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Jalyha
01-11-2014, 11:08 PM
Hi there!

Maybe because I speak 18 languages (only English is spoken by any other person on the planet), and maybe because it's come up in a lot of conversations recently, I ended up doing a 16 page rant on conlangs on another forum.

No one there was even vaguely interested in anything about conlangs (it's more of a vocab/etymology/we-love-words type of site, but anyway...) I'm still worked up, and curious, and I figured that I'd share my own thoughts/methods here, and beg everyone to share their own thoughts as well.

And don't worry, it won't be 16 pages... or a rant :P


Anyway... If you look at any "alphabet" ... or whatever basis for written language exists, you will find that there are very few actually *different* shapes/symbols used.

The current "English" or "Roman" alphabet, original the latin alphabet (http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/nettsch/time/alph.gif), was and is, in both forms, straight lines, half circles, and circles. They are PRIMARILY straight lines. Those straight lines can be combined in any number of ways. Here's a sample of less than 1/3 of the symbols you can make with *no more than 3 straight lines* (the letters E, M, and W all have 4 lines, btw).

There are 42 symbols - that's more than the number of letters in our current alphabet (though some languages have many more) (26) AND 9 digits, with 7 more to indicate 10s, hundreds, thousands....

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Remember, this is just a small sample of the symbols you can make with 1, 2, or 3 straight lines. Yet NINE of our letters are approximated in just that sample. More than 1/4. by curving those sample lines only slightly, you cn make 11 of the letters in an arabic alphabet, and 12 *words (http://petertyre.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/alphabet_phoenician.gif)* in chinese.

A lot of conlangs are simple reworkings of a current language. Many people will sneer at these languages, because they prefer a language with grammar of its' own.

Many conlangs are based off an existing alphabet (with new grammar rules) without knowing why those alphabets are the way they are. Some people turn their noses up at these, because there are a few gems of conlang that have their own alphabet.

That's fine if the alphabet makes sense in the setting.

If your people came (originally, no matter how far back) from Earth, then yes, their languages/alphabets can be familiar. And you can say those languages developed however you wish.

On another world, however, languages will develop differently.

Our written languages start with straight lines because we, as a world, in many different cultures, all started writing before we had anything to write *on*.

Try writing DANGER! in Elvish (http://www.starchamber.com/paracelsus/elvish/images/alphabet.gif). Now carve it in the wall of a cave with a sharp rock. No? How about on a piece of wood with a stone knife? Can't do it? Can you write it with a stick in the dirt?

Okay, okay, elves are more advanced than we are, and their language had developed past ours before we hoomans ever existed. Got it.

At least there's a reason for it.

Where was my point? Oh yeah.

I've always figured that the best way to create a language is to begin at the beginning. When did my people first start communicating with words other people could understand? When/how/why did they start writing that way? Did they begin with berry-stain painted pictures that were later simplified? Did they ALWAYS use letters? Do they still use pictures?

Then I consider (based on when they started communicating) what was most important to them at that time. It's almost always food, water, shelter, and danger. Those are your real root words.

Later I add words for family, for "mine" and "yours". For good, bad, up, down, far, near.... Usually, I let the rest of the language flow from there. Other words develop more naturally this way. Words for my family can grow from words for home - which is basically *my* shelter. That food is dangerous, but this one is just bad. Tastes bad. How do I tell my neighbor not to eat it?

My final inspiration, when struggling to create (or begin) a new language, is to go to a neighbor's house, lay on the floor, and talk to a baby.

What sounds do human beings make most naturally?

Or preschoolers- what sounds are hardest for them to learn?

Why else are there, in 100 different languages (http://www.indobase.com/holidays/mothers-day/facts/mother-in-different-languages.html) only a few ways of saying "Mom" which don't sound similar?

That's one word I always develop from baby sounds.


So I'm curious. How do other (less obsessive/perfectionist/semi-psychotic) people develop their conlangs. What kits do you use, what guides do you follow, or how do you create your own?

(Eh, maybe it was a bit rant-ish, after all... sorry :( )

feanaaro
01-12-2014, 10:11 AM
I have always (since reading Tolkien, of course) been interested in creating languages; but, not being a linguist, nor having a particularly strong work ethics, I haven't ever been able to proceed very far. The most developed language I have created only has an incomplete simple grammar and ~240 words.
Not having any training as a linguist, I did not proceed in any systematic way to create it, and I don't even know the right words to describe what I've done (not in English, to be sure). However, back in high school (~15 years ago) I had created an alphabet for a previous version of this language, and I had even thought about the way in which letters could have developed as to be easy written with simple instruments.
Snippets of the language are visible in many names on my maps, though sometimes finding names I like means breaking some rules (which may be ok, as real languages change and evolve... or may be just another sign that I am not a linguist by any means).

Jalyha
01-12-2014, 12:32 PM
I'm no linguist either - (though I'd like to be, lol).

"thought about the way in which letters could have developed as to be easy written with simple instruments." That's all I use really, simple common sense, and looking around at other languages.


