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Notes on a Vaporware Conlang III

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

A thing that’s always bothered me a little regarding Ayeri is that, so far, I haven’t come up with a proto-language which to draw irregularities and other neat and natural idiosyncracies from. For this conlang idea, I want to right those wrongs from the start, and by experimenting with a “fresh” language I can also learn how I could maybe retrofit Ayeri a little while avoiding noob mistakes … Since any sound can change to any other at least in principle, I thought I should just

  1. assume some phoneme inventory for the proto-language, maybe with some underspecification à la PIE’s laryngeals;1
  2. make up some phonotactics of course;
  3. make up some words in either system accordingly;
  4. morph the proto words to their recent shape and thus gain a bunch of sound changes to draw on and extend.

Furthermore, of course, I can also go backwards from the current shape and make assumptions on what may have happened to generate the current surface form. For example, given words like boď and šaňt, there may very plausibly have been a high front vowel following the palatalized sounds which was elided by apocope or syncope, so e.g. *bodiboď and *šanitšaňt.

For a proto-language inventory, how about this, for a start:2

Consonants

labial dental velar guttural
nasals *μ [m~n~ŋ]
plosives *t *k *q [q~ʔ]
*tʰ *kʰ
fricatives *s *x [x~h]
liquids *w *λ [r~l]

Vowels

Front Mid Back
high *i *u
mid
low *a

Some possible words

Given the above phonemes and the phonotactic rules I sketched out here,3 here is a list of some possible words:

*aλ, *aλs, *i, *iμs.tʰus, *kak.tʰixt, *kaλs.kʰaμk, *kisk.twa, *ku, *kuλ, *kʰa, *kʰask.λaμ, *kʰax.sta, *kʰaλt, *kʰaμ.sλa, *kʰuλs.txu, *sa.taλk, *si.λuxs, *ska.λi, *skʰa, *skʰu, *stʰaq, *su.λə, *sλa, *sλi.μaλμ, *sλu.λəλk, *ta.quμ, *taqs.qusq, *tsa.stʰu, *tu.λətq, *tuλ.tʰa, *txa, *tʰas.qsə, *tʰask, *tʰaxs.taλμ, *tʰaμ, *tʰis.λax, *tλa, *tλa.kaμ, *tλu, *xask.xwu, *xkʰa, *xə, *xλi.saλt, *xλuq.stʰa, *xμa, *λa, *λak.xa, *λəλk.λaλ, *μaλq.tʰak, *μisk.sλak.

Obviously, in order to reach the phoneme inventory posited in my previous blog article in this little series, there has to be some splitting of phonemes, and the underspecification of some of them will be useful there, I suppose, in that allophony (e.g. *λ → *r / #(C)_ but *λ → *l / _#, so *λəλk.λaλ*rəlkral) provides different contexts for sound change to operate on as complementary distributions get undermined. Also, there will have to be some playing around with vowels to generate /e/ and /o/ and to get rid of /ə/, and also to generate a length distinction.

  1. If you like some not totally serious but still good conlanging, look at Pthag’s Shapshiruckish with its series of voiceless fricatives *Ⅰ, *Ⅱ and *Ⅲ, with their sound value “reconstructed” as *​h~ʔ, *f, *θ, respectively.
  2. That is, this may be subject to changes, depending on whether I can make it work or not …
  3. This is a rule file for a little word generator I wrote some time ago, called Wharrgarbl. You can check that out, too, if you like.

Notes on a Vaporware Conlang II

Friday, February 6th, 2015

OK, the bug has mildly bitten me. Here are some further notes:

