Sunday, 8 January 2012

Moten, Part V: Verbs and Subordinate Clauses


I don't want this post to take two years to prepare, so I will try to be short and to the point. My last post described the verbs and their conjugations in independent clauses. That was already quite a lot, but that's not everything verbs have to offer. So I am going to carry on describing the Moten verb here, starting with the use of the auxiliaries as fully fledged verbs, followed by a description of subordinate clauses and how to form (some of) them.

Auxiliary Verbs

I mentioned various times in my previous post that the auxiliaries atom and agem are not restricted to being only used in the periphrastic conjugations of other verbs. It's about time I should explain their meaning when used as fully fledged verbs.

So far, I have always translated atom as "to be", i.e. the English copula. In English, "to be" has various uses, including some non-copular ones:

Identity:
One of the main uses of the verb "to be" is to identify subjects, i.e. to indicate that the subject and predicate are one and the same, as in the examples: "I am the person you are looking for" or "boys will be boys".
Definition:
The verb "to be" can also be used to define the subject, i.e. indicate what it is by showing how it belongs to a known (or unknown) class. For instance: "he is a doctor" or "dogs are canines".
Predication:
Maybe the main use of the verb "to be" is to attribute a certain quality or property to the subject. For instance: "that car is blue" or "the river is wide". In this use, the verb "to be" is followed by an adjective rather than by a noun phrase.
Existence:
One of the non-copular uses of the verb "to be", to indicate the existence of the subject: "I think, therefore I am".
Location:
The other main non-copular use of the verb "to be", to indicate the position of the subject: "your pen is in the drawer".

In Moten, the use of atom is much more restricted than the use of "to be" in English. Unlike the English copula, it can only be used in the first two cases in the list above, i.e. to indicate identity or definition. In particular, it cannot indicate location (this is done using the intransitive verb izunlaj: "to be located, to live, to reside") nor existence (this is done using various existential verbs that I will introduce in a future post). Perhaps more surprisingly, it cannot be used to indicate predication either. The reason for this is simple: as I wrote before, Moten doesn't actually have adjectives. Adjectives are rather a function of nouns, i.e. any noun can be used as an adjective by putting it behind another noun. What in English is an adjective is always an abstract noun in Moten. The consequence of this is that if you use such a noun as the object of atom, the result will always be a definition or identification sentence. For instance, the sentence ka|se odun ito does not mean "the man is young" but "the man is a youth" (a definition sentence that, in Moten, is quite nonsensical, since, unlike in English, odun can only mean "youth" as in "the quality of being young" rather than "a young person"). So how are predicate adjectives formed in Moten? Just stay tuned, this will be explained before the end of this section.

The other main difference between atom and "to be", which I have already mentioned, is that atom is a transitive verb, i.e. its object is in the accusative case, and it takes a subject in the nominative case or with the instrumental prefix depending on whether the subject is volitional or not. This allows one to make distinctions between, for instance, a person having a specific profession out of free will or because it was imposed on them. For instance, both ka|se gezdemun ito and koka|se gezdemun ito mean "the man is a father", but the first one indicates that becoming a father was a conscious decision by the subject, while the second shows that it just happened to him.

To finish with atom, I need to mention how Moten distinguishes between sentences of definition and sentences of identification. In English, sentences of definition usually use an indefinite predicate ("I am a doctor"), while sentences of identification usually use a definite predicate ("I am the doctor you wanted to see"). But there can be exceptions. Moten works basically the same way, but there are no exceptions. Sentences of identification require an object which has been mentioned aready (or is known by context), and is thus always definite, while sentences of definition always take an indefinite object. For instance, badej spondan ito is a sentence of definition meaning "dogs are animals" (literally: "the dog is a (small) animal"), while badej sponda ludamun ito is a sentence of identification meaning "the dog (that we've been talking about) is that animal (next to you)" (the text in parentheses is not really present in the sentence, but is strongly implied by its wording).

It's far easier to handle agem than atom. So far, I've translated agem as "to have", and it is a very fair translation. Like its English equivalent, agem is a transitive verb indicating ownership and possession, and works in basically the same way. Its main difference with the English verb "to have" stems, once again, from the fact that transitive verbs can take a subject in the nominative case or with the instrumental prefix. Using the nominative case indicates that the subject willingly took possession of the object, while using the instrumental indicates that the subject made no conscious decision to own the object. This is typically used with inalienably possessed things, like limbs, organs, or most blood relatives, although not all (Having a child is often a conscious decision, so using the nominative case then is correct). Here are a few examples to illustrate the difference:

Kobadej tol mo|zun ige: Dogs have four legs (as written above, possession of limbs isn't active or volitional, so the instrumental is used here).

