linguistics

End of September report

Life still slowly goes on, even with that disaster of a presidential debate last night. I don’t even have to get political to say that I got really tired really fast of watching the impeached president act like a petulant child. It doesn’t matter whose side I’m on (which is a dumb way of putting it anyway), but that was really embarrassing, and I’m embarrassed on behalf of my entire country. Also, I hate this your side, my side kind of stuff. On the internet (which I recognize is not a good representation of the real world), I saw someone complaining about the impeached president only pay $750 in taxes, and someone from the other side said something along the lines of, well, I’m sure the husband of the speaker of the House does the same, and I bet would wouldn’t care about that, right? Actually, wrong. My side, your side, our side, their side, I’d like the same standards to be upheld and I love when people call out hypocrisy, and I’m not afraid to call out my side. Because my side is me and my values, and my side is whatever leads to a higher quality of living for the average American citizen and for every American citizen, and that’s based on facts and science and also feelings. Everyone thinks that’s their side, but it’s not. Because I said every. I want better things for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, the Green Party, black persons, white persons, latino/a persons, gay persons, straight persons, asexual persons, bisexual persons, persons with depression, persons with pre-existing conditions, persons living in poverty, persons living on the street, persons with diabetes, communities with less support than others… I really mean everyone. And that’s not radical. It’s not radical or even political to care about everyone, even and perhaps especially the people that I don’t agree with about certain things. Wanting to take care of people doesn’t mean I support the ideas that those people has. It means that I hope they will come to be more compassionate and understanding if I show them care. At the same time, yes, I agree—to be tolerant means being intolerant toward intolerance. I am not preaching tolerance. I’m preaching care and education and stopping the abuse. Racists and homophobes and bigots don’t appear out of thin air. They’re taught by people and by our system. So, we need to fix that.

Wow, okay, I tangent-ed hard. I’m not exactly thrilled about life right now. But I am really starting to recover from my surgery, so there’s that. And, in my more private life, other small good things seem to be popping up, so I’m holding on to the things for which I am grateful. Everyone knows it—it’s been a year. The trials I have faced are real, but they pale in comparison to all of the misfortune around the world this year. And some of it was very preventable.

Let’s… keep going.

Conlang report

Alright. It’s been another slow month. And I also haven’t been a good member of the LCS. I believe my membership has actually been lapsed for a while, but I’ll fix that. And the annual meeting is coming up, which I’ve never done before because I’ve been so out of touch with community stuff, which means—like I said—I haven’t been a great member. I’ll remedy that.

I’ve also been watching some crash course linguistics with my partner for fun, and that’s been whetting my appetite for conlanging as well.

RPG stuff report

I continue to run MÖRK BORG, and I even made a little bit of income from two short pieces of material that I wrote for the game, which you can find on my itch.io page. I’m working on more content. I don’t have any intention of trying to make this my dayjob (though, it is something since I don’t have a dayjob right now), but it would be kinda cool to at least make my hobby financially self-sustaining, and it also really allows me to give back to a hobby and a community that has given so much to me. Oh! And I’m finally a player again. I’ve played a couple of sessions of Macchiato Monsters in the Post Humans Orbital Structures setting with the setting creator and some other cool people over on the PHOS Discord. I missed it so much!

Writing stuff report

Yep, it’s a month until NaNoWriMo, and I’m actually thinking of dropping my writing project from last year and using the month to work on generating tabletop RPG content. I still want to write a novel, and I think starting with smaller projects is even better for helping me get there. I’m learning a lot in the process, and just being able to say I’ve published two very short pieces has really bolstered my self-esteem (which means I may just barely be at almost-normal levels).

Reworked monosyllabic roots for greyfolk language

The monosyllabic roots have changed since when I first introduced them. After working on disyllabic roots, my feelings about my original monosyllabic roots changed a bit, and I wanted to make them fit my Hamming distance philosophy better. Previously, the words had the right distance from one another, but the roots didn’t always because I didn’t derive each possible word out of each root. However, when I got to the disyllabic roots, it was easier to focus solely on making sure the roots had the right distance from one another, and creating them that way made more sense because it left the language open for flexibility down the line.