240 words, an alphabet, and even a sense of grammar is lovely. (Especially since you were in high school!) Languages don't develop overnight. A complete language takes generations, and never stops evolving.

Even if a few of your names break some rules, well, there are exceptions in any language. :)

I think the *biggest* pitfall for writers is using too *much* of their language in their books - we're writing for people to read, so it must be understandable, lol.

I'm very interested in how people begin and what they use for inspiration... I've seen people name everything - write whole speeches in a conlang... and then make up what it means and why (which seems difficult to me), and I always start at the beginning...

I also like reading them and seeing if I can puzzle out the words/rules, lol. :P

What do you like about con-languages? :)

Rhadryn
01-12-2014, 12:40 PM
I'm glad to have stumbled on this thread and I'll be interested to see where it goes!

I've started many conlangs but never gotten very far. Since my last serious attempt, I've developed the ability to read in five languages other than English and I've studied a few others, so I'm hoping that I'll be a lot more informed on my next serious attempt. For the present, I'm going to base simple words in each conlang on words from a designated language that I've studied, changing them to be unrecognizable but still conforming to the pronunciation rules of that language. Although I suppose it might be more interesting to adapt words from one language using the protocols of another. Hmm...

So I don't have a system yet, but that's where I'm going to start. As far as creating alphabets/syllabaries, I intend to do it, but ultimately I expect that everything will be written in English. It will be nice to have the alphabet in mind, but as long as the sounds of the language are firmly established, it's really just ornamentation. That's from the point of view of someone who wants for many people to enjoy his work and world--I'm sure it's different for different purposes.

rgcalsaverini
01-12-2014, 05:29 PM
Great! I found someone as obsessed as I am with conlangs (although clearly more skilled at it)!

Could you post the link for your 16 page post about it? I would love to read it.

I'm an absolute amateur, and to be honest I never heard of the term 'conlang' before this post :)

Please share one of you languages with us!

To assist me on creating languages, I wrote a small piece of software that devises word-formation rules from a set of pre-established words, and then using those rules it gives me a list of original words. For example, I just fed the program with the following list:

compass, cartographer, guild, map, draw, conlang, language, example, banana, bowel, barnacle, garnish, negative, nile, novel, gorilla, love, amiable, intrusive, meridian, bent, bongo, cilatro, positive, inclination, movable.

And then asked for 30 words that follow the same basic set of rules, and it gave me the following:

gamono, morine, nivaborn, govenile, barn, powegove, banamele, bowern, merone, ilivaw, blovern, minto, coname, meldrua, bernge, cilelass, gasshele, nisillel, nion, gruaw, ivelero, erapan, gativap, gasshe, cowertia, guilapos, banit, garusshe, lerampo, bome

That way I avoid being biased by the languages that I do speak and helps to make sure that all the words follow somewhat the same pattern.

I'll show a conlang that I'm currently working on, Humir:

Men of humir (Humiren):
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I used a list of 50 thousand words in norwegian (25%), swedish(25%), danish(25%), german (10%), english (10%) and spanish (5%) to generate all my words, I also adapted the final rules a bit by hand. To make it plausible I first start with a basic set of words then I form others deriving from those: Alüne (hard, strong) + Inäk (soil) = Alüniak (stone)

Then I made a few decisions about grammar. Regarding declension, I decided that Humir, being quite primitive, would not inflect by gender, number nor case:

Declension - gender: Change nouns, adjectives and etc to show gender:

English (not inflected):
The ugly frient (male)
The pretty frient (female)

Portuguese (inflected):
O amigo feio (male)
A amiga bonita (female)

Humir (not inflected):
Malor igep
Rikmalor igep

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Declension - number: Show quantity:
English (inflected):
One rock. Two rocks

Humir (not inflected):
Ige aluniak. Tje aluniak.

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By having so little inflection, the word order becomes crucial for the understanding of the phrase, as is the case with most ancient languages (i think). Take this phrase from the Brazilian national anthem: "The quiet margins of the ipiranga heard the echoing yell of an heroic people", in a more inflected language, such as portuguese, It could be written as:
Ouviram do ipiranga as margens plácidas, de um povo heróico um brado retumbante -> Heard of the Ipiranga quiet margins of an heroic people an echoing yell"

Also regarding inflection of verbs (conjugation) we have tense, mood, voice, aspect, person, number, gender and case. Likewise i decided that Humir verbs will not be inflected at all, and if the phrase is ambiguous the person, number, tense etc is explicitly declared before the verb, for example:

John is loved by Mary -> John *he one passive love* Mary (This is just for argument sake, the number and person you can extract from the phrase, and it would be written just as *passive love* )

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The alphabet I created in the same manner as you guys do. Unlike another language I created, that derived the alphabet from their drawing habbits, the humir developed a necessity for quick and simple writing based on straight lines, since they were not very big on drawing. Here is an example:

English:
Here lies Lord Khoven, protector of the Green Lake Village, son of Swol-Overu, grandson of Iderak-Demku, born in 321 and murdered in 357 of the second age.

