Tag Archives: reduplication

Reduplication issues

Ayeri uses reduplication for a number of things, because reduplication is a nice feature. Says the Grammar on this topic (§ 3.2.3):

It is used for hortatives, to indicate that something is done again, and it is used to form diminutives of nouns.

There are two patterns listed for verbs, one with complete reduplication of the imperative verb form for hortative statements, and one with partial reduplication as a way to express that an action takes place again, i.e. some kind of frequentative – like this:

nara- ‘speak’ naru-naru ‘let’s speak’ na-naru ‘let’s speak again’
narayeng ‘she speaks’ na-narayeng ‘she speaks again’

Nouns use complete reduplication to derive diminutive forms, for example veney-veney ‘doggie’ < veney ‘dog’. Sometimes, this is also lexicalized, though:

agu ‘chicken’ agu-agu ‘chick’
gan ‘child’ gan-gan ‘grandchild’
kusang ‘double’ kusang-kusang ‘model’
veh- ‘build, construct’ veha-veha ‘tinkering’

As you can see from the above examples, the outcome of lexicalized reduplication of nouns is not always what one would expect from a strict interpretation: sometimes the result simply adds a more endearing shade of meaning to the original word than strictly signifying a smaller version of the thing.

Last year, however, I also began applying (lexicalized) reduplication to adjectives as a means of derivation:

apan ‘wide’ apan-apan ‘extensive’
ikan ‘complete, whole’ ikan-ikan ‘entire; completely, totally’
pisu ‘tired, exhausted’ pisu-pisu ‘tiresome, exhausting’

This is all fair enough, but when I was translating something very recently, I even found myself using this reduplication of adjectives productively:

[gloss]Nay yanoyam ada-reng voy sano talingaya-as nay kayvomaya-j-as kayvan-ya nā, ang paron-ay gamar-yam – kebay~kebay – sidegan-ley kopo=ikan.
and because that-A.INAN NEG both mechanic-P and passenger-PL-P company-LOC 1SG.GEN, AT prepare-1SG.T manage-PTCP – EMPH~alone – repair-P.INAN difficult=very.[/gloss]
‘And because there were neither a mechanic nor passengers in my company, I prepared to manage – all alone – a very difficult repair.’ (cf. De Saint-Exupéry 13)

What I did here is reduplicating kebay ‘alone’ to kebay-kebay ‘all alone’. The question is then, whether I should regularize this reduplication process, too, as a means to emphasize the large extent of the quality described by the adjective. This is, essentially, an augmentative function.

Now, in languages like German or French, adjectives are noun-like in that they agree with their noun heads in categories of the noun – in German and French this would be number and case. In Ayeri, on the other hand, adjectives aren’t inflected for either the noun’s or the verb’s categories, but they are still nouny in that uninflected nouns may serve as adjectives easily, for example:

anang ‘charm’ anang ‘charming’
dipakan ‘pity’ dipakan ‘pathetic, wretched, pitiable’
gino ‘drink’ gino ‘drunk’
ijan ‘silver; coin’ ijan ‘rich’
karon ‘water; sea’ karon ‘liquid’
mihan ‘wood’ mihan ‘wooden’

This is also relevant regarding case-inflected noun compounds, for example kihas ‘map’ in this passage:

[gloss][​N​]ara-tang, ang mya pasy-ong-ay=eng sungkoran-as kihas[.]
say-3PL.M.A AT be.supposed.to be.interested.in-IRR-1SG.T=rather science-P map[/gloss]
‘[T]hey told me, I should rather be interested in geography[.]’ (cf. De Saint-Exupéry 12)

The question then is, if adjectives are essentially nouny in Ayeri, should there be a reduplicating derivative method that basically does the opposite of what it does for nouns? It doesn’t necessarily strike me as counter-intuitive given the range of things that reduplication is already used for in Ayeri, but systematically it seems confusing. Also, consider that although nouns are rather consistently case-marked in Ayeri, they appear zero-marked (that is, superficially unmarked) when they carry the topic morpheme. Thus, a topic-marked diminutive noun that also exists as a zero-derived adjective could at least potentially clash with a reduplicated adjective at least in its identical surface form.

  • De Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. Le Petit Prince. Ed. Rudolf Strauch. 11th ed. Paderborn: Schöningh, 1991. 12–13. Print.
  • I replaced *bata-bata ‘grandchild’ with the regularly formed gan-gan in the dictionary already a while ago but didn’t change it here. I did that now. I think my coining *bata-bata was due to mixing up bata ‘short’ with gan ‘child’ for some reason.

Alleged Beliefs

On my Twitter timeline, a link to an article by Katy Steinmetz at the TIME magazine’s website, titled “Elvish, Klingon and Esperanto—Why Do We Love To Invent Languages?”, came up several times this evening. In this article, Steinmetz interviews Michael Adams, professor of English at Indiana University, on conlanging. I left the following comment:

“Are invented languages better designed than natural languages?
— That’s what their inventors believe.”

