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Thread: Phonotactics Question/Help

  1. #1
    Guild Member Facebook Connected Alex's Avatar
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    Question Phonotactics Question/Help

    I hope I can ask this here. I am really desperate for help!

    So...to name my maps, world, people, cities etc I made a conlang, but I'm stuck at two process that will 'finish' my conlang. I have searched and searched, but I couldn't find anything or understand Wikipedia.

    If I may ask the questions, they are below. If not, I will delete the thread pronto.

    Syllable Structure:

    I have read Mark and Pablo's sites a lot now, and I've already created much of my language, but Syllable structure is still foggy to me. I know that one can create their own phonological constraints, but I've having problems understanding the syllable structure code (or whatever it is called xD). Like so: " (C) (V) (C) (C) V (V) (C) (C)". (random example)

    Does this basic building block restrict words from ever forming the opposite of what you build? What does the C/V (Consonant and Vowel) mean when out of the "()"? The minimal C/V, right?

    What I mean is what if I have "(C) (V) (C) (C) V (V) (C) (C)" for my Syllable Structure. Would that mean each and every word had to start with a consonant (or vice-versa) and that it was -- depending on the Syllable Structure you created -- impossible to do otherwise? For example, using the above Syllable structure "(C) (V) (C) (C) V (V) (C) (C)", would the following be impossible to create?

    Athumo

    I don't think it does mean the words are hard-pressed to the SS code, but I'm not sure and Wiki... >.>

    This is what I learned and assume about it:

    As long as its (consonant or vowel) in () its optional to create a word with a consonant/vowel, but out of the () its obligatory for the word to contain a consonant/vowel? And if the structure starts with a ( C )/( V ), its possible to break it and start a word in reverse of the pattern? But its not possible if it starts with C/V without parenthesis?
    SOV Order:

    I have read up on it quite a few times and have had some things explained to me, but I was wondering if anyone could help me with my last few questions?

    I know about Subordinators, demonstratives, postpositions and prepositions. I know where they are placed, but I was wondering what about articles? Or anything else the Wikipedia page doesn't mention? When making the sentence in SOV order, where do you place the "parts" it doesn't mention in the Wikia? Like Articles?

    I hope I was allowed to ask this here and if so, I put it in the right place.

    Any help would be appreciated!
    Philámayayapi!

  2. #2
    Guild Apprentice zaffu's Avatar
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    If I understand your first question right...

    Anything in parentheses is optional in any given syllable. So if "(C) (C) V (C) (C)" is your syllable structure, that means that every syllable must contain a vowel, and may optionally contain up to two consonants before and two consonants after the vowel. So possible syllables could include: e, be, bep, gbe, gbep, gbepn. And possible (multisyllabic) words could be anything from "io" to "bneoavklpiazr." Er. So you'd probably want to put more restrictions on it than that. Personally, I don't do complicated conlangs, but I have written random word generators to try to get a particular "feel" for my made-up names, and usually I end up defining exactly which consonants and consonant clusters are legal at the beginning, middle, and end of a word.

    If "(C) (V) (C) (C) V (V) (C) (C)" is your rule for words (it's got multiple vowels, so it doesn't look like a single syllable) then "athumo" wouldn't be a legal word. It'd fill in the blanks like this:

    Code:
    "
    (C) (V) (C) (C) V (V) (C) (C)"
     -   a   th  -  u  -   m   -
    Though if your syllable rule is (C)V, athumo would be perfectly legal:
    Code:
    (C) V (C) V (C) V
     -  a  th u  m  o
    (Assuming "th" is a single consonant, like the "th" sound in "thin".)

    As for where articles and stuff goes in SOV languages...it probably varies. Maybe you could just copy what some real life SOV language does?

    I hope this helps some.

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    Guild Member Facebook Connected Alex's Avatar
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    Thank you SO much for replying Zaffu! I really, really appreciate it!

