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Re: Making your language sound nice

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Saturday, June 14, 2008, 20:25
Michael Martin wrote:
> Hello, > I am a very amateur conlanger. I have been fiddling with making a > language for a few years now. I've lurked on this list and have read some > conlang related websites. I've been working on it on and off (mostly off). I > was doing pretty well developing my language, but then something happened > that has me kind of stumped. I've been able to come up with root words that > I like but sometimes when I modify these words using the grammar I developed > I end up with words that are hard to pronounce or even words that sound > terrible to my ears. It may be easier to explain by example. > > The word chalo (pronounced /tSAlOU/) is the nominative form of the > word meaning "child." The accusative form is chala /tSAlA/. So far, so good. > Now, I had this idea that other cases would be formed by adding a consonant > to the end of the word, so that it is possible to have a nominative and > accusative form of each of the other cases. For example, with the locative > suffix -l you can have a nominative-locative, -ol, and an > accusative-locative, -al. So, you can have the word, chalal /tSAlAl/ which > doesn't sound too bad, but the word chalol /tSAlOUl/ sounds kind of ugly to > me. > > So what is the solution when your own grammar rules yield words that > sound terrible to you? Do you change the grammar? Change the suffix? Create > an irregular word? Or do I just need to practice harder at pronouncing my > own language? > > Are there sound harmony rules in languages that I should learn > about? I've read people talking about vowel harmony. > > It seems like no matter what I try I always end up with some > root-suffix combinations that sound really awful to me. Some advice would be > appreciated. > > Thanks.
I've run across this problem before, most recently while translating some sentences from a book called _Graded Sentences for Analysis_ (by Mary B. Rossman and Mary W. Mills, 1922) that someone had posted here. It starts out with simple sentences like "Birds sing", "Children play", "Dogs bark" and so on. Sentence no. 11 was "Yellow daffodils nodded gaily", which I translated as: Likugu min venvi fanihřiri kiřvi. Literally, "yellow daffodils shook (or vibrated) while being happy". I'm not familiar with how daffodils move, so that's about the best I could do for that translation. But I had trouble pronouncing that "fanihřiri", which would require the tongue to curl back for that "ř" (a retroflex flap), and then rapidly get into position for the trilled "r". Maybe that's a case where I should have just practiced the pronunciation. :-) But instead I decided to make an exception: the plural of "fanihři" was an irregular "faniëri". Since then, I've decided to change the word "fanihři" to "fanihr", which has a regular plural, and with all the sound changes that Minza has gone through, ended up as "xanír" in the current version of Minza (one of the many branches of Minza merged /f/ with /x/, and the word for "daffodil" in the current unified version of Minza must have come from that branch). So there's two different solutions for the same problem. Another solution would be to change the affix, which is what Jarda does, e.g. ghyuben gjundi kjitraya "the moth was caught by the bat". The suffix -ra is changed to -ya when attached to the word "kjitra", an example of dissimilation.


Herman Miller <hmiller@...>