jamietrosa (jamietrosa) wrote in linguaphiles,
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Could Someone Tell Me How a Linguist Would Label These?

Hey there, total newbie here when it comes to linguistics, just wanting some clarifications for a personal project of mine and seemed like this would be the smartest place to ask.

One of my little side projects that I've started is a conlang - and it's my absolute first try at conlanging. And I haven't taken a linguistics course before, so I'm not familiar with most of the terminology for this sort of thing. But I want to know how a linguist would talk about this. "This" being the proper terms for the various conjugations I plan to use.

Things the verbs in this language can express, mostly if not entirely through conjugation:


Three different states of certitude: positive, negative, and ambiguous/uncertain. (I think I recall that non-ambiguous conjugations would be called "perfect"? am I correct, or misinterpreting? Would that make the ambiguous/certain state "imperfect"?)

Tenses (time): Distant past, recent past, present, continuous, near future, far future. All of these can be used in conjunction with the "levels of certitude", e.g. a verb could conjugate to indicate both "ambiguity" and "far future" (meaning the verb's action may or may not take place in the far future), or you could combine "negative" and "continuous" for [verb] never happens (likewise, "positive" and "continuous" together would be [verb] always happens, whereas "positive" and "present" would be is happening now). Continuous is meant to indicate things that are ongoing, as in, they're happening but they're also not yet to end, and with an indeterminate end point at that. For instance, "She is a living person" would almost always be in continuous, because you wouldn't (in this culture, anyway) assume that death is so close as to warrant the extremely short-term present tense for that kind of thing; a lot of statements about personality would also be in the continuous tense, because say, there's a difference between "She's being annoying" and "she is annoying".  

A command form exists for the present and future tenses of a number of verbs, e.g. "You do this now" (indicates you should start immediately), "you will do this [soon]", "you will do this at [usually specified or given as a date range] far future point".  (I want to say this would be called...imperative? Am I correct?). Naturally, this can be combined with the negative state to indicate forbidding something/demanding someone not do something, though for obvious reasons that's usually used with the present tense or near-future tense.

Politeness levels: Much like Japanese, this language has "politeness levels", which are expressed partially in the way one chooses to conjugate their verbs. A "low politeness" level is used for speaking to children (or "inferiors", if you really want to be rude to an adult or condescending to an adolescent); a "neutral politeness" level is used among "equals" (and is considered the polite way of speaking to "inferiors", though it can also be rude in the wrong context); a "high politeness" level is used for those considered "above" you (can be contextual: medical doctors and those in other professions that require a lot of skill and knowledge are generally referred to with this by those outside of their field, and if you are seeking the expertise of say, a plumber, you might use this more deferential conjugation pattern to show respect for the fact that they have skills beyond your own); and finally, a "very high politeness" level, which is rarely used except for those in high political office, speaking to or about those rare individuals on the level of say, Einstein, and speaking to or about deities.

The base level of politeness of a verb's conjugation (e.g. if the verb is referring to inanimate objects, or if you are the actor of the verb, such as in "I went swimming" or "The ball rolled off the table") is determined by the intended listener(s). But the level of politeness conveyed in the verb's conjugation will often shift based on the subject, especially if the subject is a person (or deity). E.g. you may be a pair of coal miners talking to each other, but conjugate a verb describing the actions of a surgeon with a higher politeness level (or the actions of a child with a lower one), and verbs regarding sex acts and bodily functions are often conjugated with higher politeness levels to reduce the impact of the "crudeness" to which they refer (it's a very squeamish culture). In those cases, though, it is more likely that the politeness level would shift up, rather than down.


I decided plurality (of all types, whether the actor of the verb, the subject of the sentence, direct object, etc.) would be determined by context in a sentence, rather than conjugation of the verbs, because I've already started making the conjugations pretty complicated for a first attempt as it is. :P (I mean, what is that, close to a hundred possible combinations of what a verb can mean? Yeah, that's plenty)


If you need me to clarify anything in order to get what I'm trying to describe, feel free to ask; I haven't studied linguistics before, and it's been literally years since I had an English course either, so I know I'm probably using awkward terms here. I'm actually almost proud of myself for remembering what a "direct object" is.

Thanks in advance for anyone who can clarify the proper linguistic terminology for all this, and double thanks for being patient with a newbie! :)



Tags: conlangs, grammar, language instruction, language planning, linguistics, tense, verb conjugation, vocabulary
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