LINGUIST List 5.419

Mon 11 Apr 1994

Disc: Unknown language problem

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Unknown Language

Message 1: Unknown Language

Date: Wed, 06 Apr 1994 12:58 +01Unknown Language
From: <>
Subject: Unknown Language

It is rather common that an author knows something and gives some examples
for clarifying his/her claims. I would like to do it the other way round:
I pretend to know nothing, and give some examples from language X, hoping
that you are able to answer the questions related to these examples. Please,
let your speculations be fired by imagination and linguistical knowledge,
and help me in my future research!
In language X, I encountered the following opposition (a vowel followed by ^
is to be read as a vowel covered by a circumflex):

a. do byte sener sour b. do byte sener sourr
 he beats his sister he beats his sister to death
a. eup piylase ef kornin b. eup piylase ef korninn
 she tears the paper she tears the paper in pieces
a. do ba'efre ef tjoka^sas b. do ba'efre ef tjoka^sass
 he cuts the slice.of.bread he cuts off the slice.of.bread
a. kirro larde ef toriyst b. kirro larde ef toriysst
 we eat [of] the cake we eat up the [entire] cake
a. gress trempo ef mimpit b. gress trempo ef mimpitt
 I was reading [in] the book I have read the [entire] book
a. ef oto la^ufire ef vildul b. ef oto la^ufire ef vildull
 the car runs.into a tree the car runs.down the tree

All clauses are typical SVO constructions, and there is no case system, in
the sense that S is marked as a nominative and O as an accusative.
All Os in the a-sentences differ in the same way from all Os in the
b-sentences. I wonder which rule(s) could be responsible for the
orthographical (or: morphological) and semantic differences between the
a-objects and b-objects.
There is a semantic difference between any a-clause and its b-variant, but
how can this semantic difference be described in the most simple form?

In the same language X, the following clauses have to be translated in the
following way (o~ is to be read as o covered by an apostrophe):

Gress stinde eft letra 'I am writing a letter'
Gress eft letra stinde 'I have written a letter'
Stinde gress eft letra 'I will write a letter'
Do arkette 'He is crying'
Do arketta 'He was crying'
Arkette do 'He will cry'
Ef letra stindelije pai gress 'The letter is written by me'
Ef letra pai gress stindelije 'The letter was written/has been written by me'
Stindelije ef letra pai gress 'The letter will be written by me'
Tek kette ef mimpit o~n Lerdu 'Tek gives the book to Lerdu'
Ef mimpit kettelije pai Tek o~n Lerdu
the book is given by Tek to Lerdu
Lerdu kettelita^ pai Tek enn ef mimpit
Lerdu is given by Tek OBJ the book (OBJ = object marker)
Za^lbinaselita^ do pai gress enn ef letra
send by OBJ the letter
"He will be sent by me the letter"

>From these examples, one may infer which rules could be relevant for
expressing tense and voice.

In language X, the following constructions are possible (y" is to be read as
y-diaeresis (umlaut); d^ means d-caron (hachek)):

Gress koldre-tija^ ef tjoka^s 'I throw away the bread'
Ef tjoka^s melde tval 'The bread is mouldy'
Gress ma koldre-tija^ ef tjoka^s, ef meltilo~me tval
'I throw away the bread, because it is mouldy'

Eup lorertavy eft kleter oto 'She wants to buy a new car'
Eup lelperre ny"f smurf 'She has no money'
Eup ker lorertavy eft kleter oto, eup lelperrilo~me ny"f smurf
'She wants to buy a new car, though she has no money'

Do ytende beri prate helkara Frakas 'He intends to leave for France'
Gress nert tiffe hojelka 'I do not know when'
Do tur ytende beri prate helkara Frakas, gress nert tiffilo~me hojelka
'He intends to leave for France, but I do not know when'

Wencate do eft trempos 'He will read a paper'
Groft xlad^o^pecc armtganelije blul 'His expenses will be repaid'
Dira wencate do eft trempos, groft xlad^o^pecc armtganilomije blul
'He will read a paper, if his expenses will be repaid'

What kind of morphosyntactic processes are responsible for the formation of
subordinate clauses, and how is the semantic relationship between matrix
clause and subordinate clause established?
What is the name of language X, to which family does it belong, and/or where
is it spoken?
This will do for the moment. My colleagues from the Department of General
Linguistics at the University of Amsterdam will have no problem with the
last question, I suppose, but all others somewhere in this world will find
themselves encouraged to react too, I hope.

Rolandt Tweehuysen.
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