Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Third Lexember: Yet Another Month of Moten Words

So just two months after the previous Lexember event, we went ahead and ran another end-of-year Lexember event like last year. This time though, I seriously messed up. Because of various activities I was busy with (and work naturally), I ended up overstraining myself, and that had a bad influence on my Lexember participation. My schedule got really out of control, and I only managed to get back on track at the very end through a trick I'm not really proud of. I tried to make up for it by adding a few bonus words at the end, but it did make the Lexember experience less enjoyable than it should have been. I did, however, get a lot of feedback on Twitter for the words I created and their descriptions, so this Lexember was still a positive experience after all. At least, it definitely felt more interactive than the previous one, which was a very good thing!

One small difference between this Lexember event and the previous ones is that people actually liked my proposal to introduce "themes" that people would (optionally) follow when creating words. Daily themes were (rightly) felt to be too cumbersome, so people settled on a "theme of the week" set-up, which I thought worked very well, at least for the first two weeks! By the third week though, nobody felt like introducing a theme, and I was too far behind to propose one myself (although I did stick to themes for my own word creation, inspired by the words created by other people).

So, now that the third Lexember is finished, I'm once again recapitulating it on my blog, so that people who may have missed some of my tweets can check all my new Moten words here. I've also added the comments I made over on Twitter and Google+ (and added some specific to this post), which give a bit more background and depth to those creations. I've also cut this list according to the "themes of the week", to show exactly which words belong to which theme. Enjoy:

The first theme was categories, structures, relationships and was proposed by Jan Strasser (if I remember correctly).