All of the ideas and rules from the original post should still apply because I have gotten a bit more strict in how these were generated. Also, most of them are pretty similar. Now, the differences are quite different because I have allowed for monosyllabic roots with four phonemes/letters in them whereas I tried to keep the limit to three phonemes/letters originally. The more phonemes/letters in a syllable, the ‘heavier’ it feels (to me, at least). Take the word ‘strength’ in English. It is very heavy for just one syllable—there are seven phonemes in that single syllable: /stɹɛŋkθ/. I’m trying to avoid words like that. If I am remembering correctly, words with ‘simpler’ or ‘lighter’ syllables are easier to speak clearly and quickly, which would be why Spanish word equivalents might have more syllables but still be spoken as fast and as clearly as the equivalent word in English. Honestly, I could be talking out of my ass, but I’m pretty sure that’s right—it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the reworked roots are «ma, sa, ka, tla, yal, klam, slal, myan, pam, pya, nam, kyan, pal, nal, yam, lan, mlam, nya, ha, syan, mlal, slam, nul* klal». Now, technically, «ha» isn’t far enough away from «ka» because the «h» in «ha» can be pronounced like a glottal stop, but I am fine with that as the derived words should never really end up getting mixed up.

*As I am about to explain, «nul» translates into English as ‘and’.

«ma» is the root for the first person singular. «me» is the pronoun form, and it translates into English as ‘I’ or ‘me’, depending on the whether it’s the subject or the object.

«sa» is the root for the second person singular. «se» is the pronoun form, and it translates into English as ‘you’.

«ka» is the root for the third person singular. «ke» is the pronoun form, and it translates into English as ‘it’, singular ‘they’, or singular ‘them’. Of course, it could also be ‘he’, ‘him’, ‘she’, or ‘her’, but gender and sex don’t matter as this pronoun is not gendered/sexed. Again, the translation may depend on whether it’s the subject or the object.

«tla» is the root for the mediopassive. «tle» is the pronoun form. As a subject, it is a passive or impersonal construction. As an object, it basically means ‘myself’, ‘yourself’, etc. For example, let’s say «lomtam» is a verb that translates into English as ‘to love’. «tle lomtam me» means ‘I am loved’. It can be thought of as ‘[blank] loves 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 lomtam tle» is a bit simpler, and it means ‘I love myself’.

«yal» is the root for the demonstrative. «yel» is the demonstrative pronoun form and «yil» is the demonstrative modifier form. They both translite into english as ‘this’, but they are used in slightly different ways. «yel» would just translate as ‘this’, but «ke yil» would translate as ‘this one’.

«klam» is the root for the past tense. «klem» is the noun form, and it translates into English as ‘past’ as in ‘the past’. «klim» is the modifier form that, as an adverb, functions as the past tense, and it can also be translated as ‘earlier’.

«slal» is the root for the present tense. «slel» is the noun form, and it translates into English as ‘present’ as in ‘the present’. «slil» is the modifier form that, as an adverb, functions as the past tense, and it can also be translated as ‘now’.

«myan» is the root for the future tense. «myen» is the noun form, and it translates into English as ‘future’. «myin» is the modifier form that, as an adverb, functions as the future tense, and it can be translated as ‘later’.

(As I’ve said before, these tenses are not obligatory—i.e., they are optional. Context clues can make up for a lack of tense. But what tense is an un-tensed sentence in? It’s not really a tense, it’s more of a grammatical mood. Specifically, I’d say this particular mood in my conlang is the indicative, declarative, or realis mood. More or less, it expresses something true. When people say something like ‘I love you’, it doesn’t necessarily express the present tense like ‘I love you right now’. It tends to be more of a declaration of the truth—the truth being that I love you.)

