Archive for the ‘grammar’ Category

Musical Interlude

Friday, November 15th, 2019

In English this time.

This song has been going through my head lately, so I am sharing…

Fiat Lingua article

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

Of course the one month I forget to check Fiat Lingua on the first is the month David publishes my article.

Trompe l’Œil Conlanging—Or How to Fake Depth in a Conlang


Also, my biography has changed. Delete the last sentence.

Detail #385: A Type of Letter Shape

Sunday, November 10th, 2019
I seldom have ideas about writing in this group, and I generally am not a very graphically oriented person. But I figured a language could have a few different types of letters:

positionwise absolute letters

The form of an positionwise absolute letter is predictable from its position in a word. Available positions might be script-specific: some language might distinguish initial from other, some may have initial, medial and final, some may have sentence-initial vs. others, etc. Some may have word-initial, second, and other, etc.

left- and right-outline adhering letters
Left-adhering letters shape their right side so at to adhere to the outline of the letter to their right. Thus, the curve or line simply doubles the neighbouring letter's left or right side. Say the J in "John" had a slight bulge to leave some space for the "o". (Of course, this idea can be turned 90 degrees for scripts that are vertical instead of horizontal.)

Edge cases might entirely be missing for these letters, or they behave in special ways at word boundaries - or there may be some placeholder letters for that situation.

dual-outline adhering letters
These only have some small medial detail and otherwise match the shapes of the left and right of the surrounding letters.

Letters that cross into other letters could of course be feasible, and their shape could be controlled by the properties of the other letter.

Detail #384: Making Adjectives more Dynamic

Monday, November 4th, 2019
One word class that sometimes does not get all the love it deserves is adjectives. Sometimes, they are just made a special type of verbs (or barely even special, at that), and sometimes they are conflated with nouns.

I have previously suggested a language that splits them in two new classes but I imagine there may be other things to do with them.

Let's make something like cases but exclusively for adjectives, that operate separately from the cases of nouns.

Here's a few such cases:
1. Qualitative
The basic use of an adjective: tells us something about the noun. Can appear both as subject and complement:
I am hungry
the red house
2. Translative
Much like how this case is used in Finnish on both adjectives and nouns, it expresses a quality the noun acquires. Unlike in Finnish, however, this can mark an NP that is undergoing a transition due to the verb:
hungry-TRNSL wolf ran
the wolf ran (and therefore got hungry)
"the wolf ran itself hungry"
3. Terminative-translative
Like the translative, but restricts the verb's time span or aspect:
tired-TT man worked
the man worked until he got tired
4. Essive
Qualitative, but restricts timespans:
you can come to the new open-ess store
you can come to the new store when it's open

old-ess you can sleep
you can sleep when you're old
It can also inform about cause:
I hated the new loud-ess guitarist
 5.  Post-essive:
Marks 'after being', or direct cause:
small-PE you will have to pay taxes
I saw the shiny-PE clothing

Conlangery Shorts 31: Listen Like a Conlanger — Child Language

Sunday, November 3rd, 2019
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Trompe l’Œil Conlanging—Or How to Fake Depth in a Conlang

Friday, November 1st, 2019

Sylvia Sotomayor has been conlanging since she read Tolkien at an impressionable age. She is best known for the Kēlen language, which won a Smiley Award in 2009. She is currently the Treasurer of the Language Creation Society, and keeps the membership rolls and the LCS Lending Library.


In this short essay, longtime conlanger Sylvia Sotomayor illustrates some simple ways to give one’s conlang the illusion of depth.

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Detail #383: Gender, First Person Pronouns and Reported Speech

Monday, October 21st, 2019
Let's consider a language where even the first person singular pronoun is marked for gender. Now, this can provide an interesting situation with regards to reported speech.

Obviously, a person can report speech from a person of the same gender, or of the other gender. With the other gender, one could keep using the first person pronoun - but alter the gender marking - and still be entirely clear who one is speaking about.

With the same gender, however, one might be expected to replace first person pronouns with third person pronouns of the same gender.

Thus "She told me(masc) she doesn't like roses" comes out as "She told me(masc) I(fem) don't like roses", but "He told me he doesn't like her" comes out as "He told me he doesn't like her". 

Of course, one could permit for the ambiguous system where first person is used in both. One could of course also consider a system where first person in embedded contexts can be "restored" by reduplication:
a) he told me I-I don't know what I-I am talking about vs.
b) he told me I don't know what I am talking about
Where in a), it's me not knowing what I am talking about and in b) it's he who doesn't know.

Conlangery 143: Music of Aeniith

Monday, October 7th, 2019
Margaret Ransdell-Green and Eric Barker come on to talk about the music they created for Margaret’s concultures in the world of Aeniith, which they performed at LCC8. Top of Show Greeting: Muipidan

Qaʃn̩ħeoħelə awo Nħeoħelə: A Grammar and a Cultural Reference for the People of Ħelə

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Ariel Robinson is an analyst out of Boston, MA. Since graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Cognitive Science and Linguistics, she’s leveraged her ability to “translate” complex concepts from one domain into another, including how geopolitics affect businesses and end-users’ emotions affect hackers and cybercrime.


This paper describes a culture, language, partial lexicon, and creation myth Robinson originally created as a student at Wellesley College. Of note are the close ties between the spiritual underpinnings of the People of Ħelə and the phonetic inventory, where each vowel represents one of the four elements and the characteristics with which it is associated. The language is highly morphemic—rooted in Robinson’s study of Semitic languages—which was helpful in word formation in the beginning but posed a larger challenge during the second revision and expansion of the content. Though she wasn’t completely sure as a college student how she might use her creation in the future, Robinson has been percolating and has plans to incorporate the language and culture into a future novel.

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Detail #382: Plurals, Gender and some Twists

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
In all of my conlangs this far, plurals have not distinguished gender on the morphosyntactical level (i.e. there's just "they", not a masculine-they and a feminine-they). The morphemes that form the plural nouns may well be somewhat gender-specific (but mostly in the nominative and possibly some other additional case), but syntactically, the languages don't care about gender once plurals are used.

In real languages, there are loads of languages that operate like that, but there's also languages that operate in a different way, and do distinguish plurals of feminines from plurals of masculines (or even greater systems). Sometimes, greater numbers of genders have some distinctions be conflated in the plural.

However, I was thinking of something that might exist in the world, but which I would be surprised if it does. For the sake of simplicity, I'll stick to a two-gender system: masculine and feminine.

Let's have three plural markers: masculine, mixed and feminine.
Now, consider a noun, and a noun for which we sometimes might have mixed-gender plurals. Let's go for, say, "person". Now, "male person" is obviously "man", and "female person" is "woman", so let's go for these words.
Now man+masc.plur means "men", man+mixed = "persons". Woman+fem.plur = women, women+mixed = "persons".
"Mixed" plurals are referred to by the pronouns of the gender of the lexeme onto which the suffix is added, so "man+mixed" would get the masculine pronoun.

Now for the twists: some words lack forms! Some words use the other gender's root with the three suffixes. Some words have a separate suppletive root for one, two or all three of these. Some words just cross the lines: the masculine plural of "shaman" is based on the feminine root, and the feminine plural is based on the masculine root (this might be to confuse evil spirits). On some words, the morphemes are out of whack - "mixed" might mean either feminine or mixed, or masculine or mixed, depending on the lexeme. And finally, for some nouns, the "regular" suffix might also include the mixed meaning, while the "mixed" morpheme is not used at all.