Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Alien Conlang

From:Lars Finsen <lars.finsen@...>
Date:Thursday, March 1, 2007, 2:01
Relevant to this thread perhaps is Chimpanzeese, which I'd like to
develop a little further, though mainly in order to understand better
how human languages could have developed from a very simple beginning.

Of the phonemes in the existing Chimpanzeese I think I can identify
Sampa R, h, o, e, i, and u easily, which I will render with the
letters r, h, o, e and i/j, u/w, the latter pairs of variants
selected according to whether the function syllabic or not. The last
phoneme, which I will render with an a, is a little harder to
identify. Is it a Sampa A, or is it a_G or a_t or even a`? I have no
idea what a /7/ sounds like, could it be that?

They have a small number of calls that can be interpreted as words:
a, au - enjoyment call = good
e - fright and flight call = help
ha - merriment call = ha, laughter
ho - greeting call, contact call = hello, sir, madam
hu - puzzlement call = what, thing
jo - child distress call = mama
ra - warning call = danger, warning, watch out
u - rage or distress call = no
wa - annoyment call = bad
we, re - female call after copulation = nice, sweet, delightful
wo, ho - submission call = yes, yes sir

Then there are two other, more complicated calls. The name call,
basically ho-wa, to signal the presence or approach of self, and the
food call, basically a-wo-ho-wa, to signal the finding of various
kinds of food.

In addition to the phonetic information all these calls can vary in
length, tone and number of repetitions, and all these variations have
semantic significance. In fact in the name and food calls the length,
tone and number of repetitions are the main difference between calls
of different meaning.

The repeated merriment call, ha-ha-ha, BTW suggests to me that the
idea we sometimes hear of humans being the only laughing animals is

In order to develop this into a very real alien conlang I should put
emphasis on tone, length and repetitions in the further stages. But
the stuff I have seen on Chimpanzeese is very unspecific about these
points, and for this experiment I'm concentrating on the phonetic

There are very few signs of any logical structure behind this stuff,
and presumably all or most of it is hard-wired as instinctive
programs. This in itself is very interesting, because we humans also
have such things, which some people believe influence the ways our
languages develop, and here we see it in a very naked form, without
all that ever-changing symbolic embellishment.

Now, there are some signs of logical structure, if few. If 'au' means
good and 'wa' means bad, it seems to imply that reversal gives an
opposite sense. The first sign of a Chimp grammar. Also it is
interesting that they build up names from the syllables ho-wa and
food calls from the same ones plus a-wo (assuming my interpretation
is right). Possibly the food calls were invented later than the name

Then, I will assume for the purpose of this experiment that the
choice of vowel has some significance. The _e_ is used only in calls
concerning interpersonal relations. The _o_ is used only in calls to
superiors and peers, and the _i_ is only used by children, so maybe
_o_ means 'big' and _i_ means 'small'. The _u_ is used in calls
concerning relations to non-personal things or events. So maybe _e_
has an personal and _u_ an non-personal sense, if not animate/
inanimate. In addition I'd like to give the _r_ an absolutive or
perfective sense, _h_ a primary sense and _w_ a secondary sense. The
_a_ could possibly have a dynamic sense. Then we can construct quite
a few new basic words:

he - I
we - you
re - other person
heo - we
weo - you(pl)
reo - they
hu - this
wu - that
ru - yonder
ha - fun
wa - bad
ra - danger, deadly
ah - boring
au - good
ar - living
rau - death
aru - life
awe - healthy
wae (or ewa) - sick
hau - toy
awu - tool
eu - person
ewo - people
owe - nobody
rewo - everyone
ho - hello, sir, madam
wo - yes
woho - yes sir, yes madam
ro - true
or - false
roi - maybe
i - little, baby
o - big
jo - mama (come to me)
oi - daddy (come to me)
hewe - you come to me
hi - one
wi - two
ri - all
ir - nothing
hia - bring one
ja - bring baby
roa - tell truth
ora - lie
orai - make up
wea - you come
awe - you go
aor - hear lie

More later. It's getting late.
(Or maybe you continue?)