Humir:
Gdak figör ige askjuetese ral (Khoven) foski oda (Halikje Some Tagra), igefüp oda (Swol Overu) ge tjefüp oda (Iderak Demku). Figör ige üllve timitüs pjo 321 ge figör ige üllve kedetri pjo 357 pjo pravet tje.

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The ovals around some words shows that it is a proper noun, since most names have clear meaning (Strong Bear, Fast Horse...)

I'll stop here because this post is already longer than I wanted!

Jalyha
01-12-2014, 07:13 PM
"although clearly more skilled at it" --- not really... I haven't had any classes or done much real research... as I said, I usually start from basic common-sense. I don't even know the right terms for some of the things I use/do... lol.

As for your first request, I have to decline. After one incident of identity theft, and another instance of an internet stalker (who came to my home!) I do not share personal information anywhere, nor do I intermingle my websites. My forums must remain eternally separate. I don't mean to offend anyone, I'm sure no one here is like that, but we all have our boundaries... I'm sure you will understand. :)

I might, however, be willing to rant at you for 16 pages in a pm :P


Rikmalor Humir ... ? = Humir is beautiful? Or I've missed a step? :D

Either way, it's lovely! Did you actually transcribe all 50k words?! That's amazing. Most people don't get nearly so far! I'd love to get my hands on that software. I, unfortunately, must do everything by hand.

I tend to be lazy and avoid gender declension, altogether. I'm no linguist, despite my passion, and I always worry about messing it up. Since I don't speak any actual foreign languages, just my made-up ones, and English is my 1st language, I am a bit limited by my own ignorance as far as *spoken* languages.

I can usually understand at least the rudiments of written languages, however, although I'm better with those of latin origin.

One thing I'm very careful of, when initially compiling my root-word lists, is only pulling from languages that have a common base.

You said you "used a list of 50 thousand words in norwegian (25%), swedish(25%), danish(25%), german (10%), english (10%) and spanish (5%)" I would have excluded the English and Spanish words for this stage.

Languages do tend to pull from other languages/cultures, taking a word here and there when they have no other term for it. However - that doesn't usually happen till the language itself is more fully developed.

I'd be interested in knowing what words you transcribed to start. :)

I start much smaller, of course, doing everything by hand. I start with:
water food
Woman Man
Child Infant
Tree Mine
Not mine Want
Need Danger
Stop Ground
Tree-food (fruit) Ground-food (veggies)
Animal-food (meat) Weapon
Hot Cold
Up Down
Far Near
Tool Good
Bad Fight/Battle/Hunt
Come Go
(Various numbers)

Once I have those words down, I work on a basic layout of how the words fit together. (Grammar, but beyond basic into almost non existant) Then I add words for:

also a/the/this
covering (hat/hair) top
bottom unseen
tame predator
relating to a person nature-related
objects feelings
philosophy related to learning
time not/against
seperate from ability
sour/bad good/sweet
now! finished
(various colors) love/fondness/desire
big world/not of the world
round/smooth rough/sharp edged
before self
money/currency/trade
with reduce/undo
between/among past
same different
bad many
in favor of again
false/untrue big big!
better Bush
Rock Grass
Wheat/Oats/Barley
Pigs Cows
Chickens Goats
Sheep dogs
bears fur
work home
children spouse
parent peace/end fighting/battle
ruler/leader house
table seat
bed horse
bird wash/clean
clothing (maybe) shoes
weight good/well
purse/pouch yield
conquer center
speak hear
see touch/feel
taste herbs
material injury
death hard/difficult
beauty faith
old new
sun moon
(various gods/goddesses/stuff)

This usually takes quite some time AND gives me enough to start writing whole sentences/stories in the language. Once I'm good enough at that where I don't have to cheat/look, I write out all the grammar rules and start adding to the dictionary.

When you actually speak/write the language, it's easier to tell when a word doesn't fit.


Currently, I'm working on a (still-unnamed) language for the people of Naos (on the planet Naos - cause of course their land is the whole world right?) I'm still at the caveman stage, though, so I only have my basic word list, alphabet (or syllabary, really), and a few cobbled-together grammar rules. The entire language is made up of 88 letters, (or syllables).


na- used to emphasize something. It can mean "big" (when used with another "a" sound consonan) Na-ra, Na-ka, Na-va) or "right away" when combined with a "y" sound which indicates action.(Nayotu - literally, "Right now - come/go - labor" which means, in essence, "Get to work!!"

central syllables are broad applications to a thing, surrounding syllables define it. "Va" is, by itself, a ruler or leader of some type. Na-va, is a big ruler - king or emperor, depending on the 3rd syllable.

ri is drawn as a sun&moon, and is only used in describing Gods, or abstract concepts.

os -dirt/earth


Naossatu subject or nominative the world (is, does, ...)
Naostusv object or accusative (something affects) the world
Naosstu vocative O world!
Naossotu possessive or genitive the world’s
Naossutu indirect object or dative (given, sold, etc.) to the world
Naossytu ablative (something is done) by the world

In learning to read/write, young children on Naos are taught with the syllables marked separated with a simple dash - or dot between them. This dash/dot is pronouced with a "j" sound, (which is not even noted in the "alphabet" and making the sound while speaking is considered offensive (to either the listener or the subject at hand), while a pause between each syllable is considered either sarcastic, or a way of talking down to someone. Similarly, writing with dashes/dots is only done as a means of educating someone, or insulting them, except at the end of a line, when it indicates a joke or jest.