Ga umpi luden |simadan ige: I have owned this house for six years (here, the subject is in the nominative case, indicating that the speaker willingly bought the house in question. Note also how the English translation uses a present perfect where the Moten sentence uses a simple present. In a future post, I will come back to this issue).

Before I carry on with other things, I wrote above that I would explain how to handle qualitative predicates (predicate adjectives). Let's do this now. But to make this clear, I need to digress a bit. In English, predicate adjectives typically indicate attributes ("he is tall"), qualities or defects ("she is generous"), and states ("I am hungry"). Let's focus on that last example for a moment. When I tell English-speaking people that French doesn't have an adjective meaning "hungry", they often look at me like I'm talking nonsense. "How can you say 'I am hungry' then?" is the question I often get. Quite simply, I just say: j'ai faim, which translated literally means "I have hunger". Where in English you are in a certain state, in French you have one. In the same way, in English we say: "the boy is eighteen years old", while in French it's: le garçon a dix-huit ans, i.e. literally "the boy has eighteen years". What in English is a predicate adjective is rendered in French by a possessive construction. But even in English itself you can say basically the same thing with a predicate adjective or a possessive construction. For instance, you can say "he is proud" or "he has his pride". And for expression that are truly synonymous, you can say "she is hopeful", but more commonly you will say "she has hope". This last example shows how a predicate adjective can be equivalent to a construction with "to have" and the corresponding abstract noun.

It should now be clear where I am going with all this. Since Moten doesn't have true adjectives but only abstract nouns denoting various attributes, qualities and states, it cannot use those with atom to form predicate adjectives. Instead, it does what English does with the abstract noun "hope", and uses them with agem. In Moten, all qualitative predicates are handled with constructions of the type "she has hope". And here again, the form of the subject influences the meaning of the sentence. Here are a few examples:

Mjan los bontedun ige: That cat is slow (literally: "that cat has slowness". The use of the nominative case indicates that the speaker believes the cat is willingly slow, i.e. it may be a lazy tomcat).

Gvaj kobadej pledegun ige: My dog is small (literally: "my dog has smallness". Here, the subject is in the instrumental to show that this is an attribute the dog has no control over).

Kotinea penleksudodun ige. Poltejuz pol!: The room is too dark. Someone open the door! (literally: "the room has too much darkness. Let the door open!", with leksod: dark, darkness. Here the room has naturally no will of its own, so it must appear in the instrumental. This example shows how one can still use the degrees of comparison on the noun used in those constructions)

One of the things to remember from those examples is that in most cases the abstract noun needs to be used with the article. As long as the concept is definite, the article must be used. In the last example the noun is indefinite due to the use of the intensifier.

Subordinate Clauses

And now we come to the main topic of this post: how to handle subordinate clauses in Moten.

Subordinate clauses (also called "subclauses" or "dependent clauses") are clauses that add information to an independent clause, but cannot stand alone as a sentence. English examples are: "I know that he likes me", "This is the car (that) I wanted" and "They studied hard because they had a test". Basically, subclauses are clauses (i.e. a conjugated verb and associated noun phrases) that replace a noun phrase (or an adjective) in another clause. This can be seen with the following examples: "I know that man", "This is the blue car" and "They studied hard because of the test". They have the same structure as the previous examples, but with a noun phrase or adjective rather than with a subclause.

Subclauses are typically classified according to the type of nominal they replace in a sentence:

  • Subclauses that replace an adjective or a noun complement are called relative clauses. Those are peculiar in that they complete a noun phrase in particular rather than a complete clause.
  • Subclauses that replace a core argument of the verb are called completive clauses. Typically they are the object of a verb ("I think he's wrong"), but they can also be the subject ("It is true that he's wrong". Here, the "it" is a dummy subject, added only because in English there must always be a subject before the verb).
  • Subclauses that replace an adverbial noun phrase (i.e. anything but a core argument) are called adverbial clauses. In English, they are typically introduced by a variety of conjunctions ("because, since, when, until, so that, if...").

For various reasons (not the least of which being that I don't want this post to become overlong as the previous ones have been so far), I will not handle adverbial clauses here. You will have to wait for a future post to learn how to form those. I will, however, discuss relative and completive clauses here, since Moten handles them both the same way.

