Archive for April, 2016

Detail #270: Experiment with Minimal Words

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
Let's consider a word whose earlier form has been one along the lines of
ʕə
or
or something else very very small. Let's also assume it's exceptional in some way - e.g. the only word to begin with ʕ, or the only onsetless syllable with a syllabic nasal or something else along those lines. Now let's imagine sound changes where this leads to this word turning into ∅, except also leaving traces on the previous word's last syllable - maybe some tonal thing, or nasalization or whatever.

Now, this wouldn't be so surprising with a grammatical marker, but let's imagine this word means something like, I dunno, 'man' or 'thing' or 'house' or something. Suddenly, you have a word with no syllables, yet it does have phonological form in some sense.

Could a human keep trace of such a thing, which behaves syntactically like a noun (or maybe a verb), yet does not provide its own syllable?

#454

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Make a conlang where the plural of the word for “anecdote” is /dætə/.

Holy wow has it been a while :)

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
This little blog used to be a flurry of activity.  Ever since Facebook and the birth of Mead Sandidan, though, it's slightly fallen to the wayside.  I think my last post here was in 2014, can you believe it?

Rest assured, though, Sandic's been active- it never fully leaves.  It's got a couple more books in it now, and is somehow (mind-blowingly) going to be part of a conlang documentary, among other things.

The problem with Mead Sandidan is that it doesn't efficiently hold *all kinds* of texts.  Some of the more rambly kind of... you might say "blog"-style entries... ;)  don't fit very well over there.  And for that reason I've decided it's prudent to reboot old Wytn-Awake.

How and if anything'll come of this little jolt of life for our old friend the blog, we'll just have to see in time.  Otawwsa wii awwtesa ia :)

--------------------
Blogda ushaesi, pal feesbuk uspuutuui a meer ba 19i kiimi 2016
--------------------
"Ian kolee meer jeeb ba mon yahl kasiadi aan otamahhl.

"Wwiab opeegre," ba hhleetka kamei atian kasmii, wii nera kasjirr. Jila kasahl ia... Wwian kambaabin fuun ta man ae, ta masan ae, kasmii, semab kahami. Wii iab ba heelokeem gaston oskaja iat wii iat. Jilain osahl ta kee, a ba mab osfeer. Wwian osmii aan meer lee nosr ivi meer ba nee ba nau ba jatse asjirr wii ajirr, wii aan skra jeed- skra ba lev faee ae, wii ba pur atian, ossa aan nau baahl ba oka gaiai, aan iadab otahhleet, aan hhivageemab ae otamia.


Ba heelokeem gaston atiab keg kastam, wii ba heelodab tuali pa hafabin ae yes kasjjelu. Gre arted basahl nu tree asmahhl aee, a yes asmahhl. Atiab uahh astseb, wii ba skee ae ba semi yesi basahl, keiai. Wii ba gaston kasmii, "Inee ivi." Wii inee ivi.

Wii ba hhleetka ae ba kamei kasmii, "pee ba usei me."

Wii meer aa jeeguu ia fov ba jam osahl kafeedin, ia ba gaston osmi lee ivi- "kajab hhian, kajab hhian.

Iadka mahhl esahl mer jeeb ba mon.

Gre jeeb ba ivi, ba dean, kunkania santaa me, ba jebeeb mahhli ae pa twwinab kaspuutuu, a natul wii paela biab kasma jeedso aan skee dee me basfeed skra mantemaa, skra neomas. hhee ba!

jaleni baahl ba oka faee ta siadin- aan ba jebee mahhli dakabnia baneot tjere, a faee deevan wii ohiin op „unsure“-Emoticon

Keejab ian ba jatse ba wenai, skra aan usei aahl, wii skra aan jeed ba neotahhfab asfeer. yes ian hhivageem ae!"

--------------------
(VILANI) Blogda ushaesi, pal feesbuuk uspuutuui, a meer ba 7i kiimi 2016
--------------------"I used to think that this language would be something I'd grow out of- like a snake shedding its skin because it's grown out of it. Not in a callous way at all, cast aside like something unwanted or irrelevant, of course- but my imagining was that it'd be preserved lovingly, looked back on with some perplexedness once the years had gone by- "To think, you know, that I ever used to wear that! How different the times were!"

