Rethinking telicity and aspect in Qári

Recently, I’ve been reading the second edition of Semantics by Kate Kearns. I recall skimming through the first edition while still at university, but I’ll confess that not much stuck back in 2008. Chapters 8 and 9, on Aktionsarten and tense and aspect respctively, have made me reconsider what I’ve been doing with aspect and telicity marking in Qári.

I’ve been uneasy about this for a while, and this unease has grown as I’ve created more and more sample sentences for my Lexember entries (a post summarising Lexember 2020 is forthcoming!) – up until now, I’ve been using the telic markers –ye and – with verbs to indicate that the telos or endpoint has been reached (almost like a perfective marker, to be honest).  Essentially, I have been morphologically marking what is semantically the least marked property. This is dumb.

So, taking some inspiration from “inverse number marking”, I’ve come up with a system which I feel is at once more realistic and more elegant. Commentary, as always, is highly welcome.

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Relative clauses in Qári

Why yes, I did spend NYE conlanging, why do you ask? Here’s some details on an aspect of Qári clausal syntax which was not covered in the previous post, and which I thought would be more complex than it actually was.

Qári only permits the subject of a subclause to be relativised. That is to say, in a construction such as I whipped the boy₁ [the boy₁ kicked the dog], only the boy can be relativised, not the dog:

Já sokiksáye at sagya [i yeqajeye at qénó].
1sg whip:tel def boy [act kick:tel def dog]
I whipped the boy [who kicked the dog].

Note how the active voice marker i, optional in main clauses, is obligatory in subclauses.

As the attentive reader will no doubt recall, Qári is possessed of a wealth of strategies to promote arguments to the status of subjecthood. Thus, to express I whipped the dog whom the boy kicked, the verb in the subclause takes the passive voice:

Já sokiksáye at qénó [hó yeqajeye at sagya].
1sg whip:tel def dog [pass kick:del def boy]
I whipped the dog [who was kicked by the boy].

The same applies with ‘oblique’ arguments. Consider the sentence He conquered the city₁ [you sent the army to the city₁] – here the city is promoted to the subject of the relative clause by means of the applicative voice:

Só jalaye at qár [á geduye at kitsánára ná].
3sg conquer:tel def city [appl send:tel def army 2sg]
He conquered the city [to which you sent the army].
(Note here also the resurfacing of VOS word order.)

Note, however, that only core oblique arguments can be promoted to subject: adjuncts cannot. Thus I burnt down the house in which the boy kicked the dog cannot be expressed in Qári by means of a relative clause. Rather a coordinate clause must be used (note also the use of the anterior tense marker ):

Já áxeyó at áda, qeyindu at sagya yé yeqajeye at qénó.
1sg burn:tel def house | and_there def boy ant kick:tel def dog
I burnt down the house, and there the boy had kicked the dog.

So far, we have only looked at relative clauses which qualify a noun phrase in the main clause which is not a subject. When relative clauses qualify main-clause subjects, the constructions are broadly the same, with the only difference being that the voice marker is preceded by the relative marker é:

At kitsánu [é i jalaye qár] pálebuye at txumatu.
def warriors [rel act conquer:tel city] castrate:tel def men
The warriors [who conquered the city] castrated the men.

At txumatu [é hó pálebuye at kitsánu] kyá qár.
def men [rel pass castrate:tel def warriors] inhabit city
The men [whom the warriors castrated] inhabited the city.

One hundred and one Old Qári roots and their derivatives (part 2)

As I’ve worked through my list of roots, derived from the Leipzig-Jakarta list, I’ve realised how iterative this process can be. Starting out with only a handful of affixes, I can create dozens of words from one root, if I so wish. But new roots reveal new potential affixes, which can then be applied to earlier roots… Ultimately, the challenge here is knowing when to stop!

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One hundred and one Old Qári roots and their derivatives (part 1)

One of the first conlanging “texts” I discovered back before the internet was the Etymologies in The Lost Road and Other Writings, the fifth volume in the History of Middle Earth series. I used to pore over the roots and their derivations for hours. This series of posts, hopefully, captures some of the spirit that I found so beguiling back in 1996.

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