Moten Words for the Day

September 23rd, 2014 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

ufan /ufan/, noun: “greatness, also as adj. great”

tlebe /tle̞be̞/, noun: “mediocrity, also as adj. mediocre, bad”

That squirrel knows its stuff.

So, last time I explained that Moten doesn’t have generic words for “good” and “bad”, and introduced vo|sa and slim as a less generic pair that can be used to replace them. It makes sense to carry on and introduce another pair of words that can be translated as “good” and “bad”, with a different specialisation.

Here, ufan and tlebe are the extremes in the range of objective quality. In other words, something is ufan when it can be objectively argued that it has excellent quality. Its opposite tlebe, on the other hand, denotes mediocrity, in the sense of a lack of objective quality.

By “objective quality”, I mean a characteristic that is not up for opinion. For instance, a manufactured object will be ufan if it’s a sturdy, good build, and made of quality materials. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the object will be fit for purpose (i.e. vo|sa) or even that the speaker has to actually like it. For instance, a dish will be ufan if it’s masterly cooked from quality ingredients. That doesn’t mean the speaker has to actually like the dish (those ingredients may not be to their liking), or even that the dish is fit for purpose (it might be a starter when the speaker was expecting dessert!). But as long as it can be objectively stated that something is excellent, it will be ufan.

By the way, ufan is too strong to be translatable as “good”. That’s why I translate it as “great” instead. If one wants to indicate that something is simply of good quality, rather than really excellent, one can use the diminutive ufsin instead, which reduces the meaning of ufan while still keeping it positive. Tlebe, on the other hand, works rather well as a translation of “bad”.

Also, while I’m saying that ufan and tlebe are to be used only when one is talking about objective quality, I’m not saying that Moten speakers never use them subjectively: Moten speakers are just as likely to lie, exaggerate, mislead or simply be incorrect as anyone else ;).


from Tumblr

beet is jurmotxas (revisited)

September 23rd, 2014 by Mariska
jurmotxas = beet (noun) (some things Google found for "jurmotxas": an unique term; similar is a comment by someone with the last name of Jurmo about Texas)

Word derivation for "beet":
Basque = erremolatxa (similar to Spanish remolacha)
Finnish = juurikas (also punajuurikas, where puna means red)
Miresua = jurmotxas

My previous Miresua conlang word for beet, the vegetable, was juremitxa. As in Finnish, the j is pronounced like consonantal y. As in Basque, the tx is pronounced like ch.

As I expected, the word beet doesn't occur in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-glass.

Imbas Forosnai: Poetic Inspiration of the Irish Filidh, by Ali Isaac

September 22nd, 2014 by Lorinda J Taylor
       I have recently discovered Ali Isaac, who blogs about Irish mythology and writes stories utilizing it.  She has done an impressive amount of research on this subject, and since I'm not particularly well versed in Irish myth, I thought one of her posts would enhance the topic of my blog, namely, the adaptation of myth in fiction. 
       Oh, by the way, Ali is writing a series called the Tir na Nog trilogy.  Check them out when you go over to her blog to read the rest of this post.  I haven't read them, but I'm about to put them on my To-Read list on Goodreads, because they definitely seem like my kind of book!  FYI, "Tir na Nog" means "Land of the Young" and is a name for the Irish Otherword. 
The Salmon of Knowledge
       Something which intrigued me during my research for my latest book, Conor Kelly and The Fenian King, was Fionn mac Cumhall’s ability to call forth his magical powers and divine the future by sucking or biting on his thumb.
       The story goes that, as a boy, whilst serving an apprenticeship with the Druid Finegas, he catches the Salmon of Knowledge and cooks it for his master. As he turns the fish in the pan, he scalds his thumb. Instinctively, he places his thumb in his mouth to cool the burn, thus ingesting the tiny scrap of fish skin stuck there, and acquiring the salmon’s knowledge. Afterwards, he has only to touch his thumb to his mouth to foretell the future, and seek the answers to his questions.
       According to the Senshas Mor (an ancient book of Brehon law), Fionn uses this power twice in the story ‘Fionn and the Man in the Tree’. When the Sidhe steal the Fianna’s food three times in a row as the food is cooking, Fionn is enraged and chases the thief back to his Sidhe-mound. A woman slams the door behind the thief, trapping Fionn’s thumb. He pops the injured digit in his mouth, and receives some kind of divine knowledge which he recites in a poem. Later in the same story, he discovers the identity of an escaped servant by putting his thumb in his mouth and chanting an incantation.
       This act of looking into the future and chanting or reciting prophecy in the form of poetry is called Imbas Forosnai (imbas meaning ‘inspiration’, in particular the sacred poetic inspiration of the ancient Filidh, and forosnai meaning ‘illuminating’ or ‘that which illuminates’). It involves the use of sensory deprivation in order to pass into a trance-like state.
Read more of this post HERE.

Barxáw: Auxiliaries

September 21st, 2014 by Miekko
Barxáw has auxiliaries. Some of them may be surprisingly specific in what they mean, and some of them behave in syntactically somewhat odd manners.

