Archive for May, 2013

number is zunku

Friday, May 31st, 2013
zunku = number (noun) (some things Google found for "zunku": a rare term; user names; name of several gaming characters; a very rare last name)

Word derivation for "number" :
Basque = zenbaki, Finnish = luku
Miresua = zunku

This is a new word. The English word number translates to multiple Finnish words. In Finnish the word numero means number, such as numeral or rank in a list or sequence, and the word lukumäärä means number, as in quantity.

Comparative statements in Buruya Nzaysa

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

In response to two recent translation challenges on the ZBB, I’m posting a summary of comparative constructions in my conlang Buruya Nzaysa.

Nortaneous wrote:
How do your conlangs handle comparatives and superlatives?

- This bowl is red.
- This bowl is redder than that bowl.
- This bowl is the reddest of all these bowls.

Buruya Nzaysa follows what the World Atlas of Language Structures calls an exceed-strategy for forming comparatives, that is, the language uses a verbal construction with sopsə “conquer, defeat, surpass” for comparative and superlative statements, and with ñolu “match, be comparable to” for equative statements:

Sə nzɔ ñauvo ɔ nawə.
This bowl is red.

Sa nzɔ ñauvo tsə ah nawə sopsə.
NULL.AUX-3SG>3 TOP.NOM bowl that.ACC of.3 red defeat
This bowl is redder than that bowl.
(lit.: This bowl defeats that one in redness.)

Sa nzɔ ñauvo tsə ah nawə ñolu.
NULL.AUX-3SG>3 TOP.NOM bowl that.ACC of.3 red match
This bowl is as red as that bowl.
(lit.: This bowl matches that one in redness.)

Sa nzɔ ñauvo ɔra tsə ah nawə sopsə.
NULL.AUX-3SG>3 TOP.NOM bowl all that.ACC of.3 red defeat
This bowl is the reddest of all these bowls.
(lit.: This bowl defeats all those in redness.)

So far, so good. Now on to the second translation challenge, which focused on a slightly more complex type of comparison:

Imralu wrote:
So, the other comparative thread doesn’t get into subject and object roles in the comparison, and it’s an important area. English can be ambiguous, but can be disambiguated by making the examples into a whole clause. Languages that use case marking better than English usually show it with cases. [...]

- I love you more than him. (I love you more than he does.)
- I love you more than him. (I love you more than I love him.)
- I love you the most. (I love you more than anyone else loves you.)
- I love you the most. (I love you more than I love anyone else.)

The first and third of these sentences fit nicely into the usual exceed-strategy for forming comparatives. We simply need to nominalize the verb whose intensity is being compared, and to demote its object into the argument of a preposition. Note that all of the pronouns e “I”, tsə “him” (lit. “that one”), and lɛñɔ “you” are grammatically optional, but would tend to be included for emphasis. However, in the latter example, ɛru “everybody” can’t be omitted because it’s crucial for understanding what the statement means.

Seya (e) (tsə) ah lo tsena podɔ (lɛñɔ) sopsə.
NULL.AUX-1SG>3 (1SG.NOM) (that.ACC) of.3 DEF.NOM love.VN for.2 (2SG.NOM) defeat
I love you more than he does.
(lit.: I defeat him with regard to loving you.)

Seya (e) ɛru ah lo tsena podɔ (lɛñɔ) sopsə.
NULL.AUX-1SG>3 (1SG.NOM) everybody of.3 DEF.NOM love.VN for.2 (2SG.NOM) defeat
I love you more than anyone else loves you.
(lit.: I defeat everybody with regard to loving you.)

For the other two sentences it’s a bit more tricky because we have to compare the objects of the base verb. The simplest strategy is similar to passivization. Except that Buruya Nzaysa does not have a true passive voice, so we have to insert an extra verb, again in a nominalized form:

So’ɔwa (lɛñɔ) (tsə) ah lo nzɛwɛsa u lo tsena nte (e) sopsə.
NULL.AUX-2SG>3 (2SG.NOM) (that.ACC) of.3 DEF.NOM receive.VN from.3 DEF.NOM love.VN by.1 (1SG.NOM) defeat
I love you more than I love him.
(lit.: You defeat him with regard to receiving love from me.)

So’ɔwa (lɛñɔ) ɛru ah lo nzɛwɛsa u lo tsena nte (e) sopsə.
NULL.AUX-2SG>3 (2SG.NOM) everybody of.3 DEF.NOM receive.VN from.3 DEF.NOM love.VN by.1 (1SG.NOM) defeat
I love you more than I love anyone else.
(lit.: You defeat everybody with regard to receiving love from me.)

As a second option, we could literally compare the two instances of the verb against each other. This is grammatically valid, but it sounds rather unelegant because of the repeated nominalized verb, and we also have to introduce a new property of comparison:

Sa lo tsena nte po’ɔ (lɛñɔ) lu tsena (nte) puh tse ah katsu sopsə.
NULL.AUX-3SG>3 DEF.NOM love.VN by.1 for.2 (2SG.NOM) DEF.ACC love.VN (by.1) for.3 that.NOM of.3 strength defeat
I love you more than I love him.
(lit.: My love for you defeats my love for him with regard to strength.)

