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One-day-old conlang

From:Amanda Babcock <langs@...>
Date:Sunday, January 5, 2003, 19:31
No idea whether this one will last beyond yesterday.

Yesterday I put together a few ideas that had been tumbling around my
head: a weird phonology, and a polysynthetic grammar.

The phonology was inspired by recent discussions about languages lacking
labials, combined with me finally investigating X-Sampa and the clickable
mp3 IPA map :)  I decided to go for something really unnatural and
eliminate the alveolar column entirely (except for l, and the dental and
postalveolar fricatives).  To make up for it, I included uvular stops,
nasal and fricatives, in addition to labial, palatal and velar stops,
nasals, fricatives and approximants :)

In order to make sure that I remembered to use the new sounds, I made
up a written alphabet for it and resolved to work on it only in paper.
Any online representation would be for documentation of previous work
only.  The written alphabet is not online; I don't have my scanner
hooked up, and anyway the alphabet is not mature yet (I want to see what
it wears into with use :)

Here is the phonology, in X-Sampa (looks best in non-proportional font):

lab. dent p-al pal.  vel. uv.   glot.

p b            c J\  k g  q G\  '
m              J     N    N\
f v  T D  S Z  C j\  x G  X R   h
w        l     j     M\

front        back
(unrounded)  (rounded)

i            u
e            o
a            Q

The order of the alphabet, which was assigned capriciously:

S a m b l e N k T N\ G\ o J p M\ f x c w G q j\ D i v Z J\ u C g X h Q R ' j

It doesn't have letter-names yet.

Attested morpheme structures so far: CVCVC, -CVC, CV-, VC-, with a tendency
for middle consonants to be fricatives or approximants, and final consonants
to be nasals or fricatives, based on an admittedly small sample size of
nine morphemes :)  Consonant clusters will probably be limited to two
phonemes, and vowel clusters may well be outlawed.

As for the grammar, it's basically Mohawk, or what I understand of Mohawk.
Word roots have both a noun and a verb meaning, though an individual word
may be more commonly used as a verb or a noun.  All known CVC words have
so far been used as verbs exclusively.  There is noun-incorporation,
so typically a word will look like:

Tense/aspect prefixes - pronomial prefixes - [ noun [ noun [...]]] - verb

The pronomial prefix system is shamelessly modeled on Tepa, which is a
beautiful and compact language that makes me feel like there's nothing
left to be done in the field of conlanging every time I look at it.  It
may end up being slightly more complicated than Tepa's system if I don't
go with an inversion affix.

The tense and aspect prefixes will consist of the following:

        Present:        0-
        Past:           TBD
        Future:         TBD

        Habitual:       0-
        Continuing:     Qm-
        Perfective:     TBD
        Repetitive:     TBD

It may end up with some mood or evidentiality prefixes as well.

Known pronomial prefixes:

        1>3     qa-     First person acting on third
        3>3'    0-      Third person acting on third person (if animacy
                        turns out to be a distinction, this will refer
                        to inanimate third person)

Having all null prefixes thus indicates third-person present habitual.
Habitual also covers what something does as its nature.  If I had a word
root for "blue", by itself it would also mean "it is blue".  A word root
for "run, running gait" would, by itself, mean "it generally runs".

(The verb meaning of an unadorned root is thus different from its noun
meaning, which I believe makes this language different from Mohawk.  This
presents interesting questions as far as telling standalone nouns apart
from brief sentences :)

The following are attested utterances in the language, in X-Sampa (primary
and secondary stress " and %):

        a proper place/to be in order:  "kalaS
        to put something in or at X: jem
        it puts things in order/in their proper places: "kalaS%jem
        I am putting things in their proper places: Qmqa"kalaS%jem

        small human-made things/to collect: "biM\aX

(Once morphemes for good/bad/useful are discovered, there will be variations
on biM\aX to indicate meanings such as treasure/junk/gear.)

        I am putting my junk in its proper place: Qmqa"biM\aXkalaS%jem

        food/to eat: "loTeS
        to prepare: pQN
        I am making food: Qmqa"loTeS%pQN

        money/to pay: "viJ\QN\
        to save or invest: "viJ\QN\kalaS%jem ("To put away money", basically)

        writing (book)/to write: "G\exab
        to record finances: "viJ\QN\G\exab%jem ("To put money in the book")
        I am recording my finances: Qmqa"viJ\QN\G\exab%jem

There will also be a quirky and interesting romanization scheme, if I
ever get that far :)  With t, d, r, s, z, and n free, there might be some
interesting digraphs...