Deconstructing Conlanging

This blog is dedicated to conlanging and providing a resource for newbie and veteran conlangers alike. There will also be posts about linguistics, and interviews with Tumblr linguists and other conlangers.
Posts tagged "conlang"

Hello tumblr, long time no see!

Deconstructed Construction is going to be coming back, albeit on an inconsistent schedule. In the next few weeks I’ll be continuing the Historical Conlanging series. Since the last post, both Jordan and Tommy seem to have left the blog. Thus, I am looking for someone to write things for this blog with me!

Please send a message to this blog or my main blog if you’d be interested in helping out. A link to your conlanging tag would be appreciated so I can see your language and get a feel for the tone of your work, but it’s not required. You can choose to continue one of the previous series of posts or just start something new! Over the next few days I’m going to be working on cleaning up this blog a bit and getting it ready for some new content.

Followers, thanks for sticking around even though there’s been no new content in quite a while! I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.

Best Wishes,
Nick

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hey Nick! I'm not actually anonymous - I'm Joe - and I've been working on LingoJam. You may or may not have seen David Petersons post about it on the G+ circle. Basically, I'm wondering whether you could explain some crucial features that are needed by LingoJam to be really useful to conlangers. I'm not a conlanger myself, so if you could keep the language noob-safe that'd be great! :)
deconstructedconstruction deconstructedconstruction Said:

Unfortunately, in order to get a complete answer for your question, you would have to ask every single conlanger. All conlangs are different, and it doesn’t matter if you’re making an artistic language, an auxiliary language, or anything else for that matter. One person could have tens of cases and grammatical features up the wazoo, and the next person could have an ultra-simplistic language with minimal phonology.

My structure isn’t too complex, so what I’ve seen, I could make a relatively decent translator with LingoJam. I would have to do some refresher research on how translators work and the faults and/or benefits of using a translator in order to get a well-rounded opinion of whether or not translators would be useful for most conlangers.

Personally? I would want to finish my formal grammar (which, unfortunately, has also gone on a hiatus like this blog) before I thought of making something like this. I also feel like it would be difficult to make this translator work with my verbs in my own conlang, because a lot of the time the differences in meaning that I have in Anikele don’t translate into English, or end up having the same form. But I guess that is a general automatic translation problem?

Followers, opinions for Joe? This is his website.

man-in-space answered your question: What kind of post would you like to see?

Id like to see posts on diachronics and on making good allophony/sandhi rules.

I’ve only ever worked on one language from one point in time, but I’ll do some research and ask around and see what I can come up with regarding diachronics.

Regarding allophony and sandhi rules, what kind of thing are you looking for? How to make rules that make sense or how to write them or just an explanation of what they are? (Keep in mind the intended audience for this blog is more novice, so I might have to start by explaining what it is and why it’s useful before I get to the core of it if you’re asking for more complex stuff.)

It is, of course, impossible to make this series a full and complete list of the different ways to learn a conlang, but even if I go on with this series for years, I will never cover all of the different ways that people can interact with a language in a way that helps them internalize it. Neither can I tell you what the way to go is for you. You just have to experiment and keep working with the conlang (or even natlang) that you want to learn and eventually you’ll improve. It just takes a few steps and a few missteps to get there.

The reason why I first suggested to learn some sort of other language (or even another conlang!) was so that you could get a feel for what would work best for you when you were to teach yourself your conlang. Learning in and of itself is a process, but many language learners get stuck before they even get started because they get so caught up in what kind of process they are using that they don’t actually start to learn the language.

I believe that that problem is even worse with conlangs, because in this case there are so many distractions one can fall prey to. You’re (most likely) creating the language yourself, so you can get caught up in working in the technical aspects of the language rather than experiencing it yourself.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what method you decide to use as long as you work with the language. It’s best to work in many different ways anyways in order to get the best understanding of your language as possible. Once you take the first step to learning your language, it should just roll along steadily. Just keep moving forward and don’t get discouraged by your progress (or plateauing). As long as you keep working seriously with the language it should work out for the best.

