non-phonetic language (was: Re: hello)
|From:||Heather Fleming <hfleming@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, September 17, 2003, 15:36|
> > The unfortunate thing about Solayan is that there's no way to
> > represent it other than in translation, lacking a written form or a
> > means of transcription. Though I guess one could do something with
> > pitches in Hertz or something, so a word made up of, say, four
> > pitches would look like [467-80.5-5832-4370]. But I think that would
> > even top that "featural code" orthography in terms of sheer ugliness.
> > :)
> > Heather
> Surely there must be some way to devise a written form alphabet -
> whether in a variant of musical notation, showing the stacked pitches,
> or some other way of creating characters to indicate the various
> combinations of pitches. How many distinct pitch contrasts are there?
> It does sound like a tough task, though.
I've had two suggestions of a "musical notation" type system. I suppose in theory
it could work, but it would be very awkward to use, as while I'm not sure
exactly what their minimum threshold for distinguishing pitches is (the species
being my friend's, although I'm helping work out the conlang), but they go
considerably beyond tones, semi-tones, and even quarter-tones. I think an
eighth of a tone is probably enough to make a distinction. Plus, the vocal
range is quite wide, probably at least four to five octaves. When you consider
that most of those individual pitches have semantic or function content
(barring a certain range used for echolocation), it gets pretty unwieldy! It
might have possibilities though.
Within the context of the fiction, there *is* in theory a written form. It is a
picto- or ideogram based system devised on a whim by a human scholar who is
psychically linked to a member of the species. Nobody actually uses it though.
I don't think there would be a context where the language would need to be
written down. However, we're working on developing its structure in a certain
amount of detail. So we'd have "gloss/translation" where others would have
"original/gloss/translation." It makes for an interesting challenge - to come
up with a language that is nearly impossible for humans to understand and
reproduce and whose structure is quite alien (just think of the possibilities
inherent to being able to make more than one sound at a time!), but still
plausible as a language.
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