Archive for August, 2012

How to do Questions

Thursday, August 30th, 2012
I'm listening to episode 45 of the Conlangery Podcast to get some ideas of how I might handle questions in FairyLang.

EDIT: They just said that in VSO languages (like this one), question words are generally move to the front of the sentence. Good to remember. I also like the "*verb* not *verb*" pattern for forming yes/no questions. Might use that.

team is toulke

Thursday, August 30th, 2012
toulke = team (noun) (some things Google found for "toulke": a rare term; a rare last name; user names; somewhat similar to Toulkerrie which is the name of a place in Queensland, Australia)

Word derivation for "team" :
Basque = talde, Finnish = joukkue
Miresua = toulke

I've decided to use the OU vowel combination. That puts a little more from Finnish into the Miresua conlang.

Core Vocab: Come and Go, Give and Take

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
adri to approach
agri to leave

nerid to enter
nerig to exit

nurid to infiltrate, penetrate
nurig to escape

igfer to give
idfer to receive

igfur to sell
idfur to buy

idvor to steal

Pronoun picadillos

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

My wife always said that I should keep a log of some sort about my kids linguistic development. And while I haven’t kept a detailed log, here I am blogging about it for the second week in a row.

So: pronouns. As mentioned before, proper use of pronouns is something that children acquire late, but partial use of pronouns develops quite a bit before that. What’s interesting here is the differing rates at which English and Romanian pronouns have been acquired. Because Romanian is pro-drop, pronouns are relatively uncommon in Romanian speech. For this reason, Sebi already uses the English pronoun I fairly consistently, but has not acquired any Romanian pronouns at all. He even mixes the two languages:

I făcut caca.
I went poopy.

The only thing approaching a Romanian pronoun that either child uses is the syllable [tu:], which represents an interesting conflation of the Romanian pronoun tu (you, sg.) and the English word too. The reason for the conflation is that both English and Romanian tend to locate these words at the end of utterances, in similar contexts, and with both words bearing the prosodic stress:

Do you want some, **too**?
Vrei şi **tu**? (Lit. "Want also you?")

Because of this coincidence, both children use the syllable [tu:] with a variety of meanings, including "me, too," "also," and "let me do it." As I noted with the discussion of verb inflection, the kids tend to use second-person forms with first-person meanings, based on what they most often hear.

Despite these few examples of confusion between the two languages, the kids already seem to have a good understanding of the differences between the languages and the contexts in which each is used. Their teachers at preschool say that they never hear the boys using Romanian words at school, and at home they seem to switch effortlessly into Romanian. They have even begun to exhibit some awareness of translation, the notion of a statement in English having an equivalent in Romanian and vice-versa. I’d say that this portends good things.


Tagged: child language, conlang, language acquisition, linguistics, pronouns, romanian

Pronoun picadillos

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

My wife always said that I should keep a log of some sort about my kids linguistic development. And while I haven’t kept a detailed log, here I am blogging about it for the second week in a row.

So: pronouns. As mentioned before, proper use of pronouns is something that children acquire late, but partial use of pronouns develops quite a bit before that. What’s interesting here is the differing rates at which English and Romanian pronouns have been acquired. Because Romanian is pro-drop, pronouns are relatively uncommon in Romanian speech. For this reason, Sebi already uses the English pronoun I fairly consistently, but has not acquired any Romanian pronouns at all. He even mixes the two languages:

I făcut caca.
I went poopy.

The only thing approaching a Romanian pronoun that either child uses is the syllable [tu:], which represents an interesting conflation of the Romanian pronoun tu (you, sg.) and the English word too. The reason for the conflation is that both English and Romanian tend to locate these words at the end of utterances, in similar contexts, and with both words bearing the prosodic stress:

Do you want some, **too**?
Vrei şi **tu**? (Lit. "Want also you?")

Because of this coincidence, both children use the syllable [tu:] with a variety of meanings, including "me, too," "also," and "let me do it." As I noted with the discussion of verb inflection, the kids tend to use second-person forms with first-person meanings, based on what they most often hear.

Despite these few examples of confusion between the two languages, the kids already seem to have a good understanding of the differences between the languages and the contexts in which each is used. Their teachers at preschool say that they never hear the boys using Romanian words at school, and at home they seem to switch effortlessly into Romanian. They have even begun to exhibit some awareness of translation, the notion of a statement in English having an equivalent in Romanian and vice-versa. I’d say that this portends good things.


Tagged: child language, conlang, language acquisition, linguistics, pronouns, romanian

Pronoun picadillos

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

My wife always said that I should keep a log of some sort about my kids linguistic development. And while I haven’t kept a detailed log, here I am blogging about it for the second week in a row.