——-

Resources and Additional Readings:

http://www.spanish-only.com/2008/07/dont-be-a-quitter/

http://www.spanish-only.com/2009/08/turn-negative-positive/

http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/aim-to-fail

http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/how-to-accomplish-great-things-small-victories-winnable-games

Hello all Deconstructed Construction followers!

Instead of a normal post this week, I (Nick) will be holding a week of questions and answers!

Occasionally we get messages in our inbox about certain things related either to linguistics or conlanging, and I wanted to make sure that all of our followers have a chance to ask any questions that they have floating around. Of course, you can obviously send us questions at any time, but this is sort of a special occasion where there will be time set aside specifically to writing more personalized informational posts.

Our askbox can be found here. Don’t be shy!

Best wishes,
Nick 

Once in a while one might wonder what would the world be like if there was just a slight thing that had changed. This is the reason why thinking about alternate possibilities, even alternate histories is such a fun and entertaining process for people. It’s not just simply imagining that is the fun of it. If that were the case, it is probably easier to create something from whole cloth. I would have to say that the point and the allure of alternate history is that under some circumstance, it could have happened.

Take, for example, the language Brithenig. Brithenig is a conlang created in 1996 by Andrew Smith to experiment with the idea of Latin taking over as the dominant language rather than Celtic in Great Britain. Smith not only created the language of Brithenig, but incorporated into it a complete alternate history and timeline that would make this language possible to exist in a natural setting.

Granted, the alternate timeline (Ill Bethisad) only came about because of a large collaboration with others on it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. One of the most interesting thing about conlanging and conworlding is that it is so easy for people to share their ideas and opinions on material given that they are well-enough informed to understand the material and are allowed to interact with others in a meaningful way that at the same time creates a product, an idea, that is just as meaningful. We have a community here that is more than open to discussion and collaboration. And that is a great thing.

I think the most interesting thing about any project is that people can form something so much more complicated than one mind can create. It gives it a realism that a single-person project can only strive for. It also takes things and brings them to interesting new places that are completely unexpected. Ill Bethisad is a great example of that, as well as other things going on in the community right now.

"There are several means by which the Members of this Project have created the alternate or pseudo history of Ill Bethisad. A project as long-running and with so many contributers (anymore both active and inactive) can’t be managed in a haphazard way. Nor can it really be run by a single person who is at the center of the creative activity. Indeed, in the first years, this was exactly how the project operated: the original deviser of the alternate history was at the center of a cadre of interested individuals."

http://www.bethisad.com/principles.htm

It is sometimes not possible to use only one person for a project. It is impossible to have a relay without a friend to pass the message along to, just as it is impossible to play glossotechnia without someone else to challenge you to do better. Although that is not the same as creating a world by yourself- which is more than doable by one person -it does go to show how adding more people can add an element of human randomness to a project.

One doesn’t always have to look at the conlang itself to find inspiration for their own projects. Life takes us in many different directions, and you might start a project thinking that you’re going to be talking about alternate histories and the different influences languages have on one another and end up talking about cooperation and collaboration within individual projects and the conlanging community. Nonetheless, as long as something is moving forward, then it is worth the effort.

——-

Resources and Additional Reading:

Stephen D. Rogers. A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Adûnaic to Elvish, Zaum to Klingon- The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons. Adams Media, 2011.

http://www.frathwiki.com/Brithenig

http://web.archive.org/web/20090529072556/http://hobbit.griffler.co.nz/introduction.html

http://www.bethisad.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brithenig

We have heard some feedback from a few of you regarding the content and organization of the blog, but we’d really love to hear what you all have to say.


We are currently looking for suggestions for new series of posts. What do you guys want to hear? What do you want to learn? Do you want our opinions on something? We are open to anything you have to suggest. Since this blog is first and foremost a resource to the Tumblr conlanging community, we want to provide you with the advice and resources that you need so please don’t hesitate to ask!

