Archive for February, 2010


Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'u'.


  • (let.) name of the Zhyler alphabet letter u
  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable u in the Kamakawi syllabary

A noala ukalaka!
“The sunflower is singing!”

Notes: That’s a reference to the incredible game by PopCap Games’ Plants vs. Zombies.

Today’s syllabic glyph is u. I’ve never been very happy with the design of u, but I’m stuck with it now.

Here’s a picture of me saying the vowel u:

Me saying oooooh.

Now here’s that same picture with an overlay of the iku for the syllable u (drawn freehand so you can see where it came from):

Me saying ooooh with the iku for 'u' drawn over it.

This one, I think, is easier to see. With a rounded [u], the lips kind of bunch up into five regions, and if you draw a line between them, you get a “W” shape.

This concludes the vowels. Hooray! That means from now on we’ll be getting actual words with the syllabic glyphs coming.

I’m going to present the glyphs in a particular alphabetical order. The consonants are ordered in Kamakawi alphabetical order: p, t, k, m, n, l, f and h. The vowels are ordered just as they were presented here: a, e, i, o and u. So up next: pa. I can’t wait!


Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'o'.


  • (let.) name of the Zhyler alphabet letter o
  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable o in the Kamakawi syllabary

A fulele ei e ueke okia Olimipiaka.
“I want to carry the Olympic torch.”

Notes: Some day. I think it’d be fun.

Today’s syllabic glyph is o. It’s one of those Kamakawi glyphs whose strokes end in a point as opposed to a thinner line. Ideally, I should have been consistent here (with everything ending in either a point or a line), but, well… It is what it is.

Here’s a picture of me saying the vowel o:

Me saying ohhh.

Now here’s that same picture with an overlay of the iku for the syllable o (drawn freehand so you can see where it came from):

Me saying ohhh with the iku for 'o' drawn over it.

This one might also have been an “X” shape with a horizontal line through it—and maybe a vertical one, too—but that’d be too busy. (As it is, though, both those shapes just described serve as iku for other words. Eventually they’ll be up here, I imagine…)


Friday, February 26th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'i'.


  • (let.) name of the Zhyler alphabet letter i
  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable i in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (prep.) for (a kind of dative preposition used with certain verbs, but commonly a benefactive, or fills in for miscellaneous locative prepositions)

He noala ei i inoala i ia…
“Let me sing a song for you…”

Notes: Just to help your day along… That’s a Tim Buckley song from his album Happy Sad (and if you look at the cover of that album, you’ll know what my cousin looks like. I swear, the two are identical twins…).

Today’s syllabic glyph is i—not to be confused with i, which is different. Both of them appear in the example above. In that sentence, the first i is i: the object marker. The second i is our i here, and in this sentence, it functions as a benefactive. Things are a lot easier if you use the romanization, but, well, that’s just not how you do it.

Anyway, here’s a picture of me saying the vowel i:

Me saying eeeee.

Looking at the iku above, you may notice that it looks like an eye (side view). In my mind, there’s a question about where exactly this iku came from. It could be that if you trace the lips, it kind of looks like an eye, as shown below:

Me saying eeeee with an eye drawn over it.

Or it could be the mouth from a side view, with a line indicating that the lower jaw raises. Another idea is that it’s “looking” at its object, but that would only make sense if it were the object marker, and it isn’t… I can’t rule out, though, that’s it’s a front view of half of the mouth (kind of?).

So, there it is. A bit of a conundrum, but what isn’t these days?


Friday, February 26th, 2010
Omniglot has a lot of cool things, but one of my favorites is it's page on the 12480 script. There are several different scrips all along this concept, and you can write anything with it that can be expressed with a numeric value. In this way the scripts survive so long as numbers survive.

My favorite is the color script. I've often thought of making a conlang involving colors. Perhaps for a sentient group of alien octopus. The colors correspond to symbols within several of the other scripts, as well as IPA sounds, roughly a consonant and a vowel for each color.

12480 is inspiring for me, and if nothing else you should at least scroll down to the bottom and look at the sample scrips. They are gorgeous.


Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'e'.


  • (let.) name of the Zhyler alphabet letter e
  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable e in the Kamakawi syllabary

A eyu leveya i’i ae…
“The seas draws me in…”

Notes: Today’s syllabic glyph is e. E is a fun one that, for some reason, doesn’t get used very much (though its iku often shows up in modified glyphs). Here’s a picture of me saying the vowel e:

Me saying ahhh.

Now here’s that same picture with an overlay of the iku for the syllable e (drawn freehand so you can see where it came from):

Me saying ehhh with the iku for 'e' drawn over it.

You can even see that one’s mouth makes a kind of “V” shape. This is because the lower jaw is drawn lower than it is for a vowel like i to accommodate the space one needs for e. With unrounded vowels, though (especially the non-low ones), the upper lip doesn’t really do much of anything, so the lower lip has to do all the work.


Thursday, February 25th, 2010
Reisu conjunctions! These are words that can link two clauses, or words. I don't think any other explanation is needed here.

BoBut, yet
MoSo, therefore

As a side note, a lot of these words can be used to start prepositional phrases as well as join clauses.


Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'a'.


  • (let.) name of the Zhyler alphabet letter a
  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable a in the Kamakawi syllabary

A apae ipe ielou!
“That whale is shooting water out of its blowhole!”

Notes: Today starts a new series: The Kamakawi syllabary. I’m going to introduce each of the syllabic glyphs so that they can be referred to more easily in the future. I’ve also added a new category: Kavaka i Oala. That’s the Kamakawi term for their syllabary.

Unfortunately, these sentences are going to be a little strange (at least the first few). In the sentence above, the word apae is spelled with the syllabic glyph a, even though you can’t see it here… You’ll just have to take my word on it.

Okay, back to the point of this. The five vocalic glyphs (a, e, i, o and u) don’t have words associated with them (the glyphs don’t, remember; obviously the word a bears quite a functional load). There are very old glyphs associated with the sounds, though. They derive from the position of the lips when one is making the sound in question—and, thanks to the magic of computers, I can show you precisely what I mean.

Here’s a picture of me saying the vowel a:

Me saying ahhh.

Now here’s that same picture with an overlay of the iku for the syllable a (drawn freehand so you can see where it came from):

Me saying ahhh with the iku for 'a' drawn over it.

The end points of the “x” that constitutes syllabic a touch the corners of the “box” formed by the lips when pronouncing a. And that’s where the iku for a comes from.

There might have been other forms for this iku, such as a circle or a box, of course. In the history of the writing system, though, rounded edges were a late addition, and full circles don’t occur at all (note, for example, how the sun in eili is a box, not a circle). And while it’s true that the iku might have been a square, that glyph was already taken for the (older) number system, and that particular glyph had a much more obvious association with a syllabic glyph. Thus, a is the way it is.

Oh, one more thing. I created a language awhile back called Zhyler, and I have this kind of fake conhistory in the back of my head for how Zhyler speakers and Kamakawi speakers are related. See, the Zhyler speakers broke away from the Gweydr speakers on the mainland and decided to cast their fate to the sea. They ended up on a large (though sparse) island that was to the northeast of the cluster of small islands that comprise the Kamakawi nation. I’d say they’re a day or two’s row away. The Zhyler started to create a new empire, and made free use of the Kamakawi as a “resource”, giving the people themselves little regard. And, of course, this required learning their language, and giving it a “proper” writing system as opposed to a “picture” writing system.

This all, of course, is a fake fake history. There are no details up about it anywhere (except here), and I don’t have any of my own. But anyway, working with this fake fake history, I wrote up how the Zhyler would spell Kamakawi here (it’s an adapted version of the Zhyler alphabetic writing system which can be found here). In Kamakawi when referring to this system (and the particular letters), there are Kamakawi words for them. All the letter names are just simple (C)V syllables (which ones they are is arbitrary [e.g. the name for the alphabetic letter “t” is te, as opposed to ta, ti, to, or tu), and so, for example, the name for the Zhyler alphabetic a is the iku you see above.