Before I carry on, here is a quick remark. In Moten, completive clauses can be seen as clauses that replace the subject or object of a verb, i.e. noun phrases in the nominative or accusative case (let's forget about the instrumental for a moment). In the same way, relative clauses are clauses that replace noun phrases completing another noun phrase, i.e. noun phrases in the genitive case. In other words, relative and completive clauses are clauses whose role is normally taken by a noun phrase in one of the three core cases of Moten nouns. When seeing things this way, it's not that curious that Moten handles relative and completive clauses the same way. Also, since they are subclauses that replace noun phrases in a core case, I will refer to them in general as "core clauses". This is much shorter than the impractical "relative and completive clauses".

Dependent Verbal Finite Forms

In order to understand how to form subclauses in Moten, I first need to rectify an inaccuracy from the previous post. Therein I wrote that the auxiliaries only had three different finite forms: the present, the past and the hypothetical. The inaccuracy is that I should have written that they only have three different independent finite forms! And they are called independent finite forms because they only occur in independent clauses! To form subclauses, at least when talking about core clauses, one must use a different set of finite forms of the auxiliaries, called the dependent finite forms.

The dependent finite forms mirror the independent ones exactly. That's to say, each auxiliary has three of them, for the present, the past and the hypothetical, and they are basically invariable. The dependent present is formed by adding an -s suffix to the independent present. So the dependent present of atom is itos, and the dependent present of agem is iges. The dependent past and hypothetical, on the other hand, are both formed by removing the final -k from the independent form. So the dependent past and hypothetical of atom are eto and pato, and the dependent past and hypothetical of agem are ege and page.

Note that there is no dependent form of the imperative. The imperative is a special form that can only appear in independent clauses.

In Moten, the dependent forms of the auxiliaries are the only thing that marks a clause as being a core clause. In other words, core clauses have the same syntactic structure as independent clauses: an optional series of noun phrases followed by a mandatory conjugated verb. The only difference with independent clauses is that core clauses use a dependent form of the auxiliary, rather than an independent form.

I will go in more detail in the following sections, and will include examples so that you see how it works in practice.

Relative Subclauses

Relative clauses are simply subclauses that complete a noun phrase. That noun phrase, called head, besides having a function in the main clause, also has one in the subclause that completes it. In English, relative clauses follow their head they complete, and are usually introduced by a relative pronoun, that indicates the role of the head in the subclause. For instance, in the sentence "The man, to whom I was talking, just left", the relative clause is "to whom I was talking", and the relative pronoun is "whom", here the indirect object of "to talk", introduced with the preposition "to". But in English, you can also build relative clauses that are not introduced by a relative pronoun. The example I gave can just as easily be written as "The man I was talking to just left". Now the relative clause is "I was talking to". The only way to know that it is a relative clause is its position, and we know what the role of the head is in the relative clause simply because of the gap in the subclause (the preposition "to" isn't followed by a noun phrase, indicating that what it should be followed by is the head itself).

But while in English pronoun-less relative clauses are common but not universal (in particular, they cannot be used when the head is the subject of the subclause), in Moten they are the rule. Indeed, they are even the only way to make a relative clause. Simply take a core clause, i.e. a clause with a verb in a dependent form, and place it in front of its head. That's all there is to it. The function of the head in the subclause is indicated purely by a gap in the subclause. Of course, Moten is already aggressively pro-drop, so one might wonder whether such sentences would not be terribly ambiguous. In practice, context helps a lot. To show you how it works, here are a few examples of sentences containing relative subclauses:

Ga igebezdin eto ka|se jagi etok: The man I was talking to left (literally: "the man that I was talking left". There is no indication of the function of the head in the relative clause, but context clears that up).

Koga e|lon |lalam opluvezi ege zanede|n ige: I have the ring that (you) wanted to give to that woman (here, both the subject and the object of the verb in the relative clause are missing. Still, pragmatics make it clear that the ring is the object in the relative clause, as it is customary to give rings to women, but rings aren't well known for giving much themselves! As for the subject, it can be inferred by context and thanks to the use of the verb joplej, as I will explain in a future post).

Koga ameo izunluda|n itos umpedin pe|laz ito: I know the house where your sibling is staying (literally: "I have seen the house that the sibling is staying". Here again, pragmatics make it clear that the role of the head in the relative clause is to indicate a location. Note that amo, translated here as "sibling", means more exactly "different-sex sibling", i.e. the brother of a female person or the sister of a male person. It's translated as "sibling" here because we don't know the sex of the listener).

