Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Specifier clarification, possession, and other changes

The world of Koa has been fairly quiet for ages now, but the last few weeks have brought some important progress (starting on our honeymoon, on Sant'Erasmo). Here goes:

1) For the last time, w and y are not fated to be Koa phonemes. Just looking at the new words that contain them in my lexicon after a year and a half to sober up made this clear: sewe, yomo, wohi, yuhu, wene, uye, maya, yume, mawa, paye, weo, yaye and yoki are so obviously not Koa words. Somehow I have to remember this and not go through any more angst on this issue.

2) The genitive phrase, including for pronominal possession, is now formally always ka X Y, where Y is the possessor. There currently remains a little bit of wiggle room for phrases like ni mama, etc., but the jury's still out. In any event, responding to a question I asked several years ago, pronoun objects will certainly not be acceptable preverbally: *ni se loha, etc. It's not so bad, really -- ka talo ni has a certain elegance to it.

3) After much consideration, during which for a brief period I was leaning heavily towards a Hungarian-style "my X exists" structure, I've come to the conclusion that verbal possession needs to be via prepositional phrase, using either me or la (final decision pending). So, for example:

this cat is mine = ti neko i me ni
this is my cat = tika i ka neko ni (note: why not tika i neko ni? let's come back to this)
I don't have a cat = na neko i me ni (or hu neko i na me ni, logically? yuck)
do you have a cat? = ei a/hu neko i me se?

There are some unresolved questions about usage here, but in general I think this will work well. In the main, my concerns are about the negative/interrogative, and pertain to the existential construct in general -- I keep wanting to say something like na tai neko me ni, which is clearly in violation of everything everywhere. I think what's happening is the collision of the logical design of the language with human language intuition; hopefully they won't end up being too difficult to reconcile.

4) Speaking of which, I think I've finally got the specifier system figured out. A lot of it had to do with realizing that the hu/po predicate logic design isn't necessarily all that relevant to human linguistic needs; what I've done is to give that meaning to these particles in conjuction with an article, but to give them a more pragmatic/specifier-type when immediately preposed to a noun. Here, then, are all our current specifiers.

ka neko = the cat(s), refers to something already on the discourse stage
ti neko = a deictic subset of cats, either of those already on stage or a new set being raised to the stage
a neko = a/some cat(s), refers to specific animals someone has in mind which are not yet onstage but are being raised
hu neko = a/some cat(s), nonspecific referents, with no intent to raise to the stage
po neko = cats in general
ko neko = the abstract idea of being a cat: cathood, felinity, etc.
na neko = no cat
ke neko = what/which cat
ni neko = my cat (optional shortening of ka neko ni)

Many of these can be be increased in specificity by adding a definite or indefinite article, as follows:

tika neko = (how does this differ from ti neko?)
huka neko = one/some of the cats already onstage/in the given set
hua neko = a/some cats, out of all the cats that exist
huti neko = one/some of the cats in the deictically indicated set
poka neko = all of the cats onstage/in the given set
poa neko = every cat, period
poti neko = all of the cats in the deictically indicated set
naka neko = none of the cats onstage/in the given set
keka neko = which of the cats onstage/in the given set? which of these cats?
nika neko = this set of my cats, these particular cats of mine

In the same vein, all of these (and a few more with -a) also stand alone as pronouns:

tika = this one, these ones
tia = this [stuff, idea], all this
huka = one/some of them, someone
hua = something
huti = one/some of these
poka = all of them, everyone
poa = everything
poti = all of these
naka = none of them, no one (nahuka with same meaning)
naa = nothing (nahua preferred?)
keka = which one?
kea = what?
nika = mine, this one of mine

5) There's an unanswered question about ditransitive clauses. Where both the accusative and dative arguments are full nouns, they form what is formally a genitive phrase if listed in dative-accusative order with no preposition:

ni si ana ka mama a neko
1SG=PERF=give DEF=mother INDEF=cat
"I gave my mother a cat" or "I gave the mother of a certain cat [to someone]"

...as opposed to unambiguous

ni si ana a neko la ka mama
1SG=PERF=give INDEF=cat DAT=DEF=mother
"I gave my mother a cat"

For this reason I was about to say that the dative-accusative order is only acceptable when the dative argument is pronominal, but then the ambiguity above isn't really pragmatically worrisome. For the moment I'm going to assume that context and animacy will nearly always resolve this, and leave both options open.

6) Negative clauses: how are they done? To answer an old question, for the moment I'd like to leave all the possibilities available. They all make sense, and the "double negative," while perhaps logically confusing, would never be pragmatically so. Therefore, "I didn't see anyone" could be translated in any of these ways:

ni si nae na(hu)ka
ni na si nae huka
ni na si nae na(hu)ka

7) A small but important matter: what is the word for "cat?" When I was in Europe I was feeling pleased with my choice of neko in homage to Japanese, but checking my dictionary a few weeks later I remembered that I already had a word for "cat," sene. I feel torn in my allegiance; we'll need to come back to this one.