Apr20 –  A Constructed Language

Apr20 Syntax

1st Post

General Structure

Nouns, adjectives, verbs, adpositions, pronouns, and adverbs are semantic classes of predicates.

A predicate can have up to 2 arguments, one marked with a suffix (the S-arg) and one marked with a prefix (the P-arg). Each affix specifies a link type, a phrase index, and number (only plural is marked and only if the link type is marked).

A word form is restrictive if one of its arguments marks the index but not the link type and otherwise assertive. Assertive forms have the syntactical function of verbs and secondary predicates while restrictive forms have the syntactical function of nouns and noun modifiers.

Some example word forms:

restrictive: cat-i, orange-j, Di-mother-k, l-broke-D
assertive:   cat-D, orange-DP, DP-mother-D, Ul-broke-2

Words belonging to the same phrase are all restrictive and have the same index (not always in the same position). The corresponding argument of the head word (or words) has the same index, along with the link type. Lower-case letters are used for the indexes.

The link type identifies the person and definiteness of the argument or some special function. The following tags are for the linkt types:

Link Types
Tag Description Notes
1 1st person  
2 2nd person  
N Inclusive 1st/2nd person  
3 3rd person, definite  
U 3rd person, indefinite  
Q 3rd person, interrogative (content questions)
C complement clause no index
S satisfactive ???? no index

Some example clauses:

cat-i orange-3i.
"The cat is orange."

cat-3i orange-i.
"The orange one is a cat."

"I'm your father."

2-mother-i 3i-saw-3j John-j.
"John saw your mother."

chair-i i-broken-U here-3i.
"The broken chair is here."

No special mechanisms are required for relative clauses:

orange-3i i-saw-3j John-j cat-i.
"The cat John saw is orange."

Secondary Predicates

Secondary predicates are also headed by assertive word forms, so there is no morphological difference between a secondary predicate and its host word.

cat-i 3i-put-1 3j-in-3i house-j.
"I put the cat in the house."

Complement Clauses and Auxiliaries

Complement clauses, however, aren't indexed.

C-saw-3i Mary-i 3k-hit-3j Tom-j John-k.
"Mary saw Tom hit John."

Multiple auxiliaries must appear in order (either direction):

elephant-i John-j C-want-1 C-see-1 3i-ride-3j.
"I want to see John ride the elephant."

"See" is between "want" and "ride".

2nd Post

Argument Structure

Argument Roles
Word Class P-Argument S-Argument
verb, univalent - Actor/Subject
verb, bivalent Patient Agent
adposition Location Subject
adjective Degree Subject
quantifier Whole Part
noun Possessor Subject

The semantic role of each argument depends on the predicate's word class. Univalent verbs and adjectives use only the S-arg (as actor or subject). For bivalent verbs, the S-arg is the agent and the P-arg is the patient. For adpositions, the S-arg is the subject and the P-arg is the location.

cat-i 3i-put-3j man-j 3k-in-3i house-k.
"The man put the cat in the house."

Note that additional arguments require additional predicates [but I haven't decided yet if trivalent verbs are dative (P-arg = Theme) or dechticaetiative (P-arg = recipient)].

For reflexive predicates, the P-arg and the S-arg are marked the same:

woman-i 3i-saw-3i.
"The woman saw herself."

A convenient feature is that the P-arg of any noun is the possessor (for appropriate values of "possess").

John-i Fred-j 3j-father-3i.
"John is Fred's father."

here-3i 1-house-i.
"Here's my house."

Another convenient feature is that, if used, the P-arg of a quantifier designates the whole of which the quantifier delimits the part.

cat-i 3iP-two-j orange-Uj.
"Two of the cats are orange."

2P-one-i Ui-saw-1.
"I saw one of you."

One problem is identity clauses, where two phrase referents are asserted to be identical. I'm using a copula (Cop) for this but it isn't very elegant.

John-i 3j-Cop-3i book-k 3k-author-j.
"John is the book's author."

Questions and Negation Post

Content Questions

Content questions are indicated by the presence of link type Q.

Q-at-3i 1-cat-i.
"Where's my cat?"

chair-j 3j-broke-Qi boy-i.
"Which boy broke the chair?"

yonder-3i Q-mother-i.
"Whose mother is that?"

(Actually, I'm not sure about the -3i in the last example.)

Polar Questions

Polar questions are indicated by the presence of the particle PQ (the only particle needed so far).


Negation is handled by a suffix, applied to the appropriate predicate(s), which can be either assertive or restrictive.

"I'm not a cat."

cat-Neg-i orange-3i.
"The thing that isn't a cat is orange."

house-i 3i-saw-Neg-3j Tom-j.
"John didn't see the house."

In order to negate a person marker, it must be made into a separate predicate; this is done using the copula (Cop).

1-Cop-Neg-i chair-j 3j-broke-Ui.
"Someone other than me broke the chair."