«pam» is the root for the interrogative. «pem» is the noun form, and it translates into English as ‘what’ or ‘whom’; «pim» is the modifier form, and translates into English as ‘which’; and «pum» is the particle form, and it translates into English as ‘?’. That last one is literal—in this greyfolk language, this root indicates a question. If «pem» or «pim» isn’t used, then the particle «pum» is used. For example, let’s say «lomtam» is a verb that translates into English as ‘to love’. «se lomtam pem» means ‘you love what?’ or ‘what do you love?’ «se lomtam ke pim» means ‘you love which one?’ or ‘which one do you love?’ «pum se lomtam ke» means ‘you love it?’ or ‘do you love it?’ In the case of «pum», it can kind of be stuck anywhere in a question, but it is usually the first word. If it follows a word, it puts emphasis on that word as what is being questioned. For example, «se lomtam pum ke» means ‘you love it?’

«pya» is the root for the affirmative and the presence preposition. «pyi» is the modifier form that works like the auxiliary verb ‘do’ as in ‘I do want to go’, and it also translates into English as ‘yes’. «pyo» is the verb form that translates into English as ‘to be’; without a subject, it can also translate as ‘there is/are’. «pyu» is the preposition form, and it translates into English as ‘with’. Furthermore, as I discussed in the previous post, they can also be used to say hi.

«nam» is the root for the negative and the absence preposition. «nim» is the modifier form that translates into English as ‘no’, ‘not’, or ‘don’t’. «nom» is the verb form that translates into English as ‘to not be’; without a subject, it can also translate as ‘there isn’t/aren’t’. «num» is the preposition form, and it translates into English as ‘without’.

«kyan» is the root for the complementizer or relativizer. «kyun» is the particle form that translates into English as ‘that’, ‘who’, or ‘which’ as in ‘people that like pie’ or ‘the pie that was eaten’. Furthermore, «kyen» is acceptable as a noun form that abbreviates the phrase «ke kyun», which would translate into English as ‘one that’ as in ‘one that likes pie’. Thus, «kyen» works similarly to an agentive affix, which, in English, is usually ‘-er’. For example, let’s say «lomtam» is a verb that translates into English as ‘to love’. «kyen lomtam» could translate as ‘one who loves’ or ‘lover’.

«pal» is the root for the possessive. «pul» is the particle form that indicates possession, and it would likely translate into English as ”s’; however, I would translate it as ‘of’ as in ‘he is the brother of my mother’.

«nal» is the root for the ‘and’ conjunction. «nul» is the conjunction form, and it translates into English as ‘and’.

«yam» is the root for the ‘but’ conjunction. «yum» is the conjunction form, and it translates into English as ‘but’.

«lan» is the root for the ‘or’ conjunction. «lun» is the conjunction form, and it translates into English as ‘or’.

«mlam» is the root for the origin preposition. «mlum» is the preposition form, and it translates into English as ‘from’.

«nya» is the root for the destination preposition. «nyu» is the preposition form, and it translates into English as ‘at’ or ‘to’, depending on the context.

«ha» is the root for the separating particle. «hu» is the particle form, and it doesn’t have a clear direct translation into English. The quick-and-dirty explanation is that it’s like a comma. It is used to separate words that, if not separated, might sound ambiguous together. Of course, a pause in speech can also produce the same effect.

«syan» is the root for the terminating particle. «syun» is the particle form, and it also doesn’t have a clear direct translation into English. The quick-and-dirty explanation is that it’s like «hu», but, instead of separating words, it can separate phrases to get rid of ambiguity.

(These special particles—«hu» and «syun»—are not obligatory; i.e., they are optional. They can help reduce ambiguity, but they are not necessary.)

«mlal», «slam», and «klal» are currently unused. However, I want to use them as I lost a few disyllabic roots in the war to get everything to fit together. That war is worth its own post.