I imagined that I'd somehow wake up one day and be like other people: able to engage easily with my fellow human beings, having cast aside bitterness and fear. And there have been times that it's waned and gone to sleep, and I think to myself, "Now it begins."


But now, as I get a bit older, and as I go into new places and new experiences again and again, touching catalyst of growth after catalyst of growth, I always come to these places where English is not allowed- where my brain cannot let it go- and so, like a kite that's been flung so far aloft during my times of incubation, I draw the language painstakingly back down to me, stumbling at first, but desperately, sometimes panicked. Is this how a rabbit feels when it's pulled from its warren?

And every single time I left it go far away and then claw blindly to bring it back, there is the amal jeeb ba jae, forgiving, holding out the chance to regain fluency, to put back on the camouflage- filling holes in the smoothness of my outer shell- gently, but needed- like a prosthetic for the limbless: worn, maintained, sometimes detested...

Beautifully, scarredly symptomatic. My love.

Holy wow has it been a while :)

Friday, April 22nd, 2016
This little blog used to be a flurry of activity.  Ever since Facebook and the birth of Mead Sandidan, though, it's slightly fallen to the wayside.  I think my last post here was in 2014, can you believe it?

Rest assured, though, Sandic's been active- it never fully leaves.  It's got a couple more books in it now, and is somehow (mind-blowingly) going to be part of a conlang documentary, among other things.

The problem with Mead Sandidan is that it doesn't efficiently hold *all kinds* of texts.  Some of the more rambly kind of... you might say "blog"-style entries... ;)  don't fit very well over there.  And for that reason I've decided it's prudent to reboot old Wytn-Awake.

How and if anything'll come of this little jolt of life for our old friend the blog, we'll just have to see in time.  Otawwsa wii awwtesa ia :)

--------------------
Blogda ushaesi, pal feesbuk uspuutuui a meer ba 19i kiimi 2016
--------------------
"Ian kolee meer jeeb ba mon yahl kasiadi aan otamahhl.

"Wwiab opeegre," ba hhleetka kamei atian kasmii, wii nera kasjirr. Jila kasahl ia... Wwian kambaabin fuun ta man ae, ta masan ae, kasmii, semab kahami. Wii iab ba heelokeem gaston oskaja iat wii iat. Jilain osahl ta kee, a ba mab osfeer. Wwian osmii aan meer lee nosr ivi meer ba nee ba nau ba jatse asjirr wii ajirr, wii aan skra jeed- skra ba lev faee ae, wii ba pur atian, ossa aan nau baahl ba oka gaiai, aan iadab otahhleet, aan hhivageemab ae otamia.


Ba heelokeem gaston atiab keg kastam, wii ba heelodab tuali pa hafabin ae yes kasjjelu. Gre arted basahl nu tree asmahhl aee, a yes asmahhl. Atiab uahh astseb, wii ba skee ae ba semi yesi basahl, keiai. Wii ba gaston kasmii, "Inee ivi." Wii inee ivi.

Wii ba hhleetka ae ba kamei kasmii, "pee ba usei me."

Wii meer aa jeeguu ia fov ba jam osahl kafeedin, ia ba gaston osmi lee ivi- "kajab hhian, kajab hhian.

Iadka mahhl esahl mer jeeb ba mon.

Gre jeeb ba ivi, ba dean, kunkania santaa me, ba jebeeb mahhli ae pa twwinab kaspuutuu, a natul wii paela biab kasma jeedso aan skee dee me basfeed skra mantemaa, skra neomas. hhee ba!

jaleni baahl ba oka faee ta siadin- aan ba jebee mahhli dakabnia baneot tjere, a faee deevan wii ohiin op „unsure“-Emoticon

Keejab ian ba jatse ba wenai, skra aan usei aahl, wii skra aan jeed ba neotahhfab asfeer. yes ian hhivageem ae!"

--------------------
(VILANI) Blogda ushaesi, pal feesbuuk uspuutuui, a meer ba 7i kiimi 2016
--------------------"I used to think that this language would be something I'd grow out of- like a snake shedding its skin because it's grown out of it. Not in a callous way at all, cast aside like something unwanted or irrelevant, of course- but my imagining was that it'd be preserved lovingly, looked back on with some perplexedness once the years had gone by- "To think, you know, that I ever used to wear that! How different the times were!"

I imagined that I'd somehow wake up one day and be like other people: able to engage easily with my fellow human beings, having cast aside bitterness and fear. And there have been times that it's waned and gone to sleep, and I think to myself, "Now it begins."


