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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 >>pattern. > >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 >"yard" > >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 a
>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 >word ...) > >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 >example: > > 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,
>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
>> "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" > >"kayuta") > aia becomes aya > aui, aua become afi and afa (well, f could have a voiced allophone v >here) > 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 of
>has got rather complex - one could do with less;) > >Now if you want an isolating language, that's it ... but the fun starts
>you create a conlang with agglutination, flection or inflection: then the >phonotactic rules give the new language a quite "natural" (i. e. irregular) >flavor. > >>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 >>be. >> >>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 when
>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 _only
>language ("Babaluba", a CV-only conlang), so i got a slight idea what
>of work it is to code. > >Regards, > >Aestiipaen > >--------------------------------------------- >Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat. >Kommt Unzeit, kommt Unrat. > >