Category Archives: Soapbox

Thoughts and opinions.

Anything you’d like to know?

If you’re following this blog, you will have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for some time. This is mainly due to not having had much time to work on Ayeri for much of the past 12 or so weeks because real-life work obligations like writing a term paper, doing an internship, and writing a report for that internship were much more important. And soon, there’ll be my BA thesis to work on.

There is a list of topics to think about on my backburner still, and in addition my interlinear glosses plugin, my font, and the dictionary query scripts used on this site could use some improvement – and, alas, the big grammar file. But right now, I don’t really feel like tackling any of those issues.

In order to hopefully get my creative juices going again (creativity always kind of ebbs and flows for me), I thought why not have a kind of AMA. Ayeri’s been around for so long, maybe there’s things you people want to know that have not yet been dealt with on this website, or that are hidden away so well you’ve never noticed.

So: Anything you’d like to know about my work? Comments are open again for once.

Some Criticism From Japan

  • As it turns out, the mini review of Ayeri I’m quoting from below was actually crossposted from 2chan to the blog I got traffic from. I don’t know if the blog author is also the author of the 2chan post, so sorry for any unjust allegations. Also, for having been butthurt about my conlang essentially getting dismissed as trash (apparently under the errorneous impression that it’s somehow supposed to be an auxlang) when I wrote the below post.

The other day, there were visitors from a Japanese blog1 dropping in according to my site statistics, and I was curious what someone from “the East” would write about my little project here, since the communities I have participated in are dominated by people from “the West” – that is, we don’t get a lot of people from East Asia on the forums I’m on, which are mainly populated by Europeans and North Americans. However, there’s certainly people interested in linguistics and conlanging in Asia, too. Unfortunately, I don’t speak any Japanese, so I piped this through Google Translate and tried to make sense of the output as well as I could.

First off, this guy, who calls himself “Kakis Erl Sax,” appears to be involved in a Japanese community conlanging project called Arka, one of whose members we got into a serious flamewar with on the ZBB due to his missionary zeal of converting us all into followers of what seemed to us like an elitist gig taking itself far too seriously (discussion thread). Since the guy on the forum claimed Arka and the Japanese conlanging community as superior to anything Europe and the US have ever produced in terms of artistic languages, touting Arka as the one and only good model to follow in order to achieve artistic merits in Conlangia, my curiosity immediately became rather ambivalent with the discovery of K.E.S.’s background, not saying that everyone in their community is like that, but first impressions etc. etc. The guy on the ZBB admitted to trolling in the end, basically in an attempt to use any publicity as publicity since he could not get anyone’s interest by just posting site updates for a year, confined to a single dedicated thread. However, his general behavior still left a bad taste in my mouth.

In the following I will quote what was written about Ayeri2 and give the machine translation respectively.

Conlang Ayeriは知らないね。
I do not know Conlang Ayeri is.

Well, it looks like it’s my fictional language project, and this person has chanced on its website on which I present theoretical backgrounds on its being created as well as assorted materials I made using the language over the course of the last couple of years.

みた感じ、音韻体系は中途半端なポリネシア風CV音節で、
I feel, is a phonological syllable CV Polynesian-style half-baked,

If you interpret the overall esthetics of words as inspired by Polynesian languages, it’s no surprise you will find Ayeri “half-baked.” Rather, its esthetics are inspired by Austronesian languages such as Malay and Tagalog, since I somehow like the look of those languages. It is no surprise, thus, that language-guessing algorithms frequently analyze Ayeri as one of Indonesian, Malay, Tagalog, or Cebuano. To me it seems here that the person who wrote this assumes Ayeri was intended to exclusively allow simple CV syllables (almost like Japanese), and in so far I am indeed not very consistent in that many words differ from this pattern. However, all the example texts should suggest that an exclusive CV structure is probably not the basis for my language’s word structure. Thus, the reproach of half-bakedness of my phonotactic system is ungrounded, since Ayeri otherwise appears very consistent in its look and feel.

文字システムはアブギダ、
Abugida character system,

Yep, that’s how I like it.

語彙の借用元は不明、恐らくアプリオリ、
Yuan borrowed vocabulary is unknown, perhaps a priori,

I don’t know where they got the assumption from that Ayeri would not be a priori. I have always assumed that there were enough clues everywhere on the site that Ayeri is fictional, in so far a missing list of loan sources would indicate that there is no external relation. However, since Ayeri’s phonotactics are very similar to those of Malay or Tagalog, it is to be expected that identical words appear with different meanings, but this is mostly just coincidence. In fact, I really wonder how Ayeri looks like to a speaker of the previously mentioned languages.