But now, as I get a bit older, and as I go into new places and new experiences again and again, touching catalyst of growth after catalyst of growth, I always come to these places where English is not allowed- where my brain cannot let it go- and so, like a kite that's been flung so far aloft during my times of incubation, I draw the language painstakingly back down to me, stumbling at first, but desperately, sometimes panicked. Is this how a rabbit feels when it's pulled from its warren?

And every single time I left it go far away and then claw blindly to bring it back, there is the amal jeeb ba jae, forgiving, holding out the chance to regain fluency, to put back on the camouflage- filling holes in the smoothness of my outer shell- gently, but needed- like a prosthetic for the limbless: worn, maintained, sometimes detested...

Beautifully, scarredly symptomatic. My love.

grammaticalityandotherjudgements: Grateful as always to have a…

Thursday, April 21st, 2016










grammaticalityandotherjudgements:

Grateful as always to have a friend like @badconlangingideas who walked me through the basics of conlanging, and as she said in the last panel, if you’re thinking about making a conlang, just start! Will it be messy at first? Probably, but you’re never going to improve if you don’t start at all!

Read part 1 here

(also my apologies about the rather late update. Its been a week…)

@grammaticalityandotherjudgements is a lovely artist/friend/human and it was such a pleasure working with her!

Historical Linguistics – Some Thoughts

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
Historical Conlinguistics are hard. I am currently trying to figure out Proto-Ćwarmin-Ŋʒädär(-Dagurib), so that I can get on with developing both (or all three) in greater detail without fearing that I'll break "historical compatibility".

I'm currently trying to come up with some neat ways of connecting these two vowel systems:

FrontBack
UnroundedRoundedUnroundedRounded
iü <ı> ɯ u
eö <ə> ɤo

ä
a
Notice the orthographic reform regarding how /ɯ/ and /ɤ/ will be written. This in part to reduce visual conflict with regards to /ɣ/
and
Front
& Centre
Back
i
u
eəo


a

Currently, I'm thinking that Proto-CŊD had a vowel system that is slightly richer than Modern Finnish, but with a very similar vowel harmony:

Front
(Neutral)
Front
Round
Back
Round
iüu
eö?o
ɛ
ɔ

äa
Here, we get a number of mergers; Ŋʒädär pulls /i e/ to /ı ə/ in the presence of /u o ɔ a/ and also in the presence of certain back consonants. I might just let ü and ä cover a greater area of the articulatory space, though, making ö disappear as a phoneme entirely.

However, all this mucking about with historical conlinguistics leads me to thinking about some epistemology of historical linguistics things: I don't want this proto-language to be entirely by fiat, but I want it to be close enough to a realistic reconstruction of two conlangs. See, there are methodological things with regards to historical linguistics that are not all that obvious, and which affect my work on this proto-conlang. I want my reconstruction to suffer from the flaws that real reconstructions must suffer from by the nature of the very methods used.

I recall a while ago a discussion on a facebook conlanging group, where someone - I don't recall who - pointed out, to a  newcomer, that in historical linguistics, the unit we deal with is the phoneme. I was under the same impression for the longest time, but had gotten the opposite stance pointed out to me. At this point I decided it was time to think a bit about what was the more reasonable position.

It turns out that when we look at a language in its modern, living form, we generally have an idea of the phonemes involved - although even there, they may exist unclear spots. (Say /ɨ/ vs /i/ in Russian, or maybe which exact sets of fricatives form phonemes together in Standard Swedish).

It seems, however, that sound changes don't operate on the level of phonemes all that often, but more often hit phones or features. Thus, while undoing the sound changes, we end up with the particular phone or cluster of features that the proto-language had.

Given that lots of vocabulary gets lost between the proto-language and its descendants – for proto-Uralic (including Samoyed), about 200 lexemes can be reconstructed – we don't really end up with a lot of vocabulary to work with.

This is probably only a fraction of the size of the words of the language; potentially, several hundred more of the words of the proto-language may still have extant descendants, but if a word only has cognates in one branch of descendants, we cannot know whether they were part of the proto-language (and even if there's cognates in two branches, we might not recognize them as such, if one or both sets have gone through very crazy reductions or semantic changes or whatever). Sometimes, we may have reason to suspect that some word has been in the proto-language, but also have reasons to suspect that its being present in several branches is due to early loaning between branches - failure to conform to some sound changes may indicate such a thing. If a word just happens not to have been hit by any early sound changes in either of two branches, knowing whether it's got a shared origin, or has been loaned can be difficult as well. Each of these introduce uncertainty.

