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We introduce you to a new host: Mike Lentine.  Then we cover the different ways you can get rid of adjectives or at least fuzz the distinctions between them and other word classes.  Also, we try to figure out what Lojban is all about.

Top of Show Greeting: Esperanto (translation by William)

Featured Conlang: Lojban


Email from Aidan:

Just wanted to say that I finally tracked down these podcasts of yours, and I am thoroughly enjoying them!

Really, I only heard about them fairly recently, as I happened to catch something on the conlang list where someone mentioned them. Lately, I’ve been crazy busy, and didn’t know about them. After a month or 3 or dithering, I finally remembered, and downloaded the lot. I’m only on ep. 7 (not bad for 1 work week), and I’m really glad you figured out your (George’s) volume issues. I’ll also say that it’s making my commute SO MUCH NICER! I swear, you’ve probably saved 83547 lives since I’m not all aggro. Just mellow and enjoying the ‘cast.

So thank you! I’m excited to listen to all the rest over the next month or two, and I hope you guys keep up the great work for a good long time to come!

27 Responses to “Conlangery #42: Practicum — Getting Rid of Adjectives”

  1. Anthony

    >Also, we try to figure out what Lojban is all about.
    yes. 🙂

    Very enjoyable. (the only downside is that there was no Bianca; at first, I was thinking “maybe they could have brought Mike in last week, for a special four-person Podcast – just a wishful thinking)

    my Mandarin teacher made sure we could speak with both the Beijing dialect and the non-Beijing dialect. (specifically, the -r you mentioned). and she seemed to enjoy watching our faces while she did the “eating stone tigers” (shi shi shi) poem.

    Mike starts off clear…but by the end of the program, it sounds kinda like he’s underwater. that said, he’s doing great so far.

    • admin

      In Mike’s defence, he really didn’t have a lot of time to prepare or any idea how the show really goes. Next episode he will give a much better performance. I do like the fact that he asks some questions that I don’t really think of.

      • Anthony

        *I’m confused*…not sure what you’re defending him for — I don’t think he meant to sound like he was underwater, and that was the only downside to how he did. Mike’s first podcast (or conlangery podcast) is great.

        I apologize if you thought I was saying Mike did poorly; that wasn’t my intent.

        • admin

          Oh, no, I agree, he was very good. I just wanted to explain why he might have sounded like he was a little over the head near the end. Reviewing Lojban is not an easy task even with a week to prepare, much less a couple of days. I guess I should let Mike respond.

  2. Michael (葉明毅)

    @Anthony: I took your comment to be in reference my audio quality, and not so much about the content. (Thank you for the positive feedback on the content. This was my first Podcast ever. ^_^ )

    I just listened to the show and agree, the audio quality does become somewhat compromised by the end. I don’t have a proper headset, so I have been resorting to using my iPhone with its white earbuds + microphone. I’l put “buy a proper headset” on my to-do list. ^_^

    Thanks again for the feedback! -M.

    • admin

      Hmm, I didn’t notice your audio being that bad, Mike. A good headset (and a solid connection) could improve it, but we’ve had worse audio problems on the show.

  3. Kraamlep

    My new (2 months old) conlang J6 handles attributive and predicate adjectives differently:

    the blue bird
    h-sua rata
    h-su-a              rat-a
    DEF-bird(G1)-NOM.SG blue-G1.SG.NOM

    the bird is blue
    he h-su ratir
    he        &nbsp h-su-0             rat-ir
    be.3SG.PRS DEF-bird(G1)-ACC.SG blue-PRSPTCP

    i.e. the bird is blueing

  4. Carsten B.

    The contrast between George’s old mic and his new one becomes really apparent in the re-recorded editor’s note at the end, before the outtakes! That’s quite some improvement in sound quality.

    • admin

      Yeah, for anybody who wants a good microphone for podcasting or making audio samples of their lang or something, the mic I have is the Blue Snowball ( ). It’s a USB mic, so no mixer required, and really provides excellent quality for the price.

  5. Arnt Richard Johansen

    I understand you were apprehensive of getting Lojban wrong, but I think you gave it a very fair treatment, and there were few factual errors (and no major ones). A few nitpicks/comments, though:

    George: “Bob LeChevalier, who is still the president of the Logical Language Group I believe, actually created […] Lojban”. While technically true, this sounds like he has been in the position continuously – but both Matt Arnold and I have held the position in the interim.

    Lojban chose to use Latin letters, because they are well-known world-wide, but the language doesn’t really buy into Latin as a complete writing system, with all of its conventions. Hence, no initial capitals, particles instead of punctuation, periods for obligatory pauses, and so on.

    • admin

      Thanks for the corrections. I was going mainly on In The Land of Invented Languages and the observation that Bob was the president. Of course, being a Lojbanist, I understand your impulse to be more specific.

