Conlang Relay 18/Feayran

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Feayran Text

Háa Thurotháfironnes sukávirro hé.

Mìináu kulshuvávirrote, náa hìevuvásiìrùosh. Kitshoìé elvufelokulshuvúro, firéon kalulshuvúroherrome. Náa úk serrurhrárok, úk ùuvurhrárosk, háa úk serrungálshuk ùuvungálshusk hé. Róu ué ugolàorhhrázhe hoshurhráhalushan kitshoìé surhrámuòn.

Náa kulshushávirrote, rhrúk mìikáu kulkukáherrùora. Kulshunkáte, gefkulshusháholùukuto, hée tàalulshunkúlshonek silóam. Talulshuránes.



You know about what happened at It is Watching in the Meadow.

A young woman was walking in a place not far from here, and the mist was clearing away. She placed a wooden statue of a fox which she had made at the edge of that meadow. While the statue seemed strong and proud, she seemed to be neither strong nor proud. However, the expression on her lips betrayed that she was a powerful soul, just like the fox seemed to be.

And so, as she was walking there, a young man arrived at the edge of the meadow. She stopped, looked askance at him, and untied her hair. She smiled.


Of course, that thing (we all know of it) happened at It is Watching in the Meadow.

A young woman, she is walking there, in that our-place, and there is mist that is coming apart. A thing in the shape of a fox, crafted by her from wood, she makes to stand at the entry place of that meadow. And so, it (the like-a-fox) seems strong, and it seems honorably proud, ah, yet she does not seem strong, and she does not seem proud, as you know. Oh, but hark! It seems from (her) mouth that there is a strong spirit flowing in her, to the same extent as it seems to be in the like-a-fox.

And so she is walking in that our-place, and then there comes a young man to the entry-place (of the meadow). She stops her walking, and she makes a gefkóato toward him, ah, so it goes, she has untied her hair. Oh, she smiles.

Interlinear Gloss

(In the works!)


Feayran is a verb-heavy polysynthetic language. Verbal morphology is templatic with the following structure (items in parentheses are not obligatory for all verbs):

pre-stem + STANCE + (ABL/VIA) + (AGENT) + (NEGATIVE) + ASPECT + VOICE.MOOD + (PATIENT) + (LOC/LAT) + (post-stem)

Nouns adhere to the following template:

pre-stem + (STANCE) + (ABL/VIA) + STANCE.CASE.NUMBER + (LOC/LAT) + post-stem

Pre-stem and post-stem refer to the two parts of any semantically-heavy root. One of these parts may be null. In the word list, the division between the two is indicated by an asterisk.

(ABL/VIA) and (LOC/LAT) indicate the two sites within the verb where noun roots may be incorporated. Verbs can only incorporate one root into each site--the first site may contain either an ablative argument or a viative argument, while the second site may contain either a locative argument or a lative argument.

Other relevant points about morphology are discussed in the specific grammar points below.

The person who followed me in the last relay reported some trouble with dissecting some of the honkin' big verb constructs, so this time I thought I'd provide some tips:

- There are six nouns in the passage. The majority of the remainder are verbs, followed by interjections and a smattering of conjunctions. (However, note that several verbs contain incorporated roots which carry noun-case markings.)

- Every verb has exactly one high-tone vowel marked with an acute accent. This vowel is always part of the VOICE.MOOD inflection, so it can be a useful starting point for dissecting a verb. Once you've identified the MOOD marker, identifying the ASPECT is easy. The NEGATIVE marker, where it appears, is usually -n-, but when it occurs with a -rhr- ASPECT marker, the two fuse into a single NEG.ASPECT morpheme, -ng-.

- Identifying whether any AGENT or PATIENT markers are present and what they are can be a little tricky, because sometimes you have to distinguish them from the ends or beginnings of incorporated roots. The wordlist will hopefully help with that.

- Gemination, written with doubled consonants, can only occur at the boundaries of incorporated roots. Note that <rr> is a digraph, not a geminate, and <rhr> is a trigraph which gets doubled as <rhhr> rather than <rhrrhr>.

Useful grammar points

"Stance" is a form of speech register whose nuances do not come into play much in this particular passage. For the purposes of this translation you can think of stance as an animacy marking with an extra agreement dimension for further disambiguation.

