Archive for the ‘meta’ Category

Returning to Germany Soon

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


My time in Canada is almost up.


I will return to Germany in approximately four weeks.


I am both happy and sad because although school here is more exhausting than in Germany, I kind of like the relaxed ambience of everything else and the beautiful landscape around Victoria.

Bimakanganjas-kay nā matayena
Some of my photos from the summer

Greetings from Canada

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Manojas-ikan na Minkayi.


‘Many greetings from Canada.’

Ang yomāy edaya kardangirayyam ya Desember pesan.


‘I’m here for university until December.’

Koronoyyang, ang gamaray gumoas-ikan yam Ayeri, yanoyam deng-ven kihasreng kardang nā.


‘I don’t know if I manage to get much work done for Ayeri because my schedule is quite full.’

Happy 10th Birthday, Ayeri!

Sunday, December 1st, 2013
Birthday cake (Photo: Will Clayton (spool32)/

Happy Birthday! – Bahisley vesang mino! (Photo: Will Clayton (spool32)/, CC-BY)

One day in December 2003, in the week just after the 1st Advent,1 the idea for a new conlang was born. An idea that turned out to stick with me for already 10 years now. You guess it: it’s Ayeri’s 10th birthday. Yay!

At that time, my 17 years old self was still fairly new to this whole making-up languages business, read things about linguistics here and there, and wasn’t shy to ask questions about terminology (and, looking at old mails, a little impertinently teenager-like so – sorry!), for example on CONLANG-L and the Zompist Bulletin Board. One thing seemed to catch my interest especially: syntactic alignments other than the NOM/ACC of the few languages I was familiar with, that is, German, English, and French. Apparently this curiosity was big enough for me to grow bored with my second conlang, Daléian (declared “quite complete” after maybe half a year of work or so), and to start something new from scratch in order to put newly acquired knowledge to test. I had read about “trigger languages” on CONLANG-L and wanted to try my hands on making my own. I can’t remember how long it took me to come up with a first draft of an Ayeri grammar, however, I do remember having been told that a good language can’t be made in a summer. Of course, I still didn’t really know what I was doing then, even though I thought I had understood things and authoritatively declared “this is how it works” in my first grammar draft when things sometimes really don’t work that way. But at least an interest had been whetted. Even now, after 10 summers and with more experience, I still come across aspects of my language that can use some work, clarification or correction, as the ‘blog’ page you can find on my website since March 2011 proves over and over again.

Just for fun, slight embarrassment and nostalgia, I went through some old backups contemporary with the very early days of Ayeri. Here is a sentence from the oldest existing document related to it, titled “Draft of & Ideas for my 3rd Conlang” – the file’s last-changed date is December 14, 2003, though I remember having started work on Ayeri in early December. I added glossing for convenience and according to what I could reconstruct from the notes. This uses vocabulary and grammatical markers just made up on the spot and for illustrative purposes; little of it actually managed to make it over into actual work on Ayeri:


‘He reads a book on the bed.’

According to the grammar draft of September 5, 2004, this would have already changed to:


‘He reads a book on the bed.’

Pinam ‘bed’ was only (re-)introduced on October 24, 2008. In the current state of Ayeri, I would translate the sentence as follows:


‘He reads a book on a/the bed.’

You can see, quite a bit of morphology got lost already early on, especially the overt part-of-speech marking (!) and animacy marking on nouns. Also, prepositions were just incorporated into a noun complex as suffixes apparently. Gender was originally only divided into animate and inanimate, but I changed that sometime because speaking European languages, it felt awkward to me not to be able to explicitly distinguish “he”, “she” and “it”. A feature that also got lost is the assignment of thematic vowels in personal pronouns to 3rd-person referents: originally, every 3rd-person referent newly introduced into discourse would be assigned one of /a e i o u/ to disambiguate, and there was even a morpheme to mark that the speaker wanted to dissolve the association. Constituent order was theoretically variable at first, but I preferred SVO/AVP because of familiarity with that. Later on, however, I settled on VSO/VAP. Also, I had no idea about “trigger morphology” for the longest time – I’m not saying that I know all about it now, just that I have a better understanding … Orthography changed as well over the years, so 〈c〉 in the early examples encodes the /k/ sound, not /tʃ/ as it would today; diphthongs are spelled as 〈Vi〉 instead of modern 〈Vy〉. What was definitely beneficial for the development of Ayeri was the ever increasing amount of linguistics materials available online and my entering university (to study literature) in 2009, where I learnt how to do research and where I have a huge library available. Now I only wish I had the time to read all the interesting things I’ve downloaded and occasionally photocopied over the years.