Invented languages better than natural ones? Well, I suppose that’s an idealist view. They will probably never be as complex, for one, as natural languages if that’s your criterion of measuring quality. Natural languages grew and changed and diversified by means of being spoken by hundreds to billions of people over the course of millenia – a process which a single creator or even a group can never fully immitate – leaving us with a wealth of forms to explore and build our own languages on, and be it just for the love of tinkering. On the other hand, do invented languages need to be as complex as natural languages, being consciously modelled after existing languages, in order to be of good quality? Not necessarily, I think. It’s about exploring possibilities and watch how things work or play together. That’s why you build models in the first place.

And actually I’ve only now realized that the question was whether constructed languages are better in their design than natural languages, not just objectively better, as I assumed in my reply was the question. 😕 Certainly constructed languages are usually designed more consciously than natural languages, which underly an evolutionary process that’s at least partly blind (or even for the most part?). But whether design decisions by authors make constructed languages inherently better than natural ones I have doubts about. They’re the results of different processes, so it’s hard to compare.

However, just for fun and because of a couple of rather elaborate sentences and vocabulary that seemed challenging, I spent the 1½ hours after writing my comment translating the whole shebang into Ayeri, minus the quotation from the article at the beginning:

[gloss]Sa engyon narānjang vehisa ban narān suhing? Māy, neprayang adareng paranas sempayyanena. Menanyam-ikan, sa kamatong tadoy kamya narān suhing bata ang perava bananley ada-yenueri. Ang nakasyon, ang tilayon nay sa palungisayon narānye suhing naramayari menang yonangya pesan manga ling sinkyanyēa. Adareng macamley si ang ming kusangisaya ikan tadoy tianya kebay soyang-nyama yenu. Eng hapangisāra eda-macam mahaley dahasyena dilānyam nay ling sinaya sa ming vehnang narānye sitang-nana, nārya-nama cānyam veha-veha. Palunganya, ang ilta kamayon kamya narānjas suhing bananyam ban narānye vehisa sang ri vehtos miran narānyena suhing? Paronyang, adareng rapōy. Ri ming dilavāng mimānjas narānvehyaman nay ming silvvāng miranyam sirī mirāra linyayereng soyang kayvteng sitanyaley. Sā tiavāng menanyam-ikan kusangan-kusanganyeley eda-yaman.
PFOC exceed-3PN language-PL.A build-CAU good language natural? Well, suppose-1S.A that-A.INAN opinion-P idealist-GEN. one-NMLZ-DAT=very, PFOC be_as_as-3PN never complex language natural if AFOC measure-2S quality-P.INAN that=category-INST. AFOC grow-3PN, AFOC change-3PN and PFOC different-CAU-3PN language-PL natural speak-AGTZ-INST hundred billion-LOC until MOT while century-PL.LOC. That-A.INAN process-P.INAN REL AFOC can double-CAU-3SM completely never creator single or=even group. AFOC.INAN rest-CAU-3S.INAN this=process treasure-P.INAN form-PL-GEN explore-NMLZ-DAT and top REL-GEN-LOC PFOC can build-1P.A language-PL self=1P.GEN, CONC=just love-DAT build~DIM. Difference-LOC, AFOC need be_as_as-3PN complex language-PL.P natural quality-DAT good language-P build-CAU REL-A INSTFOC build-3SN.P way language-PL-GEN natural? Believe-1S.A, that-A.INAN necessary-NEG. INSTFOC can explore-2S.A possibility-PL.P language-build-PTCP-NMLZ and can see-2S.A way-DAT REL-DAT-INST function-3S.INAN thing-PL-A.INAN or together-3P.INAN each_other-P.INAN. CAUFOC create-2S.A one-NMLZ-DAT=very double~DIM-PL-P.INAN this=reason.[/gloss]


  • Causative marking on verbs and the resulting meaning is still nicely irregular: Sa palungisayon (PFOC different-CAU-3PN) is supposed to mean ‘they are differentiated’, while ang ming kusangisaya (AFOC can double-CAU-3SM) is supposed to be ‘they can copy/immitate’.
  • Reduplication is fun.
  • I think I’m going to allow concessive adverbials in sentence-initial position, like English does.
  • Numbers still are a bit odd for me to work with: menang yonangya pesan (12² 12⁸-LOC until) ‘hundred to billion’ as an attributive phrase, with yonangya, although not nominalized, marked for the locative case demanded by the postposition. If I did nominalize it, the resulting meaning would be ‘billionth’.
  • The question pronoun for ‘how, in which way’ (simin) should not be used as a relative pronoun, at least not in more formal language. Instead, use miran sirī (way REL-Ø-INST) ‘the way in which’, which is also how I arrived at simin.
  • Adams, Michael. Interview by Katy Steinmetz. “Elvish, Klingon and Esperanto—Why Do We Love To Invent Languages?” TIME. 2011. Time, Inc., 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.