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38

The best parallel for Turing completeness in human languages is the Natural Semantic Metalanguage. The NSM proposes that there is a limited set of basic semantic concepts which all human languages have, and which are not reducible to other concepts. They call these "semantic primes", because you combine them to get all other meanings, and because they can't ...


35

Here are three options you might want to consider: Noun classes assign each noun a class (well known examples include the gender systems of Indo-European languages, and also the more elaborate systems of Bantu languages). Having pronouns agree with the noun class of the nouns talked about greatly helps reduce ambiguity, though it would likely not help in ...


28

In addition to the options mentioned by Adarain and Jan, various reflexives and reflexive-like operations can often be of use in dealing with such situations. English already has some reflexives, providing some amount of disambiguation, Danish goes a little further has a compulsory reflexive/non-reflexive distinction in 3rd person possessives, and while the ...


17

A language doesn't require grammatical structures specifically for expressing something to express it. In Chinese, there aren't separate future and past tenses. At the same time, it's possible to describe the past, the present and the future. Auxiliary verbs like 要 yào "to want, to be going to" and many others can be used to describe what one would use ...


17

The term "Standard Average European" (SAE) pretty much covers it, and has been around since the 1930s. Haspelmath listed a number of typical "Euroversals" in a portion of the 2001 book Language Typology and Language Universals. These are listed in a more readable-to-laymen way in the wikipedia article on the subject. Haspelmath included as true Europeanisms (...


17

When discussing tense, aspect, and mood, it's important to distinguish a given language's grammatical markers from the abstract concepts being described. Thus, linguists use the words temporal reference and aspectual reference to describe the abstract ideas being described, while the words tense and aspect are reserved for when such reference is marked ...


15

It should be noted that in addition to relying heavily on one strategy, it's also possible to mix strategies is various different ways, relying on different strategies to back each other up. For example in Fore(Kainantu-Goroka(TNG), PNG), there is a hierarchy like this, where if each strategy fails, the one lower in the list can be relied on. I'm putting "...


13

Is there a method to make sure that a constructed language contains all the necessary grammar concepts, e.g. to make sure that a concept like genitive case or a construct state is present? The primary issue here is trying to find out what is necessary for a language to function; not even 'Chomskyan tenets' like recursion (or broader concepts like ...


13

Darkgamma's reply wasn't wrong, but I think it slightly misses the question. One way of ensuring that your conlang is able to convey a certain meaning/feature is to grab a text and start translating it. If there is something in the original text you have trouble translating, try to find a way to work around it with the grammar you currently have OR invent ...


11

In addition to Adarain’s answer, the ambiguity can also be resolved in an out-of-the-box way. For example, English can use the former or the latter in place of an inflected form of he to distinguish between the two cases. Languages like German go a step further and would just use this instead of the latter in most cases. These words do not replace pronouns, ...


11

Expanding on Sparksbet's answer, additional features, from the conlanging point of view as listed by Mark Rosenfelder in Advanced Language Construction (pp. 30-31), that tend to pile up on top of the SAE elements. While many of these are not particularly rare at all cross-linguistically, the overall combination (especially combined with actual SAE features), ...


11

The way these languages do this is with inflections. Nouns, for example, can be declined to show cases, which tell the speaker things about what they are doing. Verbs can be used to show who the subject is, and the tense and mood and stuff. For example, in English we would say: The boy loves the girl However, in Latin (I don't know any other languages ...


11

I am not at all certain why you would assume that protolanguages must have no morphology. PIE is just a language like any other before or since. If we review the relevant article, the Font of All Knowledge explains that morphology is the study of words, how they are formed, and their relationship to other words in the same language. Whether your language ...


9

There are three main strategies for indicating grammatical relations in languages with free word orders. It is common for languages to have more than one of these, and to my knowledge all free word order natural languages have either case or verbal agreement. Case Case refers to grammatical markers attached to nouns which indicate the noun's role in the ...


9

Many languages mark things like those you mention at the beginning of a word. Noun class in Swahili and the other Bantu languages comes to mind. It doesn't require all roots to begin with a vowel; the prefixes also include vowels (as in Kiswahili). Russian has prepositions (not prefixes) such as в, which are pronounced as part of the onset of the following ...