語彙数ははっきりしないが200以上、
More than 200 the number of vocabulary is not clear,

There are currently about 2,300 entries in the dictionary. From the flamewar mentioned above it became clear, however, that the Arka community very much emphasizes the importance of having as many words as possible, and that the dictionary must have topmost importance in fictional languages: if languages have fewer vocabulary items than Arka, they’re supposedly not ‘elaborate’ enough to be any good. I disagree – partially. It is certainly worth putting effort into a dictionary so that it does not become just a bland copy of your native language, however, if this is your only priority, other parts of your language will necessarily starve from neglect instead, so the location of blandness will simply shift elsewhere. Personally, I am more interested in morphosyntax than lexicography, so my dictionary will likely show some traces of neglect, while more interesting aspects will be found in the interplay of syntax and morphology. Since word creation and grammar creation inevitably go hand in hand, I think what is most beneficial is finding an equilibrium you can work with. A single person can only do so much at a time anyway.

VSO NA 合成語もオランウータン式
Word Orangutan formula also VSO NA synthesis

Asking a friend of mine who studies Japanese what this means, he told me that he was not sure what “orangutan” is doing there. In idiomatic English, the sentence runs as “The VSO/NA/compound word is ‘orangutang style'” according to him. Since orang hutan, lit. ‘man/person forest’, is a right-branching compound and Ayeri tends towards being head-initial, i.e. right-branching, it might be that they used that word as an illustrative metaphor. Alternatively, taking the racism that was exhibited by the guy from the forum into account, it might also be a slur referring to perceived primitivity. Japanese, as Wikipedia informs, prefers a strongly head-final word order, so my language would essentially appear like Yoda-speak to him.

格助詞使用・人称代名詞は補充式で激しく屈折
Personal pronoun use and case particles are violently refraction formula supplementation

Another sentence mangled beyond recognition by automatic translation, this reads more idiomatically as “Case particle usage and personal pronouns are ‘replenish-style’ and considerably distorted,” according to my friend. I have frankly no idea what this could mean other than that they are confused by the case particles and personal pronouns, maybe in so far as there is a large number of either of them, due to there being eight cases, while there is little irregularity that might otherwise be expected.

助動詞後置
Postfix auxiliary

Auxiliary verbs hardly exist in Ayeri. Modals come first in verb phrases and there is no overt copula. Tense is expressed mostly optionally by tense prefixes, mood by suffixes. By now I really think they have just flicked through the grammar quickly and mindlessly while picking on some random aspects.

動詞の人称・数による曲用あり
There are songs by number, for a person of the verb

This looks like it refers to person marking on verbs, and indeed Ayeri has verb agreement.

数は12進法
Decimal number is 12

True.

とか、色々みればわかるけど、目的ははっきりしないね。
Or, I’ll understand various, the goal is not clear it.

Another case of not paying attention here. It clearly says what my goals in creating Ayeri are on the Behind the Scenes page.

芸術言語にしてはオリジナルコンテンツが乏しく、国際補助語にしては中途半端に難解な仕様だし、工学言語かな。
To the original content artistic language is poor, then it’s an international auxiliary language specification halfway esoteric, Engineering language or not.

Ayeri is neither supposed to be an IAL, nor is it an engineered language in so far that engineered languages (for short, engelangs) are based on an engineer’s approach so that optimization towards a certain goal forms the premise on which the language is constructed. Instead, Ayeri is an artistic language. Since this person seems to measure my work by his own preformed premises of how things should be done, I think it is no surprise they think Ayeri lacks ingenuity, especially since the only parts they consider are morphology and lexicon. On the other hand it was suggested to me that the judgement of lacking originality might also stem from another thing that is of utmost importance to the Arka community: paraphernalia of world-building, as well as lessons, and published works of fiction featuring the language. I must admit that Ayeri is terribly lacking in cultural background, which is often emphasized as crucial for naturalism, but my main interest in this work is linguistics after all, much more so than anthropology or history. However, scarcity of work that puts my language to use is really not a concern – there is a whole bunch of translations to look at and to listen to on the Examples page. I am not aspiring to get published in whatever domain right now, so chances to see or hear Ayeri in the mass media are low.

アブギダ文字が綺麗と言う以外に特に引かれる要素はなかったよ。
Element is drawn in particular to say except I did not clean abugida character.

This sentence seems like they disliked everything they could glean from my site, but according to my friend, this rather says that they disliked everything except for the script. Oh well.

So all in all, what I received is a slam, but a rather badly done one, since the critique at best only hints at things its author judged poor work, based on not paying attention to the matters as they present themselves. And while our friend here raised a few valid points (at least by proxy of my interpretation of their allusions), most of their reproaches are nonetheless unsubstantial: They do not present any concrete evidence or argumentation as to why they think certain aspects of Ayeri are poorly done, so they are in no position to make serious judgements other than “Not my taste.”

