So for context, I am occasionally working on a sort of conlang, and asked this question just recently: How to create words which will be unambiguously parsable in a conlang? In there I run into the problem where I have
navofodoroda mean either
na-vofodo-roda, as we defined words/meanings for all those "parts". The problem is, when you write it without all that extra whitespace/metadata (of the dashes), you have
navofodoroda and you can't tell which one you are using. So that got me to that question, how do you resolve the problem where I have many words in a lexicon, and then it turns out that I run into this sort of conflict way down the road...
That leads me to this question here. How do natural languages like English or Spanish (or any other) deal with creating words so they don't run into this ambiguity problem?
For example, in English we have the word
nineveh but I know that that first part isn't
nine for some reason. But even so, this word is unique as far as I can tell (I can't think of many counterexamples), so it's not like nineveh has two distinct meanings. I know English has some words with multiple distinct meanings ("tear", for example), but you can tell based on context what it is. But in what other ways do languages work their magic so they don't run into these sort of conflicts? Do they somehow limit the possibility/scope of possible words, so as to prevent these conflicts? If so, how do they do this? (It seems to me like you'd have to study/know every single word in the lexicon to do it appropriately, which makes it seem extremely hard and brittle). Please show how some natural language or a few natural languages deal with this problem.
The only way I can see solving this problem is to have -- like programming -- special "keywords", which are reserved and you can't use any of the related sound patterns of those words. Then that way you can prevent this ambiguity. But that seems nebulous and hard to pinpoint down to me, I don't even know if it's possible. So in my case,
na- is the special prefix, so basically no words other than
not can contain at all the affix
na. But that seems highly limiting, that would mean
na is only used like once in the language? That doesn't seem to be realistic / make sense. I don't know tho, how other languages handle this.