1st word: lumisis /lumisis/, noun:
truth value, reality level. Basically the name for the concept that encompasses both true and false, real and fake. Lumisis can be seen as the name of the scale where "true" and "false" are just the extreme points.
The noun itself is a dvandva compound of luma: "falsehood" and isis: "truth", just as sezbon: "velocity, the concept of speed" is a compound of sezgo: "quick" and bontu: "slow". It's common in Moten to form nouns referring to a generic scale by taking the nouns referring to two (usually extreme) points on it and compounding them. Another example is uflebe: "quality, value" from ufan: "greatness" and tlebe: "mediocrity".
An interesting thing to know about Moten speakers is that they seem to treat all opposites in terms of sliding scales, i.e. they have no concept of binary opposites: all oppositions, even those we consider binary like true/false or life/death are considered to be on scales, where the values between the extremes are just as important and "real" as the extreme values themselves.
2nd word: kemi /ke̞mi/, noun:
pleasantness, goodness; also as adj. pleasant, good. A statement of opinion on something.
Moten doesn't have a single word to translate "good". Kemi is one, but it's just a statement of opinion. Vo|sa is another, but it refers more to fitness for purpose. Ufan is a third one, but it refers to an objectively great quality. All three can be translated as "good" (well, ufan really means "great". Its diminutive ufsin is closer to "good"), but for various sorts of "good".
All three have opposites, of course :). The opposite of kemi is abal: "dreadful, lousy". The opposite of vo|sa is slim: "inappropriate", and the opposite of ufan is tlebe: "mediocre".
Naturally, don't forget that in Moten, nouns and adjectives are not formally differentiated. Kemi is both the noun referring to the concept of pleasantness and the adjective used to call something pleasant.
3rd word: kemabal /ke̞mabal/, noun:
opinion, (subjective) value. The generic concept of something's subjective value.
Like lumisis, it's formed by combining kemi with its opposite abal: "dreadfulness, lousiness". And like it, it refers to the scale of opinions (from good to bad) itself, rather than to a specific opinion on something.
Kemabal contrasts with uflebe, which is about objective value and quality, and with voslim, which is the scale of fitness for purpose.
4th word: igusi /igusi/, verb:
to look like, to resemble, to seem to be. Only used of small animals, objects and concepts.
5th word: jonepi /jo̞ne̞pi/, verb:
to look, to seem, to seem to have. Only used of small animals, objects and concepts.
Those two verbs need to be described together if one wants to make sense of them.
Understanding how those words work, and why they exist in the first place, requires a lengthy explanation of Moten's semantics. But to sum it up quickly: Moten nouns are divided into two classes (only semantically, there is no morphological difference between nouns of those two classes). The distinction isn't between animates and inanimates, although it is on the same scale. Rather, it's between humans and big animals in the first class, and small animals, plants and inanimates in the second. The border between the two classes is changeable as well, as it depends on the size of the speaker! :P
Anyway, this distinction is very strong in Moten semantics, like the fact that the language has no single word for "animal". Rather, it has kit for big animals, and sponda for small ones. As for verbs, many of them are sensitive to the semantic class of their subject, and can only be used with a subject of one class. Like jaki and ispej, which both mean "to exist", but take subjects of the second and first class respectively (think of the aru/iru distinction in Japanese).
Verbs meaning "to look", "to seem" are also sensitive to subject class. Igusi has a counterpart ive|zaj for humans and big animals, while jonepi has a counterpart ipinasi for the same.
As for why there are two verbs for "to seem" for each class, that's because of the semantics and syntax of predicates in Moten. Moten doesn't have adjectives as a separate class. Rather, it uses abstract nouns, with the verb agem: "to have" for predicates (so for instance "to be tall" is translated in Moten as fedin agem: "to have the tallness"). Normal nominal predicates, on the other hand, use atom: "to be" (so "to be a house" is umptin atom, which is a literal translation of the English version).
The "to seem" verbs basically follow the same distinction: igusi and ive|zaj are the equivalents of atom, i.e. "to look like", "to seem to be", "to resemble" (nominal predicates), while jonepi and ipinasi are the equivalents of agem, i.e. "to look like", "to seem to have" (adjectival predicates).
So there you are: mix semantic restrictions with weird predicates and you split a single verb in English into four in Moten :).
6th word: |zen(k) /d͡ze̞n(k)/, noun:
large plant. Any plant larger than the speaker.
7th word: |zensin /d͡ze̞nsin/, noun:
small plant. Any plant smaller than the speaker.
8th word: |zen|zen(k) /d͡ze̞nd͡ze̞n(k)/, noun:
flora, vegetation, plant kingdom.
Once again, those three words are best explained together as a group.
Remember that Moten doesn't have a single word for "animal". Instead, it has sponda: "small animal" and kit: "large animal", where "small" and "large" depend on the size of the speaker, their attachment to the animal in question, etc. The distinction between sponda and kit is very strong in Moten, and they are considered to fall into different semantic classes, as I explained above :). You simply cannot refer to an "animal" in general (except with an expression like sponda kej kit: "a small or big animal"). And the word for "fauna" is spondakit, simply putting them together (a dvandva compound).
Now, somehow the same distinction applies to plants as well. |Zen(k) refers to large plants and |zensin to small plants, with the border between the two set again by the size of the speaker. There's a difference with the animal case though: while sponda and kit are unrelated roots, and the distinction has semantic ramifications (as I wrote above, different verbs are used with sponda and kit for otherwise the same meaning), |zen(k) and |zensin are related (|zensin is just the diminutive of |zen(k)), and they fall in a single semantic class (they belong with sponda, inanimate objects, and concepts, with a few exceptions that can be explained by personification). Also, the word for "flora" is |zen|zen(k), the reduplication of |zen(k), rather than a dvandva compound like spondakit.
All of this implies that the |zen(k)/|zensin distinction is a recent one. |Zen(k) probably used to refer to any plant regardless of size, but the sponda/kit distinction was so strong that it somehow "oozed" to plants as well, leading people to use |zensin, a productive diminutive, for small plants, restricting the use of |zen(k) to large ones.
Well, at least that's what I think happened :).
Notice, by the way, that |zen(k) is another of those roots with an unstable coda, which only resurfaces when suffixes are added. So in the nominative case, "a large plant" is simply |zen. The k resurfaces in the accusative case, which is zdenkun.

The second theme was social interactions and was proposed by Pete Bleackley.