Syntax is not used to mark grammatical functions in Feayran. Instead, words are arranged in decreasing order of newsworthiness. Words that occur earlier are more likely to signal topic shifts, focal points of information, surprising developments, etc.

In a rough sense, interjections divide the sentence into phrases, but these are more pragmatic than syntactic in nature. There is no theoretical limit to the number of verbs that can be strung together in a phrase, nor do they have to share arguments or abide by any overt subordination rules. However, every auxiliary verb does bind to a particular main verb and usually agrees with the head verb in aspect and voice/mood. (Other markings on the main verb might not be duplicated on the auxiliary.) The most typical function of an auxiliary verb is to expand the main verb's morphological space. For example, if a main verb needed to incorporate both a locative and a lative argument, an auxiliary verb would have to be used to carry one of the arguments, because only one can be carried at the LOC/LAT site of the main verb. Other specialized auxiliaries can be used to add extra modal flavor.

Managing relationships between entities is handled primarily by Feayran's noun class system. Class membership is flexible, and the entities within a conversational space are usually all tagged with different stance+class markers. This means that once a particular stance+class marker has been used to refer to a particular person or thing, you can assume that any future occurrences of the same marker refer to the same person/thing until the marker is explicitly reassigned.

Noun class markers each have two forms: an affix form, which is used for AGENT and PATIENT marking within verbs, and a pronominal form, which may be a freestanding noun or be incorporated into one of a verb's incorporation sites. However, whether the classifier is an affix or a pronoun, it is still considered the same marker for the purposes of the previous point.

Every freestanding noun must correspond to a marking on a verb, whether an AGENT/PATIENT affix or an incorporated root, and must agree with this marking in stance. Additionally, nouns anchored by incorporated roots must agree in case, and nouns anchored by AGENT/PATIENT affixes must agree in number. Usually the verb marking is a noun class affix/incorporated pronoun agreeing with the freestanding noun's class, but appositive structures (where two unrelated roots, one incorporated and the other free, both refer to the same entity) can also fulfill the anchoring requirement for freestanding nouns. (This connection between noun roots can also occur between two incorporated roots rather than one incorporated and one free root; this is a common strategy for tying verbs together in phrases.)

Comparatives are one common application of appositive noun anchors. In comparative structures, the standard of comparison is paired with a comparative root, usually m* (for more than), *ni (for less than), m*n (for equality), or m*s (for approximate equality). The noun case applied varies by nuances of the comparison, but in all cases either the standard of comparison or the comparative root is incorporated into the verb while its counterpart is left freestanding. (Which root is incorporated depends on pragmatic and prosodic weight.) For example,

He is even as strong as me.

(I am using parentheses rather than the usual Leipzig angle brackets for marking infixes for wiki-syntax convenience.)

The lative case paired with the m*n comparative root indicates that the subject was not expected to be as strong as he turned out to be. In this phrase, the freestanding noun vuú corresponds to the incorporated noun -mùun-.

Between noun class agreement, stance agreement, case agreement (in incorporated roots) and number agreement (in AGENT/PATIENT markers), it is usually clear which noun corresponds to each component of a given verb. However, freestanding nouns in the equative case do _not_ agree with incorporated anchors in case, so class, stance, and context must be used instead.

The definite article, hé, is a little tricky to analyze--I haven't totally uncovered its behavior yet. As far as I can tell, it tags the preceding element as a point of conversational common ground, something the audience should be familiar with, or occasionally as a kind of intensifier. Note that it may refer to a subelement of the constituent it follows, such as the agent marked within the verb rather than the verb itself.

A note on aspects and negation: the NEGATIVE infix operates at a deeper level than the other verbal affixes, modifying the base meaning of the verb before the other distinctions are applied. For example, the perfective aspect, marching changes of state, interacts with the negative infix in this way:

He stopped running

could be translated more directly as "he changed to a state of [not running]." It does not mean what perhaps seems at first more intuitive, "He did not run."

A potentially useful bit of trivia about Feayran storytelling: stories in the "parable" genre always begin the same way, with an establishment of a commonly-known geographic setting, and an appeal to community knowledge of some event that happened there. Place names are most often full descriptive verb constructs, usually with some incorporated element representing the actual locale, while the rest of the verb either describes the place or references something that happened there.


