Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Alien Language

I have written very little in the past, what, month? Year? Not quite, but it's been a while. Dega has left my mind almost entirely, so the title of my webpage is rather outdated, especially since it remains "dago" (I hope I have not mistakenly offended anyone with such a name). Fulludhét has received very little work, my world has received very little work; even so, I have still been making languages. 
     The other day I was just thinking on a more conworldy aspect of conlanging. One that unfortunately takes quite a bit of the fun out of constructing languages. That is reality. And while it may reduce the understandability of a conlang, and perhaps the availability to a human (which I assume we all are) it can be very interesting to think about what a truly alien language might look like, and what the differences could be between the alien beings and our native Earthlings, and--more to the point--how those differences could affect the languages which the alien beings speak. 
     Perhaps my inspiration for writing this was watching Star Trek (yeah, I'm a nerd in more than one way) where the aliens just all start to look the same; maybe one's ridge on their forehead is a couple of centimeters taller than the other's, and its skin color is a slightly darker hue of violet, but they're all just humans in disguise. And while this is of course greatly due to the budget constraints that make Star Trek great (remote controls that shoot laser beams, beautiful grassy, Earth landscapes a million light-years away from Earth, the list goes on), I see it elsewhere too, and I want to see more interesting beings, with something better than six fingers on each hand or four arms (two things I am both guilty of), I want to see beings with strange brains, or something in replacement of a brain, and different physical characteristics, even if their vocal apparati (apparatuses?) remain unchanged for the sake of our beloved languages.
     Perhaps I want to see this happen even if I doubt it will, but perhaps I don't want to; how many alien beings can you fit in a human body? But I digress...


The purpose of life is living; ultimately it comes down to that. One could say the purpose is to consume food, but that is so that we can have energy to live. One could say the purpose is to reproduce, but that is only so that later generations can live. One could say that it is to progress, whether technologically or genetically, but that eventually comes down to an easier, more efficient way to... you got it... live. Communication is a feature of many forms of life on Earth that allows an organism to notify another organism of something important to its survival, or another's survival. Language is a form of communication that allows a speaker to send complex information about complex topics to a receiver, and vice versa. This also helps the survival of the receiver, the sender, or even the community to live.
            An alien life-form may (and in all likelihood does) have very different needs for survival, so their language--if it exists (let's assume it does)--will carry very different meanings or uses depending on the structure of the life-form, the environment from which the life-form originates, and the needs which the life-form has in order to survive.
            Following are a number of aspects of language that will certainly vary between various life-forms:
1       If senses (and thus experiences) are different, or their importance or clarity is different between life-forms, then their emphasis or even existence in any language will be different as well.
2      If the body or life-form’s structure requires different materials to survive, these will have greater importance in the language, influencing some aspects of the language (metaphors?).
3       If the body or life-form’s structure is different than ours, then the mode of communication may (and probably will be) different as well. It may use scent, visual, tactile [whether electromagnetic contact (touch), or temperature], perhaps something with pheromones (like ants and bees), or something else entirely.
4       Another life-form may think and speak absolutely in contrast to our relative tendencies (there's some nasty ambiguity... I'll try it again. Another life-form may think and speak in an absolute manner opposed to our tendency to think and speak in a relative manner). There could also be absolute, single value measurements opposed to our ranges and comparisons. (This one seems very unlikely to me, but I suppose that is my point.)
5       Language could be structured differently than our use of nouns and verbs for actors and actions respectively. We have a level of productivity with which there is nothing to be compared, but another life-form's languages may have a greater or lesser level of productivity with which probably comes more or fewer parts of speech respectively. That is a language with lesser productivity may have words that have far longer and more complex meanings, perhaps entire sentences or clauses. Of course, some languages here on earth are like this, but that is typically a morphological thing rather than a single very unproductive word. I am sorry if I am using the term productivity incorrectly here, but I think it is what I intend.
6       Depending on the mode of communication, languages may evolve and split in many different ways and at faster and slower rates than does ours.
7       Vocabulary will also be greatly affected by drastic cultural differences that are sure to exist between two different life-forms (especially if they exist between two different nationalities of the same life-form).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Questions and Negation

In fĺuðét questions and negations are shown with one suffix, and a couple of modifications of it. Below are the most irregular words and the most regular word.