      As far as the orthography is concerned, we generally complain about every orthography we see — it’s just not easy to shoe-horn different sound system into the Latin alphabet. Also, I’m sure you understand that our approach to language creation is more artistic in nature than what you guys do to Lojban, so we tend to consider aesthetics a bit more.

  6. Katherine

    Aha, here’s a practicum I’ll have fun with — I love my case markings, but Japanese disabused me of my need for adjectives. Y’all were right on with your characterization there, but because I adore details I’ll add a wall of them:

    na-adjectives frequently pattern with nouns, but

    (1) you connect them to a noun using na (which as far as I know isn’t used for anything else) rather than genitive no: kirei-na gakusei ‘a pretty student’ (cf. *kirei-no gakusei; onna-no/*na gakusei ‘a female student’)

    (2) they do need a “dummy noun” no if there’s a particle or demonstrative involved: kirei-na no-ga ‘the pretty thing-NOM’, kono kirei-na no ‘this pretty thing’ (*kirei-ga, *kono kirei)

    i-adjectives are the verby ones, but they only mark past/non-past and affirmative/negative. You can causativize them, too, but periphrastically: (ryouri-o) oisiku-suru ‘to make (the food) delicious’ looks suspiciously like ‘to make food deliciously’.

    To use them attributively, you just plonk them in front of the noun: oisii ryouri ‘delicious food’. You can do the same thing with verb phrases and full sentences, too — watasi-ga yonda hon ‘the book that I read‘ — so this isn’t necessarily a point against verbiness.

    Negatives are my favorite connection between i-adjectives and verbs: the negative suffix for verbs (na-i~ana-i) turns them into i-adjectives. So, taberu ‘to eat’ is a nice, well-behaved verb, and tabenai ‘to not eat’ is an adjective. But then the negative of i-adjectives probably isn’t a single grammatical word — you can stick the topic-marker wa in the middle, which you can’t do for real verbs, so. Hm.

    Also, a big welcome to Mike! I wouldn’t have guessed this was your first podcast; you ask very good questions. Lots to ponder this week 🙂

    • Roman Rausch

      >na-adjectives frequently pattern with nouns

      They aren’t called ‘nominal adjectives’ or ‘adjectival nouns’ for nothing.. Some do take genitive no rather than the copula na, for instance saigo ‘last’ or saikou ‘best, supreme’. Into the no-group also belong the demonstrative pronouns kono ‘this’, sono ‘that’, ano ‘that yonder’ (lit. ‘this-of’, ‘that-of’) and it is used whenever personal pronouns or adverbs become attributes: ima no ‘present = now-of’, watashi no ‘my = I-of’.

      No can make just about any noun phrase an attribute of another in Japanese. Yasunari Kawabata’s Nobel prize lecture was called Utsukushii Nihon-no watashi ‘beautiful Japan-GEN I’ which is not easily translated literally, so that the tranlator made ‘Japan, the beautiful and myself’ out of it. That’s the Japanese simple elegance for you!

      • Bryn LaFollette

        I apologize for continuing the nitpicking but, saigo isn’t a na-adjective (keiyoudousi), it’s just a proper noun (meisi), and can function independently as a noun unlike, say, kirei which can’t (and is classed as keiyoudousi). So, it’s no surprise that it can attributively occur with no and not at all with na. Likewise, saikou is also generally classed in usage as just a noun and hence with no, although for some reason it seems like I’ve seen it with na as well (so, in casual use that one may be sort of fuzzy). Still, just because in translation one would interpret saigo no (nani-nani) as an adjectival use, doesn’t mean it makes sense to apply that label internally to its function within the grammar of Japanese itself. Syntactically speaking, yes, there is good reason to describe na-adjectives as “adjectival nouns” or “nominal adjectives,” but in this case, as is the case in all languages, it’s important not to let the presumptive characteristics of terminology brought in from other languages color one’s judgement of the internal structure of a language to which they’re being applied.

        Incidentally, I’ve always felt like the term genetive, with it’s heavy IE implications, while accurate for some of the grammatical functions of no, really doesn’t capture the full range of its use. The example of the pervasive attributive construction exemplified by Utsukushii Nihon-no watashi, or its function as an all-purpose nominalizer just serve to strengthen that impression, I think. Consequently, I always find the attempt to translate no with “of” rather inaccurate or potentially misleading. The Japanese linguistic terminology isn’t much more useful, though, as the term for na-adjectives, keiyoudousi (meaning Adjective-Verb) owes more, I think, to the Chinese origin of most of this category than it does to any proper linguistic analysis; in this case hiding the clear nominal character in the process.

    • Bryn LaFollette

      The negative verbal suffix crossover with the i-adjectives is brilliant! But, if like that you should check out the older negative endings –nu and –zu and the archaic use of the suffixes –si, –ki/i and –ku. Japanese used to maintain an attributive/predicative opposition which when lost seems to be what resulted in the modern i-adjective/verb opposition. 🙂

    • Anthony

      I used DEF (definate) both for articles and possession, i admit; and, I think, for adjective-ishness.

      for example, in the lower-right-hand of the linked page:
      Vā . talu-ɹa . tloras-ɹa . wedi . hati-wo
      Here . bird-DEF . green-DEF . fly . is {evidential: seen}-now
      The flying green bird is seen to be.

