Comparatives and Superlatives Part Three

Sometimes, I have been known to take my own advice…
I have been thinking further on the topic of comparatives and superlatives. In my last post in this vein I proposed “plu-”, “plust-”, “min-”, “minst-” for the “more, most” and “less, least/ fewer, fewest” sequences. Using words that are common to several other constructed languages can be a mixed blessing. I notice that Interglossa makes considerable use of “plu” but uses it as an article to indicate plurality. A bigger problem is that I have words for the comparatives and superlatives but no related word for the positives: “much/ many” and “few/ little”.
In my post on the “vang, veng, ving, vong” progression I mentioned that when I came up with the concept of relating words by an alphabetical vowel progression I had expected to make more use of it than I had.
Thinking on this I now propose the sequences “mas, mes, mos” and “las, les, los”. The first is easy to remember since some of the words resemble English words such as “mass” and “most”. “Mas” is reminiscent of “mais”, the Portuguese word for more/ most. “Les” phonetically resembles its English meaning, “less”. All of the words have the common theme of ending in “-s”.
Some languages use an “absolute superlative”. To do this in Diinlang use mos with the augmentive suffix –ta or los with the diminutive suffix, –ko.
The use of “mes” here means that we can no longer use it for the small/ medium/ large progression. In another recent post I remarked on the tendency to create new words were familiar English ones would do. “Gros” is somewhat ambiguous since it can also indicate a number (144), a quantity or something unpleasant. The English word “big” is, however, widely understood and has surprisingly few alternate meanings, even in other languages. Using “big-“ as a prefix has echoes of various pidgins and creoles but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Those are languages that evolved for clearer communication so have some features worth examining. “Mes” in this progression gets replaced with “mid”, another simple word whose meaning will be clear and logical to many who encounter it.
Small/ Medium/ Large are now represented in Diinlang by “mik, mid, big”. These may be combined to indicate intermediate graduations using the words “mikmid” and “midbig”.

Creating Adjectives.

Version 2
In previous posts I have touched on the subject that certain nouns and verbs will require more than one adjective form. It would be very nice if one could simply produce a set of rules that says “adjectives with this suffix in English become this word form in Diinlang”. Unfortunately, suffixes in English are far too diverse and inconsistent for this to be practical. Hogben gives some insights into the problems inherent in such an approach.
As Hogden notes, many of the more modern adjectives have been created by using a noun or verb-derived noun. In Diinlang the progressive/ continuous form of the verb and the perfect form have both been designed so they can be used as single word nouns or adjectives. The progressive/ continuous form for the verb “VERB” would be “isVERB”. The perfect form would be “dunVERB”. As in English the progressive/ continuous form may be considered to be active in nature and the perfect passive in nature. Therefore rather than the perfect form we use the passive, “geVERB” form. From the verb root we can also create animate and inanimate agent nouns: VERBze and VERBit. These may also provide adjectives, as potentially the derived patient noun, VERBge.
A large number of adjectives for Diinlang can be created from verbs and nouns by using the active or passive participle. To do this it is necessary to determine if the adjective would have an active or a passive role in a noun phrase using it. As Hogben notes, an “-ing” or “-ed/ en” ending in English as they are used is not always reliable. Replacing the adjective in English with an “-ing” or “-ed” form can give a hint to whether it is passive or active. A “scary man” can be termed a “scaring man” so this is active. A “scared man” is not the same as a “scaring man”. “Scared man” is passive.
If the adjective describes something that the noun is feeling, experiencing or doing then it is active and the “isVERB” form should be used.
If the noun is the recipient of the effect the adjective describes the passive (“geVERB”) form is used. i.e. something is “being/ getting/ got done” to the noun or the noun has that status or state.  
The above system will deal with the majority of adjective (or adverb) generation for Diinlang. A smaller collection of words may require different solutions.
Firstly, there are the words whose primary function is adjectival. These include words for colour or size, for example. The above protocol can be used to modify these words if necessary. A “blue compound” can become a “bluing compound” or a “blued compound” by adding a “is-” or “ge-” prefix to the word selected for “blue”. An adjective can be converted to a concrete noun by adding “-it” to make it into an inanimate agent noun. An abstract noun can be created by adding the suffix “-ia”. Hence the Diinlang word for “blueness” would end in “-ia”.
Many of the variations of words will be created by compounding words rather than using a long list of empty suffixes. Many English adjectives that end in –able or –ble therefore are a compound with “zhan” (to be able). Words for edible, readable, drinkable may all be compounds of “-zhan”. The potential passiveness of some meanings may need to be addressed.
Words that denote something is caused or evoked will also be compounds, probably using the word “fiy” for to make or construct. Thus to words for “weaponize” or “liquidize” will be closer in sound to their alternative of “weaponify” and “liquefy”. To change something into water would be to “kwafiy”.
Another compound will be created to mean “becoming” or “beginning”.
English words that use the suffix “–less” in the sense of not having a property will most likely be constructed as a compound with the word “zero”, although for some senses “no” or “non-“ might be used instead.  The opposite of “-less” words in English often have the suffix “-ful” in the sense of completely having a property. Logic suggests Diinlang use a compound with a word for “total” for this sense. Terms such as “handful” and “cupful” can be translated literally.
A large variety of English suffixes indicate that the subject contains the quality described. Logically words such as “sugary”, “hairy” might be translated into compounds with the word “kom” (“with”), possibly combined with a comparative. >
A potentially useful suffix would be “-yi”, the equivalent of “-y”, “-ie”, “-e” and “-ey” in English. Creates the meaning of “having the quality of” when used with nouns and adjectives and “inclined to” on verbs. Examples in English include slimy, baggy, runny etc. “-li” might be used to make adverbs and adjectives of manner.
Saying that something is “wooden” or “metallic” is redundant when one can simply use “wood” or “metal” as an adjective. Metallic also has the sense that something resembles metal in some respects but is not necessarily metal. Compound words that indicate varying degrees of resemblance will also be needed. “-ish” and “-oid” are potential candidates already in wide use in many other languages. The word “iso” for “same” may also see use.
There are still some words that do not fit into the categories above. Many adjectives have a meaning of “pertaining to” or “to do with” without denoting a particularly active or passive meaning. For such adjectives the suffix “-al” can be used, although it can be regarded as optional and can be omitted if the word will not be confused with a noun. Possibly the ending “-an” would be used for adjectives relating to space and time, such as the names of nationalities.