Sa lo tsena nte po’ɔ (lɛñɔ) lu tsena (nte) puh ɔra sədə ah katsu sopsə.
NULL.AUX-3SG>3 DEF.NOM love.VN by.1 for.2 (2SG.NOM) DEF.ACC love.VN (by.1) for.3 all other of.3 strength defeat
I love you more than I love anyone else.
(lit.: My love for you defeats my love for all others with regard to strength.)

There is yet another way to express such a type of comparison. If we topicalize the standard of comparison with a gerund, we can use a completely different construction which employs a quantifier instead of an exceed-type verb. This construction is fairly elegant and natural, but it is not unambiguous with regard to subject and object roles:

Ntenamɛ ah tse, seya (e) podɔ (lɛñɔ) lu isa tsena tsapse.
GER-compare of.3 that.NOM, NULL.AUX-1SG>3 (1SG.NOM) for.2 (2SG.NOM) DEF.ACC most love.VN give
I love you more than him.
(lit.: Compared to him, I give the most love to you.)

Ntenamɛ ah ɔra sədə, seya (e) podɔ (lɛñɔ) lu isa tsena tsapse.
GER-compare of.3 all other, NULL.AUX-1SG>3 (1SG.NOM) for.2 (2SG.NOM) DEF.ACC most love.VN give
I love you the most.
(lit.: Compared to anyone else, I give the most love to you.)

Or alternatively, with a different verb:

Ntenamɛ ah tse, so’ɔwa (lɛñɔ) nte (e) lu isa tsena nzɛwə.
GER-compare of.3 that.NOM, NULL.AUX-2SG>3 (2SG.NOM) by.1 (1SG.NOM) DEF.ACC most love.VN receive
I love you more than him.
(lit.: Compared to him, you receive the most love from me.)

Ntenamɛ ah ɔra sədə, so’ɔwa (lɛñɔ) nte (e) lu isa tsena nzɛwə.
GER-compare of.3 all other, NULL.AUX-2SG>3 (2SG.NOM) by.1 (1SG.NOM) DEF.ACC most love.VN receive
I love you the most.
(lit.: Compared to anyone else, you receive the most love from me.)

Words coined for this translation challenge:
nzɛwə (v.) “receive, be given (something)”. Etymology: Ndak Ta ndepes “gather”.

The Simurgh: Faizah’s Destiny by Marva Dasef

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Simurgh, Sassanian Royal Symbol
(Public Domain)
       I recently reviewed Faizah’s Destiny by Marva Dasef, a Middle Grade book set in a fictional Middle East.  The book follows the adventures of four village children as they undergo a process of growing up and learning about themselves.  It draws on Persian and other Middle Eastern myths for its fantasy.   A main plot element is a quest to find the Simurgh, a mythical bird central to significant Persian tales.  In Dasef's story the Simurgh is a large, deathless bird that can speak and is said to know all things and to be a "great teacher and a guardian."  It has arms in addition to wings and the author gives it moving lips at the end of its beak   It resembles a peacock in appearance and proves to be quite benign, giving each child a look into their potential futures.  It is a non-frightening, benevolent creature.
        The Simurgh was mentioned briefly in my post Bird Myths Pt. 4: Greece and the Middle East.  Today I want to investigate the lore of the Simurgh, which is a good deal more complex than the version we see in Dasef's book.  Faizah's Destiny is a book for middle-graders and so some of the more grotesque or ferocious elements of the Simurgh have been adjusted.  This is not a problem in the context of this book; one of the things that makes myth so valuable as a foundation for fiction is the ability to be adapted to an author's purpose.

