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Cue the Pointer Sisters: "I'm So Excited...!" (long)

From:DOUGLAS KOLLER <laokou@...>
Date:Thursday, August 10, 2000, 3:42
Someone mentioned a while back that they had found an old notebook of
conlang notes from high school, to which I responded that I thought there
might be some old notes of Géarthnuns from high school lurking around my
mother's attic in New Hampshire. Well, friends, I have been to New Hampshire
this past weekend, and after a bit of digging, it appears that the ancient
text does, in fact, still exist. Yippee! While I wince at some of the
naïveté and obvious relexing, I am thrilled at how much has withstood time
and how many sentences are still understandable after close to twenty years.
Vocabulary took the hardest hit since I basically started from scratch when
I was in China and was only working on memory. I feel perfectly comfortable
relegating some of these old words to archaisms for the words now expressing
certain concepts while causing a lexical shift in others that will appear in
the modern vocabulary; I think that will give some (both on its own terms
and real) historical depth to the language. Other changes which occurred:

Orthography: What were originally forty-two letters got bumped up to
forty-nine when Géarthnuns started marking grammatical negativity on the
noun (this is old news). Consonant values have remained pretty much the
same. The seven vowels followed a quasi-English pattern of "short" and
"long": u(/u/)-short, ü(/y/)-long; ö(/Y/)-short, o(/o/)-long; i(/I/)-short,
í(/aI/)-long; a(/&/ or /a/)-short, á(/e/)-long; e(/E/)-short, é(/i/)-long;
oi (/OI/, considered a diphthong and so no corresponding long form); au(/O/
or /aU/, considered a diphthong and so no corresponding long form).

Current values are distinguished merely as "plain" or "with an accent mark"
and are broken down as follows (re-ordered as well): a(/a/), ai(/aI/);
u(/u/), ü(/y/) (same as old values); i(/I/), í(/i/ or /j/); ö(/Y/), o(/o/),
e(/E/), é(/e/); au(/O/), ou(/aU/), öi(/YI/), oi (/OI/).

Noun marker letters represent a consonant cluster. In the past, one could
use these letters wherever that consonant cluster occurred; beginning,
middle, or end of a word. Nowadays, these letters can only be used at the
end of a noun.

Initial consonant clusters multiplied bazillionfold while I was in Taiwan,
so those are not represented in the old grammar. Writing changes from
right-to-left to left-to-right (I decided a long time ago that this feature
of "exotica" was not necessary, I was a "righty", was probably the only one
who would ever write this, and was sick of getting of getting graphite
stains on the heel of my right hand). As a result of that early history,
however, books still open as an Arabic or classical Chinese book would; the
Géarthçins enjoy the whole language process, and so do not worry that
nanoseconds may be wasted as you go from the bottom-right of a page to the
top-left of the next page (decorum/ritual trumps efficiency/convenience).

Declensions: Originally "gender"-based, the system shifted. Noun-declension
markers consist (still) of a consonant + /s/:

                                   Old         Current
1st declension               bs              bs

2nd declension              ls               rs

3rd declension
(masculo-feminine)        rs              ts

4th declension               ts              ns

5th declension              ns             ks

6th declension              ks             ls

7th declension              ths            ths

I think I've mentioned this before to the list, but as a refresher: Gender
distinctions do not exist, per se, in the current language, though vestiges
can be found: "bs" often referred to masculine entities ("díbs", "king";
"dhuabs", "man"; dhabs", "man"...); "ts/ns" to feminine entities ("sasats",
"woman"; "maralans", "mother", "öns", "queen", ...); "ks" to neuter entities
("dhnékreks", "machine", "öks", "crocodile", "mníaks", "water"...); and
"ths" to, I guess, 'epicine' entities ("avíaths", "god", "dalths", "day").
The other three declensions dubiously filled in the cracks.

