Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Introduction à l' inverse

Lately I've been thinking you can make a language from about almost anything. So I was fooling around with my papers and I started to toy around with a kind of slang used in my city. I only know 2 places where this particular kind of slang is used, one is Paris in France, the other Buenos Aires in Argentina. It is the slang that is based in reversing the syllables in a word. I don't know as to how big is the extent of this kind of slang (Verlan) in France, maybe some words, for instance; mef for femme and such. The same phenomenon happens in Buenos Aires spanish known as vesre, you can say jermu for mujer, checo for coche, and so on.

I started an idea to see if I could create something, and what would that be, by using the reversing of syllables, sometimes in a similar fashion as the vesre and sometimes a little different. I started with a word like camino 'way'. I got:

nomica > nomic /no.mi.t͡s/

I decided to give it a kind of Slavic taste and incorporate random features from other languages in words which where impossible to turn around, for instance the articles. I've decided to make 'a' the definite invariable article, so;

a nomic
the way

As regards to pronouns,

mío > omi > omi
tuyo > yotu > odi

omi nomic
my way

I've decided to make them similar to convey the idea of their joined evolution. Some other words had to be modified a little bit more from their standard vesre form, so for instance I've sometimes used some sound shifts from Russian to help me in that or to 'vesre' them in a different fashion than the traditional.

boludo > vr. dolobu > dalub /dʌ.ˈlu.b/ 'a fool'
mujer > vr. jermu > jerm /ˈjeʳ.m/ 'a woman'
corto > vr. tocor > takor /tʌ.ˈkor/ 'short'

A little idea

I've decided to also make a diminutive based on the palatalization of the last sound of the word. A phenomenon I've seen occurring in some baby-talk and some endearing speech;

a nomic, a nomić
a no.mi.t͡s, a no.mi.t͡ʃ
the way, the little way

This diminutive can also be used as a term of endearment or regularly as something small not conveying the idea of a pejorative.

apa > apaś ... ama > amaś
father, daddy ... mother, mom

Well, and this is the preliminary work of Valen.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Plurality in Teutla

I like to develop specific features for each of my languages, kind of a theme for each of them, even if I am the only person who gets what the theme actually is. In my mind it just makes sense. That's why when leading with Teutla I decided to endow it with different kinds of plurality a little like class plurals and a little like quality plurals. For instance in Teutla you have at least 5 kinds of plurals. The first plural is -tʼu for inanimate concrete nouns, then you have -neh for inanimate abstract nouns and -tla for animate nouns. These three are the basic ones, apart from them you have -tʼash for 'complete' as well as -net for 'a lot of'. So for instance 'man' she would have a plural shetla 'men', and noa 'cat' would have noatla 'cats', but then kʼinoa 'mountain' would have kʼinoatʼu 'mountains' and then nuk 'night' would have nukneh 'nights'.

But you can also use the different kinds of plurals to mark differences. For example, while *shetʼu makes no sense, the word sheneh would mean 'Men' as in a group or the idea of Men, Mankind. Something similar would happen with shu 'earth', shuneh 'the Earth as a whole' which can also be rendered shutʼash with subtle differences. The last 2 plurals, of course, can be used independently of the class of noun.

shetʼash wakkan All men are big
/ʂeˈtʰaʂ wak'kan/

Would be perfectly correct. Note the stative verb wakkan 'to be big'.

chaknet ihopneh yixnen A lot of ashes cover his feet
/tʃakˈnet iˈhopneh jiʃˈnen/

And that's the last plural marker with the meaning of 'a lot'. That's why the plurals are divided into the two groups as shown above. Note the usage of the plural verbal prefix yix- which is a plural only used for verbs. Some even include the verbal plural marker as the last kind of plural in Teutla, a heated argument among Teutla grammarians.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A proto-language project

A long time ago I was very enthused to become a part of a proto-language project, where a group of people get together and receive a common proto-language to derive their own daughter languages from it. The language was called Cramarian or proto-Cramarian and I worked quite happily making 5 different daughter languages for it, then it became inactive to my disappointment. Some time later it enjoyed a small revival and I decided I would use the experience of that year-long break to make some new daughters, I wanted to make 4 new ones, I ended up making almost a dozen of them (can't help myself...).