-Jordan, creator of Deconstructed Construction

Having started this blog a little under a year ago, I can’t express enough how amazed I am at how well it has been received. Thank you for all your support.

We are now looking to grow a bit and add a few contributors to the blog who would write posts on a semi-regular or regular basis. If you are interested in joining a group of inspired conlang enthusiasts who are striving to help spread the love of conlanging to more and more people, please don’t hesitate to send an application as an ask and we will get back to you promptly. We are looking for 2 or 3 people to contribute so our next member could very well be you! (In your application, please include: name, age, how long you have been conlanging, a link to one of your conlangs if possible, any ideas you may have for a possible series of posts you would be interested in writing).

We are also now accepting submissions from all of you wondrous Tumblr conlangers. If you want your conlang reviewed or featured on our blog, send us a submission with a link to information about your conlang (if possible), the name of your conlang, a description of your language, a description of the con-culture who speaks it (if applicable), and anything else you think people would be interested in! 

Thank you again for all the support you have given us! 

It can be argued that the goal of creating a language is to be able to translate things into it. Granted, most of us conlangers are doing it for the art of it all, but if you’re not able to translate anything into your language, it’s not really much of a success, is it? You need to be able to express whatever you want in your language, and sometimes that might include things that you already know how to say in a natural language.

Translating is one of those things that is unavoidable once you start working with a language. You constantly need to think about how you might want to say X in your language, or “what would Y word be?” and so on and so forth. It’s also much easier to explain how your language works if you can show someone what it looks like when it’s being used. Plus, translating again and again helps you to a) better understand how your language works in an active setting and b) actually be able to understand your language in and of itself better.

Let me explain. One can be creating a language, making up rules and words and such, and might be able to understand everything that happens grammatically, but without using that language in any manner they will probably not be fluent in it. That’s where translation comes in. Obviously there are no native materials in whatever conlang this happens to be, but the cool thing about being a conlanger is that you can actually make yourself some native materials. It may be nigh impossible to really immerse yourself within your language, but you can at least make it so if you do decide to write up a grammar or something, there will be plenty of examples. (Plus you can use the sentences or passages you translate in this sort of learning method!)

Translating, while probably not used as much as it has in the last, has been used for specific language learning for years and years. The goal was to be able to translate Latin and Greek classics by learning rules and word lists and using those to translate from the target language text into their native language. “But how can I do this in conlanging?”, you may ask. Well, there are a lot of things that people translate within our community.

The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) is probably the most translated and most well-known of all texts used by conlangers. In fact, you can even see it depicted upon our flag.



While some may debate its usefulness, it has indeed become a tradition to translate this text at least once in a language’s lifespan. It is probably a popular choice because it talks about the creation of many languages from one, and because it has a nice variety of different sentence structures and words within it.

The passage is as follows (King James Translation):

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. 4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Of course, the Tower of Babel is not the only biblical text translated. The Pater Noster, or Our Father prayer, is also chosen frequently, although it has been being used less than something like the Babel Text.


The North Wind and the Sun, which is one of Aesop’s fables, is becoming more and more a popular choice for translation. It is a relatively simple story, and is also much better for those who would prefer not to translate a biblical passage.

The passage is as follows:

The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.

They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.

Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.

And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is quite short, but it is good if you just need a sample of just a few sentences. If you would like to do more than that, the entire text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is doable if you are interested in a longer translation along the same lines.

The passage is as follows:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Of course, there are many many more things that one can translate. You are free to fill phrasebooks, come up with your own original text to translate, or even steal some text that you like from someone else (provided that you say where the original text is from). The more you translate, especially combined with other learning methods, will only help you in your quest to learn your language. Translation might seem tedious or boring, but it is helpful in the end, whether you’re translating to learn your conlang or just to show it off to others. 