So, we have few vocabulary items to work with. How is this relevant for phonemes vs. phones? Easy! We test whether two phones belong to the same phoneme by minimal pairs. Once you've shedded 90% of the vocabulary or more, coming up with minimal pairs is not necessarily possible at all – and the opposite, failing to find minimal pairs is clearly way less significant.

We may have words where k and kʰ appear, and they might even appear in words that suggest complementary distribution - but given that k maybe appears in 8% of syllables, and kʰ maybe in 8%, we find that for some string of letters - ....kʰ..., WonsetkWcoda, – where the onset and coda only are the relevant part of a syllable (but here, onset and coda mean 'goes before' and 'goes after' k/kʰ, not 'onset of syllable' vs. coda of syllable'), we could expect a minimal pair for 0.08² of syllables – 0.64% of syllables will provide evidence for that particular minimal pair. If we've lost 90% (which is a low estimate) of the vocabulary we can probably just cheat a bit and also say we've lost 90% of the syllables. It's quite probable we've also lost all the places where the two formed minimal pairs. However, we cannot decide whether such a thing were lost or not unless we find evidence of such a thing! The probability will vary with the frequencies of the phonemes, obviously.

Obviously, we have a few extra things to note: 
  • Since there's lots of phonemes in a language, even if the likelihood of a minimal pair for any specific pair of them might be low, several phoneme pairs may have minimal pairs coming up.
  • But since our reconstruction might be flawed – our methodology might make us favour certain other sounds in our reconstructed roots, which might make it likely for us to create a minimal pair that never existed in the first place.
  • For reconstructions that are not very deep in time - e.g. Proto-Germanic or Proto-Slavic or the like, we may very well get sufficient vocabulary to be able to come up with sufficient minimal pairs.
  • We might be able to somehow use our knowledge of the sound changes from phones to phones and our knowledge of the phoneme systems of the descendants to make well-informed guesses about the phoneme system of the ancestral language; for a family with many branches, we might even be able to reiterate this process, but every step along this line introduces more uncertainty.
So, to get back to conlanging: I want there to be signs of these problems in the reconstructed form, I don't just want there to be a set, certain list of roots and a set of sound changes applied algorithmically that churns out descendant forms. I want there to be space for uncertainty.

Sargaĺk: Basic Directions and Direction-Metaphors

Sunday, April 17th, 2016
Sargaĺk has several different important directional adverbs, and also a number of related locational adverbs.

A few directional adverbs are mostly used in hunting and fishing:

sak'ĺy - downwind
p'ankŕ - upwind
sak'ĺyas (at a location that is) upwind
p'ankŕas (at a location that is) downwind
However, these also are used metaphorically to mean 'into the house' or 'out of the house', with upwind being outside, and downwind being inside.
kimŕ - out from land
dĺaŕ - in towards land

kimŕas, dĺŕas, analogously signify on land/off land.
Two of the Sargaĺk islands are mountaneous - mainly fairly old, worn mountains. However, among the settlers of these larger islands, some have settled some way inland as well, and brought reindeer herding into those areas since encountering it with the Ćwarmin. A few adverbials of direction are restricted to these two islands, and in different forms on both:
galurne - up the mountains, inland
galuru - up in the mountains, located inland
galusta - down the mountains, to the shore
from galu, hill.
lutne
lurru
lutsa
from ĺte, high. 


Your home island, home village, and home bay are three rather important locations each referred to as kufŋa, with adverbials kufru, kutsa, kuffe.

In addition, any direction can combine with the morphemes teʒ or sox in the daytime, where teʒ signifies "on the sun's side of the direction", and sox signifies the other side. In the nighttime, the meanings of the markers it combines with vary: teʒ signifies the moon if visible, and sox the other side, but if the moon is missing, a polar star-like star takes its place as point of reference.

grammaticalityandotherjudgements: Note: this is not a…

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016










grammaticalityandotherjudgements:

Note: this is not a comprehensive guide to conlanging, but a basic overview. Please consult your local conlanger for details

As usual, thanks to @badconlangingideas for telling me all about this and putting up with my myriad of questions

Go back to Part 1 here

And in other news, @grammaticalityandotherjudgements continues to be very very cool.