In any case, there were only two examples given to us, and for this second term working on the project I decided to turn them into kind of a proverb so to have a real reason to translate the fragmentary example sentences. The first sentence was in IPA

nau gseɯ-siː-ʔi-mɯ
cat finger-PL-CONS-ERG
The fingers of the cat...

So I took this sentence and in one of my languages called Wakensi, an African semi-Bantu type of daughter language, the sentence became a proverb

mimi nau siseiʼi waruusesin
The fingers (nails) of the cat will keep growing

I will not get into a detailed explanation of this sentence at this time, but let me just point out how the ergative became kind of a particle at the head of the sentence and the plural is actually marked twice, first by this head-particle and then by the noun itself. The meaning of this proverb in Wakensi is that you don't have to worry about some things, because even the bad things will pass in time. A very pacific proverb in a way. The second sentence in the proto-language was even more odd

On the mountains of...

This one evolved in two different proverbs in two of my cramlangs. In Wakensi it developed into

(mimi) lun kikinauʼi ken
On the mountains of the Moon

As there is no verb the particle is optional in this case. Note the usage of reduplication in the noun, the reduplication in this language has a couple of uses. I created the proverb to mean 'nowhere' or some 'utopic place non-existing' in this language, used in such situations as when someone says 'Gee, I would like to make a living being an artist', and being answered 'Yeah, right, on the mountains of the Moon maybe...' as in 'that's not going to happen ever'. On the other hand a somewhat related, but yet different, proverb emerged in my other cramlang called Teutla

tlagabatla kʼinoatʼu kʼen...
On the mountains of the Forefathers...

Here the ʼ doesn't stand for a glottal stop but marks an aspirated stop. Again the meaning is that of 'in the beginning of times' or 'in an utopic past', it can be used to denote 'when dinosaurs roamed the Earth' as well as 'when humans were mighty', and so it is used in Teutla, because they have the belief that in the beginning their ancestors came from caves and they were mighty, much more so than in modern times. Also they lived in a Golden Age, which ultimately came to be oftenly parodied in later literature, one such sentence was

tlagabatla kʼinoatʼu kʼen xok garanhan mot
On the mountains of the Forefathers there was no darkness

To show how utopian this kind of past was thought of, a past with no shade, no illness, no hunger or want, a past free from the perceived miseries of human life.

So I thought this was a good way to acknowledge the example sentences and at the same time giving them a place in the daughter languages, as if they were quite important in this culture, because... hey! They must have a reason, right? In any case I quite liked my attempts on Cramarian languages, and I am quite honored to have been able to be in a project alongside such fine conlangers as I have for the Cramarian project.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Unnai genitive specifier

Unnai has three kinds of genitives: a possessive, a genitive, and a 'specifier' which is a kind of genitive particular to this language. The specifier is used to overtly mark that something belongs to the possessor expressed and to no one (or nothing) else. So you can have a sentence where you can say

shagay ajnaiyiq kran my friend's pencil
me.POSS friend.GSP pencil

Here the meaning is that I'm talking about that particular pencil which belongs to my friend, no other pencil. So the same sentence can even be rendered 'the pencil which belongs to my friend', with no problems, serving also as a relative clause marker. It can also be used in such constructions as 'The city of Athens' or also 'The Age of Courage' Hence the Unnai proverb

ajnai ölgayiq, ajnai akayiq
ɑʒ͡nˈaĭ ˈɛlgajiq͡χ ɑʒ͡nˈaĭ aˈkajiq͡χ
He who is friend to everyone is friend to no one.

Similarly the Unnai translation of the Pater Noster employs this kind of construction.

