Cowboy Bebop

In Lingua Franca Nova.

Here are the first couple of pages (with dialogue) of a scanlation of Cowboy Bebop translated into Lingua Franca Nova. I’ve had to think of ways of working round some words and phrases. (The manga is Japanese style, which generally means you have to read the panels right to left and downwards.)

Cowboy Bebop in Lingua Franca Nova. Page 1 Cowboy Bebop in Lingua Franca Nova. Page 2
Page 1
  1. I’ve taken the liberty of allowing clitic climbing in tu me pote oi? “Can you hear me?”.
  2. I’ve translated “Let’s do it” as Nos fa esta, modelled loosely on Italian andiamo “Let’s go”.
  3. I assume that Me es fante… “I’m doing it…” is acceptable for an action in progress.
  4. Fa ja esta! “(I have) done it!” should perhaps be Es fada! “(It) is done!” Also, finida “finished” might be a better choice.
  5. No oblida trae per me alga presentas “Don’t forget to bring me some presents” really ought to be No oblida trae alga presentas per me.

Page 2

  1. Plenida is used to mean “crowded”.
  2. Tu ia vole protesta comparti un table? is meant to translate “Would you mind sharing a table?”, but you might say something like El ia vole desplase a tu comparti un table?
  3. The waiter says “Enjoy”, but LFN lacks this word, hence the circumlocution.
  4. Spike says, “Damn! I’m outta luck!”, which I’ve had to translate as “Damn! My fortune is bad!”

One thing always leads to another

I think, therefore I muse. 

While I was stumbling around this morning, I happened on a proxy site called ibypass which is much faster than anonymouse. I tried getting onto Omniglot (via a proxy; direct link) through ibypass from where I found my way to Lingua Franca Nova, a Romance-style conlang. A Dutch cartoonist, Henk Kuijpers even wrote a cartoon, La vola de Atlantis (The Flight of Atlantis), in Lingua Franca Nova back in 1992. [05.09.13. I think ibypass did not last long, and anonymouse was also killed off. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if not a single online proxy is accessible from China.] 

The language most closely resembles Spanish. It’s probably pretty easy for speakers of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian to understand without too much effort, and even I can piece a reasonable amount of it together without resorting to the online dictionary. 

I know that there are quite a few Romance-style conlangs out there. I guess they’re popular because there’s a ready source of vocabulary (Latin) and plenty of natural languages on which to model a Rom-con. I’ve done it myself a few times, but it’s always been informal experimentation. But I got thinking about the characteristics of the Romance languages. If you wanted to create a Rom-con, what sort of features would it have?

  1. Phonology
    • Simplification of diphthongs and long vowels.
    • Development of secondary diphthongs.
    • Palatalisation/affrication/assibilation of /(s)k/, /g/, /l/, /n/.
    • Loss of final consonants or syllables.
    • Intervocalic lenition (or lenition between voiced segments).
    • Cluster simplification.
    • Penultimate stress (unmarked); some antepenultimate and final (marked).
  2. Morphology
    • Nouns and adjectives
      1. Loss of the neuter.
      2. Masc. in -o/-u or ø; fem. in -a/-e.
      3. Plural in -s.
      4. Synthetic comparative and superlative mostly lost.
    • Adverbs
      1. Formation of adverbs in –ment(e).
    • Verbs
      1. Retention of personal endings.
      2. Three conjugations – a, i, e.
      3. A core of common irregular verbs.
      4. Development of periphrastic tenses using habere, esse; sometimes stare, uadere.
      5. Extension of reflexives.
      6. A split between esse “to be” and stare “to exist; be located”.
      7. Modal verb of necessity from debere.
    • Pronouns and specifiers
      1. Conjunctive and disjunctive personal pronouns.
      2. Adverbial pronouns. (en/y; ci/ne)
      3. Definite articles from old demonstratives (sg il/el [m]; la [f]; pl. los [m], las [f]).
      4. Indefinite article from unus (un(o) [m]; una/une [f])
      5. Three-way demonstrative split: here (near me); there (near you); there (over there).
      6. Indefinite from aliquis + unus.
      7. Definite article + possessive.
    • Prepositions
      1. Possessive/partitive/adjectival de.
      2. Widespread use of ad.
      3. Development of phrasal prepositions.
    • Conjunctions
      1. Development of phrasal conjunctions using quem and quae (che/que).
  3. Syntax
    • SVO constituent order, but some variation.
    • Clitic pronouns.
    • Pro-drop in some Romance languages.
    • Use of the reflexive as equivalent to the passive.
    • A split between sapere “to know (fact)” and cognoscere “to know (person)”.
    • Noun + adjective; but some instances of adj + noun with a change of meaning to the adjective.
    • Comparative and superlative formed with the adverbs magis and plus.
    • The comparative takes complements in de + NP or che/que + clause.
    • Split negatives: neg + verb + particle.
    • PPs functioning as the equivalent of single adverbs.
    • Verbs taking preposition + infinitive complements.

