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19 July, 2012

Strongly-integrated loan verbs and weak-final quadriconsonantal roots

Splitting quadriliteral verbs into strong and weak is not universal in the literature. At least Borg and Azzopardi-Alexander make no mention of this, however their treatment of quad verbs feels a little lacking to me. But they do make the following distinctions:

  1. Repeated bi-radical base, e.g. GEMGEM (G-M-G-M)
  2. Repeated third radical (C3), e.g. GERBEB (G-R-B-B)
  3. Repeated first radical (C1) after the second (C2), e.g. ŻERŻAQ (Ż-R-Ż-Q)
  4. Addition of a fourth radical to a triradical base, e.g. ĦARBAT (Ħ-R-B-T)

They make no reference to weak radicals in quad verbs. They then go on to discuss “strongly-integrated loan verbs”, i.e. verbs of Romance or even possibly English origin which have taken on completely regular Semitic-style morphology. The examples given are KANTA, VINĊA, and SERVA, which correspond to the 3 different verb endings in Italian (cantare, vincere, and servire respectively).

Spagnol agrees with this, but goes farther and actually classifies these verbs as quadriliteral verbs with the weak consonant J as the fourth radical. Here’s a table of some of the most common ones, including ones for which I could find no Romance origin word.

English Romance origin Għerq (Root) Mamma (Perf P3 Sg Masc) Imperative P2 Sg Perfect P1 Sg Perfect P3 Sg Fem
to sing cantare K-N-T-J kanta kanta kantajt kantat
to serve servire S-R-V-J serva servi servejt serviet
to win vincere V-N-Ċ-J vinċa vinċi vinċejt vinċiet
to ask - S-Q-S-J saqsa saqsi saqsejt saqsiet
to draw - P-N-Ġ-J pinġa pinġi pinġejt pinġiet
to enjoy godere G-W-D-J gawda gawdi gawdejt gawdiet
to talk parlare P-R-L-J parla parla parlajt parlat
to complete - L-S-T-J lesta lesti lestejt lestiet
to vary variare V-R-J-J varja varja varjajt varjat

Looking at the vowel patterns, we end up with a very neat division:

Romance ending Mamma (Perf P3 Sg Masc) Imperative P2 Sg Perfect P1 Sg Perfect P3 Sg Fem
-are a a a a
-ire/-ere/- a i e ie

In other words, the vowel patterns are always the same, except for when the verb derives from a Romance -are verb.

16 July, 2012

Vowel-change patterns in the Maltese “hollow” verb (moħfi)

The behaviour of consonant radicals in Maltese morphology is always predictable, but vowel changes are a lot less so. Consider this list of Maltese “hollow verbs”: that is, where the middle root is the weak consonant w or j (of course there are many more hollow verbs than the ones listed here, but I chose the ones which to me are most “common”).

English Mamma (Perf P3 Sg Masc) Għerq (Root) Perfect P1 Sg Imperative P2 Sg
to urinate biel B-W-L bilt bul
to kiss bies B-W-S bist bus
to take long dam D-W-M domt dum
to turn dar D-W-R dort dur
to taste daq D-W-Q doqt duq
to melt dab D-W-B dobt dub
to heal fieq F-J-Q fiqt fiq
to overflow far F-W-R fort fur
to bring ġab Ġ-J-B ġibt ġib
to sew ħiet Ħ-J-T ħitt ħit
to die miet M-W-T mitt mut
to wake up qam Q-W-M qomt qum
to want ried R-J-A ridt rid
to find sab S-J-B sibt sib
to become ready sar S-J-R sirt sir
to fast sam S-W-M somt sum
to drive saq S-W-Q soqt suq
to fly tar T-J-R tirt tir
to increase żied Ż-J-D żidt żid

The following vowel-change patterns emerge:

Long vowel in base form Middle radical Vowel in Perfect Vowel in Imperative/Imperfect Applicable verbs
a W o u dab, dam, dar, daq, far, qam, sam, saq
a J i i ġab, sab, sib, tar
ie J i i fieq, ħiet, ried, żied
ie J i u biel, bies
ie W i u miet

Conclusions from this minor study:

  1. The long vowel in the base form (mamma) does not necessarily determine the middle radical.
  2. Even the base form combined with the root is not enough to determine the vowel changes in the the perfect and imperative forms, as in the cases of fieq and biel. In such cases the imperative must be specified explicitly.

13 July, 2012

More detail than required

Research / , , / 12:04 pm

I consider it a design principle, in the Maltese resource grammar for GF, to choose linguistic correctness over representational efficiency. I think at many points I will be confronted with the possibility to combine certain linguistic subdivisions together, or completely leave out bits of linguistic information, as they would be non-required by the GF RGL API or simply making things more complicated internally. But if I want this project to be a valuable contribution to the body of computational resources for Maltese (ad not just to GF), then I need to include more than just “what is necessary”. This also goes well with the vision of being to extract linguistic information out of the resource grammar and use it elsewhere.

6 July, 2012

Partial tables

Research / / 1:48 pm

Though still in the early stages of the Maltese grammar, my feeling is that it is a language characterised by many partially-filled inflection tables. For example, my understanding so far is that there are 5 distinct number forms for nouns:

  1. Singulative (1 or more than 10)
  2. Collective (non quantifiable)
  3. Dual (exactly 2)
  4. Indeterminate plural (between 2 and 10)
  5. Determinate plural (non quantifiable)

My observations so far seem to indicate that a noun can have almost any combination of the above forms. In other words, when it comes to quantifying a noun to form a noun phrase, for example, one has to basically check which forms are available and then proceed accordingly. These following examples indicate, for me, this apparent lack of regularity in which forms can co-exist within any given noun:

English Singulative Collective Dual Determinate plural Indeterminate plural
leg riġel riġlejn
knee rkoppa rkopptejn rkoppiet
tooth sinna sinniet snien
tree siġra siġar siġriet
stone ġebla ġebel ġebliet ġbiel
leaf werqa weraq werqtejn werqiet

and so on.

This seems to also be the case when it comes to pronominal suffixes. Most nouns referring to body parts or “innate” things take such suffixes, but in many cases these tables seem incomplete, or only valid for certain number forms:

English Singular (+ P3 Sg Masc) Plural (+P3 Pl)
wife mara martu nisa – (in-nisa tagħhom)
tooth sinna – (is-sinna tiegħu) snien snienhom
face wiċċ wiċċu uċuħ uċuħhom

28 June, 2012

First [research blog] post!

Research / 9:18 am

As I am about to begin my M.Sc. studies and once again take up the work of building a computational grammar for Maltese, I think it’s a good time to set up this so-called “research blog”. This is really nothing more than a new category in my old blog site, but the idea is that I will post here all observations, difficulties, milestones and open questions which I am bound to come across during my work. This in other words shall become my research log book, which presumably will be of some use some day in the future when I am writing my thesis and need to look back to try and remember what it is I actually did during all those months. This whole exercise is essentially for my own personal purposes, but I’m not against helpful comments if you happen to have any 🙂

Warning: Since this will very much be a work-in-progress type of blog, I expect my initial observations will often be unresearched and potentially incorrect, and as such nothing written in this blog should be taken as established fact.

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