CHAT: The love of inventing & conscripts (Was: Re: I'm new!)
|From:||H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, October 21, 2000, 4:38|
On Sat, Oct 21, 2000 at 11:33:37AM +0930, Adrian Morgan wrote:
> In Year Eight (approx 13 years) it occurred to me that language as
> presented at school was rather dull and that the only way to make it
> more interesting was to try and invent a language. I'd never heard of
> constructed languages (well, maybe Esperanto and a couple like that),
> but I've always been the sort of person who invents _anything_ so it
> was only a matter of time before I hit on language.[snip]
Cool, I'm the kinda guy who invents anything, too. I've this irrational,
almost lunatic craving to create things...
When I was a boy, I used to do what my father calls "dramatizing" -- it
looked like I was making weird sounds and strange gestures just for the
fun of it, but actually, I was acting out an entire movie made up in my
head. When I was bored during long car trips, I used to look at the
scrolling scenery and "see things" in the shapes that went by, which then
became things and characters in my "dramatizings". And this wasn't just ad
hoc -- after a while, the main characters started to recur and develop.
Later, I got into computer programming, and loved creating all kinds of
programs just for the fun of it.
Then, the music bug hit and I started composing (with no formal music
training -- all I had was my aunts' old dusty music books which had sat
idle for years on the shelves). I'm still composing and improvising today.
I also used to write stories, and I actually kept track of many different
storylines with their unique characters, etc.. Pity my language skills
aren't good enough to put them into publishable form. :-( My focus was
more in developing the fictional universe rather than writing an
interesting story -- I would spend hours dreaming up unlikely animals
(which, ultimately, are really mixed up versions of real animals),
writing about where they live, what kind of attitude-to-life they had,
My conlang bug struck very young -- probably no more than 12 years of age,
though at the time it was more of a conscript bug than a conlang bug (I
had no appreciation of grammar back then). It came through playing
adventure games that featured conscripts, and also through reading a book
about cryptography and spies -- after a while, I started making my own
conscripts, with the intention of developing a "secret code" that only I
My first attempt was rather weak -- basically taking existing English
letters, cutting them up a certain way and reassembling them another way.
Being quite simpleminded then, I proudly showed some "encrypted" text to
a classmate, who promptly cracked the code using simple frequency
analysis. Bummer. So, to make it harder to use frequency analysis, I got
the idea of adding single glyphs for common 2-letter sequences, and using
multiple symbols for the same letters (like the very common letter 'e').
This developed into an elaborate conscript which included symbols all
punctuation -- parentheses, exclamation marks, question marks, etc.. It
also had "blank symbols" -- symbols which are equivalent to blank space,
and which I could randomly scatter throughout my text to confuse any
frequency analysis. I also had symbols for numbers (base 16, but could
also be base 10 if a special base-10 marker was present), as well as
symbols for mathematical operations. (Yep, I really wanted to represent
*everything* I wrote in the conscript.) This conscript features some nasty
letters deliberately designed to look 99% identical to each other, but
represented totally different things.
Of course, this conscript had the weakness that it was letter-based, and
so could still be cracked with a little time and effort (and sufficient
ciphertext). This spurred me on to develop a new conscript that blurred
the distinction between letters. Each consonant letter was specially
designed to have a unique "characteristic shape". When it comes up against
another consonant, it loses most of its shape, retaining only the
characteristic shape as an affix which attached to the other consonant's
glyph. Vowels became diacritics which can be combined in the same way to
form diphthongs, etc.; and the placement of the vowel diacritics with
respect to the consonant clusters changed the order of letters in the word
(sometimes adding "implicit" letters, too). Word boundaries also vanished
into final-forms of consonants (every consonant had a final form used only
at the end of a word).
I'm not using this conscript very much now, but, if you've been attentive,
you'll notice that my conlang's current conscript borrows a lot of ideas
from it; except that I threw out most of the obscure stuff that were
deliberately designed to make it hard to read -- since the point of a
conlang's script is to record spoken language in an easy-to-understand
form, not to be obfuscated!