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From:Tom Tadfor Little <tom@...>
Date:Tuesday, June 5, 2001, 16:03
It occurred to me the other day that there is a decent mechanism at hand
for making conlangs more naturalistic, if that is something one values. The
first stabs at morphology and syntax as one starts to sketch the language
tend to be somewhat vague. As we gain more experience with the language, we
tend to find very specific things we like and make them normative for the
language. For example, in Iltârer, I made a passing remark in the initial
language sketch that nouns ending in -l are often concrete nouns for
plants, animals, or other things found in nature. As I got to coining
words, I developed a preference for the ending -il to refer to plants, -el
to animals, and -al to inanimate things, like geographical forms. The early
coinages of course do not reflect these preferences. I could go back and
reconstruct those first words to make them consistent, but if I leave them
as they are, they become irregularities in the language, giving it a more
naturalistic feeling. It can be beneficial to resist the urge to regularize
everything each time a change is made in the language description.

I think this a good way of introducing irregularities into a language,
because the words and syntax one creates first tend to be the more commonly
used features of the language, and these are precisely the features that
tend to preserve irregularities in natural languages.

Most people probably underestimate the amount of irregularity in languages.
We tend to think of a few common irregular verbs, and then presume that
everything else, from root structure on up, is pretty logical. A certain
vigilance is required if one wants to make a conlang realistically quirky.

Tom Tadfor Little  
Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA)
Telperion Productions


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