Nineteen-year-old language sketch unearthed!
|From:||Amanda Babcock Furrow <langs@...>|
|Date:||Friday, April 27, 2007, 3:59|
Archeologists digging in my spare room have at long last reunited a lost
notebook with its tattered first page, and I have rediscovered a language
I had previously remembered only from a single surviving utterance.
In 1988, a 14-year-old highschool sophomore, I ran across the idea of
polysynthetic, verb-based languages in the encyclopedia, if I recall
correctly. What I remember from that point on is that I put together
a few words, ran into difficulties in deriving various nouns from verbs
in ways that *I* felt were "natural" and "not cheating", and gave the
whole language up as impractical. What I did not remember is that I had
worked on it sporadically for a few months, had 20 verb roots, 5 pronouns,
4 tenses, 3 noun class endings and 3 adverbs, and that I had used it in
at least two letters to a friend! Also, I did not recall that my original
inspiration had been Apache, a fact I would still be in the dark about
had I not been reading old letters.
Awkwardly, however, I have the lexicon but not most of the utterances
that went with it (probably scattered among my Chem and Trig notes),
and one utterance found in my diary that has particles not found in
Anyway, presented for your enjoyment, here is "tanlenodelénadepéla",
or "what we speak".
Vowels appear to be a, e, i and o. An acute accent is used
on the first syllable of a root and the first syllable of
any suffix to the root, for disambiguity.
Consonant inventory is p b t d k l n z ', an amazing testament
to my restraint in building my first ever conlang with an actual
Phonotactics are also ridiculously minimal: all syllables are
[CV[n], very Japanese.
The verb paradigm
Extant examples order finite verbs thusly:
ta de bélale
3pS AOR be.beautiful
it is beautiful
tan le ze láne déki
3pS.ACC 1p.S FUT read later
it I will read later
The noun paradigm
The noun is ordered as follows:
Nouns referring to humans take a GENDER prefix, o- for male and e- for
Nouns may be the subject or the object of the verb phrase from which they
are built. They may have just a SUBJ pronoun, just an OBJ pronoun, both,
or (apparently) neither, if the lexicon entry for "detélepéla", n. love,
is to be believed.
All surviving nouns in the lexicon and extant utterances use the aorist
"de" for their TAM particle. If I were actively developing the language
now, I would permit other TAM particles here, and create the appropriate
The V is the verb root that forms the nucleus of the noun. One
extant example adds a second "TAM.V" after the first one, with an
implicit "and". I am not sure I approve of this.
The CLASS suffix is one of: zána, a singular person or object; zéta,
plural persons or objects; or péla, a mass noun. If I were actively
developing the language, I would add a separate class of abstract
nouns, reserving péla for words like tadezólepéla, water, and using
the abstract class for words like "love", above.
Nouns having the ACCUSATIVE suffix, in a departure from normal head-marking
practice, agree with the accusative pronoun in the clause's main verb.
ta de zóle péla
3pS AOR flow mass
tan de kíne de láne zána n
3pS.ACC AOR write AOR read sing ACC
written and read thing (accusative)
The following lexical entries are problematic:
There are no extant utterances using the above three prepositions, and
since the paradigms were never laid out except in examples, the position
of these prefixes in (presumably) the noun complex is unclear. If I
had to guess, I'd imagine they came in first (outermost) place.
-'i one (?)
It is not clear what this suffix was for, or indeed, whether it really
meant "one". All definitions in the lexicon were recorded in Pittman
shorthand, which I am no longer totally clear on, and this particle is
not used in any extant example, so I have no idea what I meant it for.
dona- "have changed, have done in the meantime"
This appears to be an expanded form of do- "past tense", and I assume
I meant it to reflect the English present perfect tense. If I had it
to do over again I would stay far away from relexing the English tense
-ni not glossed, probably means "if" or "that"
This is found only as a suffix to a verb in an untranslated utterance,
and appears to nominalize or subordinate the verb, as it is followed
by a finite main verb in the example.
A word about my methods back then is probably in order here. In my
early conlanging, I was a strict JIT conlanger: coin no word (or particle)
before its use! (Amusingly, this allows me to reconstruct with some
confidence some of the missing utterances, just by looking at what order
I added roots and particles to the list.) During the time that I was
adding to this lexicon, I found a use for first person singular, third
persons plural and singular, and second persons plural and singular.
No first person plural is recorded. (In coining the name of the language
tonight, I shoved first and second persons singular in there as an
impromptu inclusive "we" to cover this defect.)
Pronouns as we have them:
2nd no po
3rd ta ki
Pronouns take the accusative suffix "n" to become object pronouns.
Tense, Aspect and Mood
The following TAM particles are recorded:
de- aorist (habitual or characteristic action)
pi- present continuous
do- past tense
dona- present perfect
'o- obligative mood, unless I misread the shorthand for "should"
li- abilitative mood (is this the right term for "can"?)
ze- future tense
bo- or debo- not glossed; might mean "would"
Clearly, had I continued I would have populated this space with every
TAM combination known to English (and no others :)
Three adverbs are listed: déni "much", 'íki "not", and déki "later".
The meat of the lexicon. The following verb roots are attested:
zóle to flow
bélale to be beautiful
télile to sparkle on something
lóbe to freeze? (writing unclear)
líle to make a babbling sound, as a brook
kíne to write
lénade to speak
tóbe to harrass, bully
kánite to hate
téle to love
kónade to touch
láde to ramble on (speaking)
lótene to come
lípe to look
péline to grow
bílake to miss (as in miss someone)
pílibe "a bad word" (I needed a rude verb, didn't care what it meant)
láne to read
délole to see
lóne to wait
kálete to like? (not glossed)
Extant examples of nouns derived from verb roots:
Otadelénadezána "Speaker" (a name)
Etadekínezána "Writer" (my name)
nontadetélezána your friend (literally, "one who loves you")
Etandebílakezána "She who is missed" (a name)
tandekínedelánezána a letter
And that's it. A lot more than I ever realized I had, a lot less than
would be needed to speak it. No interrogative mood, no comparatives,
no possession or adjectives (the latter not strictly necessary, but
usually at least a small closed class exists!), no numbers. But at
last I have it typed in!