Real Language Examples I: Comparison

January 8th, 2020
I have over the years read a lot of descriptions about linguistic structures. Seldom do conlangers ever even approach the level of intricacies that natural languages do, and there are of course natural reasons for this – a population of a million, or even just a few dozen will be exposed to more different real situations than a single conlanger will, and thus need to communicate more things.

Over decades or centuries, this may lead to established patterns that slowly shift around.


Anyways, looking at a few of these at some level of detail - and also discuss mistaken "models" for how they work - may be of interest. I figure I'd start out with two very similar words - Swedish än and English than.

This is not meant as me taking sides (although I think the side I am on with regards to prescriptivism will be clear), it is me showing just how convoluted grammar can be.

1. Etymology
Both of these words, funnily enough, are closely related to temporal adverbs - than originates as a spelling variant of then, än can still be used to signify still, although some speakers may prefer ännu for that.

2. Are they prepositions?
Some speakers (especially in the case of Swedish) object to the idea that they are prepositions, citing a supposed predicate that should be possible to insert. Thus 'A is bigger than B' really is 'A is bigger than B is (big)'. No speakers, as far as I know, deny that this construction can be used, though, and one can also compare things with different adjectives: 'A is longer than B is tall'. Similar objections sometimes are voiced in English, and thus you may have heard 'it should be "taller than I"'. And of course, case should follow concord in that case: "it made me taller than him", in case it made both of us grow taller. In this model, they are exclusively conjunctions.*

However ...

3. Are they subjunctions?
In both English and Swedish, they behave syntactically in ways that don't really fit subjunctions, but does line up with prepositions - and the pro-conjunction gang generally do not object to these behaviors, and sometimes even demand them. This requires some introduction.

3.1 English 'whom', but also preposition stranding
Some prescriptivist English authorities who otherwise prefer the subjunction model, demand 'than whom'. This despite it breaking their subjunction model. Also, the syntax of 'than whom' is decidedly unsubjunctionlike! Consider if "I am bigger than you" is really short for "I am bigger than you are", then "Than whom are you older" should be long for "Than whom is are you older". This seems to be a badly formed sentence even with the nominative who: "Than who is are you older" is just as bad English as the parallel construction is bad Swedish.

It gets even weirder to pretend the subjunctive model has any relevance when you hit it with stranding: "who are you older than (*is/?he is)?". And relative clauses would have a relative pronoun referring to a noun outside of the scope of a subclause!

The man than who(m) I am taller -> the man than who is (tall) whom I am taller  ... but "who(m)" refers to "man", which is not even in the same scope - "who" should now be inside the scope of "than". This is like having something like 'the man said that who came here yesterday he is sick' where 'who' in 'who came here yesterday' refers to 'the man'.

There are also other transformations that usually can hit prepositions, but can't hit subclauses that than can take. (This also holds for Swedish.) Swedish even more agressively strands prepositions than English does, and 'than' definitely can be hit by preposition stranding for most speakers of Swedish. No subjunction stranding exists. Also, subclauses have more restrictions on them during clefting than do prepositions, and 'än' seems to be able to fill both of those roles for most speakers.

3.2 Swedish reflexive possessive pronouns

A relevant piece of evidence in the case of Swedish is its reflexive possessive pronouns. Unlike western Germanic languages, the north Germanic languages kept a distinct reflexive possessive pronoun. This is used (mostly) when a third person subject is the possessor of some other noun in the clause. I will use the invented pronoun sy and syne for these in examples:
Manneni kör sini bil
The mani is driving syi car
Manneni kör hansj bil
The mani is driving hisj car

Jag fann mitt paket och hani fann sitti
I found my package and hei found synei
So, this gets relevant due to a few reasons. All Swedish-speakers have these in their vocabulary, but in southern Sweden, due to the Danish influence/substrate/superstrate(!?) many speakers will use the regular third person pronouns anyway. Immigrants also tend to do so, or in the case of Slavic immigrants use them in all persons. So, correct use of these has become a shibboleth. Native speakers of northern varieties usually have no problems.

However, edge cases exist, and comparison is one of them. So, two observations: än, by one of the models introduces a subclause. For nearly all  speakers, sin cannot ever be the attribute of a subject.

