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Apr 2

A Little Lexical Inspiration

Posted on Saturday, April 2, 2011 in Books, Conlanging, Natural Languages, Nonfiction

I recently picked up the book Pacific Languages: An Introduction by John Lynch from the library and was leafing through it. Lots and lots of food for thought from languages from Adzera to Yukulta. This evening, as I was looking over Chapter 11 (Language, Society and Culture in the Pacific), and found some good lexical inspiration. I’ve read a number of times on various conlanging listservs and boards about looking for different ways to split up concepts that may be lumped together in one’s own language. Well, from this book, it appears Yidiny does a good job of illustrating this:

dalmba – sound of cutting
mida – the noise of a person clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth, or the noise of an eel hitting the water
maral – the noise of hands being clapped together
nyurrugu – the noise of talking heard a long way off when the words cannot quite be made out
yuyurunggul – the noise of a snake sliding through the grass
gangga – the noise of some person approaching, for example, the sound of his feet on leaves or through the grass — or even the sound of a walking stick being dragged across the ground

I for one would not have thought of assigning lexemes to those concepts.

Additionally, Pacific Languages: An Introduction provides a reminder that even different stages of a coconut’s growth can be assigned different words: a coconut fruit bud (iapwas), young coconut before meat has begun to form (tafa), nut with hard well-developed meat (kahimaregi), etc., etc., etc.

Hmmm, all these languages have me thinking about my own Elasin after a looong hiatus. Might be time to go back and start “reconstructing” the work of Paiwon Lawonsa on the Uhanid languages.

Aug 1

English…mugging other languages

Posted on Saturday, August 1, 2009 in Natural Languages

Okay, so it’s not conlanging, but this quote has stuck with me since I saw it on a t-shirt at Tekkoshocon several years ago:

“Not only does the English Language borrow words from other languages, it sometimes chases them down dark alleys, hits them over the head, and goes through their pockets”

Today, I remembered it again and decided to see if I could find a source. Turns out there’s several attributions. Many sites on the Internet attribute it to an Eddy Peters. For example, here, here, and here. “Eddy Peters” has no books in WorldCat and some sites give the quote as anonymous.

In digging around some more, I finally came across this posting by the author of the quote and this posting on the Linguist List providing even more background. And, so here is the original quote from James D. Nicoll:

“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

Personally, I like that better than the one attributed to Eddy Peters. I suppose the connection to conlangs is that conlangers, like the English language, liberate words, grammar, cases, and the flotsam and jetsam of language to acquire inspiration for their works. But (whereas English is characterized as a mugger in Mr. Nicoll’s), conlangers may be thought of as well-meaning pirates of the high seas of language. (And, pirates like Disney’s Jack Sparrow or Blackbeard…not nasty real-life pirates).

May 21


Posted on Thursday, May 21, 2009 in Natural Languages

The “New language created” section caught my eye in this article on Red Wings Swedish hockey players. The section talks about the “hybrid language” of Swinglish, a combination of Swedish and English. It appears that the word (or idea) of Swinglish actually dates back to at least 2006 and 2007.

Although not a conlang per se, code-switching hybrid languages like Swinglish and Spanglish display a playful use of language and the ability to see language as a living thing. This concept is inherent in the art of conlanging. Language is not a fixed entity, but an ever-changing, ever-evolving natural thing.

Okay, I might be pushing it, but I still like the sound of the word Swinglish.

For some linguistic resources on the web, check out the Linguistics Online page of The Conlanger’s Library.