Why not English?

The article here makes a very good point. There seems to be a widespread reluctance with conlang constructors to draw upon English. Admittedly English is often highly irregular in both spelling and verb structure. It has many homophones and the same word can sometimes have widely differing, even contradictory meanings. Consider “boat made fast” -was the boat modified to be faster, or tied up so it did not move?
On the other hand the basic grammar of English is relatively simple if we ignore eccentricities such as do-support and inversion of questions. A selling point of English is that it is the most widely spoken language. Chinese may be spoken by more individuals but English is spoken globally. Many people across the world have some measure of English as a second or third language. As is noted, a big chunk of the world speaks bad English, which includes a very large number of British and Americans!
English has many words that will be comprehensible to non-English speakers. Many of these words are single syllable words too, making them good choices for “bricks” for Diinlang. Providing that such words have  limited or relatively small interrelated meanings such words can be a good source for the Diinlang vocabulary. There is little point in creating a two or three syllable pseudo-Latin/ Greek/ European word when a single syllable English word will be more concise and intelligible.

Musings on Adjectives.

Version 1.1

Adjectives proved to be another thorny field, partially due to trying to standardize the byzantine English suffix system!
Ideally, a word in a constructed language (conlang) should be capable of acting as a noun, verb, adjective or adverb without modification. This occurs with some English words. “Green” is an adjective but if I put a determiner before it it can be used as a noun for something that is green, such as a snooker ball. If I write “the green book” then “green” is once more being an adjective, even though it directly follows a determiner. When I say “it was green painted” I am using “green” as an adverb. Perscriptionists may argue that the “correct” form is “greenly” but the meaning is clear and free of ambiguity, which should be the test of any language.
Some conlangs mark adjectives and/or adverbs with a distinctive ending but these often fail to distinguish between distinct sub-types of modifier. Such conventions often slow the learner down while they have to consider the category of a word rather than its meaning.
In practice a root word used as a modifier may have several forms. Consider “green”, “greenish”, “greenoid”, “greening”, “greenicize”,“greenescent” . Some of these are not in the dictionary but to a native English speaker each has a different but clear meaning.
In English word order is typically used to distinguish adjectives. Generally the adjective is placed before the noun it modifies and after the noun’s determiner, if stated. A noun may have multiple adjectives and the meaning can often become confused. “Two more ugly girls” could mean “two addition girls that are ugly” or could be poor English for “two girls that are more ugly/ uglier”. According to Wikipedia Chinese adjectives should be combined in a specific order, this being quality/size, shape, colour. This may be a good concept to modify for Diinlang. A suggested, more expansive order for use with English is given here and here.
In many languages adjectives are placed after the noun rather than before it. Thus the phrase rather resembles how a British army quartermaster lists items “boots, size 8, black”. A good argument can be made that placing the noun before the adjectives is considerably more logical and clearer.  I begin to look for a book before I consider that it is green. Better to alert someone first that the subject is “cars” before stating the make.
Ideally in Diinlang a noun could be placed either before or after a noun and the meaning still be clear. Whether that is practical remains to be seen. If an “adjective after” convention is used for Diinlang this would probably only apply to certain classes of adjective. It seems logical to place numbers and related quantity words before the noun. This would be a simple way to distinguish between cardinal and ordinal numbers. For example “one room” is distinct from “room one”. The words for “good” (“bon”) and “bad”(“mal”) may also be more logical before the noun, as is practiced in some “noun first” languages such as Portuguese.
