Archive for October, 2011

Greetings & Drow language

Saturday, October 29th, 2011
I am a native speaker of Polish, fluent in English, communicative in German and Spanish and very much interested in both languages and fantasy!


A less well-known conlang than the Quenya or Sindarin or Klingon, but nevertheless here, is the drow language. The basics of it have been set in the AD&D sourcebook "Drow of the Underdark". There are several Drow-English dictionaries on the web and I've seen (and made myself) a Drow-Polish dictionary too. There are possibly other dictionaries that I'm unaware of.
The language is alas, not complete by any stretch of the imagination and is largely based on English. Specifically, the grammar rules seem to follow the English rules quite closely. The list of the words is quite short and the meanings often have to be extended or extrapolated, but it is possible to formulate full sentences and even longer texts in Drow.

Some of the dictionaries include:
Chosen of Eilistraee -
House Maerdyn -

(A note from me: Some of the entries in Chosen of Eilistraee translator are just poor jokes, so please bear it in mind and use common sense when searching for words not detailed in the older sources. Also, using the existing words as base and avoiding duplicating words is what should be preferred, in my opinion.)

Grammatical rules are detailed in:
The Drow Dictionary (on which the House Maerdyn translator is based) -
Chosen of Eilistraee grammar page -

(There's a slight disrepancy between them - the older grammar source gives the Present Simple suffix in verbs as '-ar'. As this suffix doesn't appear in any of the newer sources (there is none for the Present Simple, I dropped it in my Drow-Polish dictionary)

Valence in Classical Trevecian – part 3/3

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

(Access the previous parts here: Part 1 and Part 2.)

Part 3: Ideologies of Noun Class and Valence

When considering actual usage of valence particles in Classical Trevecian, patterns that depart from the grammatical rules described above are often encountered. These apparently “incorrect” usages, however, still have their own internal logic when viewed in social context, especially with regard to the language ideologies underlying categories of class and valence. These ideologies reflect primarily with reference to human actors, and are based around two underlying principles (or “stereotypes”):

a) Humans are prototypical agents. There is a tendency towards viewing human entities as the “appropriate” agents of actions, and thus expressing their status as non-agents can be considered demeaning.

b) Humans are superior to all other entities. In terms of Classical Trevecian grammar, this means that entities of Class 1 (that is, stereotypical human beings) are considered superior to entities belonging to other classes. Hence, implying that a human being is not a member of this class is considered demeaning.

There are two basic ways in which usage of valence particles plays upon these stereotypes: “incorrect” class agreement for human referents and “incorrect” alignment particle use, which implies either “demotion” of “elevation” of a human referent to a more (or less) agentive role. These techniques are discussed in turn below, with examples.

3.1 “Incorrect” class agreement

Normally, all human referents count as members of Class 1 for purposes of valence particle agreement. However, sometimes it is clear that the entity referred to is a human being, but the valence particle agrees with a Class 4 (rather than Class 1) referent in the appropriate valence slot:

so-kûf tôvi dorh-u
this-man kick A4.P1-me
“that man kicked me”

Here, the “correct” valence particle to use would be kan, implying a Class 1 agent (the man) and a Class 1 patient (the speaker); however, the particle actually used is dorh, implying a Class 4 agent. This implies that the referent is somehow unworthy of being referred to as a “proper” human being, and is effectively demoted to a “lower” class of animate entities – one which includes most animals. Not surprisingly, this Class 1-Class 4 switch is often used in an insulting way, or more rhetorically to “lessen the worth” of one’s enemy. It is also quite common with second-person referents, as in the following example:

me-tôvi dorh
you-kick A4.P1 he
“you kicked him”

(In the example above, there are two possible “ideological” strategies for compounding the insult even further: a) replacing the agent with a third-person pronoun; b) inflecting the verb for a first-person subject. The details of these techniques are beyond the scope of the present discussion, however.)

