12
Aug

Hëw Nestirez – The Rën Language

by Geckat in Major

I mentioned Rën in my last post, but here is its official unveiling as a work-in-progress.

Rën is a project I am extremely passionate about, as my spiritual and philosophical exploration has been an enormous drive for me these last few months and with Rën I feel I’ve found a way to express that through conlanging.  In January of this year, I started looking more seriously into the Sikh religion as a solution to the emotional and spiritual crisis I had been feeling for months, and in March I attended a local gurdwara (Sikh temple) for the first time.  It’s since been a crucial lifeline for me and has opened up an entirely new world of thinking that I hadn’t had the opportunity to consider before.

God in Sikhi is described with incredible poetry, often as a set of apparent contradictions that, when studied and considered, create a solid idea in the mind of an ultimate being that is both transcendent and immanent in its creation, and indeed, that nothing exists, and nothing happens, that is not part of that God.  It’s a sort of idealistic monism, that everything we identify with, everything we’re attached to, and everything we interact with on a daily basis is a kind of illusion, and the truth is simply that everything is God — and as rational beings, we should seek to realize and internalize this notion.

I found this idea intensely fascinating and inspiring, and I’ve sought to create a language that removes the illusory barriers between people, between people and other creatures, and between all consciousness and the “ultimate consciousness” of reality/nature/God.  The lexeme Rën can refer to any being, including/particularly God, and is the only animate noun in the lexicon. It lacks all other animate referential pronouns, instead preferring to use morphological markers to label and refer back to persons in discourse, dropping the strange loop of the first person, and the “other-ness” of other persons.  If we look at this in a hesitantly Sapir-Whorf fashion, it would require the speaker to view all animate entities, including themselves, as interchangeable and therefore equal.

Like Taðýric, Rën is highly synthetic, and words that aren’t inflected with case can stand alone as sentences, and unlike Taðýric there is a complete dearth of particles.  Person, however, is infixed with nuclear vowels, and the elimination of a fairly large class of words means that stems can be shorter.  This should make the language appear ponderous but not long-winded.

If the nature of an individual needs to be made clear in a fashion that a noun would usually denote — for example, if the subject is a doctor, or a cat — the aspect of that individualness can be made clear with verbs.  For instance, “The doctor smokes cigarettes” might gloss as “heal.1 smoke.1” or “He heals.  He smokes.” The irony is still made clear without the other implications of doctorhood (ie education, wealth) being made explicit in the language used.  An animal may be more complicated, but still uses the same paradigm: “The cat was sleeping and then she bit my arm” could gloss to “sharp-tooth.1 claw.1 sleep.1 arm.IN Rën.2.OBL bite.IN” (in which the oblique, at this moment, works as a possessive case) or “She has sharp teeth, she has claws, she sleeps; to him there is an arm, it is bitten.” It doesn’t make the species explicit, as there are plenty of things out there with sharp teeth and claws, but it does present the creature in question in a violent manner as preamble to the event itself (although it could just as easily talk about the teeth and claws after the fact, to ditch the suspense and instead emphasize how it must have hurt!).  It also doesn’t make it explicit that it was my arm that was bitten, as the concept of “my”, of attachment in general, is foreign to Rën.

It’s a strange concept but I’m having a ton of fun with it and I hope I don’t run into too many pitfalls in working it out.

11
Aug

Meadow

Meadow is an artistic MMO-lite, more of a “forum in game’s clothing” according to its developers. It’s interesting from a design perspective because it focuses entirely on exploration and socialization, with a complete lack of competition, and gameplay limited to the collection of items for brownie points. Most of the time, people are engaged in looking for these items, some of which (“obelisks”) require multiple players to be engaged.

I was just playing it whilst thinking about my conlang, and realized that there’s a good bit that might be gleaned about how players in Meadow communicate. In Meadow, you are an animal, plain and simple, and like an animal, you are unable to speak. There is no typing, no words in gameplay, only symbols representing basic ideas — emoticons, essentially — such as “happy”, “flower”, or “climb”. With a relatively recent patch, you can say two of these at once, in one order or the other.

This has given rise to a sort of syntax, from what I’ve seen in my hours of playtime. For example, a conversation between three animals might go like this:

Badger: “Cave – ?”
Frog: “? – Cave”
Lynx: “Cave – X”
Lynx: “X – Obelisk”

Translated (and it’s astonishing how quickly this form of communication can be picked up):

Badger: “Should we go in the cave?”
Frog: “Where’s the cave?”
Lynx: “Let’s not go in the cave. There are no obelisks in there.”

Along with this, some interesting semantics can take place. A question mark might be literally used just as a question mark, or to say one does not understand, or in place of a WH-word. The “group” symbol becomes more complex: It can mean “let’s group up”, or it can mean “wait for the group”, or, “we need more with us”, depending on the context.

I’m presently working on Rën (more on that once it’s more developed), which like Meadow’s system of communication, only has inanimate referents, lacks animate reference, and is mostly made of single- or double-word sentences. Of course, there’s a lot more grammar involved, but I’m really considering just how creatively such a system could be used.

20
Jul

New Sehali Alphabet

by Geckat in Uncategorized

The more I looked at my present alphabet for Sehali, the more I didn’t much like it.  It’s neat, but it’s busy.  It has a connector like devanagari script, but why?  A third of the full glyph is taken up by the vowel, even though the language only has four.  And ultimately, it just didn’t give that “snakey” feel I really wanted to have.

Now, it was only my second script I’d created since actually getting into conlanging, so in the end it was just an experiment, and I wouldn’t call it a failed one.  It is a pretty script, just not what I want for my lizard-pirate species.