Okay, this is long enough. Now to click “Schedule”…


Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'toko'.


  • (v.) to be strong
  • (adj.) strong
  • (n.) strength
  • (nm.) a boy or girl’s given name

A pataki! A pataki toko!
“A boy! A strong boy!”

Notes: Ha, ha…

This iku is a modified version of tou, which is an ikunoala meaning something like “power”, but also used like the English word “can” (the auxiliary). I was quite taken with the look of tou, even though it’s an ikunoala, and this one is a kind of embellished tou. I think it’d make a good tattoo (though I wouldn’t get a tattoo myself).

For more information about the name Toko, you can check out its name entry here.


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'loana'.


  • (v.) to be appreciated
  • (adj.) appreciated
  • (n.) appreciation
  • (nm.) a girl’s given nam

A loana lelea ti’i.
“I appreciate water.”

Notes: I can’t get enough of water. It’s soooooooo liquid… Mmm… I could go for some right now, come to think of it. I just may…

This is one of the verbs that have the roles “mixed up” if you look at it from an English point of view. In English, the appreciator is the subject, and the appreciatee is the object. This is almost the inverse, but not quite. See, the deal is that the subject isn’t really agentive, in the usual sense. The one who appreciates is kind of the source of the whole act of appreciation, and for that, neither the subject position, nor the preposition i is good enough (or strong enough, perhaps) to indicate that semantic role, as it were. For that, you’ve got to have ti. And since the noun in subject position can’t be modified by a preposition, the “object” (the appreciatee) is bumped up to subject position, and the “subject” (the appreciator) is relegated to the canonical object position and preposed by ti.

There are a number of verbs in Kamakawi that work this way, and a couple where the canonical subject takes i, and you kind of have to memorize them, but they tend to form coherent semantic classes—or, at least in Kamakawi they do.

As for the iku, it has the “good” circle in there, so I called this an ikuleyaka, but really it’s just a modified version of elea (yet another word I haven’t done yet). That would technically make it an iku’ume, but that “good” circle determinative is really what helps me remember which glyph this is, so an ikuleyaka it will remain.

For more information about the name Loana, you can check out its name entry here.

To be, the copula

Monday, February 22nd, 2010
"It depends on what your definition of 'is' is" -Bill Clinton

He got made fun of for saying that, but when you think about "to be" really means so many things in English. The sentence "I am" is so powerful because of it's ambiguity, and multiple meanings.

Reisu doesn't have such an over arching concept as this verb does in Engish. It's more broken down.

Kuala - To be the same as in identity.
Al kuala tivu.
      Al is the suit (of armor).

Luta - To belong to a specified class or group
Eisa luta emodo.
      We are people.

Maino - To have or show a specified quality or characteristic
Denu maino gura.
      The baby is hungry.
In many cases 'hola' for feel can also be used. This is mostly for first and second person subjects. For example this same sentence in first person: 'Ei hola gura'. I am hungry. (literally: feel hungry). But "Denu hola gura.", while comprehensible sounds awkward.

Reiki - To consist of, or to be made of
Laza reiki aa xusu.
      The ocean is all water.

Lamu - To be like, or have specified significance.
E lamu komonaxi.
      He's (like) a lion.

Kutu - To exist
Ei geki, mo ei kutu.
      I think, therefore I am

There are lots of other ways we use 'to be' of course, but we could just as well substitute other verbs even in English, so I won't cover that in this post, or it will become too long :)

One other fun thing with copula-type verbs in Reisu is they can be omitted if the contexts provides sufficient clues to render the copula obvious. In this case the object becomes a verb. For example:

     Ei okila bofi doro fe mama eino. E larelaila, kata e xodila
          I saw an old picture of my mom. She was beautiful, when she was young.

In this sentence it's obvious we are saying that the mother has beauty and has youth (maino). So instead of saying "E mainola larelai, kata e mainola xodi" we make larelai (beautiful) and xodi (young) into verbs. Both "E mainola larelai" and "E larelaila" are correct and appropriate in this context.