POP
Another Conlang with a Peculiar Grammar
Being a different branch in the Soaloa family tree

by Gary J. Shannon

Created: Mar. 13, 2010
Last Revision: Apr. 9, 2012

Origins

POP is a variation on my earlier conlang Soaloa. The principle difference is that Soaloa created compound sentences by linking together shorter clauses with additional link words while POP creates compound sentences by dropping words that are shared by two simpler clauses. Since POP grows complex sentences by deleting words rather than adding them, POP sentences are more concise and compact than the equivalent sentences in Soaloa.

Some of the content of this page is copied directly from the Soaloa page, since the two languages bear a strong family resemblance to each other, and so much of the older Soaloa material is still relevant to POP.

Phonology

Personally, I'm not much interested in phonology so this conlang does nothing out of the ordinary in this arena. Some pronunciations are noted as they might be described to an English-speaker, but one can think of the phonology as being flexible enough, or perhaps subject to enough different dialects and understandable "foreign" accents that pronunciation need only be "close enough". There are no IPA or other esoteric pronunciation notations on this page.

Word origins

For the most part, since I am more interested in exploring the possibilities of this grammar, I am borrowing some words from Tahzu, one of my former conlangs. The Tazhu lexicon can be found here. Tazhu, in turn, draws its words from a number of other natlangs including Latin, Greek, Turkish, German, English, Sanskrit, and a handful of others. In most cases the original natlang word was then mutated in some significant way to arrive at the Tazhu root. Since Tazhu is inflected and POP is not I usually pick the simplest form of the Tazhu word to adopt into POP.

Most of the other words are simply made up on the spot to fill the needs at hand. One important difference in morphology is that operation words are a single syllable and all other words are two or three syllables in length, ending with a letter that identifies the part of speech of the word. These endings will be introduced as the need arises.

The Rules of Grammar - Clauses: Basic Units of Meaning

Sentences in POP are made up of basic units of meaning called Clauses.

The basic clause consists of exactly three words. These words are referred to as either parameters (P) or operators (O). Every POP clause has the form POP, or Parameter-Operator-Parameter.

A single clause of the form POP is the simplest sentence in POP.

When the necessary conditions are met, two clauses may be fused together into a longer sentence by dropping a word or phrase that the two share in common.

Examples of longer sentence patterns include: POP, POPOP, POOPOP... and so on.

Under certain conditions the operator word may be the one dropped, giving rise to such patterns as: POPP, POOPP, PPOPOOPP... and so on.

Every allowable sentence in the language can be constructed in this manner.

Every fusion rule is unambiguously reversible so that any sentence, no matter how complex, can be expanded back into its original form as a series of unconnected clauses.

Class O Words

Words in class O establish a relationship between the two P class words. Some times these act like verbs, but not always. An example in English would be "belongs-to". When we say "This book belongs-to John" we have established a relationship between the left-P called "this book" and the right-P called "John". For every word of type O there exists a complementary word, also of type O. For example, if owns is the complement of belongs-to and X and Y are type P words in the language then the clause "X owns Y" has a meaning identical with that of the clause "Y belongs-to X". For example "John owns this house" = "This house belongs-to John".

In many, but not all, cases the primary operator can be changed into its complement by appending "a-" to the front of the word. Thus doneo (to give) can be changed to adoneo (to be given).

Class P Words

Words in class P that end in "u" refer to a class of things (e.g. house), or to a single or multiple instance of a thing (e.g. this house). It is important to remember the difference between a particular thing and the name of the class to which that thing belongs. If we say "house" we are not pointing to any particular house, but are referring to the general class which contains all things that might be considered to be "a house". This will become clear when we start to look at examples using some of the O words that instantiate, or select a particular member of a class as the topic of discussion.

Words in class P that end in "e" refer to a class of attributes (e.g. color), or to a single instance of an attribute (e.g. red). As with -u words, it is important to distinguish between the name of a class of attributes (such as "size") and a particular member of that class (such as "big").

Using Clauses

A clause is a single relationship between two things. A sentence might consist of a single clause, but more commonly it will consist of two or more clauses. In the English sentence "I have a crayon." there seems to be one frealtionship, namely my relationship with the crayon. However, in POP, there are actually two relationships. The first clause selects a particular object out of the class of all things called "crayon". This step is hidden in the English by the implicit functional nature of the indefinite article "a". In other words, there is a difference between "crayon" (as a general concept) and "A crayon" as a discrete individual object.

