More of The Business of Linguistics—Book Announcement from Panini Press SpecGram Vol CLIX, No 2 Contents

Language Identification Puzzle

by Keith Slater and Jouni Maho
illustrated by Jouni Maho

Identify the language depicted somewhat rebusistically in the image below.

If you believe you have it figured out, send your answer to the editors of SpecGram by July 15th, 2010. You could win a SpecGram magnet. The correct answer, such as it is, and winners, if any, will be announced in the September 2010 issue of Speculative Grammarian.

Ple Nvæn-ila Fieldwork Puzzle Solution and Grammatical Sketch

Below are the correct translations for the two target sentences from the Ple Nvæn-ila Fieldwork Puzzle from the April issue:

These clever folks gave good English translations for the Ple Nvæn-ila sentence, and made decent attempts at the Ple Nvæn-ila translation of the English sentence, and so each will receive a SpecGram magnet for their trouble.

Bryan Allen   •   Adam Hesterberg   •   Kathryn Taylor

Derivations for one of the sentences above will give a brief sketch of the language. Some idiosyncratic notations, following Claude Searsplainpockets’ original notes, include:

Let us now derive I heard that two big weird obnoxious rabbits will eat the yummy lucky green cheeses. Some relevant base forms:

rabbit   aaθv
obnoxious   #lark (begins with a left-eating pac-man phoneme)
weird   prszs
big   kwyg
cheese   ʔaeiʔouy
green   ^ufon (reduplicates the previous syllable)
lucky   uiwii
yummy   uiʃðo% (ends with a right-eating pac-man phoneme)
eat   ungjɪ

The dual is indicated by reduplication, adjectives attach rightward, the indefinite is unmarked, and the subject NP in a transitive sentence is marked with the ergative final infix “-gwe” (inserted before any trailing vowels):

dual rabbit   aaθv^
obnoxious dual rabbit   aaθv^#lark
weird obnoxious dual rabbit   aaθv^#larkprszs
big weird obnoxious dual rabbit   aaθv^#larkprszskwyg
reduplicate   aaθvaθv#larkprszskwyg
indef big weird obnoxious dual rabbit   aaθvaθv#larkprszskwyg
indef big weird obnoxious dual rabbit abs   aaθvaθv#larkprszskwyggwe

The plural is marked by the circumfix “ik- -#ret”, the definite is marked by the initial infix “rst-” (inserted after any leading consonants), and the object NP in a transitive sentence is marked with the absolutive final infix “-po” (inserted before any trailing vowels).

plural cheese   ikʔaeiʔouy#rət
green plural cheese   ikʔaeiʔouy#rət^ufon
lucky green plural cheese   ikʔaeiʔouy#rət^ufonuiwii
yummy lucky green plural cheese   ikʔaeiʔouy#rət^ufonuiwiiuiʃðo%
reduplicate   ikʔaeiʔouy#rətətufonuiwiiuiʃðo%
def yummy lucky green plural cheese   rstikʔaeiʔouy#rətətufonuiwiiuiʃðo%
def yummy lucky green plural cheese erg   rstikʔaeiʔouy#rətətufonuiwiiuiʃðo%po

The verb is marked for the number and animacy of each of the subject and object: “oa” for animate, “x@x@x” for inanimate; “jy” for dual, “irt” for plural. Subject markers are animacy + number. Object markers are number + animacy. The main verb element is composed of the root + the subject marker + the object marker + the tense marker (“wol” for future).

subj dual animate   oajy
obj plural inanimate   irtx@x@x
eat future subj-dual-animate obj-plural-inanimate   ungjɪoajyirtx@x@xwol

The complete transitive sentence is composed of object NP + verb element + evidential marker + subject NP. The reported speech evidential is “e^tk”.

rstikʔaeiʔouy#rətətufonuiwiiuiʃðo%po + ungjɪoajyirtx@x@xwol + e^tk + aaθvaθv#larkprszskwyggwe

Now the phonological rules apply.

underlying    rstikʔaeiʔouy#rətətufonuiwiiuiʃðo%poungjɪoajyirtx@x@xwole^tkaaθvaθv#larkprszskwyggwe
reduplication    rstikʔaeiʔouy#rətətufonuiwiiuiʃðo%poungjɪoajyirtx@x@xwoleletkaaθvaθv#larkprszskwyggwe
degeminate    rstikʔaeiʔouy#rətətufonuiwiiuiʃðo%poungjɪoajyirtx@x@xwoleletkaaθvaθv#larkprszskwygwe
left-eating pac-man    rstikʔaeiʔouyrətətufonuiwiiuiʃðo%poungjɪoajyirtx@x@xwoleletkaaθvalarkprszskwygwe
right-eating pac-man    rstikʔaeiʔouyrətətufonuiwiiuiʃðooungjɪoajyirtx@x@xwoleletkaaθvalarkprszskwygwe
remove blockers    rstikʔaeiʔouyrətətufonuiwiiuiʃðooungjɪoajyirtxxxwoleletkaaθvalarkprszskwygwe
break up CCC clusters    rsitikʔaeiʔouyrətətufonuiwiiuiʃðooungujɪoajyirtixxixwoleletkaaθvalarkapraszaskawygwe
voicing assimilation    rsitikʔaeiʔouyrətətufonuiwiiuiʃðooungujɪoajyirtixxixwoleletkaaθvalarkaprassaskawygwe
Vowel simplification:
V1+V2+V3+V2 simplifies to V1+V3
lengthen vowels   rsitikʔaeiʔouyrətətufonuiwiuʃðo:ungujɪoajyirtixxixwoleletka:θvalarkaprassaskawygwe

Other phonological processes include nasal assimilation, liquid assimilation, reduction of triple vowels to double, and another vowel simplification rule (V1+V2+V1+V2 simplifies to V1+V2). Their specific ordering is left as an exercise for the reader.

Other useful and interesting morphemes include:

roll   r@r
singular marker   ly
hearsay evidential marker   wtfomg%
past tense marker   yd
Direct speech and present tense are unmarked.

More of The Business of Linguistics—Book Announcement from Panini Press
SpecGram Vol CLIX, No 2 Contents