        The Simurgh occurs in several different Middle Eastern cultures and literatures.  The Wikipedia article is not well documented, but as usual it makes a good starting point for investigation.  The name is Persian in origin, deriving from a Sanskrit word meaning "eagle, bird of prey."  Like the Roc or the Ziz, it is described as large enough to carry off an elephant.  It has the head of a dog, the claws of a lion, and sometimes a human face, which gives it kinship with the Griffin (body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle's talons as its front feet) as one of the mythological hybrids. 
       However, if you search "Simurgh" in Google Images, you will see that most of the iconography is not of the Griffin variety but depicts this creature as a true bird.  Above is a striking example (  - no copyright information given that I can see.)
       Wikipedia cites an online reference that gives an comprehensive overview of the Simurgh:  Many myths in many cultures surround this fabulous "bird."  I'll recount just two of them.
       The Simurgh is associated with the Tree of Life, which is said to stand in the middle of the primal sea.  The Simurgh nests in this tree, which produces the seeds of all plants.  When the Simurgh takes flight, it causes the branches to shake and the seeds to fall. They are then distributed all over the world by wind and rain or by other birds, producing all the plants that we know.  The Simurgh is generally associated with rain, although one source says that sometimes the weight of the bird breaks the branches of the Tree, causing it to wither, thus associating it with the burning sun. 
       The Simurgh can also have an alter-ego, a dark counterpart (quoting from the Encyclopaedia Iranica article cited above): "the exact opposite of those of the Sēnmurw: When Kamak appeared he spread his wings over the whole world, all the rain fell on his wings and back into the sea, drought struck the earth, men died, springs, rivers and wells dried up. Kamak devoured men and animals as a bird pecks grain. Karšāsp showers arrows on him day and night like rain till he succumbs. In killing men Kamak is the opposite of Camrōš, who pecks up the enemies of Iran like grain (Bundahišn 24.24)." ("Chamrosh" is yet another name for the Simurgh, or for a companion bird that sits beneath the Tree of Life and helps to scatter its seeds:
      In Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, the national epic of the Persian world, Zal son of Saam was an albino and considered the spawn of the devil. He was abandoned on a mountain top, then, prompted by God, a Simurgh rescued him, raised him, and educated him (example of the epic element of an abandoned infant raised by a wild creature). When Zal returned to the world of men, the Simurgh gave him one of her feathers, which he was to burn if he ever needed assistance. Later, when it appeared Zal's wife would die in labor, he used the feather to summon the Simurgh, who taught him how to do a Caesurean section and so save the child. This child grew up to be Rostam, the great Persian hero, who in a later part of the epic was to be aided by the Simurgh again. 
       This benevolent version had its dark counterpart.  Also quoting the Encyclopaedia Iranica article: "The Simorḡ, protector of Zāl and Rostam, has an evil counterpart called by the same name. She lives on a mountain and looks like a mountain or a black cloud; she can carry off crocodiles, panthers and elephants. She has two young ones as big as herself. This Simorḡ is one of the adversaries Esfandiār kills in the course of his seven exploits on the way to the castle of Arjāsp. To overcome the huge monster Esfandiār constructs a large chariot spiked all over with swords which cut the bird to pieces (IV, p. 509f.). It is not impossible that both birds are originally identical and the Simorḡ is ambivalent. Her benevolent behavior towards Zāl was due to God’s intervention, and went against her nature as a raptor. In the contemptuous description of Zāl’s origin it is said that the Simorḡ spared the child because she could not stomach him (IV, p. 612)."
       Fascinating stuff, isn't it?

       I also want to add quotations from the Encyclopaedia Iranica article that deal with the relationship of the Simurgh to the other giant mythical birds of the region (some of which are benevolent and some malevolent).  I have indicated in bold interesting points that tie this post to some of my other discussions and demonstrate the universality of the Big Bird concept:
       "The Simorḡ’s equivalent in Arabic sources is the ʿAnqāʾ. The ambivalent nature of this bird is attested in the Hadith: the bird was created by God with all perfections, but became a plague, and a prophet put an end to the havoc it wrought by exterminating the species (Pellat, p. 509). In the Sumerian Lugalbanda Epic the mythical bird Anzu is a benevolent being. The hero frees the young of the bird, which in return blesses him. In the Sumerian Lugal-e and the Akkadian Anzu Epic the bird represents demonic powers and is vanquished by the god Ninurta. In the Akkadian Etana Epic the hero is carried by the eagle to the heaven of Anu. The correspondence of these motifs with the Simorḡ stories in the Šāhnāma and the Kurdish folktales is obvious, showing that they are of common Near Eastern heritage (Aro, p. 25ff.). In an illustration of a manuscript of the Thousand and One Nights the Simorḡ is identified with the monstrous bird Roḵ (cf. Casartellli, p. 82f.).
       "The Sēnmurw has many traits in common with the Indian Garuḍa, the steed of the god Viṣṇu (cf. Reuben, pp. 489ff., 495, 506f., 510, 515, 517). It is of particular interest that the comparison was made already in Sasanian times. In the first book of the Sanskrit Pañcatantra (the cognate of Kalila and Dimna) is a story of the birds of the shore who complain to their king Garuḍa. In Sogdian, synmrγ is used to translate garuḍa (see Utz, p. 14); and in the old Syriac translation of the Middle Persian original of Kalila and Dimna, Garuḍa is rendered by Simorḡ (cf. de Blois). Fauth (p. 125ff.) has argued that all the mythical giant birds—such as Simorḡ, Phoenix, Garuḍa, the Tibetan Khyuṅ, and also the Melek Ṭāʾus of the Yezidis—are offshoots of an archaic, primordial bird that created the world. Thus Simorḡ as God in Persian mysticism would, curiously, represent a return to the original meaning."