Gender later moved away from "sexual gender" and covered more general
categories (under the new order): "bs" pointed to (though was not limited
to) "greeny", "natural" things in nature ("dhaubs" "green" [homonym for
"man" {Géarthçins make a psychological link here; I haven't decided if
they're etymologically connected yet}], "übs", "(chemical) element"; "aubs",
"mountain" (though probably bleeding into the masculine notion); "rs" to
(though not limited to) "movement" ("vars", "wind"; "furs", "writing
implement"; "-örs", "ending for gerunds"), "ts" to (I don't remember) ; "ns"
to (though not limited to) "pleasant things" ("mölmans", "song"; "ans",
"summer"); "ks" to (though not limited to) "unpleasant things" ("gadaks",
"war"; "soíéraks, "diabetes"); "ls" to (though was not limited to) "things
related to language acts" ("gefröls", "book"; "möls", "speech, language");
"ths" to (though not limited to) "celestial concepts" ("auths", "universe,
cosmos"; "mnwöths", "time", "gdonöths", "weather").

All of this has been thrown out, but still creeps in during word formation.

Prepositional becomes postpositional.

Singular case endings remain constant; plural does some shuffling; a dual
case is added.

Articles: "Chö...etc.", "the" used to mark nouns in the nominative,
accusative, and dative, while "vö...etc." used to mark nouns in the
instrumental, postpositional, genitive, and locative. "Sö...etc.", "a, an,
some" used to mark nouns in the nominative, accusative, and dative, while
"fö...etc." used to mark nouns in the instrumental, postpositional,
genitive, and locative. (An oblique/non-oblique distinction?). Currently,
"chö...etc." and "sö...etc." mark nouns in the affirmative while "vö...etc."
and "fö..." mark nouns in the negative.

Tenses: Have remained the same except that a very Latinesque imperfect has
shifted to a "transcendent" tense which describes universal truths, is used
in headlines and textbook headings, and starts off classic stories like
fairy tales. The shift in usage is easy enough to explain if one considers
that the French imperfect is often used in descriptive essays that have an
"eternal" feel.

Voices: Some major changes here: active, passive, and dative passive remain
intact (understandable since these correlate to the nom, acc, and dat
(oblique?)). Old Instrumental Periphrastic which made instrument in an
active sentence the subject becomes modern Causative. Old Locative
Periphrastic which made location in an active sentence the subject becomes
Causative Passive. Reflexive hangs out with a minor ending change.
"Omnipotent Active" where no active sentence element is fronted and roughly
translates as "It happened that..." becomes an impersonal like the French

Moods: largely unchanged, though terminology differs.

Conjugations: Major change in the end-marking letters:

                                   Old         Current
1st conjugation              k                 f

2nd conjugation             z                zh

3rd conjugation             v                 z

4th conjugation              l                  n

5th conjugation              zh              kh

6th conjugation             ch              l

7th conjugation              th            th

Old punctuation marks have been largely superceded by the traditional
Western variety.

Word order has shifted from S-Aux-V-O to S-Aux-O-V. Questions move away from
English order, to say, Chinese or Japanese order (where the question element
retains its normal grammatical position in the sentence).

Numbers: Altogether different. An old, inefficient system of writing (akin
to the Roman system with a Chinese blend, but vertical) may be retained for
building keystones and the like. I haven't decided.

And, perhaps, some comparison translation examples (translated an old
Berlitz book at the time, hence the lame examples):

What are you doing?
Old: Öçek la hödravnath chenaithset?
        you-nom pres-aux do-interr what-acc
Current: Öçek la chensat hödravnath?
             you-nom pres-aux what-acc do-interr

This is a pencil and this is a pen.
Old: Che hongeths la nöi sí kfenks kai che hongeths la nöi söi toks.
        the this-nom pres-aux be a pencil-nom and the this-nom pres-aux be a
Current: Chau hengers la sau hailkefurs nöi, kfö chau hengers la sau nasfurs
            the this-nom pres-aux a pencil-nom be, and the this-nom pres-aux
a pencil-nom be

No, you do not write on the door, you write on the blackboard.
Old: Tush, désh la gefrul pastin ví fresksíb, öçek la gefrul pastin vü
       no, you-nom/neg pres-aux write on the door-prep, you-nom pres-aux
write on the blackboard-prep.
Current: Glé, fenfe la va höilkapsab kür gefröl, öçek la chau shímersaub kür
             no, you-nom/neg pres-aux the-neg door-post/neg on write,
you-nom pres-aux the blackboard-post on write.

And so on...

Time to relexify,