Monday, October 18, 2021

Big business in progress, pandemic edition

I'm sort of surprised and pleased to say there's been an awful lot going on recently, after quite a few years of...not an awful lot. There hasn't been time for exhaustive articles about everything, but I wanted to jot down the main points at the very least. (Incidentally, this post is a bit of a reference to this one from just about 11 years ago.)

1) I appear to be bringing back the phoneme /c/ after 13 years! I say "appear" because I've been mulling it over for about the past year, and it seems that I've decided on something because I've changed polo and sumo back to colo and cumo in my lexicon. My rationale for losing it back in that original post was pretty sound, but I've been drawn back to it because:

(A) I kind of need it for some additional particles that I could but would prefer not to live without
(B) There are enough possible realizations of this phoneme -- [S] and [tS] as standards, but also potentially [c], [C], even [ts] -- that I can still claim adherence to its founding IAL charter
(C) After this post I feel entitled to exercise a little creative license, and /c/ has always felt like Koa -- that is to say, Koa has felt very slightly empty without it -- and it makes me happy.

2) This one feels a little risqué, but I'm going to give it a shot: u having been freed up from its erstwhile role heading an adjectival clause, or marking a dependent clause for a minute, I've decided to try it out as a plural definite article. This means we can have an unambiguous e.g. ka sona "the duck" versus u sona "the ducks." This is the very first example of plurality we've had in Koa outside of pronouns, and in the end it may get vetoed, but I think it has the potential to be useful! It also gives us some neat compound forms: tiu "these ones," tou "those ones," keu "which ones?" pou "all of them," and so on. (Note! In case you missed it, shout out to Lapine: hoi, hoi, u embleer hrair...)

3) After several teacup storms in recent years, I've decided I do in fact want dedicated pronominal forms that can be used as predicates, as opposed to niími or similar. Using our newly minted plural article, this gives us:

nika "I"
seka "you"
taka "he/she/it"
nuu "we"
sou "all of you"
tuu "they"

Their exact use still needs to be determined, but at the very least we know we can now say things like tika i nika "this one's me."

4) So important that it gets its own number: now that we've got taka for the 3rd singular predicative pronoun, it's finally, at last, almost unbelievably, possible to definitively claim tata for "dad." Silly though it may be, this one word choice has caused me as much loss of sleep as an entire category like irrealis marking, and left me with serious rancor towards papa after feeling like it was foisted upon me nonconsensually. So now I can finally heal and move on.

5) There's been quite a bit of uncertainty about the meaning of the forms aha, aka as against hua, huka. Theoretically the corresponding members of each set both mean "something" and "someone," so what's the difference? Which should be used? It turns out that the answer is in the prefix: a denotes something real in the world not yet on the discourse stage, whereas hu refers only to theoretical existence. As such, aha means "something," yes, but specifically "something in particular." It would need to be used of a referent not yet raised to the stage, but definitely existing somewhere. Hua, on the other hand, would mean "something" in its more usual generic sense of "something unknown or unspecified." So ni halu ko sano aha "I want to say something [and I know what that is]," vs ni halu hua ala na ilo ka mea "I want something but I don't know what."

6) Similarly, we have both naha, naka and nahua, nahuka for "nothing" and "no one." This is less clear to me. The latter set is more correct in terms of formal logic, in the sense that ni na me hua = ni me nahua "I don't have anything, I have nothing." But we've never really gotten into it with negation across a clause, and natural languages are frequently anything but logical in this regard, e.g. Polish nic nigdy nie powidziałam nikomu lit. "I never didn't tell nothing to no one," in fact meaning "I never told anyone anything." I can't really see a problem with ni me naha for "I have nothing"; I don't think I'd even really go to bat enthusiastically against ni na me naha for "I don't have anything." So this one remains unsolved, but I just wanted to mention it out loud as something that will require real attention one of these days. (I've also played around with naa instead of naha. I kind of like it despite its extreme similarity to na "not." Just a thought.)

