Thursday, 13 November 2014

Moten Words for the Day

|li|n /ʎiɲ/, verb: “to know (by instinct), to be aware of”

jolnesi /jo̞lne̞si/, verb: “to be an expert in, to know (by heart)”

Well, I actually do. I mean, if I’m not an expert on the subject of Moten, then who could ever be?

So, here we are looking at how to indicate that you know something. In English it’s relatively simple: you use the verb “to know” and you’re done. It’s used with people, things, skills, etc. (although with skills it’s common to use “can” instead, as in “I can swim”). Not all languages are that straightforward though. French, for instance, has not one but two counterparts to “to know”, and confusing them will result in nonsense sentences. One is “savoir”, which basically means “to have knowledge of”. It’s used mostly with skills (“je sais nager”: “I can swim”), and when the object is an entire clause (“je sais où il est”: “I know where he is”). The other is “connaître”, which means “to be familiar with”, and is used mostly with people (“je connais Jean”: “I know John”) but also with things (“je connais bien Paris”: “I know Paris well”). And other languages are quite similar to French in that respect (Dutch, for instance, has “weten” and “kennen”, in a similar, if not identical, distribution as French).

Moten is similar to French for not having a single straightforward counterpart to “to know”, but that’s where the similarity ends. In fact, Moten completely lacks verbs that indicate simple knowledge. The closest ones are the verbs mentioned above in this post, and they are very specialised:

  • |Li|n indicates instinctive knowledge, i.e. knowledge that’s innate or so deeply ingrained you forgot how you came to know it. Instinctive skills (like seeing or hearing) can be described by |li|n. Speaking cannot, as it’s known that it’s something that is acquired later in life. Walking cannot be described by |li|n when referring to humans (as it’s an acquired skill), but it can be described that way with animals that manage to get up within a few hours of their births. |Li|n can also used to mark plain awareness, i.e. when you know of something rather than know something, although only when you can’t remember how you came to that awareness.
  • Jolnesi indicates expert knowledge, i.e. intimate familiarity with a subject due to years of training, research, education, companionship (when used with people as an objet), or simply because you invented the damn thing! :) It shouldn’t be used lightly: if you claim to know maths using this verb, the listener will assume you have at least a college degree in maths. So it’s not used often.

So, if the only two verbs anywhere close to “to know” have such narrow semantics, how does a Moten speaker indicate simple knowledge of a person, thing or issue? It’s actually pretty simple: they simply indicate by which process they came to become aware of that person, thing or issue, and put that sentence in the perfect aspect, which marks a present situation that is the consequence of a past action.

For most skills, for instance (including languages), you can indicate that you know them by simply saying that you've learned them (e.g. motenku|ledun vajaguz ito: “I know Moten”, literally “(I) have learned Moten”, with the verb ivajagi: “to learn, to study, to teach”). With people, you can simply say that you've met them (usually eksaz ito, from jeksaj: “to touch, to hit, to run into, to meet by chance” or pe|laz ito, from ipe|laj: “to see, to watch, to meet”), at least if that’s the way you actually came to know them (nothing prevents you from lying, of course ;) ). With a book, you can say that you've read it (oknestuluz ito, from joknestu|l: “to read, to peruse”). And with an event, you could have experienced it directly, learned about it, or simply heard about it.

In any case, this is how it works in Moten: “to know something” is simply seen as the state resulting from the action of learning about that something before, and is indicated accordingly.

Questions?


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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Moten Words for the Day

jemagi /je̞maɡi/, verb: “to sail, to travel”

ibnamagi /ibnamaɡi/, verb: “to walk, to travel on foot”

jugejugej /juɡe̞juɡe̞j/, verb: “to walk; to step”

Not me though. I usually fall asleep before the plane even takes off! :D

So, three verbs this time, all somewhat in the same semantic range, but with specific meanings that do not neatly fit with English counterparts.

Let’s start with jemagi. Its original meaning is “to sail”, i.e. “to travel by boat” (indeed, it’s a compound of jem: “river, brook” and jagi: “to go, to leave”). But its meaning was actually broadened with time, to refer to travelling with any kind of vehicle (including animals like horses). So its most common translation is simply “to travel”.

Yet jemagi doesn’t exactly correspond to “to travel”, because it doesn’t cover travelling on foot. There’s a specific verb for that: ibnamagi (from jagi and bnam: “foot, leg”). So you can’t simply say in Moten that someone travelled somewhere: you have to indicate at least whether they did it mostly on foot (in which case ibnamagi is used) or mostly using vehicles (in which case jemagi is used). My own theory about this semantic split is that long ago, the Moten speakers were a riverside community, and the main means of travel were either riverboats or just travelling on foot (maybe they didn’t have any animals capable of sustaining their weights or pull carriages). This led to two verbs being used for these two forms of travel. When other forms of travel appeared (maybe draft animals were introduced into their community), the verb already used to indicate travel in a vehicle was extended to cover other vehicles, while travelling on foot, i.e. using one’s own strength, kept its own verb.

Since ibnamagi refers to travelling on foot only, it can be translated as “to walk” (as in “he walked the whole way from Paris to Amsterdam”, something I will never do! ;) ). But that’s only true when “to walk” refers to travelling. If you want to refer to the physical activity of walking, i.e. to the act of making one step after the other, there’s another, specific verb for that: jugejugej, from uge: “step, footstep”. So once again here is a place where Moten and English divide the semantic space differently: “to walk” must be translated differently depending on whether one refers to the physical activity of walking, or the act of travelling on foot.

