syllables

Disyllabic roots in greyfolk language, 3: the roots so far

After explaining how I planned the roots and how I created a database for them, I am ready to and happy to share the results!

The 4-phoneme disyllabic roots: «kaka, kana, lapa, mama, masa, naka, nana, pala, papa, saha, sama, sasa, tata, taya, yata».

The 5-phoneme disyllabic roots: «hahan, hakam, halan, halma, halta, hamam, hamla, hanal, hanpa, hanya, hapal, hapya, hasam, hatla, hayal, kalpa, kalsa, kalya, kampa, kamsa, kanta, kapan, kapla, kasan, kasla, katal, katam, katya, kayan, klata, kyapa, kyasa, kyaya, lalma, lalsa, laman, lamsa, lanam, lanta, lanya, lasan, lasla, latal, layal, layam, mahal1, maham, malal, malam, malna, malpa, malya, mamna, mampa, manan, manla, mapan, mapla, matya, mayan, mlaha, mlala, myana, myapa, myaya, nahan, nalan, nalta, namal, namam, namta, namya, nanma, nansa, nasal2, nasam, nasya, natla, nlama, nlasa, nlaya, nyaha, pakal, pakya, pamal, pamta, pamya, panam, panka, panma, pansa, pasal, pasya, patan, payam, plaka, plama, plasa, pyaha, sakal, sakam, sakya, salal, salam3, salna, salpa, salya, samna, sampa, sanan, sanka, sanla, sapan, sapla, sayan, slaka, slala, syana, syapa, syaya, tahal, taham, takan, takla, talka, tamka, tlaha, tlana, tyaka, tyala, tyama, yahan, yakal, yakam, yakya, yalan, yalna, yamal, yamam, yamna, yamya, yanka, yanma4, yansa, yasal, yasam, yasya».

Don’t mind my stupid jokes.

The 6-phoneme disyllabic roots: «hatyam, haklan, hasyal, hamyan».

As I mentioned, I expected to have a minimum total of 165 4-phoneme and 5-phoneme disyllabic roots, and I ended up with 166 after deciding to merge certain similar-sounding roots, but, in the end, I only scraped by with 162 because fitting in the numerals broke so many patterns. Furthermore, the breaking of those patterns will also ripple into what 6-phoneme disyllabic roots I’ll be able to use.

However, I’m not dismayed. I’ll use as many 6-phoneme disyllabic roots as I can. My new secret weapon is 6-phoneme trisyllabic roots! Why? Because I did find the source that I was looking for:

Pellegrino, F., Coupé, C., & Marsico, E. (2011). A cross-language perspective on speech information rate. Language, 539-558.

My takeaway is that information efficiency is fairly constant depending on the constituents (in my case, just phonemes) in a syllable. What that means is that the number of phonemes is more important than the number of syllables in terms of how quickly a word can be spoken to get information across. For example, Spanish and Japanese have simpler syllables but tend to have longer words, yet they are spoken a bit faster because they have simpler syllables, so the information rate stays about the same.

Previously, I had tried to put off using trisyllabic roots for as long as possible, but it seems like they might just be my secret weapon in terms of eking out efficient words in the wake of losing quite a few 5-phoneme roots.

For now, the plan is to take these roots and start creating words!

End of February report

My arm has recovered quite a bit! It’s functional, but it’s not quite back to the pain-free strength that it had before. My infection (or, perhaps, the symptoms left behind by the infection) hasn’t quite resolved yet, however. I went through another round of antibiotics and painkillers, and I am waiting to see if the discomfort and pain continue to go away or… if they don’t.

Also, the GURPS stuff report has changed to RPG stuff report because I foresee talking about other RPGs as well. I have a couple in mind, but I don’t want to jump the gun.

Conlang stuff report

Even as my arm was still not doing so hot, I was still working hard on my conlang. With help from the internet in creating a macro for Excel, I got a nice database of disyllabic roots running.

  • Range A is a bank of possible (according to the rules of my language) disyllabic roots. I generated this using Zompist’s Gen.
  • Range B is where I input the roots I have chosen.
  • Range C is a bank of roots that conflict with the roots in Range B. I also generated this using Gen with some really roundabout tricks.
  • Rule 1: If a cell appears in Range A and Range C, it is highlighted yellow.
  • Rule 2: If a cell appears in Range A and Range B, it is highlighted green.
  • Rule 3: If a cell appears in Range B more than twice, it is highlighted red.
  • Rule 4: If I a cell appears in Range B and Range C, it is highlighted red.
  • Rule 5: Otherwise, a cell should not be highlighted.