The second clause states that I own the particular object that has been selected out of the class of all crayons. I cannot say "I own crayon." because that implies I own the very concept of crayon, and by extension, every object that can possibly belong to that class. Instead, I must say "I own A crayon." meaning that I own only the particular instance of crayon under discussion.

The two relationships are, therefore: 1. "it" is a member of the class "crayopn". and 2. I own it.

Most sentences, have even more clauses, such as "I have a red crayon." In this case there are three relationships. The first establishes the existence of a particular instance of the class crayon. The second is the relationship between me and the selected crayon. The third relationship establishes the color attribute of that crayon. How these clauses are used will be examined in more detail in the following sections.

Forming a Sentence

Now let's take the simple English sentence "I have a crayon."



     Sentence: I have a crayon.

     P = it                           itu - Assigns the word "it" to a particular crayon.
     O = is-an-instance-of-the-class  bin
     P = crayon                       kredu

     P = I                            kuru
     O = have                         po
     P = it                           itu

     POP: Itu bin kredu. Kuru po itu.
      

Fusing Clauses

The above two sentences are perfectly acceptable POP. However, in practice it is often possible to fuse two or more clauses together. Since in this case the order that we present the two clauses is irrelevant, we can write them in this order: Kuru po itu. Itu bin kredu. Notice that the first clause ends with itu, and that the second clause begins with this same word. This allows us to fuse the two together by overlapping the common word:



     Kuru po itu. Itu bin kredu. -->
     Kuru po itu bin kredu.
     I have it (which) is-an-instance-of-the-class crayon.
      

We can also use the complement of po (have) which is apo (belongs-to). This results in a different sentence that means the same thing:



     Sentence: I have a crayon.

     P = it                           itu - Assigns the word "it" to a particular crayon.
     O = is-an-instance-of-the-class  bin
     P = crayon                       kredu

     P = it                           itu
     O = belongs-to                   apo
     P = me                           kuru

     POP: Itu bin kredu. Itu apo kuru.
     Fused: Itu bin kredu apo kuru. (by overlapping the word "kredu" with "Itu". See below.)
     This, a crayon belonging-to me.
      

You will notice that we overlapped the word kredu with the word itu. This is permitted since itu, "it", refers to kredu, and is, therefore, equivalent to kredu.

We probably would not use the complement for this particular simple sentence, however, since even though the sentence is complete, it leaves us with a certain sense of expectation. We have, in effect, said "This crayon of mine ..." but we are left expecting something more to be said about it. We will use this kind of anticipatory structure later on to make more subtle variations of other sentences.

Now let's look at the slightly more complex sentence: I have a red crayon. As before, we will create a series of clauses and fuse them together wherever possible.



     Sentence: I have a red crayon.

     P = it                           itu - Assigns the word "it" to a particular crayon.
     O = is-an-instance-of-the-class  bin
     P = crayon                       kredu

     P = I                            kuru
     O = have                         po
     P = it                           itu

     P = it                           itu
     O = has-attribute                es
     P = red                          lozhe

     POP: Itu bin kredu. Kuru po itu. Itu es lozhe.
      

We could fuse the last two on the common word itu and end up with:



     Itu bin kredu. Kuru po itu es lozhe.
      

At this point, however, there is no more we can do to fuse clauses together. There is another way, and that is to fuse the first two as we did originally, and then apply a new fusion rule which states that itu may be overlapped with the declaration of itu. In other words, the entire phrase Itu bin kredu can take the place of itu in any subsequent clause. Thus:



     Kuru po itu. Itu bin kredu. Itu es lozhe. --> (overlapping "itu" with "itu")
     Kuru po itu bin kredu. Itu es lozhe. --> (overlapping "itu bin kredu" with "itu")
     Kuru po itu bin kredu es lozhe.
     I have it (which) is-an-instance-of-the-class crayon (which) is red.
      

Now suppose someone steps on my red crayon. We will need four clauses to express "I have a broken red crayon." These are:



     Sentence: I have a broken red crayon.

