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Re: Language Lessons (long--YHL rambles)

From:Rik Roots <rikroots@...>
Date:Saturday, August 4, 2001, 12:35
> I imagine you've seen my aborted "Teach Yourself > Teonaht" pages. > > > > They are a hell of a lot harder to > write than straight grammar pages. Why? In the > grammar pages you set down all the rules in an > uncreative manner. The rules themselves are hard > enough already for you, as conlanger, to master, > given the amount of change your language undergoes > all the time. To write a successful Teach Yourself X, > you have not only to be master of the rules and idioms > of your conlang, that you have SET, but you have the > added taxonomic task of putting these rules into NEW > categories, from easiest to hardest, from most common > to least common. And then, for it to be pleasant to > the student, you have to couch it in a story. At least > that's what I was trying to do. >
I share your grief! And yet, doing the teach-yourself is, for me, the most interesting part of conlanging. It is when the language begins to come alive, where I'm forced to think past grammatical examples into the arena of real usage - how do you order coffee in a restaurant? How do people talk between themselves? How does the language cope when the conversation topic changes, or someone refers to something said 3 or 4 exchanges previously. In essence, how does the language behave?
> I started out with a stranger, coming to Tsorelai > Mundya. I thought I could make learning Teonaht > exciting by turning it into a suspense. So I had to > come up with an intrigue. That's still in my head and > not on paper, yet. What happens to this man in this > city? Not only will he roam the city, learning how to > discourse in restaurants about food, how to buy > things at shops, but in order to explore social and > sexual issues, he will have to encounter a liaison. > Eventually, the situation could lead him into a home > where we learn the names of household items, and > other things I might have to adopt an Internet blue > ribbon for, <G> but the whole task was more than > I could accomplish in a summer, and it has sat there > for two years at the early stage I left it in. I also found > that, compulsive me (yry mettolaht--"me all wound up"), > I was giving far more lengthy explanations of expressions > than I ought to. The Teach Yourself was turning into the > Grammar. And then there were the drawings! How > can you have a Teach Yourself without drawings? >
I've attempted several teach yourself formats - my latest attempt (no longer on my website) was modelled on the "[insert topic] for dummies" style, which was particular fun. I agree on the drawings and cartoons. My next attempt will have to have plenty of graphics. I'm also thinking of making the mini-tests scattered through the text more interactive, so people can get their answers and scores quickly.
> I might start over, and resort to the "in the home," "in > the restaurant," "by the beach," "in the forest." But > it's a formidable task. The best Teach Yourself Welsh > books for me at least have been in cartoon form. But > that would take a load to scan!!! >
I look forward to reading it :->
> The main reason I stopped the Teach Yourself Teonaht > was because I made a major change in the way one > handles the indefinite article. Suffixing the article to > make it indefinite is not going to work. It seemed like > a good idea, but it too often produces an ambiguity > when noun and suffix come before another noun, > which then seems, to the ear, to have a prefixed definite > article. I will either have to rule out an indefinite article > altogether, like Welsh, or create a new word. The > advantage of the article at all is that it carries the information > about volitionality. The verb will often do that, but not > in every case. >
Again, I feel your pain. Gevey went through a major grammatical revision earlier this year, rendering all previous translations and texts redundant. I've been holding off from retranslating (and recoding the webpages) until the aftershocks die down, but I hope to redo the Babel text this month, and should be able to reconstruct the first 3 chapters of the "teach yourself Gevey" hopefully before christmas - that is if I can find time between completing the sections on cognitive metaphors etc, and completing the kiddies stories, etc. Whenever I settle down to do some serious conlanging, I end up doing something else instead - I've just revamped the Gevey script again. It must be this sunny English weather...
> Sally Caves > >
Rik -- The Gevey language reference