Sketch of a budding new conlang
|From:||A. Lee Iss <feral_primate@...>|
|Date:||Friday, June 11, 2004, 10:03|
Since I've had so much free time lately, I've begun to hammer out a brief outline of
what I hope will someday be my first developed conlang. What I have formed is
to my knowledge nothing typologically extreme, nor is it boringly like my
It's forseen main purposes will be to provide a private language that I can use to
record my thoughts and to provide a playing field for me to tinker with
linguistic ideas that pique my interest. It is intended to be naturalistic in
the sense that it wouldn't be implausible as an actual human language, but
luckily I have some knowledge of universals and some (admittedly limited)
experience in languages unlike English. The language doesn't have a connected
conculture per se, but since no language is independent of culture I've vaguely
and jokingly thought of this language as being spoken by some remote nomadic
hunter-gatherer tribes. Who knows, that idea may go somewhere.
Nothing out of the ordinary here. I didn't include nasalised clicks, glottalized
linguolabial trills or anything fancy like that. There are only 12 consonant
phonemes and 5 vowel phonemes. The consonant system is influenced by Cree, with
more restrictions on clusters and the glottal stop removed as a phoneme,
although it does occur on a phonological level at the beginnings of words that
begin with vowels (optionally) as well as between vowels in hiatus
Stops: p t k
Fricatives: s S h
Nasals: m n
Approximants: w j
Vowels: i e a o u
Syllable structure is (C)V(C), where C can be any consonant and V any vowel. This
produces a total of 795 possible syllables, excluding those the phonotactics
disallow (see below), which is almost five times Hawaiian's 162, so for a
simple phonology it is at least plausible. Primary stress invariably falls on
the penultimate syllable, unless the final syllable has a coda consonant, in
which case stress falls on the final syllable. Secondary stress is on alternate
syllables beginning from the primary stress, so that no two syllables of any
stress are adjacent in a single word.
/n/ in syllable-final position regularly becomes [N] except before the phonemes
/t/, /tS/, /s/, /n/ and /j/. In the case of /j/ the /nj/ cluster is combined as
[J]. The consonant cluster /tStS/ is not permitted, being simplified to /StS/.
The approximant /w/ cannot occur in the same syllable as the vowel /u/, and
likewise /j/ cannot occur in the same syllable as /i/. However, they can be
adjacent across syllable boundaries, so words like /'luwa/ and /tSi'joh/ are
In my transcription, I use orthographic "c", "x" and "y" for the phonemes /tS/,
/S/ and /j/ respectively. I would eventually like to create a syllabary for
this language, perhaps something modeled on the Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics.
Morphology & Syntax:
The basic syntax of this so far unnamed language is SOV. OSV is possible for
reasons of emphasis, but the verb must always remain in final position, and can
only be followed by certain particles, such as the negation particle and the
question particle, although I may eventually choose to incorporate these into
the verb as suffixes. As a general rule, modifiers consistently precede their
Morphologically, it makes use of much agglutination, like Quechua or Turkish. Verbs take
prefixes for pronomial direct objects, similar to the French prefixes (le lui
donner /l@lHidOn'e/ "to give it to him/her").
Verbs can also take many suffixes, following a specific hierarchy, beginning with an
optional aspect suffix, a tense suffix (which is absent in the present), and
finally a mandatory suffix that agrees with the subject in person and number.
All nouns are in one of seven cases. The nominative roughly corresponds the
subject, the accusative to the direct object, and the dative to the indirect
object. The locative roughly expresses the idea of "at", "in" or "on"
something, the precise physical relationship of which can be further defined by
certain postpositions which govern the locative case. The allative case
expresses the idea of "to" the noun in question. There is also a combined
ablative/genitive case which can express possession, physical source and vaguer
relationships which might be best approximated by the English words "of" and
"from". Finally, there is a combined comitative/instrumental case, which often
translates to English "with", "by means of" or even the conjunction "and" in
some instances. All these cases are expressed by suffixes which follow the
plural suffix if there is any.
Multiple roots may be combined in one word to create compound forms, as one would
expect in a heavily agglutinating language.
Adjectives as an independent category do not exist, their function being carried out by
stative verbs. A sentence can be converted into a relative phrase by adding a
participlizing (?) suffix to the verb and then placing the relative phrase
before the noun.
So I've gotten as far as creating some basic suffixes but have not begun the
daunting task of lexicon creation, so meaningful example sentences are not yet
possible**. Which brings me to the question: how do I build up a basic stock of
words without resorting to computer programs or borrowing?
I've got a lot of the structure decided, but I'm still unsure of some things. Does
this outline sound like a naturalistic language or something that has the
potential to develop into a naturalistic language? Am I violating some
universal I haven't yet heard of somewhere? I think I will need to add a
certain amount of irregularity to the system, but how do I begin to distribute
it throughout the grammar?
Thanks in advance for any feedback.
** I can, however, created sample nonsense sentences using the current affixes.
Wep-pet no ulxek-sin mihwa-yu-ta ney-kopel-ut. [wep'pet no ulSek'siN
,mihwa'juta nej,kope'lut] WEP-loc. NO UTCEK-gen. MIHWA-pl.-acc.
3rd_person_plural_object-KOPEL-1st_person_singular_subject. Since the
postposition "no" means "in", this means "I kopel the mihwas of the ulxek in
-- Liwaytuka /,liwaj'tuka/
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