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Re: Basic vocabulary when starting a conlang

From:Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Date:Saturday, August 31, 2002, 17:48
On 31 Aug 02, at 15:23, Roberto Suarez Soto wrote:

> What do you think is the basic vocabulary to start a conlang? > > I was thinking that there are a few verbs that, because of its > everyday use or significance, should be the first to be "created": to > be, to have, to live, to die, to go, to come.
Careful there. Some of those high-frequency verbs are used in special ways in English and related languages which you may or may not wish to duplicate. For example, there are a number of languages which need no copula (so "I doctor" means "I *am* a doctor"), so "to be" is not necessarily universal. Also, adjectives need not necessarily be attached to a noun by a verb ("The tree *is* green"); they could be verbs themselves (as in Japanese), or one could use a case construction as in Ebisedian. (I imagine that languages which have no noun copula do the same thing with adjectives; certainly Russian does -- "the tree green".) Also "to have" -- the meaning as a full verb is possession, which some languages render by constructions such as "X is on me" or "X is to me" rather than "I have X". And remember that "have" is also used a lot as an auxiliary verb; you may or may not wish to duplicate that feature. (Depends a bit on how close to a natlang -- specifically, a Eurolang -- you want your language to be.) Similarly with "to do", which is also a common auxiliary verb in English, as are "to get" and "to make" (in the causative sense). This thread which happened recently on sci.lang may be interesting in this context: (should be all on one line) Someone asked for translations into Hebrew of 10 common English verbs, and there was a little discussion on why some of them do not have an equivalent.
> And of course, the basic personal pronouns: I, you, he/she/it, we, you, > they.
Again, you can decide what distinctions to make. Will you distinguish between formal and informal pronouns for second (and possibly third) person? Will there be a formal 2pl pronoun? Will you distinguish between "he" and "she"? What about "they" -- will there be one pronoun for, one for, and one for mixed? Or all in one? Or just masc. and fem., with one of them being used for mixed groups? If your nouns have grammatical gender, will there be one third person pronoun for each gender? Will gender look like sex (i.e. masculine, feminine, and possibly neuter) or will it have more categories? If nouns have gender, will the pronoun agree with the grammatical gender of the noun or with the sex? (For example, would objects always be "it" and people receive the pronoun appropriate to their sex? For example, in German, girls are "it" because the word "Mädchen" has the diminutive suffix -chen which always makes a noun neuter.) Basically, beware of just creating an Angloclone or a Euroclone -- unless, of course, that is your intent! :) Cheers, Philip -- Philip Newton <Philip.Newton@...>


H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Roberto Suarez Soto <ask4it@...>
Arthaey Angosii <arthaey@...>
Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>