Posted by & filed under Podcast.

First of all, George was on something called FourCast a bit ago.  You might enjoy it.  Also, CNN is doing a special on Dothraki on April 8.  But the meat of this podcast is all about negation: how to deal with scope, negative concord, and a number of other issues in your conlang.  Oh, and we also talk about Brithenig.

Top of Show Greeting: Qlfhpfsq

Links and Resources:

Featured Conlang: Brithenig (FrathWiki page, Ill Bethisad Wiki)


Email from Lee:

Hi, Conlangers, domo.

I liked the show. I’m a Lojbanist, and I thought your coverage was
generally accurate and fair. But I’m surprized you didn’t mention Lojban’s
take on the subject of your show: getting rid of adjectives.

Lojbans goes the extra mile and gets rid of adjectives, nouns, and verbs.
Lojban does all of the above with predicate-words, which are all equal.
“Bird”, “Fly”, and “Blue” are all just predicates. “ta cipni” (“that’s a bird”);
“ta vofli” (that thing is flying), “ta blanu” (that thing is blue).

So I could say “le cipni cu vofli” (the bird is flying) or “le volfi cu cipni”
(the flying thing is a bird), or “le blanu cu cipni” (the blue thing is a bird).
Likewise, any predicate can modify any other, so I could say “le blanu
cipni cu vofli” (the blue bird is flying) or “le cipni volfi cu blanu” (the
bird-like flying thing is blue).  Of course, Lojban goes to great lengths to
specify the grouping of modifiers so it doesn’t have the
English problem of ambiguity in “big car sale” and such.

There’s certainly a lot else I could say about Lojban, but then that would
be a whole new podcast, so I’ll leave it at that.

Thanks again for the show.

19 Responses to “Conlangery #44: Negation”

  1. Matthew

    Regarding the placement of adjectives, French is a romance language that makes fairly definite distinctions between pronominal and postnominal adjectives. Ancien means former before the noun and ancient after. Another example is propre, which means own before the noun and clean after; so “ma propre chambre” means “my own room” while “ma chambre propre” means “my clean room.”

    • Roman Rausch

      Also in English: ‘the proper city’ (= the right city) vs. ‘the city proper’ (= the area which is the actual city)

  2. Carsten B.

    Negation in German, FYI. It’s really not as interesting as some of the stuff mentioned on the podcast. The only thing that usually trips up English speakers is the negation of nouns with the adjective-like kein(e,r/s) ‘none’ instead of using nicht VERB ‘not’ exclusively. Hence, “I don’t speak German” is not Ich spreche nicht Deutsch ‘It’s not German that I speak’, but Ich spreche kein Deutsch – an error I frequently see beginning German learners doing on the internet. Interestingly, Indonesian seems to do the same (or a similar thing) with bukan NOUN and tidak VERB.

    What is interesting with regards to German is that Middle High German had basically French-style negation during that period. Hennings (Hennings, Thordis. Einführung in das Mittelhochdeutsche. 2nd rev. ed. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2003. 197–203.) writes that negation in OHG was done with just ni, e.g. ni bim sioh ‘I’m not sick’, but since late OHG times an optional adverbial (mostly niht) could follow to reinforce the ni, and she also calls it “pleonastic negation” by the way. In MHG then, this construction became mandatory as the negative adverbial complements gained more attention, so ni bim sioh became ich enbin/ichn bin niht siech. However, she notes that e.g. with modal verbs simple ne was usually sufficient, also with lâzen/lân ‘let’, tuon ‘do’, wizzen ‘know’, and ruochen ‘intend’. Possible complements to ne were niht ‘not, nothing’, nie/niemer ‘never (ever), not at all’, nieman ‘nobody’, nehein/dehein ‘nobody, nothing’ (‹ ne ‘not’ + ein ‘one’), neweder/deweder ‘neither’. And then there was negation by litotes, which is also fun, so e.g. lützel ieman ‘little anyone’ effectively meant ‘nobody’. The ne part at the beginning of the VP then vanished in NHG, so today we say Ich bin nicht krank ‘I’m not sick’, and dehein became kein, which behaves like the negation of the indefinite article ein(e/r,s).

    • Carsten B.

      Oh, and while I’m reading through my comment again, I’d like to add that NHG nicht ‘not’ ‹ MHG niht ‹ OHG ni (eo) wiht ‘not (any)thing’ (i.e. ‘nothing’), as my etymologic dictionary explains.

  3. Michael (葉明毅)

    @Carsten: Hmm! Interesting! OHG = Old High German, and NHG =… New High German, I presume? Thanks for the mini lesson! XD

  4. Bryn LaFollette

    In Linguistics academic context I’ve only ever heard the “double negative” phenomenon referred to as Negative Concord or more recently Negative Agreement. The latter, I think, is an outgrowth of recent theoretical conceptions of the scope and nature of agreement as a phenomenon in of itself.

