Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Moten Part IX: Surdéclinaison, Main Verbal Use

As promised, here is the second post about surdéclinaison in Moten! In the previous post, I defined surdéclinaison and explained how it is used with nouns. Here, I will carry on the discussion by looking at how surdéclinaison is used with verbs. I've decided to move the description of other surdéclinaison patterns to the next post, in order to prevent this one from becoming too long and unwieldy.

Nominalisation of Relative Subclauses

In the previous post, I described how genitive noun phrases could be over-inflected as a result of their heads being omitted, the consequence being that such genitive noun phrases are nominalised and can be inflected like any noun, even in the genitive case, allowing for recursive inflection. But genitive noun phrases are not the only example of noun modifiers. Relative subclauses are also used to complete nouns. So can we use the same method and nominalise relative subclauses through surdéclinaison?

The answer is: of course yes indeed! The method is similar to the one used to nominalise genitive noun phrases: omit the head of the subclause, but keep its inflections, and transfer them to the auxiliary verb of the subordinate clause. Basically, relative subclauses are nominalised by over-inflecting their finite verb. Here are a few examples for illustration:

joplej eto zanej: the ring (I) gave (you) -> joplej eteo: the one (I) gave (you) (the head is omitted, and since it was definite, the article is added to the auxiliary verb as if it was a noun stem).

Igebezdin eto fokesez e izunlaj ito: The people (you) were talking (about) are here -> Igebezdin eteso e izunlaj ito: The ones (you) were talking (about) are here (since the head was in the definite nominative plural, when it is omitted the auxiliary of the relative clause is over-inflected in the definite nominative plural as well).

|Lezdu|n itos lindan jezedin ito: (I) hear a bird singing (literally: "(I) am hearing a bird that is singing") -> |Lezdu|n idosun jezedin ito: (I) hear one singing (this example shows that nominalisation doesn't necessarily involve the definite article. Surdéclinaison can happen with indefinite declensions too).

As with noun modifiers, the resulting nominalised clause can be inflected in the genitive case, which itself can be over-inflected, etc. ad nauseam:

ga izunlaj itos umpej: the house I live in -> ga izunlaj iteos: the one I live in -> ga izunlaj itevosi: of the one I live in -> ga izunlaj itevosej: the one of the one I live in -> ga izunlaj itevosevi: of the one of the one I live in -> ga izunlaj itevosevej: the one of the one of the one I live in -> ga izunlaj itevosevevi: of the one of the one of the one I live in -> ...

Naturally, this gets old very fast. But it's all perfectly grammatical.

Noun Clauses

Probably the main use for nominalised relative subclauses is what I've seen in English called noun clauses. To understand what they are, I first need you to remember completive clauses, as I introduced in this post:

Koba go delun ja|zinuz itos ufedan ige: It's great that you've got a job again.

Gvaj mumpedin ubva|si iges isej etok: He said that (he) wanted to come to my house.

Ga mudikun itos ifi|zo|n etok: He asked who I was.

In Moten, completive clauses are used for two main purposes: reported speech, and full situations, facts or actions used as the subject or object of a verb. In English, noun clauses are a superset of such completive clauses, used for these two purposes, but also in other constructions as shown here:

  • "I don't know who it is";
  • "Whatever you want, I will give it to you".

In those constructions, the subclause is still the subject or object of a verb, but they represent neither reported speech (although the first one does look like reported speech), nor situations, facts or actions. Rather, they represent an item, i.e. an object, concept or person, described by a full clause rather than by a noun phrase. So, how are those handled in Moten?

Let's first focus on the first example: "I don't know who it is". In English (and quite a few other languages, including non-Indo-European ones like Japanese), this sentence is identical in structure with a reported speech sentence, i.e. the subclause is formed like a reported question, with an interrogative word. In Moten, the equivalent sentence Mudikun itos vajaguz us ito (literally "(I) haven't learned who (it) is") sounds strange. It sounds as if it would mean "I don't know 'who is it?'", i.e. "I don't know what the sentence 'who is it?' means". It may be because the expected referent of a reported question, at least in Moten, is the question itself, rather than whatever the answer to that question is.

