Aug 11th, 2017 by Geckat in Linguistics, Sociolinguistics

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.

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