Words such as mik/ midbig are clearly quality/ size adjectives. I had been using as augmentive and diminutive suffixes but this will not work if such adjectives are placed after the noun or can appear before or after the noun. This needs to be addressed.

Prepositions and Directions for Diinlang

When I first started fielding ideas for Diinlang a subject that causes a few headaches was that of prepositions. This area is still not completed but some new inspirations came to me last night.
English has a lot of prepositions and words that resemble them. Being English the system is irregular and words originate from many different sources.
My current working model is that these can be treated as three related groups.
The first group has directions such as up, down, forward, back, left, right, in and out. These can be treated as a point in space or a movement. Something might be “inside” or moving “inward”. In English the suffixes may not be used for some of the listed words or their use variable. I can say “up from Bill” or  “upwards of Bill”. This suggests that a relatively logical and regular system for Diinlang can be constructed using “-ki” for motion and “-ru” for static as suffixes.
The second group are relative directions. They refer to a point relative to another point. Above, below, beside, port, starboard, before, beyond, under, on, against, abaft, abeam, super-, sub- etc. Possibly this variety can be covered by words for up, down, forward, back, left, right, in and out with some addition to indicate they are relative. Many of the existing words use “a-” or “be-”. “A-” derives from the meaning “up” or “out” rather than from the Latin “ad-” for “to”. “Be-” is Old English/ Germanic for “throughout” or “around”. Some of these words substitute for phrases such as “XXXwards of/ from” or “XXX from”.

The third group are adjectives that can be confused with prepositions and may have some overlap in use. High, tall, deep, low, thick, thin, narrow, wide, etc. To this list we can add related nouns such as height, length, depth, width, etc.
(It has just occurred to me that “etplu” in Diinlang would be more elegant than saying “etcetera” or “eksset”)
The above is not a comprehensive list, of course. I have stuck to basic linear motion and not considered circling motions, for example. In English using the above words in phrases with “to” or “from” can modify the meaning and how this can be done in Diinlang needs consideration.
The basic categorization proposed does give an idea of how prepositions in Diinlang should be approached. The basic directions/ points can be modified with affixes such as  “-ki and “-ru”. These basic words can then be modified for terms for relative directions. These words can possibly replace many of the adjectival words or create words whose relationship is clear.

Comparatives and Superlatives Part Two

While I am happy with the basic mechanism I have proposed for comparatives and superlatives the actual words to be used have varied.
My latest idea is to use the words “min” and “plu”, which are already used in a number of other languages, including several IALs. In Diinlang these are used as prefixes but may also be used as standalone words in certain applications.
Plu” is the equivalent of “more” or “much”. “Min” is “fewer” or “less”. The equivalent superlatives are created with the ending “-st” to create “plust” or “minst” and have the meanings “most”, “the majority”, “fewest”, “least” etc.
The word “tro”, used in a number of other languages, indicates an excess or “too much/many”. An antonym meaning “too few/little” may be created. “Tro min” would have this meaning or might also mean “not enough”.
For better clarity I have changed the small/ medium/ large words to mik/ mes/ gros. Words for good/ bad remain as bon/ mal. These are used with the comparatives and superlatives in a regular and predictable fashion.
Thus  bon/ plubon/ plustbon is good/ better/ best and mal/ plumal/ plustmal is bad/ worse/ worst.  Gros/ plugros/ plustgros is big/ bigger/ biggest and mik/ minmik/ minstmik is small/ less small/ least small.