-ji/-ju (see table below for full explanation)

Not all of the question words are listed above, this is because fĺuðét does not have special words for those, but instead uses “which”. “Which” can be attached to a number of different things to show different types of questions, and negations. The forms ji and ju ds not do all of the work though; they have two other forms used for negation shown in the table below.


The “statement” column is mostly for negation. The “question” column is used to ask questions. A question with -ju would be “is it not?” (There should be no expecting the affirmative that there is in English though), and a question with -ji is just “is it?”. ði and ðu can also be used as “yes” and “no” respectively. To make questions with “where?”, “how?” and “which cow?” one must use -ji and -ju and attach them to the noun that they are asking about, so “where?” would be ślot “place” + -ji or śloji; “how” can mean various different things, but for the “how” that means “by what means?” or “in what way?” one would use fĺtéþ “method” + -ji or fĺtéði; “which cow?” would be pédli “cow” + -ji or pédliji. Of course in any of these words -ji can be replaced with -ju to make it a negative question.
Another aspect of questions and negation is that multiple parts of speech can be questioned and negated simultaneously. So this also leads to the fact that if anything can be negated, then some things probably need to be negated. What I mean by this is if you’re trying to say “The cow did not want to eat the grass” where there is emphasis on the point that it’s the grass that the cow does not want to eat, then you would negate the “grass”, but you’re also saying that the cow didn’t want to do the verb (“eat” in this case) either, so you have to negate it too; it is essentially a double negative. A multi-question (if you will) is where you’re asking about two or more things at once. It’s like the English: “Who did what?”, except it is more widely accepted and used.
Almost any word can be negated, or asked about. For most things (i.e. nouns, adjectives, adverbs [other than tense]) the appropriate suffix is merely attached to the end of the subject in question (no pun intended), but for verbs the suffix is isolated and placed immediately after the tense marking.
I have begun work on the “first language” of Dunta. I put “first language” in quotes, because the language probably has a couple hundred years worth of predecessors, but this is the first, fully fledged language with a complex grammar. It is almost entirely isolating, and most of the grammatical words are still used as a more concrete form elsewhere. A simple sentence can only be intransitive; to make it the equivalent of transitive sentence, one must add another clause with the same verb as the first clause in the passive voice with the object as the subject. So, to say “I eat the cow” one would have to say something like “I eat; the cow is eaten”. I made it this way, because it seems like the first language’s predecessors would not express anything, but simple intransitive sentences, and this would be the logical step towards transitivity. I think the passive voice in this language will be a simpler form than in English, but I have just started this language and have not worked everything out yet.
I would love any input on what you think a first (or almost first) language would look like in its phonology, its morphology, and I’m very curious what you think the word order should be (at this point I’ve decided SAOP [where A=Active of verb, and P=Passive of verb], but if you have a convincing argument otherwise I would love to hear it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Nouns are based around the third person (super special) pronoun that I introduced in the post on syntax and word order: . , as I mentioned in that post, also has a number of other forms which are used to mark the genitive, the reflexive, the passive, the causative and the accusative/ablative/everything else. I have organized the forms in the table below:

(+ noun)
The nominative where it is unclear.
The nominative of the 3rd person pronoun (he, she, it, him, her, they, them, one, some, all).
fo (+ noun)
Inalienable possession.
Inalienable possession of the 3p.
fe (+ preposition)
The accusative where it is unclear.
The ablative of a noun or a verb (“the cow that’s inside the house ate” vs. “the cow ate inside the house” respectively).
The accusative of the 3p.
fi (+ noun)
The causative.
The reflexive (also the intransitive of lexically causative/intransitive verbs).
The passive.