These are mostly things I thought of off the top of my head. Some of them, such as the three-way demonstrative split, may be limited to only one or two Romance languages (in this case, Sicilian chistu “this here”, chissu “that there (beside you)” and chiddu “that (over there)”). I’m sure there are one or two other features I’ve overlooked. (I’ll think of them the moment I post this.)

School’s out

For the New Year.

Senior 3 managed to strike again this morning, which resulted in a minor event becoming what will probably be a camel’s back breaking straw.

The headmaster surrounded by his concubines. Linda is on the left. Just one class today and then a concert this afternoon. Or staff deafening time. The volume of the PA system was off the dial and a definite threat to hearing. By the time I got outside to get ready for our performance, my ears felt like they had a little cotton wool stuffed inside them. As for our offering, it was suitably pathetic. We still need that Christmas riot to put a stop the school from requesting us to participate in these events.

I don’t mind going along as a spectator, but I don’t come from a neo-post-agrarian society replete with a catalogue of peasant and ethnic songs, dances and costumes. We do not, under any circumstances, mention Morris dancing, or any other crap that is for the amusement of tourists or enthusiasts.

The Beach

Maybe I’ll reach it.

I’ve just finished watching The Beach. Never saw it when it came out, but I vaguely recall the hype at the time and all the excitable hacks digging up the real/eerie true-life parallel story behind it. The story ends up being a bit mushy and directionless.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m bothering to mention this. The blurb on DVDs covers in China is often entertaining. Sometimes the pirates print a negative review and will highlight especially damning criticisms in large type, which is more useful than it sounds. That way you know you’re dealing with honest people because they’re not trying to perfume a pile of crap. The film’s complete shite and the marketing people aren’t afraid to tell you.

On the back of The Beach we have the anticipatory

“Local Quote
To Be Placed Here!”
-Local Critic, Local Publication

I note that an exclamation mark for the quote comes pre-installed. It’s easy to overlook such little details.

Scarves and bats

And a phone call.
The school took us out to dinner last night to the restaurant we were taken to at the start of term except on this occasion, Linda and Brian were there, the former not having been invited that time; the latter not yet having arrived in China. We were each given a scarf. Mine’s half blue and half grey, and now brings my collection of scarves to four.
But just before we started eating, I got a phone call from Central Command. It seems that Senior 3 is on the boil again, although the heat is coming from a different direction. It’s not clear what’s going on exactly, but 蛇夫人 has suddenly changed her tune.
After dinner, we headed round to Quincy’s and then mae our way to Tianfu Square where, according to Brian, there was meant to be some mock battle with inflatable bats and hammers at about 10pm. There were a lot of police around, which signified that something was going to be happening, but apart from the usual crowds of people milling about in the square, there was nothing much else happening. As we left, a group of about eight policemen were heading towards the square and we also saw some people with inflatable hammers approaching. I wondered whether the time of the event had been changed to midnight. Even if a group of people had assembled for this, I’m not sure the police would’ve let them start batting each other. Usual paranoia about mass incidents (as they coyly call them).
It is, of course, a dull grey day here in Chengdu.
Merry Christmas!
Later. It got duller and greyer. By the time I went out late this afternoon, it’d started drizzling and by the time I headed back home, it’d got worse. Bloody awful climate.