So how do you handle it in Moten? In this case, there is no good way of translating this sentence while keeping the subclause. The closest would be Fokez ludosun eksaz us ito, i.e. "I don't know that person". Depending on the context of the conversation, one might also want to use the pronoun semik: "someone, but I don't know whom".

In other cases, with more complicated noun clauses, it might not be possible to rewrite the sentence this way. However, there is an alternative. Take for instance the sentence: "I know where you can find your brother" (ominous isn't it?!). This is equivalent to "I know the location where you can find your brother", a sentence that is easy to translate in Moten using a relative subclause: |Sukedon zunla|lekuz iges zunledan a|lekuz ito (literally: "(I) have found out the place that (you) can locate (your) same-sex sibling". The verb izunla|leki strictly means "to find" as in "to locate", i.e. "to find the location of a something or someone", while the verb ja|leki means "to find" as in "to find out", i.e. "to discover the solution to a problem"). Moreover, in that sentence zunledan is quite redundant, especially in a language like Moten that likes to leave as much as possible omitted that can be inferred by context. So you can omit that word, and use the relative clause by itself. Naturally, you will need to over-inflect it as shown in the previous section. The result is: |Sukedon zunla|lekuz igedesun a|lekuz ito (literally: "(I) have learned the one that (you) can locate (your) same-sex sibling"), and is the most natural way to translate "I know where you can find your brother" (at least when speaking to a male person).

Here are a few more examples to illustrate the use of nominalised relative clauses in this way:

Etok! Isej etedon jezeti saj etok!: Yes! I really heard what you said! (literally: "(I) did! (I) really did hear the one (you) said!")

Polteduzun ipolti agdemun itedosun ipe|laj us ito: I can't see who is opening the door (literally: "(I) don't see the one that is opening the door").

Lusos jagi etedon a|lekuz ito: I know why they left (literally: "I have found out the one that they went". Note that without context this sentence is ambiguous and could mean just as well "I know where they went", "I know when they left" or even "I know how they left". This structure is just as ambiguous as the underlying relative subclause it is derived from. If disambiguation is required, the underlying head of the relative clause will simply not be omitted).

Let's now look at the second example: "Whatever you want, I will give it to you". This case is actually simpler than the previous one, as the sentence is basically equivalent to "I will give you whatever you want", or to "I will give you anything (that) you want". In this last form, the sentence is trivial to translate into Moten: Gedvaj iges |lemdutun |laba joplude|n ige (literally: "(I) will give to you anything that (you) want to have"). Here again, the indefinite pronoun |lemut: "anything, whatever" is somewhat redundant, at least for Moten sensibilities, and can be omitted, provided the relative subclause is over-inflected. The result is: Gedvaj igdesun |laba joplude|n ige (literally: "(I) will give to you one that (you) want to have"), which the shortest and most common way to translate "I will give you whatever you want". Notice that the only actual difference between this construction and the one described earlier is that the relative subclause here is over-inflected in the indefinite form, while it was definite in the previous case. Indeed, this is the only true difference between them: the first construction has a definite referent, while the second one has an indefinite one. In English the difference is made clear by the absence or presence of the suffix "-ever", while in Moten the difference is made clear by the presence or absence of the definite article. So, if you take the last sentence I showed you and over-inflect the relative clause in the definite form instead of the indefinite form, you will get Gedvaj igedesun |laba joplude|n ige, which means: "I will give you what you want".

Of course, such sentences are not limited to "whatever". Instead of |lemut, the omitted head of the nominalised relative clause can naturally also be |lemik: "anyone, who(m)ever" or even |lemun: "any, whichever". For instance:

zgeboz itos o budazun ito: Whoever is tired may sit over there (literally: "one who is tired may sit over there". Here the nominalised relative subclause is in the indefinite nominative case, so there is no overt over-inflection in this case. It's still considered a case of surdéclinaison though. Notice how izgeboj: "to work on, to suffer from" is used here in the perfect aspect to mean "to be tired". Notice also the verb ibutaj: "to sit").