Freestanding roots

háa  : interjection, introducing a topic in which the speaker claims expertise or intends to impart knowledge to the audience. Can also mark contrasts/juxtapositions.

th*nes  : eye, watching, looking

s*  : auxiliary verb, can also mean "to do, to be done, to happen"

hé  : definite article--see grammar notes

mìin*  : little sister, young woman

k*te  : walking

náa  : transitional interjection

hìev*sh  : mist

kitsh*  : fox

elv*  : made, shaped, formed

fir*n  : meadow, small clearing

kal*me  : leg, upright, standing

*k  : conjunction marking contrast; agrees with speaker's stance toward audience, occurs before each item to be contrasted

serr*k  : strong

ùuv*sk  : justifiably proud

róu ué  : compound interjection marking contrast or turn, a crucial point of attention

*zhe  : a modal auxiliary verb detailing perception; often incorporates an ablative argument representing a source of information or basis of inference

hosh*n  : a fast-flowing current of water; can be used idiomatically, incorporating a person locative argument to mean that person is strong-willed, fierce-spirited, of powerful mind.

rhr*k  : sequential interjection, agrees with stance of speaker

mìik*  : little brother, young man

k*ra  : to go, going

gefk*to  : a gesture involving turning the side of one's head and neck toward someone; a way of feigning disinterest while expressing desire

hée  : a narrative interjection most often used to introduce stories; can also indicate situational gravity, that the phrase involves something which is more significant than it seems.

tàal*nek  : bound, tied

sil*m  : fur, hair

tal*nes  : a positive facial expression involving lifting of the muscles around the eyes.

Incorporated roots

-fir*n-  : meadow, small clearing

-virr*-  : "location within speaker's territory" classifier pronoun

-sìir*-  : tearing, dwindling, fraying

-fel*ku-  : wood

-err*-  : a boundary line or entry point

-gol*rhr-  : mouth

-al*sha-  : "feminine" classifier pronoun

-m*n-  : together, comparative root for equality--see grammar notes

-ol*ku-  : "masculine" classifier pronoun

Incorporated Noun CASE markers

-o-  : LOCative case (locations, themes, possession), inanimate stance

-ùo-  : LATive case (directions, destinations, goals), inanimate stance

-o-  : VIAtive case (routes, materials, methods, inanimate stance;

-ào-  : ABLative case (sources, causes, reasons, origins), inanimate stance

-u-  : LOCative case, speaker in leading stance over referent

-ùu-  : LATive case, speaker in leading stance over referent

STANCE markers

-u-  : indicates speaker is in leading stance toward the audience


-r.o-  : "noncompetitive predator" noun class, inanimate stance.

-lsh.u-  : "feminine" noun class, speaker is in leading stance over the referent

-lk.u-  : "masculine" noun class, speaker is in leading stance over the referent

-lsh.o-  : "feminine" noun class, speaker is in inanimate stance over the referent

NEGATIVE markers

-n-  : Typical negative marker--see notes in grammar section

-ng-  : Fusional negative.aspect marker indicating negative polarity, conjectural aspect.

ASPECT markers

-th-  : "essential" aspect, indicating an inherent quality of a thing; can also show habitual or occupational actions.

-k-  : "perfective" aspect, indicating the completion of a process or a change of state; see grammar notes

-v-  : "stative" aspect, indicating a non-inherent quality of a thing; used to establish background information for narratives

-rhr-  : "conjectural" aspect, behaves like an evidential marking, indicating something which is perceived according to available evidence, "seems"

-sh-  : "imperfective" aspect, indicating an ongoing process progressing toward some goal

-r-  : "punctual" aspect, indicates an urgent, sudden action, or an event of high narrative saliency.

VOICE.MOOD markers

-á- : Intransitive voice, indicative mood

-ú- : Transitive voice, indicative mood

Freestanding noun STANCE.CASE.NUMBER markers

-áu-  :  Direct case (used for agents and patients), speaker in leading stance toward referent

-oìé-  :  Equative case (indicates something that has the appearance of something but actually is not that thing), inanimate stance

-éo-  :  Locative case, inanimate stance

-óa-  :  Direct case, inanimate stance