       I really find it more than a little cool to regard the Creator God as a giant bird!  And I can see enough material in the many Simurgh myths to inspire any number of great fantasy stories!

strawberry is manarbi (revisited)

Monday, May 27th, 2013
manarbi = strawberry (noun) (some things Google found for "manarbi": a rare term; possibly a rare first name; possibly a rare last name; user name; appears in bad OCR of old documents)

Word derivation for "strawberry" :
Basque = marrubi, Finnish = mansikka
Miresua = manarbi

My previous Miresua word for strawberry was marniba. The new word doesn't end in A. Posting another small change because things have been a bit hectic here.

Some High Valyrian Inflection

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

As many will have noticed, there’s no new episode of Game of Thrones this week. There’s also no new episode of Defiance, for fans of the Syfy show. In fact, there’s not much on TV this weekend except for sports. The reasons is evident, though it seems that networks are only catching on this year. This Monday is Memorial Day in America.

Now ordinarily, one would think that since it’s a long weekend, people would be gearing up to go home and watch TV—and that’s often true. But as a holiday, Memorial Day is all but guaranteed to have the best weather of any American holiday throughout the year. The weather may be nice on certain holidays in certain parts of the country on any given year, true, but Memorial Day is just about guaranteed to have great weather in every part of the country every single year. As a result, families use this time to get together and go outside. And while sporting events work great for such weather (you can drop in and drop out, catch a play while getting something to drink, etc.), sitting down for a serious drama seems to be at odds with the gorgeous weather outside. Consequently, American networks decided to bow to the weather and take a week off.

Personally, I couldn’t be happier! This time of the year I often find myself out of town on the weekends (maybe not every weekend, but some weekends), which means that I have to miss a live airing of Game of Thrones, which is just not cool. This year I don’t have to worry! As with last year, I traveled up to the Bay Area for BayCon and also to visit with family (and with Shubert’s). And since there’s no Game of Thrones or Defiance, I can really enjoy the weekend!

While we take a breath as we prepare for the final two episodes of Game of Thrones, though, I thought I’d put up a couple of inflectional paradigms from High Valyrian. The hope is that these can be used as a general reference for the future. There’s been some excellent and fruitful discussion in the comments section of this blog, but as anyone who’s a regular commenter is well familiar with, it’s kind of hard to keep track of who said what when, and so I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes (misreading comments, saying comment x is incorrect when I really meant comment y, etc.). These paradigms I promise will be 100% correct (unless they need to be changed in the future [joking (kind of)]).

Starting with the verbs, those who’ve been following along will know that there are basically two types of verb stems in High Valyrian: those that end in a consonant and those that end in a vowel. In High Valyrian, a stem can end with any consonant or vowel, but those that end in vowels have paradigms which are quite similar to one another, and those that end in a consonant have paradigms that are quite similar to one another (in both instances, though, there will be variation in the perfect, which is the part of the paradigm most likely to be irregular). Here I want to give you the most regular versions of each paradigm so that you’ve got a base line to go off of. Let’s start with the easy one: consonant-final stems. As an example, I’ll use manaeragon, which means “to raise” or “to lift”.

Person/Type Present Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person manaeran manaeri manaeron manaeroty
Second Person manaerā manaerāt manaerō manaerōt
Third Person manaerza manaerzi manaeros manaerosy
Imperative manaerās manaerātās  
Infinitive manaeragon
Participle manaerare, manaerarior

A couple of comments on the table above. The (dark) grayed out part of the table are forms that don’t exist (there are no subjunctive participles or infinitives or imperatives). Where one form stretches across singular and plural, it means there’s no distinction. In the case of the participles, those are adjectives with regular adjective endings, and the first is used with a lunar or solar class and the latter with a terrestrial or aquatic (i.e. those specific adjective endings conflate lunar and solar into one class and terrestrial and aquatic into another). You’ll undoubtedly be able to glance at the table and pick out some patterns. Bear those in mind as we move to the next paradigm—this one for limagon, which means “to cry”.

Person/Type Present Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person liman limī limaon limaoty
Second Person limā limāt limaō limaōt
Third Person limas limasi limaos limaosy
Imperative limās limātās  
Infinitive limagon
Participle limare, limarior

Aside from the subjunctive, the tables should look quite similar (probably because the stem ends in -a), so it may prove instructive to do another vowel-final paradigm that should help to describe the rest of it. Here’s sōvegon which means “to fly”.

Person/Type Present Active Tense
Indicative Subjunctive
Singular Plural Singular Plural
First Person sōven sōvī sōvion sōvioty
Second Person sōvē sōvēt sōviō sōviōt
Third Person sōves sōvesi sōvios sōviosy
Imperative sōvēs sōvētēs  
Infinitive sōvegon
Participle sōvere, sōverior

And with that, one should be able to figure out the rest. If you’re looking for something to hang your hat on, if you have a consonant-final stem, the first person plural present active indicative will always end in -i, and for a vowel-final stem, it will always end in , regardless of the vowel in the stem. If you’re trying to fill out the rest of the vowel-final forms, yes, the first person plural and second person singular are identical with i-final stems, and in the subjunctive, the final o and u of o- and u-final stems both become v.