Comparisons Post

Explicit comparisons use the additional predicates "exceed" (or Cmp) and "match" (or Equ). The subject of comparison and the standard of comparison are indexed there. The subject of comparison is customarily but not necessarily the subject of the clause.

dog-i big-3i cat-j 3j-exceed-3i.
"The dog is bigger than the cat."

John-i onion-j UPj-ate-3i Tom-k 3k-match-3i.
"John ate as many onions as Tom."

John-i onion-j UPj-ate-3i potato-k UPk-exceed-UPj.
"John ate more onions than potatoes."

Mary-i juice-j coffee-k Uk-exceed-Uj Uk-drank-3i.
"Mary drank less coffee than juice."

The scale of comparison (amount) is only implied in the last 3 examples, if you're looking for it.

Currently, the superlative construction adds the adjective designating the scale of comparison to the partitive construction; that adjective gets the index of the part.

dog-i 3Pi-one-j big-j   "the biggest dog"

book-i red-i ten-i 3Pi-two-j   new-j   "the 2 newest of the 10 red books"

The degree of comparison specifies a relative or absolute amount. The P-arg of the scale of comparison takes the index, link type, and number of the degree.

In the absolute positive construction, the degree is absolute.

Billy-i UPj-tall-3i four-j foot-j.
"Billy is 4 feet tall."

The degree can also be interrogative or satisfactive.

Billy-i Q-tall-3i?
"How tall is Billy?"

Tom-i S-tall-3i ....
"Tom is tall enough ...."

Degree can be used in superlative and comparative constructions, in which case the amount is relative.

dog-i 3Pi-one-j UPk-heavy-j ten-k pound-k   "the heaviest dog by 10 pounds"

John-i potato-j UPj-ate-3i Tom-k 3k-exceed-3i UPl-many-j three-l.
"John ate 3 more potatoes than Tom."

(There might need to be 2 words for "many": one an adjective as above and one a quantifier!)

Action Nominalization

I'm not sure yet if I'll actually use it but this is how "action nominalization" works.

Action nominalization makes a verb take on noun characteristics, to the extent possible. In Apr20, such nominalization can be applied to any predicate. The S-arg becomes a way to reference the situation or event or characteristic designated. The P-arg retains one of the verb's original argument, interpreted as a possessor. Because there are 2 original arguments, there are 2 action nominalizers: PIP and PIA. PIP stands for "Possessor Is Patient" (where patient really means original P-arg) and PIA stands for "Possessor Is Agent" (where agent really means original S-arg). If the word is univalent, only PIA can be used.

Some examples (ignoring tense marking):

woman-i Dj-saw-Di town-k Dk-destroy-PIP-j.
"The woman saw the town's destruction."

Uj-like-1 Fluffy-i Di-orange-PIA-j.
"I like Fluffy being orange."

Note that the argument not retained is inaccessible.

New Tense Post

Tense System

This is the new tense system. It involves temporal intervals as well as temporal points of reference. Predicates inheriting points are imperfective while those inheriting intervals are perfective. The indexes used for intervals are c, d, e ... described as

c = [c0, c1]

The index o is predefined as the absolute present point. The indexes a and b are predefined as the absolute future and absolute past intervals, respectively, described as:

a = [o, +∞]
b = [-∞, o]

The interval of the action x is asserted as being a subrange of the inherited interval:

x0 ≥ c0 and x1 ≤ c1

but if a point p is inherited, x0 ≤ p ≤ x1.

Each temporal operator synthesizes an interval from the inherited interval and the time of the predicate's action. For inherited interval [c0, c1] and action interval [x0, x1]:

A = [x1, c1]
B = [c0, x0]
W = [x0, x1]
T = x0 or x1 ????

Temporal adverbs, such as "yesterday" also synthesize intervals.

Tense Morphology

Now for the morphology. Inherited indexes are prefixed (c-) while synthesized indexes are suffixed (-d). So far, operators are also suffixed:

cat-j Tom-i 3j-b-see-3i.
"Tom has seen the cat."

yesterday-c c-leave-Ad-3j John-j d-eat-3i Mary-i.
"Yesterday after John left, Mary ate."

The interval of "leave" is within that of interval c, "yesterday". The operator A modifies c producing interval d such that the starting time of d is the finishing time of the interval of "leave". The finishing time of d is that of c so that the scope of "yesterday" still applies to "eat".

In the absence of an explicitly inherited index, restricted predicates and secondary predicates inherit both the hosts inherited index and its action interval.

John-i UPj-o-eat-3i stale-j pancake-j.
"John is eating stale pancakes."

The explicitly inherited index is absolute present, which is included in the interval of "eat". The interval of "stale" is a superrange of that of "eat", which is inherited implicitly via index j.

(must look at the implicit inheritance rules again!)

John-j 3i-b-sit-3j chair-i i-B-break.
"John sat on the broken chair."

The interval of "sit" is a subrange of [-∞, o]; this is inherited via i by "break". It's then modified by B producing the interval for "break": the starting time is -∞ and the finishing time is the starting time for "sit".

Tom-i Mary-j b-eat-Wc-3i c-call-3i.
"While Mary was eating, Tom called."