9th word: saj ko|lea /saj ko̞ʎe̞a/, phrase:
welcome, greetings, good bye, have a nice trip. A generic polite greeting expression.
Saj ko|lea literally means "peacefully/healthily for sure" (saj is a positive emphatic clitic, while |la is a strange noun meaning both "peace" and "good health"). It's a generic phrase used when greeting or parting. It's polite, but can be used even in very familiar registers, where it takes on the stronger senses of "welcome" or "have a nice trip", compared to its familiar equivalents mejto: "hello" and |lag: "bye". It's peculiar in that its use is asymmetric: only one person uses it (the one greeting first, receiving, or staying behind). The other person cannot use it as a reply: it's just nonsensical! (unlike mejto, which is generally answered to by mejto, or |lag, which is also just exchanged by both parties when leaving each other)
What does the other person use then? Well, that's the next word :P.
10th word: saj |la(tel)ba /sa ʎa(te̞l)ba/, phrase:
same here, my pleasure, it is I who should say so. A generic expression of reciprocation.
Saj |la(tel)ba literally means "definitely for you" (it's actually two expressions: saj |laba when speaking to a single person, and saj |latelba when speaking to a group as a whole). It's an expression used to reciprocate someone else's feelings (especially as a reply to thanks, compliments or apologies), or to indicate that one thinks that person is more worthy of that feeling than oneself. It's used in all registers, but is especially apologetic in familiar registers. It's also the standard way to reply to saj ko|lea :).
You may have noticed in the phonemic representation that saj is pronounced /sa/ in this expression. It's not a typo, but a symptom of saj being a clitic: it undergoes the same morphophonological changes that affixes undergo, but those changes are not reflected in the orthography. Since those changes are totally regular, it's usually not a problem though. It's one of those rare cases in Moten where you don't write the way you speak.
11th word: teoluz /te̞o̞luz/, noun:
non-romantic love, friendship; friend.
12th word: gizez /gize̞z/, noun:
liking, sexual attraction, lust; lover.
13th word: stolge /sto̞lge̞/, noun:
familial love, instinctive affection.
Basically, Moten, has 4 different non-synonym words that can be translated as "affection" or "love" between people.
First is majta, which refers to romantic love and attraction, not necessarily sexual.
Then comes gizez, the feeling of physical, usually sexual, attraction, which can but needn't be accompanied by romantic feelings.
Then comes teoluz, the non-romantic feeling of love between friends.
And finally there is stolge, the feeling of love between family members, as well as the instinctive affection animals have for their young.
They refer to various facets of the nebulous feeling of love, and are not interchangeable. Using the wrong one can lead to embarrassing misunderstandings, so be careful with them!
That said, an important thing to remember is that those 4 facets of love are all seen as equally valid. There isn't a "higher" form of love or a "debased" form of love. Each has its place and none is inherently "wrong" or "right". They aren't mutually exclusive either (one can feel both majta and teoluz towards the same person, or teoluz and stolge, or even teoluz and gizez, with or without majta). Each can lead to happiness, but each can lead to abuse as well.
Notice that teoluz also means "friend" (a near-synonym of teolsif), and gizez also means "lover". That's an artefact of those nouns being participles of the verbs iteo|l: "to please, to be liked by" and igizej: "to please, to be lusted after by".
14th word: fet /fe̞t/, noun:
party, feast, holiday, name day. A straight borrowing from French, taking over all of its nuances.
The only difference with French is that fet can be used in the plural (fuset) to mean "holidays, vacation", unlike its French origin.
Note that Moten already has a word for celebrations: oskana|not. But that word is unwieldy and formal. It's about official, formal events, while fet is about parties and private celebrations.
15th word: ifetstu|l /ife̞tstuʎ/, verb:
to celebrate, to party. Takes on the meaning "to party" when used in the middle voice.