Thus, any white cells in Range A were roots that could still be used because they didn’t conflict with anything else. Even though the highlighting was all done by a macro, there was still a significant portion of manual work that took a few hours. Much more time went into figuring out how to get the most efficient set of disyllabic roots. By that, I mean that I had to figure out how to get as many roots as possible that didn’t conflict with each other from the total bank of possible roots. It always comes back to Hamming Distance!

I’ll share much more about this soon.

RPG stuff report

Over the past couple of weeks, I have started to work on a very loose and flexible magic system that I think is good enough. Ritual Path Magic is loose and flexible, but it is slow and uses a whole new system. Divine Favor has flexibility built in with its prayer system, but it’s way too expensive and it doesn’t focus on flexibility. Sorcery has the same advantages and disadvantages of Divine Favor, though I do like it a bunch more. I based my system off of Wildcard Powers from GURPS Supers, but I’ll talk about it in much more detail soon.

Two more things. First, I just want to say that GURPS Transhuman Space is really cool. Second, I’m a bit late, but I just discovered The Path of Cunning, which is a new (and free!) fan-zine for GURPS content that is doing a good job at slowly filling the void left behind by the discontinuation of Pyramid #3. I’d love to hop on that in its infancy and review the zines as they come out. And—who knows—maybe even try to submit something one of these days. In fact, maybe that flexible magic system is just the thing.

Writing stuff report

I wrote a couple of short vignettes for fun. I dove into some stuff about Gnosticism for inspiration. I also toyed around with some new ideas for my main stories. That’s about it.

End of January report

Infection or no infection, injury or no injury, I can type out a short update and I did make some progress before I injured my arm. Also, I moved away from specifying my reports as for the greyfolk language or writing or GURPS because I will hopefully be talking a bit more about each of them in each report.

It took me a long time to write out this update. I’ve been working on it for two days because it’s hard, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful to type for long periods of time. Between my injury and really focusing on maintaining better posture, it just takes a lot out of me. I’ll probably be like this for the next couple of weeks, but here’s to hoping! 🍻

Conlang stuff report

If I am remembering correctly (and I’m a bit too lazy to check), when I last talked about what was next for greyfolk language, I’m pretty sure that I mentioned disyllabic roots and words were next but also that I wanted to find a way to organize them so I got good efficiency out of my choices while avoiding roots that were within Hamming Distance of each other. For example, I don’t want «meta» and «peta» because the only difference is «m» and «p», which do not have enough Hamming Distance between them (in terms of how they sound). The Hamming Distance between «m» and «p» is 1 (they are both labial sounds, which is an HD of 0, but «m» is a nasal and «p» is a plosive, which is an HD of 1), but I need a Hamming Distance that’s greater than 1 for the sounds in each word to be far enough apart to contrast. So, «mena» and «peta» would work because «n» and «t» also have a Hamming Distance of 1 (they are both coronal sounds, which is an HD of 0, but «n» is a nasal and «t» is a plosive, which is an HD of 1). That brings the total Hamming Distance between those two words to 2, which means they are far enough apart in sound (according to my parameters, of course) that I can use both words.

Of course, that means, if I want to have a lot of disyllabic roots and words, I have to be efficient like I was for the monosyllabic roots and words. Each extra syllable, however, seems to add that much more work. I talked to a friend of mine about creating a program to help me, but it seems that would be more trouble than it’s worth, but I think I found a way to do what I need in Microsoft Excel. I’ll hopefully come back to that sooner rather than later after my arm has healed and after I fully figure that system out.

Also, because Globasa does it (and I just went over how much I like Globasa in my previous post), I’ve been considering allowing «s» at the end of syllables. I need to be careful not to over-complicate my conlang, so I might just put syllable-final «s» in one of the dialects.

