gwalla (gwalla) wrote,

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Ílion returns: word classes and word order

Okay, last time I said I'd post about some grammar fundamentals. No more putting it off.


Ílion has 7 lexical categories ("parts of speech") currently, although I'm not sure where to put some things so this may change:
  • Nouns represent "things"*. They inflect for case and number. They also have gender, which is lexically determined (some nouns are masculine, some feminine, some neuter). It is an open class.
  • Verbs represent "actions"*. They inflect for tense, aspect, mood, and voice. Also an open class.
  • Adjectives represent "qualities" of things*. They are like a cross between nouns and verbs: they inflect for tense, case, number, and gender (agreeing with the head noun in all but tense). Open as well.
  • Prepositions do not inflect. They are capable of limited compounding but are otherwise a closed class.
  • Degree modifiers show the extent to which a modifier applies to a head: words meaning things like "very", "much", or "little". They can modify pretty much any word, except for nouns in the primary case, conjunctions, and particles. The negative (equivalent to English "not") falls into this category.
  • Complementizers. Function words used to nominalize verb phrases, which inflect as nouns. A very small closed class: there are only two.
  • Particles. This category is a bit of a cheat: it's a catch-all for various non-inflecting function words, like conjunctions and subordinators. Nothing like Japanese particles, sorry folks. A closed class.
Pro-forms are considered subcategories of the main categories (e.g. a pronoun is a type of noun).

You may have noticed that one familiar category in English is not included: adverbs. Degree modifiers are typically considered adverbs in traditional descriptions of English grammar, but they're a closed class and considerably more specialized (they really only cover "how much"). Ílion uses nouns to cover most of the territory that adverbs do in English. I'll go into this a bit more when I write about nouns and cases.

Now that we know the building blocks, we can go on to how they're assembled. Without further ado, Ílion word order:
  • Noun phrases are head-first, meaning modifiers (such as adjectives) follow nouns. If you consider prepositions to be the heads of prepositional phrases (rather than just extending noun phrases), then PPs are also head-first.
  • Verb phrases and adjective phrases are head-final.
  • The one exception to verb phrase head-finality is imperatives, which are usually fronted.
  • The core arguments to a verb are in descending order by degree of agency: subject, then objects. For ditransitives, the primary object (recipient) precedes the secondary object (patient).
This is actually a lot like Latin unmarked word order, but while Latin can shift things around because agreement and cases can keep things straight, Ílion cannot.

Next up: nouns and cases.

*More or less
Tags: conlangs, ideas

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