8

Well, y'know, ANADEW and all that, but... As far as I know, there is no natural language with a grammaticalized antiperfect aspect--i.e., an aspect where the time of the action is after the reference point, rather than before. Present Perfect: "He has come." Past Perfect (pluperfect): "He had come." Future Perfect: "He will have come." In each case, the ...


8

The key principle to understanding what is being uttered or has been written is to know how to put the words into a structural context. This is often explained in simple terms using the W questions: who is doing something, what are they doing, how are they doing it, to whom are they doing it, when and where are they doing it, etc. In grammatical terms, these ...


8

I would think that it relates to the power structures behind the language communities, and to their relative size. This can be kind of observed with English after the Norman invasion. The basic English grammar still remained Anglo-Saxon (as the majority of the population spoke it), and the main influence of Norman French (the powerful but small elite) was ...


8

The first class of verbs that is often highly irregular are the auxiliary verbs. This does not only comprise to be and to have but also the modal auxiliaries (like must, can, shall, and will). They are used very frequently and tend to erode phonetically, and they are also prone to suppletion (showing a mixture of different stems from originally different ...


8

Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and Proto-Afroasiatic (PAA) are just the earliest ancestors we can reconstruct with reasonable certainty for their respective language families. That does not at all mean that they were the first languages of their regions or the earliest languages that existed. They didn’t materialize out of thin air. They, too, had ancestors and ...


7

Besides the traits of Standard Average European given in Sparksbet's answer, another defining feature is the phonology and basis of the lexicon. Eurocentric conlangs draw their phonology and their words heavily from well-known (and sometimes less well known) European languages. Depending on the preference of the authors, the words are based on Latin or ...


7

Apart from the morphological / grammatical angle, we can also understand meaning by context. A mournful song sang the choir. Except in the Land of Strange Tales, we know that choirs sing songs. Songs don't sing choirs. The inversion is startling when interjected into speech of ordinary pattern, but it's quite understandable. Even though we don't have ...


7

I don't know of any languages where spatial marking is thoroughly compulsory in the same way aspect often is, however I do know of some potentially interesting cases of spatial marking. A lot of Papuan languages have grammaticalised systems for showing directionality and location. They are usually described as being relative to the speaker, but in at least ...


7

A long time ago, I was involved in a project named Folkspraak to create a Germanic conlang. It was entertaining, but it did not went very far at that attempt. Some grammatical hallmarks of Germanic languages are: A very simple tense system, present and past only, all other tenses are periphrastic and later acquisitions A past participle as third principal ...


6

The way to make sure a language is detailed enough is by putting it to use. You have to write something in the language that the language was designed for in order to be able to tell if it works. For example, if you're writing an auxiliary language, you might want to see if you can express the Babel text or the Declaration of Human Rights (two popular texts ...


6

As the linked WALS chapter already mentions, a common distinction is to contrast near speaker/near listener/distal rather than a simple distance constrast. One way to make such as system more "interesting" can be to add additional usages or shades of meaning to the different demonstratives, for example having one be a neutral term and the other one that is ...


6

Li in these examples could be described as a copula - this is the name for a word whose function is to link a subject and predicate.


6

The book by jan Pije and jan Lope says: We've learned how to address people and how to make commands; now let's put these two concepts together. Suppose you want to address someone and tell them to do something. Notice how one of the o's got dropped, as did the comma. jan San o, ... - John, ... ... o tawa tomo sina! - ... go to your house! jan San o tawa ...


6

Although one of the "o"s is usually dropped, you don't have to, especially if it adds a certain emphasis to something or has some poetic value in a song etc, or maybe if you're calling someone first, making sure they're listening, then continuing. It's just not often done. So for general purposes, yes, drop an "o".


6

One general term would be function words; these are words that do not carry any lexical meaning, but are used to link content words together and clarify their relationships (eg in the case of prepositions or conjunctions). It is indeed difficult to see exactly what you have in mind without any examples; other possibilities would be particle, which is eg ...


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