Since we’ve devoted a lot of space to verbs, I’d like to wrap up with a couple common noun paradigms. You’ll notice that a lot of names of Valyrian origin end in -ys. This is how nouns and names of that type decline. I’ll use the word loktys, “sailor” as an example (a solar noun of the second declension class. Most [but not all] words of this class are solar).

Case Singular Plural Paucal Collective
Nominative loktys loktyssy loktyn loktyr
Accusative lokti loktī loktyni loktyri
Genitive lokto loktoti loktyno loktyro
Dative loktot loktoti loktynty loktyrty
Locative loktȳ loktī loktynny loktyrry
Instrumental loktomy loktommi loktyssy loktyrzy
Comitative loktomy loktommi loktymmy loktyrmy
Vocative loktys loktyssys loktyssy loktyrzy

It might prove instructive to refer to the first declension lunar paradigm revealed last week and compare it to this one. Pay particularly close attention to the singular and plural numbers, and note where cases are conflated and where they aren’t. This is what defines declension classes in High Valyrian.

Oh, and since it doesn’t fit anywhere else but I feel like mentioning it, verb stems never end in a long vowel or diphthong, and you’ll run into the following diphthongs in High Valyrian: ae, āe, ao and āo. There are also some on-glide diphthongs which can serve as the nucleus of a single syllable: ia, , io, , ie, , ua, , ue and .

I hope you enjoy the week off from Game of Thrones! Come next week, things are going to start to get messy. Geros ilas!

How to make Sanskrit with tools you have at home

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

I’m toying with a Sanskrit-esque conlang. At the moment this is likely to be just a naming language, but there’s a good chance that I’m going to need to expand it later, so I want to make sure I get off on the right foot.

But this poses the question: what is Sanskrit-esque? I’m mostly concerned with phonology and mouth-feel, not syntax or morphology—which is convenient, since I know basically nothing about Sanskrit beyond its phonology. A little brainstorming suggests the following characteristics:

  1. A four-way stop contrast, with all combinations +/- voice and +/- aspirated for most places of articulation
  2. Palatal and retroflex consonant series
  3. a as the most common vowel, followed by i
  4. Syllabic sonorants, especially r
  5. Lack of w, but v and y very common.
  6. Onset clusters of the form Cr, but few/no other onset clusters
  7. Vowel length distinction
  8. Relatively few word-final consonants, and those that occur are usually nasals or h

I found this Sanskrit text as a good language sample, from which I drew most of the preceding observations. Obviously some of these are generalizations about Sanskrit romanization and not necessarily about phonology per se, but since my end-goal here is to create a Sanskrit-flavored naming language, observing the romanization conventions is part of the deal.

Now I further complicate my requirements by noting that I already have a decent number of names in use for this setting, which I have to retrofit without completely destroying. Let’s start with the city formerly named Wyrnas, a grotesquely cliche pseudo-Welsh name. My initial concept of this language used the digraph yr to indicate a syllabic [r], so this name can be changed to Vrnas with almost no change in actual pronunciation. But what a wonderful difference in flavor! I’m off to a good start.

Next is Corath. This name doesn’t violate any of our rules outright, but that final -ath doesn’t sit right. Obvious alternatives would be Coratha or Corathi, which are merely okay. While looking at these names I thought of simply geminating the th to Corattha, which seems just right.

On to Gocem. I’m pretty sure that CoCeC is not a possible word-shape in Sanskrit, so we have to change at least one of the vowels. But the most minimal change here seems like the best: Gocam

(Note that I’m editing purely for flavor here, without any concern for the morphology or phonotactics of the target language. This is fine as a first step, though later of course I’ll have to figure such things out.)

I won’t go through the rest of the 20-ish names that would have to be retrofitted, since this is just a preliminary sketch. But I’m heartened that the retrofit seems to be possible.

Tagged: conlang, conlanging, naming language, phonology, sanskrit

sister is aizar (revisited)

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
aizar = sister (noun) (some things Google found for "aizar": an uncommon term: Aizar Schools in Pakistan; an unusual masculine first name; a rare last name; name of several gaming characters; Aizar S.L. is an air conditioning and heating company in Spain; similarly named Aizarna is a place in the Basque region of Spain)

Word derivation for "sister" :
Basque = ahizpa, Finnish = sisar
Miresua = aizar

My previous Miresua word for sister was ahisa.

The word sister appears in the first paragraph of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

D’al Thyann, AjrFen Oko (57) by Ariel Cinii

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013


Heart Stone

The Author Documents:

Even when a project like The Touching Lands’ Dance is done, new information comes in on no given schedule to explain what’s been happening in the stories that I write. Below is an expansion on some old research that has since matched up with new data searches and confirm some basic aspects that I’d always held true about life on the Sartine Homeworld:

Heart Stone            Chin SonôdRa (n., jargon) the Ceverabin or valuable material at the core of an airland or asteroid.