     P = it                           itu - Assigns the word "it" to a particular crayon.
     O = is-an-instance-of-the-class  bin
     P = crayon                       kredu

     P = I                            kuru
     O = have                         po
     P = it                           itu

     P = it                           itu
     O = has-attribute                es
     P = red                          lozhe

     P = it                           itu
     O = has-attribute                es
     P = broken                       fratse

    POP: Itu bin kredu. Kuru po itu. Itu es lozhe. Itu es fratse.
      

Now we can introduce yet another fusion rule. When two clauses are identical except for their right P, the two right Ps may be combined with a comma and placed after a single copy of the common words:



    Itu es lozhe. Itu es fratse. --> Itu es lozhe, fratse.
      

Now we can tack these clauses together into a complete sentence:



     Kuru po itu. Itu bin kredu. Itu es lozhe. Itu es fratse. --> (overlapping "itu" with "itu")
     Kuru po itu bin kredu. Itu es lozhe. Itu es fratse. --> (Combining identical PO)
     Kuru po itu bin kredu. Itu es lozhe, fratse. --> (overlapping "itu bin kredu" with "itu")
     Kuru po itu bin kredu es lozhe, fratse.
     I have it (which) is-an-instance-of-the-class crayon (which) is red, (and) broken.
      

The word itu may be used to stand for this particular crayon anywhere within this sentence, or in any other sentence within the scope for which "it" was defined as "this particular crayon". In this example, itu only appears once in the entire discourse. In other words, we have defined it, but not actually used it. Programmers might think of it as an unreferenced local variable. For this reason, itu can actually be dropped from the sentence with no loss of meaning.



     Kuru po itu bin kredu es lozhe, fratse. -- >
     Kuru po bin kredu es lozhe, fratse.
     I have an-instance-of-the-class crayon (which) is red, (and) broken.
      

Finally, since the most common operator is es we can use the convention that wherever an operator is expected, but is missing, that missing operator is assumed to be es. Thus with the operator es implied, we have:



     
     Kuru po bin kredu es lozhe, fratse. -- >
     Kuru po bin kredu lozhe, fratse.
     I have an-instance-of-the-class crayon red, (and) broken.
     I have a crayon red, broken.
      

Plurality: Collections of Instances, and Instances of Collections

Suppose I have more than one crayon. I might have a whole box full of crayons of various different colors, so I would need to be able to say things like "I have some crayons.", and "One of my crayons is broken." We do this by using the word demu which can be thought of as the plural version of itu. Demu is a pronoun (or local variable, using the programming language model) which stands for a collection of objects of a particular type. Thus we have:



     Sentence: I have (some) crayons.
     
     P = they                             demu
     O = is-a-collection-of-instances-of  dam
     P = crayon                           kredu

     P = I                                kuru
     O = have                             po
     P = them                             demu

     POP: Demu dam kredu. Kuru po demu. -->
          Kuru po demu dam kredu. -->
          Kuru po dam kredu.
          I have collection-of-instances-of-class crayon.
      

Suppose we wish to talk about a single crayon from that collection. For that we can use the Operator word fon which means "is-one-of".



     Sentence: One of my crayons is red.
     
     P = they                             demu
     O = is-a-collection-of-instances-of  dam
     P = crayon                           kredu

     P = I                                kuru
     O = have                             po
     P = them                             demu

     P = it                               itu
     O = is-one-of                        fon
     P = them                             demu

     P = it                               itu
     O = has-attribute                    es
     P = red                              lozhe

     POP: Demu dam kredu. Kuru po demu. Itu fon demu. Itu es lozhe.
          Kuru po demu dam kredu. Itu fon demu es lozhe.
      

Notice that when we condense these four sentences into two we run into a dead end where the two compound sentences cannot be further condensed. However, if we use the compliment of po "to-have", apo "is/are-owned-by" then we will find that we can do a better job of condensing the resulting four clauses.



     Sentence: One of my crayons is red.
     
     P = they                             demu
     O = is-a-collection-of-instances-of  dam
     P = crayon                           kredu

     P = they                             demu
     O = are-owned-by                     apo
     P = me                               kuru

     P = it                               itu
     O = is-from-collection               fon
     P = them                             demu

     P = it                               itu
     O = has-attribute                    es
     P = red                              lozhe

     POP: Itu fon demu. Demu dam kredu. Demu apo kuru. Itu es lozhe.
          Itu fon demu dam kredu. Demu apo kuru. Itu es lozhe.
          Itu fon demu dam kredu apo kuru. Itu es lozhe.
          Itu fon demu dam kredu apo kuru es lozhe.
          
