On Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 07:40:14PM +0200, Lisa Weißbach wrote:
> Wow, this discussion has already provided me with a veritable feast
> for thought - thanks a lot! I'll have to digest some of it and ponder
> really hard. You think you know how irony/sarcasm works, but once you
> have to devise your very own means of expressing it, it seems to slip
> through your fingers. You have helped me quite a bit in making the
> concept a little less slippery so I can get a good look at it.
This mailing list kinda does that sometimes. :) When I first stumbled
upon it, I had almost zero knowledge of linguistics (aside from some
interesting points of grammar I picked up from my natlangs and from a
course in Classical Greek that I took in college). Today I probably know
far more about linguistics than I should. :-P It's become one of my
party tricks to point out curious aspects of linguistics that normal
people aren't aware of.
> 2013/7/26 H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
> > Another use of finalizers is in repeated exhortations: in English,
> > for example, when cheering someone on, we might say "throw it, Bob!
> > throw it, throw it!" In Tatari Faran, it's not the verb that's
> > repeated, but the finalizer:
> > tampa beira so tuu. tuu, tuu!
> > throw rock CVY FIN FIN FIN
> > Throw the rock! Throw, throw!
> > The idea is that one wishes to see the action of throwing completed;
> > the repetition of the finalizer emphasizes this wish of completion.
> This sounds like a carefully constructed concept - thanks for
> explaining it in such detail and with such patience! It is obvious
> that you've put a lot of thought into it and managed to squeeze every
> conceivable, psychologically realistic linguistic use out of it.
I'll freely admit that after I first conceived of the notion of
finalizers, I feared that perhaps it was too unrealistic to have stuck
around long enough to become a permanent feature of the grammar (after
all, as you point out, it does add a lot of additional verbiage to the
speech stream without adding much semantic value, so one would expect it
should drop out of the language rather quickly!). So I set out to find
as many use cases for it as I could, so that it would have more reasons
to remain in the language. :-P
> The additional ironic meaning they can take on seems like a very
> logical and consistent expansion of what the essence of those
> finalizers appears to be. The construction of those paradoxes sounds
> interesting as well - I've never thought about those mental states
> that way, but they are certainly convincing. This would be a domain
> where even the city folk would be ill-advised to drop the finalizers.
> Perhaps they could be reinterpreted as noun-adjective constructions or
> as compounds?
Well, the way I conceived of finalizers is that they were ancient
obligatory adverbs/adjectives that have stuck around long enough to be
bleached of semantic content. So I don't really see them as moving back
in the direction of becoming adjectives again.
But they could easily become eventually unanalyzable compounds (sorta
like the "cran" in "cranberry"). So, for example, the phrase _peira
ta'an_ "it's raining" could be contracted into a single word
_peirata'an_, perhaps phonologically simplified into something like
_peiratan_, then retroactively reanalyzed as the genitive of *_peirat_ +
-an (genitive ending). Thus, it would become nominalized, and may even
begin to be used as a noun.
> By the way, the san faran (no capitalization there?) sound like a
> refreshingly nice people :)
When I designed the Tatari Faran orthography, I wanted to capture the
informality of all-lowercase text (like in text messages or online chat
rooms), so I precluded all uppercase letters. :) So "san faran" comes
without capitalization, and simply means "person/people of Fara":
_fara_ itself means "the Plain", referring to the floor of the large
volcanically-active caldera where they live. The language actually has
the word _faranui_ (fara + [n] + -ui (directional suffix)), meaning
"downwards", i.e., to descend to the Plain from the slopes of the
mountains that surround the caldera.
As for being nice people... they are generally rather relaxed and
easy-going, and love spinning elaborate yarns (they're perfectly at home
with all the frilly verbiage that having finalizers entails). They're
informal enough that the vocative marker is just the 2nd person pronoun:
_san tse!_ "hello!" (lit. "you person!"), and adding "you" to an
imperative actually makes it *less* forceful (unlike in English, where
it makes it stronger).
Never cross a well-established san faran, though: they keep guard wolves
in pens around their territories as defence against intruders and
trespassers, and it is not a nice thing to have wolves let loose upon
> > Hmm. While trying to formulate a reply, I realized that I actually
> > wasn't that clear about the difference between irony, sarcasm, and
> > paradoxical statements. So I did a little research online, and found
> > this helpful summary of it:
> > Irony consists in stating the contrary of what is meant. --
> > Eric Partridge
> > Sarcasm is related to irony, but carries with it an additional
> > demeaning or mocking tone meant to express concealed annoyance or to
> > provoke a negative reaction.