This strategy is not limited to agents – human referents acting as Experiencers and Patients can be similarly “demoted” by incorrect class agreement. In the first example, the particle mas (agreeing with a Class 4 Experiencer) is used instead of dorh, while in the second example, sîm (agreeing with a Class 4 Patient) replaces kan:

so-kûf gêba mas
this-man fall E4
“that man fell”

yhirâp-af žaman sîm surûf
soldier-IND.PL A1.P4 exile
“soldiers killed the exile”

3.2 “Incorrect” alignment

Another ideologically motivated strategy of valence particle use is to keep class agreement intact, but use a valence particle that either elevates or demotes the role of the referent in the sentence. For instance, the referent’s relative status with regard to the speaker may be elevated by using an “incorrect” valence particle that implies that the referent is more central to the action that is actually the case: thus, a Class 1 Patient may be elevated to an Experiencer, and a Class 1 Experiencer may be elevated to an Agent. The particles kan and žårs (implying a Class 1 Patient) can be replaced by the particle dorh, which can also imply a Class 1 Experiencer:

kîmas žaman dorh
king kill E1
“the king was killed”

Similarly, the particle dorh, implying a Class 1 Experiencer, may be replaced by one of the particles sith or sîm (which both unambiguously imply a Class 1 Agent):

kîmas gêba sith
king fall A1
“the king fell”

On the other hand, the referent’s relevant status may also be demoted, by “switching” valence particles in the other direction. Thus, the particle dorh may be replaced by žårs in order to ideologically demote a Class 1 Experiencer to a Patient:

gî gêba žårs
child fall P1
“the child fell”

Similarly, the particles kan, kari, sith, sîm, and sîri (when implying a Class 1 Agent) may be replaced by the particle dorh, to ideologically demote an unambiguous Agent to an Experiencer:

surûf žaman dorh kîmas nu
exile kill E1 king LOC
“the exile killed the king”

Notably, these processes of elevation and demotion interact to an extent with valence adjusting operations. The following rules can be observed:

a) Elevating a Patient to an Experiencer requires the Agent of the action to be expressed as an oblique, usually with the instrumental particle da, effectively forming a quasi-passive clause:

kîmas žaman dorh yhirâp-af da
king kill E1 soldier-IND.PL INSTR
“the king was killed by soldiers”

b) Elevating an Experiencer to an Agent cannot be considered a valence increasing operation, since no Patient can appear in the sentence.

c) Demoting an Experiencer to a Patient always forms a “middle” clause (marked appropriately by the particle žårs); valence particles implying an identifiable Agent cannot be used.

d) Ideological demotion of an Agent to an Experiencer is effectively a valence decreasing operation, and cannot be formally distinguished from the formation of reflexives and antipassives. With ideological demotion, any existing Patient is usually demoted to an oblique marked by the locative particle nu, as in the following example (already cited above):

surûf žaman dorh kîmas nu
exile kill E1 king LOC
“the exile killed the king”

This contrasts with antipassives, where the Patient is demoted using the distributive kêse. There is nevertheless some potential for ambiguity (i.e. whether a reflexive, antipassive, or ideological-derogatory meaning is “intended”), especially if the patient is not expressed directly.


Saturday, October 29th, 2011



This is the word for a spiral.


Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'ue'.


  • (phon.) glyph for the sequence ue
  • (pron.) first person plural inclusive pronoun

Ue ie inotu.
“We are the world.”

Notes: Today’s iku completely mystifies me. It kind of looks like ua, but it shouldn’t be related to the word for “hill”. And yet, I think that’s what I was doing. I think by adding the line below, that kind of made it an e sound…somehow. Perplexing.

Anyway, Kamakawi, like many languages, distinguishes between a “we” that includes the addressee and a “we” that excludes the addressee. This is the one that includes the addressee—and today, that means you! :D So jump on in and enjoy the inclusivity!


