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Re: Conlang Books - Reviews & Recommendations

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Saturday, February 2, 2008, 23:13
I know I'm coming late to this thread, but I've been thinking about it for a
while. I have three "serious" projects: Miapimoquitch, Shemspreg, and
Ustekkli (in descending order of "completeness"). Below I list some of the
books and articles which have inspired them in a more or less direct way. I
am not including other works which provided conceptual inspiration for
conlanging (such as Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings or Le Guin's Always
Coming Home, or some of the other books others have mentioned).

* American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

[This is where the bulk of the vocabulary for Shemspreg came from.]

* Beekes, Robert S. P. 1995. Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An
Introduction. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

[This was a good source of grammatical information on PIE, which I used for

* Gamkrelidze, T.V and V.V. Ivanov. 1995. Indo-European and the
Indo-Europeans, Mouton de Gruyter.

[I got more vocabulary for Shemspreg here.]

* Hill, Kenneth C. and Mary E. Black. 1998. A Sketch of Hopi Grammar. in:
Hopi Dictionary: Hopìikwa Lavàytutuveni: A Hopi-English Dictionary of the
Third Mesa Dialect. University of Arizona Press.

[This is a concise summary of Hopi grammar. An interesting tidbit is the use
of singular verb forms with plural pronouns to indicate dual number. I
intend to use the derivational morphology of Hopi as a model for Ustekkli.]

* Jelinek, Eloise and Richard A. Demers. 1994. Predicates and Pronominal
Arguments in Straits Salish. Language 70:4, pp 697-736.

[I learned quite a bit about the idea that Salishan languages have only one
part of speech from this article, an idea I am using in Miapimoquitch.]

* McCarthy, John J. and Alan Prince. 1986. Prosodic Morphology. ms.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Rutgers University. available
online at:

[There are lots of examples of how reduplication and stem shape can be used
to mark morphological categories, ideas I use in all three of my current

* Mürk, Harri William. 1997. A Handbook of Estonian: Nouns, Adjectives and
Verbs. Indiana University Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies.

[Estonian is a good example of how stem shape and morphology are
interconnected. This handbook is a good descriptive summary of how Estonian
works and provided a model for both Miapimoquitch and Ustekkli.]

* Murry, Robert. 2000. Syllable Cut Prosody in Early Middle English.
Language 76:3, pp 617-654.

[I was always intrigued by Northern Germanic gemination/vowel length
alternations in stressed syllables. Early Middle English had something
similar, and this paper is an intriguing analysis of it using the idea of
syllable cut. This has informed some of the phonology of Ustekkli.]

* Prince, Alan. 1980. A Metrical Theory for Estonian Quantity. Linguistic
Inquiry 11:3, pp 511-562.

[This paper is an interesting analysis of Estonian prosody, which is a model
for both Miapimoquitch and Ustekkli.]

* Sapir, Edward. 1930. Southern Paiute: A Shoshonean Language. Proceedings
of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 65:1.

[Much of the segmental phonology of Miapimoquitch is directly or indirectly
inspired by my study of Numic languages. Sapir's grammar is a masterful
exposition of the structure of one of these languages.]

* Steele, Susan. 1988. Lexical Categories and the Luiseño Absolutive:
Another Perspective on the Universality of "Noun" and "Verb". International
Journal of American Linguistics 54:1, pp 1-27.

[The absolutive in Uto-Aztecan is not a case, but refers to a noun suffix
which appears when it is not possessed, governed by an adposition, or part
of a compound. Using the presence or absence of the absolutive suffix in
Luiseño, Steele elaborates a theory of lexical categories which I am using
(sort of) in Ustekkli.]

* Thompson, Laurence C., M. Terry Thompson, and Steven M. Egesdal. Sketch of
Thompson, a Salishan Language. in: Handbook of North American Indians,
Volume 17: Languages, Ives Goddard, editor, pp 609-643.

[This grammatical sketch is admirably concise yet rich in detail. It has
guided my writing of the documentation of Miapimoquitch.]

* Voegelin, Charles F. 1935. Tübatulabal Grammar. University of California
Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 34:2.

[Tübatulabal is another Uto-Aztecan language which has influenced my ideas
(both phonological and morphological) of how the absolutive works in

On Jan 23, 2008 2:54 PM, Sai Emrys <sai@...> wrote:

> I'm in a community college library at the moment, and happened to be > near the PM 8008 section... and amazingly, they have one: Pei's _One > Language for the World_. > > I haven't read it, but it seems to be extremely euro-auxlang-centric > on brief perusal. > > What I *have* read that comes to mind right now (I've not read these > in a couple years though, so sketchy on details): > > * Suzette Haden Elgin, _Laadan Primer_ > * Okrand?, _Klingon Dictionary_ > > Both written pretty well, as primers. Not much to say about the form, > really. My interest in the content is purely engelangy - i.e. what > could I borrow in terms of ideas, methods, etc. - so I didn't read > them so much as skim, as I would an encyclopedia entry. > > * Yaguello, _Lunatic Lovers of Language_ > > Well written, as far as it goes. I found its approach to essentially > not even address modern conlanging, so I wasn't as offended by its > obvious... opinion as I might otherwise have been. Very > sociological/psychological. Goes into some languages that I found of > laughably poor design (e.g. Leibniz'), but treats them like the height > of originality.. which may well have something to do with its opinion. > Would be interesting to see what she thinks of modern conlanging, and > languages like Ithkuil, Toki Pona, Teonaht, et (lots o') alia. > > * Payne, _Describing Morphosyntax_ > > Highest marks. Very slight nits to pick, all in the way of wanting to > have had more detail in some sections. Primarily intended (as the > subtitle says) as a guide for field linguists, but very easily > reapplied as a) a guide to developing a conlang, and b) a "look, these > are all the common options" listing in wide breadth with excellent > explanations. I find the latter to be especially useful, since usually > these bits of information are scattered across divers specialist > texts. > > Requires (only) fairly basic existing linguistics knowledge to grok. > > * Eco, _Search for the Perfect Language_ > > Quite interesting (given my interest in this, a la my 'on the design > of an ideal language' essay), but not really about ideal-as-in-design > but rather (almost exclusively) > perfect-as-in-spoken-by-Adam-and-Yahweh. Again (like LLL) I find many > of the languages described to be laughable both in design and in > purported etiology, but no more so than I do most religious > sillinesses. Did not detract from the quality of the book. > > * Lakoff, _Women, Fire, & Dangerous Things_ > > Several novel-to-me ideas presented that have since become staples of > cognitive linguistics - framing, categories, weird derivations > thereof, unusual family classifications, unusual referents, etc. Not > too bad as a primer on cogling even. I can't recommend his IRL > classes, but the book is well worth reading. I've not read any of his > more popular form stuff on politics etc, so can't comment there. > > * Rasula & McCaffrey, _Imagining Language_ > > Never actually got around to reading this collection, but it sure > looked interesting based on the titles. Will get to it someday... > > > > So: I'd like to see what you all think of the various conlang books > out there, and what's worth reading. > > Feel free to include books that are not *about* conlangs as such, but > have significantly affecting your conlanging (e.g. WF&DT above). And > feel free to include reviews of books that have already been > mentioned. > > Thanks, > - Sai >
-- Miapimoquitch: Tcf Pt*p+++12,4(c)v(v/c) W* Mf+++h+++t*a2c*g*n4 Sf++++argh Lc++d++600


Michael Poxon <mike@...>