Re: Word Construction for a New Conlang
|From:||Stefan Hensel <mustafa@...>|
|Date:||Sunday, July 11, 1999, 12:14|
It didn't seem to work in the first attempt, so I'm mailing this once again:
>My .02 Deutschmark:
>*** pls use a font like Courier to read this ***
>>I'm finding myself in a state of throwing away all the beginnings of
>>conlangs I've started and wanting to start over again. And I'm just
>>not sure how to start, so I turn to you (pl) for help...
>>It's the phenomenon of making words and making phonologies. Think
>>back, if you can, to when you first started on your conlangs (or first
>>started on a new project)... How did you go about making a phonology
>>and then making words?
>>Let's assume for the moment that the thing to do is (1) settle on a
>>phonology and phonotactics and (2) make words according to that
>That's the way we (a bunch of language-inventers with weekly meeting)
>normally do ... of course, often we start with some words that sound "cool"
>or "strange", but just to find out which sounds are to be found in the
>language to invent, and then build a system around it.
>Let's assume a quite simple language:
> Vowels: i u Cover Symbol:
> a V 'latin (or italian) sound values
> Diphthongs: ai au V(D)
> Consonants: p t k P
> f th kh F 'th like in "thin", kh like in "loch"
> s sh S 'sh like in "shine"
> m n N
> r l L 'r trilled
> y Y 'the y of
>Of course, you could handle stressed/unstressed syllables different,
>especially as for vowels (e. g. long vowels in stressed syllables, reduced
>vowels in unstressed etc.)
>Now the first (and quite useful) thing to invent is the syllable structure:
>Maximum number of consonants and vowels in the syllable. E. g.
> (C)(C)V(C) - a quite common scheme
>- means that each syllable consists of at least one vowel (or diphthong);
>the onset (leading consonants) can range from 0 to 2 consonants, and at the
>end of the syllable there is none, or only one cons.
>If you're going to make phonotactics very elaborated, you could invent
>different syllable structures for the first, the last, the
>stressed/unstressed, high/low pitch syllables and so on. (For example, if
>you like "italian" combinations like "str-" but want to avoid
>four-consonant-clusters in the middle, the first syllable could have asyll.
>structure like (C)(C)(C)V(C).)
>At this point, syllables like "thtif" or "yfar" are still possible, so you
>could go on excluding the onset combinations you don't want - now the Cover
>Symbols are getting useful. Let's allow the following:
> PS PL - means that each of "p, t, k" (P group)
> can combine with any of the F, S or L groups
> FS FL
> SL SN - by the way, you could restrict that to "shL shN" - German,
> for instance, allows only "sh" in front
> of another consonant at the beginning
>and of course every single consonant (well, not that "of course" - some of
>them could be restricted to the coda, or to the absolute beginning of the
>Then, the same for syllable ending ("coda") - let's assume here: all
>consonants except "y" are allowed.
>Now we got syllables like "a", "shu", "rat", "shmuk", "ith", "yikh"
>Next, think about what's going to happen at the syllable boundary (we like
>to call this "Grenzstreitigkeiten", but this only works in German): Now
>there are up to three consonants and possible vowel/diphthong combinations.
>(If you use a spreadsheet progam that can handle text, the concatenate
>function is quite useful if things are getting tricky.) Here, the "deep
>structure" vs. "surface structure" system comes handy, so we assume that in
>deep structure, all combinations are possible, but get changed to surface
>structure according to additional rules (checking every possible pair), for
> C1 C2 C3 > C1 C3, means that from each three-consonant-cluster, the
>middle one is omitted (allegedly, a quite brute rule)
> PF: P is deleted, and F gets the articulatory place of P (so "*kaptha"
>becomes "kafa", possibly "*kaptha" > "*kap-fa" > "kafa")
> PN: P is deleted ("*itna" > "ina") - maybe in PF and PN combinations,the
>resulting cons. could become geminated, so "kaffa" and "inna"?
> FP: f becomes u (assuming that f was formerly w that changed with u) -
>this may result in strange di- and triphthongs, see below -; th and kh
>become voiced (only a phonetic, not a phonemic shift)
> FS, FL: F vanishes ("*tithshu" > "tishu")
> SF: S deleted ("*asfir" > "affir" or "afir")
> SL: metathesis ("*kusru" > "kursu")
> NP, NF, NS: N gets homorganic (like F in FP): "*shimta" > "shinta",
>"*trinfukh" > "trimfukh")
> NL: metathesis ("*anlu" > "alnu")
> FF, SS, NN, LL: first consonant deleted, second one geminated("*khufkhi"
>> "khukkhi") - kkh meaning long kh
> other consonant combinations: no restrictions
> vowel combinations:
> two equal vowels merge into one
> two-vowel-combinations become diphthongs, if possible (ai, au)
> if not (iu, ui), a "y" is inserted
> DV: aiu (by *ai-f-P, see above) becomes ayu (so "*kaifta" > "*kaiuta" >
> aia becomes aya
> aui, aua become afi and afa (well, f could have a voiced allophone v
> VD: iau, iai: a "y" is inserted
> uau, uai: a (voiced) "f" is inserted
> DD: aiau, aiai > ayau and ayai
> auau, auai > afau and afai
>hmmm ... you see that's quite a lot of work, but I confess this set ofrules
>has got rather complex - one could do with less;)
>Now if you want an isolating language, that's it ... but the fun startswhen
>you create a conlang with agglutination, flection or inflection: then the
>phonotactic rules give the new language a quite "natural" (i. e. irregular)
>>Not being a professional linguist, I'm not sure I've ever seen a
>>complete description of the phonotactics of a natlang, so I'm not sure
>>how I would go about describing such a beast. I don't explicitly know
>>the phonotactics of any of the few natlangs I've studied, nor of my
>>native language. As for phonologies, I've seen phoneme inventories
>>but I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like a complete analysis of
>>the phonology of a natlang (allophones and all).
>Neither did I ... if anyone has got a really complete phonotactics, please
>give me a hint.
>>Given a "sound" that I might want a language to have, when I try,
>>clumsily, to analyze that sound and make a formula for creating it, I
>>usually don't end up getting anywhere near it. And when I try to make
>>a system from scratch, not following a vision but just making up some
>>rules and seeing where they lead, I don't often get anywhere I want to
>>I've tried using Jeffrey Henning's _Langmaker_ and Christopher
>>Pound's _werd_ and you can do some cool stuff with them, but again, I
>>suffer from an inability to come up with formulas for word creation
>>that produce quite the sets of words I want.
>Langmake is really great at the point of inventing a vocabulary. From
>version 1.09 on, you can attribute sounds a certain probability, thus
>controlling the entire sound of your language. But, it has its flaws whenit
>comes to sound changes (e. g. in diachronics). I must be fair, though:
>Together with a friend, I once tried something similiar in VB for _onlyone_
>language ("Babaluba", a CV-only conlang), so i got a slight idea whatamount
>of work it is to code.
>Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat.
>Kommt Unzeit, kommt Unrat.