So: pronouns. As mentioned before, proper use of pronouns is something that children acquire late, but partial use of pronouns develops quite a bit before that. What’s interesting here is the differing rates at which English and Romanian pronouns have been acquired. Because Romanian is pro-drop, pronouns are relatively uncommon in Romanian speech. For this reason, Sebi already uses the English pronoun I fairly consistently, but has not acquired any Romanian pronouns at all. He even mixes the two languages:

I făcut caca.
I went poopy.

The only thing approaching a Romanian pronoun that either child uses is the syllable [tu:], which represents an interesting conflation of the Romanian pronoun tu (you, sg.) and the English word too. The reason for the conflation is that both English and Romanian tend to locate these words at the end of utterances, in similar contexts, and with both words bearing the prosodic stress:

Do you want some, **too**?
Vrei şi **tu**? (Lit. "Want also you?")

Because of this coincidence, both children use the syllable [tu:] with a variety of meanings, including "me, too," "also," and "let me do it." As I noted with the discussion of verb inflection, the kids tend to use second-person forms with first-person meanings, based on what they most often hear.

Despite these few examples of confusion between the two languages, the kids already seem to have a good understanding of the differences between the languages and the contexts in which each is used. Their teachers at preschool say that they never hear the boys using Romanian words at school, and at home they seem to switch effortlessly into Romanian. They have even begun to exhibit some awareness of translation, the notion of a statement in English having an equivalent in Romanian and vice-versa. I'd say that this portends good things.


Tagged: child language, conlang, language acquisition, linguistics, pronouns, romanian

Fun editing older Sandic texts (or, the joy of rehashing *all the things* to make them modern so I won’t be embarrassed about the anthology)

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
Last year, on a whim, I created a slightly larger version of my printed dictionary by taking all the assorted stories and things that I'd ever translated (to that point, and to my knowledge) and putting them in chronological order after the dictionary lists.

This year, I've had rather a story-splosion, so the "anthology" (which I've decided to call it, since the name sounds so very official, and I love the sound of the word) will be stand-alone.  If I didn't do it on its own, I'm afraid the book would no longer fit in my pocket and would be a pain to transport- and then what good would it do me?

Last year, when I did it on a whim, I included the original versions of the texts that I'd translated without bothering to update them to more current usages.  This year (of course, sigh) I'm going to do something different.  Starting with the biggest most imposing story I've translated (King Arthur's Courage), I'm going to modernify everything in the collection to make... well, a legible and sharing-worthy (for me, at least) assortment of stories and fables and poems and songs.

I hadn't realized just how much my handling of the language changed until I printed a copy of the biggest story and started line-by-line disassembling it.  Every other line has stuff crossed-out, or re-written, words have to be shifted in place...

It's amazing what use of a conlang will do to the way it looks, even when you aren't intentionally changing anything at all.

I also found a few one-off words that I used and then for some reason either never documented or just forgot about.  Words like tialia (even though, although, despite) and aliv (hay or straw for horses) fell by the wayside, poor things.  I've scooped the ones which don't have replacements and added them to the dictionary now.

Working back over stories I translated a few years ago is fun.  The usage is different enough that I can pretend I'm reading something someone else wrote.  And the practice for my conlang that I'm getting by re-editing older versions is just awesome.

Wenai baahlnia siad ba sa me frn ba sandi skra man me ;)
I speak Sandic a bit better now on account of what I've done, I guess ;)

I should upload a picture of one of the pages I "edited".  It looks like a pencil war. :p

The attributions list for the translated works is several pages long, too.  On the smaller pocket-sized-book pages, I'm guessing it'll take up around 10 sheets or so.  We'll just have to see.  I never thought I would actually find citing something to be a useful skill.  Hooray son of citation machine.

I wonder if I have to give image attributions for public domain images...?  So much to learn!

The anthology and the newer dictionary I plan to have out sometime in April.  Depending on how well I like the results of my efforts, maybe I'll buy an ISBN for them.  I'm not entirely certain anyone would buy them, but it would be amusing to track, don't you think?

Has anyone else around done something similar?  Anyone have any advice for me on this?

I should find a picture for the cover, too.  Hmm.


Hooray projects. :)

Literary Theory of a Remembrancer

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
      
 
Termites Have Literary Theory, Too, By Golly!
 
       Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer (Bard) of the fortress of Lo'ro'ra is the author and narrator of the Ki'shto'ba tales.  Di'fa'kro'mi invented writing and would have liked to write down his tales himself.  However, he is quite elderly and his claws don't work as well as they used to (apparently arthritis strikes everywhere in the universe, even among intelligent insects).  So he dictates to an amanuensis, an Alate named Chi'mo'a'tu.  Chi'mo'a'tu is quite young and callow, but he was very quick at learning how to make these mysterious word-images on scrolls and so Di'fa'kro'mi takes him for his chief scribe. 
       However, Chi'mo'a'tu's inexperience makes him skeptical about some of his mentor's narrative techniques.  For example, "The War of the Stolen Mother" contains an account of how the Companions steal the talisman whose presence keeps the fortress of Thel'or'ei safe (you can about read that on my Ruminations blog -- it's Chapter 22 in the book).  At the beginning of the following chapter, Chi'mo'a'tu accuses Di'fa'kro'mi of being a liar.  Here's the exchange (remember, until now the Shshi operated only in an oral literary tradition):
   ***
Now, I do not know what to think about this comment of yours, Chi’mo’a’tu!  First you say – the most amusing narrative you have ever received, and touching as well – and then you proceed to remark that it is too bad the whole thing was a lie!
This tale was absolutely truthful!  I know I was not present to take the exact words of the conversations, but – tha’sask| – Za’dut, and A’zhu’lo as well, recounted their adventures often enough!  Their versions did not always agree, but I have reconciled them here.  I thought it was highly effective!  Would you have preferred a tedious accounting of the number of missing stones in the flank of Thel’or’ei, or a complete list of the number and location of each biter sting on the bodies of our Thieves?
I do not see why this manner of narration bothers you so much.  We Remembrancers use it all the time – speaking not in our own person.  When I tell the Tale of the Battle of Mor’kwai’cha, I do not tell it as if I were engaged in it, do I?  I agree – it is an ancient tale and I certainly could not have been present to view it!  What is the difference?  I could not be present to view A’zhu’lo’s head getting stuck in the eye-hole, either! 
Of course Mor’kwai’cha is traditional!  This will be traditional, too, one day!  Besides, no two Remembrancers tell their traditional tales exactly the same – it cannot be expected.  Such tales are not meant to be dry historical recitations, like those the Teachers recount to the nymphs in the nursery.  The thing we call a galt’zi| is meant to entertain!  As long as one remains true to the spirit of the story – that is what matters.
Well, perhaps we can discuss these theories of tale-telling another time.  I need to rest now and then eat, and your claw must be tired.  Come back in three turnings of the water vessel, will you?  We will continue the dictation then.
 ***
 
In the next volume ("The Storm-Wing") Di'fa'kro'mi enlightens Chi'mo'a'tu's understanding with an even more entertaining bit of theory.  Ki'shto'ba has just fought a monster and the Companions are lingering at a fortress called Ei'tot, resting up before continuing their journey.
 
***
I had never told so many tales in so short a time as I did in Ei’tot.  It was the first time I ever narrated the War of the Stolen Mother in a formal setting (not that anything the ei’tot’zei| did was very formal).  I had been thinking the tale through even while we were tramping across Nu’wiv’mi.  That early version was not very like what you have been writing down, Chi’mo’a’tu …
What?  Oh, bother!  Both versions are true!    Of course, a tale can be told in different ways and still be true!  I am getting a bit annoyed at being called a liar!  Now, now, do not get upset!  It is only that for someone who started life training to be a Remembrancer, you know very little about tale-telling!  Perhaps it is a good thing you turned to this novel occupation of writing down the words of others!
       Let me give you a metaphor for the structure of a tale.  It is like the body of a Shi.  It has a chitin framework to hold it together – the basic facts of the plot, articulated in a certain cunning pattern.  Then it has the muscle – the details that move the action of the plot along.  It has the gut – the spirit, the passions of the characters.  And finally it has the fat – the descriptions, the asides, the little bits of humor and philosophy that pad the story.  Now there can be too much of that – if I have any failings, it is in incorporating too much fat!  Like this digression here, if you are writing it down!  No, do not smudge it out.  Ru’a’ma’na’ta may find it amusing, if no one else does.
       Oh, one more thing.  Sometimes one must adapt one’s tale to the situation.  If one is in a hurry or merely giving information, one can reduce it to the bare chitinous structure.  Of course, it is not very entertaining that way, but occasionally such a thing is necessary.  Sometimes one omits certain parts if one thinks the audience might find them offensive and be moved to murder the teller!  If one is speaking to a group of little nymphs in the nursery, one omits the scary parts and keeps it simple and short.  If the audience is exclusively Warriors, one emphasizes the action – the battles and the violence – for Warriors get restless if the tale is too subtle or mentally complex.  Of course, the opposite is true of Alates.  Workers like almost anything as long as it relieves the tedium of their duties – in fact they make the most enthusiastic audience.  And a mixed group – well, one tells the prime version of one’s tale and feels satisfied if no more than a third of the audience falls asleep!
That broadens your understanding, my friend?  Well, good!  Can we get back to work?  Whatever was I saying? …  An anus?  Oh, that is amusing!  That dormant twig of humor in your mind is developing a few leaf buds!  Yes, perhaps every tale ought to have an exit hole for the indigestible parts!
***
 
Pretty good advice for any writer!