However, speakers who long back to the day when everyone spoke proper Swedish and knew when to use the reflexives right tend to get infuriated whenever anyone says 'than his X' rather than 'than sy X'. Even when 'sy X' is the subject. And you ask them whether they can accept 'than sy X is' and they say no, and wonder why you even ask something silly like that**, and they often fail to grasp that they're being inconsistent.

So... the same person often will demand that when comparing subjects, subject forms be used, but when comparing with reflexive possessors involved, the only way of getting a permissible subject in there is strictly forbidden.

3.3 What is the expected verb phrase?

The idea that than/än always serve to introduce subclauses further runs into problems with things like this little 'story': Alice is short, but Bob is tall. Alice concocts a potion that makes her taller than Bob. Is Alice now supposed to say
"this potion made me taller than him"
or
"this potion made me taller than he"?
In the subclause model presented by Svenska Akademiens Grammatik, the actual subclause model copies the entire main clause into the subclause, substituting only whichever constituent(s?) is provided after 'än'. Thus, we are left with two optional interpretations:
'this potion made me taller than it made him'
or
'this potion made me taller than he made me'
In fact, Svenska Akademiens Grammatik only permits for using the nominative on the comparand after 'än' if the compared noun in the main clause is the subject. However, teachers who never learned how this is supposed to work think the implicit verb is 'är' or 'gör' (is or does), and so think "proper grammar" prescribes 'he' and thus 'taller than he (is)', which by the rules in SAG clearly is not the case.

3.4 Swedish reflexive Verbs

Some verbs in Swedish are innately reflexive, or require reflexive marking when English would not: "I am washing up" would come out as 'I wash myself'. NB: in Swedish, reflexives do not require the suffix själv (cognate of self), but can take it. Reflexive pronouns are not formed using genitives, but accusatives, so essentially "me(self)", not myself.

So, which one are we to pick:
I wash me more often than he?
I wash me more often than him?
Both should, according to SAG, lead to weird meanings:
I wash me more often than he (washes me)
I wash me more often than (I wash) him

When asking a group of grammar nazis***, ** only a few out of about thirty responses even spotted the problem. Most called for 'he', rather than 'him', due to 'I wash me more often than he does'. This doesn't even, imho, really justify or specify anything. Than he does what? Wash me?

The standard reference work for Swedish grammar states about elliptical clauses with 'än' that they need to copy the entire main clause except the one constituent that follows 'än', be that the verb, subject, object, some adverbial or some prepositional argument. Thus ... Svenska Akademiens Grammatik demands the interpretation I gave above. With regards to reflexives, it does not state (in that chapter) whether copying the main clause also adjusts reflexives, but other chapters that deal with coordination and with reflexives imply that one cannot assume reflexives to remain reflexives over coordination except in the case of the explicitly reflexive 'sig' on both arguments, i.e. when there's only third persons involved.

In the group I asked, no one came up with any other solution than using the full verb phrase, or solutions that their own rules preclude. A few "liberals" that - much like me - accept än as a preposition also accepted 'than me' as the trivial solution, and that is a solution I can accept.

Now, I did provide my own conservative solution, that was accepted by most:
än han sig
than he himself

 I realize this also does violate some of the nitty-gritty of the Svenska Akademiens Grammatik's description of how subjunction-like elliptical än works. However, I am not entirely sure this is a subjunction!

I imagine this could be considered a rare example of a preposition that takes both a subject and an object, rather than a subjunction with ellipsis!

The fact that no one else came up with this idea seems to suggest to me that the subjunction-with-ellipse model is not genuinely present in people's mental grammar, and if it were, they'd faster have realized the problem with the reflexive verbs.