——-

Resources and Additional Reading:

http://www.arthaey.com/conlang/translationex.html

http://www.fantasist.net/conlang.shtml

http://web.archive.org/web/20090427160425/http://www.frontiernet.net/~scaves/teotax.html

http://conlang.wikia.com/wiki/Conlang:Translations

http://fiziwig.com/conlang/syntax_tests.html

http://conlangs.livejournal.com/500959.html

http://conlangs.livejournal.com/523944.html

http://www.articleclick.com/Article/Learn-a-Language-Through-Translation/1047671

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/translation-activities-language-classroom

https://celtathens.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/raising-language-awareness-through-the-study-of-translation-part-i/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammar_translation

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hello! First, I would like to say I apologize if I had used the wrong method to ask this question. I am still new to this site, and didn't quite understand which to use. :/ Oh! Anyway, questions! I have two for now, which is about "syntax" and "relative clauses". 1) I know there is subject-object-verb etc etc syntax out there, but how do you further define it? Where do you put prepositions? Articles? etc etc? 2) What are and how do you handle relative clauses in conalngs? *Thanks! Lip~*
deconstructedconstruction deconstructedconstruction Said:

If anything here isn’t explained well enough or if you want me to elaborate or simplify, please tell me! That goes for other followers too who might not know all of the terminology yet.

Hello there! Thank you very much for asking us! The askbox is definitely the right place for a comment like this. :) I assume you are referring to writing a formal grammar for your conlang, correct? Or at least, some sort of lesson such as mentioned in this post.

Regarding syntax and what it is, quite simply put: it is the study of the rules through which sentences are constructed in a language. It can refer to both overarching theories about all languages within linguistics research and the specific structuring of a sentence within a particular language. 

You are right that syntax does not only cover subject-object-verb (or whatever word order you decide to use) but does encompass more. In a formal grammar of a conlang it is important to further expand that section with sections on things like formation of questions, commands, active and passive constructions, as well as talk about subordinate clauses in a sentence, et cetera. That’s if you decide to include that within syntax, as many do just fine.

I personally am writing up my own grammar for my conlang now and I have decided that some of that information can go elsewhere. I put things like adpositions (and presumably articles, although I do not have any in my language, and once again, it would depend on how you structured them and if they were a separate particle or a morpheme attached to a word) within my morphology section, and things like formation of questions in a section on different particles in the language. But it’s up to you in the end how you want to structure your grammar. There’s always time in the future to expand and restructure the description of your language.

Relative clauses are a type of subordinate clause that modifies a noun phrase in a sentence. You might not realize it, but you use these sorts of constructions all the time! When you say “my friend who you reblogged that post from” or “that episode, which tore out my heart in the most amazing way possible” you’re using a relative clause!

Of course, the way to structure them in your conlang is totally up to you. But my suggestion is to look at various languages and how they structure their relative clauses before you decide how you want to do it yourself. If you don’t have any idea where to start, perhaps take a look at the page that I linked above. If you scroll down there are bunches of examples from many languages.

I am sorry that I can’t give you any more definite answers on how to structure it in your language, but there really are all the possibilities in the world open up to you. If you would like assistance with some researching, don’t hesitate to contact me again (un-anon, please) here at any time.

Best wishes,
Nick

We have almost seventy followers over here at Deconstructed Construction!

Since I know that there are a bunch of you out there listening and hopefully enjoying our posts, I figured it might be a good idea to interact with the audience (which is you!) a bit. So, it’s feedback time!

If you would prefer to have a more structured feedback form to fill out, I have provided one here for your convenience. But if you would rather go by your own rules on the feedback, you may leave questions/comments/etc. in our ask (or mine if it is you prefer to speak directly to me about something I am doing on my own).

I hope that we can start some conversation here!

This picture is appropriate because there was a conlang (Atlantean) in this movie created by a notable conlang creator (Marc Okrand, creator of Klingon, who the character of Milo Thatch was based off of).

Edit: I will be responding to anonymous feedback in this post on my personal so not to clutter up this page with extraneous posts.

Previously here at Deconstructed Construction we’ve talked about a more logical outlook on language, but today we will be looking at language logicalized, but simplified. That language would be Toki Pona, created by Sonja Elen Kisa and posted online in 2001.