It’s cleaner than the original

Isometric Hong Kong.
Via A Welsh View, this site with an isometric view of Hong Kong. The view is looking eastwards so that if you want to make your way to the harbour, you need to head right. The level of detail is incredible. I can’t work out whether you can rotate the map or not. It’s a bit of a nuisance if you can’t because the buildings obscure quite a lot of the streets. There’s an English language option (英语) in the top right corner of the screen.
Actually, some poking around uncovered a similar map of Chengdu. It seems a little imaginative in places. For example, the school bears scant resemblance to the school I know, and on this map, I appear not to have a home. There’s some park on Lihua Jie which I’ve never seen and a couple of streets between it and Xin Guanghua Jie which definitely aren’t there. An interesting piece of fiction. The initial view is Tianfu Square (the centre of Chengdu) looking from the south-east.

The Tobler-Mussafia Law

Watch where you’re sticking those clitics.

Further research on pronouns in the Romance languages led me to the Tobler-Mussafia Law which was formulated during the great age of sound laws (in­de­pend­ently, it’d seem, and just over ten years apart [1875 and 1886] by these two gentlemen). It says that “in Medieval Romance languages object clitics appear postverbally only when being preverbal would place them in clause initial position.” I was curious to see whether this observation might hold for the behaviour of dO pronouns in Galician and Portuguese; but in spite differences with the other Rom­ance languages,[1] they still behave differently again. 

Hirschbühler (2001:2) outlines the history of clitic pronouns in French.

Stage 1. Clitics are excluded from the initial position of the minimal clause in all types of clauses. (Strict Tobler-Mussafia stage)
Stage 2. Clitics are allowed in preverbal position when the minimal clause is introduced by a conjunction of coordination like et.
Stage 3. Clitics are allowed in absolute initial position in all clauses except imperatives.
Stage 4. Clitics are excluded from preverbal position in positive imperative clauses only, even when the verb is non-initial.

At Stage 1, it appears that pronouns can be proclitic provided they aren’t clause initial. Hirschbühler (2001:2,3) cites some examples of imperative, declarative and interrogative sentences from Old French which illustrate that the grammar of all these types was identical.

a. Preverbal
Un vaissel nuvel me portéz é sél m’i metéz. (QLR:176,20 in Kok:78)
‘Bring me a new dish and put salt in it for me.’
b. Post-verbal
Pursiu les, senz dute les prendras, sis ociras.’ (QLR:58,8 in Kok:84)
‘Chase them, without doubt you will catch them, and kill them.’
a. Preverbal
Allez en est en un verger suz l’umbre. (Roland:11)
‘He went into a garden, into the shade.’
b. Post-verbal
Li duze per, pur ço qu’il l’aiment tant, / Desfi les ci, sire, vostre veiant. (Roland:325-6)
‘The twelve Peers, because they love him so/ I hereby defy them, sire, in your presence.’
a. Preverbal
Sire, (…) ensi vous avint il? (Merlin II 46 in Skårup:161)
‘Sire, (…) did it happen to you so?’
b. Post-verbal
Plaist te, Sire, que jó en alge á une des citez de Juda? (QLR 62,1 in Kok:83)
‘Would it please you, sire, if I went to one of the cities of Juda?’

Another way of describing this is to say that the pronoun ends up in the second position (or “is the second element”) in the clause.[2] In all the examples, the pronoun is always second to some other phrase. Co-ordinating conjunctions (é “and”), on the other hand, have no effect on this phenomenon.

Pur có, receif cest present de ta ancele é dune le á ces cumpainguns…
‘For this, receive this present from your servant and give it to these people’ (QLR, in D&K:332)

And although a dO pronoun may be enclitic to a subject pronoun, a parenthetic element splits them, hence jol… “I-him…”, but jole… “I… him…” as in

Jo, qui voldreie parler a tei, le receverái. (Kok: 173)
‘I, who would like to talk to you, will receive him’

I’m not sure I’d say that the relative clause is parenthetic or that there’s anything unusual happening here. The clause is dependent on jo, not le, hence *Jol, qui voldreie parler a tei, receverái would be ungrammatical.[3,4] 

But Galician doesn’t even raise the pronoun to the second position in declarative clauses, even when it would safely be non-initial in the clause.