The interval of "eat" is a subrange of [-∞, o]; that of "call" is a subrange of the interval of "eat".

The interval of a depictive secondary predicate is a superrange of that of its host predicate's.

John-i meat-j 3j-b-eat-3i raw-3j.
"John ate the meat raw."

The interval of "eat" is a subrange of [-∞, o] and also one of "raw".

The starting time of a resultative secondary predicate is the ending time of the host's action.

3j-c-put-1 3k-in-3j closet-j yesterday-c.
"I put it in the closet yesterday."

The interval of "put" is within that of "yesterday". The starting time of "in" is the finishing time of "put".

Conjunctions Post

The conjunction particles are And, Ior ("inclusive or"), and Sel (i.e. select one; this is "exclusive or" when only 2 sentences are conjoined). They precede each conjoined clause (the distinct parts, anyway; the rest can be moved), including the 1st.

And John-i b-leave-3i And Mary-j dinner-k Uk-b-eat-3j.
"John left and Mary ate dinner."

Fluffy-i Ior big-3i Ior orange-3i.
"Fluffy is big, orange, or both."

Tom-i Sel 3jP-a-wash-i dish-j Sel UkP-a-wash-i garment-k.
"Tom will wash either the dishes or some clothes."

And can often be omitted. Note that the copula can parenthesize a phrase; the example

Fido-i 3j-Cop-Neg-i big-j orange-j cat-j.
"Fido is not a big orange cat."

would otherwise have to be rendered:

Fido-i Ior big-Neg-j Ior orange-Neg-j Ior cat-Neg-j.

Ior might be used for conditional sentences (probably not).

"If Fluffy isn't big, she's orange."
"If Fluffy isn't orange, she's big."

Adverbs Post

The following adverbs require proximity to the predicate modified, even though it's not very satisfactory.


Adverbs of duration are marked using the predicate Dur. The P-arg gives the index to the quantity and units of duration. As Dur is adverbial, the S-arg is null; however, it can be used when an action nominalization is modified.

three-k day-k PUk-Dur b-walk-1P.
"We walked for 3 days."

three-k day-k PUk-Dur-j 1P-walk-PIA-j.
"our 3 day walk"

But how about marking Dur like a secondary predicate, with the S-arg coreferencing one of the host arguments?

b-walk-1P three-k day-k PUk-Dur-1P.
"We walked for 3 days."

How might the action nominalization be affected?


Adverbs of manner are marked by applying the suffix -Man to the predicate.

John-i house-j 3j-b-leave-3i angry-Man.
"John left the house angrily."

Note that this contrasts with the depictive:

John-i house-j 3j-b-leave-3i angry-3i.
"John left the house angry."

Man is also used as a quasi-predicate with null S-arg:

Q-Man "how"
S-Man "in such a manner"
U-Man "somehow"

Modality and Evidentiality Post

Physical possibility and physical necessity are marked using the suffixes -Pot and -Nec, respectively while social and logical possibility and necessity are specified using auxiliary predicates. Evidentials are also specified using auxiliary predicates. These auxiliaries are usually impersonal, but don't have to be. The auxiliaries include:

Link Types
Tag Description Notes
Prm social possibility  
Req social necessity  
Dub logical possibility  
Ded logical necessity  
Ctf contrafactual ?
Imp imperative ?
Wit witnessed evidential maybe not needed
Hrs hearsay evidential  

The complement clause of a social modal is cotemporal with the auxiliary while that of a logical modal or an evidential is independent of the auxiliary's, which is usually absolute present.

John-i o-swim-Pot-Di.
"John can swim."

John-i swim-Di C-o-Prm.
"John is allowed to swim."

John-i swim-Di C-b-Prm-1.
"I required John to swim."

John-i o-swim-Di C-Dub.
"John might be swimming."

The imperative mood is either an auxiliary used like a logical modals or a particle (that nevertheless can take the negation suffix -Neg); I'm not sure which.

(C-)Imp swim-2!

I haven't determined how contrafactual mood will be indicated.


Inexact Degree

For the inexact degrees "very" and "slightly", "much" and "little" are used.

Ul-hot-Di coffee-i much-l.
"The coffee is very hot."

The absolute superlative is indicated possibly using maximum degree.

Ordinal Numbers

Ordinal numbers are constructed by suffixing -Ord to the corresponding cardinal number. Ordinal numbers modify the part of a partitive construction:

man-i DPi-one-j three-Ord-j   "the third man"

book-i red-i DPi-two-j one-Ord-j   "the first 2 red books"

Reciprocals and Reflexives

Reciprocals add the reciprocal prefix Rcp- to the assertive word.

Tom-i John-j Dj-Rcp-hit-Di.
"Tom and John hit each other."

For a reflexive form, the P-arg is identical to the S-arg.

woman-i Di-saw-Di.
"The woman saw herself."

woman-i i-saw-i young-Di.
"The woman who saw herself is young."

page started: 2012.May.12 Sat
current date: 2012.May.13 Sun
content and form originated by qiihoskeh

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