pronouns

Disyllabic roots in greyfolk language, 1: planning the roots

In the process of creating the monosyllabic roots the first time (and, by extension, the second time), I had an idea of a few disyllabic roots that I wanted. As «me», «se», and «ke» are the singular personal pronouns, I wanted «mema», «sesa», and «keka» as the plural personal pronouns. That meant, for 4-phoneme disyllabic roots, there was an MM root (‘MaMa’), an SS root (‘SaSa’), and a KK root (‘KaKa’), so I figured that all phonemes would pair with themselves. Furthermore, «me», «se», and «ke» were chosen because MKS is one of the few trios of phonemes that doesn’t conflict with one another (in terms of my Hamming distance parameters). Extending that, I figured I could pair any phoneme with another non-conflicting phoneme and itself. There were a few options available, but the best one ended up being MS, NK, PL, TY with «h» left out. For example, MS worked as follows:

«m» «s»
«m» «mama» «masa»
«s» «sama» «sasa»

It’s basically a Punnett square. So, really, MS = MS, MM, SS, SM in terms of the roots that was created from the pair. There ended up being a few extra that worked, but most of them stopped working later one when I started creating the 5-phoneme disyllabic roots.

Actually making those 5-phoneme disyllabic roots was much trickier. A while back, I figured out that I had two special trios of initial consonants: MKS and NPY. Within each trio, the consonants do not conflict with one another. And no consonants are shared between the two trios. (However, «t» and «l» are left out, and I knew I would have to integrate them later somehow.) I couldn’t cross them with themselves because each phoneme was already paired with itself, and there was already MS, which would conflict in MKS. I figured that I could instead interpolate these special trios with each other to get a bunch of non-conflicting pairs to create 5-phoneme roots, and I was right!

  • MN, MP, MY, KN, KP, KY, SN, SP, SY
  • NM, NK, NS, PM, PK, PS, YM, YK, YS

So, that first set creates «m-a-n-a-», «m-a-p-a-», «m-a-y-a-», «k-a-n-a-», etc. Each root would need an extra phoneme in place of one of those dashes, obviously, to make it a 5-phoneme disyllabic root.

Right off the bat, I knew I couldn’t use KN and NK since I already had those for the 4-phoneme disyllabic roots. Furthermore, that list would create way too few options. Of course, that list also had plenty of holes in it that could be filled, and I spent such a long time trying to figure out what they were. I don’t even know how to explain that process, but I can happily share the results:

  • MN, MP, MY, NH, PH, TK, TL, KP, KS, KY, SN, SP, SY, YL, YH, LM, LS, HM, HT
  • ML, NM, NS, MH, PM, PK, PS, TH, KT, SK, SL, YM, YK, YS, LT, LY, HN, HP, HY

Then, I had to figure out the rest of the pattern to make as many 5-phoneme disyllabic roots as possible. It came to figuring out into which position each of the inserted fifth phoneme would go.

  • MN becomes «m-a-n-a», and one of those dashes has to be filled.
  • I focused on one syllable at a time.
  • For «m-a-», I chose «y» for the first dash, and both «m» and «l» for the second dash (because «m» and «l» don’t conflict).
    • That gives «mya», «mam», and «mal».
  • For «n-a-», I chose the opposite: «l» for the first dash and «n» for the second dash.
    • That gives «nla» and «nan».
  • Crossing those gives «myana», «mamna», «malna», «manla», and «manan».

Then, I did the opposite for NM since it is the inverse of MN. So, the syllables are just switched. «myana» becomes «namya», «mamna» becomes «namam», «malna» becomes «namal», etc. This creates a set of roots that do not conflict with one another. However, some issues did pop up later.

At the time of planning, it looked like I could have 166 disyllabic roots total compared to my expected minimum of 165. Unfortunately, that meager 166 shrunk to 162 when I had to rework the numerals—or, rather, rework the roots so the numerals could fit in the scheme I had created. However, I will share the roots a little bit further down the line.

In the next part, I will talk about the process of creating the root database!

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.

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!

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.