Archive for the ‘conlang news and questions’ Category

“namin” is not good

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Well, this is a blog posting about one thing: A funny misunderstanding and an insight on how language evolves. To explain the situation: The person with whom I want to spend the rest of my life, whom I want to marry and whose children I want to raise (in the following posting just abbreviated to Allanea) is here in Ireland with me for 12 days*. While he does not speak rejistanian in any degree of fluency, he understands a few words and has a basic idea about how the grammar works. Sometimes, I use rejistanian with him and in this specific case, I used “namin” quite often when we could not find something which we needed (the usual things: mobile phone, glasses, condoms**) and then I found it. This led to the fact that Boris understood the word in a rather different sense than it was intended: Instead of understanding it as “here” (which is what it means), he understood it as “it’s okay [we found it]“. And so one time, he used the term “namin” as “it’s okay”.

This confused me a lot until he explained his reasoning (and even later). However, as conlanger you can IMHO take a few lessons from it:
1) meanings can change quite unpredictably
2) sometimes, people do things with language you do not expect
3) it does not always need to make complete sense, sometimes language makes none and that is okay.

* the internet gave a whole new meaning to the term “long-distance relationship”.
** well, yes, we believe in this “no sex before marriage” thing, however since the institution of marriage exists since centuries, we feel free to f…(ornicate)


Of valley girls and unemployed expats

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

I always thought that upspeak in English is a strange phenomenon but nothing to complain about just as much. Then, I got into contact with this person who is from my own country and lives here in Ireland but whose English is by far worse. At least it feels that way. I realized that the reason is not so much that he makes grammatical mistakes or has a strong accent (he does make some mistakes in terms of pronunciation, but I have heard much more glaring ones in English classes at college). What I realized was that his intonation and prosody was so off that it was actually hard to understand him.

Okay, prosody is a topic I have not yet covered, in anything like great detail, but it definitely deserves being covered. Most conlangers do not mention intonation in their grammars. At least not the ones, I know of. Personally I do mention it in passing in Rejistanian, but have not thought about it for my other languages (if you could see me now, oyu’d notice that I blushed in embarrassment). It is an interesting topic and one I need to read up about more myself.

I suspect that again the oral exolangs are in the best position here. They can be however their creators want them to be without any qualms about feasibility (on that note: how do the likes of Na’vi, Klingon and Dothraki do it? Keep an English inflection in order not to confuse actors and fans? Go wild?). Auxlangs are at a much worse position. People do not only have a different linguistic background but probably will use the inflection of their native language (or just a language they know very well*) for the auxlang. This can create a set of problems in how to distinguish yes/no questions from statements. The typical way to do that is via a question particle, a way which is also done in some natural languages (for example colloquial German uses “ne” at the end of yes/no questions). That has a set of problems like the placement and how that affects the intended correct intonation, but I guess the other ideas are worse in terms of ease. They might not be though, as I said, difficulty is not only the existance of a strange rule but also its application. Artlangers, of course are free to do as they like.

So, how to create a conintonation and conprosody? To be honest, I am not that sure. I would suggest babbling. Seriously, babble in random sounds in the vague conphonology and try just by that to convey something. Try to make it sound as if a teacher instructs a class or as if a child tells a sibling to be fruitfull and multily, just not in these exact words ;) . Maybe this will lead you to something good. Don’t forget to document speech in your conlang with recordings to retain these things.


A new trick for vocabulary

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

You might have noticed that vocabulary is one of the things, which I care very deeply about in conlangs. The posting I get most links to details the creation of vocabulary. Now that I am reading Steven Pinker’s book The Stuff of Thought, I realize that there is a different trick to look at what might be missing in vocabulary. Apparently it was originally invented by Bertrand Russel in the 1950s, even though not for conlanging. What you need is a basic word, like to eat. Now create a progression from the best connotation to the worst one. This can be two or three steps. here a German example: ich esse, du schlingst es runter, er frisst. (I eat, you eat (hastily), he eats (like an animal)). Or in Tsali: Uka anda, oparlki hima (I eat, you eat (undeservedly or too much)). Here is an english example with another term: I exploring my sexuality, you are promiscuous, she is a slut*. Using longer terms and idioms is perfectly okay and even encouraged.

Feel free to post some degrees of connotation of your conlangs (with explanation) into the comments.

