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Tickling the Muse

From:Gary Shannon <reboot@...>
Date:Saturday, April 17, 1999, 18:25
I was trying to devise some new root words for my conlang this morning, but
the muse had abandoned me.  So I started thumbing trough the thesaurus and
stumbled onto this technique for creating words:

Given 20 different syllables, assign 2 different syllables to each of the 10
digits, 0 through 9.
(Of course you would choose syllables that are appropriate for the sound of
your conlang.)

For example: 0 = (ma,lu), 1 = (po,ri), 3 = (ke,bu), 4 = (wa,no), 5 =
(ya,pi), 6 = (kwi,so), 7 = (hu,fa), 8 = (vo,shi), 9 = (tu,za)

Now look up the word you want to translate in the thesaurus (the kind that
has classification numbers for each word) and write down it's major
classification number.  For example, suppose you want to find the word for
"song".  In the index to the thesaurus song is given index number 708.14.

Using the number 708 and the two syllables for each digit we find there are
8 possible root words to choose from: humavo, humashi, huluvo, hulushi,
famavo, famashi, faluvo, falushi. Just pick the one that seems right.

"Wisdom" (919.5) could be any of these: tupotu, tupoza, turitu, turiza,
zapotu, zapoza, zaritu, zariza.

If 30 different syllables were used, 3 for each digit, there would be 27
different roots for a three digit code number.  For example, using: 0 =
(si,gan,po),... 7 = (yu,no,go), 8 = (so,gu,fa) ... song -> 708 ->

yusiso, yusigu, yusifa, yuganso, yugangu, yuganfa, yuposo, yupogu, yupofa,
nosiso, nosigu, nosifa, noganso, nogangu, noganfa, noposo, nopogu, nopofa,
gosiso, gosigu, gosifa, goganso, gogangu, goganfa, goposo, gopogu, gopofa.

And you you really want variety and a lot of root words to choose from, use
100 syllables, with 10 assigned to each digit.  That will yeild 100
candidate root words for each two digit code, 1000 root words for each 3
digit code, and 10,000 words for the four digit codes.

You could, of course, just pick some number at random and look at the roots
it generates, but using the thesaurus has two advantages:  Roots for
different concepts will not duplicate roots for other concepts. If you use
the same classification number again, you will get the same list of roots,
so you can pick related roots from a "family" of words.  Instead of
thesaurus numbers you could also use the page number in a dictionary where
the English word is found.

But what if you wanted roots that were only two syllables in length?  Easily
done.  Write down the numbers from 0 to 34, and assign as many syllables to
each number as you care to.  Now divide the classification number by 35, and
write down the quotient and the remainder. (song = 708. 708 / 35 gives a
quotient of 20 and a remainder of 8.  So you use one of the syllables
assigned to 20, and one of the syllables assigned to 8 to make a two
syllable root. ( ... 8 = (tu,fon,dim), ... 20 = (dwa,kan,shu) giving these
as posible roots: dwatu, dwafon, dwadim, kantu, kanfon, kandim, shutu,
shufon, shudim.)