Archive for March, 2009

LCC3 is over… finally

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
... damn that thing took a lot of work. Yay for dedalvs (and the handful of people who really helped out during the event).

It was quite fun, though. Lots of neat people, good talks, etc etc whee. Blast was had.

I hope Henrik can handle more of it for #4, though.

And there's *still* going to be a lot of work to do in followup stuff... I sure hope we can get someone not-me to handle the video editing.

Six more sentences

Monday, March 23rd, 2009
The next 6 sentences yielded more new vocabulary. They were also a little trickier than the first 8, but I guess that's the general idea of the graded sentences.

I will have to recheck this one and the previous entry with eight sentences to fix the grammatical errors I've almost certainly made, but in the meantime, here's a stab at the next six:

9. School began again. Ludi siv rakesh ya tholfis.

Lu-di siv rakesh ya tholfis.
inceptive-past-3rd s. be-in-session(active/on) again the school.

I don't know exactly why the definite article is required here, but it is. Siv may turn out to be really useful, since it can be used in sentences like, "All the lights in the house are on."

And it just made it really obvious that I need a way to use the causative and imperative together, in order to get it around to being useful in sentences like "Turn on the TV!" Back to the drawing board on that one.

10. The child ran quickly. Gi adad nisas ya mishtu.

Gi adad nis-as ya mishtu.
Past-3rd run quick-adv the child.

There's that mishtu again. Nis is quick or fast, -as makes it an adverb.

11. Yellow daffodils nodded gaily. Egi henaf jeyas denduloran wera.

Egi henaf jeyas dendulora-n wera.
3rd pl.-Past nod happy-adv daffodil-pl yellow.

Henaf, dendulora, and wera are new words. From henaf are hen (up) and naf (down). (Too precious? Deriving those from "nod" or vice versa. Probably. So is talala for 'laugh'. But I like the sound of those, so they are staying.)

12. Little Marigold cried bitterly. Ji pluva le'osias Tajítsha.

Ji pluva le'osi-as Tajítsha.
Past-3rd-s. cry bitter-adv Marigold-dim.

I had to assume that Marigold (Tajíta) is used as a name here, since it is capitalized, so I just put the diminutive on it. Tajítasha probably would have been equally correct, and I might have gone that way if TN was a penultimate-syllable-stressed language, but since it isn't, I thought Tajítsha sounded nicer.

Le'osi is a new word. I sort of felt like the glottal stop was underused, so there it is. I decided to go with a pretty literal English>TN rendering, with "bitterly" being translated exactly. I can easily see flavors being used not only for that sort of emotion, but expanded far beyond where they might appear in English, and with the flavors assigned to different emotions than you might expect if you speak English. (I tend to associate emotions (and words) with flavors and smells anyway, so this is appropriate for Nevashi from the "culture of Me" point of view.) I rather I briefly considered "sourly" for this particular translation, but "sour" has more melancholy and less anguish in it.

13. All the people shouted. Eji magan ya jenen shen.

Eji magan ya jenen shen.
3rd pl-Past shout the people all.

"All the people" gave me fits. I considered "Shena kye ya jenen" ("All(n) consisting-of the people") and several other alternatives before settling on just using "all" as an adjective for "the people". It also means "total" or "complete", so I think it implies "all of this".

I thought about telozh for shout, but I think magan represents a higher volume than that. It (the word) sounds bigger. Telozh is your Uncle Danny talking over everyone else at Thanksgiving. Magan is your Aunt Betty telling him to "SHUT UP!" when she just can't take any more.


14. I recited twice. Ja hlal ravan.

Ja hlal ravan.
1st s.-past recite twice.

Ravan comes from ra+van (ra+two). Cf. Rakesh, again. ra+more.

Hlal is a new word. There are a lot of initial consonant clusters permissable that I haven't been using, and I love hl and hr, so there it is. This word means "to tell a story, give a speech, or recite". Derived from it is hlalim, "story, speech, recitation".

First 158 words of Language X

Saturday, March 21st, 2009
I found a bit of a conlang in a little notebook that was at the bottom of one of my totebags. It's mostly just a word list, and now it is HERE. There are no notes about grammar to accompany the list. WYSIWYG.