Lelu: Evidentials

Saturday, October 29th, 2011
This is part of a group of lessons I have been putting together for my language.
Lesson 4: Evidentials
New Vocabulary
to - experiencer particle
kisu - inferential particle
kia - hearsay particle
The Lelu value honesty and fair-dealing. A person should not try to mislead others. They also value not making judgments too quickly. The saying, "Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins" would be considered very good advise by the Lelu. 
Lelu speak of reality like the river bed under flowing water. Look at it from above the water and light is distorted by the river. Look at it under the water and another picture appears. In other words, how I understand an event is not how another person understands an event.  For the Lelu understanding a person's view of the riverbed per se is very important. 
For these reasons the Lelu's language has developed ways of saying how certain information was obtained by the speaker. A person who only speculates that the fish he may have caught a very large fish cannot be said to be lying if it turns out to be a lot smaller than he implied. However, if the man says definantly the fish was so long, than he was lying. Lelu lets you decide whether to outright lie or imply that you only wish the fish was so big. 
The most common way to do this is with a type of end of sentence particles called evidentials. There are three main ones: to, kis, and kia. They are used at the end of almost all statements that are not questions or commands.
To is used for first hand knowledge. You personally saw a bird fly. You mowed your lawn or you witnessed the man you hired do it. You tasted the fish and it was spicy. Fire is dangerous because when you were little you touched a lit stove and were burned. Any knowledge that you were personally privy to. 
It also is used for someone's personal opinion. For example, if you told someone you liked strawberry ice cream.
Basically any information you are willing to take personal responsibility for. 
Kisu is used for information that is inferred. This is something you know about but did not actually witness. I say my neighbor mowed his lawn because I see the grass has been cut. However, I never saw my neighbor cut the lawn. I only inferred it.
Kia is used for information that someone else told you. Jason likes mint ice cream because he told me. It is also used for something that is read in a book. 
To vs Kisu and Kisu vs Kia
At a basic level the three particles maybe ranked according to how reliable the information is. 
Kia < Kisu < To
In most cases this is true. However, use of the evidentials is not always cut and dry. Forexample, what if you hear a bird but do not actually see it. Generally birds  can be known through their chirps. But it is also possible someone is playing a trick on you with a whistle. In this case it would be fine to use either to or kisu. 
What if you see something on TV? Well, the Lelu don't have television. However, in their world there are certain magic objects that can project images in ways similar to TV.  So if they did have TVs, I think the same rule would apply. 
Because the images are seen through a device and the information is edited by someone else, one would use kisu to describe them. 
On the other hand, the Lelu use to when describing dreams, even though the Lelu consider them unreliable. (The Prava think dreams foretell the future.)
It could be said that since dreams are generally not relied upon and they were witnessed by the speaker, there is less risk of classifying them as first-hand knowledge. However, things on a magic device (or TV) are more likely to be relied on. 
Kisu and kia can also be ambiguous at times. What if you both know see your neighbor cut his lawn and he told you? Here we could use either. However, kisu can be assumed have a higher degree of certainty than kia. So kisu is probably better to be used. 
There are two other evidential particles but we will talk about them later as they are only used in a few situations.
Lesson 5: "It's a..."
New Vocabulary: 
eso - that
mahaha - bird
It may sound strange that we started out our lessons after the alphabet with words that come at the end of the sentence. But the simplest sentence in Lelu requires you know the evidentials. 
If you ask a question like "What is that?" ("Ke eso?") you would answer with "It is a..."
Example: It is a bird.
Lelu  does not have a word like "to be." Instead we simply state what it is and add the sentence particle. No "it" is required, either. 
Mahaha to. 
If you notice there are no words relating to "a" or "the." Lelu has other ways of expressing these when necessary. 


Friday, October 28th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'palei'.


  • (n.) home

Ipe i palei lapa li’i.
“This is my new home.”


Recently Erin slightly rearranged some items upstairs. She put all my stringed instruments together in one corner so they leaned against the wall. This make it much less convenient to get at them, but it made a wonderful new little cave for Keli, and it’s become her new favorite spot:

Keli in her hidey hole.

I realize it’s kind of hard to see because Keli is such a dark kitty, but if you can make out her eye, it’ll help you make out the rest of her face.

Today’s word (the diminutive of pale) is the word for the concept of “home”. It can also be used to mean “little house” or to refer to one’s own house (or hut), but it’s the idea of “home” that it encapsulates.


Friday, October 28th, 2011



This is the generic word for a shape of any kind.

