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"Bauhinese" [was: Re: I was wondering...]

From:Eamon Graham <robertg@...>
Date:Friday, August 16, 2002, 23:46
"Hiro M." wrote:

> Honestly, what you were talking about sounds a lot > like what I was thinking of. > > For my language (which is based primarily on Japanese > and Korean, and also has a conculture to go with it), > I was thinking of three scripts: a common script, > which would be similar to katakana and hiragana, with > a little hangul mixed in; an upper-class script, > comprised of equal parts common script and logographs > similar to kanzi/hanja/kanji; and finally, a naming > script, used by all classes for writing names, and > only for writing names.
I'm certainly interested in your project as mine overlaps in certain areas. I too had thought of using some hangul; it's a very logical script and has a nice look to it. Since our projects are somewhat related, and because I had been meaning to anyway, I'll introduce my Asian conlang project to the list. (As a footnote, I'm working on two other projects at the same time - hey, it's summer and I finally have a lot of time on my hands to indulge in my favorite hobby. I've discussed those on romanceconlang and will introduce them here when I've worked some more on them) For starters, my project is one part personal expression of creativity (conlang as art) and one part exploration of Asian languages (conlang as language education). Before beginning work on this project a month ago, I admit I knew very little about the languages involved but had always admired the cultures and histories of their speakers. Now, I know more about Middle Chinese, tones, hiragana, Vietnamese honorific language, and Cantonese phonology than I could have possibly imagined. I have no name for my language as of yet (some of you may have seen the discussion I started about naming our languages on romanceconlang - a discussion I haven't had a lot of time to participate in today, although I've followed everyone's posts with interest) We had discussed this a little bit on a.l.a - my criteria are mainly that it be ethnically neutral (especially in recognition of the fact that there is more to Asia and Asian culture than China or Japan, as great as they are) and that it not be an emotionally and historically charged term. This led me to the examination of the symbolism of flowers and colours in Asian poetry. Because I had asked for a verification of my Mandarin translation of the name of the bauhinia blakeana flower I am using the working title "Bauhinese" but rather jokingly. At this point I really have no clue what I will call it. The languages involved are: The Chinese languages (I hesitate using the term dialects of course) Japanese (Even here Ethnologue prefers to separate into languages) Korean Thai Vietnamese I'm limiting myself to the periphery of the Asian world, although I could conceivably include Austronesian languages, Tibetan, Pali. Words from these languages may find a way in to "Bauhinese" because of their importance in religion and philosophy (especially Pali and Sanskrit). (I should add the disclaimer here: I promise, I'm not making the mistake common among poorly informed Westerners of assuming that all of these languages are "Chinese" because they may use similar scripts, Chinese words, etc.) The outline of the language is roughly as follows: Vocabulary ---------- Vocabulary is based mainly on the Chinese "dialects" partly because of the large population of Chinese language speakers but mostly because of the enormous influence of Chinese vocabulary and culture in the region as seen in the amount of Chinese loanwords in Asian languages. The vocabulary uses terms from the other languages involved as much as possible, though, especially in regards to terms for ideas/concepts/items specific to a certain culture (Thai words for Thai phenomena, etc.) Phonology --------- I'm starting with Middle Chinese and studying how sounds evolved in the various Chinese languages and how these sounds evolved when Chinese words were borrowed into Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai. (I'm roughly half way through an etymological dictionary but then I have to complete my comparisons in Korean, Vietnamese and Thai) Therefore the phonology doesn't necessarily reflect the native forms, but rather how these forms evolved in the so-called Sino-Xenic languages (note: Sino-Xenic is not necessarily a term I adore) I'm then looking for common forms in all of the languages involved and using population or historical linguistics as a tie breaker. An illustration: unlike Mandarin, the consonant finals m, p, t and k are retained here because they are retained for the most part in other Chiense languages and because they are retained in Korean and Vietnamese, and their historical presence is often reflected if not entirely retained in Japanese. Studying sound change patterns has been a rather complex task, as I'm doing most of it from scratch (although I'm sure some source exists and I just don't have access to it). To quote my a.l.a post: "This process has become so complicated as to bring up the following error message: 'Brain not ready. Abort, retry, fail' But there is a system involved, and I will derive the vocabulary in a systematic way that reflects actual sound changes." Tones are an iffy situation. Japanese and Korean do not use tones as Chinese does (or as Vietname and Thai do), so I'm against using an elaborate tone system. Tones, however, are an important part of the phonology of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese so I would like their presence to be reflected somehow, if possible. Some suggestions I've been considering are: 1) having tone affect vowel length/quality; 2) using high and neutral; 3) using level, rising and falling contours. Did the tone of a word in Chinese have any effect at all on how it was borrowed in to Japanese or Korean? The language will not necessarily be monosyllabic, meaning that tone will be less important (especially if I adopt the idea - which I'm considering - of "monosignificance"). Script ------ The Chinese script is an important unifying force, at least historically, in the Asian world: Vietnamese used them, Korean still uses them to an extent, Japanese not only uses them but based both hiragana and katakana on them, etc. So I do not want to neglect this important aspect of the languages in my own conlang, but I've decied, as I told Hiro, on using a modification of the Japanese system in that Japanese gana/kana are "shorthand" ways of writing Chinese characters and using them for syllabic value rather than meaning. By modification I mean: I have one script instead of two; I use some hiragana and some katakana, depending on history and sound value (and personal taste), I sometimes use a hiragana for one sound and the corresponding katakana for a related sound, etc. The biggest modification of all is this: because Japanese essentially appends a vowel to what would be a final consonant of a Chinese word, I need a way to represent these final consonants without the vowel; for this purpose, I'm using stylistically modified characters from the Zhu Yin (aka BoPoMoFo) script to represent these sounds. By "stylistically modified" I mean that I'm using the same character but making it "fit in" a little better aesthetically with the kana. The Japanese characters, therefore, indicate C-V and the Zhu Yin indicate final C for a combination of (surprise!) C-V-C. In addition, I'm going to use the 50 or so most common/important hanzi characters, in their traditional form. Grammar ------- Grammar is based mostly on Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese, however I am looking at the grammars of Korean, Thai and Vietnamese as well. Although these are unrelated languages, they often have similar concepts or categories (for example, honorific language). Thus the grammar is based on what is common or similar among the languages involved, even if the silmilarity is coincidental or accidental. Otherwise, I'm looking to Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese. (This is a vague description of grammar, but it's the area I've worked the least on so far) This is mainly a personal artistic project, but I hope others will find it interesting. I'm aiming to create my language in a systematic way that makes sense given the linguistics of the languages involved, not merely picking out features at random. If anyone has any comments, suggestions, what-have-you, please share! Hiro, I look forward to hearing more about your own project!
> Just to let you know, this is my first conlang, and > (ashamed as I am to say it) I'm considering using the > LangMaker program to make a lot of the words of my > language.
Using software isn't a bad thing; I'm probably going to use the "Sound Change Applier" programme I got from the "Language Construction Kit" to take the manual labor out of my vocabulary creation, though the mental labor will still be there and just as satisfying. Cheers to all! Eamon