One of the things people regularly compliment me on is my conlang’s script – note, however, that Tahano Hikamu was not the first one I came up with for Ayeri. Apparently, I had already been fascinated with the look of Javanese/Balinese writing early on; this file is dated February 9, 2004:

First Design for an Ayeri script.

First designs for an Ayeri script.

However, since the letter shapes in this looked so confusingly alike that I could never memorize them, I came up with this about a year later:

First draft of Tahano Hikamu.

First draft of Tahano Hikamu.

What is titled “Another Experimental Script” here is what would later turn into Tahano Hikamu, Ayeri’s ‘native’ script. According to the notes in my conlang ring binder, the script looked much the same as today about a year from then, but things have only been mostly stable since about 2008.

So what’s on for the next 10 years? For one, I’m still kind of embarrassed that I haven’t managed to provide a full-fledged reference grammar in all those years – what you can currently download from my website has been left unfinished for about 3 years now, since working on that grammar always becomes tedious again after newly found enthusiasm typically ebbs after a few weeks. Also, I have long meant to figure out either a proto language for Ayeri, or maybe daughter languages or dialects. However, I don’t really have any schedule or agenda, so I’ll continue to tinker on whichever aspect of Ayeri seems right at the time.

  1. That is the 4th Sunday before Christmas.

Blogartikel auf Deutsch?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Seit geraumer Zeit frage ich mich, ob ich vielleicht ab und zu hier im Blog auch auf Deutsch posten soll. Zwei Artikel habe ich ja bereits ins Deutsche übersetzt, jedoch habe ich es bisher immer vorgezogen, hier auf Englisch zu schreiben, der Internationalität halber. Meiner Erfahrung nach stellt Englisch für die meisten Deutsch sprechenden Sprachenbastler nicht wirklich ein großes Problem dar, was sich vermutlich auch in den zehn häufigsten Anfragen bei einer großen Suchmaschine im vergangenen Monat spiegelt, für die der Sprachbaukasten als Suchergebnis angezeigt wurde:

Suchanfrage Impressionen Klicks Durchschn. Pos.
vokaltrapez 250 <10 20
elbisches alphabet 250 <10 45
elbisch alphabet 150 <10 66
anatomie mund 70 <10 20
elbische schrift alphabet 70 <10 38
zunge anatomie 70 <10 56
sans titre 60 <10 14
mund anatomie 35 <10 9,6
klingonisches alphabet 35 <10 44
koreanisches alphabet 35 <10 160

Natürlich würde ich zu jedem deutschsprachigen Blogartikel jeweils eine englische Übersetzung zusätzlich anfertigen. Die Suchanfragen oben zeigen jedoch, dass beispielsweise “Sprachen erfinden” oder ähnliche Begriffe gar nicht gesucht wurden und selbst die Ergebnisse derjenigen eingegebenen Suchbegriffe, für die eine Seite des Sprachbaukastens zurückgeliefert wurde, weniger als zehnmal angeklickt wurden. Bedarf an einer deutschsprachigen Einleitung zum Sprachen erfinden besteht also wohl nicht. Sich doppelte Arbeit mit Übersetzungen zu machen, wäre demnach nicht nötig. — Die Kommentarfunktion für diesen Aritkel ist im Moment freigegeben.

For the English version of this article, see the next page:

What I work with

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Occasionally, fellow conlangers – especially beginning ones – want to know how other people work and what tools they use. Here is my stuff:

My desk. With my laptop on it. Paper vocabulary list Paper notes. These are taken in German, but I more often take notes in English so I don't need to translate them. Part of my language books shelf

I’m working on a 6 years old laptop currently running Ubuntu 12.04. Personally, I find that Linux is way more language friendly than Windows since it’s far more configurable and open for tinkering with input methods and such things. Besides that, I like to take notes on paper sometimes, especially when it’s vocabulary. Notes taken on the computer I will often print out and then put them into the ring binder where I keep my handwritten notes. Vocabulary lists are, however, always transferred to the computer from paper as quickly as possible. Also important, of course, are books for research. Whether my own or borrowed from my university’s library. One thing: university libraries are awesome! I already dread the day I won’t have access to one anymore.