Túa irmá tróuxovos un regalo. “Your sister brought you a present.”

I don’t know whether the writing the verb and the pronoun as a single word is mere convention or reflects some sort of linguistic reality. We could equally and legitimately do the same with unstressed dO pronouns in English. Consider the following sentence where “her” in spoken English is reduced to shwa.

"Her" is reduced to shwa

In other words, the convention in English might be to write “I lefter” (= I left her) and “I leftim” (=I left him); but it isn’t.

Galves (2001) says that Classical Portuguese (16th-19th century) still had V2 and V1-enclisis. Examples of the latter (Galves 2001:2) are given below.

veedeo-lhe hua terra de pão com terra de mato (16th c.)
(he) sold-to-him a land of bread with land of forest
Levanta-se este assunto sobre toda a esfera da capacidade humana (17th c.)
raises-SE this topic about all the sphere of human capacity
Obrigão-me os médicos a tomar vinho quinado em jejum (18th c.)
oblige-me the doctors to take wine with quina on an empty stomach
Trouxe- me grande tranquilidade a tua carta (19th c.)
brought-me great quietness your letter

This is a long standing feature of Portuguese.

Curiously, a distinction is made between types of subjects. If the subject is an indefinite pronoun, the object pronoun is raised in front of the verb; but if the subject is specific, then the pronoun follows the verb.

Alguém me viu “Someone saw me”
O Paulo viu-me “Paul saw me”

But according to Galves, O Paulo me viu was the preferred construction in Classical Portuguese.

Galves (2003) raises an issue I hinted at above. Although Portuguese partially obeys the Tobler-Mussafia Law, sentences like Túa irmá tróuxovos un regalo or O Paulo falou-me “Paul spoke to me” don’t. Or if they do, additional mechanisms are required to explain this variation. Classical Portuguese itself only obeys the law when the verb is absolutely initial. Otherwise, pronouns may be enclitic or proclitic, usually the latter.

As outras prophecias cumprem-se a seu tempo (17th c.)
the other prophecies achieve-SE (“are achieved”) in their time
Estes thesouros, pois, que agora estão cerrados, se abrirão a seu tempo (17th c.)
these treasures, therefore, that now are closed, SE-will-open (“will be opened”) in its time

The situation is very OT-like, where V1-enclisis » V2 in a relationship that recalls Panini’s Theorem of particular constraints being ranked above general ones.

I shall leave you to do further research on the syntactic analyses of this phenomenon, since they are beyond my limited comprehension. It seems, though, that the analysis of clitics in the Romance languages is still a matter of debate.


1. Though let it not be forgotten that my knowledge of these languages is somewhat slight. There may be more variety among the other Romance languages than I’m aware of.

2. Don’t confuse “position” or “element” with “word” here. I’m talking about phrases.

3. I haven’t been able to determine whether voldreie violates S-V agreement when le is the antecedent. From what I can find, it seems that the form may be invariable. Bauer and Slocum are wanting when it comes to discussing the conditional. [24.12.07 If voldreie is a variation of voldroie, then the 3rd sg would presumably be voldroit.]

4. If the sentence was meant to mean “I will receive him who would like to talk to you”, how would that be expressed in Old French? I lack the resources and knowledge to be able to answer this question, but the options appear to be “Jo le, qui etc.”, which strikes me as unlikely if jo+le > jol; or “Receverái le, qui etc.”, which satisfies the second position pattern. Old French was a pro-drop language, hence this would be possible.

