This week, we are going to focus on a language you’ve probably heard us talk about quite a bit in passing: Ancient Greek. Learn how it is the oddball of European languages.
Hi George and co.
It’s a pity you can’t keep up with a tight schedule for the podcast but that happens, school is important.
For short podcast subjects you might want to do reviews of the variability of certain grammatical structures in some selected languages. Or alternatively go through the variety of uses some simple grammatical forms, such as a case or a participle, can have in a single language. As you’ve said over and over again, nothing in grammar has a simple and well defined function and the available constructions tend to be used for all kinds of different tasks. Hearing some case studies of this from different languages with good examples would be nice and instructive for conlangers at all stages.
My main inspiration for suggesting this comes from doing some research of non-finite subordination for my main conlang project. I’ve read some papers about various aspects of the use of non-finite verb forms in Finnish, and the variability of the system and how flexibly many of its member forms can be used doesn’t end to astonish even a native speaker. For example, in addition to their prototypical attributive use the participles are used in some adverbial constructions happily mixed with other forms based on various infinitives. So the non-finite temporal clause denoting posteriority is built on the past passive participle:
“after the end of the rain”, “when the rain has ended”
while the parallel non-finite clause for simultaneous actions is based on the 2nd infinitive
“simultaneous to the end of the rain”, “as the rain ends”
The use of some infinitives exhibits variation when used with different auxiliary verbs. Some verbs allow pretty free variation between the basic 1st infinitive and the 3rd infinitive illative:
both “I have time to come”
Whereas some other verbs are pretty picky about what infinitive to use for this same basic verb combining without invoking any additional adverbial meanings:
“I want to come”
“I begin to come”, “I’m beginning to leave there”
The causes for these variations are not immediately clear without a historical analysis. I’m also searching information of other languages with similarly rich use of non finite verb forms and would like you to have a take on this. That would very likely be a much longer topic and better for a practicum of getting rid of finite subordination.
Finally I recommend you to take a look at Skou as a possibility for a featured natlang. It’s a Papuan language spoken on the north coast of New Guinea just west from the border between PNG and West Papua. There’s a very thorough grammar of it available at
I’ve only taken glances at it because it’s huge but it’s certainly full of juicy goodness. There are also more manageable documents of the language at the site. Take especially a look at the paper on verbal agreement in the language (http://www.papuaweb.org/dlib/tema/bahasa/skou/SkouAGR.pdf) and bend your minds with the overwhelming personal marking shown in its examples 38 and 42.
(For pronunciation, the IPA for my name is just that. Stress goes on the first syllable.)
GEN = genetive
PART = partitive
INE = inessive
ILL = illative
1SG = 1st person singular
1ST.INF = 1st infinitive
2ND.INF = 2nd infinitive
3RD.INF = 3rd infinitive
P.P.PARTIC = past passive participle