I was able to tease some of the intended phonology out of notes with that were with certain entries on the list. |c| = /tS/, |x| = /S/, |j| = /Z/, as noted in many of the entries.

The pronouns have two forms-- the first is an honorific form you might use with someone you perceive to have authority or to be of a higher social status. That much surfaced in my memory when I was putting it all into that spreadsheet. 

There are two words for "book", and I really don't know that there's a difference between them, except that one seems derived from "read" and the other from "write", so I guess it depends on whether you see books primarily as something written or something read.

Some of the words were obviously begged, borrowed, or stolen from English or Spanish. There seem to be some derivational affixes in there (mostly prefixes), but I haven't broken them down to see what, if anything, they contribute to the meaning. 

It's not much of anything, but I've come to the conclusion that more documentation is better than less. I've been toying with the idea of a collaborative language project, so I wonder if this would work as seed vocabulary for such a thing. 

I've been involved in a few collaborative conlangs that eventually fizzled (some sooner than others). I've been wondering if a collabolang (which is REALLY fun to say) might be more successful if it were built for a specific purpose-- for instance, as an in-game language for a guild in some massively multiplayer online RPG.

And with that, I now return you to your regularly scheduled Teliya Nevashi... 


Eight sentences

Saturday, March 21st, 2009
Teliya Nevashi has no marking for collective/mass plurals like "birds", nor does it have marking for habitual actions, so these first ones were pretty straightforward...
Sort of.

1. Birds sing. Eci selis shanan.
2. Children play. Eti voya mishtun.[1]
3. Dogs bark. Eci buf kevrin.
4. Bees hum. Eci zhun mintan. 
5. Baby laughed. Ji talala Bene.[m]; Ji talala Bena. [f.]  
6. The sun shines. Si donu ya cea. 
7. The wind blows. Si feyu ya shushu.
8. The car started. Luti muzhu ya otomo. [2]

[1] Speakers of Nevashi are apparently much more age and gender conscious than speakers of English, because there are words for boy and girl at different age ranges (infant, toddler, preschooler, school kid (5-11), teenager (12-17)) that would be in far greater circulation than mishtu, which is a gender neutral word for a minor (non-adult). And though some people might consider it sexist and awful, the male form would probably be used for mixed groups and mass plural as well. So, while this is a correct and straightforward translation, a native speaker might well say "Eti voya levten." (Levte = boy, 5-11.) 
[2] Ha! A use for the inceptive! Muzhu refers to the running or working of engines, motors and machines, so this could be translated back as "The car began to run."

Weekend Conlanging Plans

Friday, March 20th, 2009
Since I won't be at the Language Creation Conference this weekend, except through the magic of Internet simulcast, I thought I might actually do some conlanging this weekend instead.  To that end, I've printed the first two lists of graded sentences from Gary Shannon's site -- this one and this one -- to translate, in order to work out some grammatical knots and expand the Nevashi lexicon. 

I am hoping to develop a more comfortable relationship with the language on my way to fluency, and that's the other part of why I will be translating all those sentences. I start every language with the intention of becoming fluent in it, but those good intentions usually fail to produce the results I'd like. 

I was able to use ea-luna to some degree once upon a time, but that was a long time ago. I've got an urge to translate those sentences into ea-luna at the same time that I am working on the Nevashi translations, but that would probably be counterproductive in several different ways. I will give ea-luna some attention in the near future, but for now, I am working mainly on TN.

Speaking of what projects I am working on (or not working on), I opened a little notebook that was in the bottom of the totebag I've been using to carry my books around and discovered the beginnings of yet another language. I am going to take a little time this evening to document the vocabulary and grammar notes from that. It's not much of anything and it doesn't even have a name, but it might yet have words I can steal, or it might later develop into something more than what it currently is. In any case,  if there's one thing I've learned from ea-luna, it is that having a single hardcopy of any given bit of conlang documentation is a bad idea. Multiple electronic copies FTW. 