Phonemic inventory

Consonants

m n m n ň
p t k p t ť k
b d ɡ b d ď g
s ʃ x s š h
z ʒ z ž
r r
w l j w l ľ

Vowels

i u i ī u ū
e o e ē o ō
a a ā

Feature ideas

  • Split is based on [±volition]: [+volition] S/A, P; [-volition] S/P, A
  • Different definite articles and/or pronouns for S/A and S/P?
  • Maybe the same for all S, but differing object A and P depending on Ergative or Accusative?
  • Wackernagel position affects definite articles (N Art, but Adj Art N) and maybe modal verbs (S-Mod-O-V – yes, I’m looking at you, German!)
  • Wackernagel position also for possessive pronouns: stressed/unstressed forms here as well
  • no distinction between A series of pronouns and possessive pronouns (I = my)
  • maybe only direct vs. oblique case marking (if that works with split-A); otherwise small system with case markers from adpositions like Romance (SOV correllates with postpositions, however)
  • definite article from “this” and “that”
  • proclitic definite article full form; enclitic definite article unstressed form
  • left-branching preferred, i.e. modifier-head order: Adj Noun and Possessor Noun
  • The definite article may serve as a subordinator for chains of Poss-N (goes counter to the above rule of wackernageling the definite article, though! Either irregularity, or use a different morpheme …)
    • John car of ‘John’s car’
    • car I ‘my car’
    • John car of the motor of ‘of the motor of John’s car’
    • car I the motor of ‘of my car’s motor’
  • inanimate nouns can’t serve as A
  • non-S can’t be relativized: need for passives and applicatives
  • most common verbs (e.g. be/sit, go, get, put) have suppletive or irregular forms, e.g. for past or plural
  • have = be with/on?

Maybe it could look a bit like this:

Srāt
NOUN.A
-m
=DEF
boď
SOMETHING
na
DEF.ACC
marh
NOUN.P
ūt
done
šaňt.
VERB

Notes on a Vaporware Conlang

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

But … as of now, this is all just vaporware.

Returning to Germany Soon

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Tadayang
time-A
1SG.GEN
ya
LOC
Minkayi
Canada
panganya-ngas.
end-LOC=almost

My time in Canada is almost up.

Ang
AT
sa-sahāy
return-1SG.A.T
ya
LOC
Keynami
Germany
mangasaha
towards
bihanya
week-LOC
yo
four
miday.
approximately.

I will return to Germany in approximately four weeks.

Kamayāng
be.equal-1SG.A
mino
happy
nay
and
giday
sad
yanoyam
because
eng
AT.INAN
engara
be.more-3SG.INAN
kardang
school.T
edaya
here
pisu-pisu
exhausting
ya
LOC
Keynami
Germany
nārya,
although,
sa
PT
vacyang-mas
like-1SG.A=kind.of
hati
ambiance
metida
relaxed
enyana
everything-GEN
palung
else
nay
and
yanoavan
landscape.T
veno
beautiful
miday
around
ya
LOC
Sikatay.
Victoria.

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.

Mano-ye-as=ikan
greeting-PL-P=many
na
GEN
Minkayi.
Canada

‘Many greetings from Canada.’

Ang yomāy edaya kardangirayyam ya Desember pesan.

Ang
AT
yoma-ay
exist-1SG.T
edaya
here
kardangiray-yam
university-DAT
ya
LOC
Desember
December
pesan.
until

‘I’m here for university until December.’

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

Koron-oy-yang,
know-NEG-1SG.A,
ang
AT
gamar-ay
manage-1SG.T
gumo-as=ikan
work-P=much
yam
DAT
Ayeri,
Ayeri,
yanoyam
because
deng=ven
full=quite
kihas-reng
plan-A.INAN
kardang
school
nā.
1SG.GEN

‘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)/flickr.com

Happy Birthday! – Bahisley vesang mino! (Photo: Will Clayton (spool32)/flickr.com, 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:

Ayevhoi
Ay-evhoi
3SG.ANI-SUB
agiaemaesim
agia-ema-esim
read-VERB-SUB.A
coyaielieðamavir
coyai-el-i-eðam-avir
book-NOUN-ANI-INDEF-P
vhaieloyaŋaiye.
vhai-el-o-yaŋa-iye.
bed-NOUN-INAN-on-LOC

‘He reads a book on the bed.’

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

Ang
Ang
A.SUB
layaiyạin
laya-iy-a-in
read-3SG.ANI₁-a₁-SUB
mecoyalei
me-coya-lei
INDEF.INAN-book-P.INAN
ling
ling
top.of
*pinamea.
*pinam-ea.
bed-LOC

‘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:

Ang
Ang
AT
layaya
laya-ya.Ø
read-3SG.M.T
koyaley
koya-ley
book-P.INAN
ling
ling
on.top
pinamya.
pinam-ya.
bed.LOC

‘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 dwds.de 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.