    The structure I gave isn't something I mean to keep, just something I randomly wrote down to make it easier for me to word what I meant xD

    So anything in parentheses is optional, while out of parentheses its obligated? Is there a way to build a syllable structure after you already made words? For example, the name of my language is called "Čáluŋka" > Chal-ung-ka. (/Č/ = [ch] /ŋ/ = [ng] as in Song/King). I have a large list of words, which sound basically similar in structure, is there a way I could build a structure after I already made all my words? Someone told me you don't really need a structure if you can sub-consciously make the words "sound" similar/consistent. Is this true?

    SOV:

    I tried looking online for SOV languages and example sentences, but I only got Wiki which doesn't mention anything about it. I looked at Lakhota, a Sioux Native American language which is SOV, but I can't find anything on the web.

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    Guild Apprentice zaffu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Stark View Post
    So anything in parentheses is optional, while out of parentheses its obligated?
    That's the way I understand it.

    Is there a way to build a syllable structure after you already made words?
    I don't see why not. That's what they're doing when they describe real life languages that way---looking at the words and trying to figure out what rules they all follow.

    Someone told me you don't really need a structure if you can sub-consciously make the words "sound" similar/consistent. Is this true?
    Well...if your language is really strict about what syllable structures it allows (like Japanese, say) then the C's and V's notation would be simple and useful. If it's more like English---wikipedia gives (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)(C)(C)(C) for English. Obviously not everything that fits that syllable structure is a legal English word. So if you're trying to invent nonsense words that look like legal English, (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)(C)(C)(C) doesn't help you much. Even if you wrote it (s)(C)(l,r)V...er, I don't even know what string of five consonants you can put after the vowel. But even then you can come up with sequences that aren't legal English...like "stla..." or "sgla..."

    So...the point I'm trying to make is that unless your language has a really simple syllable structure, you might be better off just letting your subconscious handle it.

    SOV:

    I tried looking online for SOV languages and example sentences, but I only got Wiki which doesn't mention anything about it. I looked at Lakhota, a Sioux Native American language which is SOV, but I can't find anything on the web.
    Here's SOV languages on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subject...t%E2%80%93verb

    Latin might be the easiest to find information on. Though this paragraph might be the info you were looking for in the first place:

    SOV languages have a strong tendency to use postpositions rather than prepositions, to place auxiliary verbs after the action verb, to place genitive noun phrases before the possessed noun, to place a name before a title or honorific ("James Uncle" and "Johnson Doctor" rather than "Uncle James" and "Doctor Johnson"), and to have subordinators appear at the end of subordinate clauses. They have a weaker but significant tendency to place demonstrative adjectives before the nouns they modify. Relative clauses preceding the nouns to which they refer usually signals SOV word order, though the reverse does not hold: SOV languages feature prenominal and postnominal relative clauses roughly equally. SOV languages also seem to exhibit a tendency towards using a time–manner–place ordering of adpositional phrases.

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    Guild Member Facebook Connected Alex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zaffu View Post
    That's the way I understand it.

    I don't see why not. That's what they're doing when they describe real life languages that way---looking at the words and trying to figure out what rules they all follow.
    Okay, I wanna see if I fully understand this. Please bare with me.
    So if my SS started like (C) (V) (etc etc), I could pick whether a word could start with a consonant or a vowel and it would be legal?

    Ah, then that makes it easier I think. Now I just need to learn more about it xD

    Quote Originally Posted by zaffu View Post
    Well...if your language is really strict about what syllable structures it allows (like Japanese, say) then the C's and V's notation would be simple and useful. If it's more like English---wikipedia gives (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)(C)(C)(C) for English. Obviously not everything that fits that syllable structure is a legal English word. So if you're trying to invent nonsense words that look like legal English, (C)(C)(C)V(C)(C)(C)(C)(C) doesn't help you much. Even if you wrote it (s)(C)(l,r)V...er, I don't even know what string of five consonants you can put after the vowel. But even then you can come up with sequences that aren't legal English...like "stla..." or "sgla..."

    So...the point I'm trying to make is that unless your language has a really simple syllable structure, you might be better off just letting your subconscious handle it.
    Hmm...how would I know if my structure is simple if I haven't made one yet, though?

