Some Sargaĺk Vocabulary with Etymologies

May 5th, 2016 by Miekko
I have been thinking a bit about Sargaĺk historical linguistics, and while trying to come up with some kind of sound change history, I've come up with a bunch of historical roots and a bunch of words derived from those, which I hope form a sufficiently interesting system to be able to use for Dairwueh and Bryatesle as well, while being able to maintain the rather considerable divergences between the three languages. This is a very tentative attempt, and thus subject to lots of future changes. I have not even verified that there's a reasonable sound change path from the roots to the Sargaĺk lexemes, but I should get on that soon.
ak'ot fishbone (mass noun), *erk'ot
anməs leaf, blade (of knife) *almats leaf
ar foot, *aḍe foot
banil lid, *barner, lid
bak'am mute, *bak',mute
garəc whale oil, *ngerta slide, slip, glide
gigu lip, from *bwikbi lips
i about, for, by, *iji, say of, speak of, be spoken for by
oar, *jilıt stick, beam
seal-skin jacket, *ıjka crawl, *nowr skin
j slight, small, irrelevant, *
jajas weight, *ʒiagea to carry something heavy
jajra of unit weight
jax path, sequence, melody, *jaska walk
joŋa tooth, *ʒoŋər tooth
kolom a largeish fire made in a somewhat constant fireplace, *kolv
k'epar the heart, from *k'aipka, 'thump'
ĺp'a musk ox *lẹp' wool
luŋta crooked, *rungru bend
ĺy tasty, c.f. Bryatesle lim! (mm!), Dairwueh lien!
a small fire, *nuks, a spark
pelyant roll of rope, *pal knot, *lyanta pile, bunch
ŕvosk slut, whore, *rəwatsk
sxome knife *sfaumei steel
toxon a type of mushroom *tasko mushrooms
uvas a member of a whale-hunting team, *ıbaa fetch
uvra a fully manned whale-hunting team
xorga eager, enthusiastic, avid, well-rested *skour?e

Wolf Languages Needed for Fantasy Novel Series

May 4th, 2016 by LCS


Megan Caldwell is looking for a language expert to create two languages for a fantasy novel series revolving around wolves. These languages will appear mostly in the names of characters, locations, culturally relevant items and concepts, and some phrases and short sentences.
There are two main wolf cultures in this fantasy world: a main culture of wolves who believe they live where wolf culture originated, and an offshoot born from disgruntled wolves who fled across a mountain range. The two languages needed are the languages of these two groups:

  • The employer envisions the language of the main culture to have a Germanic and/or Scandinavian influence. It should be relatively familiar to Anglophone readers yet foreign;
  • The second language is a direct offshoot of the first one, and the two are still partially mutually intelligible, in a relationship similar to that of Dutch and Afrikaans. The wolves of that group have also consciously modified their language, mostly in the lexicon, in order to sound more elegant and refined compared to their neighbours.

Although the main use for the languages will be names for characters, locations and things of nature, the employer expects to use phrases and short sentences as well and therefore needs full conlangs. The language of the main culture will have to be developed as a full conlang, with up to 500 words of vocabulary and a simple grammar description, while the language of the offshoot culture can be derived from the first one. The employer also wants to collaborate with the language expert to flesh out the cultural background of both languages. There is no script needed.


Megan Caldwell

Application Period

Open until job filled


The initial work should be done by mid-July, with at least a kernel of useful vocabulary ready by the beginning of July, to be negotiated with the employer.


$450 for the two languages as described above, subject to negotiation. Compensation for additional work can be negotiated.
This is a “work for hire” deal. Partially paid up front and partially at completion, with some paid in between as required. Credit to the conlanger will be given in the contract format that they prefer on the copyright page, as with cover art.

To Apply

Email Megan Caldwell at caldweml “at” miamioh “dot” edu to express your interest in the project. Examples of previous work are required.

Note: Please assume that comments left on this post will not be read by the employer.

Sargaĺk: Polarity, Relevance and Knowledge

May 4th, 2016 by Miekko

Negation and Intense Affirmation

In most Sargaĺk dialects, negation is done by inserting the particle pin or pic before or after the main verb; it can also be sentence-initial in order to emphasize the negation. An intense form, pinta also exists.