In English, all roles can be relativised (in other words, the head can take on any function in the relative clause). But if you read this part of the Wikipedia article I linked to above, you'll find that not all languages have that freedom. In some languages, the head can only be the subject of the verb of the relative clause, in others only the subject or the object, etc.

What about Moten then? Well, as the third example above shows, in Moten location roles can easily be relativised, and indeed in principle Moten is just as unrestricted as English in terms of what function the head can have in the relative clause. However, since there is no relative pronoun or dangling preposition to help identify the role of the head in the relative clause, this freedom can cause ambiguities that don't happen in English. For instance, the phrase igebezdin itos ka|se could mean up to three different things:

  1. "The man who is speaking";
  2. "The man (someone) is speaking to"
  3. "The man (someone) is speaking about"

Given Moten's pro-drop nature, each of these interpretations is possible given the proper context. But this also means that context (along with common sense) will often clear up such ambiguities (and without context, someone would probably default to the most basic interpretation: the first one). In practice, a speaker is unlikely to make truly ambiguous statements unless they actually wish to confuse the listener.

Completive Subclauses

Completive clauses (also called noun clauses) are subclauses that, as a whole, function as the subject or object of a verb. In Moten, core clauses can be used directly as completive clauses: just put them as is in a sentence, in the place of the noun phrase they replace. Here are a few examples:

Koba go delun ja|zinuz itos ufedan ige: It's great that you've got a job again (literally: "that you've received another job has greatness". Here, the core clause is the subject of agem. The noun go simply means "job, employment", and delun is just the indefinite singular accusative of tel: "other". In this sentence, the verb ja|zi|n is translated as "to get, to receive" rather than "to give". I will explain exactly how this verb works in a future post).

Koga gdan pelvazi ege jezeti etok: I heard that (you) wanted to see me (here, the core clause is the object of the verb jezeti).

As you can see in those examples, there is no mark to indicate whether the core clause is used as a subject or as an object. In practice this never leads to ambiguities, as expressions that allow one to use completive clauses as a subject are quite distinct from those that allow on to use completive clauses as an object. The first example could be considered ambiguous still, as it could be interpreted as a sentence with no explicit subject, and an object (the noun ufan) completed by a relative clause. In practice common sense rules out this interpretation.

Reported Speech

One of the main uses of completive clauses is to indicate indirect speech. There are usually two methods of reporting somebody else's statements and questions:

  • Direct speech: just repeating what somebody said word for word (or at least pretending to do so). In English writing, direct speech is indicated by quotation marks. Example: "He said, 'I want to come to your house'";
  • Indirect speech: rather than just repeating word for word, what somebody said is rephrased as a subordinate clause. Also, the reference point changes from the original speaker to the reporting speaker, leading, at least in English, to possible changes in persons and in tense of the reported speech. Also, indirect speech is not enclosed in quotation marks. Rephrasing the example above as indirect speech, assuming the speaker reporting the statement is the original listener, we get: "He said that he wanted to come to my house".

In English, different kinds of statements and questions are handled differently when it comes to forming indirect speech:

  • Plain statements are converted into completive clauses introduced by "that" (as in the example above);
  • Polar questions (i.e. questions that can be answered by "yes" or "no") are converted into completive clauses introduced by "if" or "whether": "Did you hear that?" -> "He asked if/whether I'd heard that";
  • Non-polar questions (i.e. questions that use an interrogative word like "who", "what" or "where") are converted into completive clauses introduced by that same interrogative word: "Who are you?" -> "He asked who I was";
  • Orders (i.e. imperative and hortative statements) are converted into non-finite dependent clauses: "Give me that!" -> "He told me to give him that".

What about Moten then? Well, to begin with, I have yet to show how to form polar questions, so I will ignore those for now. The rest I can readily talk about here.

In Moten, direct speech works basically like in English: just repeat someone else's words. In writing, surround this with quotation marks. The main difference between English and Moten is that in English the direct speech is considered part of another sentence. It's a kind of "encapsulated sentence" inserted into another sentence (which is why when it's separated from the rest of that sentence, it's with a comma). In Moten, the repeated statement is not included in another sentence: it's a separate sentence entirely. One can naturally add an equivalent to "he said" or something similar, but that equivalent is a separate sentence apposed to the direct speech, and separated from it with a full stop. And since it's a separate sentence, the repeated statement can be referred to in it via a demonstrative pronoun (although that is usually dropped). Here's an example:

(Luden) isej etok. "Bvaj mumpedin agvuzi ige": He said, "(I) want to come to your house" (literally: "he said (this). '(I) want to go to your house'". I will explain in a future post exactly why Moten uses jagi: "to go" rather than juba|si: "to come" in this sentence).