I don't have a scanner, and my attempts to snap a pic of my written alphabet have failed :( I do use unicode letters/symbols to effectively write in my own language online, but I haven't assigned them yet... However, the syllables I use for the language of Naos are:

a
b ba bo bu by
d da do du dy dv
f fa fo fu fy
g ga go gu gy gv
gh tch qtl tvl
h ha ho hu hy hv
k ka ko ku ky
l la lo lu ly lv
m ma mo mu my
n na no nu ny nv
o
q qa qo qu qy
s sa so su sy sv
t ta to tu ty
u
v va vo vu vy
w wa wo wu wy
y ya yo yu yv

(all the isolated vowels (and y) make a long-vowel sound, the others make a soft-vowel sound. I haven't gotten around to typing them up yet.

In my notebook, I've a dictionary, so far of about 986 words (those listed above, and a few, tentative "next level" words.


Anyway... I don't want to bore you with any more of my language... unless you want more, in which case I would be happy to upload the written language once I kick my camera around... and update you, if you like, as I work.

WOW I keep doing such long posts.. I really don't mean to either :(

Anyway:

Nasytuva dytlv sutuma. :) Nayotu - :)

rgcalsaverini
01-13-2014, 10:55 PM
"Rikmalor Humir" Bravo! Due to the very low level of inflection adjectives will always precede the nouns.

"Did you actually transcribe all 50k words?". God no! :) I barely have time to eat properly, that would take me ages. I download lists of thousands of words on many languages from this site (https://skydrive.live.com/redir.aspx?cid=3732e80b128d016f&resid=3732E80B128D016F!3584&parid=root). The software works like this: given a list of words, it registers the frequency of every letter to appear on the beginning, end and middle of a word, the relative vowel to consonant ratio and the frequency of every pair and trio of letters.
Take this list of words:
babaca, cababa, abaca, baba, bac

This is the rule the software devises from that:

b: beginning 61% middle 50% end 0%
followed by:
a: 100%
b: 0%
c: 0%

... and so on.

Then the software saves that rule file, and I can load it to generate words that follow that pattern, with that rule I got: cacaba, baca, caca, bacababa, babaca... I like using it because it have no creativity at all to create words, and they all end up looking like the languages I speak. So when I told about the languages mixture that I used, I was talking about mixing the rules, so my language sounds nordic, but with a little bit of english and spanish to make it more exotic.

I know VERY little about linguistics too, I'm pretty sure that what I've done is all wrong :)

I like very much the way you develop your conlang! I tend to rush it and devise the words mostly as I need them. Your approach on the other hand starts with the words that are more likely to be used by a primitive people, and build it up from there, this way your conlang seems much more consistent. I'll take a few steps back on mine and try to evolve it more naturally!

Although it does seem to take a lot of time, it seems well worth it, I like your conlang very much! Please keep me updated on its development and post the alphabet when you have a chance =)

Jalyha
01-13-2014, 11:48 PM
EEK~! I downloaded/opened one of those word list and my computer yelled at me :(

The FIRST problem I see with the list I opened is... well, I opened a list of English words, and several of the words I noticed in a quick (30 second) eyeball-check of the list is that there are a LOT of "words" that are really obvious typos and various typos of the same word. Like "wkno" / "nkow" / "know"... three of the "words" on the list.

Next (still on the English words list) there were words that are not English... or possibly even words :s I don't know if they are even words in other languages without going through to check.

Finally, there are a lot of slang words/phrases. That's fine too... except that those types of phrases don't usually follow normal grammar rules.

That's all fine if you go through and check each word, and it's a language you KNOW. :P

Otherwise, with a system that relies on statistics, you might be *starting* with flawed data.

I don't see anything that says where/how the lists were compiled. I'd almost believe it was an internet keyword search, similar to search engines like Google... but I don't know. :)


Starting from scratch and going step by step, it can take a HUGE time investment, but honestly I think you might be better off even starting with word lists from an online dictionary or something instead of taking chances with incorrect lists.

What software do you use to analyze the lists?

The biggest problem (besides the fact that it takes forever) with my method is that it's a bit TOO consistent. In later stages, it's a struggle to come up with origins for "figure of speech" type phrases, slang terms, contractions... things like that.

It quickly goes from the free-flowing method we discussed in the pm, to something extremely rigid.

Perhaps I should give you my word lists around the half-way point and let your software figure out the hard parts :P

I'll post the written alphabet as soon as my camera stops fighting me.