> > It would seem to me that the whole point of "stating the contrary of
> > what is meant" would exclude any explicit markings for irony, since
> > otherwise you wouldn't be stating contrary to what is meant, but
> > saying it outright.
> You are of course right, I have been using these terms in a less than
> precise manner; one of the reasons was that they tend to overlap,
> another was that some of them operate on different levels: sarcasm
> often refers to the mood, the "feel" of an utterance, and irony is
> often, although not always, the means to convey sarcasm. I'm aware of
> the inflation of the use of the word "irony" (probably the best-known
> example being Alanis Morissette's "Ironic", which Ed Byrne says should
> be renamed "Unfortunate" ;)), but I'd say that irony means at least a
> little more than that: for me, it refers not only to the discrepancy
> between words and their intended meaning, but also between words/deeds
> and expected words/deeds or between different levels of knowledge in
> different people. Think of dramatic irony in the tragic hero: the
> audience knows something that the character doesn't know, and it knows
> that it's not desirable for him to act in a certain way; he acts that
> way because he doesn't have the knowledge that would prevent him from
> doing so; a sudden realization overcomes him, but it's too late, and
> he has to bear the consequences. Hamlet thinks that Claudius is hiding
> behind the tapestry, but the audience knows that it is in fact
> Polonius; Hamlet draws his sword and stabs him, thinking he has done a
> good deed; he realizes that he has killed Polonius instead of
> Claudius, which is one more factor that causes his tragic death in the
> end. This plot point doesn't rely on anyone stating the contrary of
> what is meant (I don't remember if Hamlet says something like,
> "Claudius must be hiding behind that tapestry" or something to that
> effect, but if he does, it is an honest expression of his thoughts);
> still, we speak of dramatic *irony*.
Yeah, I think part of the difficulty is that the word "irony" has been
extended in many ways, not all compatible, since its origin from the
ancient Greek plays. (Sounds similar to the situation with math
terminology related to polyhedra/polytopes, but that's another topic.)
According to Wikipedia, its original meaning was "saying less than is
meant" -- perhaps as a kind of white lie, but since then the word has
been extended in various ways -- saying opposite of what is meant,
dramatic irony ("irony of life"), seeing a "no litter" sign with a
mountain of litter piled up around it, etc..
This makes it fertile ground for conlangs to express each shade of
meaning by completely unrelated structures. ;-)
> Padraic, 28.07.2013 20:30
> > A similar case in point is the English negative. It used to be
> > entirely normal to negate a verb by appending "not" -- I saw not, I
> > know not, etc. Anymore, we create a novel negative structure with
> > "do" as a sort of content-negative dummy verb, plus the negatory
> > particle "-n't" tacked on: I didn't see, I don't know. So what about
> > V+not? Well, it's still perfectly valid English, but in ordinary
> > speech its meaning has shifted to a kind of affected fanciness or an
> > ironic archaism.
> > This is actually a symptom of a pretty radical alteration within the
> > English language, and it may not be appropriate for your conlang.
> > Just something for you to consider!
> You've given me an idea there, since my conlang does in fact display a
> similar diachronic development, only with person markers instead of
> negation. It used to be:
> 'he died'
> But the person and tense markers moved to the front:
> The word "ta" 'yes' derived from the old way of saying 'it exists':
> which nowadays would read
> and could not yield a form like "ta". I'm not sure if I should revive
> those old forms for ironic purposes, it seems a little daring - but
> sometimes that's just what you have to go for, so I might actually do
> that, and I will blame you and Teoh for giving me that idea :)
I'll readily take the blame. ;-)
Recently I've been thinking about how real natlangs often have layers of
archaisms and neologisms stacked on top of each other, all in use at the
same time (only in different contexts). In English, for example, "thee"
and "thou" are no longer in use as everyday 2nd person pronouns, but
they are still lingering around enough that (most) people will still
So I don't see why _pukini_ should be completely forgotten already. It's
not as though the march of language development has a specific date on
which all instances of _pukini_ vanished from the language and were
completely replaced by _nipuki_. In all likelihood, there was a
transition period in which sometimes _pukini_ was used, and sometimes
_nipuki_, and with time, _nipuki_ became more common, and now _nipuki_
has pretty much taken over the scene. So _pukini_ is probably still
lingering in the people's memories, in spite of it not being used in
everyday speech anymore. Hence, a perfect candidate for ironic
After all, if Yoda could pull off verb-final English, why can't your
conlang pull off person-final verb morphology? :) It will come across
sounding stinted or strangely archaic, but that's the ideal candidate
for hinting at irony.
