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After some observations about the merits of Star Wars and plastic chopsticks, we tell you all kinds of stuff about possession: alienable vs inalienable, various marking strategies, “to have” and more.  Oh, and we talk about Abakwi.

Top of Show Greeting: rejistanian

Conlang: Abakwi


Email from Matt Pearson:

Hi George,

I finally had a chance to listen to the podcast that featured Okuna. Many thanks to you and your co-hosts for taking the time to review it, and for all your praise and thoughtful comments! To have others review one’s conlang project favourably–to have others take it seriously at all–is very gratifying.

Though I know you’ve now moved on to other conlangs, I’d like to respond to a couple things that came up in your discussion. Feel free to pass these comments on to your co-hosts as well.

(1)  Dictionary: I’ve attached a PDF of the current draft of the dictionary, in case you’re interested in looking at it.

(2)  PDF versus HTML: message received! As I mentioned in an earlier email, it hadn’t really occurred to me before to just post an online link to the PDF and leave it at that. Perhaps thinking in terms of the way things were a decade or more ago, when downloading large files from the web was a less trivial undertaking than it is now. Anyway, I’ve run your idea past David Peterson of LCS, so we’ll see what he says (he’s the one who, out of the goodness of his heart, had taken on the burden of HTML-ifying the grammar). I’m hopeful that–one way or another, and in one format or another–I’ll be able to publish Okuna on an LCS-hosted site sooner rather than later, so it can be made more generally available.

(3)  Title page: I’ve actually tried several times adding a title page (with time stamp) to the LaTeX file, but for some reason my LaTeX program doesn’t let me do it. Perhaps I’ve been using the wrong commands. I’ll look into that further.

(4)  Texts: There actually aren’t any complete texts written in (the current version of) Okuna, apart from “The North Wind and the Sun”. I’ve been meaning to do some longer texts and include them in the grammar, but nothing has come of that yet. It would be nice to add some Okuna folktales, for instance, or other materials that would reveal a bit more about the Okuna people themselves. So far I’ve been hindered in part by a lack of talent for constructing interesting narratives, combined with a chronic inability to commit to more than a few salient details of the conculture. Contrary to your speculations, there really aren’t any Okuna materials apart from what appears in the grammar itself. No drafts of novels, short stories about the mysterious Sakial, or anything else: the grammar is my magnum opus. One day, though, I’ll manage to create some original texts in Okuna and deepen the concultural dimension of the project. It’s a work in progress, of course.

(5)  The /f/ sound: It’s funny that William would be suspicious of (or unhappy about) the presence of /f/, since originally the language didn’t have this sound. I only added it later. Like William, I love small consonant inventories, but eleven was too few: I felt the words were getting too homogeneous looking/sounding, so I added a twelfth. The fact that /f/ was an afterthought, though, means that it occurs in far fewer words than the other consonants. It’s also marginal in other ways–e.g., it’s the only consonant that can’t occur in coda position. (Regarding the voiceless dental fricative, which Bianca mentioned: for some reason I’m prejudiced against that sound, in much the same way that William is with /f/. Maybe I think it makes a conlang look to Celtic/Elvish…)

(6)  I would defend using “y” for schwa on the grounds that the 5 regular vowel letters were already taken for other sounds, and I didn’t want to use any diacritics (which would have created problems for using a vowel diacritic to represent irregular stress). Anyway, it’s one of the things that makes Okuna orthography distinctive and slightly weird. I equate it somewhat with Sally Caves’s idiosyncratic but wonderful choice to use “u” for the palatal glide /j/.

Thanks again for taking the time to review Okuna. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you guys weren’t TOO bewildered by the case system! It seems quite normal to me now–but then I’ve been working through it for the past 15 years, so I’m used to it.

All the best,

10 Responses to “Conlangery #24: Possession”

  1. Carsten

    I know I’m late to comment, but in German (and other Germanic languages except English, IIRC) body parts are often used with the definite article:

    Sie wäscht sich die Hände.
    3SF.NOM wash-3S 3SM.REFL DEF.ACC.PL hand-PL
    ‘She₁ washes her₁ hands.’

    Sie wäscht ihr die Hände.
    3SF.NOM wash-3S 3SF.DAT DEF.ACC.PL hand-PL
    ‘She₁ washes her₂ hands.’

      • admin

        Yes, yes, I wonder if we’re to the point where we need to start reminding people not to email or comment until they listen to the entire podcast 😛

    • wm.annis

      It is Kobon. I am mortified to discover I got the number of verbs wrong by an order of magnitude, however (closer to 100, not 10).

      • admin

        That’s still a very restricted set of verbs. Of course it makes it much more likely to have a cassowary verb.

  2. arilando

    When do they go to the fucking important stuff and stop talking about fuking rice and star wars?

  3. Robert Marshall Murphy

    As for eating the Cassowary, it is supposed to be quite tough. Australian administrative officers stationed in New Guinea were advised that it “should be cooked with a stone in the pot: when the stone is ready to eat so is the Cassowary”.

  4. John Hutchinson

    One thing I don’t get here is the super-European phonology with loads of fricatives – in New Guinea!


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