I'd love to see yours as well! :P

rgcalsaverini
01-14-2014, 11:34 PM
Computers do tend to be bitchy sometimes :)

Yeah, the lists quality are passable at best. Actually for Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian words I was able to get high quality lists from my university's NLP Lab, but they only had those languages :( Those lists you saw are compiled from movie subtitles (apparently pretty crappy ones). And even though I tried to clean them a bit, I reckon that at least 10% of its words are just rubbish.


What software do you use to analyze the lists?
I wrote the software myself, I dont have a name for it yet :) But there is a lot of room for improvement. I have a sketch of a pretty cool way to find patterns on words using artificial neural networks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_neural_network), I just don't have the time to implement it right now.


The biggest problem (besides the fact that it takes forever) with my method is that it's a bit TOO consistent. In later stages, it's a struggle to come up with origins for "figure of speech" type phrases, slang terms, contractions... things like that.
I haven't really thought about that, after a time a rigid structure could make things harder. But then I guess that you could just let your language get a bit 'corrupted' over time as you evolve it, just like it happens on real languages over time.


Perhaps I should give you my word lists around the half-way point and let your software figure out the hard parts
I'll be happy to help. I'm not absolutely sure about the software's output quality as of now, I do have plans for improvement. It does serve me well tho.


I'll post the written alphabet as soon as my camera stops fighting me.
Hahaha I'll be waiting.


I'd love to see yours as well!
I used the opportunity to make the pronunciation cheat-sheet that I've been meaning to. It is still kinda incomplete, some letter combinations change the sound a bit:
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Larb
01-15-2014, 01:02 AM
I actually have a half-constructed ancient language of my own. It is a syllabary and I haven't gone into any of the more advanced grammar and such. I just use it for individual words. The alphabet itself is very curved in style.

Which reminds me - I once read that the shapes of the letters tended to follow the medium on which they were most often used. For example: Roman and Norse script was most often (originally anyway) carved onto stones which is why it is made of straight lines and harsh angles. Arabic script and the like was more often written with brush on papyrus or paper so it could be more cursive. I suppose that is something to consider when creating an "alphabet" for a fictional people.

Jalyha
01-15-2014, 03:29 AM
@ LARB:

I'm sure that's the way most people use their languages. I just hyper-focus on things and obsess unhealthily over irrelevant details, lol :) (Seriously - those are the terms the Dr. uses -- picture Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory... only, not smart, and female, and, well that's me. :P )

I'm excited to hear that you use a syllabary instead of a typical "alphabet"... most people don't. :D

And you're quite right about the shape of the letters. If you note my example of the original latin alphabet, above, you'll notice it is mostly straight lines and sharp angles. In modern times, the letters are similar - but softer... rounder. That's from going from a harder medium to a softer one. It's also why my alphabets/syllabaries usually have two instances - a more "prehistoric" iteration, and a more "modern" one.

Which brings me to:

@RGC: I still can't get my camera to cooperate, but instead of struggling alone, I'll post the images here and hope someone can assist me! :D

Top half:


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Bottom half:

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You can't really make out the syllables for pronounciation, but you can see the 1st (straight lines/angles) and 2nd (soft curves and prettification) iterations of my preliminary alphabet.

I usually make the first type in order to form the second more logically (although I sometimes use it for older items in my stories) as a form of reference more than anything.


Your alphabet looks great... something is bugging me, but I can't quite pinpoint it yet.

so.. yeah

rgcalsaverini
01-15-2014, 09:55 PM
I actually have a half-constructed ancient language of my own. It is a syllabary and I haven't gone into any of the more advanced grammar and such. I just use it for individual words. The alphabet itself is very curved in style.

Oh sounds interesting! Could you share it with us?



Which reminds me - I once read that the shapes of the letters tended to follow the medium on which they were most often used. For example: Roman and Norse script was most often (originally anyway) carved onto stones which is why it is made of straight lines and harsh angles. Arabic script and the like was more often written with brush on papyrus or paper so it could be more cursive. I suppose that is something to consider when creating an "alphabet" for a fictional people.

It does make sense. I'll use that to enrich my future languages, thanks for the info!

rgcalsaverini
01-15-2014, 10:04 PM
@Jalyha:
I love your alphabet, some very curious glyphs. I like those rounded squares with appendixes, never seen anything like that before. Also those complex ones bellow the one that looks kinda like PI are really cool.
I made a computer font of my alphabet so its easier to type them in, really makes things simpler!

You seem a lot more skilled at glyph building, any advice or insights?

Jalyha
01-15-2014, 11:05 PM
I.. don't know how to build a font. That would be SO much easier :/

Honestly, some of my runes are AWFUL, and some are great, but mostly they are a combination of trial and error and, as I do in all things, starting at the beginning.

My first "conlang" (I'm laughing so hard at myself) was a bunch of random, cool-looking designs I adapted from letters/symbols in real languages - thrown in no particular order.