7) I've been omitting stress marking when penultimate and unambiguous. So for example natepanae "invisible" (penultimate), aika "time" (considering ai a diphthong here so still penultimate), but naíka "unacceptable" (clarifying the separation between the vowels, because potentially this could be nai-ka rather than na-ika). Stress is still written any time it's not some variation of penultimate: haná "unless," mílani "dear one."

8) It occurred to me that since alienable possessives are really bound morphemes that take the place of suffixes, they should maybe be written that way as well to avoid confusion: átoni rather than ato ni "my father." It ultimately doesn't matter enormously because the pronunciation is identical either way, so in the end it's probably an aesthetic decision. I certainly greatly prefer palóhani for "my love."

9) Verbal complements of halu "want" clearly need to be introduced by ko and I'm sort of embarrassed that I allowed them to appear without it for so long: ni halu ko lahe rather than ni halu lahe "I want to leave." It's very unclear what the latter could even mean. HOWEVER, with the return of /c/, we can make lu volitive again and assign the irrealis to cu from Lithuanian -šu! So: ni lu lahe "I want to leave," ni cu lahe "I will/would leave." This is so wonderfully practical, and delightfully clearly related to halu, I'm really pretty chuffed about it. It's also going to be useful in word formation, I think: like maybe luláevama "aspiring player."

10) "Whatever." For one dimension of this, I realized it's clearly ka vi tai, or more compactly kavitái. I think there might need to be another form for other uses, but we'll get there later.

I'm 100% positive that there are other things that I'm forgetting, but this is a pretty solid start. More coming soon!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Making sense of interrogatives

So here's a surprisingly counterintuitive translation question: What's your name?

I had previously told Marisa Kea sa se noa? for this bit of extremely simple first-day-of-language-class material, but that's not right at all: that would mean "what's your name like?" Similarly, kea sa ta? looks like "what is he?" but really means "what's he like?" You could rephrase it as "what's his set membership?" or "what indefinite predicate can describe him?" as opposed to keka sa ta? which means "what is his identity?" or "what definite predicate is he a match with?" We're talking about identity with this name question -- matching sets 1 to 1 -- so oddly enough I think it should be Keka sa se noa?

Wait, here's a crazy thought: should a question intended to elicit a name actually be headed by kele??? That's never existed before but maybe it should: Kele sa se noa? So not "indicate to me which one out of a given set is your name," like maybe names on a list, but basically "tell me the name of your name." If that's possible, this could even just be Kele sa se?

I think that's actually exactly right, and finally begins to address some of my earliest questions from the end of this post back in 2002. What about the other specifiers? Does keko mean anything? What about kehu and kepo? I'm thinking maybe the last two don't since they're technically quantifiers rather than determiners, but I'm not sure about keko. "What...noninstantiated quality?" When would that be used? I think we'll have to come back to that one later.

Thinking more about kele, I think maybe it could elicit more than just le phrases. For example, kele sa to puu? "what's the name of that tree? what kind of tree is that?" It certainly wouldn't be kea, because kea sa to puu? would be "what is that tree like?" Keka sa to puu would be "which tree is that?" I suppose that could be answered with "pine" or "spruce"...well, maybe there's some gray area:

Kea sa to puu? = What's that tree like? What is that tree?
Keka sa to puu? = What tree is that? Which tree is that?
Kele sa to puu? = What is that tree called?

The second one could give an identity answer of "the first one on the list," "the one we were talking about," or a general answer of "spruce." The third one could give a specific answer of "Arthur," or a general category answer of "spruce." Even the first one could have an answer starting "Well, it's called a spruce..." I think the important thing isn't picking the precise right one for the application, it's the ability to use the difference between them to potentially resolve the nature of the inquiry in a more granular way.

Next up: asking about meaning, the thing that had me really confused back in 2002. It's one thing to ask what a specific tree is, but it's quite another to ask what a tree is in general: in other words, what "tree" means. As far as I'm aware, there's no prescribed way to do this in Koa at all at this point. Kea sa le puu? And/or do we need a verb of meaning, Kea sa le puu i X? Let's think about it.