Conlang Sneak Preview

Friday, March 20th, 2009
Conlang was invited to screen at the Language Creation Society’s annual conference at Brown University in Providence Rhode Island.

Producer and writer, Baldvin Kári will be attending along with the creator of Uscaniv, Kári Emil Helgason.

Conlang Relay & New Insights on Conlanging

Thursday, March 19th, 2009



The Third Language Creation Conference is THIS WEEKEND! If you aren't going, it will be simulcast on the web at the previous link. I'll be there, when I'm not working.

The podcast is my translation of the conlang relay text into Pitak (pee-tawk) from Kapakwonak.

Translation: Li pisu na mul kiso funefemu - I close to sea seated in-a-time
En molfos kotiko i a mol fimilu pumo - A wave up-broke and the water over-me swept
Li tepo molfous netokwa i ama nami tilwato - I tried the-wave to-not-fight and this to-me happied
Li meno onos molfousi pumisu puma - I dreamt about the waves away-me sweeping
Wo la tiko, li komanu kuso - When it broke, I continuously-it felt
A molfos komanu moso sapwa i pumisu teko - The wave continuously was-able to-go and away-me took

First of all, participating in the relay was a great experience for a bunch of reasons, and I highly recommend participating in one on the ZBB or other conlanging forums! One reason was that it forced me to really get into someone else's mentality about language and their conlang, and break outside of my own. Another reason was that it also forced me to think about my conlang from someone else's point of view, as I had to type up enough of an explanation for them to be able to translate it.

Kapakwonak is a fusional language and difficult to parse through; it was a challange to figure out how each infix added meaning to a sentence or word. There were six sentences in the text, and each one seemed to get a little harder; I think because the message was getting more garbled as we got into it. The first sentence had the peculiar challenge of figuring out that 'I moved downwards upon my legs' meant 'I sat down.'

Pitak is meant to be a simple, primitive language; the biggest challenge with translating it was simplifying what was being said. I did not translate 'I moved downwards upon my legs' literally; and more's the pity - it would have been hilarious to see how this got interpreted by the conlanger after me in the relay! But it wouldn't be said in this way in Pitak - unless you were describing a dance move, perhaps. However, there are other confusing things about Pitak - most words can be nouns or verbs, depending on how they are inflected; so to sit, would be translated more like 'to seat,' or 'to be seated,' because 'kis' means 'seat,' not sit.

I realized something as I came out of this. I've written about simplicity in conlanging, but I think there is an inverse relationship between simplicity and comprehension/transferability of meaning. I think that the simpler a language is, the easier it is to misconstrue meaning and what is trying to be said. I still believe that simplicity is the way to start; that if you don't understand all the underlying linguistic principles you should keep breaking it down until you get to a level you do understand, and I believe that too much complexity can make your own conlang impossible to conjugate/speak/write. But I no longer believe that complexity is the enemy. And I still believe there is a lot more I have to learn about linguistics.

More on the 3rd Language Creation Conference soon.

Conlang Relay & New Insights on Conlanging

Thursday, March 19th, 2009



The Third Language Creation Conference is THIS WEEKEND! If you aren't going, it will be simulcast on the web at the previous link. I'll be there, when I'm not working.

The podcast is my translation of the conlang relay text into Pitak (pee-tawk) from Kapakwonak.

Translation: Li pisu na mul kiso funefemu - I close to sea seated in-a-time
En molfos kotiko i a mol fimilu pumo - A wave up-broke and the water over-me swept
Li tepo molfous netokwa i ama nami tilwato - I tried the-wave to-not-fight and this to-me happied
Li meno onos molfousi pumisu puma - I dreamt about the waves away-me sweeping
Wo la tiko, li komanu kuso - When it broke, I continuously-it felt
A molfos komanu moso sapwa i pumisu teko - The wave continuously was-able to-go and away-me took

First of all, participating in the relay was a great experience for a bunch of reasons, and I highly recommend participating in one on the ZBB or other conlanging forums! One reason was that it forced me to really get into someone else's mentality about language and their conlang, and break outside of my own. Another reason was that it also forced me to think about my conlang from someone else's point of view, as I had to type up enough of an explanation for them to be able to translate it.