3.5 Impossible Verbs
In some constructions, there are no reasonable subclause to posit after than/än:
"Fewer than two people know this"
"No one other than you knew of it"
The main clause's verb phrase is 'know this'. What is the supposed subclause 'than' would introduce? 'Know this'?!?
*fewer than three people know this know this.
*No one other than you knew of it knew of it
*no one else than I/me was there
'Do'? 'Are?'
*fewer than three people are know this.
*no one other than you are knew of it
*no one else than I was (there) was there
I am aware some English speakers might prefer 'but' for some of these, but even there the question about potential subclause remains, as some speakers would prefer 'but I/he' over "but me/him". In Swedish, 'än' is probably predominant here, as 'utom' (but) requires some rephrasing, and even then doesn't really permit any actual subclause in these cases.
Superficially, 'do' might look okay, but if we switch to a different verb phrase, e.g. 'are running', we immediately find out what the issue is. The 'other than'-example is also immediately exposed due to a tense mismatch:
*fewer [than three people do] know this
*fewer than three people do are running
*no one other than you did knew of it
*no one else [than I did] was there

Swedish provides similar examples with 'more than' (fler/mer än), fewer than (färre än/mindre än), 'other than' (annan/annat/andra än)

Weirdly, even though I find no way of turning these nouns into subjects of VPs, I prefer the nominative here when using pronouns, as do most conservative speakers of Swedish.

4 Conclusion

I am not a big fan of prescriptivism****. However, in this case they've created some interesting issues!
  • They have provided inconsistent rulesets that are impossible for speakers to navigate. The only way to win is not to play.
  • They exist at tension with the usage in large parts of the speaker community.
  • Some prescriptivist-bent members of the speaker community have not properly understood the rules crafted by the authorities in the prescriptivist camp, and thus use home-crafted, different versions that may be superficially similar. These think they adhere to the strict rules, but fail to do so and create even more confusion.
  • 'Than'/'än' themselves by nature exist in a weird tension between the two word classes among almost all members of the speaker community.
  • The tension between different speakers' different mental models, the inconsistent ruleset and the strong beliefs about how it should be creates a fascinating grammatical situation, where also beliefs about the justifications for different case forms or different
I would be very happy to see even a single conlang contain a single type of construction or a single word with a similar depth of complexity to it.



* Swedish grammar traditionally cuts conjunctions in two: conjunctions and subjunctions, where subjunctions subordinate one of the sides, i.e. almost always particles that introduce subclauses.


** I've done my research on this in a Swedish "grammar police group" on facebook.

*** The Swedish term is less offensive.

**** Although I generally am mostly in favour of a descriptive approach to language, but also of maintaining a literary standard (that does not force itself into people's daily conversations or light writing and light reading too hard), this might seem as though I am criticizing the conservative prescriptive language authorities very strongly - often, their advice is inconsistent, makes unjustified assumptions, and at least in bygone days even was phrased in a very unjustifiably elitist way (if someone is as inconsistent as prescriptivists often are, they do not deserve the right to lambast others for inconsistencies or failures to spot patterns or whatever).

The Journey Into Conlanging & The Way Back Home

January 1st, 2020

Carl Avlund is a conlanger from Denmark. He graduated from Osted Friskole in 2017, Eriksminde Efterskole a year later, and is currently attending Gefion Gymnasium in Copenhagen, studying Ancient Greek and Latin. He expects to graduate in 2021 and plans to apply for University of Copenhagen afterwards in order to study linguistics. His conlanging can be summarized as a mixed focus between diachronic realism and phonological, morphological, and syntactic aesthetics. He primarily works on two related languages called Kotekkish and Pakan.

Abstract

In his short text, The Journey Into Conlanging & The Way Back Home, Carl Avlund tells the general story of how conlanging became a part of his life, one that many conlangers may recognize themselves in. Over the course of three pages, he details his initial fascination with language, how and why he began constructing languages, and where it has led him.

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The Witcher vs. Game of Thrones – och mannen som skapar all alviska

December 20th, 2019

Julens stora fantasyhändelse verkar häxkarlen Geralt från Rivia komma att stå för. Åtminstone hoppas Netflix det, för The Witcher är deras stora utmanare till HBO:s Game for Thrones. Producenterna pratar redan om att de planerar för sju säsonger innan första avsnittet ens har sänts. Och bakom kulisserna finner vi ingen annan än språktrollkarlen från Liftarens parlör till galaxen – allt du behöver veta om 121 språk som inte finns: David J. Peterson.