Let us first consider the most common syntactical pattern for auxiliaries in Barxáw. 
Nounsubj Aux Verb (Nounobj) (Oblique arguments)
Some cause the main verb to be marked in some manner - a preposed é is not unusual. Considering this extra particle part of the aux would make sense, but some transformations show that é's location is relative to the main verb rather than to the aux.

A number of auxiliaries that follow this pattern are:
áɲ̟è - to be able to
t'íð -  to begin to
jùm (é) - to stop 
kìr (é) - to  do repeatedly or habitually
 err (é) - to stop due to some external factor (the external factor being preceded by the preposition if it is a noun, and the subordinating conjunction ísnu if it is a clause - the external factor need not be specified, however).
 génð [definite human subjects], gél [definite animate subjects], rrú (indefinite human subjects], bém [indefinite animate subjects], kádu [inanimate subjects] - explicitly perfective (also only used with transitives)
ðumú [human subjects], k'ipè [nonhuman subjects] - explicitly perfective (intransitive) 

Adjectival Auxiliaries
Some auxiliaries in Barxáw peculiarly enough distribute more like adjectives than like verbs.
qhúrro -  want to, desire to, hope to
cepá - attempt to, try to cause
azé - resume
c'arr -  refuse to
These are, at times, used like those given above. An interesting quirk is that these can also mark objects (but not obliques), signifying, for instance, that someone wants to be verbed - Séli kelað  qhúrro Joqù = Joqù wants Séli to help him. With azé, marking an object with it signifies returning to a certain object of the activity, whereas the activity itself may have been uninterrupted.
C'arr does never mark non-subjects.

These do not combine with other auxiliaries, and therefore may reasonably be considered auxiliaries in some sense.

metal is meital

September 21st, 2014 by Mariska
meital = metal (noun) (some things Google found for "meital": an uncommon term; an unusual to uncommon Hebrew feminine first name, notably Israeli actress and musical artist Meital Dohan; an unusual to rare last name)

Word derivation for "metal" :
Basque = metal, Finnish = metalli
Miresua = meital

This is a word that I didn't have much to work with, so I got a little creative.

This should have been posted on the 18th. I lost track of the date. Instead of retroactively manipulating the post's date, I'm publishing this on the next even numbered day.

The word metal doesn't occur in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-glass.

Moten Words for the Day

September 20th, 2014 by Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

vo|sa /vo̞t͡sa/, noun: “beauty, appropriateness; also as adj. beautiful, appropriate, good, fit for purpose”

slim /slim/, noun: “ugliness, inappropriateness; also as adj. ugly, inappropriate, unfit for purpose”

Not sure if this meme represents vo|sa or slim here.

A peculiarity of Moten is that it lacks truly generic words meaning “good” or “bad”. Instead, it has pairs of nouns that approximate those meanings, but always with a more restricted semantic range. Vo|sa and slim are one such pair.

Vo|sa and slim are basically the extremes in the range of appropriateness. That’s to say, vo|sa represents the quality of things that are good because they are fit for purpose, while slim represents the quality of things that are bad because they are unfit for purpose. The keyword here is purpose, by the way: vo|sa and slim are never used as absolute judgements of value, but only have a meaning when the speaker has some goal or need in mind, and judges the appropriateness of something based on the idea of fulfilling that goal.

For instance, a chair should be vo|sa when the goal is to sit down, but it’s not surprising if it’s actually slim when your goal is to reach the ceiling to change a lightbulb! And a chair that is slim when your goal is to sit down is basically an uncomfortable chair that misses its purpose. It may be of good quality, i.e. sturdy and made of pricey materials, and it may look nice, but if it doesn’t sit comfortably, it will still be slim.

Notice that I also translated vo|sa as “beauty” and slim as “ugliness”. That’s because for some objects, their purpose is simply to be aesthetically pleasing, so in that case “fitness for purpose” is equivalent to “beauty”. This is also true of ideas and concepts, which can be aesthetically pleasing even without looking at any kind of specific purpose, so vo|sa and slim can also be applied to abstractions in that sense.

Notice, however, that these nouns can never refer to the physical beauty of a person or animal. It seems Moten speakers rather balk at the idea that the entire purpose for the existence of a human being or animal could solely be to be aesthetically pleasing. Good for them!


from Tumblr

Detail #100: Some ideas about counters

September 19th, 2014 by Miekko
Counters are fairly interesting words. If you're not familiar with them, they function a bit like 'heads of' or 'pieces of' work in English NPs along the lines of the following sample:

  • five head of cattle
  • six pieces of metal
  • ten grains of sand

Languages that use such words more often - and where they are semantically more bleached than in the English examples above - sometimes are described as having only mass nouns. Such descriptions may exaggerate what is going on, but I will not get into that right now.

Obviously, counters enable some neat shenanigans with regards to noun-class-like things.
However, I started thinking about other things these words could be used. The prototypical use is basically along the line presented above - whenever the noun phrase has a quantifier, it needs a counter.