* I would like to point out the hypocrisy of this term or rather, the lack of a male equivalent. So I am going to announce to use the term slut from now on also for males :þ


A new trick for vocabulary

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

You might have noticed that vocabulary is one of the things, which I care very deeply about in conlangs. The posting I get most links to details the creation of vocabulary. Now that I am reading Steven Pinker’s book The Stuff of Thought, I realize that there is a different trick to look at what might be missing in vocabulary. Apparently it was originally invented by Bertrand Russel in the 1950s, even though not for conlanging. What you need is a basic word, like to eat. Now create a progression from the best connotation to the worst one. This can be two or three steps. here a German example: ich esse, du schlingst es runter, er frisst. (I eat, you eat (hastily), he eats (like an animal)). Or in Tsali: Uka anda, oparlki hima (I eat, you eat (undeservedly or too much)). Here is an english example with another term: I exploring my sexuality, you are promiscuous, she is a slut*. Using longer terms and idioms is perfectly okay and even encouraged.

Feel free to post some degrees of connotation of your conlangs (with explanation) into the comments.

* I would like to point out the hypocrisy of this term or rather, the lack of a male equivalent. So I am going to announce to use the term slut from now on also for males :þ


Underappreciated conlangs

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

While I try to post daily anyways on my rejistanian blog, I was inspired by this posting for a posting here, on my general purpose blog. We all know the big ideas and big players in the conlanging area: Esperanto, Quenya, Klingon, Ido, Toki Pona, Ithkuil, Kamakawi, Kélen etc. But who else is there?

IMHO, Volapük is one of the more underappreciated conlangs. But it had the great foresight to attempt to make difficult sounds more accessible even for non-europeans. And it seems to be more… tense than Esperanto which can be quite aesthetically pleasing.

Teonaht is another one. I seriously appreciate the dedication to work on a project for more than 40 years. Sally Caves, you are a role model!

Saizai’s gripping language is also very innovative and deserves to be seen more widely. It takes a new idea and runs with it.

These are a few very subjective picks. Who do you think deserves more appreciation?


Thropoi Phonology

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
The phonology of Thropoi is pretty standard, with one or two exceptions.

Consonants


p b t d th k
p b t d θ~ð k

f v w s z sh zh
f v w~ʋ s z ʃ ʒ

m n l r j
m n* l r** j

* <n> is /ŋ/ before k
** <r> is /ɹ/ when not followed by a vowel

Vowels


a á o ó i í
ɐ a ɔ o ɪ i

u ú ü e é ë
u y ʏ ɛ e *

The last vowel is the most interesting. It is generally not pronounced. You could consider it a mix between a glottal stop and a /ə/. For instance, "darëthi" ('my') is pronounced [dɐɹθɪ], [dɐɹəθɪ] or [dɐrəθɪ]. The combination "të ... të" would be [tə ... tə] in most cases.

When a vowel is followed or preceded by an ë, the ë is omitted. E.g. 'mano'+'ëth' > "manoth" ('I have'). When there is a word break in between, the ë remains visually, but is not pronounced. For instance, "atë átallëth" ('and I eat') would be [ɐ:ta:tɐlθ].

Alternatively, you could write the <ë> as <'>. For instance "at' átallëth" or even "at' átall'th".

Thropoi Phonology

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
The phonology of Thropoi is pretty standard, with one or two exceptions.

Consonants


p b t d th k
p b t d θ~ð k

f v w s z sh zh
f v w~ʋ s z ʃ ʒ

m n l r j
m n* l r** j

* <n> is /ŋ/ before k
** <r> is /ɹ/ when not followed by a vowel

Vowels


a á o ó i í
ɐ a ɔ o ɪ i

u ú ü e é ë
u y ʏ ɛ e *

The last vowel is the most interesting. It is generally not pronounced. You could consider it a mix between a glottal stop and a /ə/. For instance, "darëthi" ('my') is pronounced [dɐɹθɪ], [dɐɹəθɪ] or [dɐrəθɪ]. The combination "të ... të" would be [tə ... tə] in most cases.

When a vowel is followed or preceded by an ë, the ë is omitted. E.g. 'mano'+'ëth' > "manoth" ('I have'). When there is a word break in between, the ë remains visually, but is not pronounced. For instance, "atë átallëth" ('and I eat') would be [ɐ:ta:tɐlθ].

Alternatively, you could write the <ë> as <'>. For instance "at' átallëth" or even "at' átall'th".

Thropoi Phonology

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
The phonology of Thropoi is pretty standard, with one or two exceptions.

Consonants


p b t d th k
p b t d θ~ð k

f v w s z sh zh
f v w~ʋ s z ʃ ʒ

m n l r j
m n* l r** j

* <n> is /ŋ/ before k
** <r> is /ɹ/ when not followed by a vowel

Vowels


a á o ó i í
ɐ a ɔ o ɪ i

u ú ü e é ë
u y ʏ ɛ e *

The last vowel is the most interesting. It is generally not pronounced. You could consider it a mix between a glottal stop and a /ə/. For instance, "darëthi" ('my') is pronounced [dɐɹθɪ], [dɐɹəθɪ] or [dɐrəθɪ]. The combination "të ... të" would be [tə ... tə] in most cases.

