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New language under development

From:Julia "Schnecki" Simon <helicula@...>
Date:Friday, May 27, 2005, 13:46

This week I went to a one-day course which was about 50%
interesting/relevant to my work and 50% boring; and I've been involved
in a project that required about 10 minutes of enthusiastic scripting
and several days of watching the script process a ton of files and
occasionally pressing the right key... so I've had lots of time to
think and doodle.

Long story short: I've started working on a new conlang, and this one
looks like it could actually go somewhere. :-) (All my other, er,
embryonal conlang projects consist of a phoneme system *or* some
syntax patterns *or* some morphology *or* whatever; this one has a
phoneme system, some assimilation phenomena, and what I hope to be a
solid base for a morphology. Yay. I figure the syntax will come along

Since I've had Nahuatl stuck in my head for a week, this as of yet
unnamed conlang started out as a Nahuatl clone, and then I made some
desperate moves to transform it into something different and original.

I hope I'll find some time on the weekend to put my scribbles and
notes into some kind of order... here are just a few random points:

- phonetics: six vowel phonemes (/i/, /E/, /@/, /a/, /O/, /u/) and
oodles of consonants. My original phoneme system had an amount of
consonants that any Pacific-Northwestern (is that a word?) language
would be proud of; now I'm trying to get that amount to below 30 or
so, possibly lower. I'll probably spend at least part of the weekend
playing with assimilation and dissimilation phenomena, in order to
reclassify some of those consonant phonemes as allophones of something

In any case, I'm planning to stick to my original four main places of
articulation (bilabial, postdental/alveolar, palatal, velar/uvular). I
probably won't have either /h/ or /?/ at all... well, maybe as
allophones of something, but nothing more.

I haven't decided yet whether or not to have phonemic length. But even
if I can't make up my mind now, I guess it's something that will come
to me once I get around to making up some actual morphemes, and
morphophonemics starts to happen... ;-)

I'm sure, though, that I won't have phonemic tone. Or ablaut or vowel
harmony, for that matter.

I've also come up with a number of assimilation rules for vowels.
Basically, when a high vowel (/i/, /u/) and a non-homorganic non-high
vowel meet, the place of articulation of the non-high vowel moves
closer to that of the high vowel (e.g. /a/+/i/ -> [Ei];
/i/+/O/ -> [i@]). I hope to be able to find some simple rules to
describe this; I'd hate to have to list all possible vowel pairings
separately... -- Also, interesting things will happen to consonants
adjacent to an assimilated vowel... I hope. ;-)

- morphology: Reading up on Nahuatl was what triggered this explosion
of linguistic creativity in my mind; so, as I mentioned, I started out
with the idea to have a morphology similar to that of Nahuatl, but not
too much so. I eventually decided to keep some of the good stuff
(person agreement all over the place; and of course that old favorite,
noun incorporation) and change the rest.

The first, radical step away from having a Nahuatl clone was the
decision to use mostly suffixes instead of mostly prefixes like in
Nahuatl. ;-)

I also added the concept of noun classes (I'm thinking of something
Bantu-ish -- or rather, something along the lines of animate-male,
animate-female, plus a number of nonanimate classes like those found
in Bantu languages). This means that, like in Bantu languages, some of
the things we achieve in "standard average European" languages with
derivational morphemes will happen by inflecting a noun stem with
affixes from a noun class that's not its "own, natural" one. (Of
course, in a language that does this extensively, most nouns probably
wouldn't have their "own, natural" class. But you get the idea.) And I
hope I'll end up with a system that allows the forming of (at least
some) deverbal nouns by simply adding an appropriate noun class's
inflectional affixes to a verb stem. ("Writer" would be the verb stem
"write" with affixes from one of the animate classes; "book", "pen",
"literature" etc. would be the same stem with various appropriate
nonanimate class affixes.)

I have some doodles about number and case categories, but that's all
still very sketchy. I mean, even sketchier than the rest. ;-)

I do have some ideas on person categories -- basically, besides the
usual 1st and 2nd persons, 3rd-person agreement will probably pretty
much boil down to noun class agreement, and 3rd-person pronouns will
bear a suspicious resemblance to demonstratives.

But so far I have no thoughts whatsoever on verb morphology (tense and
such), or on syntax, and I don't have a single morpheme or lexeme
either (not much sense in making up a lexicon before one has a proper
phoneme system). And I haven't decided on lots of other things... But
then again, at least there are scripts to generate as many morphemes
and lexemes as I need... which gives me more time for the other things
that *can't* be generated by scripts. :-)

Oh well. After the weekend I hope to have more...

			Julia 8-)

   Julia Simon (Schnecki) -- Sprachen-Freak vom Dienst
_@"  schnecki AT iki DOT fi / helicula AT gmail DOT com  "@_
si hortum in bybliotheca habes, deerit nihil
                                        (M. Tullius Cicero)


Patrick Littell <puchitao@...>