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First Post and Proto-Conlang rough sketch

From:Yukatado <yukatado@...>
Date:Wednesday, February 28, 2007, 12:02
Hello all ye good members of the ConlangML!

    My name is Jason, (although I would prefer to just go by my online
handle, Yukatado) and I've been a lurker on this list for since . . . I
think around 2003, if I remember correctly, but I've never posted yet. I
suppose it is high time for me to finally introduce myself.

    I've only taken a couple of courses in linguistics back in my
college days - Intro. to Ling., Sounds of Human Languages, and as far as
I can remember, that is about it. Suffice it to say, I know enough to
get myself in trouble, so to speak. I can read IPA and X-SAMPA. I've
also read a book on Historical Linguistics that seems to be the most
highly recommended by the list. I am a native speaker of Mid-Western
American English (so it's really interesting for me to read about
dialectical differences on a local level, rather than on vast regional
levels such as "British" or "American" from members of the list), I've
learned Japanese to near (but not quite) fluency, and I currently reside
in Okayama Prefecture, Japan.

    Sadly, one of my early, and biggest conlangs was obliterated in a
computer reinstallation gone terribly wrong a couple of years ago, and
since then, I've been suffering from Conlanger's Block(?), never getting
very far past a phonology and phonological constraints - but I've
learned a lot since then via self study.

    Anyway, I was inspired a LOT by Mark Rosenfelder's Verdurian (the
first information on Conlanging that I ever found on the Internet) and
Language Construction Kit. But what's really got me interested at the
moment (perhaps it's too ambitious?) is creating a language family like
that of the Proto-Eastern family.

    Here's a rough sketch of what I would like to do for the
Proto-Language itself:


/X-SAMAP/ <Orthographic Representation>


/p/ <p> /t/ <t> /k/ <k> /?/ <`>*
/b/ <b> /d/ <d> /g/ <g>
/f/ <f> /s/ <s> /x/ <h>
/v/ <v> /z/ <z> /-/ <->
/m/ <m> /n/ <n> (/N/ <ng>)**
/w/ <w> /r\/ <r> /j/ <y>
        /l/ <l>


(/i/ <y>) (/i/ <y>) (/u/ <w>)
 /e/ <e>  (/@/ <`>)  /o/ <o>
(/l=/ <l>) (/n=/ <n>) (/r\=/ <r>)

*  The glottal stop, <`>, is used only to indicate a word boundary where
a consonant would otherwise be (see morphology), and it is essentially a
zero-consonant at the ends of words (but serves a function). It also
serves as a place marker for e when it zeros to @.

** Would this even be a phoneme in this language, since it only occurs
as a result of a merger of n and g at the ends of words, so it seems
like an allophonic variant of /n/.

    So yeah, that's all really nice and totally pedestrian, isn't it.
Apologies. I know the R in particular is very indicative of my own
native, American English, but I happen to really like that sound.
Hopefully, this is where any resemblance to American English will stop
dead in its tracks!

Phonological constraints:

    It can be, for the most part, summed up as:

    However, there are some restrictions on that:

    1a) s+C can only be in the form of s+Voiceless-Stop or a Nasal =
(sp, st, sk, sm, sn), but <sl/sw> can occur despite this rule (due to
the (C)(l,w)).
    1b) C+s can only be in the form of Voiceless-Stop+s = (ps, ts, ks)

    2) tl, dl, ml, nl, wl, rl, yl, ll, zl, cannot occur; nor can, nw,
ww, rw, yw, or lw; and finally, neither can nb, ns, or nm.

    3) n+p > mp, n+g > N

    Here's an example of all the possible roots using only p and t:

pet pent pents plents splents
    pert perts plerts splerts
    pets peyts pleyts spleyts
    peyt plent pwents spwents
    plet plert pwerts spwerts
    pwet plets pweyts spweyts
    spet pleyt spents
         pwent sperts
         pwert speyts
         pwets splent
         pweyt splert
         spent splets
         spert spleyt
         spets spwent
         speyt spwert
         splet spwets
         spwet spweyt


    Roots have three grades (inspired by Proto-Indo-European): e-grade,
o-grade, and zero-grade.

    Essentially, the only vowel used in a non-compound is /e/. However,
in a compound, the stress shifts to the first root, causing it to shift
to its o-grade, and thus causing the second root to shift to its

    kwes + peyt > kwospyt [kwospit]
    peyt + kwes > poytkws [pojtkus]

    If there are two syllabants surrounding the vowel, then the second
one changes for the zero-grade or o-grade, not the first. However, if
there is only one syllabant, and it precedes the vowel, then it changes.
Of course, if there is no preceding syllabant, and the vowel is followed
by one, then it changes:

    kweys [kwejs] > kwoys [kwojs] / kwys [kwis]
    kles [kles] > klos [klos] / kls [kl=s]
    kers [ker\s] > kors [kor\s] / krs [kr\=s]

    If a word begins with l or w, then it must, in reality, begin with a
<`>, unless the main vowel is also followed by another syllabant,
because it is understood which syllabant changes in the zero-grade:

    `les / `wes = okay (c.f. *les / *wes)
    leys / wers = okay

    Similarly, in order to end with an n, r, or y, it must be followed
by a <`>, once again, unless the main vowel is preceded by another
syllabant, because it is understood which syllabant changes in the

    key` = okay (c.f. *key)
    kwey = okay

    That's all I really have for now, but I need a little info before I
can continue:

    I really can't decide which way to have the syntax go. If I go OV,
then I can go from Isolating to agglutinating post-positions, to
inflections fairly easily. However, I'm having trouble seeing it do the
same thing if the language is VO. Call it my Anglo-centric bias, but I
happen to like adjectives and genitives that precede their nouns, and I
know that they're technically independent of the VO/OV structure, though
typically influenced by it.

    Do relative clauses typically take a relative pronoun if the clause
precedes the noun it modifies, or do they typically dispense with it as
in Japanese?

    I want to make the Proto-language into two stages of development: an
"Old-Proto-Language" that is as isolating as possible (grammaticalized
words, rather than agglutinations or inflections), and a
"Late-Proto-Language" that has garnered some innovations that will be
shared by the daughter languages - perhaps a set of agglutinations which
are degraded forms of the grammaticalized words. I might have a
"Classical" period in between, but for a proto-language, I see little
use - this is to be the equivalent of PIE, not Latin.

    Anyway, any thoughts on the project, advice, help, whatever, is
welcomed and appreciated!



Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>