Producenternas förhoppning för serien grundar sig inte enbart på att snyggingen Henry Cavill har huvudrollen, utan också på att The Witcher är ett populärt och välkänt datorspel med en upparbetad fan-base. Spelet är i sin tur en slags fortsättning på de noveller och romaner om häxkarlen (ja, så kallas han på svenska!) som den polske författaren Andrzej Sapkowski ligger bakom. De första novellerna kom redan 1990 och efterhand kom det också fem romaner, ”Sagan om häxkarlen”, och riktig fart tog serien när dess värld förvandlades till dator- och rollspel.

En polsk Tolkien

Geralt från Rivia är alltså en häxkarl (witcher) som helt enkelt försörjer sig, i ett medeltida polskt parallelluniversum, med att avförtrolla människor och döda allehanda vidunder. Som en polsk Tolkien hämtar Andrzej Sapkowski inspiration i polsk och baltisk folktro, och det är en värld som inte bara befolkas av alver och dvärgar utan även av monster som mylingar, bysingar, vampyrer, vattennymfer, varulvar, landvättare, dyklor, gaffelsvansar, nattramnar och drakar. Gröna, svarta och röda drakar. Men drakar jagar häxkarlar inte. Om de kan undvika det …

Det är alltså ett koncept som passar novell- och serieformen väl. Geralt från Rivia kommer till en by som plågas av ett vidunder, kämpar och besegrar det och drar sedan vidare till nästa avsnitt. Tack vare att häxkarlen har hängt med sedan 1990-talet och varit huvudperson i tre datorspel så finns det en välkonstruerad värld, mytologi och historia att bygga tv-serien på. Och kanske även det viktigaste – språk!


Man kan inte klandra rollbesättningen – för att efterlikna TV-spelsversionen av karaktären krävs en käklinje som Cavills. 

De flesta i häxkarlens värld talar det allmänna språket, den världens lingua franca som representeras av engelska i tv-serien, men det finns även det gamla språket (Elder Speech) – det inomvärldsliga ”latinet”. Det gamla språket, Hen Llinge, är alviska och talas främst av alver och dryader. Alverna är de äldre invånarna i världen, men nuförtiden är de få och lever undanträngda i människornas tidsålder.

Men det gamla språket används också, som sig bör, av magiker och de lärda. Liksom latin har gett upphov till språk som italienska, franska, spanska etc. så har också det gamla språket gett upphov till språken/dialekterna de talar i Nilfgaard, Zerrikanien och på Skelligeöarna. Det finns alltså gott om tillfällen att använda Hen Llinge för den hugade. Andrzej Sapkowski tog sig an den utmaningen, till skillnad från Game of Thrones skapare George R. R. Martin. Även om dothrakiska och valyriska är två av de mest välkända, välkomponerade, hiitepåspråken i dag, så har George RR Martin haft väldigt lite med dem att göra. Martin erkände att han inte var någon Tolkien och hade svårt att själv konstruera språk, så i böckerna finns det väldigt lite av dothrakiska och valyriska – det var först med tv-serien Game of Thrones som språken fick liv på riktigt. Producenterna ordnade en språkaudition och David J. Peterson tog hem den och fick därefter i uppdrag att skapa de vackra språken. Vi återkommer till David J. Peterson om en stund.

Tolkiens arv

Andrzej Sapkowski utvecklade alltså Hen Llinge till böckerna. Han utgick främst från keltiska språk, walesiska, iriska och gaeliska, för sin version av alviska. Vilket faktiskt inte är helt ovanligt för alviska språk, som förmodligen hänger samman med att Tolkien inspirerades av walesiska för alvspråket sindarin. Liksom hur Tolkien satt standarden för hur alver gestaltas i litteraturen efter honom, så färgar hans alviska språk av sig när andra författare skapar språk för sina alver.

Det gamla språket har även hämtat inspiration från latin och germanska språk. Till exempel har Sapkowski hämtat två viktiga verb, ”att vara” och ”att ha”, från latinet – esse och habet. I original så representeras ju det allmänna språket av polska och för att ge läsarna en helt annan känsla för det gamla språket har Sapkowski naturligt nog hämtat inspiration från icke-slaviska språk. Minst ett låneord kommer från Tolkiens sindarin – pherian (hobbit). Från svenskan har Sapowski hämtat ordet för spion, angivare – an’givare! (Kanske inte så smickrande för oss svenskar som är mer vana vid att man lånar från vår stolta kanslisvenska, typ ”ombudsman”.)

