I am trying to implement a conlang and am confused how we as humans are able to distinguish nouns, verbs, adjectives, particles, etc. in a sentence. I get that word order is a factor, as well as the nebulous idea of context. But word order seems so flexible, I don't see what I need to do when creating a conlang in terms of how to structure nouns, verbs, adjectives, and particles, to make sure you can understand the sentence. What are the key techniques or procedures to follow in designing this? So you can clearly tell what is a noun, verb, adjective, or particle. How do we even do this in regular natural languages? I don't understand. And I don't know how to search for this in Google to learn more about how we resolve the sentences meaning without having clear and unique patterns that clearly separate nouns, verbs, adjectives, and particles from each other.
Some of examples on why it's confusing.
I see the big black oak tree.
tree is the noun, and
big black oak are modifiers on the noun sort of thing. So you could say they are adjectives or "features" of the tree.
I see the big.
big is the noun, like
The Big, as in something big, in which you are invoking a lot of context in your listeners mind. Or
I see the black.
Here black is the noun, like all you see is darkness.
In these sentences, there is no change in the structure of the words, but they take on different roles in the sentences. That is,
big can be an adjective or noun (or even a verb!) without adding a specific prefix or suffix to that base.
I can't come up with a science on why we are able to properly interpret these sentences. In my conlang, I am thinking that, in order to make it easier to interpret, I would have special endings on nouns, verbs, adjectives, and particles. So you would have the equivalent of:
I see-ami the big-azi black-azi oak-azi tree-ali
In this sort of system, every verb would end in
-ami, every adjective with
-azi, and every noun with
-ali. I keep on thinking I need such a system in order to make the sentences comprehensible. I would use this structure in addition to a strict word order to make it so sentences are comprehensible. So what I keep thinking I need, in summary, is:
- Specific endings on nouns, verbs, adjectives, and particles, to distinguish them easily.
- Strict word order in sentences, so you can easily tell what is in the adjective place, in the noun place, in the verb place, etc.
But the problem is, this is not how natural languages work! Even in English which has a somewhat strict word order (even though you can be quite flexible with it if you want), like I demonstrated above, you don't have specific endings on words, and you don't have a super strict 100%-of-the-time word order. (English has some word endings like
-ly and such, but these are not even consistent 100% of the time)
In addition, I am looking across a few languages, and nouns, verbs, and adjectives in each language might be allowed to all start or end with vowels or consonants, and might all have endings which are the same. That is, there isn't even a pattern which clearly separates nouns, verbs, adjectives, and particles into separate categories based on the word's morphology! For example, let's use English. You have these words.
Bully. (Noun, "A mean sort of person", ends in
Clearly. (Adjective, ends in
Sully. (Verb, "to make dirty", ends in
Some rules are more strict, like I can't seem to find any adjectives that end in
-ed, which is used for past-tense or state sort of verbs,
iced, etc. But this
-ly ending can go on any type of word. Same with other endings, like
Bring. (Infinitive verb, ends in
Clearing. (present participle verb, ends in
Ring. (Noun, or verb, ends in
Amusing. (Adjective, ends in
All kinds of other examples exist (of prefixes and suffixes) where they are used across nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.. In many other languages too.
Other words, which I'm using in English but might come from other languages, are nouns which have all sorts of endings.
Man. (Noun, ends in consonant
Joy. (Noun, ends in consonant
Dao. (Noun, "the Way", ends in vowel
Glee. (Noun, ends in vowel
Rabbi. (Noun, ends in vowel
Then same for verbs:
Assign. (Verb, ends in consonant
Play. (Verb, ends in consonant
Echo. (Verb, ends in vowel
Free. (Verb, ends in vowel
Ski. (Verb, ends in vowel
And same for adjectives:
Green. (Adjective, ends in consonant
Happy. (Adjective, ends in consonant
Latino. (Adjective, ends in vowel
Eerie. (Adjective, ends in vowel
Pakistani. (Adjective, ends in vowel
So this basically shows, at least for English, there is no relation between the word ending and whether it is a noun, verb, adjective, etc.. So it makes me think in my conlang, I don't need to add the constraint of having nouns, verbs, adjectives, and particles have different endings to make them distinguishable. Somehow we are able to tell the difference in sense of these words based on some other nebulous thing, like context or meaning/semantics during the flow of speech.
The question is, how do I use these facts when constructing a conlang? Can I pick any "base" word and attach any ending on any part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, particle)? And will the language still work? How can I tell if it will work and not be confusing? What do I do when developing the conlang to test if it is confusing or not how I have structured words?
Without having the conlang completed and working, (while it is being developed), as I try to generate example sentences, it seems like it would lead to pure confusion not having more rigid patterns in the words to distinguish nouns, verbs, adjectives, and particles.
How should I be thinking about this to make some progress? I am stuck on the step of how to create words in different parts of speech, and place them in an order in sentences. I have created a pattern for how word "bases" are defined (i.e. they have to start and end with a consonant), but that is even limiting, I would like it if some can start or end with a vowel too...
How should I conceptualize the differences between nouns, verbs, adjectives, and particles, so I can generate words that flow together into a sentence but aren't confusing? It seems that adding specific word endings would remove the confusion, but what else will remove the confusion so I don't need to do that, and I can be like English in that words of various parts of speech can have any vowel/consonant start or end the word?