is used very little except as the third person pronoun. Its only real use as the modifier of a noun is when the word order is being changed (perhaps to fit in poetry or other word art, or for emphasis/stress, which I will address later), so that the noun’s identity as the nominative is not lost with the order. is also used to make clear that a gerund is a noun, and not a verb.
fo is the possessive marker, but it only expresses inalienable possession (ðibéþ in a relative clause is used to show alienable possession (I will discuss further what is considered alienable, and what is inalienable later in the post)).
            fe is used for just about everything else related to noun declensions/cases (fi has to do with verbs, but is part of a nominal set of particles, so I’ll talk about it here). It is mostly used as the ablative combined with a preposition, which can modify a noun or a verb. It can also be used as the marker of the accusative. It is not always used, but it is used more than .
fi is not a modifier of nouns, but rather of verbs. It once only showed reflexivity, but verbs that were intransitive lexically became unacceptable, and had to be used with the causative, so one would not say éþ već þe “I walk”; one would say fiéþ veću þe “I cause myself to walk”. -u was added to make the causative, but eventually fi was also necessary, and intransitive verbs kept the -u suffix and it lost its meaning. fi then also came to clarify the passive by analogy that reflexive is somewhat like removing the accusative noun, so it removed the nominative noun when attached to the accusative.

Our next topic of interest is the relative clause. A noun’s relative clause follows the noun unless the modified noun is the subject of the relative clause, in which case the relative clause precedes the noun. Inside the clause the modified noun is replaced with the appropriate pronoun in the clause (not the main sentence). The relative clause should not be confused with the main sentence, and the main sentence with the adverb, because the main sentence does not have a word (i.e. conjunction, preposition) that makes it an adverb, and using deductive reasoning one would conclude that the preceding phrase is a relative clause.
Some examples of relative clauses used in different ways are below.

fĺ rofép þédop   po       robét weboć źĺtu þe!
3   rock   crash_into pas.per fruit     human  kill    pre.per
The fruit that crashed (a vehicle) into a rock is killing the human!

robét rofép fe    þédop     po       weboć źĺtu þe!
            fruit     rock    3.abl crash_into pas.per human   kill    pre.per
The fruit that a rock crashed (a vehicle) into is killing the human!

fo is one way to show possession, but it only shows possession of inalienable things (that is things that cannot be taken away, or alienated from the possessor); the other way of showing possession is for the alienable and is made by modifying the possessed noun with a relative clause of the verb, ðibéþ “to have”, and putting the possessor in the nominative of that clause.
Now is the question of what’s alienable, and what’s inalienable, which is determined mostly arbitrarily, although there is a pattern shown in the table below.

·        Children
·        Tools
·        Material Possessions
·        Parents
·        gloves, hats, jackets
·        One of some
·        Body parts
·        Friends/Spouses
·        Clothes, but not gloves, hats, or jackets
·        Actions
·        Part of one

I realize that my descriptions for Inanimate are not the most descriptive, but that is because I plan to describe them down here. Possession and the collective/partitive distinction are very related. They and their context determine whether a possession is alienable or inalienable. The collective/partitive distinction is easy enough to understand, as it is mostly intuitional. For example, take “The head of the hammer”. Here we have inalienable possession because the head is part of one hammer, but we might also say, “This head of all heads”. Here we are talking about one of some (all) of something, because we have a group (collection) of something.
Some nouns are lexically partitive, and cannot be collective, but some have to be modified with a suffix to show the partitive or collective. The suffix for the partitive is -fo, and the suffix for the collective is -ðib. The similarity/congruency of these two suffixes and the markers of possession is no accident, and in fact is directly related.
Because fewer nouns are lexically partitive, I will give the two entry list of the rules that determine whether a noun is below.
1.      Fluids/liquids, gasses (e.g. we “water”, bef “air”
2.      Nouns modified by a partitive adjective (e.g. tiði “much”)

There are also some other irregular nouns that are lexically partitive, but are neither a fluid nor modified by a partitive adjective.

