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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, etc.. 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 could understand. 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! T