But... language isa living thing, and like all living things, its' life begins somewhere, and seems to follow a logical pattern. I read something, so many years ago, that I don't really remember what it was, much less who wrote it (I think I was 8!??!) about the start of a numbering (or lettering?) system being based on a triangle representing a family... pretty sure they used sticks but...

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I was.. pretty fascinated. 3 lines. Each straight line means, in essence, "a person".

Tilted this way is a man, this way is a woman, this way a child... and together they are a family. 2 lines could be a couple, or a "mother" or "father"...

8 meanings from combining those three lines. 8 meanings from one shape.

Pretty cool. Then, since I was 8, I forgot most of it and ran off to play.

When I started getting interested in conlangs, though, it came back to me.

This glyph:

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(All shapes are glyphs. All letters are glyphs, all numbers... all pictures...)

1) This triangle.... a single glyph of 3 lines ... can hold 8 meanings.
2) This glyph has a logical purpose. The man and the woman come together to create the child. They are bound.

Hieroglyphics are ... words written in pictures. They have a fairly logical meaning.

It's very exciting for a storyteller to realize that ALL written languages... every single word, and syllable and letter was devised for one purpose: To tell a story.

There's a whole story in the creation of every letter of every language in all the world.

Written language is formed so that we can leave a story for someone else.

"This cave is taken"
"My family died there"
"Here there be dragons" :P

Sorry, I digress a lot.

The point is... there should be a logical progression to an alphabet. I start with... hmmm... well it depends on how large the alphabet is :P

No more than 6-8 basic shapes. The syllabury above uses 6:

60330

Then, you turn them. Twist them. Cut them in half. Whatever you like. Experiment. :P

Those 6 shapes gave me 34 options. Combining those options, 2 together, gives me 38,148 options. (Unless I missed some, which I'm sure I did.)

Then, I choose. I either group similar shapes by sound or by meaning. (sibilant sounds, vs guttural sounds, vs vowel sounds... or whatever).

I try to exclude anything that doesn't *feel* like it fits.

Once I know what *sounds* I want in my alphabet, I start matching them to their symbols.

Now I have my *archaic* alphabet. Then I write them over and over again, not worrying about neatness. When you get sloppy, the letters look more... natural.

So I write the "messy" versions more neatly.

So the archaic evolves to the most reasonable "medieval" version:

60332

You can evolve that to something more modern, by writing words in the medieval version over and over until you see how they flow *together* and adapt the letters to that too.

Mostly, though, it's trial and error. The page I tried to photo for here was page 62 of a 70 page notebook... all trying to create that one alphabet. I'm still not satisfied with either version, but it works well enough for my purposes. :P

It's important to remember though, there's no "best" method. Whatever method works for you is great. (I'm always looking for a faster/easier way, lol)

I showed you the way I got the squares (which are really N (a square) combined with a vowel sound (a triangle-ish shape)

The ones below "pi" :P (B) are just the same pi-like symbol combined with a vowel symbol. If you do the combining during the "archaic" (straight line) phase, the later renditions look really varied. :P


And WOW I talk a lot...

Larb
01-16-2014, 05:45 PM
Oh sounds interesting! Could you share it with us?

I've attached mine below.

It doesn't have any grammatical rules as yet. I use it because I needed an "ancient script" and I tend to just make single words or concepts out of it, or place names. Well a lot of place names - but then they tend to translate literally as things like Goldport or whatever. So I'd have a word for "gold" and then a suffix word for port.

Linguistics was one of the things I did at university so the topic isn't totally alien to me. But I've never done any proper conlanging. Originally I was going to go with a simple substitution alphabet (or cypher I guess) but I decided it wasn't very natural so I did some research and came across things like the Cherokee syllabary. It turned out to be a much more fun and interesting route to take.

Jalyha
01-16-2014, 06:27 PM
ᏣᎳᎩᏍ ᎯᏬᏂᏍᎩ?

I don't. Not really. But the cherokee syllabary (see, I caught on to the correct spelling!) is used in a lot of sign-age in some states! :P

The only problem I have with using that (or a similar system) is that the *written* language wasn't developed at all until around the 1800s (pretty sure) so it was a late entry... my stories usually start much earlier in history... with early writings.
It's so beautiful though...
So... do you just adapt the lettering from that to your own system? It looks great. :)

Is the "-M" to indicate that can only come before one of your "M" syllables? Like how q (usually) can only come before a "u" in english? :s

Or is it a different sound altogether?

I don't understand the notation.

Larb
01-16-2014, 06:39 PM
It's not based on the cherokee syllabary - it is completely made up. It was just reading about syllabaries like cherokee and katakana is what inspired me to go with a syllabary instead of a more traditional alphabet.

Letters that are indicated with a dash after them (A-, E-, I-) are vowel sounds that can occur before other letters. It's so you can get words like Amasa (A- Ma- Sa-). Those with a dash before them would go after one of the regular syllables. So Masak (Ma- Sa- -k).

If that makes sense.

