Detail 309: Directions, Writing, Religion and Convention

September 26th, 2016 by Miekko
In many religious traditions, houses of worship tend to be oriented the same way; many churches point to the east, synagogues and mosques have their directions of prayer, etc. In many cultures, religion is the reason why literacy in the first place began spreading to the larger population - religious reformers or movements wanted the population to be able to participate in prayer, in the doctrinal system, etc, to a greater extent than previously.

If these main texts are almost always read while oriented in the same way, it is conceivable that in some culture, the main relative directions when encountered in a text could be given an absolute reading using the religious ritual orientation.

Conreligion Idea: Ahenotheism

September 24th, 2016 by Miekko
Consider a region where henotheism is widely adopted - i.e. tribes, families and individuals basically pick some God to worship, and stick with that, but believe in multiple gods. Greater life changes - conquests, natural disasters, interactions with new people - may mkae a tribe, a village, a family or a person decide to change gods. There is no formalized pantheon, but fuzzily overlapping zones with varying sets of gods recognized as even existing or relevant.

In this, a small tribe develops a religious view whereby they acknowledge the existence of Gods and various beings, but decide not to worship any of them; there is, however, a ritual life present.

The rituals include 'banishing' gods from former worship halls, in essence telling any God who attends a place that he is not going to receive any worship there for a while. This is renewed at intervals somewhat shorter than the religious festive cycles of neighbouring tribes.

When entertaining guests, an admonition not to thank nor praise any gods for the foods that are served is uttered. This admonition varies historically from not mandated, to mandated but freely worded, to a short 'anti-benediction'.

The Terms of the Sargaĺk Tribute to the Bryatesle Empire

September 20th, 2016 by Miekko
During the Ćwarmin expansion, the tribal warlords (sarku-tal, order-chieftain) often made agreements with conquered tribes with regards to the tribute they were expected to pay. As soon as literacy became a thing, most sarkutluwu (pl.indef) saw fit to have scribes record these agreements.

The Sargaĺk 'treaty' was originally agreed to by the village Marərki, one of the previously mainland Sargaĺk settlements. Instead of renegotiating the terms for each village, most other village's elders' councils agreed to having all of the Sargaĺk area enter into a similar deal, but simply changing the numbers.

The treaty was originally given in both Sargaĺk and Ćwarmin and preserved in oral form, with a large image carved into a rock, with three large images, separated by empty areas: the largest image depicting horse-carried soldiers, and villagers handing them sheep, fish and slaves, and a large depiction of Sarkutal Molčur, who led the expedition. The second 'image' consists of stylized pictures of different types of arctic livestock, boats, skin pelts, tents, all with very basic numbers underneath (unary notation, basically), and finally, a third similar image with a smaller number of fish types, a boat, a few types of livestock, a woman, a soldier, and a slave; each of these have numbers by them, but by the woman, the soldier and by the slave is also a second number crossed by a line, like so: II IIIII. Some numbers are circled - this signifies a number multiplied by 20. One circle contains the string IIII, signifying seventy, i.e. 3.5 * 20. (For those with screen-readers, the fourth I in the string is half as tall as the rest.)

These are basically pictures meant to help the communities remember what their obligations are. The first picture thus describes their submission to the Ćwarmin leader Molčur. The second picture describes the tribute Molčur exacted as an initial payment. The third picture depicts later, regular tributes. Most of the ones are paid yearly - the ones with only one number, that is. However, numbers like IIIII signifies every n:th year. This notation carried over to the written forms of the treaty. Only the yearly payments are part of the written treaty. 

Here are some samples of the text:
sargəsa mil cəwarta pehite Molčur u simiar u simižar  t'ošni-k-sud
sarg-plur we cəwar-peg chieftain Molčur and oldest sons and oldest living sons confirm-1pl-reflexive
'we, the sarg, confirm our allegiance to the chieftain Molčur and his oldest living male descendants'

mil-ta cəwar kŕder ops-ək-rus-olar
we-peg ćwar tax give-1pl-fut-hab

kŕder k'iva
tax is-3sg.fem ≃ (tax is (as follows):)

IIIII karaŋ
(5 boat)

(III) IIIII iknur
(65 seal skin jacket)

(IIIII) ĺpa
100 musk ox

(IIII) jajra garəc
70 measure whale_oil

II III mirluk asi IIIII III kosdo
two three soldier or five three slave
(two soldiers every third year or five slaves every third year)