Koa Day

I hereby formally announce that the birthdate of Koa has, at last, been discovered! Actually, it wasn't all that hard to find once I thought to look for it...the files containing the initial phonological thoughts from my dorm room in 1999 still had metadata with creation dates, after passing through five computers and a variety of operating systems.

And so, henceforth, the august date of September 13th shall be known as Koa Day! I'm really quite pleased; it's not like it particularly matters, I guess, but it's nice for the creative project that you might call my life's work to have a special day of its own to celebrate.

Also: Koa is 22! That's a pretty decent age for a conlang in (more or less) continuous development.

Also also: for strictest accuracy, I should give honorable mention to 1997 in which I first came up with a general phonology and concept which was definitely the precursor to Koa. I'm not considering the birthday to belong to those days, though, because I didn't have any principles figured out other than a vague idea of "universality," and no development followed. From 9/13/1999 onwards, though, this language has been recognizably Koa, with the same bones and guiding philosophy. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Resolving the probability waveform of dependent clauses

This is not the post I thought it was going to be. Early last week I had a moment of epiphany in the shower in which I thought I'd solved everything in just the kind of elegant, first-principles way that I had previously announced was vain and impossible. In deference to my ecstatic past self I'll briefly explain my discovery:

First, it occurred to me that finiteness itself is a category which I should not have assumed to be meaningful in Koa, but had sort of calquingly smuggled in accidentally from the language families of my closest acquaintance. It then hung around trying to circularly justify its existence. If eliminated, there could instead be a distinction of dependent versus nondependent clauses, marked by the particles u and i respectively. This would then yield the following clausal phrase structure, at last common to all clauses:


...with of course the refinements that if you have a nominal subject then you would omit the pronoun and vice versa, and also the dependent marker is optional and typically omitted with pronominal subjects. This gave example sentences like

ni kulu [le Óleka u loha le Iuli]
"I heard that Olga loves Julie"

le Iuli sa ka mina [le Óleka u loha]*
"Julie is the woman Olga loves"

le Óleka sa [ka mina u loha le Iuli]
"Olga is the woman who loves Julie"

It also gave me the rigorously motivated ability to optionally omit the equivalent of a complementizer or relative pronoun for dependent clauses with pronominal subjects:

ka mina (u) ni loha*
"the woman I love"

ai se ilo (u) ni loha se?
"do you know that I love you?"

This was so beautiful that I was willing to overlook the potential unintuitiveness, but alas, it was not to be. For one thing, I started to wonder why speakers really truly had to keep track of whether a clauses was dependent or not to know how to form it -- that is, why they couldn't just be modular -- in this theoretical IAL. That was a design philosophy that hadn't been articulated before but maybe should have been? But also, there were errors. In the asterisked sentences above, heads had been fronted out of their clauses, breaking the lovely pattern I had been so excited about. If we were really going to grit our teeth and do this thing, they ought to be

le Iuli sa [le Óleka u loha ka mina]
"Julie is the woman Olga loves"

(u) ni loha ka mina
"the woman I love"

That just clearly will not work. I mean, thinking about it now, I guess one could say that the shared argument could remain in situ in the matrix clause, but then how is that better than traditional relatives? What really killed it, though, was that serial verbs make the clarity of the structures very murky very fast:

ta si sano [le Malia u halu tai me se i(?) pea]
"she said Maria still wanted to be with you"

The serial verbs are halu/pea but they have different dependence marking! But if the above had u pea, wouldn't that be taking that clause down an additional level? But if it's i pea, how do you know which verb it's making a complex with? ta si sano i pea or halu i pea? I don't know the answer, and in a way that makes me feel like I shouldn't be asking the question in the first place. This is just a mess

To make matters worse, I would also lose that te tai ko... structure that for some reason had become a hill I was willing to die on. For a minute I thought that maybe ko could be an optional specifier for clauses used in nominal positions, but the battle was already lost. It was just needlessly complicated.