    Also to file under stuff-you-find-in-modern-Romance-languages… historically the French “ne… pas” construction is pretty interesting in that the “pas” part was originally derived from something like step or foot (cf. of Latin “pes”). So, a phrase like “Je ne mange pas” could be etymologically analyzed as meaning something like “I didn’t eat one step”, with “pas” being like a negative degree marker like “one bit”. But the cool part is that in French today the actual historical negative morpheme “ne” is at most optional, and at least an empty grammatical particle, with the actual semantic negation having shifted almost entirely to “pas”. This shift is so general that “pas” is now the morpheme for “not”. You can see this clearly by comparing Latin “non bonum” (not good) to French “pas bon”. So, basically, “foot” has shifted to now mean “not”. Crazy.

  5. Roman Rausch

    1. The genitive plural in Russian negation is just the partitive sense of the genitive, I believe. In English, one has at least the plural ‘There is a book on the table’ vs. ‘There are no books on the table’ – the latter would be gen. pl. in Russian, something along the lines of ‘there is not single instance of the mass of books’.

    2. I think the most natural way to express ‘[I cut the bread] not with a hacksaw’ in Japanese would be ‘I cut the bread not using a hacksaw’ (Nokogiri wo tsukawanai-de / tsukawazu-ni pan wo kitta). You cannot say ‘not-hacksaw’ in Japanese, as you can only negate verbs. Negated verbs are adjectives, but the _-nai de/-zu (ni)_ form becomes an adverb which you can position sentence-internally before the finite verb. That should take care of scope, I’d say.

    3. Welsh _lt_ just devoices the first _l_ to _ll_ followed by medial assimilation. Metathesis is so unwelsh.

    • Roman Rausch

      P.S. about putting other persons before the first: I think that saying ‘John and me’ is a prescriptive feature of modern society; ‘me and John’ is much more natural because of animacy hierarchy.

      • Wm Annis

        Oh, wow. Roman, I had never thought about that stylistic fetish in relation to animacy hierarchies.

  6. Aidan

    Sad that Bianca left, but wanted to note that I’m enjoying Mike’s input immensely. I particularly like that while William talks about what the natlangs of the world tend to do, and George clarifies for all the noobs, Mike is consistently saying “what about if you did this?!” He’s always got some totally new / bizarre / interesting way of accomplishing the task, that helps make every episode more like the practica (my personally favorite episodes).

    • admin

      I very much agree. Before one recording, I told Mike that his best contribution to Conlangery was asking “dumb questions”. Unfortunately, I think he misunderstood me a bit. You have articulated his strengths much better than I did.

  7. Melvar

    In Lojban, one uses na, usually before the verb, to logically negate sentences (contradictory negation); this is often glossed as “it is not the case that”. ja'a is the corresponding affirmer, which may in some situations be used to counter a na (for example, answering a negative question, though those are, I believe, considered bad form). Again, the scope is an entire sentence.
    There are the NAhE, which are called scalar negators, which apply to verbs, with the result being again a verb. They imply some scale or set on/in which the verb lies as context. na'e then means “something other than” on that scale, no'e “middlingly, neither this nor the opposite” on the scale, and to'e “the opposite of”. je'a is the corresponding affirmer.
    All sorts of particles can be negated by nai. This is most frequently used in attitudinals, since these are generally one-sided: unhappiness is indicated by ui nai, confusion by ua nai etc. When applied to other sorts of particles, the meaning varies. In a number of cases, the result is logically equivalent to applying a different negator in a different place, but focus may be different.
    Conjunctions can be negated on the left by na and on the right by nai to produce any boolean function (except always-true and always-false) so na e nai indicates “nor” on arguments, where e indicates “and”.
    Some other specific ways to negate exist, but I haven’t seen them in the wild and thus describing them would amount to quoting the Big Red Book.

    • Melvar

      Now I’m really unsatisfied with my overview, so I’ll add:
      i mi na pu gletu le te flazautrugri “I didn’t sleep with the senator” (using na is neutral. i mi pu na'e gletu le te flazautrugri (using na'e on the verb) implies you did something else with them. i mi pu gletu no le te flazautrugri (using no “zero” on “the senator”) “I slept with none of the senator(s)” perhaps focuses the senator, but does not directly imply that you slept with someone else. i mi pu gletu le na'e te flazautrugri “I slept with the non-senator” does, but depending on which descriptor paradigm (original or xorlo) you subscribe to, may have to refer to a non-senator already under discussion, and can’t be referring to some other senator in either case.
      Similarly, i mi fendi le nanba se pi'o lo na'e tratykomka'a “I divide the bread using a non-hacksaw” indicates that you used some other tool (a non-hacksaw) for the purpose.
      As for illocutionary negation: Such subclauses in Lojban are predications in their own right, and are thus easily negated with na independently of the main clause: i mi nupre lo nu mi na klama “I promise I will not come” versus i mi na nupre lo nu mi klama “I don’t promise I will come”. Alternatively, one could indicate the promise by the vocative form nu'e, which may be negated with nai, as in i nu'e do mi na klama “[promise] you I will not come” versus i nu'e nai do mi klama “[promise]-[not] you I will come”.
      Finally, an evidential may be straightforwardly negated with nai: i za'a nai le te flazautrugri ku gletu le sidju be ri “[observation-evidential]-[not] the senator sleeps with the helper of same” negating the direct observation evidential za'a.



  1.  Conlangery 44: Negation and Brithenig « The Irrefutable Proof about Hobbits

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