Language evolution and the icëlani

Posted by Luca Mangiat on 22:12 7/9/02

In reply to: Language evolution and the icëlani posted by Irgend Jemand on 15:00 7/7/02


It's been quite a long time since my latest posting...

Some time ago I was wondering about a language violating some universally accepted characters of human languages. I was particularly thinking about a language with fixed word order but free morphemic location within the same word (or, at least, within the same noun/verb phrase). Most of human languages- at least agglutinating and inflecting languages- have, on the other hand, a quite free word order and an extreemely fixed morphemic order). For instance, in the Italian sentence:

Le ragazze mangiavano mele
The girls ate apples

which can be morphemically analysed as:
le-ragazz-e mangi-av-ano mel-e
artpl-girl-pl eat-impf-3pl apple-pl

the morphemes within each word have an unchangeable order. In my experimental language the order of the morphemes presents no constraints, while the word order is fixed. Such a grammar, when applied to Italian, could generate the following sentences (amongst many others):

eragazzle avmangiano emel
ragazzlee anoavmangi mele
leragazze mangianoav emel


Such a grammar would require, however, a redefinition of the concept 'word', I suppose... what do you think?


Mark responds:

Interesting idea; I think you've succeeded in finding something that reverses an apparent universal... at least, I've never heard of a natural language with completely free morpheme order. I'd want to know what stylistic or semantic effect the variious orders have, though.

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