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Page history last edited by Matthew McVeagh 1 year, 7 months ago




Matthew McVeagh | my conlangs


Omnitrans is a language in the Grammar Experiment Suite of experimental languages.


A language in which all verbs are (mono)transitive – intransitive, ditransitive, copulative verbs are reworked to be transitive.


My inspiration was thinking about morphosyntactic alignments and wondering if there could be any other alignments, or statuses with regard to alignment, besides those already documented. One of my purposes with my explangs is trying to break supposed universal rules. Morphosyntactic alignments concern the relationship between the core arguments of transitive and intransitive verbs. So in a situation where there was only one of those two valencies there would be no way to have such a relationship, and the language would have a different status (no morphosyntactic alignment at all, because impossible).


Another factor was thinking about German's "verb second" rule, and wondering if "verb third" is possible. "Verb first" certainly is: about 10% of languages have VSO or VOS word order. If a language had "verb third" there would have to be two items before the verb – in every relevant clause, not just some. Such pre-verb constituents could be core or peripheral arguments, or adjuncts like adverbs or adpositional phrases. However adjuncts are always optional, so you can't rely on them. With "verb second" there's always the subject, even if there's no direct object because the verb is intransitive. With "verb third" you couldn't rely on there being a direct object – unless you insisted there had to be by eliminating intransitive verbs.


How it would work semantically would be that concepts expressed by intransitive verbs would be re-thought so that there is something receiving the action. This is easier for a speaker of English than speakers of other languages because English had a lot of 'ambitransitivity' - verbs that can function as either transitive or intransitive. "Walk" for instance is usually intransitive, but you can "walk a mile" or "walk a route". In Omnitrans you would maybe "walk your legs". Concepts expressed by intransitive + adpositional phrase could easily be turned transitive: to "live in" becomes to "inhabit".


I would allow a passive construction, in which the object became the subject, but logically and in the spirit of the language's design there could be no truncated passive, as that would be intransitivity by the back door. There are two ways it could be done:

  1. The active subject could be 'demoted' to an oblique status, switched with the object, with different marking than for the active object.

  2. The active subject could be simply switched with the object, using the same marking as the active object.

Could there be an antipassive? Only if method 1 was used, then the active object could be demoted to oblique and switched with the subject. If method two was used there would be no morphosyntactic difference between passive and antipassive, the only difference would be in the verb voice. Having both passive and antipassive could be a way to allow the language to emphasise/focus on either the active subject or object (agent or patient). On the other hand part of the point of the language is to simplify and narrow down the possibilities for verbal expression, to maybe it would be better to go with method 2 and just allow one other voice that switches the core arguments.


Even copulative verbs would become transitive, and could passivise. If the postbox is red, that's a fact about the postbox; if red is been by the postbox, that's a fact about red. It means the postbox has joined the set of things with redness. Having thought for a while about ditransitives I think to be consistent it would be best if they were also converted to monotransitives, meaning that one of the object arguments has to become oblique/peripheral. There could be different verbs for each, e.g. "give" would become "donate/hand over" when focusing on the theme, but "supply/provide/endow" when focusing on the goal.



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