And to complicate matters, jugejugej can also be translated as “to step”, i.e. “to go through a list of actions”. Confused already? ;)

Questions?


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Friday, 24 October 2014

Moten Word for the Day

nud /nud/, noun: “(extended) family, clan, tribe; bond, connection, affiliation; (abstract) link”

Given that by the time you see this post I’ll be in France visiting my family, I thought it was appropriate :). And in my case, I solve the issue by spending time with the non-dysfunctional part of my family ;).

In any case, as with any culture-laden word, it’s difficult for me to explain exactly what the Moten word nud means, given we know so little about Moten culture itself. As far as I understand it, nud doesn’t refer to the nuclear family. In fact, I’m not even sure Moten even has a word for that specific meaning. Rather, nud refers to something bigger, hence the glosses “clan” and “tribe”. I’m not even sure nud requires blood connections or similar (adoption). In fact, I’m nearly positive strong friendships result in becoming part of someone’s nud. Exactly how that works, though, I don’t really know.

As an extension of meaning, nud can also refer to connections and bonds in general, and not necessarily between people or even animals. In fact, it can even refer to abstract links in general (for instance when talking about the link between two events). The “family” meaning, however, is the most common.

Questions?


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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Moten Word for the Day

sezbon /se̞zbo̞n/, noun: “velocity, speed; timeliness”

OK, maybe the worst pun ever, but it made me chuckle :P.

So, as I explained before, it’s common to form the generic name for a scale by compounding two words that refer to extremes on that scale. Sezbon is such a word, being a compound of sezgo and bontu. And given the meaning of these words, it’s logical that sezbon refers to the scale of speed, or velocity, in general, as well as to the notion of timeliness (i.e. whether someone is late, early, or just on time).

Perhaps the only weirdness of this noun is that it’s formed by compounding two nouns that are both in their short compound form (sez- for sezgo, and bon- for bontu). That’s rather uncommon, as most compounds usually have at least one element using its full stem.

Questions?


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Friday, 17 October 2014

Moten Word for the Day

sezgo /se̞zɡo̞/, noun: “high speed, quickness, earliness, also as adj. fast, quick, early”

I’m not lethal, I promise! But using the same image to illustrate two opposites? Too good to pass ;).

So, to make up for not ignoring Word for the Day fans for two weeks, and to keep with the theme of today, I decided to quickly get another word out :). Sezgo is simply the opposite of bontu, and refers to high speed rather than low speed. And since bontu can also mean “late”, sezgo can also mean “early” (once again, a way to understand this is to remember the watch metaphor, with “this watch is fast” meaning that the watch indicates a time too early, rather than the watch ticking literally faster than normal). Once again, context solves most if not all ambiguities.

And so now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run! ;)


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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Moten Word for the Day

bontu /bo̞ntu/, noun: “low speed, slowness, lateness, tardiness; also as adj. slow, late, tardy”

Yeah, I know, two weeks since the last Word for the Day. But see picture above ;).

Anyway, bontu is once again one of these abstract nouns that can be used as adjectives as well. It represents the idea of low speed or slowness, and as an extension to it also refers to lateness (just like we say in English “your watch is 10 minutes slow”, when we really mean that it’s indicating a time ten minutes too late, rather than the watch being literally slower to tick than normal). And if you’re wondering, really context usually disambiguate between the two meanings :).

Not much more to say about this word, as it’s a rather straightforward one. But after taking so long to write another Word for the Day post, it was relevant ;).


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Monday, 29 September 2014

Moten Words for the Day

voslim /vo̞slim/, noun: “beauty, appropriateness, fitness for purpose”

uflebe /ufle̞be̞/, noun: “quality, objective value, value”

kemabal /ke̞mabal/, noun: “opinion, subjective value, value”

No meme right now.

Okay, those nouns are going to need a small explanation. If they look familiar, it’s because they are: they are formed by mashing together the pairs of words I presented in the last three posts.

What’s happening here is that in Moten, when two nouns are semantically opposites (i.e. like “big vs. small”, “wide vs. narrow”, “rich vs. poor”), it’s common to form the noun that refers to the generic concept underlying them by compounding them. In English, it would be as if the generic concept of “size” (in general, rather than a big or a small size) was referred to by the word “bigsmall” :).

So that’s what’s happening here:

  • Voslim is the combination of vo|sa and slim, and refers to appropriateness or fitness for purpose in general;
  • Uflebe is the combination of ufan and tlebe, and refers to objective quality in general;
  • Kemabal is the combination of kemi and abal, and refers to the concept of opinion in general.

In all cases, those nouns refer to a generic concept, and not to a specific value of that concept. It’s easy to understand with a word like kemabal, where the translation “opinion” is also neutral. It’s slightly more difficult for a word like voslim, where the usual translations (“appropriateness”, “fitness for purpose”) tend to have a positive connotation in English. But voslim doesn’t have a positive connotation in Moten. It’s perfectly neutral, just like kemabal. It doesn’t refer to appropriateness as a positive quality (that’s what vo|sa means), but to the generic concept of appropriateness. You can see vo|sa and slim as extreme points on a scale, while voslim refers to the entire scale itself.

The idea of compounding opposites to form the name of a generic concept is common in Moten, so keep it in mind as I describe new words in future posts.

Questions?


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