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Archive for January, 2010

Eating verbs

January 18th, 2010 Comments off

Recently, I’ve been looking a bit at the development of Vulgar Latin into modern Romance languages, including how words changed meanings.

So, for example, the word for “head” in some languages derives from a word for “pot”; the word for “liver” from “figgy” or “fig-stuffed”; and so on.

One of those changes is “to eat”, which in some languages (e.g. French manger, Italian mangiare, Romansh mangiar) derives from manducare, which (I gather) originally meant something along the lines of “chew” or perhaps “gnaw”.

So I thought that for Engadinese, I might derive the basic “eating” verb from an Ancient Greek meaning “chew”.

So I turned to my trusty Langenscheidt German–Greek dictionary, looked up “kauen”, and found—τρώγω.

Imagine my disappointed when I saw that Modern Greek had beat me to the punch! (Because that’s the basic verb for “eat” nowadays, either in that form or, perhaps more commonly, in the shortened form τρώω. Its aorist stem is φαγ-, though, which harkens back to the suppletive aorist 2 stem  of the basic Ancient Greek verb εσθίω.)

Ah well 🙂

Stress in Engadinese

January 7th, 2010 Comments off

One of the things I was never really happy with in Engadinese was the fact that Greek has a fair number of words with stress on the final syllable—this resulted in a language with a rather different feel from Romansh since all the dropping-unstressed-final-syllable thing didn’t work as pervasively.

Most importantly, a word such as σοφός could not really give σοφ or the like, so I settled on something like σοφό—but then you have masculine/neuter words ending on consonant or stressed omicron, which seemed odd to me. Similarly, contract verbs with their final stress also didn’t act much like non-contract verbs.

So, perhaps something that I could do would be to do a wholesale stress change, to make Greek stress more Latinate, before going on to do sound changes.

That’s not unheard-of; after all, that’s what happened at some point in Proto-Germanic, where the PIE accent turned into a stem-initial stress. And, though I know less about such things, presumably also more or less what happened on the way from Proto-Slavic (with, presumably, variable stress) to Polish with its fixed penultimate stress.

It would also be interesting to see what changes to inflectional morphology (and indeed, to the entire feel of the language) such a stress change would bring about. (For instance, it might be easier to merge final -η with -α if the final syllable is never stressed.)

I think I’d have to study Latin stress a bit more carefully first, in order to get a bellyfeel for it.

Engadinese would, of course, not have no final stress; it would almost certainly acquire it through dropping of formerly-final syllables. (See e.g. Romansh -ziún from -TIÓNEM.)

Possessives in Engadinese

January 7th, 2010 Comments off

One of the problems in Engadinese is how to form the possessive.

In modern Romance languages, of course, this is typically accomplished with a preposition derived from Latin DE. The question then becomes, how to do this in Engadinese?

We can’t turn to Modern Greek for help, because the genitive is still alive and well there. And Ray called my first attempt, από, unsatisfactory, instead proposing εκ for TAKE. So that’s one possibility.

But a thought came through my mind: why not look at how other languages do this—specifically, non-Romance languages? And even more specifically, Maltese?

If I recall Bonġornu! Kif int? correctly, the Maltese possessive particle ta’ comes from a construction with an Arabic noun mata‘ or similar, meaning something along the lines of “possession”—so something like il-kiteb ta’ ommi “my mother’s book” comes from something like al-kitāb mata‘ ’ummi “the book, the possession of my mother”.

So perhaps that might be an idea worth following up. Though Greek does not, of course, have the construct state that inspired this construction in Maltese.

But perhaps it’ll lead to something more “organic” than just using εκ.