Categories from Interglossa.

While researching constructed languages I have encountered a number of systems. One of particular note was Interglossa. One reason for this was the creator’s name was not unknown. Lancelot Hogben was author of the book “Mathematics for the Million”, a book that should probably be on the curriculum of all schools. It is also impressive that a book trying to promote international understanding and fraternity was published at the height of World War Two.
Interglossa has some interesting ideas, although I do not think many of them are in the current version of Diinlang.
In a previous post I remarked on the problem of finding suitable categories to assign syllables or mora to. Interglossa’s section on Generic Substantives does provide some useful suggestions in this direction.
“-pe”, meaning “person” is used to create agent noun type constructions. “aero-pe”, airman, “agri-pe”,  farmer and “ergo-pe”, worker. In Diinlang I have proposed that the third person pronouns “ze”, “zo” and “za” be used in this fashion.
“-re” is used for inanimates such as “ferro-re”, ironware, “pedi-re”, step and “reflecto-re”, mirror. In Diinlang I have proposed “it” be used as a suffix in similar fashion, although an alternative might be considered for less physical inanimates.
“-ca”, from the word “cameri” is used for room, chamber, cabin, hall or compartment. Since Diinlang does not use the letter “c” an alternative will need to be selected.
“-do” from “domi” is a house, building, tent or man-made erection. “dom” may be used for Diinlang.
“-fa” from “fascio” is a group, set, bunch, batch, heap or collection. This is a good example of the Greek/ Latin derivation of many of Interglossa’s words. In Diinlang a single syllable word will be used and there may be distinction between groups of objects and people and their coherency. For example, a team has more common purpose than a gang or mob.
“-fi” is a cord, filament, line, rope, string, thread or wire.
“-ru” is from “instrumenti”. Hogben notes that the antecedent of a -ru compound always points to function, making it an agent noun for inanimate objects.
“-li” comes from “lithi” and denotes a stone, rock or translucent jewel. The full word is used for non-transparent ornamental stones, hence “chloro-li” emerald, beryl and “chloro-lithi”, jade, malachite.
“-lo” from “loco” for place, region, territory, domain, locality.
“-ma” or “materia” for material, stuff, substance, including some liquids (suspensions/ solutions?).
“-me” from “mechani” for machine, apparatus, device, engine, mechanism. Hogben states the antecedent points either to function or power source. This word is used for motors and engines. This should probably be used to indicate more complex tools than “-ru”. In Diiblang this is very likely to be the syllable “mek”.
“-mo” from “mobili” for furniture or moveables.
“-te” or “texti” for fabric, cloth, textile, woven material, tissue, canvas, muslim, etc.
“-va” or “vassa” is a vessel, container, jug, mug, cup, bowl, pitcher. This seems a very useful catergory. “va-“ is used as a prefix to indicate tinned, canned or bottled goods. Hodben states that the meaning can be made more explict by using an antecedent point to the function or other suggestive characteristic rather than the object’s composition. Thus, the equivalent of “drinking vessel” is superior to “glass”. Hogben used “ora-va”, mouth-vessel.
“-ve” or “vesto” is covering, clothes, vesture, costume, -wear, suit, dress.
“-zo” or “zona” is ring, belt, hoop, zone, band. The distinct word “cycli” is used for circle and “sphera” for a ball or sphere. The word “zo” is already in use in Diinlang. The word “ring” already meets the requirements of Diinlang, being one syllable, CVn format and as a bonus recognizable to English and English second language (ESL) speakers. “zo/ zona” suggest that categories such as bar/pole and tube/pipe might be useful. The English word “QUAD” has a somewhat rectangular look. It is tempting to create words for circle or sphere using the letter “O”.