Toki Pona is intended to express as much as it can using the least amount it has to. It is another language inspired by the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (also known as Linguistic Relativity) in that it intends to shape the speaker’s thoughts in almost  zen-like way in order to simplify their way of life and thinking.

It is simple in all respects. There are very few sounds (only five vowels and nine consonants total), and it is very simple in construction. It is so simple, in fact, that  it requires only ten rules to explain all of its syntactic structure. It uses a 120-root vocabulary as its whole lexicon. Many of these roots come from languages like English, Esperanto, or other languages.

ma tomo Pape (The Tower of Babel story)
Translation by jan Siwen (Stephen Pope)

jan ali li kepeken e toki sama. jan li kama tan nasin pi kama suno li kama tawa ma Sinale li awen lon ni. jan li toki e ni: “o kama! mi mute o pali e kiwen. o seli e ona.” jan mute li toki e ni: “o kama! mi mute o pali e tomo mute e tomo palisa suli. sewi pi tomo palisa li lon sewi kon. nimi pi mi mute o kama suli! mi wile ala e ni: mi mute li lon ma ante mute.” jan sewi Jawe li kama anpa li lukin e ma tomo e tomo palisa. jan sewi Jawe li toki e ni: “jan li lon ma wan li kepeken e toki sama li pali e tomo palisa. tenpo ni la ona li ken pali e ijo ike mute. mi wile tawa anpa li wile pakala e toki pi jan mute ni. mi wile e ni: jan li sona ala e toki pi jan ante.” jan sewi Jawe li kama e ni: jan li lon ma mute li ken ala pali e tomo. nimi pi ma tomo ni li Pape tan ni: jan sewi Jawe li pakala e toki pi jan ali. jan sewi Jawe li tawa e jan tawa ma mute tan ma tomo Pape.

Toki Pona is simple enough that it can be learned faster than even Esperanto. It is said that there are probably 100 people who speak it fluently and hundreds more who have dabbled with it.

Once the base roots and ten grammar rules are learned, the problem does not lie in having a lot to remember, but in expressing oneself clearly. For many things that languages might have multiple words of to distinguish between meanings, Toki Pona has made it necessary to work around the constraints of the small vocabulary in order to express more complicated concepts. Of course, this was not intended since the original point of this language was to make one think more simply and not to try to overcomplicate things.

Nonetheless, as a conlang it is successful enough to be well-known within the community. It is simple, but useful and succeeds in its purpose of forcing one to use simple building blocks in order to express anything in the world around oneself.

——-

Resources and Additional Reading:

http://en.tokipona.org/wiki/What_is_Toki_Pona%3F

http://www.omniglot.com/writing/tokipona.htm

http://www.tokipona.bravehost.com/

http://anadder.com/toki_pona

http://bknight0.myweb.uga.edu/toki/

http://jimhenry.conlang.org/conlang/tokipona/tokipona.htm

If you’re not really up to the whole “flashcard” thing but still want to go old-school, you may want to look into making a sort of text for yourself. Whether you want to call it a formal grammar or just a collection of lessons, writing up some sort of grammatical text that describes how your language works might just help you in learning how everything works. You can then use it to create other things like worksheets if you’re so inclined or other learning activities much like those you would find in a classroom.

But what do you include in these lessons? Well, short answer is everything. The long answer is everything to make it a full usable and complete language. Different people have different ideas about what one should be including in a grammar, but most of the time it boils down to:

Of course, not everyone agrees on this layout, and in fact, Mr. Peterson (creator of Dothraki, Kamakawi, etc.) stated this when questioned about his Kamakawi sections on his website:

"Back when I was starting out, I had the same view of language and linguistics as most ling. undergrads: syntax trees, morphemes, discrete phonemes, etc., and my languages (and their descriptions) reflected that (and suffered for it). Over the years, though, I’ve come to share the opinion that (I think) many in the field are beginning to adopt: that there really is no formal difference between morphology and syntax. Some have taken this to mean that there is no lexicon, and that word-internal rules look pretty much like syntactic trees (see Distributed Morphology). I’ve taken the opposite route to the same conclusion: the lexical machinery that derives words also derives larger units. The goal of both approaches (or one of them, anyway), though, is to eliminate the formal distinction between morphology and syntax. This is why I don’t fret if I don’t see a section describing the “syntax” of a given conlang in someone’s grammar: they’re on the right track. Besides, usually what you see in those sections is just some comments on word order and how to form questions or topicalize a noun… Such things would probably be better discussed elsewhere.”

http://conlangery.com/2012/01/16/conlangery-33-suprasegmental/#comment-1373

But in the end, as long as you get your message across it matters little how you decide to organize it, particularly if you are a beginner. If you are just starting out and have little knowledge yet of how language works within the sphere of academic linguistics- a good sign would be if that previous comment by Mr. Peterson sounded like a bit of gibberish to you -then it is fine to stick with the basics until you can understand how else you might want to organize things.

Before you decide to write something up for yourself, I advise you to take a look at multiple grammars for other conlangs. Don’t only look at ones for well-known conlangs, but also take a look at amateur grammars. Some of the best examples of good conlang grammars (or grammars-in-progress) I have seen thanks to looking at other people’s languages.

A good yet obscure example I personally have run into would be of the conlang Wexamazeovra. If you click the link you can see all of the posts made about the language. If you were to click on any of the sections of the grammar you would see a detailed yet brief explanation of the parts of the language relevant to the section. Although this is far from complete (and the project itself put on an indefinite hiatus), you can gain from seeing how things are organized and set up in a way to be understandable by those not particularly involved with the project.

If you’re not sure where to start at all, perhaps you might be better off starting with something smaller, like an outline of your conlang. There are even templates out there for you if you’re not sure what to include, although they might include terminology you might not know.

Once you have that information down, you can study straight from that text or maybe you might want to make some more fun lessons from it. It’s all up to you. Working from a strict grammar might be a bit more difficult than other methods if you’re not used to working like that, but people have been learning languages through this method for decades before we had things like Rosetta Stone and other programs. So, if you’re not sure where to start, why not try this? It involves doing pretty much what you’d be doing already to share information with the rest of the conlanging community.

——-

Resources and Additional Reading:

Mark Rosenfelder. The Language Construction Kit. Yonagu Books, 2010.  

http://zompist.com/kitwrite.html

Examples:

Toki Pona: http://bknight0.myweb.uga.edu/toki/lesson/lesson0.html

Quenya: http://folk.uib.no/hnohf/qcourse.htm

Kamakawihttp://dedalvs.com/kamakawi/ty/main.html or http://dedalvs.com/kamakawi/main.html

Wexamazeovra: http://conlangers.freeforums.org/wexamazeovra-f17.html

Can you imagine working on a conlang for fifty years? Sarah Higley, also known within the community as Sally Caves, is the creator of Teonaht and has been doing that exact thing. She created the language in 1962 when she was just nine years old that ended up to be spoken by a group of polydactyl humans called the Teonim.

If you are an experienced conlanger, take just a moment and think back to your first conlang. Do you remember what it was like? Probably a lot like you native language and not really all that good at all. But what if you had kept messing with it? Kept changing and altering and tweaking to get it to resemble something completely different. This is the sort of thing that Ms. Caves languages that I have run into in my time researching conlangs.

Teonaht, while being a tad hard to completely discover due to the state of the webpage it is hosted at (I had to go to archive.org in order to get a copy of the grammar and website), does prove itself to have some interesting features and little details that only come about when you’ve had it stewing and simmering for years to get just the right flavor. Of course, I have not the time to go over the complete language, but there are a few things in particular I would like to point out.

Send eldwav ebra: “Mantets! Tesa-ilz lirifel-jo hadhhamata ta mehuen aid kempa ar Erahenahil, send rõ tyr aittearmats, ta vera listsõ hyny il takrem ro ssosyarem.”

