29
Apr

Ta’agra Collab

There is a phenomenon one tends to experience when he or she reconstructs fictional pseudo-conlangs or incomplete conlangs into working conlangs: often times, you aren’t the only one doing it.  This can be both a problem and a boon: a problem because it means there are different people with different interpretations who disagree with you and if you’re overly competitive like I am you feel like you are vying for some sort of conlang control, with the goal being the fanbase adhering strictly to your reconstruction; and a boon because you can collaborate with people if you can get over your competitive ego.

I am going to attempt to do exactly that.  About a year ago, Ra’Zakhar & Kiarash began work on what they have dubbed The Ta’agra Project.  They’ve been nice enough to credit me on their front page, but they have also taken some deviations from my rendition of the Khajiiti language, and have added many of their own words to the Ta’agra lexicon.  Despite this, we believe we can work together, so expect to see more and more Ta’agra coming that should, WITH OUR POWERS COMBINED, become that sought-after be-all of a fan language.

Sure, Justin, you always say you will be working on things, but what have you actually done?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Apart from my struggles to convince my new collaborators that Ta’agra has case prefixes (the evidence just keeps pouring in, come on, guys!), one major stride these two have taken is to start on an alphabet.  Now, I’m not too fond of alphabets: they’re rare in the real world and because of this they take the immersion right out of a conlang.  But these two have an interesting philosophy that I often forget to include, and that is that this is a fan language.  A language for fans.  Not for linguists, not for the .01% of people in the world who would consider writing songs in Na’vi, but for people who like the Elder Scrolls franchise and think it would be neat to be able to, say, write their own name in Ta’agra.  They’re not going to be able to do that if it’s done in an abugida (much as it pains me), so an alphabet it is.

And to show my good intentions, I have started on a font for said alphabet based on the glyphs they already invented with a couple modifications and additions of my own.  It’s just got the letters so far, but check it out.

Wish us luck!

6
Apr

Sehali

by Geckat in Conlangs, Major

Started another conlang tonight, because I was inspired. Time to see what happens when we have progressively assimilating secondary articulations across consonants — in three levels.  This will be another addition to my Ipakha project.

Sehali (Sehali: Sä̗hāli) [sʲaˈħaˌlˠi] is a language spoken by reptilian people of the same name. Nomadic, the Sehali are known variously as raiders, traders, and slavers, although make their home mostly in the Miuxleb Plains, controlling major tradeways between the Copper Mountains and the Great East Plateau.

31
Dec

New Title!

by Geckat in Conlangs, Minor, Site

Except not!  It’s pronounced the same, I just decided I really don’t like /ɕ/ as a distinctive phoneme in Taðýric.  It’s just too noisy, so instead I’m having it only appear in palatalizing environments (ie before /i/).  Fun with phonotactics.

3
Dec

Lutrin? Oekin!

by Geckat in Conlangs, Minor

I’m finally changing Lutrin’s name.  When my friend and I came up with the idea, we weren’t planning on doing a whole lot with it except for some private writing, so yeah, why not be lazy and just name a race off of their literal translation in Latin?  Now, though, Ipakha has its own name as a canon, and has publications, so I think it’s time we glazed over our laziness and at least gave them a unique name.

Being a tribal society, those-who-were-formerly-known-as-Lutrin would probably name themselves something very egocentric when asked: typically, these societies call themselves things like “the first people,” like in my own beloved Blackfoot (niitsitapi), or, indeed, just “people”.  In the case of ex-Lutrin, the translation of this would be oekinmerel, but because I want my names to be shorter and so more memorable, I am just going to stick with “people”.  This would be oekinel, which I believe I will continue to use as an endonym, but because encroachers rarely properly use inflections, if they use the native language at all (or even a translation: ‘Blackfoot’ is lucky; there are nations close by that wound up being called ‘Carrier’ or ‘Slave’ by translated exonyms), I will drop the plural suffix and make the common name of the people and language Oekin.

My friend, bless him, likes it particularly because it ends with -kin.

21
Oct

Ipakha and Lutrin Culture

by Geckat in Conlangs, Minor

Ipakha, the universe for which Lutrin is being created, is finally getting written as a story.  The first couple chapters written thusfar (by me; my collaborator is still working out things on their end) are about the Lutrins, either in part or in full.  This means that, especially in the case of the second, their language finally sees some real use, which is very exciting to me.