I’ve been dwelling on this for quite some time and finally, over my birthday, sat down and started creating another, inspired by Arabic and Mongolian.  I wanted something that would still have that sometimes mind-numbing complexity and alien oddity to it, but with funny scripts like the two mentioned existing in the human world I wasn’t entirely sure how to do that.  Finally I considered, what if the script was cursive, but with breaks in the cursivity, and that’s where the consonants were?  And thus the current snakey script was born.

It was quite the trouble creating my first ever cursive script, but I’m relatively happy with the result.  It can use some cleaning up, but I’ll have to learn how to do that efficiently first.

New Sehali AlphabetNew Sehali

13
Dec

Taðýric Abugida

Taðýric finally has its own writing system.  It took me a few tries to find something I liked, but finally I realized I need some sort of aesthetic commonalities between all these glyphs.  The commonality I went with is a little radical, but none of the strokes are allowed to curve upwards.  The result is something that looks to me like a lawn of twisted grass, or to others like rows of dancing ghosts.

The abugida is something of a cross between an abugida and a syllabary, as the glyphs for syllables with /e/ and /i/ as their nuclei are slightly irregular: Rather than consistent diacritics, certain strokes in the base glyph are doubled.  I therefore needed to create both a font and a keyboard layout.

Here is the result!

This is my translation of Hávamál 93-95.  I think it was worth the hours of effort.

14
Oct

Hávamál 93-95

I finally decided (tentatively) on a text to translate.  It has a couple different persons, some neat moods and reflexivity, various places for case or adpositions to be applied, and a little aspect (but no tense).  It also happens to just be a really nice few verses.

I’ve gone ahead and translated it, and then also typed it out in the latest version of the Sehali script.

Clipboard01

9
Sep

Swadesh List

So here’s the deal: I haven’t been working on languages as of late because I’ve been working on natural ones.  Very gradually learning French, trying to pick Swedish back up, picking up German a little too to amuse some new friends I’ve made.  But I’ve also still been hard at work on what I’m doing here.

Anyone perusing my projects will notice that while I’m fairly good at getting the grammatical stuff that I need down and all that good stuff, I’m absolutely terrible at actually coming up with words.  Indeed, there are some projects where I’ve formulated the phonology, got some solid phonotactic rules down, figured out how the syntax and morphology work, what grammatical systems are in place, churned out numbers and particles and then…wait, you need words to have a language?  Dang.  Eh, I’ll do it later.

I do this in language learning, too; ask me anything about Japanese grammar and I’m your textbook, but hell if I can remember more than fifty words in it.  So I’m trying a different route in my art: I looked around for a while for a list of words that essentially every language should have in some form.

Of course there are the Swadesh lists, but those tend to be rather short, contain a lot of grammatical terms like pronouns, and generally be unsuited to the purposes where the language in question is of, say, a race of bipedal lizards with no teeth.  And then there are frequency lists, which can be much longer, but again, lots of grammatical words, and also lots and lots of culturally, geographically, and technologically specific terms, which also makes them unsuitable.  In both cases, they tend to be culturally biased.

So I’ve gone out and painstakingly created (see: still creating) my own big long Swadesh list.  At the moment it has 754 words, and is made up of me taking the 1,000 most used words in written English, Chinese, Swahili, and Arabic, omitting all the synonyms, grammatical words, names for animals, technologically specific, geographically specific, and culturally specific terms, armed with my knowledge of Blackfoot, which loves its derivation and compounding, to omit unnecessary words.  So far it’s quite well-appreciated in the conlanging community and should, once filled in, make for a language that is about 60% “complete”.  That is, you can speak it and say whatever it is you want to say about 60% of the time, with most of the rest of the stuff being reliant on the technology, culture, and geography that your conculture may or may not have.

Have a look.

4
Sep

Elder Scrolls Online: Runic Syllabary

by Geckat in Conlangs, Minor

It’s not exactly common knowledge that the runes one uses in enchanting in The Elder Scrolls Online are actually made up of a syllabary, but a couple people before me have noticed this and done what they can to figure out which lines mean what.  A few weeks ago, I took the time to draw up a nice little chart.  Not a huge deal, but hey, it’s something, right?  As for original projects, I’m working on something very slowly that should help me come up with worthwhile words to translate.  More to come!

11
Jul

Zhuori

by Geckat in Conlangs, Major

I’ve been commissioned by Elmer Johnson to create a language for a novel he is intending to write.  We are collaborating on it, and thusfar it has a diphthong-heavy phonology and a relatively regular abugida.  Have a look.

15
Jun

IPaCCA

by Geckat in Conworld

It’s a little known fact that about two years ago I started building a new universe to stick all my languages.  Well, it’s thriving, even being used in some roleplays, got a few stories written by me and more on the way.  I’ve decided that to keep track of all the stuff I stick in it, I will have a new section in my wiki.  I’ve even got an in-progress map, and hope to have some art done at some point in the future.  Check it out.

7
Jun

Sehali Alphabet

So a week or two ago, I spent sixteen hours straight (that’s right: not even a bite to eat or a sit to poop) in a flurry of creativity to create the Sehali alphabet.  It’s my first completely original alphabet in a rather long time, and it’s quite complex, working as a kind of composed syllabary, like hangul (Korean script).  I’ve got it working nicely in tandem with the keyboard layout, which has changed a little to accommodate it.  Don’t worry, though: it’s still full of all those dots and macrons and diaereses and circumflexes above and below everything to make it look like some sort of weird topsy-turvy agglutinating Vietnamese when written in Latin.  I’m only just now writing a blog post about it, and the language still has a slim vocabulary, but I’ll celebrate by translating this blog’s title into my new lizardy script:

Clipboard02