And they said: “Come! A city and tower let us build so that its head reaches to Heaven. And ourselves let us name, so that we get not throughout the earth our scattering.”

Teonaht, unlike many Indo-European languages (such as English or Spanish, although there are many more), allows for an Object-Subject-Verb order (OSV for short) in a sentence. Many of you readers here are probably familiar with what we use in English, a Subject-Verb-Object order (SOV for short), unless you have been studying foreign languages or experimenting in your conlang. So where in English we would say “The boy threw the ball.” in an OSV language it would be “The ball the boy threw.” Trying something that your native language doesn’t do is a good thing sometime, and even better is to add some variation to the mix. In English you can say “The ball, the boy threw.”, although it will be a marked word order and it will be apparent that you are using it for poetic or emphatic purposes. It is a stylistic variant, and likewise, Teonaht appears to have SV as a stylistic variant.

Teonaht is not known for that, though, as many a language allows for variants like that. Teonaht is known for something termed the Law of Detachibility instead. Ms. Caves terms it as such: “wherever there’s a suffix, remove it and make a prefix.” Now, this can be a bit of a confusing concept for one to grasp since it is not represented in any of our natural languages but with the help of some examples, it should be easier to see.

Let’s take the form nelry meuueluo 'I fell silent' or literally “past-I fell silent”. This is the final form created by the Law of Detachability. It comes from the form meuluonel with the -nel being the tense marker in this situation. That suffix detaches from the verb form being used and attaches to the pronoun as a prefix to create the form nelry that then goes in the sentence with the verb form meuueluo. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule (only singular and plural forms, not dual forms are subject to the Law of Detachability; it is only used in the nominative case), but as a feature of language it is a pretty defining one.

Here are a few conjugation tables for three different types of verbs that might be worth taking a look at if you want to see the process for yourself.

teprorem, “touch,” vt:

meueluoned, “fall silent,” ni:
Note: this is a -ned verb, and hence it is an “experiencer”; the “n” at the end of the conjugated verb is a reminder of that.

hejvvandi, “be absent,” avi:

Note: This is a “stative” or -Ndi verb. It can be either agentive or experiential, but the “n” at the end of the word does not necessarily indicate non-agency; it is merely what remains when you remove the infinitive suffix.

All tables are taken from the formal grammar of Teonaht itself.

Interestingly, Teonaht has something a bit similar happen elsewhere. It’s not quite the Law of Detachability, but it is similar. Sometimes when nouns take plural prefixes, it won’t attach to the noun. It decides to attach itself to the article instead. For example, for the noun “the songs” you can get li nihhtindro or lini htindro, the plural prefix in this case being ni-. Of course, this is more of a writing oddity than anything else since it does not prefix itself to the article, but it reflects the phenomenon of attaching things to previous words, whether pronouns or articles.

Teonaht is much much more than that, but in order to fully delve into the fifty years of work put into this singular language it would take many many a post and much too much explaining for our purposes here. Nonetheless, it- and even Ms. Caves herself -is a good example of what can come of a conlang given enough time and enough concentrated effort. You can achieve a complexity, naturalness, and elegance in stating that may even rival a natural language. I exaggerate, of course, as a conlang is never truly completed as long as there is something that can be expanded or changed or altered, but if there is a personal project that one would want to look towards as a conlanger, I would more than suggest Teonaht. Particularly to those like myself who find themself drawn back to the same language project time and time again.

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Resources and Additional Reading:

Arika Okrent. In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language. Spiegel & Grau, 2009. 

Stephen D. Rogers. A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Adûnaic to Elvish, Zaum to Klingon- The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons. Adams Media, 2011.

http://web.archive.org/web/20110608165344/http://www.frontiernet.net/~scaves/contents.html

http://dedalvs.com/smileys/2007.html

http://conlangery.com/2011/08/01/conlangery-09-formality-and-register/

http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0003/languages.php

This is not a source used in this post, but rather, an article written by Ms. Caves, creator of Teonaht, about conlangers and the CONLANG-L listserv in particular.