On the computer, the mainly relevant software I use is:

  • WordPress for editing this website. I’m running it on my own, paid webspace (for this site about $2/mo.) so I have full control over it. However, WordPress is both a blessing and a curse because although maintaining a website is rather easy with it, it’s very popular, so you get lots of spammers and crackers trying to litter up and conquer your site for their own nefarious purposes.
  • Kate or any other text editor to quickly take digital notes and to edit code
  • phpMyAdmin and Django to maintain the MySQL database I keep my dictionary in. I wrote some things in PHP to tie the database querying frontend into WordPress myself. WordPress’ template system comes in handy here: the form you can see on the Dictionary page is an HTML template file that calls a PHP script which queries the database and returns the results.
  • LibreOffice Writer to take more fancy notes and prepare PDFs
  • LibreOffice Calc to keep lists

The Name of the Game (Literally!)

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Today, I sent the following message to CONLANG-L:

On Fri, 8 Mar 2013 13:36:27 -0300, Leonardo Castro wrote:

On Fri, 8 Mar 2013 01:00:54 -0300, Leonardo Castro wrote:

A. “language-spoken-by-people-X”: English, Français, Português, tlhIngan Hol (?), etc.

* “language of linkers”, “language of community”, “language of this group”… “linker” has two senses: people who link themselves to others and the “verbs” that link a noun to another ;

And then, there’s German, whose self-designation, Deutsch, just meant ‘people-ish’ originally, from Germ.-MLat. theodiscus ‘belonging to one’s own people’, cf. PG *þeuðō ‘people’ + -isk- ‘adj. related to’ (OHG thiutisk, MHG tiutsch), according to the entry for ‘deutsch’. It’s of course also the origin of the word Dutch.

I have nothing figured out yet for my own conlang, but it’s been peeving me for some time already that I made the name in -i, since -i is not a derivative morpheme in this language. People have suggested that it might be an exonym. OTOH, the people’s endonym might be Ayer, though that’d be an unusual word in the language, since only few words end in -r. I don’t remember if I coined aye ‘people, crew’ from that consciously; a word for ‘people’ I coined later anyway and which I used more frequently is keynam. As alternatives based on what was listed here before, there would be narān ‘language’ (< nara- ‘to speak’), narān ban ‘good language’, narān biming ‘understandable language’. ‘Language of the people’ would be narān keynamena.

I’m really tempted to pick one from the list of noun-plus-adjective phrases and make that an endonym right now, maybe with some wear and tear added. Having a proto-language to derive a term from and pipe that through the customary sound changes would certainly come in handy here. But how about Naramban, or Banaran (with inverted order for euphony), or just Bimingan ‘the Intelligible’?1 Since I also mentioned German, another route to follow would be something like ‘our’s’, possibilities for which include sitang-nana ‘of our own, ourself’s’ (nominalized sitang-nanān, could be shortened to just Nanān), da-nana ‘that of us’ (nominalized da-nanān). I think I like Bimingan and Nanān best.

[EDIT: Co-conlanger H. S. Teoh notes that names tend to fossilize and reflect older stages of the language, so that it wouldn’t be a problem to have Ayer or Ayeri even as the native name for the people and their language. Hadn’t thought of that, but yes. —CB 2013-03-10]

  1. Note that the Slavic word for ‘German’, PSl. *němьcь, originally meant ‘dumb, mute’ and, by extension, ‘foreigner’ according to Wikipedia.

Anything you’d like to know?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

If you’re following this blog, you will have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for some time. This is mainly due to not having had much time to work on Ayeri for much of the past 12 or so weeks because real-life work obligations like writing a term paper, doing an internship, and writing a report for that internship were much more important. And soon, there’ll be my BA thesis to work on.

There is a list of topics to think about on my backburner still, and in addition my interlinear glosses plugin, my font, and the dictionary query scripts used on this site could use some improvement – and, alas, the big grammar file. But right now, I don’t really feel like tackling any of those issues.

In order to hopefully get my creative juices going again (creativity always kind of ebbs and flows for me), I thought why not have a kind of AMA. Ayeri’s been around for so long, maybe there’s things you people want to know that have not yet been dealt with on this website, or that are hidden away so well you’ve never noticed.

