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LotM - Jul 19: Sangesian
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July’s winner, soup’s Sangesian, is an a priori language whose analytic nature belies a high level of morphosyntactic complexity, particularly in alignment and syntax, as well as a rich lexicon derived from its ancestor Proto-Qaskan. Read more here!
This public article was written by Admin Sheep on 29 Jun 2019, 15:01.

[comments] Menu 1. Phonology 2. Morphology 3. Syntax 4. Lexicon 5. More on Sangesian 6. Finally July 2019’s Language of the Month is  Sangesian, by @soup. While it has a simple syllable structure and few phonemes, these are realized as sometimes surprising surface forms, and form the basis of an etymologically rich lexicon. Similarly, while there is little inflectional morphology, a fluid-S morphosyntactic alignment underlies a complex syntax, with differing word order based on clause ‘activeness’, and many constructions which yield sophisticated constituent movement, such as pied-piping with inversion. Read on to learn more about Sangesian!

[top]Phonology

There are only 15 phonemes (plus vowel length and phonemic stress). Of these, there are 10 consonants, /m n p t k s l r j w/, and 5 vowels /a e i o u/, which come in short and long variants. Perhaps this inventory might not seem that exciting at first, but there are a number of interesting allophonic processes. To sample just a couple of these, /k/ is realized as [ʔ] intervocalically, so that we have ruko /ˈru.ko/ [ˈru.ʔo]. Additionally, /s/ is realized as [f] before /u/, so that suwii /suˈwi:/ is actually [fuˈwi.i]. In some dialects and registers, /r/ can be realized as [d], [ð], or even [ɣ]!

[top]Morphology

Sangesian doesn’t have that much inflectional morphology (-te NEGNegative (polarity)
not
, -wo QInterrogative
question
, and -ya IMPImperative (mood)
command
are basically all there are). However, it does have many derivational morphemes, which are generally suffixes. Two neat ones in particular are -yó and -kó, which attach to sense verbs and denote ‘sense of’ and ‘giving the impression of’ respectively. For example, from yote ‘to hear’ we get yoteyó ‘sense of hearing’ and yotekó ‘to sound like’.

[top]Syntax

Sangesian’s syntax is quite complex. First, we’ll discuss its morphosyntactic alignment. Sangesian has a variant of split-S alignment, which means that each verb determines whether the agent of the verb is the subject or the object. Active verbs mean that the agent is syntactically the subject (and a patient is an object), while inactive ones mean that the agent is syntactically the object (and a patient is a subject). Since word order is subject-verb-object, this creates inactive clauses where word order is patient-verb-agent (though the nouns are preceded by particles which are agent/patient). In addition, there are mandatory clausal particles which indicate aspect and agree with the subject of the clause (either the agent or patient). If this all seems very abstract and confusing, have a couple examples:

Lu
1First person (person)
speaker, signer, etc; I
.IPFVImperfective (aspect)
'interrupted or incomplete'
kuu
write
e
PATPatient (role)
recipient or target of event/action
waki.
person

‘I’m writing to someone.’

E
PATPatient (role)
recipient or target of event/action
siye
hat
nu
3IThird person inanimate (person)
it, not he/she/they
.PFVPerfective (aspect)
completed action
kuu
wear
o
AGEAgent (role)
cause or initiator of event/action
ayi.
3Third person (person)
neither speaker nor addressee
.FAMFamiliar (respect/formality)
with friends, family, peers

‘They are wearing a hat.’

Notice that the first, active, sentence has agent-verb-patient order, and the first word (which indicates aspect) marks the agent. However, the second, inactive, sentence, has patient-verb-agent order, and the third word (which indicates aspect) marks the patient.

Sangesian also has a phenomenon known as ‘pied-piping with inversion’. What this means is that in some constructions, a phrase is moved to the beginning of the sentence, and the word order within this moved phrase also changes (inverts). For example:

Kiwo
who
ne
GENGenitive (case)
possessive
te
DISTDistal (proximity)
far from speaker (and addressee)
palo
car
nu
3IThird person inanimate (person)
it, not he/she/they
.IPFVImperfective (aspect)
'interrupted or incomplete'
si?
COPCopula
used to link the subject of a sentence with a predicate

‘Whose car is that?’

Compare that to the sentence
Te
DISTDistal (proximity)
far from speaker (and addressee)
palo
car
nu
3IThird person inanimate (person)
it, not he/she/they
.IPFVImperfective (aspect)
'interrupted or incomplete'
si
COPCopula
used to link the subject of a sentence with a predicate
ne
GENGenitive (case)
possessive
puwo.
1First person (person)
speaker, signer, etc; I
.FAMFamiliar (respect/formality)
with friends, family, peers

‘That car is mine.’

Notice that not only has the phrase ‘whose car’ been moved to the front of the sentence, but the words within the phrase have also swapped position.

[top]Lexicon

Sangesian has a rich pronoun system. While pronouns do not mark number, they do mark animacy and status. There is a set of pronouns for humans where there are four forms for each person depending on the relative status and familiarity of the listener relative to the speaker. In addition, there are colloquial shortenings of some of these. Beyond this set, there is a separate set which distinguishes animacy and doesn’t change for status. There are also sets for relative and interrogative meanings.

In addition, there is a dedicated pronoun molo for talking to oneself.

Of interest are that Sangesian has a base-12 numeral system and distinguishes between word-level, phrase-level, and clause-level conjunctions.

Also, Sangesian has many delightful words such as yee (alternate form yii) ‘apple’ and o ‘to ban, block (on social media)’. Besides being great in their own right, they actually have etymological justifications, like all the other words in the dictionary. Yee comes from Old Honnatso ghümyü "apple", borrowed into Early Middle Sangesian as hinzi "apple", which was changed to hĩz through analogy with native words ending in -ĩz. O’s etymology is that it is a backformation from oká "wall", interpreting the as the nominalizing suffix -ká (cf. kaa "tool"). In general, Sangesian’s lexicon is full of rich and creative etymologies like these, making the dictionary well worth a browse.

The last fun point we’ll talk about is that Sangesian has many doublets, which are words from the same etymological root which have different meanings nowadays. For example, tiwo means ‘yellow’, and from the same root we get tippó ‘gold’, which yields the derived term tipposi ‘gold-colored’.

[top]More on Sangesian

Despite all the topics we’ve talked about here, this article really just scratches the surface of Sangesian. If you’re curious to learn more, check out its dictionary, extensive grammar, many translations (some with audio), LexiBuild sets, grammar test corpus, phrasebook, and namebase.

[top]Finally

Have suggestions for how the next LotM should be written? See something about Sangesian that wasn't covered, though you wish it had been? Feel free to shoot us (protondonor, dendana, or Hastrica) a PM with your questions, comments, and/or concerns. Also, feel free to drop by the LotM clan if you have other feedback, want to join in the voting process, or are looking to nominate a language!
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