Några fraser på det gamla språket:

Mir’ me vara – Visa mig dina gudar

Que suecc’s?  – Vad händer?

A d’yaebl aép arse – En djävul i din röv

Ire lokke, ire tedd – En annan plats, en annan tid

Ymladda dh’oine. Ess’tedd, esse creasa – Slåss mot människorna. Det är dags, det här kommer att vara platsen.

Peterson återvänder

Vad nu alla språknördar ser fram emot inför premiären av The Witcher är såklart att få höra det gamla språket talas – och så kommer det också att bli! Även om det finns en hel del av språket i böckerna, så har Sapkowski inte utvecklat ett fullständigt, ”riktigt” språk, men producenterna har anställt ingen mindre än David J. Peterson för att ge alverna ett tvättäkta tungomål! Så The Witcher kommer att tävla med Game of Thrones även på detta område – det vackraste eller bästa hittepåspråket! Sedan David J. Peterson vann uttagningen för att konstruera språk till Game of Thrones har han de senaste tio åren jobbat heltid med att skapa språk till filmer och tv-serier. Så hör du ett utomjordiskt språk talas på vita duken i en ny film så är det stor chans att det är Peterson som ligger bakom det.

Det är inte heller första gången han utvecklar ett alviskt språk. Minst tre av dem har hörts på vita duken:

Shiväisith – Svartalfernas spark från Thor: The Dark World.

Övüsi – alviska från Bright.

Elvish – Tomtenissarnas (elves) språk från The Christmas Chronicles.

För att skapa Hen Llinge, eller Hen Linge som Peterson ändra stavningen till för att det ska bli tydligare hur det uttalas, har gått igenom och analyserat allt som Andrzej Sapkowski skrivit på och om språket i böckerna och byggt vidare på det.

Så vi kan räkna med att Peterson varsamt förvandlar Sapkowskis ganska väl genomtänkta rekvisitaspråk till ett fullt fungerande och detaljerat språk. I Game of Thrones mostvarar valyriskan det gamla språket i The Witcher, och för det utvecklade Peterson flera olika dialekter, dels den klassiska valyriskan och sedan olika derivat som astaporisk valyriska och de olika dialekter som talas i stadsstater i Essos. Så förhoppningen finns att vi får se en liknande utveckling av det gamla språket, det vill säga att Peterson får tillfälle att utveckla till exempel de dryadiska och zerrikanska dialekterna av det gamla språket.

I böckerna finns det ord som är specifika för de olika dialekterna, men det är i inte särskilt utvecklat och här skulle Peterson hantverk vara guld värd för alla som är intresserade av språken i the Witcher. Så vi håller tummarna för att det verkligen blir sju säsonger som producenterna kaxigt har antytt – språkutveckling tar ju sin tid.

Detail #388: A Twist in Coordination and Gaps

December 17th, 2019
Before getting to the main content of today, I'll give some updates about things I am working on:

Currently, I am working on three main conlanging-related projects, two of these being conlangs, the third being a tool for conlangers. The two conlangs, however, rely on the tool being workable, and it is as of yet in a bit of a planning stage. Until it is done, this blog will probably not be updated very often. Expect maybe half a year for the unveiling of the tool, depending on work, other hobbies and other inconveniences. Let's set a deadline at Hannukkah 5781. Another conlang-related tool is in the early early planning stages, but will probably not see the lights of day until 2021.

In addition, I am coding a microtonal pitch perception webapp; it is still in its early alpha test days (and due to getting a new, more challenging job and a dog last january, I have not had much time to update it over the last year or so, the alpha test period really got out of hand!)

Also, I've been doing a fair share of duolingo in recent months, and if you don't already use it, I would definitely recommend it!

But ... on to linguistics!

It is not unusual for languages to permit leaving a gap when coordinating things in some kind of subordinate construction:
I eat and _ sleep.
They both saw _ and heard you.
He spent some time in Germany and _ Austria.
You are a good singer, both with _ and without amplification.
 Now... we can imagine restrictions on this, and I am thinking of a few interesting ones.