So: Anything you’d like to know about my work? Comments are open again for once.

Micamos Hand-Held Conlanging Guide

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Today, I LaTeXed this guide for the fun of it. It is still a work in progress and far from complete, but someone out there might actually find this useful.

Download the Hand-Held Conlanging Guide. And have fun conlanging!


Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

I’m doing a course on LaTeX at the moment and I thinks it’s quite wonderful. I already found a pdf on how to incorporate IPA, interlinear glossing and structural trees with it. I think I’m going to use it to make the grammar reader for Kaalajur. It just looks so neat and tidy. I guess everyone who wants to write a larger scientific work of any kind might enjoy it. It is difficult to learn at first, but once you got used to it, it just comes handy.

— Blogged from my phone.

Acta Iaponica

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The other day, there were visitors from a Japanese blog dropping in according to my site statistics, and I was curious what someone from “the East” would write about my little project here, since the communities I have participated in are dominated by people from “the West.” Unfortunately, I don’t speak any Japanese, so I piped this through Google Translate and tried to make sense of the output as well as I could.

First off, this guy, who calls himself “Kakis Erl Sax,” appears to be involved in a Japanese community conlanging project called Arka, one of whose members we got into a serious flamewar with on the ZBB due to his missionary zeal of converting us all into pious followers of what seemed to us like an elitist, possibly even fascistoid cult taking itself far too seriously – blatant racism against Westerners included. Since Arka and the Japanese conlanging scene were claimed to be superior to anything Europe and the US have ever produced in terms of artistic languages by the guy on the forum, touting Arka as the one and only good model to follow in order to achieve artistic merits in Conlangia indeed, my curiosity immediately became rather ambivalent with the discovery of K.E.S.’ background. The guy on the ZBB admitted to trolling in the end, basically in an attempt to use any publicity as publicity since he could not get anyone’s interest by just posting site updates for a year, confined to a single dedicated thread. However, his general behavior still left a bad taste in my mouth.

In the following I will quote what was written about Ayeri and give the machine translation respectively.

Conlang Ayeriは知らないね。
I do not know Conlang Ayeri is.

Well, it looks like it’s my fictional language project, and he’s chanced on its website on which I present theoretical backgrounds on its being created as well as assorted materials I made using the language over the course of the last couple of years.

I feel, is a phonological syllable CV Polynesian-style half-baked,

If you interpret the overall esthetics of words as inspired by Polynesian languages, it’s no surprise you will find Ayeri “half-baked.” Rather, its esthetics are inspired by Austronesian languages such as Malay and Tagalog, since I somehow like the look of those languages. It is no surprise, thus, that language-guessing algorithms frequently analyze Ayeri as one of Indonesian, Malay, Tagalog, or Cebuano. To me it seems here that K.E.S. assumes Ayeri was intended to exclusively allow simple CV syllables (almost like Japanese), and in so far I am indeed not very consistent in that many words differ from this pattern. However, all the example texts should suggest that an exclusive CV structure is probably not the basis for my language’s word structure. Thus, the reproach of half-bakedness of my phonotactic system is worthless, since Ayeri otherwise appears very consistent in its look and feel.

Abugida character system,

Yep, that’s how I like it.

Yuan borrowed vocabulary is unknown, perhaps a priori,

I don’t know where he got the assumption from that Ayeri would not be a priori. I have always assumed that there were enough clues everywhere on the site that Ayeri is fictional, in so far a missing list of loan sources would indicate that there is no external relation. However, since Ayeri’s phonotactics are very similar to those of Malay or Tagalog, it is to be expected that identical words appear with different meanings, but this is mostly just coincidence. In fact, I really wonder how Ayeri looks like to a speaker of the previously mentioned languages.

More than 200 the number of vocabulary is not clear,

There are currently about 2,300 entries in the dictionary. From the flamewar mentioned above it became clear, however, that the Arka crowd very much emphasizes the importance of having as many words as possible, and that the dictionary must have topmost importance in fictional languages: if languages have fewer vocabulary items than Arka, they’re supposedly not ‘elaborate’ enough to be any good. I disagree – partially. It is certainly worth putting effort into a dictionary so that it does not become just a bland copy of your native language, however, if this is your only priority, other parts of your language will necessarily starve from neglect instead, so the location of blandness will simply shift elsewhere. Personally, I am more interested in morphosyntax than lexicography, so my dictionary will likely show some traces of neglect, while more interesting aspects will be found in the interplay of syntax and morphology. Since word creation and grammar creation inevitably go hand in hand, I think what is most beneficial is finding an equilibrium you can work with. A single person can only do so much at a time anyway.

