Saturday, November 6, 2021

The two faces of ke- compounds

There's an additional bit of preparation we need before diving into that thorough discussion of nominalization, relativization and focus that I keep promising: an understanding of the formative ke-.

This particle, by default carrying interrogative meaning, can be productively preposed to a second particle to form compounds that look and behave like predicates. There has traditionally been a sharp divide between two classes of resultant forms, though, depending on whether the second particle is an article (a, ka, le, and most recently u) or not.

1. When added to an article, ke- forms an interrogative pronoun. These solicit a response of the type indicated by the article itself, so:

kea = indefinite, "what?"
keka = definite, "who/which one?"
keu = definite plural, "who all, which ones?"
kele = name, "what is the name?"

2. When added to any other kind of particle, however, these lose interrogative force and instead give us a sort of meta-description of the meaning of that particle. There are lots of these, so for example:

kene = location
kela = destination
keme = attribute
kemo = manner
kehe = time (at which something occurs), moment
kepe = subject, topic, respect, regard
kelo = reason, cause
kesi = that which went before, past
kepi = amount, quantity
kecu = that which will be, future
kema = that which is ongoing; current?
kete = possibility
keki = necessity
kelu = a desire
kena = that which is not; negative?
keha = condition (that which "ifs")

These should all be spelled out and explained at some point -- I was sure I wrote a post about this back in the 20-teens, but it would appear I never got around to it! And it would be good to do this before I accidentally assign those roots to other meanings (see point 5 below).

3. In one case the resultant form has been modified a bit:

kia = affirmative (not keia which is of an inadmissible form for a predicate; curiously this was not an intentional choice, but an accident based loosely on Finnish kyllä "certainly"!)

4. Forms with other specifiers would have no identifiable meaning and so aren't included in this set: keko, kehu, kepo, keti, keto.

5. Note that there are other words of this apparent form which in fact are their own bisyllabic roots:

keli "language"
kevi "light in weight"

This was not planned out particularly well, and in fact keli could and really should also mean "hypothetical" and kevi "a command." I'm not sure what to do about this...either we could have homonyms in a breathtaking change of allegiance in favor of Koa's rights as an artlang, or maybe those roots need to be reconsidered. I honestly don't love keli -- it somehow utterly fails to capture what I love about Finnish kieli -- and kevi could become kevu. Or something. OR I could create different roots for the meanings that either or both of these "should" have with the ke- formative: I think the "command" root should start with transitive verbal meaning, for one, rather than "that which is commanded."

Incidentally, I don't think I've ever mentioned out loud just how many Koa roots are in fact unapologetically borrowed from Finnish. Paa "head," kume "ten," sata "hundred," tuha "thousand," ela "live," kusu "ask," nuku "sleep," poi "away," voi "be able," tule "come," mene "go," lahe "leave," soi "sound, ring," iso "big," suli "great," sini "blue," puna "red," lepa "bread," vai "butter," vate "cloth," puhu "speak," sano "say," hulu "crazy," ike "cry," pime "dark," valo "light," pai "day," suva "deep," vake "difficult," vami "ready," ovi "door," ava "open," asu "dwell," suo "eat," vela "even," paha "evil," pele "family," vaha "few," luta "find," kala "fish," hisi "mist," uto "foreign," uno "forget," ana "give," hei "hello," moi "goodbye," vihe "green," sivu "leaf," pusu "gun," kova "hard," kulu "hear," apu "help," koke "high," maki "hill," koto "home," talo "house," asi "idea," tapa "kill," maa "land," keli "language," vime "last," liu "lead," opi "learn," kile "write," vesi "liquid," nae "see," hake "look for," mata "low," kone "machine," and on and on. In some cases the form or meaning has obviously been adapted. I'm not sure why, but something about Finnish phonology really lends itself to the vibe I've been going for with Koa from the beginning.

ANYWAY, it occurred to me the other day that if kea literally breaks down to ke a -- in other words, "which indefinite thing beginning with a?" -- is it possible that non-article compounds should have interrogative force as well? Couldn't kene mean "which phrase beginning with ne," i.e. "where?" Suddenly a whole cast of what Esperanto might call correlatives effortlessly unfolds:

kene - tine - tone = where - here - there
kela - tila - tola = whither - hither - thither
kehe - tihe - tohe = when - now - then
kemo - timo - tomo = how - like this - like that
kelo - tilo - tolo = why - for this reason - for that reason
kepi - tipi - topi = how much - this much - that much

For a moment it seemed like, despite the fact that I kind of hate nearly every single one of those forms with those meanings on aesthetic grounds, it may be a logical necessity to allow this. In other words, "why" would also mean "reason," as in "let me tell you about the how and why." It felt inelegant and unappealing, but maybe important in the service of internal consistency.

But thankfully for my aesthetic sensibilities, these correlatives weren't meant to be. The reason it works with kea - tia - toa and friends is that the resultant pronouns have a semantic that allows them to be integrated into syntax just like any other predicate (albeit with the article integrated inside of itself, so to speak). We can say

ni na suo toa
1SG NEG eat that
"I didn't eat that" exactly the same way we can say

ni na suo lepa
1SG NEG eat bread
"I didn't eat bread"

But the compounds with other particle types would produce something that otherwise does not exist as a category anywhere in Koa: adverbials! If one said

ni si asu tone
1SG ANT dwell 'there'
"I used to live there" order to parse it correctly, they would have to know that tone should not be interpreted according to the ordinary rules of Koa: that is, not as a direct object or a modifier, as one predicate following another. To allow these would be to introduce a genuine lexical class division among predicates into the language for the first time, and a completely externally unidentifiable one at that. Ick. Might as well hang it all up and start over if I'm going to throw out the most basic guiding light of the language. It has to be, as it always has been,

ni si asu ne toa
1SG ANT dwell LOC that
"I used to live there"

So then, feeling pretty solid about the system of ke- compounds and why things mean what they do, let's remember all those words under point 2 above (kene "location," kemo "manner," and so on), because they're going to be critical when we start trying to nominalize more complex clauses.

P.S. I'm feeling less and less sure about u as a plural definite article. I realized today that this would make "everyone" have to be pou instead of poka, which makes me sad, but beyond that I'm having some trouble being convinced that it feels very much like Koa. No final decisions but that's where I'm at. Note that if we keep it, we'll have series like this: poa "everything," poka "all of it," pou "everyone."

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