Adjectives are fairly simple in most respects, but are widely (if not dominantly) irregular when forming the comparative and superlative. However like many irregularities they are somewhat regular. The most regular irregularity has to do with the suffix -o which makes a noun into an adjective. These adjectives undergo a number of changes to make the comparative and superlative. First the regular suffix corresponding to the degree of the adjective is added; for comparative this is -ti, and for superlative this is -śe. Then the final consonant of the suffix is generally removed, (except in more formal speech or writing), if there is one, the penultimate vowel is removed, and applicable sound changes are applied.
An example is below.

roćo                             “same”
roćoti/roćośe                add regular suffix
roćot/roćoś                   remove final vowel
roćt/roćś                       remove penultimate vowel
rośt/roć                        apply derivational changes (make liquid a vowel)
rośt                              more similar (more same)
roć                               exactly the same (most similar)

The “regular” way of forming the degrees of an adjective just involves adding -ti for the comparative and -śe for the superlative.
When the comparative is used, the noun that is being compared to is put after the adjective and before the main noun.

Before the example, we’re going to add “com” and “sup” to the list of gloss abbreviations, and let them mean “comparative” and “superlative” respectively.

þéd           fo weboć diće    þe
hungry.com of  human   animal pre.per
The animal is hungrier than the human.

I think that’s about it for adjectives. Next up we have kinship terms.

Kinship in fĺuðét is expressed with a number of terms. There is a set for each of the personal pronouns, so 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person. For 1st and 2nd the genitive is unnecessary, as the terms are mostly unique for each one, however for the third person the genitive is used to show whose kinship the speaker is speaking of. Much derivation was used in these terms, and I may try and figure it out and explain it all later, but for now I will just put up the diagrams. They are tree diagrams, and the “|” shows that the word is of the connected one, so ðudéf is not the child of éþ (śpĺ is), but is the child of rej, the aunt or uncle of éþ.

a. 1st Person
Mother - doli    Father - śup  |  Mother - jwéd    Father - źot
Sibling - þuśu  --  Mother - poti  |  Father - ćowĺþ  --  Sibling - rej
Child - ðudéf -|                            1 - éþ  --  Sibling - śwev           |- Child - ðudéf
                   Child -  |  Child - śpĺ
Child - lufo

b. 2nd Person
Mother - śleréś    Father - śleféś  |  Mother - śleréś    Father - śleféś
Sibling - rejbi  --  Mother - réś  |  Father - if  --  Sibling - rejbi
Child - ðubi -|                            2 - pi  --  Sibling - tév           |- Child - ðubi
                   Child - foðépi  |  Child - pipĺ
Child - lufopi
c. 3rd Person
Mother - éþŕt    Father - ivowe  |  Mother - éću    Father - ijŕf
Sibling - toti  --  Mother - éréś  |  Father - iféś  --  Sibling - ðéće
Child - luti -|                        3 - fĺ  --  Sibling - tufĺ           |- Child - luðe
                   Child - lufĺ  |  Child - śŕfu
Child - ćotwep

Here is an example showing the two major kinship terms in action.

Éþ poti         tu   ćowĺþ    ćob þeþe.
1     my.mother and my.father love pre.imp
I love my mother and father.

And now, for numerals. fĺuðét has a base six system, for no reason in particular. Although fĺuðét generally does not show number, it can be implied by describing a noun with a numeral. Below I will list the numbers or the way to form the numbers from 1 to 555,555 (46655). I am presenting them in the format: base-six (base-ten) (I don’t add the extra parentheses with base ten, when the base ten and base six are the same).
0 -                    ðu
1 -                    buź
2 -                   
3 -                    śéþ
4 -                    doź
5 -                    poć
10 (6) -                       źŕð