When a vowel is followed or preceded by an ë, the ë is omitted. E.g. 'mano'+'ëth' > "manoth" ('I have'). When there is a word break in between, the ë remains visually, but is not pronounced. For instance, "atë átallëth" ('and I eat') would be [ɐ:ta:tɐlθ].

Alternatively, you could write the <ë> as <'>. For instance "at' átallëth" or even "at' átall'th".

Thropoi

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Thropoi is the (temporary?) name for my new 'artlang' (artistic language). It is derived from the first word that sprang to mind when coming up with this lang, which was "thropos". It means 'bull', though I'm not quite sure what effects that has on the meaning of 'Thropoi'.

Anyhow, let's look at a couple of sentences I assembled:
Anthonos sín darëthi prádo. Tas mano vesem mannin akot shánide. Tasta të tamen të rapu etet nají Frankarërne, jatem ain rutarevt.
It's supposed to mean the following:
Anthony is my friend. He has a great house near the sea. His mother and father went to France, but have not returned.
 Let's disect that, shall we?

  • Anthonos - "Anthony" [name, masc. nom. sg., o-base] from Anthonos
  • sín - "is" [verb, 3rd sg. act., present simple, indi.] from sín
  • darëthi - "my" [pronoun, general possessive sg., consonant-base] from dar
  • prádo - "friend" [n., general predicative sg., o-base] from prádo
  • tas - "he" [pn., masc. nom. sg., a-base] from tas
  • mano - "have" [v., 3rd sg. act., present simple, indi.] from mano
  • vesem - "house" [n., neuter acc. sg., c.-base] from ves
  • mannin - "big" [adjective, neut. acc. sg., o-base] from manno
  • akot - "near" [preposition]
  • shánide - "sea" [n., neut. locative sg., o-base] from sháno
  • tasta - "his" [pn., masc. poss. sg., a-base] from tas
  • të - "and" [conjunction] (always appears in pairs or groups)
  • tamen - "mother" [n., fem. nom. sg., e-base] from tamen
  • të - "and" [conjunction]
  • rapu - "father" [n., masc. nom. sg, u-base] from rapu
  • etet - "went" [v., 3rd pl. monovalent, past simple, indi.] from eta
  • nají - "to" [preposition]
  • Frankarërne - "France" [nm., neut. lative sg., c.-base] from Frankar
  • jatem - "but" [conjunction]
  • ain - "not" [adverb]
  • rutarevt - "have returned" [v., 3rd pl. mon., present perfect] from rutaro
Phew, that's quite a list.

As you might have noticed, Thropoi has a lot of different conjugations: there are 4 genders, 13 cases, 4 numbers and 5 bases (leaving you with 1040 noun-conjugations), 3 tenses, 3 aspects, 4 voices, 8 persons and 8 moods (resulting in 2304 verb-conjugations, although some are impossible).

This is of course on purpose. The aim of this particular lang is purely art; I want to have a language that one can only interpret and produce with a dictionary at hand. Where my other langs are often quite simple, this is a language that is ridiculously complex, just for the sake of it.

Conlanging intuition

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

I have to admit that the topic on the Conlang Mailing List was quite interesting to me. If I was more spiritually inclined, I might think that somethings are something In knew from a language of a former life, because they just feel so right. Like the really odd system of rejistanian comparisons. For no-one else, 14 comparisons make probably no sense at all, but forme, it is something which just clicked with the language.

Another thing which sounds so very RIGHT for me is putting the adjectives behind the verb. German does not do this and neither does English (with a few exceptions like ‘something blue’) but for me, this just felt exactly how it should be*. I guess this makes only a very limited amount of sense to anyone else, but sometimes, I do get this feeling about things, not all of them related to conlanging. When for example I discovered Forth, I got the feeling that this programming language actually makes sense. I am sceptic enough to accept that the idea that something like this stems from a former life is not even wrong (ie: so bizarre that it is unfalsifiable), but I like it in the way I like a bizarre plot twist in a story. The Rejistanis however probably are not so sceptic about this and it makes sense that they actually have a word for something like that. *has an idea which completely fits the idea and creates word*

Someone on the list said the feeling that something just clicks is inspiration. Maybe it is related to it, but it misses a component. Inspiration to me is “Hey, I suddenly have a great idea how to do it!”, it is not “Hey, I suddenly have a great idea how to do it and to me it feels as if THIS AND ONLY THIS is right!” (but then, languages cannot and will not cover every nuance in connotation with a different term).

Whatever it is, it is one of the reasons to conlang since it is one of the most satisfying moments which exist.

* I used it so often that I intentionally decided not to use that feature in Tsali.