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Re: Conlanging with constraints

From:Ollock Ackeop <ollock@...>
Date:Sunday, February 17, 2008, 5:37
I posted a reply on the ZBB already, but there's not much activity in that
thread, and I know a lot of people here don't go there often, so I'm going
to repost it to this list.

Any time you conlang you have some constraints. I think my own experience is
mainly experienced with constraints I put on my xenolangs based upon the
actual physical morphology of the speakers. For example, Yeltax [jEltax]
contains no labials or nasals because the Xala [xala] 1) have no lips (they
have beaks) and 2) their nasal passages don't resonate well (something I
kinda added later on). Similarly, &#330;ãna [Na~n@] has no labials because the
&#330;ãna don't have very pliable lips.

However, the same sort of physiological constraints can also open up new
avenues. For example, back with Yeltax, because I was basing their vocal
tract on that of birds, I decided to give them a syrinx -- which allows them
to produce two tones simultaneously. As a result Yeltax Êdag Jed [...
E_(24).zag.dZez] (the standard language) and certain regional dialects on
which Yeltax Êdag is based contain a "double-tone" distinction (marked by a
circumflex over the vowel (and by a special tone diacritic when I transcribe
it, as you see above).

I hope eventually to get to another language that I'm giving both
constraints and freedoms based on physiology -- Kesatan Sign Language.
Though I haven't developed it yet due to lack of confidence in my knowledge
of sign languages, I already have a few constraints:

1) Kesatan hearing and vocalization systems are not developed well enough to
develop a spoken language. (therefore, all Kesatan languages are signed)

2) While they are bipedal (or maybe semi-bipedal), Kesatan "hands" have
thick webbing and are not nearly as nimble as human hands -- meaning they
have much fewer handshapes available.

But (at least) one freedom I wouldn't have with a human languages: Kesatans
can change the color of their skin at will (which could be used to
compensate for the lack of hand-shape distinctions).