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Re: Degree in Ithkuil vs. S7

From:John Quijada <jq_ithkuil@...>
Date:Friday, March 26, 2004, 18:05
Henrik Theiling wrote:

>Because of the current discussion, I read the Ithkuil pages about >degree, because I wanted to compare the system to that of S7. And -- >S7 has more degrees! How come any language has *more* distinctions >than Ithkuil?? :-)))
I guess it all depends on just how fine a gradation scheme you want to delineate. In designing Ithkuil there were two interrelated factors involved: balancing the fineness of gradation with the morpho-phonological means available to display it. Since Ithkuil's morpho- phonological "compression" pardigm (what might be called the "Speedtalk" design principle) doesn't allow any morpheme to be greater than a single consonant (or consonant conjunct), a single vowel (or vowel conjunct), or a combination of both vowel (conjunct) + consonant (conjunct), the number of available syllables to assign to the affixual gradation scheme was limited. There are just enough V+C (or C+V) affixes to provide 9 degrees for approximately 1300 affixes. There's no way I could have stretched this to 21 degrees as for S7 while maintaining a C+V or V+C structure. (One way I might've done it was to allow tone in Ithkuil to vary between syllables instead of the existing "one tone per word" scheme. The reason I didn't do this is because I, personally, have difficulty pronouncing multi-toned words correctly and I wanted to be able to pronounce Ithkuil even if it meant having to limit the available phonological components.)
>However, it is very interesting that the basic scale has 9 steps in >both systems. They were definitely designed independently, since I >started S7 before I know about Ithkuil and published it after Ithkuil >was published, so no contact is possible. Is there a universal degree >distinction preference?
An interesting coincidence! As I recall Ithkuil originally started with five degrees, then went briefly to seven, then finally settled on nine when I decided that 7 degrees was still too "coarse." Interestingly enough, I remember that after settling on nine, I came across Garrett Jones' Minyeva website (when it was still Malat), and noticed that he used a 7-degree scheme otherwise almost identical to Ithkuil. So, if anyone beat us to the punch, it would be Garrett with Malat/Minyeva.
>The difference is, S7 has more than one scale: a fine-grained degree >scale with 9 steps, which is very much like Ithkuil, a coarse-grained >degree scale, which only has 3 steps, and a vague degree scale with 9 >steps. Thus in total, S7 (currently) has 21 degrees. The vague scale >might need rethinking, so the number might change.
Ithkuil can achieve the same functional "refinement" of gradation by combining affixes so that one affix modifies another, as opposed to modifying the word as a whole. (These are the "VsC" and "V3C" classes of affixes described in Sec. 7.3 of the Ithkuil grammar). Of course, by having to combine affixes, Ithkuil's system is not as elegant as S7, but as explained above, I was limited my the morpho-phonologically available number of vowels/consonants.
>Moreover, the realisation is also similar: mainly by vowels and >combinable with different consonants for different types of degree.
Ithkuil morpho-phonology, from its earliest conception 25 years ago, was highly influenced by the Semitic triliteral root morphology, so that consonants carried the "core" semantic component of a morpheme, while vowels were used for morphological derivation and/or inflection. Applying this principle to a quasi-monosyllabic affixation scheme, it seems to me that the realization you describe of varying vowels with specific consonants is the only way it can come out. By the way, as long as we're discussing coincidental similarities between S7 and Ithkuil, I've been corresponding privately with list-member Jonathan Knibbs about his Telona language (now temporarily called T4), and he has noted several surprising similarities between S7 and T4 as well. I believe that the more one gives thought to designing an "engelang" (as Jörg calls them), convergent design principles emerge from separate authors, so that interesting similarities arise. It makes one begin to wonder whether there are some hidden universal design principles even in non-natlang conlangs! --John Quijada


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>