable with clauses embedded more
than three deep, I think, though some people are capable of handling
more.

If you want to make a naturalistic conlang, don't get too hung up
with "stack depths".  Rather study natlangs.  (But it is certainly
difficult to come up with a naturalistic language in just 30 days,
unless you just apply sound changes to a source language, which can
be done quite quickly.)

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