I IIIIII miv-tat pehite-ta tame k'ilp tamu minu-m-əl-u-an
1 / 6 village-plur.peg.fem chieftain-peg(gen) son full daughter
the villages give a son of the chieftain an (adult) woman for a wife once in six years
Neither the Sargaĺk nor the Ćwarmin care particularly much about virginity. As the same arrangement was passed on to the Bryatesle empire, the recipient of the deal was the Bryatesle governor. Bryatesle culture, however, is very concerned with the virginity of brides. Since the deal was granted a rather solemn status, however, the Bryatesle governor cannot do anything to add a condition regarding the virginity of the brides. Some Sarg women see the bride-tribute as an opportunity to climb socially and get away from a relatively poor and harsh environment, other Sarg see it as an opportunity to cause considerable embarassment to the son of a governor. Some governors, or their sons, have in fact refused to abide by that term of the contract for this particular reason, which is something that does not particularly bother the Sarg. The Sarg sometimes point to such violations on the part of the Bryatesle as a justification for not paying some other part of the tribute. Thus, sometimes, only people found to be criminals in the eyes of the Sargaĺk are sent as soldiers or slaves, depending on their crime.

A Ćwarmin and a Bryatesle version of these text snippets will appear later.

Awareness of Vowel Harmony in the Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär World

September 18th, 2016 by Miekko
Although, much like in our world, vowel harmony comes in many different forms in the Bryatesle-Dairwueh-Sargaĺk-Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär world, speakers of vowel harmony languages seem to be aware of it as a typological trait that is missing from some languages but present in some. In fact, all the tribes that speak vowel-harmony languages share a certain addendum to the just-so stories of why there are many languages.

The usual narratives throughout the continent do not per se attribute any subjective qualities to the languages themselves – the attributes generally refer to each language's suitability for being spoken in its environment, often using pretty bad reasoning about it. 

Often in these stories, the gods find that the world is less than it could be – mankind is organized, but badly. They find that the language that all mankind speaks is not good enough for the different needs the tribes have. Sometimes, a trickster god enters into the picture here, making the different languages be unintelligible - when this bit is present in the narrative, the gods usually planned for everyone to understand every language, but also for everyone to speak only the one relevant to their environment.

Now, speakers of languages with vowel harmony often add a little side plot to these narratives: the theme then being that some tribes were granted an aesthetical advantage over others: vowel harmony. Usually, the other groups are described as incapable of controlling some of their urges, and they thereby fail to live up to agreements they've done with the gods (or God) in exchange for getting their linguistic situation improved. 

As a punishment, "the beautiful sound of words", vowel harmony, was taken from them.

Detail #308: Another Middle-Ground between Fixed Case and Derived Case Comparison

September 17th, 2016 by Miekko
Consider a particle-based comparison system, i.e. one much like the basic European 'than', but where the 'than'-particle requires some fixed oblique case.

However, the particle is preceded by a dummy pronoun marked for derived case, maybe with, say, nominative being realized by the omission entirely of that dummy pronoun.

Ćwarmin Vocabulary: Monetary Terminology

September 16th, 2016 by Miekko
Ćwarmin monetary terminology is largerly borrowed from Bryatesle, but a fair share of native terms also serve in this part of the lexicon.
caska - coins (uncountable, value by weight)
koxrov - scales (for comparing monetary value)
roson - a weight (of suitable size and precision for measuring monetary value)
kampuca - a 'seam' in a large coin for breaking it into pieces of smaller value (from bryatesle kampı-, 'break')
malas - silver (Bryatesle malas, (f), silver coin)
murmalas - silver coin (silver + diminutive)
wormalas - silver vessel (silver + augmentative)
ŋiləs - gold
dʒiŋiləs - gold ring (gold + diminutive)
liŋiləs - a gold coin (gold + diminutive)
kosas - a bag for keeping valuables in
solor - a gem (any kind; colour adjectives and quality adjectives combine to form names for their types)
marug - debt, from maran, carry
 For monetary transactions, there's a few verbs and phrases:
marugdan +dat - to be in debt to someone
marugdan +dat +acc - to be in debt acc amount to dat person
marulsan (+acc) (+dat) - to become indebted

faxson +acc +obj compl - to pay obj compl price for an object
ŋitir +acc +obj compl- to demand obj compl price for an object
koŋtal +acc +obj compl - to offer object for obj compl price

sintir - to sell
sinə - ware, merchandize

One verb that often is used when agreeing to buy something can be seen in the following example:
iś koxro-kt-a-ŋl-ou
it-acc weigh-perfective-imperative**-1p_pauc
"let's weigh it out"
Since payment generally is performed using some form of scales, 'weighing it out' is essentially a phrase for paying. This can also mean 'I take it'.

** this particular morpheme, -ŋl- only appears with non-third person non-singulars as an imperative, hortative, jussive, etc mood.

Conlang Discord chat

September 15th, 2016 by surullinensaukko

Hi, everyone! I’ve mentioned being interested in starting a chat to talk about conlanging - it exists now (indeed, it has for a while), and we’d love to have you! Let me know if you’re interested.