Bryatesle: The Passive and Related Concerns

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016
Bryatesle has a single morpheme for changing transitivity as well as valency of a verb; this thus serves multiple roles - passives, applicatives, adjutatives, circumstantials, reflexives, otherwise detransitives, and so on.

The morphological processes involved consist of finding the passive root. In the atelic, this most often is the third person plural, with the last consonant lopped off. In the telic, it's the second person plural, with the last consonant, or the last syllable's nucleus and coda lopped off. To this is added -l(i)v-, after which -an, -an, -a, -am, -e, -as, -a is suffixed depending on person of the subject.

Distinguishing the different potential meanings is achieved by use of the rich case system of Bryatesle. For the causative, the introduction of a causee as an accusative or dative object marked in addition by the secondary subject case, gives a causative. The object of the causative verb remains in whichever case it is expected to go in.

Some form of detransitivization is the usual parsing of a transitive verb with the voice marker on it. With the reciprocal object case on the nominative subject, you obtain a reflexive verb. With no marker or the partitive on top of the nominative, it's a regular passive.

Another way of forming reflexivity for third persons is obtained by having a noun or a third person pronoun as subject and a third person pronoun (of the same number and gender) as some other argument (in whichever case is relevant) and the voice marker on the verb. For first and second person, reusing first and second persons in the relevant positions is the usual way of forming reflexives - either of the two ways mentioned here are permissible, and in that case, this emphasizes the reflexivity.

Dropping objects is also possible with the voice marker; this requires having a pronoun of the same number and person as the subject, with the secondary subject marker on it as an argument of the retransitivized verb.

Applicatives and circumstantials are marked the same, but in those, this only promotes a phrase to object (or subject) status without changing its marking. The normal subject (or object) is however demoted. In the case of circumstantial constructions, the normal subject is demoted to being marked with dative with secondary subject status (or omitted), while the phrase that is turned into new subject simply is moved to clause-initial position. In the case of applicatives, the 'normal' object is either omitted or in the ablative partitive.

Finally, impersonal verbs such as 'rain' or 'night falls' or the like, often take the voice morpheme no matter their transitivity.

Ćwarmin Vocabulary: Comestibles

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016
The Ćwarmin vocabulary for comestibles is fairly varied. Some words that are rather stable over the entire area, though, are:

kur - salt
kurćap - salty

ipsər - thyme (or rather, a thyme-like plant)
ipsərv - thyme-flavoured
narwo - parsley
kiri - mint
pokra - onion
wekre - garlic
gəne pokra - 'long onion', leek
ćirgin - horseradish
dop - sweet
dopor - sweet sauce

śalda - blueberries
ćorda - cranberries
wirdə - plums
lendə - apples
marso - reindeer meat
nuna - reindeer milk

wərse - walrus meat (coastal vocabulary, mainly)

woxar - smoked (from wogan, 'to emit smoke')
śenər - blood
śenərv - blood-(food)
milti - liver
maruw - kidneys (always plural)

tulko - sausage

gemi - grains
śeme - flour
garpa, garva, garća - porridge, oatmeal, groats, etc
farso - buckwheat

mewie - milk
kunu - udder(s), non-count

ferkij - cabbage tubers
nopor - cabbage leaves

bordo - edible tubers in general
laŋras - a thin, edible, dark tuber
dimrəs - parsnips
In the parts that previously have been Sargaĺk-speaking, vocabulary for walrus and fish generally has carried over from Sargaĺk. This sometimes fails to adhere to vowel harmony:
barin - walrus meat
skense - salmon-like fish
dintan - bass
remuk - basically 'herring'
vasni - another salmon-like fish
kupni - a type of whitefish
Methods of preparing fish among the formerly Sargaĺk include (as adjectives):
raxta - grilled close to a fire
morja - smoked and salted
gaĺ - heavily salted, and kept in a cold place (and not heated at all)
mirjija - flavoured by vinegar and brine
xorba - cooked
sarsa - fried in walrus fat
Other coastal Ćwarmin seem to have borrowed some of these names - the species of fish and terms like sarsa, mirjija, raxta, and gal. This in part because the Ćwarmin previously were an inland population which did not do much fishing (although some lacustrine and fluvial fishing did take place. However, fish terminology never got very universal).