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Re: DECAL: Research questions #1

From:H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Date:Saturday, January 15, 2005, 19:07
On Thu, Jan 13, 2005 at 02:00:18PM -0800, Sai Emrys wrote:
> So. While sitting down with my books, writing outlines and figuring > out what to do with various classes, I came up with a bunch of > questions I need to answer. > > These are pretty wide range. If you know answers - or links to answers > - for any of them, please tell me (offlist or on). I'll research it > myself, of course, if necessary, but I figure that some of you are > likely to have bookmarks or offhand knowledge for at least some of > these questions.
[...] I can't say I know any answers, but at least I can speak from the POV of a learner. :-) [...]
> * Latex / metafont / etc FAQ - how to make fonts, possibilities, > limitations of available software (e.g., do they just make > serial-discrete type fonts? extensive / multilayer diacritics OK? > complex-character [a la Chinese]? ...)
LaTeX, if appropriately programmed, can do *anything*. The caveat being, of course, how far you're willing to go. For an example of actual complex diacritic use, check out <shameless plug>my Ebisédian documents at: All the PDF's and postscripts are done using LaTeX.</shameless plug> [...]
> * list of goals/criteria by which to design a language - something > like this essay - - > does for IALs, but for other prototypes, e.g., artlangs, MTIs, etc. > Essentially, overall top-down guiding ideas to keep in mind, and pref. > some elaboration of application. Also pref. ones that take into > account conlficting viewpoints (a la auxlang).
The IAL criteria is very common, and I'm sure you can find lots of info on them on Google. For artlangs... Ebisédian was driven by the need of a unique language for my con-world, Ferochromon. I've already worked out a lot of details of the Ferochromon before I even knew conlangs existed; but all I knew was that the inhabitants of such a universe must necessarily have a unique language that reflects the world they are in. Therefore, when I designed Ebisédian, one of my main goals is to create something that matches the universe it's in. (And in case you think this is a trivial goal, you might want to read up a bit on what Ferochromon is like: .) Another goal is that it must still be "somewhat" naturalistic, in the sense that the speakers of this language are (more-or-less) human. Coupled with this is the linguistic drive of wanting to explore a typology where there is no distinction between active and passive. Read up on the infamous Ebisédian case system sometime, esp. as described in the Introductory Tutorial, to get an idea for what I came up with. Now, for Tatari Faran, it was motivated by a number of factors. Firstly, it was my second (unaborted) attempt at a conlang, and was partially driven by a desire to create a better phonology than was possible with Ebisédian. Specifically, I wanted to see how interesting a phonology can be made using a minimal phonetic inventory. I was also a little dissatisfied with the Ebisédian case system as it turned out; I wanted to keep the core ideas, but simplify it to something less convoluted. Also, there were other ideas I had that didn't make it into Ebisédian, which I hoped to explore. And so Tatari Faran was born. It sports a rather small phonetic inventory but the phonology is at the same time quite interesting (if I may say so myself). The Ebisédian case system was re-done in IMHO a better way in TF, and I got rid of many of the unncessarily bizarre features of Ebisédian. I quite like the result. :-)
> * list of unusual or otherwise unique conlangs, or attempts at them > (e.g. Laadan viz. "women's language")
[...] I think Ebisédian itself is pretty unique. ;-) I'm sure many list members would agree! :-) Tatari Faran is a lot more down-to-earth, but we'll see... it already has such unparalleled (I think---might be an ANADEW) features as an obligatory "complement" that appears at the end of indicative sentences, and also in other special situations. It is, so far, untranslatable, because I don't know of any natlang equivalent for it. Nevertheless, it sounds "natural".
> Natlang/Conlang Universals:
> * corollary: can we apply the above to make a sort of "naturalness > index" of how far a particular conlang is from "universal normal"?
No. When Greenberg formulated the so-called "universals", he only based it on, shall we say, a rather inadequate sample of natlangs (I believe about 20 or so?). Nearly all (if not all) of the universals have exceptions even just within the realm of natlangs.
> (It'd probably be in std. dev.s, and natlangs wouldn't be at 0 s.d. > either.) Might be useful to make a "prototypically natural" language, > or gauge how unusual one is.
[...] It's hard to say. I think it's more stereotypical than prototypical. Human language seems to transcend such easy categorization, natlang or conlang alike. T -- "Hi." "'Lo."