Since the two sentences are actually independent, they can be rearranged, as can be done in English as well, so one can also say:

"Bvaj mumpedin agvuzi ige". (Luden) isej etok: "(I) want to come to your house," he said.

Moten also has indirect speech, and in principle it's much simpler than indirect speech in English. For statements and non-polar questions, it's actually very simple, and identical in both cases: just take the sentence you want to report, convert it into a core clause by changing the form of the auxiliary, and add it as the object of the reporting sentence. That's all! In particular, you don't have to change the word order of questions. For orders, it's slightly more complicated, as imperatives don't have a dependent equivalent. But the solution isn't too difficult: imperatives deal with issuing commands and/or advice, which can also be done with the strong and weak situational modalities (i.e. "give me that!" is not so different semantically from "you must give me that!", and "let's go!" isn't unlike "we should go!"), and those can naturally be used in core clauses. So in order to convert orders into indirect speech, just replace the imperative with a strong or weak situational modality (using a dependent form of the auxiliary) and add the resulting core clause as an object in the reporting sentence. Nothing else needs to be changed.

Of course, I'm not completely right when I say that "nothing else needs to be changed". As I mentioned above, indirect speech normally results in a change of reference point: the reported speech is normally uttered by a different person, at a different time and in a different location. In English, it means that pronouns, marks of time (including verb tense) and marks of location are adapted to the new reference point. In Moten, things work slightly differently:

  • Pronouns are changed to fit the change of speaker. However, those are often omitted so this change is often invisible;
  • Marks of time and location are adapted to the new reference point, but not verb tense. In Moten, the verb in the indirect speech stays in the same form as in the original utterance (except for imperatives as explained above). This means that there is no sequence of tenses in Moten;
  • Speaker-oriented verbs may need to be changed to reflect the change of speaker. I will formally introduce those verbs in a future post, but we've already encountered a few of them. The most obvious ones are the pair ja|zi|n/joplej: both mean "to give", "to receive", "to transfer", but the first one refers to a transfer towards or beneficial to the speaker, while the second one refers to a transfer away from, detrimental to or neutral for the speaker. Another pair of such verbs, although I haven't introduced them as such, is the pair jagi: "to go, to leave" (away from the speaker)/juba|si: "to come, to arrive" (towards the speaker). Since the use of those verbs depends on who the speaker is, the change of reference point can mean that a speaker-oriented verb needs to be replaced by the other one of the pair in the indirect speech clause, to reflect the new orientation towards or away from the speaker. This is something that will likely trip English speakers, but that Japanese speakers will find natural, as they have such pairs of verbs as well.

Here are a few examples to illustrate how indirect speech works in Moten:

Bvaj mumpedin agvuzi ige. -> Gvaj mumpedin ubva|si iges isej etok: He said that (he) wanted to come to my house (literally: "(he) said (he) wants to come to my house". Note how the tense of the verb in the core clause is the same as the tense in the equivalent direct speech utterance. Note also how the change of reference point leads to a change in the pronoun from bvaj to gvaj, and to a change in verb, but that the subject itself doesn't visibly change, since it was omitted to begin with).

Ba mudikun ito? -> Ga mudikun itos ifi|zo|n etok: He asked who I was (literally: "(he) asked I am who". As you can see, there is no change in word order: non-polar questions and plain statements are treated exactly the same way. The verb ifi|zo|n means "to ask a question" or "to beg for a favour").

Ludamun ja|zin! -> Luden jopluvej itos isej etok: He told me to give him that (literally: "(he) said (I) must give this". The imperative is converted to a strong situational modality. Also, the verb ja|zi|n is replaced with joplej to reflect the change of speaker. For the same reason, the pronoun lam is replaced by len, indicating that the speaker still has whatever the reported speaker wanted to get).

As you can see, indirect speech isn't much more complicated in Moten than it is in English. One has to pay attention to speaker-oriented verbs, but not to tenses or word order.

What's Next

I believe we have reached a good place to stop. This way, I'm making sure that this post doesn't grow to monstrous proportions like the previous ones! We're mostly done with the verbs, with only a few details left to explain. But while we've all been very positive so far, sometimes we just want to say "no". So in the next post I will describe how to form negations. And since we'll have then learned how to say "no", I will also deal with polar questions, both in direct and indirect speech, and how to answer them, whether in the affirmative or the negative. This should be enough for one full post about as long as this one.

As usual, your questions and comments are more than welcome. Don't hesitate to tell me what you think! See you next time!

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