Jalyha
01-16-2014, 09:30 PM
Oh, I misunderstood you. I'll stop looking for the connection then :P


The dashes make perfect sense now. :) (I get confused very easily, lol)


You made it sound like you did many things at University... ? :) I have not had any linguistics training, unfortunately, just random reading. I'd love to take some classes on that!

I really do like studying your alphabet! It looks like ... hmmm... it's familiar enough that people could be comfortable with it, but not so much so that it becomes mundane. It looks like something people might have actually written! (Which is what really matters!)

What does Amasa mean?

It's pretty :P

Azelor
01-16-2014, 10:55 PM
Those are really nice symbols Larb ! It does remind me of Korean because of how they use syllabes.

rgcalsaverini
01-17-2014, 01:44 AM
I.. don't know how to build a font. That would be SO much easier :/
I love building fonts, I just finished creating my own handwriting as a font, now I can type in and print and no one will notice. (I bet that's useful... somehow...maybe)
Let me know if you want help with creating a font, its quite easy.

Ooh! So that's how you got your great conlanguing abilities, you started as a toddler :)

My current conlang was a good stepping stone, but soon I'll start working on the more important language of my fantasy world with all that I've learned recently. Thank you for the detailed tutorial! That was most helpful. I'll start over soon and I'll keep annoying you for advice.

@Larb: Those glyphs do look great! Do you have a method?

Just as an experiment I tried to write those glyphs I had with a dip pen as fast as I could, then I adapted them a bit and saved my favorites:
60352

Jalyha
01-17-2014, 02:40 AM
I learned most things as a toddler. :P I used to be pretty smart. Unfortunately my brain stopped working around.. uh... 1995 or so :(

Why would you start over ? Your current language is great - it would be much simpler to adapt the parts you really need to change :) (And I would not call that a tutorial so much as "Jalyha blathering again" ... it's what most people call my similar spoutings...)

I love the mutations :P You've got some really interesting symbols there :D

arishok
01-17-2014, 09:36 PM
I've been working on Solsprak (http://conlang.wikia.com/wiki/Solsprak) for a novel of mine. Starting with the very basics of phonology definitely helped me figure out what the language would sound like. It's still in the baby stages right now--I need to work more on the tenses and such--but I'd like to finish making the alphabet before I go any further. It has influences from Spanish, Latin, and German. Grammatically, it's similar to German and English. This is my first time colanging, so I'm a pretty huge noob, but it's definitely worth the effort.

Also, I bought a book recently that has helped me figure out syntax and structure. "The Loom of Language" is by Frederick Bodmer and I'd suggest grabbing it at the library if anyone gets the chance. It's not about colanging, but understanding how natural languages are formed and influenced definitely helps make colanging sound more natural, imo.

berg
01-22-2014, 05:19 PM
This whole thread is really cool! I've never actually thought about conlangs like this? (to show the level of amature I am haha)

I've only ever really employed conlangs for nouns so that I could have cool names for my people and places, but the way I've done it then is much more simple. I take my group of people (say, mountain giants), and then think of what sort of sounds I want to connotate to them (w/ the example, maybe like, an avalanche of boulders or crunching gravel), and then I try and find video clips of those sounds and write down the sort of syllables I hear (ch's, uu's, oo's, etc), and then make up words that sort of incorporate those sounds, so that the mountain trolls roughly have the sound of rocks. Or if I were doing mermaids or water nymphs or something, I would use "liquid-y sounds" like l's and s's and b's.

It's kind of a rudimentary system, but it gets me what I need when I'm creating a few nouns!
I'm definitely going to try making a proper language at some point though, using this thread for pointers.

berg
01-22-2014, 05:33 PM
I guess an easier way of saying all this is that I do it more phonetically than with any other sort of system.

Jalyha
01-22-2014, 05:39 PM
I've been working on Solsprak (http://conlang.wikia.com/wiki/Solsprak) for a novel of mine. Starting with the very basics of phonology definitely helped me figure out what the language would sound like. It's still in the baby stages right now--I need to work more on the tenses and such--but I'd like to finish making the alphabet before I go any further. It has influences from Spanish, Latin, and German. Grammatically, it's similar to German and English. This is my first time colanging, so I'm a pretty huge noob, but it's definitely worth the effort.

Also, I bought a book recently that has helped me figure out syntax and structure. "The Loom of Language" is by Frederick Bodmer and I'd suggest grabbing it at the library if anyone gets the chance. It's not about colanging, but understanding how natural languages are formed and influenced definitely helps make colanging sound more natural, imo.


I think I was looking into getting that book at one point? I can't remember. Your language looks like it's coming along well!! I never used that site because it's so technical it gives me headaches, but I bet it's a good guide, and a great way to keep organized!




I guess an easier way of saying all this is that I do it more phonetically than with any other sort of system.

I think all our methods are mostly phonetics, but I like the idea of getting language sounds from nature sounds :D I might try that at some point, and see what happens!

berg
01-22-2014, 05:40 PM
"The Loom of Language" is by Frederick Bodmer and I'd suggest grabbing it at the library if anyone gets the chance. It's not about colanging, but understanding how natural languages are formed and influenced definitely helps make colanging sound more natural, imo.