    Quote Originally Posted by zaffu View Post
    SOV:

    Here's SOV languages on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subject...t%E2%80%93verb

    Latin might be the easiest to find information on. Though this paragraph might be the info you were looking for in the first place:
    Ah, yes, I have read that part. But it doesn't direct where to put articles and such. My language has articles, but I haven't found a site or resource that directs where the rest of the components of words, like articles, should be within the SOV order, so there are some things the article never mentions. If that makes sense...?

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    Guild Expert jbgibson's Avatar
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    I don't have much linguistics background, but it seems to me one consideration is just how "pure" your language is supposed to be. Loan words are obvious pattern-breakers, but there's also loan (or fossil) *structures* as well. Much commerce, many semi-equal cultures, and migration/ colonization could throw all sorts of modifiers in. If your subject culture is dominant or particularly prideful, they might tend to more pure forms. <shrug> ... use the language pattern for consistency, but don't get too wrapped around the axle.

    Subconscious patterning might be OK. But when I do that, trying to mimic a given Earthly language, and I then look at a real map or text, there's all sorts of constructs I never would have thought of, yet which mesh perfectly.

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    Guild Member Facebook Connected Alex's Avatar
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    Thank you for answering Jbgibson. It will distract me from my horrible day

    I understand, that's what a lot of people told me too "don't get too wrapped up in it though! Have fun". I am having a lot of fun, much more fun than I thought I would. But I don't know if I understand SS at all to get wrapped up in it, sadly

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    Guild Apprentice zaffu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Stark View Post
    So if my SS started like (C) (V) (etc etc), I could pick whether a word could start with a consonant or a vowel and it would be legal?
    So long as that first C is in parenthesis, yes.

    Hmm...how would I know if my structure is simple if I haven't made one yet, though?
    Well...unless you're trying to use a computer to generate a word list, I don't think you need to have syllable structure pinned down perfectly before you start. If you change your mind later and decide some word doesn't fit in with all the others, you can revise it.

    But by "simple" I'm thinking of syllable structures like (C)V or (C)V(n). Languages that really limit the consonant clusters they allow, or don't allow consonant clusters period.


    Ah, yes, I have read that part. But it doesn't direct where to put articles and such. My language has articles, but I haven't found a site or resource that directs where the rest of the components of words, like articles, should be within the SOV order, so there are some things the article never mentions. If that makes sense...?
    Heck, there might not even be any universal rule.

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    Guild Member Facebook Connected Alex's Avatar
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    Question

    Thanks once more for the replies!

    @Syllable Structure

    And SS structure works for separate syllables of the word? Like "ga-ba-te-koot"'s SS would be be for each syllable and would look like (C)(V)(V)(C), right?

    @SOV

    So there's really nothing about it (where to place articles etc etc) available? So along with what is told and explained, I can pick where to place what it doesn't explain....?

  10. #10
    Guild Expert jbgibson's Avatar
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    Well, aren't all the different structures just ways to consistently describe languages that just grew? It's we geofictioneers and conlanguists that do design on languages from the ground up. So sure, you also get to pick the *exceptions* as well as the rules :-). And to us a consistent pattern looks and sounds like a coherent, organic language. But if your people have quirks that make for radically different bits of semichaos, in the middle of an otherwise rational set of rules, so be it. Maybe it's the very order vs. disorder that carries a meaning in your language. "Only <dripping with scorn> uneducated yokels stick with the bare forms. We literate people have to change gender agreement five times in a sentence or it's just so gauche. And all that "La-La-de-Dah" stuff is so dusty and formal. Why everyone knows a bit of Ubbi_dubbi is what all the smart people spice up their lingo with."

    Your game, your rules :-). Consistency is a shortcut to believability, but "plausible" can be had other ways too. You just don't want the reader to have to devote a lot of study to decoding your conlang, if the novel or the map is what you're trying to get across. If it's all for your enjoyment though, and you're having fun, then Go To It.

    Horrible days.... my Monday had a root canal, an air conditioner quit, and a broken window at my Mom's house. I just can't wait to see what Tuesday has in store :-b .

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