öttay tall ogrurtiq Our Father who art in heaven
ɛt̪t̪ˈaj t̪all oˈgɾuɾt̪iq͡χ
we.POSS father heaven.FER.GSP

Which actually translates more accurately to "Our Father who is heaven-ridden" or "of the heaven-ridden kind" more precisely. In this doing a clear distinction is made between this father and any other father and to this father is the prayer directed.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Alignment in Unnai

I sometimes wonder on how to break the routine (which I sometimes really enjoy) of picking a morphosyntactic alignment although you have many options, it all comes down to three main alingments which can be further divided into varieties and variations. You can have a Nominative-Accusative language which typically marks only the accusative, but could mark the nominative just as well, you have the Ergative-Absolutive which typically marks only the ergative, but marking the absolutive is not unheard of, or a Tripartite which marks all arguments.

There are some catches, though, and commonly there is no completely Erg-abs language. In fact Erg-abs marks the Subject of intransitive as objects of transitive, but Nom-acc does not mark Subjects of intransitive as Objects of transitive verbs. Or even sometimes an Erg-abs marks objects of transitive verbs different from Subjects of intransitive ones, the case of Basque. So you have these two types (plus their counter-versions) and the Tripartite (to mark them all), although I must say this is if you want to keep it reasonably simple.

I wanted to make something different for one of my languages, which I’m calling Unnai for now. In this language nouns are invariable for case, but the verb is conjugated according to the morphosyntactic alignment you chose to follow.

ölön to hear

ölögno Nom-acc intrasitive or omiting object of transitive
ölöngon Nom-acc transitive
ölöjnen Abs-erg transitive or omiting subject of transitive

Of course you have to use the pronouns accordingly. And depending on the verb alignment then can shift places without changing their meaning.

ölöngon shag ghal I hear you
ɛlˈɛngon ʃag ɣal

ölöjnen ghal shag I hear you
ɛlˈɛd͡ʒnen ɣal ʃag

It is noteworthy to mention that both sentences mean the same, although Unnai has no passive voice. In those cases where passive voice would be used Unnai uses the second construction to express it, since you can leave aside the subject of the verb ölöjnen ghal would mean “(someone) hears you” or, what’s the same, “you are heard (by someone)”. So adding the subject here would be pretty equivalent to adding the agent in a passive construction.

Friday, July 30, 2010

About Castilian

While I was having a coffee with my family in the rotating café in New York one guy asked us if we were from Spain. I told him we were from Argentina, and he commented 'but you speak Spanish... or Castilian' like hinting it was the correct form of the name. I answered 'yes, it's the same' to which he responded he thought we called latinamerican Spanish Castilian rather than Spanish. The concept took me by surprise, but the most astounding fact was that many people in Latinamerica actually think this. They think Castilian is a term used just for Latinamerica.

This is not so.

Actually there is no real 'Spanish' as such, if you take that to mean that all of the Kingdom of Spain has actually only one language, which is not so. When the kings of Castile unified the whole country under one ruling house they established the speech of the kingdom's capital as the standard for the kingdom's language, which happened to be the Castilian variety of Romance. This is the language the spanish brought with them to America, and it is the language spoken in most of the continent, with a great number of variants.

Spaniard Spanish is no less Castilian than American Spanish. If you take 'Spanish' to mean 'the official language of Spain', but actually Spain has many languages, most of them romance (Catalan, Galician, Aragonese, Leonese, and many more) or even isolates (Basque, and many different dialects and variants).

So at best you can either call Castilian to all forms of the Spanish which is official in Spain and used in all Hispano-american countries or call Spanish to all of its forms.

But the error does exist even in native speakers in the american continent. Another example of how Spanish tends to categorize and split and assign concrete meanings to all its words trying to turn all synonyms into different words for different concepts.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Random ideas for a conlang

As I was walking home from my university I started thinking about conlangs, as I usually do. I find the way home very inspiring. I was remembering my first attempts at cracking Japanese, when I only had a japanese video-game and a kana chart. I was thinking about the copulative, which really got my attention back then. The copula can change depending on register, from です to だ, without mentioning the expletives and emphasizers.