11 (7) -                        źŕðbuź
12 (8) -                        źŕðŕ
13 (9) -                        źŕźéþ
14 (10 -           źŕðoź
15 (11) -          źŕðboć
20 (12) -          tŕðu
21 (13) -          tŕbuź
22 (14) -          tŕt
23 (15) -          tŕśéþ
24 (16) -          tŕdoź
25 (17) -          tŕpoć
30 (18) -          śéðu
31 (19) -          śéðbuź
32 (20) -          śéþŕ
33 (21) -          śéś
34 (22) -          śéþoź
35 (23) -          śéþpoć
40 (24) -          doźðu
41 (25) -          doźbuź
42 (26) -          doźdŕ
43 (27) -          doźéþ
44 (28) -          doźd
45 (29) -          doźboć
50 (30) -          pojðu
51 (31) -          poćpuź
52 (32) -          pośtŕ
53 (33) -          poćéþ
54 (34) -          pośtoź
55 (35) -          poćpo
100 (36) -        buźŕð
101 (37) -        buźŕð buź
102 (38) -        buźŕð tŕ
200 (72) -        tŕbuźŕð

1,000 (216) -   vĺć
2,000 (432) - tŕwĺć
2,001 (433) - tŕwĺć buź
10,000 (1,296) - źŕðwĺć
100,000 (7776) - riðu
110,000 (9072) - riðu źŕðwĺć

555,555 (46655) - poćriðu pojŕðwĺć pojwĺć poćpuźŕð poćpo
And that’s as high as it goes. As it gets higher the base-10 numbers become funkier and funkier, and harder to predict, and—not for this, but related to it—I have made a nice clean way to convert numbers from one base to another (mostly from base-10). It’s all based around powers, because that’s how most numeric systems are based. For base-10 we have 10^0 = 1, 10^1 = 10, 10^2 = 100, 10^3 = 1,000, 10^4 = 10,000, etc. Base-6 in base-10 (if it were in base-6 it would look exactly the same) it would be 6^0 = 1, 6^1 = 6, 6^2 = 36, 6^3 = 216, (and now we use a calculator) 6^4 = 1,296. Now to convert a number from base-10 to base-6 it’s a lot like division; we have to fit our powers of six into our base-10 number and subtract them until we are left with zero. This will be most easily explained in an example. Let’s take base-10 894 and convert it to base-6 and base-14 for the heck of it and a more diverse example.

1          __________________
6          | 8 9 4

First we put all of the powers of six in base-10 to the side until we find the one that is larger than our number; this is so we can find the number that is one power smaller than our number. We can ignore the larger number.
Now we see how many times 216 can go into 894.

1          __________________
6          | 8 9 4
216      * 1 = 216
            * 2 = 432
            * 3 = 648
            * 4 = 864
            * 5 = 1080

864 is the largest number that can go in, so we subtract it from 894

1          _4_________
6          | 894
36        - 864
216        030

Now we see how many times the next smallest number goes in; it goes in 0 times, then we do the next number and it goes in exactly 5 times, and leaves us with 0, which means we’re done.

1          _40________
6          | 894
36        - 864
216        030
            -     0
1          _405_______
6          | 894
36        - 864
216        030
            -     0
            -   30

Thus the base-6 of 894 in base-10 is 405. I hope that made some sense. Now for base-14.

1          _______________
14        | 894

1          _______________
14        | 894

196      * 1 = 196
            * 2 = 392
            * 3 = 588
            * 4 = 784
            * 5 = 980                      

1          _______________
14        |  894
196      - 784

1          _4_____________
14        |  894
196      - 784

14        * 1 = 14
            * 2 = 28
* 7 = 98
* 8 = 112

1          _47____________
14        |  894
196      - 784
-   98

1          _47C___________
14        |  894
196      - 784
-   98
            -    12

            Here C is being used for 12, for base-14, because base-10 does not have a single digit numeral for 12. Thus 47C (four hundred and seventy C) is the base-14 of 894 in base-10.

The numerals given above are used as adjectives, and show the quantity of any given noun. To make ordinal numbers out of these, one treats the number as a noun, puts it in the ablative, and modifies it with jo, “in”, so 32nd (20th) would be fejo śéþŕ.

éþ śŕrĺ   fejo  źŕðbuź śŕþ po
1    chair abl-in eleven    sit   pas.per
I sat in the eleventh (seventh) chair.