      {tloras or tloros, is a loan from Homeric Greek – green}

      Vā . talu-ɹa . wedi-ɹa . tloras-fe . hati-wo
      Here . bird-DEF . fly-DEF . green-INDEF . is-now
      The flying bird is seen to be greenish.

      Vā . talu . hati-wo
      Here . bird . is-now
      Lō . tloraos-fe (?incomplete/broken shard)
      continues {from above/earlier} . greenish . (?)

      …and on the left side’s bottom…
      Vā . talu . hati-wo-ɹa . tloras
      Here . bird . is-now-DEF . green {possessed by the TAM}

      Vā . talu-ɹa . tloras . hati-wo
      Here . bird-DEF green . is-now

    • Anthony

      Gah! I included everything but this: “Not sure which version is more likely.” some of them felt more natural while writing them down, but then that’s the point of revising – to see how it looks.


  7. Xephyr

    Hey, William, could you please provide a reference for your Hopi example you gave in the podcast? Thanks.

  8. dank

    hello, coi , i was listening the podcast, and i would be good if some lojboner was there to say some phrases, but well. I have using lojban for a year now, and having a simple conversation can be very easy; actually if i have to compare lojban to some languages, i would say that is the same as english(or chinese gramatically) but without prepositions, you dont need “to”, “for” and some others, beacause these words are implemented in the lojban verbs(gismu), so once you get used to it, is pretty much like any other language, for example “mi klama lo barja” in english will be ” i go to the bar”, so seems like english but without the preposition “to”, which is not needed beacause whatever follow “klama” is the place you are going. And all the others verbs(gismu) has their special places, which makes whatever sentence you say unambiguos in the sense that all the arguments you say are forced to be in the same context. Anyway you still can talk nonsense and be very ambiguos and been vague, for example: “mi klama le pluka” = “i go to some pleasant thing” , totally unambiguos, that pleasant thing can be a place or a space in your mind or other dimension or whatever, is just as the english phrase. So that feature of been precise in lojban, is just OPTIONAL, you can have the level of vagueness or preciseness which you want. When you mentioned that you would feel awkward by using the attitudinal, well, you just dont use it, and thats it. you are not forced to keep people informed about how you are feeling all the time; actually i use just some attitudinals like : “ui” which means i am happy, which is obviusly the equivalent of writting this cute face “^^”, or this one :D, :), ui = 🙂 , “ui” is just a happy face in your chat. And with the rich list of attitudinals you have plenty of faces : a’u=face of interest, o’a=face of pride, iu= face of love, and some more, which i repeat you use when you want to, as much as never or sporadically. There are many other features, which i will not explain beacause i dont want to make this comment to large, and beacause i dont like to be very precise when i dont want to. But yeah, my conclusion is that lojban, adds a new level expresion, which can get very very emotional fi you want, not just cold precise facts which you can also make, and yes you can lie in lojban and talk about false things, and make very vague phrases. So is a human usable language, which has many features that other languages dont have, hard just in the vocabulary(beacause you learn every word from scratch), the grammatical thing just learn it once and it works for all your talkings, and besides been very well documented, most importantly, i have found many people which really learn the language, and are capable of having conversations in the language in chats, forums and games. Lojban just a regular language with peculiar characteristics.

  9. 1of3

    Another topic with attribution is adjective plus two nouns. Like “the young men and ladies”. Are both the men and the ladies young or only the former? I think there are some languages that do mark this difference.

  10. Ed

    The is a major distinction between grammatical ambiguity and symantec ambiguity. Lojban is designed to be grammatically unambiguous. Meaning that a listener cannot misinterpret what you said, but they could still misinterpret what you meant. The purpose of language is expression, if you wish to express an ambiguous concept, then lojban will let you express the exact level of ambiguity you intend.

    • admin

      I’m not exactly sure what you are talking about. At first, I thought you meant ‘structural ambiguity’ and ‘lexical ambiguity’. Structural ambiguity derives from a sentence or phrase that can be syntactically analyzed in two different, as in the example “Big man jeans”, which could be “[Big man] jeans” (“Jeans for big men”) or “Big [man jeans]” (“Big jeans for men”), while lexical ambiguity derives from a word that has multiple meanings, as in “I went to the bank”, where “bank” could refer to an establishment that secures your money and pays interest in return for the ability to rent it out, or to the land just to the side of the river.

      I have no idea what you are talking about with grammatical vs semantic ambiguity. All ambiguity is semantic. I don’t see how I can misunderstand what someone said in any interesting way without also misunderstanding the meaning.


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