 

Chiftikh

Monday, August 27th, 2012

That’s my nearest approximation of “quick hits”. A chiftikh is a word for a strike (with a blade) that we might describe as a “glancing blow” in English—a nick. Only a flesh wound.

A friend of mine—and one of the Old Guard conlangers—Barry Garcia has taken recently to conscripting (minus the conlanging), and this past week he wrote up a version of the numbers one through ten (and also one hundred) in Dothraki. Here’s what they look like:

Barry Garcia's Dothraki numerals 1-5.

That’s 1-5. Now for the rest:

Barry Garcia's Dothraki numerals 6-10 and 100.

The numeral glyphs above are from his own script, and the writing below is a transliterated form of the Dothraki words (i.e. at, akat, sen, etc.) The glyphs at the beginning and end are used to demarcate paragraphs or set off quotes. If I know my modern “literary” press publications right (Vintage, I’m looking at you), the English equivalent would be:

Since I introduced one at the beginning of this post, now might be as good a time as any to discuss sword fighting (or arakh fighting) terminology in Dothraki. While there are basic words like “to cut” and “to stab” in Dothraki, there are also a series of specific terms used for types of sword strikes one employs in a fight. They’re all derived in the same fashion from native animal terminology. Since we’ve already seen chiftikh, I’ll use that as my example.

A chiftikh is a weak or glancing blow with a sword—something that was intended to hit, but missed the mark (or, perhaps, was too weak to do much damage). It derives from the word chifti, which means “cricket”. To use it in a sentence, you use the verb ildat, “to strike”. The direct object, then, is the type of strike, rather than the one struck. To indicate the one who is struck, you include an allative object (optional), and if you wish to mention the weapon used, you can include an ablative object (also optional). Thus, if you wanted to say the equivalent of (I think this is the best way to word this in English), “I fetched him a glancing blow with my arakh”, you would say:

  • Anha ilde chiftikh maan arakhoon anni.

And there you have it. Below I’ll list the various ildo (i.e. “sword strikes”), along with the animal they’re associated with and their meaning:

Animal TermIldoMeaning
chifti “cricket”chiftikhA weak hit or glancing blow.
gezri “snake”gezrikhA feint (a strike intended to throw the opponent off and disguise one’s true intent).
hlizif “bear”hlizifikhA wild but powerful strike (effective if it lands, but relatively inaccurate).
hrakkar “lion”hrakkarikhA quick, powerful and accurate strike.
kolver “eagle”kolverikhA straight sword thrust (middling and relatively uncommon).
ver “wolf”verikhA defensive strike intended to back an opponent off, but not necessarily to land.

As a framework, this isn’t intended to encompass swordsmanship (or arakhsmanship) in any way. These are just older terms that are intended to be employed in discussing a sword fight. They’re not meant to run the gamut of sword fighting terminology, or to dictate a particular style: they’re just there to make discussion move along a bit more easily.

And you may also notice that the word for “eagle” up there drew its inspiration from Stephen Colbert. I felt I needed a word for “eagle”, and in searching for a phonological form to fit it, I decided that Stephen Colbert embodied eagleness quite well. As his last name fit Dothraki’s syllable structure rather nicely, the word for “eagle” became kolber—or, at least, in the oldest form of the language. In modern Dothraki, it, of course, comes out as kolver, with the older b changing to v, but if the t can become silent on account of a historical sound change, I figure a change from a stop to a fricative shouldn’t be all that alarming.

I’m off to Chicago on Thursday! If I get any good pictures, I’ll be sure to post them here. Fonas chek!

Conlangery #64: Head-marking vs Dependent-marking

Monday, August 27th, 2012
Today we tackle a very interesting typology topic: head-marking and dependant-marking.  Turns out that whether your language leans one way or another affects (or depends on) a wide variety of grammatical features.  Be sure to check the links below for additional info. Top of Show Greeting: Toki Pona (translated by Vadim Fomin) Links and Resources: Great […]