The July update you’ve all been waiting for

I really couldn’t have put together a short post about how the Greyfolk syllable blocks have changed, huh?

To be fair, I’m preparing for a big move to Columbus, Ohio! While I don’t have many exciting conlang-related things to share, I did update the site. I revamped the homepage, removed About Me, and added Portfolio. Ooh, a portfolio? Yeah, I guess I felt I kind of deserved to have a portfolio page after publishing a paper on Laiholh psycho-collocations.

To be honest, I’m glad I waited on some of the posts that I was preparing because tons of small things are changing for the Greyfolk language. And, to be even more honest, I probably won’t post again until August—though, I hope to have much more to say about the current state of the Greyfolk language.

New «h» glyph (and the runners-up)

The new «h» glyph was decided in the minutes before I saw Flor de Toloache—an all-female mariachi—about a month and a half ago. I had been going back and forth and back and forth for a few days, but, somehow, making the decision away from my office made it just a little bit easier.

h $ % & @
h $ % & @

So, as I revealed in my previous post, h is the winner! (Also, check that post for more information on place and manner of articulation for more context about the following.) Out of all of those designs, it felt best. It uses a new manner of articulation and it was all three place of articulation lines to show that it was a unique place of articulation.

$ was what I was using before. It was a nice design, but I didn’t like that it was using the dorsal line. Of course, there is no laryngeal line, but that place of articulation was represented by the line running beneath it—the opposite of a nasal line. Yet, a horizontal line is supposed to be used for manner of articulation (like it is for the nasal line) and not place of articulation, and it was really bugging me for just one of my letters feeling inconsistent.

% was a fun little creation that looks like a face. It mixed up all manners and places of articulation, which I felt was better than being inconsistent. In a sense, it was so wrong that it was right. It felt special, but not inconsistent—except that it took so many strokes to write and it had a hole in the character.

& was going to be my choice despite how confusing interpreting those three non-touching horizontal lines would be. It didn’t always look too hot in syllable blocks. However, I liked the symbolism of the character—three horizontal lines for a new manner of articulation and no vertical lines because it isn’t in a labial, coronal, or dorsal place of articulation.

@ was fun—in fact, I loved it!—but it had to be tossed because it had… curves. It was just too sexy! No, wait, that wasn’t it. Again, it was just the inconsistency.

Honorable mentions go to two characters: a character that looked like an X and a character that looked like a K with the flat part on top (like @ with straight diagonal lines instead of curved lines). The diagonal lines looked inconsistent and neither of them looked good in syllable blocks.

So, a month and a half after its creation, please welcome h as the new character for «h»!

New alphabet, places of articulation, and manners of articulation

I just got finished finally typing up ‘New «h» glyph (and the runners-up)’ when I realized that a lot of what went into the design would be lost if I didn’t talk about place of articulation and manner of articulation as well as introduce some other minor changes with the alphabet.

Old m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u
New m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u
Sound m n p t k f s h l w y a e i o u

As you can see, «h», «w», «y», and the vowels changed. (That’s also a sneak peak at the new «h» about which I’ll discuss more in my next post. Don’t worry—it’s already written.) I did this to definitively establish what each line is supposed to mean in this featural writing system.

m has one vertical line in the front position—that’s the labial line. It represents the lips at the front of the mouth. It also has two vertical lines. The vertical line in the middle represents the top of the mouth and the detached vertical line on top represents the nasal cavity. Together, those define m as nasal.

n is very similar to m, but it has a vertical line in the middle position—that’s the coronal line. It represents the place where the tip of the tongue touches when producing that sound.

p has the labial line like m. Its two horizontal lines are the bottom line and the top line, and they are both attached to the vertical line—this represents a plosive by symbolizing a lack of airflow when producing that sound.

t is similar to p, but it has the coronal line like n.