Ifetstu|l literally means "to party call", being a simple compound with istu|l: "to summon, to call". As I mentioned during last year's Lexember event, Moten productively uses istu|l in compounds to form many new verbs, a bit like Japanese does with suru: "to do".
16th word: joski /jo̞ski/, verb:
to happen, to proceed, to take place, to play, to last. Used of events, performances like theatre plays or films, stories, and takes on the meaning "to last" when used with a mark of duration.
When I look at my Moten lexicon, I see that the language already has 5 ways to say "to happen", all slightly different :).
First is idabolnaj, which means: "to be situated (in time)", compared to izunlaj meaning: "to be situated (in space)".
Then comes ivdaj, which is restricted to weather phenomena, and is usually translated differently from "to happen".
Then there's imonuj, which means "to turn (sthg)", but also "to happen" when used in the middle voice.
Then we have |nekaj, which means "to come to be", "to become" or "to happen", i.e. it refers to the appearance of a phenomenon.
And finally we have joski itself, used mostly with named, singular events, including performances, whether live or recorded. It's also used with stories, in the sense of "to take place, to happen".
17th word: oskan /o̞skan/, noun:
event, occasion, happening; performance, work, play, film; story. An event with a clear theme, name or title. Also any kind of performance, recorded or live. And any kind of story.
This word is further evidence of the existence of a deverbal agent suffix -an(a) in past Moten, a suffix no longer productive, but whose derivations are still present in the lexicon. Examples are linan: "bird", probably from |li|n: "to fly", and mjan: "cat", probably from imjaj: "to meow". Oskan itself is then naturally derived from joski.
In terms of meaning, it has a wide range of them, from "event", "occasion", to "performance" (whether live or recorded), to "story", in which case it's a synonym of the more commonly used okne: "story, tale".
18th word: |not /ɲo̞t/, noun:
source, origin; cornerstone, main part, important, essential, main, chief; head. Only means "source" or "cornerstone" metaphorically. As for the meaning "head", it's restricted to humans and large animals.
It's a strange word with a large semantic domain. Its original meaning is probably "origin", which drifted to "essential part" through metaphorical extension, and then to "head", because the head is essential to a well functioning human being ;).
Its most common use, however, is as an adjective, in which case it means "important, essential, main, chief".
Those last two words (oskan and |not) have helped me solve a nearly ten-year-old conundrum. Namely, the mystery of oskana|not ("celebration, ceremony"). I couldn't believe such a formal word was unanalysable, but I had no idea what its components were. Now I know: oskana|not is literally oskan |not: "essential, main event" :).
That said, the mystery is not completely solved. A compound of oskan and |not should be *oska|not, not oskana|not. This problem can only be solved if oskana|not is a very old compound (it seems to be), and oskan used to be *oskana. The final a disappeared through sound changes, but was retained in the compound, as it wasn't final there. I guess we'll have a definite answer if I find other compounds with an extraneous vowel. So far, oskana|not is the only one.
19th word: |za|not /d͡zaɲo̞t/, noun:
source, origin. An appositional compound of |zaj: "beginning, start" and |not, thus literally meaning "beginning and origin".
It seems this word was created to clarify the original meaning of |not. Basically, because of its many senses, all very commonly used, |not's original meaning of "origin" was becoming overshadowed. This pleonastic compound was then created to refocus on the "origin" sense, forming an alternative without |not's baggage.
This process is not unlike how many Chinese bisyllabic words seem to have been created, although in the case of Chinese the problem seems to have been rampant homophony due to sound changes rather than a multiplication of senses leading to loss of the original meaning.
Note that |za|not is an exact synonym of |not in its "origin" sense. It means that like |not, it refers to the origin of concepts and ideas, not to the physical origin of something (like a river or a person).