Negation and intense affirmation have certain similarities morphosyntactically.
In most dialects, the markers go after or before the main verb, but can be fronted as well in order to really emphasize the marker. In Savk'e and Tńga dialects, the negation and intense affirmation morphemes are part of the verb morphology, and differ significantly from other dialects. Savk'e and Tńga speakers  generally double their negations when speaking to outsiders, using both the regular pin morpheme as well as their usual affix. 

In Savk'e, pin- forms the root for the indefinite negative pronouns, however, and jok- has been restricted a bit in distribution. In Savk'e, the negative pronoun comes in two forms, pin(s)- and pic-, pin(s)- being the animate negative pronoun and pic- the inanimate one.

There is also an intensive affirmative morpheme that has the same syntactical distribution as pin: sad. Sad is a bit like 'verily', 'certainly', 'absolutely'. Sad- also has nominal forms that emphasize a noun phrase, but also can serve as a very emphatic third person pronoun.

Syntactical differences between negated and positive verb phrases exist:

The Agnostic and Irrelevant Moods

The two usual polarities in Sargaĺk serve as the morphological and syntactical basis for two grammatical modalities – the agnostic mode and the irrelevant mode. These modes actually lack polarity of their own altogether. The markers go where the negative marker pin or the intensive affirmative marker sad would go. For the agnostic mode, ḿt'et'e, əmt'et or even ḿt'e marks that the speaker is not aware of the truth-value of his statement. With a rising intonation, this is one way of forming yes-no questions, although not a very common way.

The irrelevant mode uses the marker gos. It signifies that whether the statement is true or not is not interestinging at all. It uses the same syntactical features as the negated verb, however.

As a reminder to myself, I'll note down here that the Tńga and the Savk'e dialects will deal slightly differently with the agnostic and the irrelevant moods as well.

Detail #276: A Quirk for Comparatives and Superlatives

May 3rd, 2016 by Miekko
Imagine that certain nouns require comparative congruence. I.e. for these nouns, the comparative is the regular form, and the superlative is used instead for comparative purposes. A double superlative might exist, but it might be more interesting not having that but leaving that to context.

Conlangery #119: Paramount v Axanar

May 3rd, 2016 by Conlangery Podcast
George brings on Sai, Christophe, and attorney Mark Randazza to talk about the LCS’s decision to file an amicus brief in Paramount v Axanar. Links and Resources: LCS press release (with links to press articles) Amicus brief (and exhibits) The Dentons legal memo The Visual Artists Rights Act (- Wiki — closest thing the US... Read more »

Detail #275: Counterfactuals, Tense and Other Stuff

May 2nd, 2016 by Miekko
This post in part is a contribution! Thanks!
In many European languages, counterfactuals are somehow 'contaminated'* with the past tense. What else could we have them contaminated with?
"If I were in Albania, ..."
The contributor suggests polarity - negate the counterfactual in some way.
Albania-LOC not be-COND-1s
"If I were in Albania (which I am not) ..."
Now, the next idea was that negated counterfactuals would drop the negation:
 Albania-LOC be-COND-1s
"If I were not in Albania (which I, however, am) ..."
Not sure I buy that idea in particular, although I could imagine some marking that is derived from the negative participating in the formation of counterfactuals.

Aspect seems somewhat plausible as well - maybe contaminate counterfactuals with atelic aspect or something. However, let's go a bit further afield? How about contaminating it with some form of evidentiality - say, counterfactuals are always hearsay? Or maybe, just maybe, counterfactuals are always things of one's own observation (since one's observed them with one's mind's eye). 

Another idea that feels partially clever is for a language with a non-future vs. future tense system to have counterfactuals that are marked with future tense.

Going further off into contamination, how about person? All counterfactuals inflect for third person plural? Not maybe all that odd, Estonian apparently partially inflects evidentiality by the same morpheme as plural third person (well, historically both come from the active participle, so there's that bit), so why not do counterfactuals in that way?

Conflating counterfactuality with anything really could be interesting - but so would conflating any kind of modal marking with any other kind of marking, to some extent.

Funnily enough, I think I've been raving about this kind of thing in nouns for years, but never really gotten around to raving about it in verbs. A brave new world opens!

