head-initial

Late to 2020: Reviewing 2019

I’m not terribly proud of myself for falling behind in December, but I also worked much less on my writing and my conlang. For the first time in a long while, I had a huge boost in motivation to work on GURPS stuff. So, that’s what I did, but I didn’t post about anything because progress in GURPS is always really slow. As I was a few months ago, I spent most of the month working on mixing Knowing Your Own Strength with Conditional Injury, and I made some really good headway. That’s to say I feel a little bit more confident about understanding the underlying math. After not playing GURPS at all in 2019, I’m really trying to make this the year that I get it going again. So, even if I don’t finish all of the stuff I’m working on, I have to let myself be content with running vanilla GURPS/DRFPG (or, at least, more vanilla than I want to).

March

Looking back at March, I was diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy. Though I still sleep with a loose cervical collar, I sometimes forget about that whole ordeal and how I was taking steroids for a few weeks there. I was just starting this site and trying to get it all set up, so I didn’t make much progress in my conlang.

April

I started working on my first custom font. Looking back at those old posts, I realize now that the old font is broken in most of the earlier cases. Oops! I was also obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack at the time, and I gave a presentation on conlanging to an introductory linguistics class. That was fun!

May

I worked on syntax and phrase structure rules for my conlang. I also made my first visit to Ohio with my girlfriend! While I know I’ve only been living here for about half a year, it still feels like that stuff happened such a long time ago.

June

I created the new alphabet for my conlang and had a lot of fun designing a glyph specifically for «h». While I didn’t write about it, I think that means I also saw Flor de Toloache that month too (because I was working on the «h» glyph up until the show started if I’m remembering correctly). If that’s the case, that means I also discovered that I can do a mean grito for a white person.

July

I published my paper on Laiholh psycho-collocations. That was this last year too? I’m proud that I got a fair amount done. I worked on the new new alphabet for my conlang, which I called the 7HR alphabet.

August

I settled into my new home in Ohio. For my conlang, I started working on the first words. I also changed the word class vowels to be head-initial—great idea, past me!

September

That was apparently another month in which I focused almost entirely on GURPS! Looking back, it’s weird to think that decapitation was a topic for one of my blog posts. If prospective employers ever see that, they might be a bit worried.

October

I finalized (mostly) the monosyllabic words and the numerals in my conlang, and I also made a new font for my new alphabet, complete with (some) punctuation! That particular font might just be my conlang highlight of the year.

November

I beat NaNoWriMo! Enough said!

My 2020 Vision

Hey, look! I used the same joke as everyone else! This year, I hope to nail down my powerlifting squat form so my knee stops bothering me so much. While I never talk about working out here, that’s really a huge priority for me.

For my conlang, I want to start working on more words. I’m considering allow «s» at the end of syllables too because there’s a new worldlang called Globasa that I really like that makes the case for allowing /s/ at the end of syllables. Of course, that would mean a few big things like having more options for monosyllabic words and having to redo my font to include those options for all syllables. Though, I am considering removing «n» or «m» as a syllable-final option and throwing in «s» as the replacement.

For my writing, I really want to finish the first draft of my story that I started working on with NaNoWriMo. I’m really excited to continue exploring the concepts in that story. Plus, it’s that story that really rekindled my drive to work on GURPS.

Speaking of GURPS, like I said, I plan to try to play some this year. At the very least, I’d like to prepare and run a one-shot just to get back into it. At the very-very least, I’d like to run a rules lite game like FATE or Powered by the Apocalypse or something.

That’s all for now! I’ll try to post more regularly this month.

Greyfolk language’s monosyllabic roots and words: roots 1–5

In my previous post, I gave described the background and the process of coming up with the monosyllabic roots and words for the greyfolk language. There are 20 of them, but, in this post, I will go over the first five.

«me»
«se»
«ke»
«tle»
«yel» «yil»
«nel» «nil»
«ten» «tin»
«lem» «lim»
«pem» «pim» «pum»
«pli» «plu»
«min» «mun»
«kyu»
«kul»
«num»
«sul»
«lun»
«yum»
«myu»
«hu»
«syu»

Obviously, the “head-initial” vowel for each of these words is «e», which means that each is a noun or a pronoun. In this case, these are all pronouns.

Previously, «pe», «te», and «ke» were the first-, second-, and third-person pronoun, respectively. As I worked with Hamming distance, it was obvious that these pronouns would likely have to change.