I have this book as well, and it is a really cool read!! Definitely check it out if you can.

Xeonicus
02-11-2014, 05:23 PM
I thought I'd share a few bits since I started devising an ancient language for my world. My main inspiration is ancient Sumerian, so I spent some time learning what I could. The earliest iteration of the writing system was entirely logographic in nature, so symbols represented whole words. Symbols gradually evolved to represent general ideas: like nouns, adjectives, and verbs that shared the same idea. You could infer the meaning from context. Since many of the words were monosyllabic, that was one factor that allowed symbols to be utilized as spoken syllables in order to build words. So, Sumerian became logosyllabic, which shares a lot in common with languages like Chinese (or so I'm led to understand).

I'll spare you my pages of tables for the sake of brevity. I've decided on a set of vowel sounds and consonant sounds and now I'm piecing together syllables. One resource that was helpful for me was (Syllable - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllable)). I'm currently trying to devise V(vowel)-C(consonant), C-V, V-C-V, C-V-C pairings. I'm definitely in that stage where I can still cut a consonant/vowel or tweak where it's allowed in syllables.

Then come the symbols. For reference, Ancient Sumerian had about 300 symbols. For my language, most of the symbols would be vowel sounds or monosyllabic. The sound "au" might have a symbol that represents water. The symbol for "su" might mean "to give". More complex ideas will probably not be monosyllabic. Another aspect that I gleaned from Sumerian is that languages evolve, and there appearance and style is largely a product of the culture. Sumerian cuneiform was probably devised initially for trade. The aesthetic look of it was due to a reed stylus being poked into clay tablets. Religion played a large role as well.

Anyway, I have several doodles I'm toying with. I tried to guess how a glyph might evolve over several hundred years and this was one thought. The style of my culture initially emphasized a flowing calligraphic aesthetic. Later styles might be due to simplification for the common people, or perhaps a variant used by a neighboring country.
Here is one (guess what it represents):
61302

One of the hardest problems I'm having right now is devising the base symbology. More verbal concepts are difficult for me. I'm trying to keep the symbols under 6 strokes, while maintaining an artistic, slightly abstract appearance that also conveys the meaning. All while doing it in a way I think the people of my culture would think to do it. I'm trying to avoid modernized pictograms.

I'm definitely not planning to create the entire language, but I would like a small working vocabulary.

Also, if you want to learn Sumerian grammar, this is an AWESOME resource: (Sumerian/Grammar - Wikibooks, open books for an open world (http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Sumerian/Grammar))

Cheers

Jalyha
02-11-2014, 05:50 PM
Oh, that's gorgeous. I love the way your symbol's devolved... part of that would happen, also, as a society used more writing, more often. It's a long arduous process to draw every picture in a 2000 page book, or for quick/urgent military communications. :)

That's part of why I write mine fast before I find the final shapes! :)

Yours looks to be doing well, and Sumerian sounds fascinating. I'll take a look at it. Thanks for the link!!

Xeonicus
02-11-2014, 06:17 PM
Oh I see! Do it in reverse from a simple symbol into a complex symbol. I might have to try a couple that way and see if it helps the process.

Raptori
02-26-2014, 02:20 PM
Really interesting discussion, I'm only halfway through page one and I love it! Wanted to post this before I get to engrossed in what everyone's saying and forget about it :P

(If these ideas have been touched upon in the pages I haven't read yet then apologies!)

In a book called Decipher, there's some discussion of the formation and development of ancient languages and writing systems and a couple of interesting points really stuck in my mind.

- First, the earlier written languages had larger alphabets; we're slowly removing letters as we "develop" our written word. You can see it accelerating even now with words being further contracted in the common text speak in English, which is a great example of how this isn't necessarily the language getting more refined.

- Second, languages themselves don't necessarily get "better" over time; they don't evolve to make it easier to express yourself, or better represent the items under discussion. There are a ton of other influences that can alter how a language evolves, the example in the book being a quaint little story about two cavemen. One caveman is intelligent, and decides that a good word for the thing he has just invented is "chair", which represents the object on a number of levels. The other is an idiot, and calls the chair an "ug". A cavewoman also lives nearby; the idiot, being a strong and strapping guy who can easily provide for himself and potential partners/children, ends up in a relationship with her, and they have a couple of cavekids. Now there are 4 people calling the chair an "ug", despite it being a stupid word for the item, and their word is likely to outlast the better one because they've taught it to their children.

That also just reminded me of the "bouba/kiki effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouba/kiki_effect)", which shows how words often do make an attempt to represent physical items in certain ways. I haven't see these kinds of things represented particularly well in many conlangs (though I haven't encountered that many so I wouldn't be surprised if they were actually more common than not), which can sometimes feel more like a work of art than a language that grew up over time in a haphazard way.

Anyway... back to reading the thread :D