The Original Legend:

“When that big volcano blew, Goddess took her birth,

And spread her warmth across the face of Gaodw’s cooling earth.

And with her came the flying lands upon which we now dwell.

She seeded them with plants and critters from the bio-shell.”

––Come Fly Free

a song by Ariel Cinii

Some Confirming Science:

The Air Metal Ceverabin (Cv) that floats through the world’s atmosphere almost never appears by itself as a raw, shiny piece of rock in the sky, not even in space, except in the evidence of a physical collision with some other body. Throughout Gysrrt in the majority of sightings, an airland {Më SodyeréVa, or Mëssôt} ordinarily appears as a large floating land mass, not that dissimilar from something ordinarily attached to the ground with a mountain or other geological form, and in most incidences (allowing for altitude), a Mëssôt will harbour some kind of life, whether it’s on or beneath its exterior.

A granite-like form of Molybdenite (MoS2) {a.k.a. Wulfenite}is the basic geological form of the average Sartine airland. The non-gravity-defiant rock that adheres to Cv generally appears rough and grey, or sometimes a dull silver with colourful rusty streaks of oxidized Iron (Fe) competing for the firey fuschia of the Air Metal. They are often rich with deposits of mica, and may manifest orange, red, and yellow crystals. These deposits can appear in thick blocks, or be so thin that they’re transparent.

Second in content to Cv, the element Molybdenum (Mo) shows a great affinity toward Cv. Mo has a very high melting point, within twenty degrees of Cv {4 730 F for Mo, vs. 4 750 F for Cv}. Some molybdenite forms when igneous bodies contact rock and metamorphose, or change, the rock. This is called contact metamorphism. In its molten state, a Cv/Mo mix can be forged (esp. in zero gravity conditions off-planet). Although Cv and Mo do not actually alloy with each other, the mix makes Cv easier to work with, and has been used as a structural material in many aerospace applications. SiviKamdt’a is a well-known form of Cv/Mo used in the frames of space vessels because it is resistant to high loads and temperatures. In most cases the metal often called “Refined Ceverabin”, a semi-precious material used in jewelry and medical applications, was actually some form of SiviKamdt’a.

It is known that over geological time, Cv will eventually decay into Fe. Natural deposits of Ferrous Sulfides and Sulfates are common to a Mëssôt, as are closed or secluded ecosystems that have developed in niches called “bubble caves”. These natural void spaces within hardened Cv masses are common to almost every airland. As denser deposits of the gravity-defiant metal attempt to escape their “host mass” (often Ferrous) while cooling from its molten state, the bubbles solidify, not unlike the bubbles in baked goods like bread. Many bubble caves trap such Sulfides within their mass, and can be hazardous unless properly ventilated. At times, chemical reactions between life forms (or their waste) and the native elements create dark, rocky deposits within an airland that give off a stinky odor, and will accumulate either knots of magnetic mineral or harbour micro-organisms that would evolve further to survive a high-altitude environment.

These life forms often come from the accretion of seeds and soil from other altitudes and ecosystems, as well as the visitations and deposits of plants and animals. Some have adapted to travel across the air through either active or passive means, while others have managed to travel and profligate via wind, weather, digestive wastes or simple accidents. Many common land or sea species have “air twins”, that adapted to environments less rich in oxygen, water or other needed elements, while many had bred attributes that took advantage of these conditions.

The first to come to mind appeared in D’al Thyann, Fena (10) in 1994:

As is appropriate to the season, 10 has been a number associated with misfortune in the Sartine culture. Indeed, an expletive of situational despair, “Fena!” is the number 10 (Fena) with the accent on the second syllable, rather than the first. However, the invocation of tens or multiples thereof does not have the corresponding mystic effect that 13 would have in North America, with one possible exception:

The Hyawfen’a is a form of scrub brush. It’s inedible, it holds very little water in its roots or bark and prefers high altitudes to low altitudes. It is most at home on the airborne lands, or Mëssôtye, which dot the Sartine sky. The breakdown of the name Hyawf Fen’in literally means “Red Tens” {Hyawf  (n.) the colour red; Hyawfejan’i (n.) the colour pink} and refers to the hundreds of seeds that its mature flower, a red balloon-like bag at its full fertility, will purge into the air when the time is right. All those little seeds catch the breeze with relative ease on their own, but their most prevalent means of transport is somewhere in the fur or feathers of travelling ani­mals. The little things are light but also slightly barbed at the outer sets of “antennae” (which help them grab onto their carrier’s fur or feathers). They can get pretty annoying should they get lodged in the wrong cranny or body fold, so it would be the nature of the carrier to dislodge those seeds whenever they can.

And as the old saying goes, “Whenever there’s one there’s bound to be more.” 

Humans also become part of this passive transit, esp. in a fertile growing season. Like burrs, they have an affinity for hair and feathers; several “tens” of them will get stuck as they would all be caught from the same breeze, or cling to the same group of dirt particles.