          Itu fon dam kredu apo kuru es lozhe.
          It one-of a-collection-of crayon belong-to me has-attribute red.
          It, from some crayons belonging to me, is red.   
      

This is one instance where we are allowed to drop the words itu and es as we did in earlier examples, but would probably not wish to do so. This is because itu and es are separated by a rather lengthy compound clause that defines itu. In fact, that definition can be thought of as almost parenthetical: Itu (fon dam kredu apo kuru) es lozhe. Or at least, set off by commas as we would do in English: "It, one of some crayons belonging to me, is red."

Another reason for not dropping the itu and es is that the resulting sentence is ambiguous: Fon dam kredu apo kuru lozhe. The condensation rule is no longer unambiguously reversible. Is it the crayon that is red, or is it me that is red? Although the ambiguity could be corrected by inserting a comma: Fon dam kredu apo kuru, lozhe. "One-of some crayons belonging-to me, (is) red." or "From the crayons of me, red." Although even this remains ambiguous because it is not clear if we are talking about a single red crayon, or several. It is only the use of the word itu that informs us we are dealing with only one crayon that is red. More acceptable would be: Itu, fon dam kredu apo kuru, lozhe.

A Collection of Some of Another Collection

We can already figure out how to say "I have some red crayons." (Kuru po dam kredu lozhe.) But how do we say "Some of my crayons are red"? We can't use itu because that's singular, and we shouldn't use demu because we already have another collection referred to as demu, namely the collection of all of our crayons. So we could get confused about whether demu meant all of our crayons, or the some of them that are red.

It is for just such purposes that POP has a subset pronoun veralu (they). Like demu (they) veralu is a plural pronoun, but unlike demu it also implies that the "they" of veralu is a subset of whatever collection is being called the "they" of demu.



     Sentence: Some of my crayons are red.
     
     P = they-1                           demu
     O = is-a-collection-of-instances-of  dam
     P = crayon                           kredu

     P = they-1                           demu
     O = are-owned-by                     apo
     P = me                               kuru

     P = they-2                           veralu
     O = is-from-collection               fon
     P = them-1                           demu

     P = they-2                           veralu
     O = have-attribute                   es
     P = red                              lozhe

     POP: Veralu fon demu. Demu dam kredu. Demu apo kuru. Veralu es lozhe.
          Veralu fon demu dam kredu. Demu apo kuru. Veralu es lozhe.
          Veralu fon demu dam kredu apo kuru. Veralu es lozhe.
          Veralu fon demu dam kredu apo kuru es lozhe.
          
          Veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es lozhe.
          They-2 from a-collection-of-some crayons belong-to me have-attribute red.
          (A subset) they, from some crayons belonging to me, are red.
      

It is clear now that "they" demu and "they" veralu refer to two different collections. But there can be cases where two instances of veralu refer to two different subset collections. Consider:


     Veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es zhare. (blue)
     Veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es ridise. (green)
     
     Veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es zhare, ridise.
      

The first veralu refers to the subset of blue crayons, and the second refers to the subset of crayons which are green. Yet we can use the fusion rule mentioned earlier to fuse these two sentences into the single third sentence shown above. This raises the question, however, as to whether there are two subsets, a blue one and a green one, or if there is one subset of those multi-colored crayons which are both blue and green, or if there is one subset consisting of some blue crayons and some green crayons. Either the sentence is ambiguous, or one of those three interpretations must be chosen as the standard interpretation.

The most straightforward solution is to explicitly declare that there are two veralu, either by augmenting the fusion rule to allow reduplication of veralu, or by using a numeric modifier such as tose "two" in front of veralu. The third interpretation, that there is one veralu consisting of some blue and some gree crayons can be indicated by the explicit "or" (o) placed between the two attributes.


     Veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es zhare. (blue)
     Veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es ridise. (green)
     
     Veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es zhare, ridise.
     They, from some crayons belonging-to me are (both) blue and green.
     (i.e. All are both blue and green.)
     
     Veralu veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es zhare, ridise.
     They and they from some crayons belonging-to me are (respectively) blue, green.
     (i.e. Some are blue, some are green.)
     
     Tose veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es zhare, ridise.
     Two theys from some crayons belonging-to me are (respectively) blue, green.
     (i.e. Two subsets: the blue, and the green.)
     