«me» is the new singular first-person pronoun. Coincidentally, it should be very familiar. In human language, there are all sorts of me and mi first-person pronouns floating around. As the first-person pronoun, it would translate into English as both ‘I’ and ‘me’ depending whether it was the subject or object.

«se» is the new singular second-person pronoun. It would translate into English as ‘you’, which is both the subject and object.

«ke» is the new singular third-person pronoun. It would translate into English as ‘he’, ‘him’, ‘she’, ‘her’, ‘it’, or the singular form of ‘they’ or ‘them’. Gender and sex do not matter for «ke». And, again, it can be both subject or object.

«tle» is the mediopassive pronoun, which is new to my conlang. As a subject, it is a passive or impersonal construction. As an object, it basically means ‘myself’, ‘yourself’, etc. For example, let’s say «tonya» is a verb that means ‘to hurt’. «tle tonya me» means ‘I am hurt’. It can be thought of as ‘[blank] hurts me’. It’s almost an even more abstract version of «ke» in this context, but it puts the focus on the object instead of the subject. «me tonya tle» is a bit simpler, and it means ‘I hurt myself’.

«yel» is the demonstrative pronoun and «yil» is the demonstrative modifier. They both mean ‘this’, but they are used in slightly different ways. «yel» would just translate as ‘this’, but «ke yil» would translate as ‘this one’. There will probably be another word for ‘that’, but I haven’t figured that out yet.Get it?

As a last little bonus, these aren’t monosyllabic words, the plural personal pronouns will probably be «mema», «sesa», and «keka». The singular and plural correlations should be quite obvious!

Greyfolk language’s monosyllabic roots and words: the background

Before I start talking about the nouns formed from the 20 monosyllabic roots in the greyfolk language, I want to explain some background concepts as well as the process. After almost two months, I finished these suckers about a week ago, and then I gave them a bit of time to rest because I knew that I would tweak them a bit more, which I did.

Hamming distance (which I have explained previously, and which I keep wanting to call hammerspace) was the key in determining which roots were usable. As previously discussed, roots that sound too similar aren’t ideal. So, I used Hamming distance to decide what “too similar” meant. In my case, it means that there needs to be a Hamming distance of 2 for things to not sound too similar. For example, «m» is a labial nasal and «n» is a coronal nasal, but there’s only one difference: the difference between labial and coronal. So, «m» and «n» have a Hamming distance of 1. However, «t» is a coronal plosive, so it has a Hamming distance of 2 from «m» (labial nasal), which is neither coronal or plosive. Yet, «t» only has a Hamming distance of 1 from «n» because they are both coronal. Thus, «tan» and «tam» are too similar but «mam» and «mat» aren’t. Furthermore, «nat» and «tan» are different enough because, even though «n» and «t» have a Hamming distance of 1, there are two instances of that difference, so that’s a total Hamming distance of 2 between those two words. It might seem tricky, but Hamming distance is easy to visualize.

Consonants Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
Nasal m n
Plosive p t k
Fricative s
Approximant j~ɰ1
Liquid l2
Transition h
  1. written «y», can be pronounced like English ‘y’ or ‘w’ or like Spanish soft ‘g’
  2. can be pronounced like English ‘r’ or like Spanish ‘r’ or ‘rr’

If any two consonants share a column or a row, they have a Hamming distance of 1. For example, «m» and «p» share a column, and «t» and «k» share a row. If they share neither a column or row, they have a Hamming distance of 2. For example, «n» and «y» (/j~ɰ/) are in different columns and rows. There is one big exception to this rule: «l» and «y» (/j~ɰ/) only have a Hamming distance of 1 even though they are in different rows and columns because many realizations of the liquid row sound like approximants.

Of course, I could also change the vowels and not just the consonants, but it’s not that easy. That’s because the first vowel dictates word class, which I also explained in the same post that I explained Hamming space. The “head-initial” vowels indicate words as follows:

  • «e» indicates a noun (or pronoun)
  • «i» indicates a modifier (e.g., adjectives, adverbs)
  • «o» indicates a verb
  • «u» indicates a function word (e.g., conjunctions, prepositions, particles)

And «a» is filler—it doesn’t mean anything except that the word isn’t over. So, it can’t be the first vowel.

Then, add the rules for syllables to start creating words. In the greyfolk language, the syllable structure is C1(C2)V(C3).

