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On the Design of an Ideal Language

December 23rd, 2012

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10:26 pm - Introduction and Discussion
Hi. I was on this community many years ago with a different name. I forget what it might have been. I've decided to start up a new project and I'm looking for what resources there might be out there for connecting with other conlangers. I remember there used to be this site indexing countless conlang projects and such, for instance. Is there a message board or a chat room still going strong?

Anyway, I thought I'd introduce myself. I'm primarily a visual artist and sometimes writer. For many years I've been working on a kind of art language. It's mainly based on the idea of having a complete, closed set of root words sufficient for categorizing all phenomena through compound-based derivation: each root is represented by a single syllable and a single ideographic character. Each root is chosen by weighing personal aesthetic considerations against the principal of giving the entire set a maximum of semantic coverage with a minimum of redundancy and keeping the set relatively small (between 700 or 1200 total roots). It's a mix of art and logic.

The grammar is extremely simple, depending almost entirely on syntax and the semantic power of the carefully chosen roots. It's best compared to something like Old Chinese. What grammar it does have is mostly concerned with conjunctions, dependent clauses and signalling changes in lexical category. That kind of thing.

Anyway, recently I got it my head to start a branch project. Mostly it consists of taking the system of semantic categories and ideo-syllabic graphemes I've devised and trying to cram an existing language into it: I'm going to lexify it with Germanic roots and give it a Germanic grammar (With some twists). Multisyllablic roots will use the graphemes more phonetically but alphabetic characters (in syllabic blocks like Hangul) will by used to handle stem inflections and function words. Foolish or not I'm going to give this a shot.

So far my biggest problem is figuring out a feasible syllabary.

(3 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:December 24th, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
Dtoé Vw (Yal Dawo language idiom) Good luck (to you).

I've been working on the Yal Dawo language formally since 1987, starting with handwritten notes and an old typewriter. It has since grown into a set of novels, a box full of notes and another box full of artwork (See user pic). Due to a software formatting glitch during my Hanukkah computer upgrade, I now have to re-format my entire dictionary; the Felo Jaossiness {(Hon. n.) Lit. "Word List"; a dictionary or glossary} re-accenting word-by-word in Yal Dawo and English, and saving in .rtf format so it can be more easily transmitted to other people and/or machines. After writing a set of novels about the world that is its home, I'm literally re-learning my language, as it had come in in drips and floods over the years.

The best advice I can offer you is: Realise that once your language "comes alive", it will generate rules and consistencies of its own beyond your intentions. You will learn from it as it grows. And after years of thinking a word means one thing, you'll discover quite by accident that it really means something else, or that there's a meaning in your own or another language that's strangely in sync with your own, or humorous, or dirty. Accept it; use it. Btw, keep everything you've ever written on the language and have it on hand for a documentation trail. You save yourself a lot of craziness that way.
[User Picture]
Date:January 4th, 2013 06:25 am (UTC)
So far my biggest problem is figuring out a feasible syllabary.

No doubt! Syllabaries really only work well with languages that have quite limited syllable shapes - CV, as in Japanese, or CVC, as in Classic Maya - so trying to devise a syllabary that works with a Germanic lexifier will be tough. I believe both English and German have a limit of CCCVCCC, with potential for CCCC codas in polymorphemic words such as English texts [tɛksts] or German Herbsts "of autumn". Linear B's CV syllabary worked reasonably well for Greek's CCCVC, but only because of systematic deletion of certain types of consonants and the use of overspelling (e.g. a-to-mo for Greek arthmós).

I'd suggest you have a look at Sumerian cuneiform - what you're describing sounds quite similar to Sumerian in a lot of ways and the fact that Sumerian has VC, CV and CVC syllables means that it deals with consonant clusters better than a straight CV-syllabary would.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2013 03:03 am (UTC)
Toki Pona is similar with a simple grammar and a very limited number of roots (123).

Good luck on the syllabary.

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