Print

Print


I don't have the reference offhand, but some time ago (courtesy of
Dirk Elzinga) I read an analysis of Luiseno which, in contrast to the
usual basic noun/verb distinction, categorizes its lexicon into four
basic groups cutting across the noun/verb categories based on each
root's ability to take various types of inflection (and corresponding
syntactic positions).

Having found myself ruminating on that concept (without having the
original details at hand to reference), I have come up with a sketch
of the core of a grammar with a two-way lexical distinction that
pretty clearly ends up preserving verbs, but replaces lexical nouns
entirely with adjectives.

To be more precise, one lexical category in this lang is a set of
intransitive roots with non-agentive arguments, whose base form is
attributive, but which can be inflected to become nominal or
predicative.

The second major open class is basically verblike, and includes
transitives, intransitives with agentive subjects, and ditransitives.
Derivational operators can turn transitives into adjectives (hence
nouns) referring to the direct object (from which a passive
construction can be derived), but using an intransitive verb in an
attributive capacity requires a relative clause, as does referring to
the subject of a transitive verb in an attributive capacity.

The grammar is strongly head-final, so verbs come last and adjectives
precede nouns, and making attributives the obvious base form means
there is no adjective-noun agreement.

For sketch-example purposes, I'm leaning on English lexical material
and half-remembered Armenian for some of the morphology.

For adjective roots, we have things like "brown", "dog", "large", and
"pie". By suffixing "-(e)l" we get an indefinite noun; by suffixing
"-e"/"-n", we get a definite noun. So:

"brown" -  "brown"
"brownel" - "a brown one"
"doge" - "the dog"
"pien" - "the pie"
"large brown doge" - "the large brown dog"
"large piel" - "a large pie"

To use an adjective predicatively, it is inflected with "-(j)um" for
indefinite and "-e"/"-n" again for definite and used with the copula,
which agrees with grammatical person.

"It brownum es" - "It is brown"
"It piejum es" - "It is a pie"
"You browne ek" - "You are the brown one"
"I largeum em" - "I am large"
"We largee em" - "We are the large ones"

Verbs are split into a-stems and e-stems because that is more fun than
making everything totally uniform, though I don't know what all that
will end up influencing if this ever gets fleshed out into a real
language. But, for some example verbs we have

"jumpel" - "to jump"
"kickal" - "to kick"

Note that the e-stem infinitives look superficially like indefinite
nouns. This is intentional. I am not sure if I want it to be
coincidental, or retroactively have a common etymology, but making
those forms ambiguous helps to muddy the prospects for rediscovering
such a simple analysis of the language if it were to be discovered
naturally in a full form. Again, *if* this ever gets fleshed out into
a full language, I would want to lean in to finding more ways of
making the boundary between these two categories look superficially
fluid, while nevertheless keeping them rigidly separated in key ways.

Now that we have some verbs, we can make some full sentences:

"Brown doge jumpes" -" The brown dog jumps"
"You pien kickak!" - "You're kicking the pie!"

Note also that the similarity in form between the copula and normal
verb conjugations is intentional. That's one of those half-remembered
Armenian things, but it also specifically helps to muddy the
distinction between adjectives and verbs--like, maybe the *reason*
they look similar is that in the past, there really were no
independent finite verbs, just predicate adjectives with a separate
auxiliary, which eventually fused with the verb-like stems.

Now, "kickal" has a non-agentive object, so it can form a derived
adjective "kicki". Thus,

"kicki pien" - "the kicked pie"

Here is where we derive the passive construction: "Pien kickijum es" -
"The pie has been kicked (i.e., is a kicked one)". Perhaps this could
be worn down to "Pien kickim es"

Relative clauses are formed simply by placing a full clause with
pronominal subject immediately after a noun. So, to get the
attributive "The jumping dog", one would say

"doge it jumpes"

And in a sentence:

"He doge it jumpes kickas" - "He's kicking the jumping dog"

Comments so far?

-l.