September 15th, 2016 by stetsuninumod

Differentiate between two types of stops based on the speaker’s level of annoyance. That is, have a series of unaspirated stops and a series of exasperated stops.

Fun With Numerals in Ćwarmin

September 14th, 2016 by Miekko
Unlike the western languages Sargaĺk, Bryatesle and Dairwueh, the Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär languages have generally had rather complicated morphology for their numerals. Ćwarmin, for instance, forms
    1. cardinals
    2. ordinals
    3. denominators
    4. every n:th
    5. number of repetitions (twice, thrice)
    6. quantified comparison (twice, thrice)
    7. quantified comparison denominators (half as, a third as)
    8. n-by-n, 'by n:s', 'alone, pairwise, triplet-wise, etc'
    9. groups of people (duo, trio, quartet, ...)
    10. a compound form for non-cardinals
    11. existential quantifier predicate
      The cardinals basically are the unmarked, basic numerals. One, two and three have special roots for other forms, with 'one' having three different roots in total.
      one: er(si) (1, 10, (5, alternative form)), nir (2, 3, 4, 5), nus (6,  7, 8, 9, 11)
      two: mer (1, 10, (5, alternative form)), kom- (all the others)
      three: siker (1, 10, (5, alternative form)), umu- (all the others)

      Ordinals are formed using the morpheme -itkə-/-utko-, which is closely related to the definite marker. Denominators ('a fifth of') are expressed by the morpheme -ertə-/-orto-, which originates with the ablative marker. Expressing ratios like 'two fifths' use the compound form of two in combination with the denominator form of five:
      foŋ-ur miŋv-ertə
      two-COMP five-DENOM
      The 'every n:th' form seems to be a merger of the ordinal and the rational: -ertitk(ə)-/-ortutk(o)-.
      every seventh
      Number of repetitions are marked in two different ways: either by having a marker derived from the instrumental marker -ep- (the reduced form is -iv- or -uv- (on the ordinal root, or by having the morpheme used to form habitual verbs, -alra-/-elrə- on the cardinal root. For most numerals, these are identical.

      Quantified comparison is also formed in two different ways: -itiv-/-utuv- (from the definiteness marker and the instrumental marker), or -aŋźav-/-əŋźəv-, where -aŋ-/-əŋ- is related to the verbal marker -aŋźu-, signifying out-doing someone. 

      Quantifying denominators are formed using -riv- or -ruv-, partially from the ablative, partially from the instrumental markers.

      The n-by-n / 'social number' / etc is formed using the suffix -adaŋ/-ədəŋ. This is related to an adverbial marker -daŋ/-dəŋ. The use of this form is slightly more wide than 'n by n'. It is mainly used for expressing that some group of people do or did something in such and such number, e.g. 'they built the house, three guys, in a week'. Can also express social situations, 'we were there, just the two of us'. 'Alone' is also formed using this construction.
      It can also express distributions and arrangements - things that are arranged in pairs, in triplets, etc. It is used as an adverbial, complement or sometimes attributally as an adjective.

      nusadaŋ: alone, singly
      komadaŋ: pairwise, 'together (re: two people)'
      umadaŋ: triplet-wise, 'together (re three people)'
      Duos, trios, etc - in any context - are formed using the suffix -arn/-ern. This suffix can also be used with adjectives to signify '[adj] ones'. This differs from the previous form in not being used adverbially or adjectivally.
      nusarn: a person, a unit of personhood
      sometimes, a joking form 'ersiərn' is used; this denotes someone who by themselves does the work of several people; he or she by themself is sufficient to be counted as some kind of 'group'
      komarn: duo
      umarn: trio

      The compound form is used to express things like 'five thirds' or 'three halves' or whenever else one needs to count the number of some type of numeral (usually with the rational numbers; with 'every n:th' it signifies 'pick x, once every y', with the social number, it gives number of n-sized groups), number of duos, trios, etc. It is marked by -ur/-ir.
      amb-ur əner-ədəŋ
      eight-COMP nine-tuplet
      (arranged as) eight sets of nine
      The existential quantifier is basically used as a predicate expressing 'there were N of subj'. It is formed using -kece/-kaca, which might be somewhat related to the -amca complement case. The use of the existential quantifier is somewhat wider than 'there is/was/were N of subj' would imply: you also get it in constructions like 'five people know how to do that' - with 'know' in a participal form:
      iś kəl-ejn miŋ-kece
      it-acc know-theirs five-PRED
      there are five people who know this


      September 11th, 2016 by missalsfromiram

      A language with attitudinal particles, akin to Lojban; the particle indicating smug or satisfied happiness is /uwu/.