It turns out that it appears Chinese has about 100 "base" (1-character) words for various foundational animals, and then the rest of the animals are combinations of those bases (or other adjectives):
- hippo: river horse
- lemur: fox monkey
- giraffe: long neck deer
I am doing similarly for other areas of the lexicon (games/sports, plants, rocks, etc.). So I have stuff like this:
- antelope: even-toed ruminant
- wren: hole-dweller bird
- emu: camel bird
- ibis: wading bird
I am still stuck on the problem of figuring out how to distinguish common noun phrases vs. formal noun phrases. I tried asking how Chinese does it but I still don't get how Chinese distinguishes between the two. Like, how do you say "long neck deer" but not mean "giraffe"? Likewise, how can I say "the wading bird caught a fish" and mean the generic/casual noun phrase "wading bird" which is not the same as the formal noun phrase "wading bird [ibis]".
How do some natural or conlangs handle this? Oh, in Chinese, the name for "gorilla" is "large monkey" and chimpanzee is "black monkey". But gorillas can be black, and chimpanzees can be "large". So how would you say "large monkey" and not mean gorilla, or black monkey and not mean chimpanzee? How does this work?
The only way I can see this working is by doing something like a prefix particle meaning "the noun phrase next is a formal phrase", so "formal large monkey" means gorilla, but "large monkey" is just a large monkey. But that would mean to talk about things like dogs and cats you have to prefix every word with "formal", "the formal curly-haired dog [poodle]" or "the formal hairless cat". I don't think that is ideal, but not sure. So wondering how other languages (natlangs and conlangs) can handle this situation.
How do you use the terms of the formal noun phrase in a casual way?
I'm thinking of doing this:
smale kalime markat - small black monkey - bonobo (formal) smal kalim markat - small black monkey - (generic)
-e to the preceding words so they are like joined in the formal case.