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What sort of conculture/people/world would this lang fit in?
Posted: Posted December 28th, 2008 by chiarizio
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This is a sort of "make these work together" game. Strictly speaking this doesn't satisfy Avaronald's "rules for posting" in Languages. I hope it's OK anyway; if not, I apologize, and it should either be moved (to "World", maybe?) or deleted.

Imagine a language with the following three tenses:* non-past
  • non-present
  • non-futureand the following three persons:* non-first
  • non-second
  • non-third. What sort of conculture would be compatible with it? Is there anything you can think of about either the conworld, or the conspecies that speaks this language, or both, that would help? Can you imagine a human speech-community having such a language?

    What if it also had the following three genders:* non-masculine
  • non-feminine
  • non-neuter?

  • There are 7 Replies

    For some reason, that combination is giving me a sense of other-ism, and the rest of this post is probably going to sound like the ramblings of someone who is deeply and profoundly stoned, as I doubt if it will make full sense.

    If I were working with that mix, I'd probably aim for a culture built around the concept of the non-self. They wouldn't think in terms of what is their property or what makes them different from their neighbour, but rather they would think in terms of what is and is not. Their house wouldn't be 'their home' but rather 'home', likewise with all other property. They wouldn't be concerned with racial issues, but rather with societal issues (in real-world terms, black or white or asian would be irrelevant, while national or community issues would be the focus). They wouldn't be concerned with gender inequalities simply because they wouldn't focus on the differences negatively, but reinforce them as positive and elevate everyone based on their own merits.

    Given those tenses, I'd also be inclined to expect them to be fairly meditative as a whole with a tendency toward profound theories in relation to temporal matters (possibly even time-travel, if in a setting where that would be feasible). I'd put good odds on the race being long-lived as well, largely to help downplay the passage of time in their perspectives (shorter lifespans would lead to more of a sense of urgency on time limitations, which isn't exactly implied by tenses of non-time). I could see "normal" physical races using this sort of language with sufficient metaphysical roots in their culture, but I'd almost expect it to belong to a race of sapient creatures formed of temporal or psychic energy of some sort.

    Posted December 28th, 2008 by Tharivious
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    I doubt any natural human culture could come up with this.

    Posted December 29th, 2008 by Mr. Saturday
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    @Tharivious; Thanks! :D Interesting. 8)

    I doubt any natural human culture could come up with this.


    Well, "Past vs nonPast" and "Future vs nonFuture" do exist in some real-life human languages (separately; I don't think any one language has both). But as far as I know "Present vs nonPresent" doesn't.

    Likewise, "FirstPerson vs nonFirst" and "SecondPerson vs nonSecond" and "ThirdPerson vs nonThird" all do exist (each separately; AFAIK no real natlang has any two of them) in real human languages.

    And, "Masculine vs nonMasculine" exists, so does "Feminine vs nonFeminine". And though the terms used are different, the essential meaning of "Neuter vs nonNeuter" also occurs in a real natlang. Again, though, no natlang has all three, and AFAIK no natlang even has any two of them.

    Why do you think no human society would use such a language? (Granted that no human society does, nor ever has, why is it impossible rather than just something that hasn't happened and may never happen?)

    Can you think what kind of non-humans would use such a language?

    Posted December 30th, 2008 by chiarizio
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    I don't think any human society would use a language that uses all three distinctions, as it would make speech needlessly complicated. We don't pin down everything a noun isn't, we pin down what it is and then from there say hey that dog is not a human did you know?

    Posted December 30th, 2008 by Mr. Saturday
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    Funny. Imagine a language with no words for ice, water and vapor,
    but instead words meaning non-solid-water, non-liquid-water and non-gaseous-water. :D
    Past vs. Non-Past is a binary opposition, but with three nodes in the figure it gets headachy...

    Posted December 30th, 2008 by Leo
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    Leo
     

    I don't think any human society would use a language that uses all three distinctions,
    Probably right.
    as it would make speech needlessly complicated.
    Well, I don't know. Maybe it would make it vaguer than we're used to, unless we made it more complicated than we're used to. Not sure that would be "needless", though.
    Example; instead of "I feel sick", you'd get one of the following four:
    "Not-you feel-non-future sick",
    "Not-you feel-non-past sick",
    "Not-him feel-non-future sick",
    "Not-him feel-non-past sick".
    Translating into English, the first could mean any of "I feel sick", "I felt sick", "He feels sick", or "He felt sick"; the last could mean any of "I feel sick", "I will feel sick", "You feel sick", or "You will feel sick"; and so on.
    To be sure only the situation English says as "I feel sick" was intended, you'd have to say two of those sentences (which would be more complicated); but it would be pretty simple to say just one of them (though translating into English would then be vague).
    However, couldn't a speaker of such a language claim that English was either overly precise or overly complicated? Because English makes you say "I or he felt or will feel sick" instead of simple "Not-you feel-non-present sick", eight words instead of three.
    We don't pin down everything a noun isn't, we pin down what it is and then from there say hey that dog is not a human did you know?
    That's what we do, all right.
    What sort of people wouldn't do that?
    Some people do things some other people wouldn't think people would do.
    For instance, there are languages where root verbs have negative polarity (from the point of view of most other languages), and you must add a "positive" affix to turn it into what other languages would express via a root verb. That is, there's a verb (call it V) meaning "to not know", and, you have to say, in effect, "I un-V that" to mean "I know that".
    And, there are plenty of languages where "give" and "take" are different forms of the same root verb, and their speakers don't understand why languages like English have the needlessly suppletive forms "take" and "give" which appear unrelated (though they obviously (to those speakers) are related).

    Funny.
    Glad you like it!
    Imagine a language with no words for ice, water and vapor,
    but instead words meaning non-solid-water, non-liquid-water and non-gaseous-water. :D
    Yes, that's the idea.
    Past vs. Non-Past is a binary opposition, but with three nodes in the figure it gets headachy...
    Uh-huh. (In case you're not familiar with this Americanism, that (roughly) means "yes".)

    Posted December 30th, 2008 by chiarizio
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    Bump

    Posted April 8th by chiarizio
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