Bauer, Brigitte L.M. and Jonathan Slocum. Old French Online. Series Introduction. The University of Texas at Austin.
Galves, Charlotte (2001). Agreement, Predication, and Pronouns in the History of Portuguese. MS. Unicamp, Brésil. (cgalves_2001.pdf)
Galves, Charlotte (2003). Clitic-placement in the History of Portuguese and the Syntax-Phonology Interface. MS. State University of Campinas. (cgalves_2003a.pdf)
Hirschbühler, Paul (2001). Clitic placement in imperatives: from Old French to Contemporary French. MS. University of Ottawa. (DIGS.pdf)

Papal bull

Messages from the Apostolic See.

What a bodhisattva the Pope is. From what I read on the IMDb, he’s still continuing to do the studio’s work, promoting The Golden Compass without thought of any financial recompense. Such selflessness.

[16.10.13. Probably because of the old pope’s outburst, the film made more money than it deserved. It was, in truth, a fairly dire addition to cinematic history. The old pope was also a dire addition to papal history.]

I don't understand No. 30

Queen breaks record

I’m 81, you know.
The news is that HM the Q (fidei defensor[1]) now holds the record for being the longest lived British monarch. A Welsh View says she’s the oldest British monarch which, technically speaking, is true, and will be true throughout the reign of any king or queen because there’s usually only one at any one time. About the only exception to that I can think of is William and Mary, unless you want to count Stephen and Maud.
David Starkey has screwed his chance of a knighthood or an invite to a royal garden party. (Queen is poorly educated and philistine, says Starkey) My sister’s been to a royal garden party. Got chosen in an office lottery a couple of years ago.
"And what do you do, peasant?" asked the Queen looking around for her next gin.
"I’m a lawyer," my sister said.
"A lawyer, eh? Well, I won’t shake your hand otherwise I should have to start counting my fingers." She held out her hand to check they were all there. One… two… three… four… six… All present and correct, right where she had left them. "Oi, waiter!" The Queen had spotted Phil the Greek doddering nearby. "Where’s my f_cking drink?"
1. Latin for Buckingham Palace – so I’m told.

A little different from expected

Object pronouns in Galician.
If you asked me for some characteristic feature of the Romance languages, I might say proclitic object pronouns in declarative sentences. Instead of the pronouns following the verb as they do in English, they precede it (e.g. French je t’aime "I love you"; Italian mi conoscono bene "They know me well"; Catalan T’estimo "I love you"). They follow the verb in imperative (e.g. Italian scusatemi "Excuse me"; Sicilian ripetilu "Repeat it"; Catalan creieu-me "Believe me"), the infinitive (e.g. Italian vederlo "to see it"; Sicilian purtarli "to carry them"; Catalan volen comprar-nos un pis "They want to buy a flat from us") and other non-finite forms such as the past participle and the gerund.
But Galician, I find, does things a little differently. In declarative and interrogative sentences, object pronouns are enclitic, but in negative sentences and subordinate clauses, they’re proclitic.
Levoute de paseo "He took you for a walk."
Túa irmá tróuxovos un regalo "Your sister bought you a present"
Déronlle o caderno? "Did they give him the notebook?"
Negative and subordinate
A vendedora non me devolveu os cartos. "The saleswoman did not give me the money back."
Alberte dixo que lle levases un vaso de auga. "Alberte said that you should bring take him a glass of water."
Ogallá lle dean un premio. "I wish they would give him a prize."
Does Galician maintain an earlier form of Romance syntax, or has it innovated? From a little further research, I find that Portuguese (unsurprisingly) does pretty much the same. From some fairly superficial reading (well, vague glancing), it seems that this whole business is connected with the (in)famous V2 phenomenon which is certainly a feature of the Germanic languages (although English mostly opted out of that).[1]
Of course, since I’m neither a syntactician nor a scholar of the Romance languages, I can only make a note of the information but say little that’s insightful or intelligent about it.
1. I know that V2 is found in other languages in other language families (e.g. Afro-Asiatic), but it does seem to be an areal feature of Western Europe regardless of the languages in that region belonging to different sub-families of Indo-European.
The central Asian Sprachbund is probably a similar but more extreme version of such a phenomenon. I once met an Italian scholar who suggested that it might be difficult to tell which language really belonged to what family because of so many shared areal features among them.