  • C1 can be «m n p t k s y l h»
  • C2 can be «y l», but not after «y l h»
  • V can be «a e i o u»
  • C3 can be «m n l»

A word just follows all of these rules. So, a word could be «me», «him», «pyo», «klul», «teka», «syepan», etc. Words can be written normally with spaces in between them, but this system has the advantage of being able to be written as a string of text with one minor adjustment. If a word—not a syllable!—does not have a C3, add a silent «h» to the end of the word. This disambiguates certain cases like «kamenyim» which would be «kamen» and «yim» or «kame» and «nyim». Using the silent «h» means that «kamenyim» is «kamen» and «yim» while «kamehnyim» is «kameh» and «nyim».

Now, I’ll return to discussing non-conflicting sounds. There is are two more rules to add to figure out Hamming distance between syllables and words in the greyfolk language. First, the difference between nothing and any sound is a Hamming distance of 1. For example, «nim» and «nyim» have a Hamming distance of 1 between them. «nim» does not have a C2 and «nyim» does, but they are otherwise the same, so this is a Hamming distance of 1. Second, the same root is allowed with different vowels. How else would it work? For example, «nem» and «nim» are fine because «nem» is a noun and «nim» is a modifier. Even if some vowels sound similar and get confused, because head-initial vowels determine word class, context makes up for the Hamming distance of 1.

Using all of these rules, there is a maximum number of non-conflicting syllables that can be formed, especially if they share a vowel. This was the hardest part of figuring out monosyllabic words. By hardest, I mean it was challenging and frustrating, and, yes, I did cry at least once. I have a very limited phonemic inventory, so there are a lot of constraints, and I put one extra constraint on myself: no monosyllabic words with a C2 and a C3.

What did I get?

This:

«me»
«se»
«ke»
«tle»
«yel» «yil»
«nel» «nil»
«ten» «tin»
«lem» «lim»
«pem» «pim» «pum»
«pli» «plu»
«min» «mun»
«kyu»
«kul»
«num»
«sul»
«lun»
«yum»
«myu»
«hu»
«syu»

With «nlu» left over.

So, that’s 20 monosyllabic roots to create 28 words. Not too shabby.

These words will be explained in following posts. I’m planning on discussing groups of roots. The other option is to go by word class, but that would be to show off the Hamming distance between each word in each class, but the above table can be used for that same effect. See for yourself!

End of August Greyfolk language report

Okay, so I honestly forgot about August 31st when I thought of the title and said that I would post this “tomorrow”. Use your imagination.

There are a few posts that I can definitely still make about conlanging—I just haven’t. I’ve had six-ish strong days of work this month, but a lot of my conlanging time has actually gone to working on a project for GURPS. Surprise! But let’s get into what I can talk about.

Also, I really need to get around to updating the Greyfolk language page because it has fallen behind. It just feels like so many changes are happening that, if I update it now, I’ll have reason to update it again so soon after!

“Head-initial” indicating vowels

That’s a rough way of describing a minor but very important change to my language. Before, the vowel that indicates part of speech (or word type) would be the final vowel in the word. Working with a potential mini version of the Greyfolk language made me realize that I could just have that indicating vowel be the first vowel in the word, which fits with the idea of the language being head-initial. So, instead of the final vowel sound being «e» for nouns, «i» for adjectives and adverbs, «o» for verbs, and «u» for other things (conjunctions, prepositions, particles, etc.), those would be the initial vowel sounds.

Thus, «halnyo» becomes «holnya»—that’s my stand-in word for ‘to bake’.

Hamming distance

The idea of Hamming distance is it’s something that “measures the minimum number of substitutions required to change one string into the other”, which, in my case, means it’s the number of different sound changes to make different words sound different. For me, this means that a two words should have at least a sound with a difference in manner of articulation and a sound with a difference in place of articulation, or two words should have one sound with both differences.

So, if I have «halnyo», I can’t have «halmyo», but I can have «halsyo». Of course, I still said at least two differences, but more is definitely better.

New syllable blocks and font

I mentioned this previously, but syllable blocks have changed with the new 7HR alphabet. A post about that will be coming shortly. Also, after I figure out all of my monosyllabic words (see below), I’ll have more Greyfolk language free time, which means I can work on the new font.

Monosyllabic words

Because of the number of phonemes that I have, the syllable construction, and Hamming distance, I can only have so many functional monosyllabic words. There are, however, a lot of concepts that I would love to have be represented by a single syllable. There may also be new personal pronouns…

Numerals

Of course, I want numerals to be monosyllabic too. They were doing just fine until I removed «f» and «w», so I’ve had to rethink how they work and sound—oh, and also how they look. After I consider that pretty set in stone and get around to creating the new 7HR font, I’ll talk more about numerals.