A few ideas that probably don't go all that well together:

  • predicative amounts: five CNT house = five house, house five CNT = there are five houses
  • plural existential statements: solution CNT = there are solutions. The singular would be done by some construction that is invariant with regards to noun class.
  • distinguishing indefinite determiners - some distinction like some vs. any marked simply by having a counter or not having one.
  • separate counters for specific or estimated amounts. 
  • distinguishing communal possession from separate possession - both with predicative possession and attributive possession. (i.e. 'the family's houses (owned communally)' vs. 'the houses of the family members')
  • individuating plural actors who would normally be assumed to be acting in consort with regards to certain verbs (CNT we go there' - we go there, each by our own path/manner/etc. CNT the family eat = the members of the family all get some nutrition in whatever way, vs. the family eat = the family eats a meal together. 

An important point about sign languages

September 17th, 2014 by Miekko
As a little bit of information that some conlangers (as well as journalists and writers in general) may not be aware of:

In general, sign languages are not constructed by committee or by a kind hearing person like you or me to bestow the gift of communication upon the deaf community. The deaf too have the drive to communicate, just like you or me, and they too know what kinds of things can come in handy for communication (get it, handy, drumroll and laughter). This leads to sign languages appearing ad hoc where deaf people happen to congregate, and since some causes of deafness are dominant, there have been communities around the world where a significant minority have been born deaf. Most (ALL!) modern sign languages have developed out of such communal sign languages. Most of those spoken in Europe and the Anglosphere tend to have one particular added stage: when schools for the deaf were first opened, the pupils often originated in a few communities with separate sign languages. In these schools, the languages of the first generations of speakers interacted, affected each other - and one or another won out by whatever reason - an important speaker knowing one of them very well for whatever reason (in many of the communities with dominant genes for deafness, many non-deaf also knew the sign language!) may have tipped the balance, lots of kids from one village may have tipped it, or the status or whatever of one particular specific language may have won.

It is natural linguistic evolution in small communities. Yes, language planning has entered into it - just like it has with regards to Swedish, Icelandic, French and even English. This does not make these languages 'conlangs'.

Attention Conlangers!

September 17th, 2014 by Miekko
An esteemed friend of mine has started a crowdsourced bibliography of grammars. The bibliography can be found here.

If you know of a grammar of some obscure natural language, go and check whether it is in there, and if it isn't, add an entry. If it is public domain and you know an online source for it, even better.

Dothraki: Coming to a Store Near You

September 16th, 2014 by David Peterson

Living Language Dothraki is going on sale October 7th! And in addition to that, I will be going around talking about the new book in various parts of the country over the next few months. Mark your calendars, if you happen to live near New York City, LA, the Bay Area, Las Vegas, Denver or Kirksville, Missouri. Here’s the schedule at present (all times local; to be updated fairly frequently as new events are confirmed):


  • Truman State University, Kirksville, MO, September 17-18: I’ll be giving two talks hosted by the Linguistics department on September 17th at 4:30 p.m. in the TSU Student Union Building, Georgian Room B, and on September 18th at 7:00 p.m. in Baldwin Hall 176. The former is more linguistics-oriented; the latter more general (though it’s still kind of linguisticky. We’ll see how it goes).
  • Seal Beach Wag n’ Walk, Seal Beach, CA, September 27th: I’ll be hosting a booth at the annual Wag n’ Walk, which is a benefit for the Seal Beach Animal Care Center. Come learn your dog’s true Dothraki name!


  • October 7th: Living Language Dothraki is on sale at an independent bookstore near you!
  • Word Bookstore, Jersey City, NJ, October 8th: I’ll be doing an event and signing at Word in Jersey City at 7:30 p.m. (note: there are two stores, one in Brooklyn and one in Jersey City. Be sure not to confuse the two!).
  • Book Soup, Hollywood, CA, October 14: I’ll be doing an event and signing at Book Soup in Hollywood at 7 p.m.
  • Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA, October 17: I’ll be doing an event and signing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego at 7:30 p.m.
  • Orange County Public Library, Tustin, CA, October 22nd: I’ll be doing an event and signing at the Tustin library right near my home at 7 p.m.
  • Mission Viejo Public Library, Tustin, CA, October 28th: I’ll be doing an event and signing at the public library in Mission Viejo at 7 p.m.


  • Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO, November 10th: I’ll be giving a talk at Colorado College (details to come).
  • Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, CA, November 15th: I’ll be a part of a group of other sff authers at Kepler’s Sci-Fi Fantasy Day. It’s going to be from 1-5 p.m. and feature a number of interesting talks and panels. My Dothraki event will be at 2:30 p.m. Please note that this is a ticketed event (tickets are $10 and can be purchased here), but a ticket grants you admission to the entire day’s events.

There are a number of other events I had to leave off because they haven’t been finalized yet, so stay tuned! Doing lots of stuff the next couple months.

Dothras chek!