* This is the word the contributor chose to use, and I am inclined to sort of agree.

The Slovio Myth

May 1st, 2016 by Fiat Lingua

Jan van Steenbergen (1970) studied East European Studies and Slavistics at the University of Amsterdam, and nowadays works as a Dutch-Polish translator and interpreter. His first conlang projects of some substance came into being when he was in his twenties. Most of his work can be found on his website and is somehow related to the Slavic languages: Vozgian (a fictional North Slavic language), Wenedyk (what if Polish had been a Romance language?), Poilschi (a Romanesque alternative orthography for Polish), a Polish Cyrillic alphabet, Slovianski (a naturalistic auxiliary language for Slavs) and Interslavic (a more sophisticated continuation of Slovianski). After he gained Internet access for the first time and discovered the world of conlanging, he has spent many years reading and writing about language creation. Initially, his interest was focused mainly on artistic languages, but once he got involved in the Slovianski project, he also got fascinated by the concept of a language that would be reasonably understandable to Slavs of any nationality, and his research for the Interslavic project has consumed most of his spare time ever since. Apart from working on the language itself, he also enjoys writing transliteration programs in JavaScript.


The “universal simplified language Slovio” has been controversial since it was first published on the Internet in 2001. It claims to be immediately understood by 400 million people, and to be mutually understandable with all Slavic and Baltic languages. The impression is given that Slovio is a huge project, spoken by hundreds or even thousands of people and officially supported by major international organizations. At the very centre of a large network of websites in Slovio is the site, featuring a complete grammar, learning materials and an exceptionally large dictionary. But even though Slovio is being vigorously propagated as a serious rival for Esperanto, it also claims to be first and only Pan-Slavic language, and in spite of its declared global intentions, the motor behind Slovio appears to be radical Slavic nationalism more than anything else. In this paper, Jan tries to determine what Slovio is really about and on what scale it is really used, in other words, to separate myths from facts.

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elegant is dotylä

May 1st, 2016 by Mariska
dotylä = elegant (adjective) (Some things Google found for "dotyla": a rare to unusual term; user names; a very rare name; dotyla seems to mean something in Polish but I'm unable to translate it)

Word derivation for "elegant" :
Basque = dotore, Finnish = tyylikäs
Miresua = dotylä

This is a new word. There are very few words in Miresua that start with D, so I'm taking the opportunity to make one here.

I found the word elegant once in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It appears in Chapter 3: A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale.
"Then they all crowded round her once more, while the Dodo solemnly presented the thimble, saying "We beg your acceptance of this elegant thimble"; and, when it had finished this short speech, they all cheered."

Detail #274: Negation and Alignment

April 29th, 2016 by Miekko
Imagine a language with verbs having slots for both subject and object markers, thus:
Oh, this language is ergative, btw, so 
is maybe more accurate.

Let's further imagine that certain other things go on the verb, e.g. negation. Let's further imagine that negation (and maybe something else) occupies the object slot, and intransitive congruence moves to the ergative slot, whereas objects of transitive verbs just don't get congruence at all. (Consider how, for instance, subjects don't get congruence on the main verb at all in negative clauses in certain Finnic languages – having this for objects seems even less weird, really.) 

Now we've created a situation where the ergative is the nominative in negative clauses, which iirc is typologically uncommon. In fact, the ergative serving a nominative role in splits is generally speaking uncommon.

Other things than the negative might occupy the same slot.

The North Wind and the Sun, Revisited

April 29th, 2016 by carsten

For the past few days, I have been retranslating the story by Aesop, “The North Wind and the Sun”. Click to read it. While translating, two things came up to consider:

  • How does Ayeri deal with gender resolution (Corbett 243–253)?
  • How does Ayeri handle “the … the …” and “as … as …” constructions? Does it have them at all, or will rephrasing be necessary when translating from e.g. English?

Regarding the latter question, there is a blog article, “Correlative Conjunctions” (2012-12-10), but it fails to account for the two combinations mentioned above.

  • Aesop. “The North Wind and the Sun.” Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Ed. International Phonetic Association. 9th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. 39. Print.
  • Corbett, Greville G. Agreement. Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics 52. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006. Print.