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clan of the cave bear conlang

From:Steg Belsky <draqonfayir@...>
Date:Thursday, January 6, 2000, 23:13

a few years ago i read the _clan of the cave bear_ series (officially
called _earth's children_, _clan..._ is the name of the first book) by
jean m. auel.  it's about a cro-magnon girl named Ayla who gets adopted
by a clan of neandertals when an earthquake kills her family.  it's got
some amazingly detailed concultural information, but it also has somewhat
of a conlang.

scientific study seems to indicate that neandertals had underdeveloped
speech organs, compared to us.  in the book, this translates into a
language made predominantly of gestures, but with vocal words for names
and what seem to be common nouns.

from the scene where Creb, the Mog-Ur (shaman) tries to teach Ayla

"...The old man nodded again, then made a motion with his hand and
repeated the word.  "Flowing water, river," the combined gesture and word
stated.  "Water?" the girl said hesitantly, puzzled that he had indicated
her word was correct but asked her again..."
"...Creb shook his head no.  He had gone over the same kind of exercises
with the child many times.  He tried again, pointing to her feet.
"Feet," Ayla said.  "Yes," the magician nodded.  Somehow I must make her
see as well as hear, he though.  Getting up, he took her hand and walked
a few steps with her, leaving his staff behind.  He made a motion and
said the word "feet."  "Moving feet, walking," was the sense he was
trying to communicate.  She strained to listen, trying to hear if there
was something she missed in his tone..."
"...He made the gesture again, exaggerating it so much it almost meant
something else, said the word again.  He was bent over, looking her
squarely in the face, making the motion directly in front of her eyes.
Gesture, word.  Gesture, word....With dawning comprehension, she watched
his motion, then tried to copy it.  Creb was saying yes!  That's what he
wants!  The movement!  He wants me to make the movement.....Suddenly,
like an explosion inher brain, she made the connection.  Moving on feet!
Walking!  That's what he means!  Not just feet.  The hand movement ith
the word "feet" means walking!  Her mind raced.  She could see Iza and
Creb in her mind's eye, standing, looking at each other, moving their
hands, saying few words, but moving their hands.  Were they talking?
..... Do they talk with their hands?..."

from an earlier description of Clan (neandertal) language:

"...Thier underdeveloped vocal organs made precise articulation
impossible for people of the Clan.   The few sounds they used as emphasis
had evolved from cries of warning or a need to gain attention, and the
importance attached to verbalizations was a part of their traditions.
Their primary means of communications - hand signals, gestures,
positions; and and intuition born of intimate contact, established
customs, and perceptive descernment of expressions and posters - were
expressive, but limited...."

So, it seems that verbs and 'complex' nouns are based on simple nouns,
with different hand signals.   So:
(caps = word; lowercase = signal)

WATER = water
WATER+flowing = river

FEET = feet (hmm..then what would be the singular?)
FEET+moving = walking
FEET+moving*fast = running (it says that the sign for "running" was
similar to "moving")

phonology:  (not IPA, based on names)

vowels:  i a e u ou oo o
consonants:  c r b z d g n v m

they are also able to pronounce the vowels "eye" and "ay" and the
consonant "l", although it's hard for them.
the names of ancient female spirits have different sounds:  oooha,
zheena, eeesha.

Ayla and her half-neandertal son Durc paly "the other game only he and
his mother played", where they repeat nonsense syllables to eachother:
Ma-ma-ma-ma (Durc calls Ayla "Mama" even though it's not a Clan word)

The concultural stuff is pretty cool, too....totems and spirits and
racial memory and stuff.

-Stephen (Steg)
 "survival is insufficient."