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Introducing myself, and several questions

From:Damian Yerrick <tepples@...>
Date:Monday, February 14, 2005, 5:16
My name is Damian, and I'm a conlanger.  I've dabbled for
years, never "finishing" anything to the point that arbitrary
conversation is possible.  I come to this list to ask for help
in getting past roadblocks.  I've read some of the archives,
but not all 6 1/2 years of them.  Here's where I want help:


When creating the a priori lexicon for Qenya (early drafts of
Quenya), Tolkien chose sound patterns that he felt "fit" a given

However, I seem to have a dulled sense of aesthetics, possibly
caused by my Asperger syndrome that causes me to distrust vague
hunches.  Much of the time, I can't seem to do better than creating
phonotactic rules and then randomly assigning Swadesh-list glosses
to sound patterns, possibly with the aid of a computer program.
Are there some general procedures that govern lexical innovation
in natlangs and naturalistic conlangs?  Has anybody successfully
implemented ding-dong or ta-ta in their conlangs?


I don't want to make euroclones all the time, but I don't want to
make an unspeakable language that violates fifty-two universals
either.  What structures are "easier" for the developing hominid
brain to parse?  For example, do learners intrinsically prefer
object-verb order or verb-object order?  What about adjective-noun
or noun-adjective?  Is there any appeal to iconicity for this?


Does tendency for open or closed syllables, for softer or harder
sounds, or for tones or no tones, depend on culture?  I've heard
of the Inuit and the Arabs, whose languages have fewer distinct
vowel heights and more back consonants because their harsh
environments make it painful to open the mouth to the elements
in order to produce low vowels.  In addition, Tolkien's chaotic
orcs speak a phonaesthetically "harsher" language than his
lawful elves.  Is such correlation the rule or the exception?


Likewise, are any grammatical qualities correlated to aspects
of the culture?  Does an environmental or cultural constraint
correlate with an OV or VO preference, with obligate marking
of various properties of a noun or verb, or anything similar?
I can see how a more paranoid culture might lead to evidentiary
markers becoming grammaticalized; are there other examples?


I understand that the lexicon can be reduced to sizes that
may initially appear absurd while retaining expressiveness.
Evidence: A conlang called Toki Pona manages to convey every
meaning one can think of in 120 basic words.

Is this true of grammar as well?  For instance, in computing, the
problem called 2-SAT is not NP-complete, but 3-SAT is NP-complete.
Does this result have an analog in human language?  Is it possible
to make a fully expressive language that uses two-word clauses?
Specifically, is the narrator's description of the language of
the Eloi in chapter 5 of HG Wells's _The_Time_Machine_ unnatural?

"Either I missed some subtle point or their language was
excessively simple - almost exclusively composed of concrete
substantives and verbs. There seemed to be few, if any, abstract
terms, or little use of figurative language. Their sentences
were usually simple and of two words, and I failed to convey
or understand any but the simplest propositions."

(N.B.: The description doesn't match movie Eloi by John Logan.
But then little in the book matched the movie.)


When I search for some of these topics, Google often gives me
results that look promising but say "Download this article for $30".
Once Google fails me for gratis web resources, and my local public
library's search engine fails me for print resources, what are some
good resources for learning about these subjects without spending
$500 on buying books and buying individual PDF article downloads?
Or is conlanging a rich man's hobby?


Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Sanghyeon Seo <sanxiyn@...>
Stephen Mulraney <ataltanie@...>
Muke Tever <hotblack@...>