1) Gender and Number Restrictions
One could imagine a restriction whereby any two nouns after a preposition need to be of the same gender and number - otherwise, the preposition needs to be repeated before the next noun(s).
This could even cut into subsets of the genders - one could require the same animacy as well. Also, some genders might be "closer" related to others, so e.g. masculine and neuter in German could maybe work?

2) Case 
This gets a bit trickier, and mostly applies in languages with a case system like that of conservative IE languages. The cases of both nouns have to have the same distribution in the paradigm. Here, I mean a rather odd sense of what a case is: a case is an ending. In Russian, the feminine dative has the same suffix as the feminine prepositional, and thus, they'd be the same case here - and maybe we could accept masculine prepositionals to coordinate with feminine prepositionals, because they take the same suffix as well. But masculine datives and feminine datives would be an odd mix, due to the masculine datives being distinct.

In the case of Russian, this would allow animate masculine nominatives and feminines to co-ordinate (because, although these are different suffixes, the suffixes have the same *distribution*), and it would let masculine and feminine instrumentals to co-ordinate, because their suffixes also have the same distribution.

Case, however, lets us also think about coordination of verbs and prepositions: only those that take the same type of case on their object can allow gaps over coordination.

blairjay asked: So, I’m starting to conlang…

December 1st, 2019

blairjay asked:
So, I'm starting to conlang. Do you feel that making a conlang before a world/culture might be better, so you can base place names and such in the conlang?


A good question. I always feel like a conlang and its culture are so intrinsically related that I don’t think you can do one with no thought for the other.
In fact the very choices you make on your conlang will inform you of the culture. E.g.: why is the word for “to grow” related to “tree”? Why “ten” is related to “hand”? Etc. It’s always good to think of this little bits of culture when developing your conlang and viceversa.
Consider names: if you have many names with the word for “duck”, then what is its significance in the culture of those speakers? What’s taboo? What’s not? All those questions spring from the creation of the language itself.
So, I would advice to have both in mind, you can start with one or the other of course, but ultimately they will show some relationship.
I hope I have answered your question and thanks for asking! Keep them coming! 😃

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Designing an Artificial Language: Opposites

December 1st, 2019

Rick Morneau is a long-time language creator who lives in rural Idaho. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of essays on language design that proved to be quite influential in the early language creation community. Their quality has endured since their original publication, and continue to be read and enjoyed by language creators the world over.

Abstract

This essay discusses one approach to dealing with words of opposite meaning. For a much more thorough treatment of opposites, read the monograph Lexical Semantics.

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shahryarsstories asked: Hey, I’m starting a conlang for a book I’m writing, any advice on where to start?

November 29th, 2019

shahryarsstories asked:
Hey, I'm starting a conlang for a book I'm writing, any advice on where to start? I already have a lot of words and sayings but I doubt there's any shred of consistency because I was having fun just making up words. I'd love to know if I should start over or if I should just go with it and make a grammar system to make the words and sayings make sense grammatically 😂

Well, that’s really good! Nothing better than the thrill of creating new words. Okay, if you are looking for consistency that’s easy enough. You already have a certain corpus (words, phrases, names, etc); the thing now is to see whether some patterns emerge, whether the words kind of look like coming from the same place.
For instance: even if you are not very linguistically inclined you will note that Erik and Amadeo come from two very different languages. The idea is that all your words look either “Erik” or “Amadeo” but that they follow a pattern. The pattern doesn’t have to be those two, I’m just giving an example there. This is called your phonotactics, and it’s the make-up of the conlang. So, how are your words? Do they tend to end mostly on vowel or consonant? If consonant, which ones? Always the same or pretty much any of them. This will all inform you of how your conlang will look like.
When you move onto the grammar you will be able to make small words based on this pattern not to disrupt the general “feel” of the language. Or maybe you discover you have two very different (even if related) languages! That’s even more fun!
Play with it, have fun, and remember you can ask me anything! 😊 thanks for this ask! Hope to have helped you!

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Kommer The Mandalorian att ge Star Wars-universumet sitt första ordentliga språk?

November 28th, 2019

Miljoner människor i galaxen är i dagarna mycket frustrerade. Den första Star Wars tv-serien (förutom de animerade) har haft premiär och är tydligen en succé. Men den går inte att se utanför Nordamerika och Nederländerna(!). Författaren till Liftarens parlör till galaxen hoppas att The Mandalorian kan leverera det första ordentligt utvecklade Star Wars-språket.