So what would be so bad about holding onto one potentially important realization -- that finiteness can probably be eliminated as a meaningful category in Koa, inasmuch as it's basically synonymous with verbal usage of a predicate -- while optimizing for simplicity and modularity?

Here, then, is my answer to Koa dependent clauses, hopefully the really truly final answer this time:

  • Clauses used as predicates are syntactically and morphologically identical to independent clauses
  • Clauses used as adjectives are preceded by ve when the head is not the subject of the dependent clause, optionally otherwise
  • Clauses used as nouns are preceded by either ko or ve
...and the example sentences now look like this:

ni kulu ko/ve le Óleka i loha le Iuli
"I heard that Olga loves Julie"

le Iuli sa ka mina ve le Óleka i loha
"Julie is the woman Olga loves"

le Óleka sa ka mina (ve) loha le Iuli
"Olga is the woman who loves Julie"

And borrowing one from past years,

pai ve ka mama i na ma mai koa
"a mommy-not-feeling-well day"

ti pai i ve ka mama i na ma mai koa
"this day is mommy-not-feeling-well-ish"

Maybe it's not quite as elegant as the whole business with u, but (1) as Marisa said, in mathematics elegance (i.e. concision) is the opposite of clarity, (2) this is much, much, much, much easier to learn and use than any previously conceived system, (3) this lets me use u as a plural definite article if I still want to, and (4) it saves te tai ko, surely a flag of victory.

One further related note, which I found forgotten in my dictionary but nicely articulates the difference between sivu vihe "green leaves" and sivu ve vihe "leaves that are green": "ve shifts pragmatic relevance ('emphasis') to the modifier rather than the head." I'm grateful to past Julie for leaving me those breadcrumbs back to a clear understanding of this one...

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Entr'acte: The vanity of logic and typological neutrality

Continuing to think about pronominal predicates (about which more is forthcoming) and embedded clauses has led me to some difficult realizations over the past couple weeks. Here's the setup: how should clauses used as predicates really work? We've gone to considerable length to motivate this theoretically final decision that the i marking finiteness should simply be deleted, e.g.

le Iuli i loha ti mehe
NAME Julie FIN love this person
"Julie loves this person"

ka mehe [ (ko) le Iuli loha ]
DEF person [ (ABS) NAME Julie love ]
"the person Julie loves"

The core argument here is that, from the first principles underlying Koa grammar and syntax, there should be no difference between a clause used as a predicate and any other simplex predicate; and the structure of dependent clauses themselves should follow logically from those same first principles. I tried to show how in a clause like the above, the verb phrase (loha) could be said to be modifying the head (le Iuli), producing a Turkish-style nominalization meaning something like "the person of loving-Julie-ness."

Here's the thing: the structure of the Koa clause does not proceed from logic. Within predicates we have this very solid, logical, well-described system of modification, and likewise between predicates and particles...but with clauses we began with what turns out to be an essentially arbitrary formula:


It's a sensible system, a typologically neutral system, but there's nothing at all logical about it. The division between the subject NP and the VP simply had to be made somehow, so we made it. But in the argument above, we tried to create an alternative history where we could reconstruct logical, derived-from-first-principles meaning across a whole dependent clause, when in fact that kind of logic was never present in the simplest of main clauses to start with!

I've realized that we've been holding two competing foundational philosophies simultaneously all this time: typological intuitiveness represented by creoles in one hand, and logic inspired by something like Loglan in the other. We've let each of them grow and flourish and tried to avoid situations where the streams might cross, but with embedded clauses this strategy has just run out of road.

The truth is that at some level of complexity -- such as where we now find ourselves -- this becomes a zero-sum contest. The more genuinely cross-linguistically intuitive these structures are, the less formally logical they will be; the more logical they are, the less intuitive. It's been vanity to imagine that I could indefinitely maximize both simultaneously; self-deception to deny the centrality of the muse of my own aesthetics.

