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We have a guest on, Olle Heikilä, who we totally didn’t forget to add to the Skype call, and have a nice discussion on grammatical voice and what it’s for, what you can include, and just in general.  If you believe what your English teacher taught you about voice, prepare to be disabuse.  We also review Tseeyo, a wonderful little language with a terrible website.

Links and Resources

Conlang: Tseeyo

9 Responses to “Conlangery #25: Grammatical Voice”

  1. wm.annis

    I was going to produce an example for this, but forgot to get it into the show notes in time.

    You might have obligatory use of either the antipassive or the inverse voice in some languages due to limitations on the syntactic pivot in some ergative languages. In English, you can drop the subject in coordinate and subordinate clauses when they are the same as that in the controlling or previous clause.

    “The man walked into the barn and [the man] milked the cows.”

    In that we can drop the part in brackets. This pattern is so ingrained that it can trigger the passive,

    “The man walked into the barn and got kicked by a horse.”

    In some languages of Australia, for example, this sort of pivot can only be in the *absolutive* case (that is, the subject of an intransitive or the object of a transitive verb). For example, from Dyirbal (CL = classifier),

    Bayi yara bani-nyu bagun dyngumbilgu bural-nga-nyu.
    The man came and saw the woman.

    Here, the antipassive is used in the second clause to accommodate the absolutive {yara} “man” from the previous clause (the dative is the oblique case used to mark the original object of an antipassivized verb).

  2. Jai

    You mentioned something about having a Lexicon creation month? I just wanted to let you know
    (if you didn’t already) that NaCoWriMo does exist. National Conlang Writing Month. I help run it
    over at #Conlangers on deviantART.

    Here are some examples:

    The goal is to write a story in your respective conlang with a minimum of 250 words.
    We’ve been running this for 2 years now.

  3. Aidan

    This ‘cast inspired me to add to Taalen. For one, it helped me understand voice, which is awesome, because it always confused the heck out of me (especially that antipassive thing, which you explained better than I’d ever seen it, William). So there will be some voice stuff added, where it wasn’t planned. The biggest thing is a use of the inverse – I’m not sure if it counts as voice still, more pragmatics it seems, but here goes.

    Normally a transitive verb in Taalen (an active/stative lang) marks the patient at the front, and the agent at the end. The inverse does the opposite, of course, but pragmatically, it is a politeness marker. The 1st person is always a patient in polite/formal speech, and the 2nd person is always an agent. So the verb swaps the agent and patient around, adds a morpheme in the middle for inverse voice, and voila – a polite/formal verb form.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. MBR

    Cramming an antipassive into English is very hard. And no offense, but using an indefinite (“I was collecting clams” vs “I was collecting *some* clams”) didn’t make it easier to learn. That’s because cramming that indefinite in there doesn’t change the voice. I think it would be much better to use a question word to do this:
    “I was collecting clams.” (Active)
    “Clams were being collected. (by me)” (Passive)
    “I was collecting. (Collecting what? Clams.)” (Antipassive-ish)

    I either do it that way or invent a preposition (“bo”): “I was eating bo a sandwich.”

  5. Rhamos Vhailejh

    Thanks for the inspiration. My conlang totally needs this middle voice thing. It will fit very, very nicely. Especially since my conlang doesn’t have reflexives, and I have no plans to add any. Not to mention, it will be very easy to add, since voice is simply a bound morpheme which attaches to the agent, which is otherwise unmarked for anything else.

    Hänån sei’svennen.
    hänå+n sei+sven+nen
    dog+ACC I+eye+doPST
    I saw the dog.

    Passive (Already existed for a long time now, but I’ve had it as the “dative case”, which I’m going to change now; it always has seemed awkward to have a case that can only be applied to agents) :
    Seiešška hänåvi’svennen.
    sei+ešška hänå+vi+sven+nen
    I+INST dog+PSV+see+doPST
    The dog was seen by me.

    Middle (I am totally adding this now!) :
    I saw myself. (I know you said that this doesn’t count as a passive in English, but it does in my language! =P)

    That “vja” form is just my first instinct. I might change it after experimenting a bit with it. But either way, thanks so much for all the inspiration.

    Speaking of inspiration, your TAM trilogy has helped me out significantly as well. I’ve put a solid day or two on it, and while I’m still working on the new forms, I’ve worked out a new system that’s just far more powerful than the old one in terms of communicative potential, increasing the number of verb endings from 32 to 120. And like you guys suggested, it most certainly seemed more natural to use a blend of different techniques to achieve TAM-related things, so I’ve also added some new particles and adverb constructions. This podcast is the greatest thing to happen to my conlang since Wikipedia. ^___^

    • Rhamos Vhailejh

      I should not have translated “sven” as “eye” above. I’ve been working on another conlang a lot recently which cognates “eye” with “vision”, but this one doesn’t. I got mixed up. lol. I really should have translated “sven” as “sight” or “vision” (being turned into “see” by “nen” (do (past tense))). My bad.

  6. John Harper / Wycoval

    I just discovered this podcast with a reviewfamily.old conlang project Tseeyo. I was thrilled to hear my work discussed and my website roundly condemned. Sorry it was so bad. It was created a very long time ago and I don’t know squat about making a website.

    If i could make one small correction, several times Tseeyo was referred to as a Bantu language. Tseeyo actually should be classed in the Atlantic language family.

    John Harper

    • admin

      Oh, thanks for that. I am not fully familiar with all of the African families so I wouldn’t have known that. Looks like something to explore when I get the time.


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