Disneys nya strömningstjänst lanseras av någon outgrundlig anledning inte i Europa förrän i mars 2020. Undrar hur Disney tänkte där?! Det mullras i Star Wars-leden utanför USA när fans försöker blunda för alla spoilers i sociala meder, och sannolikt dröjer det inte länge tills de goda rebellerna förvandlats till pirater …


Jag menar, vem skulle inte riskera böter för den här lilla gullungen? 

The Mandalorian heter serien och är en rymdspagettivästern, eller kanske mer en rymdsamurajserie, med en kringströvande ensam, fåordig antihjälte. (Av det skvaller som nått över Atlanten finns det vissa likheter med den klassiska mangaserien Lone Wolf and Cub.)

Huvudkaraktären – the Mandalorian – är som man kan gissa från Mandalore, precis som Jango och Boba Fett, en planet som befolkas av ett hårdkokt krigarfolk. De mandalorianer vi mött hittills i Star Wars har alla varit prisjägare och så är också seriens huvudperson. Serien utspelar sig efter rymdimperiet fall och före the First Order. Så det är i en värld som är hårt drabbad av krig och som knappt har börjat byggas upp.

Av de korta glimtar jag sett av de två första avsnitten verkar serien bjuda på både hårdkokt aktion och nostalgiska blinkningar och referenser till tidigare scener i Star Wars. Den svenske kompositören Ludwig Göransson har tagit över dirigentpinnen från John Williams (som skrivit den klassiska musiken till rymdäventyret) i The Mandalorian och bjuder på musik som en modern Ennio Morricone. Linköpingssonen Göransson belönades ju som bekant med en Oscar för filmmusiken till Black Panther – en annan film som är intressant ur en rekvisitaspråklig synvinkel – med det spännande språket wakandiska (ett av de nya språken i den uppdaterade Liftarens parlör till galaxen).

Det finns redan ett välutvecklat språk för mandalorianerna

På språkfronten verkar den nya serien också lovande, då en buse på en bar har en hyfsat lång dialog på huttiska. Det är inte bara de förvuxna gangstersniglarna, hutterna, som pratar språket utan huttiska har kommit att bli ett lingua franca i den undre världen. Det lovar gott att det talades utomjordiska redan i första avsnittet.

Riktigt intressant kommer det att bli att se om vi kommer att få höra mandalorianska, eller mando’a, talas i serien – eftersom det faktiskt redan finns ett välutvecklat språk för mandalorianerna. Till skillnad från andra språk i Star Wars är mando’a inte endast en ljudeffekt utan ett språk med grammatik, ordförråd och alfabet.

Skriftspråket mando’a.

Ovanligt nog fick mandalorianerna sitt skriftspråk innan det fick sitt talade språk. Philip Metschan utvecklade ett alfabet för mandalorianerna att använda i Episod II: Klonerna anfaller. Tecknen syns i samband med Jango Fett och hans rymdskepp. Möjligen finns det också en enda mening talad mando’a i filmen, när Jango säger till lille Boba att stänga en dörr. Det kan också vara ett hemligt kodspråk far och son emellan.

Förflyttar vi oss bort från filmens värld till ”the expanded universe” och datorspelet Republic Commando som Jesse Harlin skrev musiken till, så hittar vi nästa steg i språkets utveckling. Inledningsmusiken till spelet blev en sång med text på mandalorianska med namnet Vode an – Alla bröder.

Här är första versen:

Kote!
Kandosii sa ka’rta, Vode an.
Coruscanta a’den mhi, Vode an.
Bal kote, darasuum kote,
Jorso’ran kando a tome.
Sa kyr’am nau tracyn kad, Vode an.

 

Glory!
One indomitable heart, Brothers all.
We, the wrath of Coruscant, Brothers all.
And glory, eternal glory,
We shall bear its weight together.
Forged like the saber in the fires of death, Brothers all.

