Today I started working on the next step in the FMSS project, after the preliminary word-roots, grammatical morphology. It is amazing how much more I get done during class than outside of it.
As expected, a bit hurdle is the accusative. The concept is hard to image as a picture, except as something doing something to something, and it is such a general concept that using any specific picture would lead the the problem of over-specification: a picture of a man hitting a dog doesn’t exactly scream “accusative”, it screams “a man hitting a dog”. Earlier, I used these kinds of representations, true, and I probably should do so again, but “negative verb” from “fish can’t fly” is slightly, slightly, less abstract. There is also the problem of the nature of the Finnish accusative, which is not only contrasted with the nominative case, but also the partitive case. Finnish has, simplifying here, two basic cases that refer to objects: the accusative and partitive, which differ in their meaning of how much is done. The accusative is when something is done ‘completely’: the whole burger was eaten, the whole book was read, the man hit the other man so hard the other man lost. The partitive refers to incomplete doing: the burger was being eaten, or was only partly eaten, the book is being read, and the man was simply hitting the other guy. Another way to classify this difference is to analyse them as the aspectual markers of Finnish; accusative would then be telic, and partitive atelic doing.
Then, Nae, why didn’t you have this much problem with the partitive? Simple, my dear reader. I cheated.
The glyph PARTITIVE in the FMSS script doesn’t actually refer to what we think of the partitive today, no. It is a symbol for the suffix -tA, which is used, in *modern* Finnish, as a partitive. But this wasn’t always so.
In proto-Uralic (or so), the -tA suffix was a locative suffix, indicating movement away from somewhere, equivalent to meaning to modern Finnish elative and allative. This is what the glyph stands for, and it is so simple it makes me shave my head and move to Ulan Bataar, where I can contemplate the Universe without the distractions of civilisation: a simple arrow jumping out of a box.
Naturally, you may ask whether an arrow is an appropriate symbol to use, is it completely universal in nature? Well, you might, if you’re me. But you probably wouldn’t. But, as you aren’t me, and I amn’t you, I did ask this question. From myself. Anyhow, the point was whether the concept of the arrow-symbols, ubiquitous to us, is truly universal. I think the evidence points to “yes” for a number of reasons. The most basic one is the human mannerism of pointing at things, specifically with your hands. This must be, must be!, a universal tendency, possibly even shared with other primates. I am sure there are equivalent methods used by other animals, but with humans, it’s the arm and hand, probably the fingers, too. The concept of an arrow is also very wide-spread, as is the spear, but ultimately, arrow-symbols are abstractions of hands pointing at things. In western typography not that long ago, the pointing hand was used a lot, but has been mostly replaced by arrows today.
In the FMSS, I decided to use an abstract pointing arm, a single pointing digit, as the ‘arrow’ symbol. It’s basically a long cross, a line with a cross-bar at one end. A problem with it is that there can sometimes be confusion on short lines which side is which (which is not a problem with arrows, and other symbols that are clearly defined by being at the end of the line, instead of on it), but that sort of ambiguity is not unnatural in of itself. The PARTITIVE glyph mentioned earlier, an arrow-line coming from a box, looks like a cros rising from a three-sided box—which is then simplified in the classical script into a cross and round L-shape below it.
Other glyphs made were the -nA glyph, the Finnish essive which was derived from the PU locative *-na, and the plural. Tune in next time when I’ll be talking about the locative cases, and their etymological history as combined suffixes.