GURPS stuff report

As I looked back through my notes, I realized that most of my work in January (as well as December) was done on GURPS. After NaNoWriMo 2019, I was really inspired to work on GURPS again, and it was going quite well! I have a better way to merge Conditional Injury and Knowing Your Own Strength than I did before. I was still figuring out how to do weapons and armor in the least complicated way, and I was getting pretty close to something that I felt was acceptable. Instead of having a damage modifier, a weapon would have a ST modifier. That modifier would be added to the wielder’s Basic Lift, and the total Basic Lift would be the new ST of using that weapon. DR would work similarly with a tricky caveat. Yes, this requires table look-ups, but… Well, I don’t think it’s frequent enough to be awful. I’ve struggled so long with balancing realism, fairness, and ease of play.

Continuing down the path of combat while trying to balance realism, fairness, and easy of play, I have been trying to figure out how to speed up combat for a long time. There are many approaches, and I tried to define each approach by its complexity and its (level of) abstraction. One could resolve an entire combat with nothing more than a Quick Contest—that would be Complexity 1 but Abstraction 10. However, that curve is not smooth. Some methods are only a small step up on the scale of complexity while being a larger step down on the scale of abstraction, which is pretty ideal. For example, I’ve been getting really into Mass Combat and Tactical Mass Combat because the combat isn’t very complex and there are some neat ways to deal with the abstraction. However, the big problem is that PCs remain quite abstract unless you use Heroes on the Mass Scale, but that breaks down really quick for any unit that’s anything less than heroic in scale. So, I could try to rework the entirety of Heroes on the Mass Scale or just assign Troop Strength, Classes, etc. as best as possible to PCs (and any other unit, really). That idea got pretty close to one of my original ideas, which was to run combat like a D&D Skill Challenge where the PCs need x skill successes before getting y skill failures. That’s quite abstract in that it doesn’t take into account the power of the enemies! So, using Mass Combat with guesstimated stats (based on existing units, of course) seems rather balanced between complexity and abstraction, especially by allowing PCs (and enemy bosses) to perform significant actions, which is like a Skill-Challenge-esque factor in Mass Combat. Then, when I want to get a bit more tactical, there’s Tactical Mass Combat. For non-mass-scale scenarios, I’ve been working on a way to modify each for the 1:10 scale so each ‘unit’ is just a character, which is a bit trickier (but oh so satisfying) to do for Tactical Mass Combat.

Last but not least, I worked on some worldbuilding for my very own Project Sirocco, which is really going to end up extremely similar to or part of the setting from my NaNoWriMo 2019 story. I really took a dive into religion and mythology to start working on some cultures for that world. That led to a discussion about how ‘barbarians’ are the same Tech Level with different beliefs and ‘savages’ are lower Tech Level with different beliefs. I learned a lot about comparative theology and the Bronze Age and the Iron Age and Sub-Saharan African history. I spent a good amount of time trying to find places on Earth with very varied climatic zones, and I think I landed on Tierra del Fuego and the Big Island of Hawaii. There are a few places in the (contiguous) United States with very diverse climatic zones in a small area too.

Writing stuff report

I did more work in December than I did in January, but I was working on some background worldbuilding as well as figuring out how I want the story to end to myself me a clear(er) goal.

End of October greyfolk language report

To be honest, I wrote my last post because I got caught up on whether I should capitalize ‘greyfolk’ or not in this post’s title.

During October, I had 15-ish strong days of work on my conlang, which isn’t too much more than last month, but, somehow, I put out six posts this month (not counting the belated end-of-month report for September which I actually wrote in October) compared to September’s two posts, and the two posts in September were about GURPS. So, six posts about my conlang is great work!

Because I was so diligent about posting, there is only one thing that I talked about in my conlang journal that I didn’t talk about here. I was working on disyllabic roots and Hamming distance for disyllabic roots before I decided to focus on my typeface, which I completed! I’d like to return to disyllabic roots so I can have at least a dozen or so meaningful sentences in my language before the end of 2019, but…

Next month, I will also be doing NaNoWriMo, so my conlang will take a back seat for a while. If I can make time to work out Hamming distance for disyllabic roots, I should be able to freely create new words on the fly, but the focus will still be on my writing. Right now, I think I’ll make blog posts about my NaNoWriMo project(s) as I hit word-count milestones. However, I don’t think I’ll share too much content (at least before NaNoWriMo is over)—it’d be posts about the process or just sharing my progress.

Right now, I can say that I feel like my NaNoWriMo work has greatly helped me reestablish my connection with my creative story-telling energy, which I’ve been lacking since I informally took a break from writing and even more so since my last GURPS campaign ended. It feels nice, and I hope it helps me rekindle my tabletop RPG flame too!

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

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.