Kapakwonak is a fusional language and difficult to parse through; it was a challange to figure out how each infix added meaning to a sentence or word. There were six sentences in the text, and each one seemed to get a little harder; I think because the message was getting more garbled as we got into it. The first sentence had the peculiar challenge of figuring out that 'I moved downwards upon my legs' meant 'I sat down.'

Pitak is meant to be a simple, primitive language; the biggest challenge with translating it was simplifying what was being said. I did not translate 'I moved downwards upon my legs' literally; and more's the pity - it would have been hilarious to see how this got interpreted by the conlanger after me in the relay! But it wouldn't be said in this way in Pitak - unless you were describing a dance move, perhaps. However, there are other confusing things about Pitak - most words can be nouns or verbs, depending on how they are inflected; so to sit, would be translated more like 'to seat,' or 'to be seated,' because 'kis' means 'seat,' not sit.

I realized something as I came out of this. I've written about simplicity in conlanging, but I think there is an inverse relationship between simplicity and comprehension/transferability of meaning. I think that the simpler a language is, the easier it is to misconstrue meaning and what is trying to be said. I still believe that simplicity is the way to start; that if you don't understand all the underlying linguistic principles you should keep breaking it down until you get to a level you do understand, and I believe that too much complexity can make your own conlang impossible to conjugate/speak/write. But I no longer believe that complexity is the enemy. And I still believe there is a lot more I have to learn about linguistics.

More on the 3rd Language Creation Conference soon.

LCC2 – Jeff Burke – Language as Growth-in-Time

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009


You know, what strikes me as the most amusing aspect of Jeff’s opener
is that if you look at his picture (the one before his talk starts), he looks an awful lot like a president, but not Lincoln. In fact, his picture rather reminds me of George Washington, or perhaps John Adams with James Madison’s eyes…

It’s always encouraging (to me, I suppose) to hear conlangers defend conlanging as art. The problem I have with many of the arguments I’ve heard against conlanging being an art (as opposed to something else much less creative, like putting together a puzzle) from conlangers themselves is that after a bit of back and forth, I often hear something like, “Well, you can call it whatever you want; I don’t consider it an art, and what I do isn’t art.” As if that’s an argument! I don’t paint well, and what I paint most certainly isn’t art, but that doesn’t mean that painting isn’t an art—and that’s what the issue is!

I know Jeff somewhat (or I should say I’ve been getting to know him better recently), and in addition to an expert conlanger, Jeff is also a fiction writer (so when he compares conlanging to writing in the beginning, he’s not speaking hypothetically: he’s speaking from experience). I think the comparison to fiction is quite apt. Consider, after all, what fiction is. In the most basic sense, it’s a transcription of events that never occurred. One might ask, what possible use could this serve? For example, why write a story about a fictional character when there are real live people everywhere in the world who are dying and whose stories will never be heard?

Of course, if you’ve ever read or heard a fictional story that’s affected you powerfully (and I gather that most people have, even if that story was something as simple as The Giving Tree), you won’t need to hear another defense of fiction; those were arguments for long ago that have been largely settled. One thing I find interesting in the comparison, though, is how similar the activities are.


With fiction, the canvas is wide open.
A writer can write about anything, even if it doesn’t make sense. Readers, though, judge the value of the work based on its goals. Many novels, for example, try to be realistic, and the reader can then judge how realistic the book is (how lifelike the characters are, how likely the reactions of the characters are, how believable the events…). Then there are any number of books that don’t try to be realistic; that try to express something in non-literal or fantastic ways. Conlangs, of course, are quite similar.

One important difference, though (or perceived difference) is that books, in the end, should try to tell us something. It would be odd to read a starkly realistic book that began with a woman leaving her house to go to the store, and ended after she’d picked up her third item at the store, with nothing else implied. There must be a reason that the author is showing us what they’re showing us—a goal, a purpose—perhaps a lesson, or a point of view.

