First draft/sketch: The Blossoming Language
|From:||Amanda Babcock <langs@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, July 24, 2003, 3:30|
I was struck by the conlang bug, and for once didn't have any homework
to take precedence over it, so I was finally able to write one of my
inspirations down. I'd appreciate comments.
This is a very first draft here, and addresses grammar only; I haven't
got phonology or vocabulary yet. Also, the terminology is somewhat uneven
and can't seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be in English or
in their own translated terms. The grammar is impelled by its two
characteristic ideas: that of a great number of genders among which every
word in the language is distributed, and that of reciprocal gender marking
between every word and its parent and child words.
Let me know anything that could be expressed more clearly, or where I'm
using terminology wrong!
The Blossoming Language
A Language spoken by Aliens
In the Blossoming Language, every word is assigned both a part of speech
and a gender. The genders are non-sex-based, and could equally well be
called "word classes", although the native speakers call them Houses or
There are a great number of genders, enough so that there are rarely two
words in a sentence with the same gender (this is very helpful in
disambiguating the relations among the words). Distribution of the words
among the genders does not in any way depend on their part of speech.
Words cannot belong to multiple parts of speech or to multiple genders.
Word order in a sentence is essentially free, because each word marks the
gender of both the word that dominates it (its parent) and the word that
it dominates (its child). The gender of the child is represented by an
infix in the center of the word (natives call it the Seed), and that of
the parent by a circumfix (called the Petals). Every gender grouping has
its characteristic Seed and Petal morphemes, although a few morphemes have
collapsed due to sound changes.
Where petal/seed references are ambiguous thanks to multiple words of
the referenced gender within the sentence, a petal refers to the nearest
preceding word of the appropriate gender and a seed to the nearest following
one. There are no word order restrictions where references are unambiguous;
if there is no need to disambiguate, a word can precede or follow the word
to which its petal refers, and likewise the word to which its seed refers.
References which could otherwise be considered ambiguous can be considered
unambiguous if all conflicting referents are closely disambiguated by word
In short sentences, disambiguation can also function by the other half of
the Petal/Seed pair that makes up the link between two words, unless there
are multiple Petal/Seed pairs where both the child words of each pair and
the parent words of each pair share genders.
The sentence exists on multiple levels. On the surface level, its word
order is nearly free. On the Blossoming level, a single chain of words
can be constructed, starting from the Petal-free word in the sentence, and
following the chain of blossomings through Seed after Seed until the
sentence ends with a word with no Seed. A few function words can work
within this chain to set up a more hierarchical underlying structure below
the Blossoming level (conjunctions, dependent clause clitics, conditionals).
The complexity of the system is preserved by an active culture of jokes,
poetry and wordplay that relishes the ability to spin out a sentence that
is missing one crucial link until the very last word; or to present
multiple words of the appropriate gender to be parent to an earlier word,
only to have them repeatedly parent the very next word, until finally the
true parent is reached. Sometimes the effect is that of a practical joke,
and other times of poetry.
Often relatively meaningless words will be thrown in to dominate or be
dominated by some noun or verb which is in danger of being ambiguous.
These words may or may not derive a new PoS, but they make no significant
semantic change; they just bring a more convenient gender into the
picture. They may be words like "this" or "do".
There is no inflection or derivation of words apart from the Petal and
Seed affixes. Qualities commonly represented by inflection or derivation
in other languages, such as number, tense, voice, and a change in part of
speech, occur in the Blossoming Language as separate words with their own
gender and part of speech. Parts of speech, apart from nouns and verbs,
are typically distinguished by what other parts of speech they can
dominate or be dominated by, and by which parts of speech they present
themselves as to their parents (dominators) and children. For example, a
nominalizing parent word would dominate verbs and be dominated by things
that dominate nouns; a nominalizing child word would be dominated by verbs
and dominate things that nouns can dominate.
A noun dominated by another noun has adjectival meaning; the two nouns
create, in effect, a compound noun. Another PoS, the noun-noun conjunction,
takes nouns as both parent and child and relates them, with such meanings
as "and", "without", or "of".
A verb dominating a verb is somewhat adverbial in meaning. An utterance
which mapped out on the Blossoming level (dominators followed by dominated)
to "John reach throw ball" would mean "John hit something with the ball",
whereas "John throw reach target" would mean "John threw and hit the target
with something". This structure allows auxiliary verbs to be used for
tense, mood, and aspect.
A noun dominated by a verb is its object. A noun dominating a verb is its
subject. A consequence of the linear Blossoming-level structure is that
there can only be one object per clause; "John threw the ball to Mary" is
not an option, only "John throw reach Mary" or "John reach throw ball".
Nouns exist which can be used to refer back to the doer of the action
under discussion, its result, the action itself etc. Verbs exist which
can be used to refer back to the action under discussion ("do that").
Whatever the phonology ends up being, it needs to be extensive enough
to support a large number of single-syllable Seed infixes.