Ba gedvaj igdesun opa ga gedvaj ige: Whichever you want, I want it as well (literally: "one that you want to have I too want to have").

Context will usually be enough to disambiguate. If not, the head will simply not be omitted.

Adverbial Subclauses

So far, all the examples above have only featured nominalised relative subclauses used as subjects or objects of verbs, or in the genitive case to illustrate the ability to recursively over-inflect them indefinitely. However, as I showed in the previous post, genitive noun phrases can be over-inflected in any case or function, forming adverbial phrases like modi|leveda|n: "to (my) mother's". The question is thus whether this is possible as well for relative subclauses. The answer is naturally yes, and as over-inflected genitive phrases can become adverbial phrases, over-inflected noun clauses can become adverbial clauses.

If you remember this post, you remember that I wrote then that I wouldn't handle adverbial clauses yet. The main reason was because I needed to introduce surdéclinaison in order to handle them. Now that it is done, there's no reason why I shouldn't discuss the last type of subordinate clauses, so let's do it right now.

I'll start with the noun clauses in "-ever", as those are the easiest ones to understand. As I showed in the previous section, such clauses are translated in Moten with relative subclauses nominalised without article, since the underlying head is one of the indefinite pronouns |lemik, |lemut and |lemun. We've also seen quite a long time ago that like interrogative adverbs, indefinite adverbs are translated by using forms of the pronoun mut and its derivatives, inflected with functional prefixes. Of course, this includes |lemut, from which we can form mo|lemut: "anywhere, wherever", di|lemut: "anytime, whenever", ko|lemut: "anyhow, however", etc. In the same way, over-inflecting indefinite noun clauses will result in the equivalent of noun clauses starting with indefinite adverbs. For instance:

Ba jagi mojtos, ga izunlaj ito: Wherever you go, I'll be there (literally: "At one that you go (to), I am situated". Note how the future tense in English is not translated by a prospective aspect in Moten. It's not forbidden, but not using it here makes the described promise more immediate and tangible).

Lezuz luden |lezuj koeto, opa ga lezuz ige!: However he sang this song, I can sing it as well! (literally: "By one that (he) sang this song, I too can sing (it)!", a rather boisterous claim, as it implies immediate ability to do so, not just knowledge)

Of course, not all noun clauses that are over-inflected with functional prefixes are equivalent to adverbial subclauses in English, as shown in this example:

Gedvaj |lajges zanede|n joplej ito: I'm giving the ring to whoever wants it (literally: "(I) give the ring for one that wants to have (it)". Here, the over-inflected noun clause is equivalent to a noun clause in English as well, rather than an adverbial clause).

There is no distinction in Moten though.

All this is very interesting, but adverbial subclauses in "-ever" are not the most common type of adverbial subclauses. When thinking of them, people usually think more often of subclauses starting with "when", "while", "because", etc. And we still haven't seen how to translate those. This is about to change. We still haven't seen what happens when we over-inflect a definite noun clause with a functional prefix, and as you might have guessed by now, the result is indeed often an adverbial subclause, as shown in the following examples:

Umpevi jagi diteos, opa ga jagi ito: When he leaves the house, I'll go as well (literally: "At the one that (he) goes from the house, I too go". Here, the omitted head of the relative subclause is something like dabolna: "moment, time". Note that just as with nouns, the temporal prefix di- here is optional and can be omitted when the meaning is clear. So the sentence can also be written as: Umpevi jagi iteos, opa ga jagi ito).

Oto vozdan mu |zege, |lalos izunla|legvi etok: Because he didn't have a good car, I had to find him one (literally: "Because of the one that (he) didn't have an appropriate car, (I) had to locate (one) for him". The word oto is a borrowing from French meaning simply "car", while vo|sa is an abstract noun that means basically "beauty" or "beautiful", but can also indicate appropriateness).