Let's level: Koa isn't really going to become an international auxiliary language, regardless of whether I deem I've met my goal of besting Esperanto or not. This seems to be the moment where I have to decide what kind of language I want this to be, and that choice will underlie the structures that enable Koa to rise up from the banality of example sentences and become a vibrant, truly usable human language.

So what do I do about relative clauses? Do I make them unreduced and internally-headed like Navajo, by far the most elegant, internally consistent choice, despite the fact that that would feel alien to 99% of the Earth's population? Or follow the example of Yoruba (and most other languages, honestly), accept a relative pronoun, and decide that there's something that makes these kinds of clauses different from others? Or go back to the drawing board on what really makes a clause in Koa in the first place, trying to build something up from first principles that will survive this particular wave of complexity...knowing that the result also will likely be elegant and logical at the cost of typological neutrality?

I'm not sure, but what's becoming clear is that the choice is mine to make, and that no amount of rigorous exploration of semantics will decide it for me. In a way it's freeing: maybe after more than 20 years of devotion to principles, I've earned the right to let my personal aesthetics unabashedly lead me for a while. It would be a relief to choose a structure or a system that I like, and feel justified in doing so because there is no alternative to choice so I might as well make it one that pleases me.

More to come, clearly.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Possession versus ownership

All that discussion about possessive pronouns and oma versus keme -- and particularly the Malay structure in which the possessive predicate construction involves what is technically the verb of belonging -- got me to thinking: what actually is the logical relationship between these concepts of "one's own," "owning" and "belonging?"

It turns out there's a very straightforward one, and was basically already fully wired and ready to be discovered! Oma doesn't just mean "one's own," it's a verb meaning "to belong to!" The flexibility of lexical class in Koa had obscured this before. So for example:

ka talo oma ni
DEF house belong 1SG
"my own house"

...but technically oma ni is here actually an adjectival clause rephrasable as "the house that belongs to me," exactly analogous to

ka tupo ma polo
DEF horse IMPF run
"the running horse" or "the horse that is running"

We also have a lovely economical phrase for a Valentine's heart:

vi oma ni
IMP belong 1SG
"be mine"

All this is why oma didn't feel right when I was trying to say "this is my house": there's too much of a semantic of belonging or owning in there.

ti talo i oma ni
this house FIN belong 1SG
"this house is my own" or "this house belongs to me"

What we were really looking for was a purely conceptual relationship of possession, blanched of as much additional meaning as possible: that's exactly what keme is. After all, this is in origin a derivative of with; ti talo i keme ni just means "this house is mine," in the sense of "this house is associated with me." We're not trying to talk about owning or belonging in this imaginary conversation. It seems to be a distinction I'd never really considered before between possession and ownership.

There's this really fascinating-looking Oxford University Press cross-linguistic typological survey of possession and ownership across the world's languages, and one thing I was reading in the summary is that languages from cultures where ownership is 100% the same as possession tend to have very different corresponding linguistic structures than what we're used to. Clearly (A) I need to find a copy of this book and read it as soon as humanly possible, and (B) there's going to have to end up being a fuzzy limit to Koa's pretensions of universality where structure intersects with radically different underlying cultural needs. Still, I'll keep trying my best...

Monday, March 15, 2021

Return of the Pronominal Predicate

Over the years there's been a lot of hemming and hawing about predicate-length (i.e. bisyllabic) versions of the personal pronouns, which I've tended to refer to as "emphatic." I'm not sure where the idea came from originally; maybe the full versus clitic forms of the pronouns in Polish planted the seed? It occurs to me to wonder how well-represented a strategy this is cross-linguistically. The other clear examples I can think of come from Welsh (i vs innau), Ancient Greek (με vs ἐμέ) and Nahuatl ( vs nèhuātl): not much ground for generalizations.

Since the idea first occurred to me some version of it has never left at least the theoretical lexicon, despite occasional deep skepticism. Most recently, in this post -- since which more than two years inexplicably seem to have passed -- I think I pretty firmly established that there does need to be a form of the personal pronouns that makes it possible to use them as predicates. It's important to note that as such they may have nothing whatsoever to do with emphasis, though, except for the fact that these predicates have a tendency to show up in pragmatically marked syntactic structures. For this reason I'm thinking we should ditch the "emphatic" nomenclature that probably has its origins in IE languages anyway, and choose a better-motivated term like "extended" or "predicative."