So ubiquitous are Hyawfenna that they worked their way into the system of numbers (dvin). It is rumoured that the devisers of the Ahhy’u Tauiné (the Sartine Alphabet) were caught in a virtual storm of Hyawfen’a seeds when they created the figures of the written language. The figure Hyow (zero) is in fact a side view of a Hyawfen’a seed.

So on a warm, dusty day when the Hyawfen’a seeds ride the tails of Cinii the Wind, one can accurately say that the sky is full of nothing.

AMW:iac 1305.22

Two tools for conlangers

Monday, May 20th, 2013

I have done some Javascript coding recently. The results might be of interest to other conlangers, so I’m posting them here:

The Derivizer.
A simple tool that you can use while building/ expanding your conlang’s lexicon. You can enter (some of) your language’s root words and derivational affixes, and use this script to suggest a few random derivatives and/or compounds, for which you can then try to come up with nice idiomatic meanings. I’ve started writing this tool back in October 2012, and I’ve found it quite useful already. Of course, the exact degree of usefulness depends on the data you enter – I find it works best when you limit the input to a certain domain, e.g. only noun roots from a single semantic field, and only derivational affixes that can be attached to these nouns.

The Frequentizer.
I wanted to do a corpus-based phoneme frequency analysis for one of my conlangs today, but I couldn’t find a suitable online tool for this task in a quick round of googling, so I decided to write one myself. Even in the very first version, it can already (a) provide separate figures for vowels and consonants (and you can even define what counts as a vowel in your conlang), (b) handle user-defined di- and trigraphs correctly by treating them as single segments, and (c) arbitrarily combine different letters into a single phoneme, for instance accented and unaccented vowels. In a future version, the Frequentizer may also be able to assign the same grapheme to different phonemes depending on an orthographically predictable environment, but don’t hold your breath…

I hope these tools will prove useful to some of you. There’s not much documentation for either at this point, but I recommend taking a look at the example data (from Buruya Nzaysa btw) and testing some of the different settings in order to get a feeling for how they work. Have fun!

(Both of these are beta versions, so I can’t guarantee that the scripts always work as they should… ;) )

[EDIT May 23, 2013]
I have just uploaded a new version of the Frequentizer. There are now separate grapheme fields for consonants and vowels which both work like the old Special Graphemes field. You can also choose what to do with characters that don’t appear in those fields. And of course, the most significant change: The tool now has a basic understanding of syllable structure, so it can give separate statistics for onset and coda consonants. By default, it will treat the first consonant of every cluster plus all word-final consonants as belonging to a syllable coda; if you need different rules, you can add a syllable divider character (by default, the MIDDLE DOT ·) to your text corpus in places where the built-in rules do not give the intended syllabification.

[EDIT June 4, 2013]
Uploaded yet another version of the Frequentizer, which has an improved syllable model that supports full and null onsets or codas, intervocalic consonants or consonant clusters, and can restrict the analysis to syllables in a certain position in the word. This means you can now ask for things like “vowels in word-medial syllables” or “syllable onsets in non-final syllables”. The program also presents the results in a shiny visual diagram now (made with the Chart.js library), and it has a proper license (Free BSD).

[EDIT June 7, 2013]
Version 0.4 of the Frequentizer is up. It can now give some word-level statistics, restrict the analysis to words of a certain length, determine the most commonly used bi- and trigrams within words, and report the frequency of syllable shapes of the type CV, CCV, CVC etc.

Bird Myths, Pt. 5: Sinbad and the Rukh

Monday, May 20th, 2013
       In The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars (see the Prologue and first ten chapters here), I made Capt. Robbin Nikalishin a birder. What better qualification for the man who will head up the mission that encountered the first intelligent lifeform known to humanity -- and who happened to be big birds? During the mission out, there was a lot of boring downtime and one way the crew entertained itself was by telling bird myths, each crewmember telling tales from his or her own culture. Now, this section will be cut or drastically emended if I ever get that monster ready for publication, but I did too much research and had too much fun writing it to let it all disappear, so what better place to display it than on a blog devoted to myth in literature?
       The following passage continued Prf. Linna Katsopolos's narration.  She had just asked the crew, "Have any of you people ever heard of Sinbad?"  Some knew the tales, but many had not.  (Parenthetically, I saw a trailer last evening on the SyFy channel advertising an upcoming series called "Sinbad," so this post turns out to be quite pertinent!)