Utifrån sångtexten fick sedan fick den engelske författaren Karen Traviss uppdraget att utveckla mando’a till ett fungerande språk. Mando’a kom att användas i ett antal romaner och även den tecknade serien Knights of the Old Republic av John Jackson Miller, som mellan 2005 och 2014 förutom många serier också skrev tre Star Wars-romaner.

Karen Traviss slutade arbeta för Lucasfilm på grund av ”kreativa meningsskiljktigheter” och därmed slutade hon utveckla språket. Språket togs då över av fansen, som alltid haft ett gott öga till Boba Fett och andra mandalorianer. Vad fansen nu hoppas på är att tv-serien plockar upp språket och verkligen befäster dess status, om än inte på vita duken så i en tv-serie. Förhoppningsvis kan då språket också ta ett stort steg i sin utveckling.

I Liftarens parlör till galaxen reder jag ut bakgrunden till inte bara mandalorianska utan även huttiska, shyriiwok, jawanesiska, ewokiska, kanjinklub och andra språk från Star Wars. Det är intressanta historier bakom samtliga språk – men de är trots allt inte riktiga språk med grammatik och omfattande ordförråd, utan endast ljudeffekter. Eftersom de är ljudeffekter är det inte heller förvånande att det är filmens legendariska ljudingenjör Ben Burrt som ligger bakom många av språken. I de senaste filmerna är det dock Sara Forsberg, det finska Youtube-fenomenet, som tagit över språkproduktionen. Så mandalorianska sticker ut bland språken i Star Wars-universumet eftersom de har såväl en genomtänkt grammatik som ett ordförråd på runt 1 000 ord.

Efter de första avsnitten av The Mandalorian har jag ännu inte nåtts av någon spoiler som avslöjar om det talas mandalorianska i tv-serien, vi får väl se i vår när Dinsey+ kommer till våra breddgrader. Men jag håller tummarna för att Boba Fetts hemspråk ska höras och sprida sig i galaxen.


The mando’a dictonary: http://mandoa.org/

Mandaloriernas skriftspråk: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandalorian#/media/File:Mandalorian_alphabet,_updated.svg

5929ms asked: I have a question about conlanging…

November 27th, 2019

5929ms asked:
I have a question about conlanging... It's not a technical one, but I have been wanting to start a project. The problem here is that I already have one, it's quite big, and I can't stop looking back at it or trying to adjust anything new to it. Do you have any tips how to draft without thinking how much it's "similar" to what you've already done?



Yay! You are my first ask! So congrats!! 🎊🍾🎉
This is an interesting question that often happens to conlangers. Some find it really hard not to keep reelaborating a previous project. 
To me the best you can do is go in a whole different direction, such a different direction you won’t be able to go back to the other one. So, for instance, if in project A you were working on a standard European language, why not try a Mayan-inspired language this time?
I find it easier the more different the two are. Or for instance, if you’ve done a priori, why not try a posteriori? That could be a way to start. You could also try thinking of a very different cultural background and start building from there.
Thanks for you ask and cheers on being number 1! 😃

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Detail #386: A Gender-Based Quirk

November 25th, 2019
Imagine a language with a gender system along the lines of German. Now, however, imagine that the society has gone through a quick but fairly successful modernization, where a formerly very strict division into 'female occupations' and 'male occupations' has over a generation or two become rather 'ideally equal' for some combination of those words. 

Ok, look, I am trying very hard not to take any stance in that debate. This is all set-up for a convoluted grammatical situation.

However, the titles associated with occupations persisted in the gender they previously had been associated with. So ... 

Sergeant is still masculine when it is a woman sergeant.
Secretary is still feminine when it is a male secretary.

Some limited examples of this can be found in Europe to this day, with some titles in French, for instance, only having masculine forms, and in some varieties of Swedish, sjuksköterska, "nurse", only having a grammatically feminine form.

However, the twist I am going for is one where pronominal binding still is lexically gender-based even when the gender of the particular person is known. When referring to Tim the secretary or Jenny the sergeant, the gender of the pronoun would follow the gender associated with the occupation.

However, when speaking of Tim or Jenny as persons having private lives and so on, they would get their expected pronouns.

This creates a situation where persons working in occupations associated with the other gender can get their professional person and their private person separated by pronouns, but people working in gender-typical occupations do not have this quirk available to them.