3 Responses to “Conlangery SHORTS #07: When do you insert your infix?”

  1. Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

    Interesting short. Affix ordering is something I had to think long about in Moten, given its propensity to inflect already inflected forms (surdéclinaison) while having a bunch of infixes (and suffixes and prefixes 🙂 ). So the order to which affixes are added to words is actually very relevant to the meaning of the eventual phrase (luckily reduplication doesn’t enter into the equation here as reduplication is seen as a stem phenomenon in Moten, and thus always happens before any inflection appears. Not all languages are like that indeed).

    To give a short example of how affix ordering is relevant in Moten, consider the noun e|lon: “woman”, the definite infix -e-, and the genitive singular case, marked by the infix -v- and the suffix -i. In Moten, the placement rule is the same for all infixes: they are put just in front of the last vowel of the noun. So we get e|leon: “the woman” and elvo|n: “of a woman” (the changes here are regular morphophonemic changes).

    But what if you want to say “of the woman”? Do you add the definite infix first, and the case afterwards, leading to e|levo|n, or do you do the opposite, leading to elveo|n? Well, as it happens, if you want to say “of the woman”, the first option is the correct one: e|levo|n, with the definite infix put in there before the case infix.

    However, the second option elveo|n is also valid, although with a different meaning: it’s a nominalisation of the genitive phrase (by surdeclinaison) meaning “the one of a woman”. So as you can see, the order in which infixes are added to a word is extremely relevant to the meaning of the phrase.

    Affix ordering in Moten is a complex issue, with many traps for the unwary, and some cases of genuine uncertainty as to what the correct ordering is. Luckily, those are fairly rare.

    In any case, it’s nice to hear that there are natlangs out there where infix ordering is relevant to the meaning of a phrase. It makes me more confident about the abilitiy to speak and understand Moten 🙂 .

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    • admin

      Interesting. To make a clarification, the ordering doesn’t really affect meaning in Tagalog, as far as I know. There is no form *bubumili that constrasts with bumibili, but I think there may be other infixes that do apply before reduplication (I’ll see if I can find the example I saw). Considering that, I could imagine a language where the order of infixation relative to other inflections could affect the meaning, in the same way you do for Moten. I do like your idea.

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      • Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

        To be fair, my idea is not that original, and pretty much (and openly) stolen from Basque. Take Basque emakume: “woman”, -a the definite suffix and -( r )en the genitive case suffix, and you get the following:
        emakumea: “the woman”
        emakumeren: “of a woman” (although in fact such a construction will normally not appear without a determiner of some sort)
        emakumearen: “of the woman”
        emakumerena: “the one of a woman”
        As you can see, that’s pretty much parallel to the Moten examples, although the affix order is now simpler to describe since we only have to handle suffixes. My only original thought was to apply the same principle to a morphology consisting mostly of infixes 🙂 . Once you do so, the idea that the order of infixation matters comes naturally! Still, it’d be nice to learn of a natlang that already has such a feature 🙂 .

        By the way, while we are talking about Basque, let me mention that I thought I was being original by having complex morphophonemic changes in Moten hiding a very regular grammar under seemingly irregular surface forms. Now my latest reading on Basque has shown me that that language does exactly the same thing with its seemingly inextricable synthetic verb forms! Once you take into account the very regular morphophonemic changes and a (very) few cases of stem suppletion, all synthetic verbs in Basque are pretty much regular, including the auxiliaries! I knew my Moten was heavily influenced by Basque, but now I’m discovering that it’s the case even for features I wasn’t aware are in Basque too 😛 .

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