As to form, we've seen three options:

A. Reduplicating the pronoun (the longest standing): nini, sese, etc.
B. Lengthening the pronoun to produce a bisyllable of analogous form: nii, sei, etc.
C. Adding -a on the analogy of ke > kea, to > toa, and so on.: nia, sea, etc.

I've thought of a couple others recently:

D. Adding -imi "self," currently used also as a true emphatic: niimi, seimi, etc.
E. Adding some other formative, like -pe: nipe, sepe, etc.

Option A was the original idea long ago and I'm still a big fan, other than the fact that this would necessitate giving up tata "dad" in favor of papa which I just do not like. Aside: this has been a bigger problem than you might think, because I really truly actually seriously detest papa and this has held up the whole thought process for probably almost 15 years. I honestly don't know what to do about this, because I apparently can't let go of either and I obviously can't have both. Could there be some completely different "dad" word? I feel like I might die on this hill while the whole of civilization grinds to a halt around me.

ANYWAY, back to the subject: I've never much cared for the aesthetics of option B, or the fact that the pronouns with mid vowels end up looking less like their simplex forms than the others, so I think we might as well just toss that one. Option C is totally reasonable and logical, though let's discuss the semantic implications below, and I'd just like to take a moment to bemoan the loss of taa for "surpass," as I've increasingly been thinking of it. Option D I apparently brought up just to instantly dismiss, because using a form with this literal semantic meaning in this pragmatic way feels very ad hoc and un-Koa. Option E is possible if we really need it, so maybe let's leave it in the back pocket for the moment.

As to option C: the idea here is that we already use -a to make pronouns out of specifiers, which initially makes this seem like a pretty solid plan. An important thing to notice, though, is that the Koa "personal particles" actually live a double life -- they do act as pronouns, but in other contexts they're specifiers! And as specifiers their value is possessive. If, then, -a makes a specifier into a pronoun -- or to look at it another way, into a predicate -- then nia should mean not "I" but "mine!"

I actually don't have a ready argument for why this shouldn't immediately be declared canon. A structure like this gives us possibilities like:

ti talo i nia
this house FIN mine
"this house is mine"

ka nia i pavasu
DEF mine FIN PASS-wear.out
"mine is worn out"

Currently, without these forms, we're forced to co-opt other words in what is unavoidably an arbitrary way, or repeat the coindexed referents redundantly:

ti talo i keme ni
this house FIN attribute/possession 1SG
"this house is my possession"

ka keme ni i pavasu
DEF possession 1SG FIN PASS-wear.out
"[this possession of] mine is worn out"

ti talo i ni talo
this house FIN 1SG house
"this house is my house"

Okay, so honestly, to my surprise I don't hate the structures with keme ni. I actually don't think they're arbitrary at all: this seems like a completely logical, consistent extension, and maybe even the most consistent way of expressing this concept. The real question, then, I guess, ends up coming down to aesthetics and word-worthiness. Before digging in here, though, note what happens when we use predicates like nia in an adjectival position:

ka lina nia
DEF city mine
"my city"

This gives us a genuinely emphatic meaning, as against the unmarked ka lina ni "my city." Important! And without these forms we'd be limited to

ka lina keme ni
DEF city possession 1SG
"the city of my possession" = "my city"

There's no question that the form with nia is more elegant. What I'm not sure of is (A) whether giving up 6 predicates to this cause is being unnecessarily improvident, and (B) what's the cross-linguistic word on possessive pronouns? Would these predicates be typologically motivated?

