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Unilang report

From:Oskar Gudlaugsson <hr_oskar@...>
Date:Sunday, May 20, 2001, 22:12
Time for an update of the current status of my work on Unilang...

(Never enough disclaimers in these times of auxlang-induced-hostilities:
Unilang is merely my personal conlang projection of what I perceive as a
possible futuristic unilanguage - it has no present auxilinguo-political
purpose *at all*)

I've settled for a much more restricted phonemic inventory of:

/a e i o u/, with the diphthongs /ai au/

/p t k b d g m n l s h w j/

the values above are strictly symbolic - the phonology deals in relative
distinctions, not absolutes; whether /e/ is [e] or [E], whether /p/ is
[p_h], [p_>] or [p], or whether /l/ is [l] or [r], is not an issue. I have
defined the legal ranges of each phoneme, but I think I'll leave it out in
this post.

/i/ cannot follow /k g h/;
/j/ can only follow /t d s/, cannot precede /i/ or /ai/;
    (/tj dj sj/ can freely be pronounced as [tS dZ S])
/w/ can only follow /k g/, and cannot precede /u/ or /au/;

Only /n s l/ can be syllable final; finals cannot precede the
dipthongs, /au ai/.
Within bisyllabic morphemes, /s/ only appears before /p t k m/, /n l/
before any /p t k b d g/, and /l/ also with /m/; basically, the in-word CC
combinations allowed are /sp st sk sm np nt nk nb nd ng lp lt lk lb ld lg
lm/. /n/ is expected to assimilate with the following plosive, ergo /np nt
nk/ would typically be [mp nt Nk].

Final /l/ can follow only /a e o/;
/nk ng/ can follow only /a i u/;

The lexicon is divided into grammatical, affixing, functional, and lexical

Grammatical morphemes are essentially just endings that attach to lexical
morphemes; a lexical item never appears without such an ending. They are V
(C), where V can be only /a e o/, and C can be only the usual final /n l s/.

I have decided for four (and only four) grammatical morphemes:

-a  unmarked, conceptive; an unmarked word is basically just a noun,
    an item.
-o  an active finite verb - i.e. an action, an event.
-el a stative finite verb - describing a state not inherent to the subject,
    e.g. "the man is dead", where "is dead" is stative finite.
-en a stative infinite verb - describing an inherent state of the subject,
    e.g. "the house is big", "she's a woman", "the sun shines/is shining"
-e  modifier; makes either an adverb (next to a verb) or an adjective
    (next to a noun); e.g. in "an angry man saw me", "angry" is a modifier,
    and in "killing me softly", "softly" is a modifier.

Affixing morphemes are suffixes (or actually infixes) that come between the
lexical morpheme and its ending. Thus they are V(C)C, where V can be
only /a e o/, and C can be /p t k m n l s/ (and CC only the legal
combinations above). A typical affix, the diminutive, is taken as an

-et-  diminutive; thus if the lexical morpheme "maj" means "female",
      "majeta" is "little woman".

Functional morphemes are either monosyllabic, (C)V(C) or bisyllabic, (C)V(C)
CV(C). To avoid confusion with lexical items, bisyllabic functionals have
an final-syllable accent-pattern; accent in Unilang can be communicated by
any prosodic feature to make the accent syllable more salient, e.g. pitch,
length, stress, tone. Lexical items have their accent on the lexical
morpheme, and thus on the first syllable.

The most prominent class of functional morphemes are the "connectives"
(conjunctions), a class of words indicating the relationship between two
sentences, Boolean-Algebra-style:

associative i (and)            A = B and A = C
deassociative on ("period")       A = B.    A = C
hypothetical sje (if)             A = B if A = C
resultative de (thus, then)     A = B => A = C
intentive ge (in order to)    A is B so that A can be C
contrative ba (but)            A = B but A = C
rational konté (because)        A = B <= A = C
alternative alté (otherwise)        A = B, if not, then A = C
exclusive nemá (unless)           A = B unless A = C
relative u...u (who, which, etc)  A u = C u = B
                              (A, which is equal to C, is equal to B)
comparative sjon (just as, like)  A = B just as A = C

Relative clauses are embedded on both ends by /u/, which both initiates and
ends such sentences.

The connectives can be additionally reinforced by adding /a/ in front
(insert [j] before /a e i/, and [w] before /o u/, to resolve hiatus, or
alternatively [?]), for special emphasis; for increased emphasis, they can
be doubled (first syllable repeated, for bisyllables), e.g. /sjesjé/ "*if*,
and only if...", /konkonté/ "only *beCAUSE*..."

Finally, lexical morphemes are the usual meat of the lexicon, the basic
items. You may have noticed that the examples I've given above are almost
completely a priori. My lexicon would have an a priori core (though not
wholely - I borrow various words that fit the phonology, for fun), but
borrow words for all culture-specific items (e.g kimono, cricket), less
distributed animals and plants (elephant, lion, banana) and some
specialized jargon words (e.g. atom).

Sample lexical stems:

mist    "male"
maj     "female"
sol     "sun"
maw     "cat"
sjaw    "speak/speech"

Now I can even make some silly sample sentences:

   mista   sjawo.
[the] man  speaks.

      sjawe mawa    majen.
[the] talking cat  is-female.

    mawa     u sjawen u      majen.
[the] cat  who can-speak   is-female.

(Note that I haven't devised an orthography yet, so the above is merely a
phonemic transcription.)


Lots of stuff unsaid... leave it for another post, must stop writing now :)