The third theme is not an official Lexember theme. But since quite a few people had shared words referring to astronomical objects, I decided to do the same. Here comes the trick I was talking about, the trick that helped me catch up with everybody else. I'm still not proud of it, but it certainly was effective.

20th word: denol /de̞no̞l/, noun:
celestial body, astronomical object; planet. A generic noun referring to any kind of celestial body, including stars, the sun, the moon, planets, satellites, comets, asteroids, etc. Even our own Earth is considered a denol.
Interestingly, denol is often used in the more restricted meaning of "planet". That's because other celestial bodies already have nouns referring specifically to them (like apa: "star", eme: "sun" or kel: "moon"). Planets don't have such a noun. So by default denol is used specifically for planets, including in their names. Those names, by the way, are all neologisms the only known speaker of Moten created, with my help of course ;).
21st word: Densezgo /de̞nse̞zgo̞/, proper noun:
the planet Mercury. Literally "the quick planet".
This word exemplifies two things: Moten's headfirst compounds, which are always of the noun+adjective type; and the short compound form. In this compound, denol is shortened to den-. It's a common phenomenon in Moten: a stem used in a compound will be shortened to its first syllable, with the caveat that it needs to be a closed syllable (so if the syllable is originally open, it will take on the onset consonant of the next syllable to make it closed, hence den- from de.nol).
Although this shortening phenomenon is regular, the choice between using a full stem and its short form in compounding is not. There don't seem to be rules, only tendencies, like the tendency for the first stem of a headfirst compound to be shortened. It seems to be more about what sounds right than about strict grammatical rules.
22nd word: Denapa /de̞napa/, proper noun:
the planet Venus. Literally "the stellar planet". Another fine example of a noun+adjective compound.
Note that apa simply means "star". In Moten, adjectives are just a function of nouns, rather than a separate class of words. When a noun directly follows another noun, it takes on an adjectival function. Not all nouns can be used as adjectives, but many can. Mostly abstract nouns, but concrete nouns as well sometimes.
23rd word: Telgaden /te̞lgade̞n/, proper noun:
the planet Earth. Literally "our planet".
Here we have an example of a headlast compound. Headlast compounds are usually dependent noun phrase+noun compounds. In this case, Telgaden is derived from telgvaj deneol: "our planet", with a genitive phrase in front of the head noun.
It's uncommon for headlast compounds to use the shortened form of the head stem, but not forbidden. I told you: there's no rule! In this case, this short element den has become the mark of the noun being the name of a planet, and so is used in all planet names :).
By the way, note how telga: "we" is used as part of a compound. In Moten, any nominal can be part of a compound, even pronouns.
24th word: Denat /de̞nat/, proper noun:
the planet Mars. Literally "the fiery planet". Another headfirst compound. The noun at itself simply means "fire".
25th word: Deno|se /de̞no̞t͡se̞/, proper noun:
the planet Jupiter. Literally "the bright planet". Another headfirst compound.
26th word: Denipiz /de̞nipiz/, proper noun:
the planet Saturn. Literally "the strong planet". No idea why I called it that… :/ To my defence, it was 02:00AM when I created those words :).
27th word: Iboden /ibo̞de̞n/, proper noun:
the planet Uranus. Literally "the planet of wind". Not quite sure why I went with a headlast compound here.
28th word: Voneden /vo̞ne̞de̞n/, proper noun:
the planet Neptune. Literally "the planet of water". Same comment as with the previous word.
29th word: Denleksod /de̞nle̞kso̞d/, proper noun:
the planet Pluto. Literally "the dark planet". Back to headfirst compounds! :P
And before anyone says anything: yes, I know scientists have demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status. I don't care. Pluto was a planet for most of my life, and I'm not going to change how I call it just because of some language prescriptivism.
Besides, since in Moten denol refers to any celestial body, Pluto stays a denol anyway, whatever its scientific status.

For the last days of Lexember, many people created words relevant to the end of year festivities. So I decided to do the same. And while the following two words don't seem that relevant, they help me set the stage for the last three words, which are very relevant to how the New Year's Eve is celebrated where I live!