VSO NA 合成語もオランウータン式
Word Orangutan formula also VSO NA synthesis

Asking a friend of mine who studies Japanese what this means, he told me that he was not sure what “orangutan” is doing there. In idiomatic English, the sentence runs as “The VSO/NA/compound word is ‘orangutang style’” according to him. Since orang hutan, lit. ‘man/person forest’, is a right-branching compound and Ayeri tends towards being head-initial, i.e. right-branching, it might be that he used that word as an illustrative metaphor. Alternatively, taking the racism that was exhibited by the guy from the forum into account, it might also be a slur referring to perceived primitivity. Japanese, as Wikipedia informs, prefers a strongly head-final word order, so my language would essentially appear like Yoda-speak to him.

Personal pronoun use and case particles are violently refraction formula supplementation

Another sentence mangled beyond recognition by automatic translation, this reads more idiomatically as “Case particle usage and personal pronouns are ‘replenish-style’ and considerably distorted,” according to my friend. I have frankly no idea what this could mean other than that he is confused by the case particles and personal pronouns, maybe in so far as there is a large number of either of them, due to there being eight cases, while there is little irregularity that might otherwise be expected.

Postfix auxiliary

Auxiliary verbs hardly exist in Ayeri. Modals come first in verb phrases and there is no overt copula. Tense is expressed mostly optionally by tense prefixes, mood by suffixes. By now I really think he has just flicked through the grammar quickly and mindlessly while picking on some random aspects.

There are songs by number, for a person of the verb

This looks like it refers to person marking on verbs, and indeed Ayeri has verb agreement.

Decimal number is 12


Or, I’ll understand various, the goal is not clear it.

Another case of not paying attention here. It clearly says what my goals in creating Ayeri are on the Behind the Scenes page.

To the original content artistic language is poor, then it’s an international auxiliary language specification halfway esoteric, Engineering language or not.

Ayeri is neither supposed to be an IAL, nor is it an engineered language in so far that engineered languages (for short, engelangs) are based on an engineer’s approach so that optimization towards a certain goal forms the premise on which the language is constructed. Instead, Ayeri is an artistic language. Since he seems to measure my work by his own preformed premises of how things should be done, I think it is no surprise he thinks Ayeri lacks ingenuity, especially since the only parts he considers are morphology and lexicon. On the other hand it was suggested to me that the judgement of lacking originality might also stem from another thing that is of utmost importance to the Arka crowd: paraphernalia of world-building, as well as lessons, and published works of fiction featuring the language. I must admit that Ayeri is terribly lacking in cultural background, which is often emphasized as crucial for naturalism, but my main interest in this work is linguistics after all, much more so than anthropology or history. However, scarcity of work that puts my language to use is really not a concern – there is a whole bunch of translations to look at and to listen to on the Media page. I am not aspiring to get published in whatever domain right now, so chances to see or hear Ayeri in the mass media are low.

Element is drawn in particular to say except I did not clean abugida character.

This sentence seems like he disliked everything he could glean from my site, but according to my friend, this rather says that he disliked everything except for the script. Oh well.

So all in all, what I received is a slam, but a rather badly done one, since the critique at best only hints at things its author judged poor work, based on not paying attention to the matters as they present themselves. And while our friend here raised a few valid points (at least by proxy of my interpretation of his allusions), most of his reproaches are nonetheless unsubstantial: He does not present any concrete evidence or argumentation as to why he thinks certain aspects of Ayeri are poorly done, so he is in no position to make serious judgements other than a lapidary “Not my taste,” which I will fairly grant him.

However, given the trouble with the Arka contributor on the forum who non-argued in a similar way as K.E.S., I think it’s best to simply ignore these people. Measuring the work of others by a given set of standards unknown to them while not allowing deviations from those standards (“Everyone must copy Arka!”) and not presenting any evidence or argumentation other than “because I say so” must result in arbitrary disfavor. — Case closed.