Conlangs don’t differ, in my experience. There is a point; conlangs aren’t merely tools. What the user or appreciator is supposed to get, though, is something conlangers don’t generally talk about—perhaps something they don’t often think about. It’s there, though; there is a point—something we’re supposed to take away. It differs language by language, of course, but these goals or ideas (worldviews?) are something that shouldn’t be ignored, either by the creator or the appreciator.


(P.S.: If you’re going to LCC3 and you have a cold,
don’t sit near a mic! [Just teasing!] Or, perhaps more generally, recall that any sound you make during someone’s talk or during someone’s question and answer session will be heard the world over, and recorded for posterity. Cosmic, huh?)

This video is part of the 2nd Language Creation Conference, held at UC Berkeley on July 7-8, 2007, and hosted by Language Creation Society.

We would like to add closed captioning / subtitles to all the videos from LCC2, including this one. If you are willing to help, install Subtitle Workshop, and email your transcribed .sub file to lcs@conlang.org. In return, you’ll get credit and a free copy of the DVD with this video.

Interview with Tony Harris

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
Sai interviews Tony Harris about his language Alurhsa. The conversation covers such topics as the grammar of Alurhsa, Tony’s spirituality, and role a conlanger plays in the creation of a language.
mp3The Alurhsa WebsiteBoudewijn Rempt’s “Apologia pro Imaginatione”


It’s funny, because right off the bat, I recognized something familiar
in this interview. The first thing was, “Oh, I do remember Alurian!” I didn’t realize that Alurhsa and Alurian (or Aluric) were, in fact, the same thing.

And that leads to the next bit: the problem of naming. As you’ll hear, apparently “Alurian” and “Aluric” were doing fine as names until Tony found that “Alurian”, for example, occurs in a lot of personal names and other contexts (try googling “Alurian” [though note the first hit]). As a result, Tony decided to go with the native name, “Alurhsa”.

First, I’d note that this was bound to happen. If you name a conlang anything that ends in “-ian”, “-ese”, “-ic”, “-ish”, or any other of the very common English suffixes that get attached to real world language names, it’s only a matter of time before someone else comes up with it (with or without a language attached). (After all, if someone’s going to lie on a job application, what sounds more like a language: Aluric or Epiq?)

Second, I have had this happen to me. I created a language I initially called “Kele”, and added a section for it to my website, describing its bric-a-brac and what have you. And that’s how it lived happily for a couple years, I’d say. Then one day I received an appalling e-mail. Not only was there an existing natural language named “Kele”, but apparently someone had mistaken me for an expert on the Kele language, and was asking me questions about it! In fact, if you believe the internet (which is rarely a good idea), there are apparently two Kele languages: one Austronesian, and another Niger-Congo!

Luckily for the person who e-mailed me, I was also a linguistics student, and knew something about language and where one might go for more information. As a direct result of the exchange, though, I changed the name of my language to Kelenala, and thereafter, whenever I decided to name a language, I made liberal use of Google to make sure I wasn’t stepping on anyone’s toes.


Several conlangers listening to this interview might be taken aback
at the level of involvement Tony has with Alurhsa—especially the metaphysical stuff (the possible existence of speakers of Alurhsa in this or some other dimension; the religious aspect; etc.). But before you judge him, I ask you this: how fluent are you in your conlang? I, for example (as has been discussed before), have got the structure of most of my conlangs down, but always seem to be hunting for vocabulary. This is an experience (a condition?) that many conlangers share.

Pragmatically, then, let us consider: Which type of conlang-conlanger relationship seems to be more efficacious in developing fluency in a conlang? We’ve noted that a number of conlangers with an author-creation type of relationship can’t speak their languages, and, just off the top of my head, I can think of a number of other conlangers who have a more metaphysical relationship with their conlangs who speak it quite well.

So. Could the relationship be…causal? In a metaphysical way, perhaps. In a realistic way, it probably simply ensures a level of involvement with one’s language that may (not of necessity, but may) go into greater depth and take up more time than the usual level of involvement a conlanger has with their conlang. And what, after all, leads to fluency but time and involvement?

Audio edited by Virgo Audio Production Services; music by Gary Shannon.