The Rukh
(Public domain in the USA)

None of those who knew the tales objected to hearing them again and so Linna launched into her narrative.  “Back in the days of ancient Arbia, there was a young man named Sinbad, who was a merchant by trade and lived in the fabulous city of Bagda.  Bagda was actually a real city that existed for millennia, until it was wiped off the map during the 24th century depredations.  Sinbad is one of those resourceful trickster characters who are so common in folktales; he was always going on trade voyages to distant lands and getting into trouble.  So, during his second voyage it happened the ship put in at a deserted island for a while and Sinbad fell asleep under a palm tree.  When he woke up, there he was, alone!  The ship had sailed off without him!  He fell into despair, for he had no food or other provisions and he felt he would surely die there.
“Presently, however, he began to explore his surroundings and he climbed a tree to get a better look.  And off in the distance he saw a great white dome.  Heartened by what he thought was a human habitation, he made his way toward it, only to be disappointed and perplexed.  It turned out to be a full fifty paces in diameter but completely smooth and lacking any evidence of windows or doors.
“At that moment the sky went dark, even though it was a cloudless day.  Looking up, Sinbad was horrified to see an enormous bird flying down toward him, big enough to block the sun with its wings … yes, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Suddenly Sinbad remembered tales he had heard of the rukh and how it kills elephants to feed its young, and it dawned on him that this white dome was actually a rukh’s egg!  And indeed the giant bird settled down upon the dome-egg and began to brood it.  It had not even noticed Sinbad, who must have appeared to it as insignificant as an ant to an eagle.
“Presently night came on and the rukh went to sleep.  Sinbad got an idea, so he took off his turban – that long piece of cloth that people from that part of the world sometimes wind around their heads – and used it to tie himself to the leg of the rukh … right, Avi, just like the hero did in your tale!  In the morning the bird rose up and flew away.  It carried Sinbad to the top of a pinnacle, where he untied himself and dropped off.  The bird then seized a giant snake as prey and flew away.  Shades of Garuda!
“Sinbad immediately began to look around and he discovered that he was boxed in by impassable mountains.  He began to wish he had stayed on the island, where at least a ship might have come by.  A deep valley spread out below him and, when he descended to it, he found the ground paved with diamonds!  And then all of a sudden the skinned carcass of a sheep fell to the ground near him from the heights above, and he recollected a story he had heard – how in the Mountains of the Diamonds, the jewels are inaccessible, and so the people throw down the flesh of slaughtered animals, to which some of the diamonds adhere.  Then they wait for vultures to come and seize the carrion in their talons and carry it back to the heights above, where the people drive off the birds and collect the gems.”
Robbie interrupted.  “Now, no good natural historian came up with this tale, because unlike eagles vultures have very weak feet and couldn’t possibly pick up something as large as a sheep carcass.  They would simply have eaten it on the spot.”
“Now, Robbie,” scolded Linna, “don’t lose the spirit and go all scientific on us!”
“Sorry,” said Robbie cheerfully.  “I’ll just regard the bird as some imaginary raptor!  Please do go on, Professor.”
Linna cleared her throat.  “So Sinbad filled his pockets with diamonds and then bound himself beneath one of the carcasses, and sure enough a … yes, I’m going to say ‘vulture’! … came along and carried the meat and the man up to the top of the cliff!  There, people were waiting to harvest the gems and you can imagine how astonished they were to see a man crawl out from under the carrion!  Of course, Sinbad went on to sell the diamonds and become rich, whereupon he returned to Bagda and lived a comfortable life.
“That wasn’t the last of his voyages, however, or of his encounters with the rukh.  During his fifth voyage, his ship stopped at a different island.  While the crew disembarked to draw water and explore, Sinbad remained on board.  Presently, someone ran to him in great excitement, calling him to come and see what they had found.  ‘We thought it was a dome, but it seems to be an egg!  The men are breaking it even now!  We can have a feast!’ 
The merchants break the egg.
(Public domain)

“Well, Sinbad knew exactly what they had found and he knew they were making a disastrous mistake.  He rushed out, but he was too late.  The fluid had already poured out, revealing a immature rukh, which the men were about to butcher.  And at that moment the sun was once again darkened as the parent circled above them.  Naturally, it was highly incensed at the destruction of its egg.  It shrieked to call its mate, and soon there were two giant birds bearing down upon the hapless sailors.
“The men rushed madly for the ship and put off from the island while the infuriated birds pursued them.  But then the rukhs disappeared and the ship, beating rapidly out into the open ocean, appeared to be safe.  But not so – the birds had only gone away to pick up big boulders in their claws.  The male rukh’s stone missed the dodging ship, but the female’s stone landed on the stern and broke the rudder, and the ship sank to the depths of the sea.
“However, like all the Sinbad tales, this one has a happy ending – our hero was able to swim to land, and ultimately he garnered even more riches for himself and returned home to live contentedly until his next adventure.  And so comes the end of my narration …   Don’t you all make those disappointed noises – our purpose is to tell bird tales, and there are no more birds in Sinbad’s story.  If we complete every tale no matter what, we’ll be here for the whole thousand and one nights!”
“All right, Professor, I’ll concede that!” said Robbie.  “So – now we know all about the rukh, and it seems to be a lot like Lt. Oman’s Ziz bird.  That just leaves us with Lt. Brokenbow’s story.  Have you got anything that can match all these others, Howie?”
Coming next:
Native American Bird Myths 
But first we'll learn something about the
Aboriginal Ammeriken Enclave