Bvaj motinea jelde|n djetedon, ga umpedin izu|lebi egek!: While you were sleeping in your room, I cleaned the house! (literally: "During the one that (you) were sleeping at your room, (I) caused the house to become clean". Here, we have an example of the prefix di- used with the accusative case to indicate duration. This works with over-inflected subclauses just as well as with nominals. And just as with the first example, the prefix is actually optional and can be omitted, so the sentence can be rewritten as: Bvaj motinea jelde|n etedon, ga umpedin izu|lebi egek!)

One important thing to remember is that the surdéclinaison here shows the function of the noun clause in the main clause, not the function of the omitted head in the subclause (that is left unmarked, as with any other relative subclause). Often those two are the same, but not always, and English and Moten behave differently in that case, as shown in an example that we have already encountered:

Lusos jagi etedon a|lekuz ito: I know when they left (literally: "I have found out the one that they went". In English, the role of the omitted head in the subclause is to indicate a time, so "when" is used. In Moten, this is irrelevant. Rather, the role of the subclause itself is the only thing that counts. And since the subclause is the object of ja|leki: "to find out", it must be put in the accusative case, which has its core meaning rather than its temporal meaning here).

Also, just as with indefinite noun clauses, not all definite noun clauses that are over-inflected with a functional prefix are equivalent to adverbial subclauses in English, as shown in this example:

Kafe ludamun gomik ja|zi|n etok? O ibuda|n gojteos: Who did you get that coffee from? From the one who's sitting over there (literally: "That coffee from whom did (you) receive? From the one that is sitting over there". This example is typical of an actual informal conversation, where one doesn't always answer with full sentences, but only with the relevant fragment. This is especially true in Moten where context plays such an important role).

You might have thought that I would be finished with this section, but there's something very important I haven't mentioned yet: there is a second way to create adverbial subclauses, one that is actually simpler than the one described above, and far more commonly used. The only reason I discussed the complicated method first is because it is more general than the method I am about to show you (it can be used to form all kinds of noun clauses, including indefinite ones, while the following method is restricted to adverbial subclauses of the definite type), and it flowed naturally from the discussion of nominalised relative clauses.

This second method is extremely simple: instead of taking a clause, putting its auxiliary in the dependent form, and over-inflecting it with the article and case affixes and/or functional prefixes, you just take a normal, independent clause, and directly add a functional prefix on its auxiliary, and possibly case affixes. There's no need to put the verb in its dependent form, and no need to add the article. This is far simpler than the method I discussed before, but it has two limitations:

  1. The functional prefix is mandatory, even if it's the spatial prefix mo- or the temporal prefix di-;
  2. The result can only be used as a true definite adverbial subclause, i.e. neither a core argument, nor a clause equivalent to an English subclause in "-ever".

Since most useful adverbial subclauses are of that form though, in most cases they are used nearly exclusively. In any case, the subclauses in the three examples I gave above can be rewritten using this method, giving the following, more natural results (that mean exactly the same as the sentences above):

Umpevi jagi dito, opa ga jagi ito: When he leaves the house, I'll go as well (notice the lack of dependent form or article).

Oto vozdan mu |zegek, |lalos izunla|legvi etok: Because he didn't have a good car, I had to find him one.

Bvaj motinea jelde|n djedokun, ga umpedin izu|lebi egek!: While you were sleeping in your room, I cleaned the house! (you can still use case affixes with this construction, but the prefix isn't optional here)

Using either method to form adverbial subclauses is fine, although this second method is by far the most commonly used (at least by the only known speaker of the language). It is also far less error-prone.

What's Next

So, with this we end the description of surdéclinaison as it is used with verbs. And I think this is more than enough for this post. Next time, I will focus on less general patterns of surdéclinaison, as well as isolated and/or non-productive usages. This will help you get a more complete picture of how surdéclinaison is used in Moten, and how it permeates the whole language. See you then!