> > I do think it would help if whatever irony marker you settle on also
> > has one or more "straight" uses. Like the sentence above, he's well
> > and truly dead, can mean that there is simply no question about the
> > present state of his body; but it can also take on subtler shades
> > (so to speak) and secondary meanings that allow ironical subreadings
> > while also freely admitting the basic straight reading.
> Thank you for that statement - I wasn't sure in which of the two
> directions I should go: whether to collate the irony marker with other
> meanings or to keep things clearer by separating them. Your reasoning
> convinced me that trying to avoid an explicit irony marker also
> entails trying to avoid constructions which can only be meant
> ironically and to allow for a little polysemy :)
Polysemy: the hallmark of wordplay, a keystone of irony. :) (If you'll
excuse the construction puns...)
> > There's an especially strong hint of irony if the phrase "he's a
> > mortal man, after all" is spoken of someone who perhaps boasted of
> > their nigh-invincibility while still alive.
> Thanks! I also like the very concise, elliptic nature of these
> constructions which makes them sound a little like proverbs. I haven't
> quite grasped the intricacies of Chinese chengyu, but I feel reminded
> of them with their shortness which nevertheless says so much, every
> one alluding to a whole story. And yes, the knowledge of the kind of
> person he was makes the contrast even more exquisite :)
Ahhh, chengyu, the torment of every schoolboy (who has to memorize
them), and the trusty sword of every elocutor (who uses them to his own
ends)! Used correctly, chengyu is one of the best ways to draw a laugh
from your audience, especially if done with the artistry of wordplay.
Unfortunately, chengyu is also the bitter regret of everyone who didn't
do their homework when they were young (among whom I number :-/), since
that makes you gape in dumb incomprehension while everybody else is
splitting their sides laughing.
It's one of the fine products of the ancient Chinese scribes of old, who
pushed the ideal of one word per syllable to its logical conclusion,
resulting in the distillation of entire epics (OK, OK, I exaggerate)
into the space of mere syllables, readily available for instant
application at your nearest Chinese imported goods corner store.
Encapsulated in that fine distilled powder is the essence of a story or
moral, a valuable gem of ancient culture, but woe betide the slothful
schoolboy who didn't do his homework, for he will fail to recognize the
magic incantation when it is uttered! To reconstitute the original story
from its distilled form requires the overnight marination in warm water
of studious textbook memorization and meditation over ancient grammar
encoded in characters rarely used elsewhere, without which the
incantation sounds like a string of mere gibberish! Thus, the wise and
prudent may be distinguished from the slothful and ignorant. Ah, the
irony of it all. ;-)
On a more serious note, one of my favorite aphorisms is, to
transliterate, "hang a pig's head, sell dog meat", a reference to the
custom of putting a stuffed animal head (or a bust thereof) outside a
shop to indicate what kind of meat is sold. To hang a pig's head and
sell dog meat instead, therefore, refers to deceptive advertisement:
what one advertises is different from the real product sold. To persuade
people by telling them how good something is, in order to mask an
inferior product. The essence of bait-and-switch. :)
On Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 12:14:53PM -0700, Garth Wallace wrote:
> On Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 1:59 PM, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:
> > There are more such uses, though they don't really fall into the
> > category of irony. One example is a series of 2-word idioms that
> > juxtapose opposite words in a paradoxical manner:
> > kura miin.
> > hunger satiated(FIN)
> > (Refers to hunger to the point of numbness, such that one's
> > appetite is gone as though one was full.)
> > airan imim.
> > freshness slumber(FIN)
> > (Refers to that dreamy yet stubbornly awake mental state after a
> > night's conscious effort to not fall asleep.)
> Would it be possible to use a verb with a finalizer usually associated
> with its antonym, like we sometimes do in English by replacing key
> words in an idiomatic phrase (e.g. "he failed with flying colors")? Or
> are verb/finalizer pairs so closely connected that using a different
> finalizer would seem incoherent?
You know, that's a very clever idea! I've never really thought about
that. Conceivably, one could express irony by deliberately substituting
an unusual finalizer. Some verbs already have multiple possible
finalizers that express different shades of meaning (_kiapitai nana_ -
to insult, to provoke; _kiapitai ihia_ - to quarrel), so using a
finalizer with opposite meaning is definitely a possibility. I'll have
to think about it.
Thanks for the idea!
Questions are the beginning of intelligence, but the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.