The first is titled Sinking of the SSS Dungong, and follows two Lutrins aboard a sinking landship, a hybrid of comedy and tragedy and a lot of in-line exposition.

The second is A Sacrifice to Child Lake, which tells the bloody, sordid story of one Lutrin’s mother, and illustrates the tribal nature of these otter-like people.

More to come, very soon, in Ipakha.

5
Aug

Languages I Like and Don’t

A large part of being a conlanger, especially for the purpose of fiction writing, at least to me, is creating languages that I enjoy and that I do not.  Naturally, most of the languages we create will be language that we find pleasing on at least some level; however, sometimes we create languages for the exact opposite purpose.  The best example of this, I believe, is Tolkien’s Black Speech, which he famously despised.

The languages that I enjoy seem to have several commonalities to them: languages like Blackfoot, Finnish, Icelandic, Japanese.  Phonotactically, they vary greatly, which is surprising: Finnish and Japanese prefer CV or CVC syllables almost exclusively, while Blackfoot and Icelandic can have some very interesting consonant clusters, with Icelandic adoring its complex onsets and codas, and Blackfoot with its famous nuclear /s/.  Morphologically, however, they are all fairly synthetic.

It is perhaps a little shocking or depressing to say that a linguist has languages he or she hates, but there are certainly languages that I dislike myself, and it’s important to me to know just why so that I can utilize that in conlang creation.  I’m going to list three languages that I really do not enjoy hearing; I’d like to clarify that I do not mean any offence to those who speak or enjoy them: Spanish, Mandarin, and Punjabi.  These follow the opposite pattern from the languages I listed as enjoying: they are all quite isolating.  That having been said, I enjoy English, which is also extremely isolating; I might argue that English as it is spoken is quite a bit more synthetic-sounding, with all its contractions and the laziness of the schwa in everything that is unstressed (see: particles) that makes closed class words sound as though they merge with surrounding open class words.

The real problem with my hypothesis that my enjoyment of languages rests entirely on their morpheme-per-word ratios is that there are a few languages that I don’t mind hearing at all: Portuguese, Cantonese, Hindi.  Although I don’t speak any of these, to my ear the differences between Spanish and Portuguese, Mandarin and Cantonese, and Hindi and Punjabi are like night and day, despite the fact that these languages are all similarly isolating and have much the same phonologies and lexicons.  So now we need to get into some basic psychology: the fact is, although I have nothing against the people who speak them, I have had more experiences with Spanish, Mandarin, and Punjabi than Portuguese, Cantonese and Hindi — more to the point, experiences with very loud fellow students, roommates, or coworkers who speak them.

And that is, to be frank, what it comes down to: it’s a kind of subtle linguistic racism I can’t quite escape, but this resentment of “loudness” in a language agrees with my general preference for synthetic languages as well: a language with more morphemes, more syllables per word, has fewer stressed syllables, and may sound naturally quieter.  Popular culture even seems to pick up on this, with the quiet Native American typical of movies versus the voice of the Chinese man on the street whose voice carries over the entire block.  Is it racism, or a legitimate side-effect of the typology of the language in question?

Whatever it is might be an interesting topic of study in the future.  For now, it’s good to know a piece of what endears me towards certain languages and drives me from others; I have always been a quiet individual, and as is the often unfortunate nature of humans, I am instinctively driven towards familiarity, even in the otherwise haphazard judgement of foreign languages.

3
Jul

Mantis

by Geckat in Conlangs, Major

So, I’ve been playing a lot of a game called “FTL: Faster Than Light”. It’s an indie roguelike developed by Subset Games in which you command a space vessel with a mission to deliver vital information to Federation Headquarters. You deal with ships and colonies in distress, get attacked by pirates, slip through nebulae, evade erupting supergiant stars, engage in diplomacy, hire (and lose) crew, ship systems, weaponry…all while the huge rebel fleet is only a few FTL jumps away in hot pursuit of you and your intel.

It’s hellishly difficult most of the time, especially given its roguelike status — that is, there is no saving and reloading; if your ace pilot ends up being eaten by giant alien spiders, that’s your problem to deal with. Of course, though, what I always find the most enjoyable is the lore and text, of which there is a lot. I smiled, I laughed, I furiously threw objects, and most of all I came across two words — names — that are relevant to this blog.

Urggghtnag, a hunting clan.
KazaaakplethKilik, a dreaded space pirate.