High Eolic word of the day: hangún

Friday, October 28th, 2011

hangún (noun): bird; flock of birds.

vicúsassut yuttásam hangúnd-ecá sallándevisut
priest.DEF hate.IMPERF.NON1.TRANS bird.BEN.PL temple.SUBL.DEF
“the priest hates the birds [gathering] on the temple [roof]”

Listen to the example sentence here: W_HE_145_hanguun_example


Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'ilo'.


  • (n.) oar (of a boat)

Au utu ilo o eneta.
“The oars of the ship are broken.”

Notes: Yesterday’s word was iloa, which is right next to today’s word alphabetically, so I thought I’d throw it up. Nothing special about oars, I suppose—or this iku. The iku comprises a pair of oars. For boats. And rowing. Hooray! :D

The iku itself is still pretty simple (just four strokes), so I figure it works out well enough. By the way, for those who have never tried to row a small boat or canoe: not as easy as it looks! I was surprised. Also, it looks completely automatic, the rowing motion. It’s not. That’s something you’ve got to work at. Good workout, though.

The Phonetics that I Forgot

Thursday, October 27th, 2011
I forgot one thing, and intentionally left out another. The thing that I forgot is a fairly small matter, but is very important to pronunciation: stress. The thing that I left out intentionally is a bit larger, but will probably not be important for much time to come: derivational phonetic simplifications.
            Stress in fĺuðét is fairly simple. It comes on the end of the word unless the vowel of that syllable is an é, then the stress comes on the first vowel before it that that is not an é. If all of the vowels in the word are é’s, then stress comes on the last syllable. So veću, "walk" is stressed: ve-ĆU, and fĺuðét is stressed: fĺ-U-ðét, because its last syllable’s vowel is an é, and the syllable before that is a u, which can have stress. And one more thing that I forgot: é cannot end a word without a consonant after it.
Fĺuðét derives words from other words by attaching affixes, which leads to odd series of consonants that do not always fit in one’s mouth. Because of this there are certain rules that one can follow to simplify the sounds of unwieldy mixtures.
A couple of preliminary rules:
1. The preceding sound always modifies the following sound, and not vice versa.
2. If three or more sounds come together, then first expand semi-vowels into regular vowels, then if there are still groups of three or more consonants, then keep only the first and last sound of each group, and simplify them.

The sounds are simplified according to the following set of rules:

1. Stop + Stop:

a. Initial p > unvoice following sound and remove p except before ć or j where j is unvoiced and the initial t (t + ś = ć) is replaced with p.
b. Initial b > voice following sound and remove b except with ć or j where the ć is voiced and the initial d (d + ź = j) is replaced with b.
c. Initial t > remove initial t.
d. Initial d > voice following sound and remove initial d.
e. Initial ć > unvoice following sound and remove initial t before t.
f. Initial j > voice following sound and remove initial d before d.

Stop + Fricative:

a. Initial p > align inital p to following sound’s voicing and remove f or v.
b. Initial b > remove f or v.
c. Initial t > unvoice following sound and turn f into wh.
d. Initial d > voice following sound and turn v into w.
e. Initial ć > align ć to following sound’s voicing and turn f into wh and v into w.
f. Initial j > turn f into wh and v into w and remove initial d (d + ź = j) before t or d.

Fricative + Stop:

a. Initial f > align initial f to following sound’s voicing and remove initial f before p and b.
b. Initial v > voice following sound and remove initial v before p or b.
c. Initial þ > align initial þ to following sound’s voicing and remove t, d, ć, and j.
d. Initial ð > voice following sound and remove d, and j.
e. Initial ś > align to following sound’s voicing.
f. Initial ź > voice following sound.

Fricative + Fricative:

a. Initial f > remove f
b. Initial v > voice following sound and remove initial v.
c. Initial þ > align þ to following sound’s voicing, turn f into wh, and turn v into w, and remove initial þ before ś or ź.
d. Initial ð > voice following sound, turn v into w, and remove initial ð before ź.
e. Initial ś > align ś to following sound’s voicing and turn f into wh, and turn v into w.
f. Initial ź > voice following sound and turn v into w.