k is similar to p and t, but its vertical line is in the back position, which represents the place toward which the back of the tongue is raised when producing that sound.

f and s are similar to p and t, but its horizontal lines are in the middle and bottom position, which looks similar to the plosive lines but represents that there is airflow through the mouth when producing those sounds, making those sounds fricative.

h will be talked about in my next post. Old «h» completed the p, t, k, f, s pattern, but this was inaccurate because «h» is laryngeal and not dorsal like «k».

l is similar to t and s. Its two horizontal lines are in the top and middle position, which represents its liquidity. This representation is less iconic but makes it visually similar to the fricative sounds.

w is labial and dorsal, so it has both of those lines. The single horizontal line on the bottom represents that this is an approximant. This representation is less iconic, but I was running out of choices. The old «w» has the old approximant line, which was represented by a single horizontal line in the top position.

y is the dorsal approximant, so it has those lines. The old «y» has the old approximant line as well as the coronal and dorsal lines to represent that it had a palatal placement, which is between alveolar and velar. Alveolar broadened to become coronal and velar broadened to become dorsal, and dorsal includes the palatal placement, so y just has a dorsal line.

The vowels have different lines that represent their placement on the vowel diagram as opposed to their place and manner of articulation (though, I was considering the latter idea). a is a low central vowel, e is a mid front vowel, i is a high front vowel, o is a mid back vowel, and u is a high back vowel. Their lines directly reflect those places. The old vowels went for a similar set up, but they all had a horizontal line in the top position whether they needed it or not for visual balance, but then I tossed that idea because—oh, I forgot to make a post about that too—syllable blocks also changed.

Another two weeks later

Things have been going well for the Greyfolk language and things have been going well for me. You’re probably here for the Greyfolk language, but let’s start with me. Since my last update, my girlfriend has graduated from her dual master’s program at IU. That’s fun! I haven’t done anything too amazing like that, but I did beat Dishonored without killing anyone—in the game and in real life.

As for the Greyfolk language, I did decide on a new glyph for «h». It’s the one that looks like an ‘M’. Of course, I haven’t given context for that, so I’ll go ahead and post the new «h» as well as the runners-up soon.

Also, I’ve been doing my adpositions wrong this whole time, which is fun. “Hoy mia feke dio!” I exclaimed in Esperanto. My language is head-initial, so it should have prepositions and not postpositions.

Then, I started thinking about compounds and relativizers. The past six entries in my language document have been about those two things, but they’ve mostly been about relativizers. For compound words, I’m just using a some kind of compounding particle in between words to solve my problem. It’s good enough. For relative clauses, I figured out my relativizer and I proposed adding an elidible phrasalizer (like a nominalizer for phrases or like a terminator from Lojban) to show where those clauses end. It will also be useful for signifying names. Speaking of which, I’m also proposing a name particle to introduce names as well.

That means I was also working on phrase structure rules. I wish I had my old syntax workbook from when I took that class because the internet really doesn’t have a good resource for phrase structure rules. Luckily, I found the ones I used for the previous incarnation of the Greyfolk language.

  • S → NPE VP T (NPO) (NPU)
  • NP → N (DP) (AdjP+) (PP+) (CP)
  • DP → D
  • AdjP → Adj
  • PP → P NP
  • VP → V (PP) (AdvP+) (CP)
  • AdvP → Adv
  • CP → Comp S
  • X → X Conj X

That may prove useful for someone else someday. Furthermore, I started taking another deep look at Pandunia again for some inspiration. Also, Lojban. Also, semantic primes.

I thought about adding a coronal affricate to my language, but, after some thinking, I ultimately decided against it because the internet tends to favor only one sibilant in an international auxiliary language—which I’m not exactly going for, but I like following some of the ideals.

Last but not least, I realized that, if «h» can be Ø (null), then it can’t be followed by «l», «w», or «y».

Most of these paragraphs could (and probably will) be a post of their own. It shouldn’t take another two weeks.