Indo-European has a variety of strategies, often the genitive of the personal pronoun or a separate possessive form. Modern Greek uses an adjective meaning "own," e.g. δικός μου "my own," "mine," which is kind of cool and a little like keme ni (and as to that, does Koa have a way of expressing that meaning of "own?" Oh yes of course, oma). Finnish and Turkish both use the genitive of the pronoun: tämä talo on minun, bu ev benim. Hungarian interestingly has distinct possessive pronouns, which I'd forgotten about: ez a ház az enyém, etc. Basque -- if I'm interpreting this forms correctly -- seems to put a definite ending on a genitive pronoun, so ni > nire > nirea...fascinating, a bit like el mío in Spanish, I guess? That about wraps it up for Europe, I think.

For a minute I got excited about Hebrew because the modern vernacular language seemed to use a structure 100% analogous to ka talo keme ni with its הבית שלי ha bait sheli but then I learned from Marisa that sheli is just the 1SG form of the preposition "of" and I was disappointed. But then I discovered that shel comes originally from something like "...which is to me," "to me" being the way Arabic still expresses "mine": هذا البيت لي hadha al-beyt li "this is my house," lit. "this the house to me." So a prepositional phrase -- that's a cool different strategy. (Thanks, Liorr, for these translations!)

Mandarin just uses the genitive of the pronoun again: 这房子是我 的 zhè fángzi shì wǒ de "this house COP 1SG GEN." Japanese says "my thing": この家は私のものです kono ka wa watashi no mono desu "this house TOPIC 1SG GEN thing COP." Interesting. Malay has "my possession"!!! rumah ini milik saya, "house this possession me"; apparently milik can also be a verb "belong."

Most of the rest of human languagedom is still untouched, but maybe this is enough. Clearly lots of very unrelated languages are happy with "my X," and I don't think I want discrete lexemes for possessive pronouns anyway: it just doesn't feel right. I'm intrigued by the semantics at the perhaps unlikely intersection of Greek and Malay, though, and I wonder whether we might use oma in this context:

ka talo ni oma
DEF house 1SG own
"my own house"

...wait, or is it

ka talo oma ni
DEF house own 1SG
"my own house"

Oh yikes. Let's not even get into the fact that the official lexicon gives oma for "self," when I thought it was imi! Okay, okay, no, actually we'd better. Deep breath: oma could be "one's own," whereas imi could be "the self" in, like, consciousness terms. So ni imi oma "my own self." Apparently reflexive pronouns do tend to come from the word for the self, so it's also not arbitrary to potentially say things like ni nae ni imi "I see myself."

That now being settled, which version above is correct? If we accept ni imi oma that would suggest that oma is applied to an existing possessive phrase, in which case it should be the first. Then:

ka ni oma
DEF 1SG own
"my own"

...and potentially

ti talo i ni oma
this house FIN 1SG own
"this house is mine"

Ugh, though, why is an alienable object ("house") being described with inalienable possession, then? Either we say that that's just how oma rolls, which would be realistic to natural languages but not exactly in line with Koa's goals of being reducible to first principles, or maybe the noun modified by oma "groups" together before possession happens? So ni [imi oma] "myself," obviously inalienable, but then [ka talo oma] ni "my own house," alienable. And since utterances like "this mother is mine" are pretty pragmatically anomalous and therefore unlikely outside of bad reference grammars, oma ni is a better form to be the default predicate.

WHICH MEANS that either of the following could mean "this house is mine":

ti talo i oma ni
this house FIN own 1SG
"this house is my own" = "this house is mine"

ti talo i keme ni
this house FIN possession 1SG
"this house is my possession" = "this house is mine"

However, there's a distinct semantic in the oma sentence worth pointing out: it's essentially saying "this is my very own house." In other words, there's no way besides ti talo i oma ni to say "this house is my very own." That's worth being able to say, but not really what we were trying to get at with this now absurdly long odyssey into the subject. Ti talo i keme ni seems much more neutral: this is just the house that I have.

This was extremely productive -- although it left me with the very same conclusions I'd previously reached here, albeit with much less exhaustive motivation -- but not even slightly the matter I actually meant to spend the apparently last 24 hours exploring! Will try again tomorrow...