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George reveals a peeve, which leads to a bit of a tangent before we get to talking about the wonderful world of evidentials and all the stuff you can do with them.  Then we cover a very curious language by the name Talossan.

Top of Show Greeting: Gówa

Links and Resources:

Featured Conlang: Talossan


Email from Arnt Richard Johansen:

Hi, folks. Great show, I’ve listened to every episode since #1 (except #13, which is so incredibly long, and I haven’t gotten around to #16 yet).I’m writing to bring to your attention a topic which I think is under-appreciated in our circles: prosody and intonation.I like David Peterson’s Dothraki a lot. Not because its grammar and lexicon is cleverly done (although it is), but because when he pronounces example sentences in the language, it sounds believable.It seems that most language creators just borrow all the intonation patterns from their native language, but Dothraki doesn’t sound like English – or any language I know. But I can tell that it isn’t random either, there is some kind of system to it. If I only knew what that system was!Tone and stress, which are categories that operate at the word level, are fairly well-described. But when it comes to making a system that applies to whole sentences or utterances, I have no clue. What is a conlanger supposed to do to figure out how questions should differ from statements, or how to emphasize morphs, words and phrases in different ways, or to mark sarcasm? When it comes to intonation, what may differ between languages, and what is truly universal?

20 Responses to “Conlangery #32: Evidentials”

  1. Anthony Docimo

    I don’t think intonation qualifies as a universal.

    For one thing, even in English, it’s not always used the same – eg, rising tone at the sentence’s end doesn’t always signify a question in English.

    • admin

      No individual intonation pattern is universal, but I am willing to bet that all or nearly all known languages have some discernible use of intonation.

    • admin

      Minority languages sounds more like something a podcast about real languages should do — though I think a general discussion on sociolinguistics might be cool (Will classifies that sort of thing as “conworlding”, but I generally don’t design my languages in a culture vacuum like he does).

      And vowel harmony is a great idea. Can’t promise the others will like it, but I’ll bring it up.

  2. Rich Talmey

    hey uh I don’t know if you’ve been asked this before but is a full mp3 of the intro music available anywhere?

  3. Wm Annis

    George is correct — my friend gave us that tune in its current state, because he’s not sure where (and if) it’s going. It may appear some day, somewhat mutated, in a future song, or it may not.

    For more of the band:

  4. Bryan Parry

    Gotta agree with William, it really irritates me when people are speaking English and then use the foreign accent for the foreign name. ‘Oh yes, so we saw this lovely little group from MaDHRIDH! and then the week after we went to Rrrroma’ Grrrr. You’re speaking English, so use the English form.

    I looooooove George, I love you, man. You’re great, but that’s the only pet peeve of mine about this show; you always pronounce stuff foreign-ly, e.g., Esperanto. just say it with an English accent, man! 😛

    • admin

      But — the word Esperanto is so … Spanishy to me. And I often simply can’t make myself say Spanish words with a “gringo” accent. I think I do tend to pronounce taco with aspiration, but that’s about it. It doesn’t (usually) bother me too much in other people’s speech, as long as the Anglicization is reasonably close.

      I should also say that I am much more forgiving of Anglicizing and general mangling of Chinese than Spanish in other people. Hyperforeignisms like the ubiquitous (mis)pronunciation of Beijing bother me, and I get some small reactions when people just don’t understand the romanization and don’t care to ask someone who does (like pronouncing Zhou as /ʒaʊ/), but as much as I complained in the episode, I sympathize with news announcers and others who merge Liu/Lu/Lü — we simply don’t have the distinction, and I don’t care if non-speakers even try tones, it does break up the flow of the English. And I just relax and laugh at the incomprehensible Chinese spoken on Firefly.

      Why is there a different tolerance? Well, by my reckoning, it takes about two weeks for an English speaker to get good enough at Spanish pronuncation to be understood. The same level of pronunciation in Mandarin takes about six months with regular practice. I am not exaggerating — individuals may vary, but that strikes me as about the average, perhaps even the high end. It’s just too different phonologically for most people to “get it” any quicker than that.

      • Ossicone

        But you’re speaking English. Don’t think of them as ‘Spanish words in English’ just think of them as ‘English words borrowed from Spanish.’ (Or whichever lang.)

        When you’re speaking Spanish, do you pronounce English words in the proper gringo way?

        And just an additional complaint: When people speak English they should use English plurals. None of this ‘cactus-cacti’ shit. Cactuses! (I was going to add ‘data’ but I think it has developed meaning as a mass noun and therefore won’t take a plural in normal usage.)

        • Bryan Parry

          Gotta agree with Bianca there on all points. Particularly the plurals thing. It really pees me off when people get snobby about English: ‘Oh, it’s “data are” and “datum is”, darling’ grrr. I’m an English teacher, too, so everyone thinks they can lecture me on correct usage; it’s a real pain. “Err, Bryan, I think you’ll find you can’t split your infinitives, old chap”, “err, well, I think you’ll find I’m a native speaker who also teaches it for a living and has a BA in the subject.. hmm… I’ll split what I like!”

          …I feel like a herbal tea… 😉

        • admin

          I don’t think you understand, this is something I do semi-subconsciously now. And, no I don’t so much pronounce English words as English in Spanish, at least not ones that are well-established loanwords. But the habit of pronouncing Spanish and Chinese words as native as possible is very deeply ingrained.

          As far as plurals, I very rarely hear the word datum, and somewhat less rarely hear data taking plural agreement (Adam Savage does it, saying “these data”, but not to many others I have heard). Those don’t bother me at all, even when the application of the Latin plural becomes questionable (or even flat wrong in the case of virus/virii). What bothers me is when people pretentiously insist on an -i plural where regular plurals are often accepted, particularly in broken folk etymology cases like virus.

        • Mathew Park

          What about when pronouncing words that when pronounced in the native language of the speaker would muddle the meaning? For example:

          “I went to Fucking Austria”

          Has a completely different connotation to:

          “I went to fʊkɪŋ, Austria”

          • admin

            First of all, the only reason I would pronounce the name of that town as the English word it looks like would be to be funny. Mainly because, of course, the German pronunciation is actually 100% legal in English, so it doesn’t need Anglicized in the first place.

        • Qwynegold

          Thank you, Bianca! If I’m learning English, I shouldn’t have to learn Latin, Greek and French first. Stop borrowing words with their respective paradigms!

  5. Roman Rausch

    In his book ‘Through the Language Glass’, Guy Deutscher brings up the example of Matses which he claims to have the most elaborate evidentiality system ever observed. For the evidential ‘referred from evidence’ (distinct from ‘conjecture’) you apparently have to specify how long ago you’ve discovered the evidence and how long ago you think this event happened, resulting in 4 possible combinations. For direct experience, you have to specify whether it was in the recent past, distant past or the remote past. All of it is obligatory, apparently.
    (I wrote this comment using whatever hearsay evidentials English allows me to, but I can wholeheartedly recommend the book as far as personal experience goes.)

    • Panglott

      Aha, I just finished that book a few days ago before re-listening to this episode. Deutscher talks about it briefly in an easy-to-understand way. It’s pretty neat! Luckily for us, Matses has a PDF dissertation grammar up at Rice University. See the section “Past tenses and evidentiality”.


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