     Veralu fon dam kredu apo kuru es zhare o ridise.
     They, from some crayons belonging-to me are (either) blue or green.
     (i.e. Some are all blue and some are all green.)
      

Some Variations of Emphasis and Intent

Earlier, we saw how to say "I have a broken red crayon":



     Sentence: I have a broken red crayon.

     P = it                           itu
     O = is-an-instance-of-the-class  bin
     P = crayon                       kredu

     P = I                            kuru
     O = have                         po
     P = it                           itu

     P = it                           itu
     O = has-attribute                es
     P = red                          lozhe

     P = it                           itu
     O = has-attribute                es
     P = broken                       fratse

    POP: Itu bin kredu. Kuru po itu. Itu es lozhe. Itu es fratse.
    FUSED: Kuru po bin kredu es lozhe, fratse.
      

But suppose we want to express the very different meaning: "My red crayon is broken."? This is done by using the same technique of "parenthetical" qualification we used above with Itu, fon dam kredu apo kuru, es lozhe.



     Sentence: My red crayon is broken.

     P = it                           itu
     O = is-an-instance-of-the-class  bin
     P = crayon                       kredu

     P = it                           itu
     O = has-attribute                es
     P = red                          lozhe

     P = it                           itu
     O = belongs-to                   apo
     P = me                           kuru

     P = it                           itu
     O = has-attribute                es
     P = broken                       fratse

    POP: Itu bin kredu. Itu es lozhe. Itu apo kuru. Itu es fratse.
         Itu bin kredu lozhe. Itu apo kuru. Itu es fratse.
         Itu bin kredu lozhe apo kuru. Itu es fratse.
         Itu, bin kredu lozhe apo kuru, es fratse.
         It, being a crayon red of mine, is broken.
      

Here the "parenthetical" description set off by commas, establishes that the crayon under discussion is a red one belonging to me. Only after identifying it in this manner is it revealed that the crayon under discussion is also broken.

A different emphasis that could be considered "poetic" would be to defer the definition of the subject until later in the sentence:


         Itu es fratse. Itu bin kredu. Itu es lozhe. Itu apo kuru.
         Itu es fratse. Itu bin kredu lozhe. Itu apo kuru.
         Itu es fratse. Itu bin kredu lozhe apo kuru.
         Itu es fratse, bin kredu lozhe apo kuru.
         It is broken, being a crayon red of mine.
      

Intensifiers and Modifiers

Attributes may need to be intensified, diminished or modified in other ways to express such concepts as "very large", "bright red", "barely noticeable", "not very old", and so on. These concepts are expressed by attaching a prefix to the attribute words. So while fratse is "broken", mafratse is "smashed", or "demolished". Likewise, if chentu is "old" and machentu would be "very old". The same prefix can be used to intensify other attributes as well, so that lozhe being "red" would make malozhe "bright red", or "intense red".

The "opposite" prefix is ki-, which has the effect of softening or diminishing the intensity of the attribute. Thus tave is "tall" and kitave is "not very tall" (but not with the meaning "short"). It has a similar effect when applied to other attributes such as kilozhe, "pink", and kifratse, "damaged" or "cracked".

Either prefix can be reduplicated to emphasize the effect further. Thus chentu, machentu, mamachentu for "old", "very old", and "ancient".

Actions Involving Two Actors

Suppose we wish to translate the English sentence "John gives the book to Mary." At first glance it appears that a single verb connects three substantives: John, Mary, and book. But if we think of it in a different way we can claim that the two actors, John and Mary have each performed a very different action, giving them two very different relationships with "the book". John has given the book and Mary has accepted the book. These are two individual clauses, plus the clause declaring an instance of book:



     Sentence: John gives a book to Mary.

     P = John                         John
     O = gives                        doneo
     P = it                           itu

     P = it                           itu
     O = is-an-instance-of-the-class  bin
     P = book                         haribu

     P = it                           itu
     O = accepted-by                  anumio
     P = Mary                         Mary

    POP: John doneo itu. Itu bin haribu. Itu anumio Mary.
         John doneo itu bin haribu. Itu anumio Mary.
         John doneo itu bin haribu, anumio Mary.
         John doneo bin haribu, anumio Mary.
         John gives an-instance-of book, accepted-by Mary.