So I’m working on a new small language, which for the moment is called Bresenish. Here is a rough description of the syntax, hopefully it will be worth reading about even if you don’t care to learn the full language because I’ve left out any actual foreign text.
So real natural language syntax is probably based on tree-like data structures. I want a small language that relies on something simpler. But simple doesn’t mean easier, it means easier for me to formally describe the syntax. So I’ll take my inspiration from set theory. Keep in mind, it’s just set theory inspired, I don’t plan to make set theory proofs speakable — I’m not that good at math anyhow.
The prototypical discourse.
An utterance will have typically three parts:
1. Enumerating the topics. This establishes the sets under discussion.
2. Stating the relationship. This roughtly corresponds to the adjectives and verbs.
3. Obviating. There might still not be enough information to figure out what the relationships are, so some pronouns will indicate who did what to whom.
I have this arm chair theory that anything you can say in a foreing language has an awkward, possibly grammatically correct version in English, even if you are illustrating a grammatical feature that English doesn’t *have*. So now for that sort of example:
Among the former there is just me, Matthew. Amonth the later, there are some apples. There is eating going on. The former acts on the latter.
Sets: There are some barbers. There are some people unfortuantely, with beards.
Relationships: They all are shaved.
Obviating: The barbers shaves the later. The later do not shave themselves.
Okay, on to some syntax. I’m going to skip the morphology and words, and just focus on the syntax. In case you are curious, the morphology would be some template like prefix-”o”-root-”i”-suffix
Kinds of words:
Content words- a, b, c.
Negative content words -a, -b, -c (in the sense of being unpleasant)
– some are are familar set theoretic ones, like interesection and union.
– some are more like natural language verbs – these can be stative or active and operate on sets.
– some are more like adjectives. – These act like stative verbs.
Grammaticalized suffixes and prefixes. Verbs, adjectives and conjuctions require prefixes.
– V1 – Someone thinks
– V2 – I think
– V3 – I dreamed
Pronouns – these refer to the order of topic (front topics, middle topics, final topics), an if they are animate or not. They have compound forms that let you known which participants are agents, patients, or neither, but some 3rd participant, like a direct object.
Conjunctions are obligatory compound and incorporate irrealis information, like who thinks so, do you want it, etc.
TopicsA topic starts with a word, E, that roughly means “there is” and is paired with a prefix that means :
- someone thinks
- I think
- There should be
- I wish there were
- I dreamed or was drunk when …
- It probably is so (with 5 levels of certainty)
The above are represented as E1, E2, etc.
E1 a = Someone thinks there is an a.
E1 a b =Someone thinks there is an a and b.
E1 a b. E1 x y. There is an a and a b. There is also an x and y.
The above is different from E1 a b x y because you can refer back to these groups later.
If the audience has enough information, you can stop talking now. Examples: “Fire!”, “Lunch!”
Now for relationships. Relationships are like verbs and adjectives.
If V is “eat”
V3. = I dreamed there was eating going on (among the aforementioned listed items)
V1 = Some one thinks there was eating going on.
If there is enough information, you can stop talking now. Relationships can also be set theoretic relationships such as interesection, union, difference– if they are, then you’ve created a great big compound topic phrase. Some relationships are going to require obviating, but if you don’t think they do, you don’t have to keep going.
The obviating is done using compound prounouns, kind of like ‘me-n-you’ or “him-self”
Pr-F : Pr-L- The former set acted on the later set.
Pr-Anim : Pr-Latter – Animate acted upon the latter.
The template will support up to three slots for things that are intrasitive, transitive or ditransitive (i.e. have an indirect object).
And now we’re done with the general pattern.
Prepositional Phrases. These work just like in any analytic language so that I don’t have to deal with morphological agreement- So when you are listing topics, you’d include a prepositional phrase to help nail down which participant you are talking about. I’ll use a square bracket to show a prepositional phrase. Some phrases of an idential structure would go after the relationships, e.g.
E Joe, E books, R Sell [for $10.]
Which I suppose could also be
E Joe, E Book, E $10, R Sell.
Relative clauses (or something that looks like them) will have the similar structure as prepositional phrases. I’ll use a T since it would be something like “that”/”who” or Scandinavian “sem”
E Joe T(that) works in finance E Book R Sell [for $10]
Next time, I shall discuss the grammaticalizations and morphology, which are inspired by Cognitive Psychology. The hope is that if various irrealis markers are required for the Existence verb, the relationship or verb (that is to say, the E and the R or V) and some more on the conjunctions, we can count those and detect biases in the habits of the mind. Not fix them, just detect them.