These are, as far as I’ve seen, the only instances of foreign languages in the game, and both are of the “Mantis” race: a bloodthirsty insectoid species who specialize in boarding your ship and carving up your less exoskeletal crew members in melee combat. My first reaction upon reading these names was: those are absolutely absurd.  Three A’s?  Three G’s, even?  And a capital K thrown in the middle for good measure?

My second reaction was…I can totally make this work.

So, I’ve started to make this work: The Mantis language is now in my projects wiki, in which I churn out geminates, nuclear fricatives, click consonants, and a full three levels of phonemic vocalic length.  My first goal of creating a viable translation and gloss of those two names has been met: our hunting clan is now unofficially “The Great Thorax” clan, and the most feared pirate in the sector was christened “You Will Resonate In Glory” in typical synthetic language style.  I had particular fun thinking of examples of phonemic vocalic length: zhiKik “you yell” – zhiiKik “you negotiate” – zhiiiKik “you run electricity through (something)”.  What else would you need three I’s for but electrocution?  That’s what I thought, too.

I’ll continue to work on this and Taðýric in my spare time, when I’m not grinding out half-hour poems for the amusement of my friends — or, of course, having my crew shredded by giant geminating bugs.

31
Mar

Lutrin – Demonstratives and Copula (aka What Is THAT?)

by Geckat in Conlangs, Minor

A few days ago I worked on Lutrin a little more, because my main partner in crime in writing who commissioned (see: made me want to create) Lutrin got me excited again.

I realized that throughout Lutrin’s development hitherto it has not really used the verb “to be”. This verb rarely appears in Genesis 11:1-9, the only text I’ve translated into Lutrin, which makes me wonder if I should change my benchmark first translation; where it does appear, it’s in the present tense, third person.

Because I’m not just writing this conlang for myself but also for another person who really isn’t a linguist and has no experience as far as I know with learning second languages, I tried to keep it simple and used the aspect/mood infixed morphemes as the roots of their respective copular inflections. It means the copula isn’t irregular at all, apart from the infinitive, but given the amount of inflection in the language I think this can be realistic.

Demonstratives, on the other hand, have nothing to regulate to. I based them on the e/o alternation found throughout Lutrin when it comes to gender and smashed paradigms together until there were only five different proximal demonstratives that agree with both gender and case. Once again, in the interest of keeping things sort of simple without making Lutrin an English clone or a “logical” language, I formed the distal just with a single non-syllabic suffix.

Now I just need more things to translate.

28
Mar

Taðýric

by Geckat in Conlangs, Major, Site

After several years of working on Mésylþo, I have decided to scrap it in favour of working on a similarly inspired but new project called Taðýric. The reason I did this was the decision that to make a language beautiful it must be natural-sounding and not just contain the elements that I find pleasing.

Taðýric’s morphology is largely the same as Mésylþo’s, but its morphemes are influenced by a relatively new phonology, particularly new phonotactics. Most importantly, plosives have been added, and more consonant clusters recognized. I’ve also added a standard for diphthongization in morpheme combining that should allow for the language to remain quite regular without compromising for strange combinations of vowels at morpheme boundaries despite the language’s large and relatively free vowel inventory.

Due to Mésylþo’s death, this site has been renamed in Taðýric, with the same meaning as it had previously. The pronunciation is [ˈɕaːʁataˌðyːʁɛθ], for those interested, and the meaning… well, I’ll leave the translation to you.

Best,

24
Jan

Typing in Sindarin (Tengwar)

Since I now have my own webspace, I can finally reliably upload the fonts and keyboard layouts I create. I use Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator for layouts, and HighLogic Font Creator for my fonts, and I’m proud of each and every one of them and have already included my Mésylþo keyboard layout and Asuran font.

I’m posting because I just decided to add a combination of font and keyboard layout for perhaps the most famous conceptualized language: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sindarin. Sindarin uses Tengwar as a writing system, which is an abugida — that is, each letter is made up of two parts: a consonant and a vowel, with the vowel in the form of a diacritic. It was therefore a lot of work to put every single syllabic glyph into the font as well as to set all the dead keys needed for the keyboard layout, but it does work, despite having been made back in 2009.

So, for those of you out there who really wish Elvish had Unicode representations, this is probably the next-best thing, and lets you type Sindarin using Tengwar (almost) just as you would type the romanization. Have fun!