I rekindled one idea I used to have. In japanese you can say スタンドだ (sutando da), which means "it is a Stand" or "A Stand!" (this is due to the game in question being Jojo's Bizarre Adventure). But you can also say 美味しいです (oishii desu) "it is tasty" or "this is good!" depending on context. So you have in the first case a noun and in the second an adjective, so I started to think... how about a conlang with a copulative particle which changed depending wether it is a noun or adjective or whatever.

So for instance, you could have something like... unil da, "(it) is love", but you could have mundo ki "(this) is old". So the copula could act as both a copulative and also a word classifier. Maybe you could even make the words flexible enough for them to mean unil ki "this is loveable" and mundo da "it's an old thing". Now that I think about it, it'd be as if you were to take the suffixes in Esperanto as separate particles... libr o "book" and libr a "book-like". But also mixed with a little Japanese :p

Of course I'm not saying I would use this very words or particles as they appear here, just testing the idea with some sounds to see how could it work, so this is not purely theoretical. Well, this was my idea for a conlang I had yesterday, just another idea...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Affixes in Esperanto

Is it only me or does anybody else think Esperanto's affixes are cool most of the times? I mean, I know as well as the next guy the pros and cons about Esperanto, but some of the affixes, those you use to modify the root and make new words, are really interesting. I like it how they are very ambiguous; for instance, you have 'ad' or 'aĵ', which literally mean "a lasting or repeated action" and "concrete thing", I like this last one in relation to 'uj' "something that contains the thing indicated by the root". I say this is very interesting because it is very flexible to use, it can mean either something that contains but it is also mostly used for nations or trees, as they contain citizens and fruits. So for instance you have:

pomo. Apple > pomujo. Apple-tree.
hispana. Spanish > Hispanujo. Spain.

It's noteworthy that it lets you make a pair with 'ar' an infix that means "a group of", so you can have:

libro. Book > libraro & librujo

The first would mean "a group of books" as in a collection, the latter would mean the thing holding your books, a bibliotheque or a book-shelf. When you look at your own collection of books comfortably sitting in your book-shelves they can both be called either libraro or librujo, but the first would mean the books in themselves, while the latter would mean the furniture which contains them.

And that's not all, my favorite must be 'ing' which means "something that is partially introduced in what is expressed by the root". So with it you can have:

fingro. Finger > fingringo. Thimble.

I like this quite much, and the same infix could be also used in more flexible ways in conlangs, thoughts anyone?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Genitive absolute

So I'm minding my business and I get this phone call from a friend and fellow literature student. A good friend of mine, she tells me she's having some trouble with Ancient Greek. Her problem is that some professor mentioned the genitive absolute just in passing. She was afraid it would come up in the next test and she had no idea how it worked. I tried to explain her as best as I could what it was about, comparing with the ablative absolute in Latin. To me it appears clear from examples:

τῶν ἀνδρῶν πολεμούντων, αἱ γυναῖκες μόναι οἴκοι εἰσίν
While the men are waging war, the women are at home by themselves.

It implies two actions that are done simultaneously. It seems greeks didn't like to use coordinating words, so they came up with this kind of constructions. This is even present in such examples as the aorist participle in the words of Leonidas: Μολὼν λαβέ, "having come, take", for a simpler "Come and take them".

The thing is... how do you recognize said genitive? Well at first glance when a sentence begins with a genitive, but this is not so. The best way I could think of recognizing it is when you see an independent genitive with a participle. That to me is the best way to look at it.

But hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, plus eventually this didn't even come in the exam.


Katanik, the place for silly stuff

I'm getting the hung of this creating blog thing. I needed this space to talk about whatever, but nothing, about my nonsense. Conlangs, grammar notes, etymology, all the little things I came to love but nobody cares about. Or do they?

A fine place to speak of whatever comes to mind, from intellectual to satirical, from languages to math (?). All viewed by me.