30th word: kilom /kilo̞m/, noun:
thunder, rumble; thunderclap. An onomatopoeic noun also used as onomatopoeia for the sound of thunder. Unlike in English, kilom is strictly a count noun, referring to a single clap or roll of thunder.
31st word: no|sezgo /no̞t͡se̞zgo̞/, noun:
lightning bolt; lightning. Literally "quick brightness". Like its counterpart kilom, no|sezgo is a count noun, referring to a single lightning bolt.
Since kilom refers to a single clap of thunder, and no|sezgo to a single bolt of lightning, how does one refer to thunder and lightning in general? The usual way is to simply put them in the plural: kilsom then means "thunder" and no|sezgzo "lightning". Another way is to refer to "thunder & lightning" together as an entity, using the handy dvandva compound noskilom, literally "lightning & thunder" (or "brightness & thunder", depending on whether you consider the nos- element to be the shortened form of no|sezgo or of no|se: "brightness").
32nd word: kilum /kilum/, noun:
firecracker, banger. Basically any kind of firework designed to emit loud bangs when lit.
Literally means "fake thunder", i.e. it's a headfirst compound of kilom and luma: "fake, false". It's one of those rare compounds where both elements are in their shortened compound form.
33rd word: linat /linat/, noun:
firework, skyrocket. Basically any kind of firework designed to rocket into the sky before exploding.
Literally means "flying fire", it's a headlast compound of at: "fire" and the stem of the verb |li|n: "to fly".
It's also used as the generic term for "fireworks", when put in the plural linsat, although there is another word to describe a fireworks display. That word is coming in a second, as the last of the Lexember words of the year :).
34th word: linatoskan /linato̞skan/, noun:
fireworks (display). An event where fireworks are set off as the main part of the entertainment.
It's a very transparent compound of linat and 17th word oskan: "event, occasion, show". It refers specifically to an event, not to fireworks in general (that's linsat, as I just mentioned :)).

As you can see, the "trick" I was talking about was naming the various planets of the Solar System, which I felt followed the letter of the Lexember rules, but not their spirit. I'd rather have created more useful words, common nouns instead of proper nouns, or even maybe a few more verbs. But I was only three days away from the end of Lexember, and was becoming rather desperate. Between the exhaustion and a complete lack of inspiration, this was the only thing I could think of that would allow me to catch up. As I wrote, I'm not proud of what I did. At least I know that next time, I'll have to make sure I really have the time I need to participate in Lexember before I embark on it. Better miss a Lexember event rather than have to resort to such tricks to get back on track.

With that said, I can't say I'm unhappy with the rest of my work. The words I created are useful, and fill in some vocabulary gaps I had noticed before. Also, solving the oskana|not conundrum was really worth it!

Unfortunately, unlike the last two times I cannot give you any meaningful statistics, for the simple reason that I completely forgot to write down how many lexemes and glosses I had in the Moten lexicon on the 30th of November. Also, I was working on reviewing the entire lexicon, adding glosses and explanations where needed, as well as reworking the semantic networks described in the dictionary, when Lexember suddenly arrived and took me somewhat by surprise! With the Moten dictionary database in such a plastic state, I just cannot point out exactly how many additions that I made to it during December are associated with Lexember, rather than with that reviewing effort. Still, I can always point out that the Moten lexicon currently contains 586 lexemes, and 1572 (not necessarily unique) glosses. At the end of the previous Lexember event, those figures were respectively 513 and 1345. That's a good growth rate (13% more lexemes, 16% more glosses), of which I think at least half of it is thanks to this last Lexember. Not bad is it?

All in all, despite all my issues I still enjoyed this Lexember event. I felt that the "theme of the week" really added something to it (it did help a lot getting my inspiration going), and I hope subsequent Lexember runs will include this addition as well. I do hope, however, that future themes of the week will be slightly more concrete than what we got this time. Categories, structures, relationships was a bit broad, and I wasn't quite sure what was meant by it. Social interactions was better, but I would have liked more concrete, down to earth themes. Still, I think themes are a welcome addition to Lexember and I hope they'll be used from now on.

One thing I did this time was to extend my word descriptions on Twitter. Rather than a single tweet with the word and a short definition, I used as many tweets as needed to add as much background information on each word as I felt was needed. In other words, I did on Twitter what I was already doing on Google+. And although the Twitter format is not really suited to going in-depth, I did feel that adding that information was useful to the readers, and I got a lot of positive feedback for doing so. So this is certainly something I will do again next time!

So once again it was great to participate in the Lexember event. I'll definitely try to participate in the next one, although this time I'll first make sure that I actually have the time to do so!