  • Edited bits of text for clarity and also marked linkrot.
  1. This link is dead. —CB, 2014-12-05
  2. This link is dead, too, although it appears to have been crossposted to from a 2chan thread where some people from the Arka community sketch out highlights and low points of different conlangs on the internet as far as I could gather from Google Translate. —CB, 2014-12-05

Website Statistics

This website has been online in its current shape for over a year already, however, I’ve only begun to take statistics in June last year. This pronouncedly doesn’t have the purpose of spying out individual visitors, but simply to see more generally, for example, which pages are looked at most and whether people find their way around. IPs are hashed by the plugin that analyzes my site traffic, so individual visitors stay anonymous for this purpose.1

Here are some statistics (percentages refer to the total number of hits on June 1, 2012 at 0:00 AM GMT):

  • There were 9,158 hits and 7,504 pageviews by 2,986 unique visitors in the last 12 months, not counting downloads of or direct accesses to PDFs, MP3s etc. in “Media.”2
  • Very roughly every other visitor is – surprise, surprise! – American (well, 41.2% are), with Germany (11.3%) and the UK (6.8%) following after a huge gap. The bottom three countries in the top 10 at the moment are Australia (1.8%), Italy (1.8%), and Brazil (1.7%).
  • The most popular page so far has been the front page (“About;” 23.4%), followed by “Grammar” (12%) and “Alphabet” (11.3%) in close succession.
  • The most popular blog articles so far were “Digital Typography for Fictional Writing Systems – A Rant” (6.4%), “Simple Interlinear Glosses Shortcode Plugin for WordPress” (4.8%) and “‘The Problem with Conlanging’ – A Response” (2.6%). That is, not the day-to-day discussion of aspects of my conlang.
  • The month that saw most hits was May 2012 (11.9%), followed by August 2011 (11.6%). Most people visited between 7 PM and midnight (GMT), which is no surprise given the origin of most visitors. The beginnings and ends of months interestingly have very few visitors on average – about half as many per day as in the middle of the month.
  • Most often, people were referred to my site by a Google search (12.5%), with Google returning my site surprisingly consistently – although with a low rank and little click-through – in image searches for Psalm 23 (generally), kinship terms and English tenses (especially in South- and South-East Asia), and the “Elvish alphabet” (especially in the German-speaking countries).3
  • Since I set up this version of the website in March 2011, there were 455 automatically blocked spam comments—as opposed to just 37 valid comments by real people, i.e. a signal-to-noise ratio of 8.1%. Spammers are especially attracted by “Tense and Aspect in Ayeri IV” (and in this case mostly advertising pills, porn, and false passports) and “Digital Typography for Fictional Writing Systems – A Rant” (mostly advertising luxury brands of clothing and clothing accessories) even though the comment field for those articles has rather long been closed now.

Now, what’s a little unfortunate from my perspective is that, correlated with the number of most-looked-at pages, 2½ average page views per unique visitor means that people will typically hit the front page first, then proceed to “Grammar,” and maybe even to “Alphabet.” However, surprisingly few people seem to be interested in “Media,” actually (5.2%).

As I said, that’s a little disappointing to me because “Media,” in my own opinion, is where the cool stuff is. And it’s usually the first thing I’m looking for when browsing the sites of other conlangers, just to get a taste of what their work looks and feels like. In my experience, people enjoy looking at and listening to things rather than reading lengthy treatises. Thus, it’s not really a surprise only few people seem to be interested in the blog part of my site, or even proceed to click on individual articles4 – with the important exception of more essayistic pieces, which are probably more entertaining reading material than my average blog article that discusses some aspect of grammar I was thinking about at the time.

However, the blog is where most discussion of grammar actually happens these days, since I never get myself to edit that humongous PDF file, although I’ve been meaning to for so long. It scares me, somehow. Most people interested in the bare, hard facts don’t seem to notice that, though, and persistently go to the big grammar PDF only, as though this was the be-all and end-all comprehensive illustration of my work. But it evidently isn’t. Especially since developing a conlang is a dynamic process, which is why I decided to more prominently advertize the more lively parts of my website right on the “Grammar” page some weeks ago, trying to cater to both the die-hard grammatologist and the person who simply wants to enjoy the more artistic fruits of theoretical work by referring either of them to more up-to-date information than provided in the big PDF in both structural and artistic respects. However, these pointers seem to be mostly ignored.

Now, I don’t want to prescribe how people should be using this website, but I am nonetheless interested in providing an overview as encompassing as possible and I hope that people are aware of the different facets of my work. In so far, I am going to continue the way I’ve managed this site before. I hope that this article could raise awareness to maybe also look at the other side of things respectively in order to get a more well-rounded impression of what I am doing as an on-and-off hobby here.

  1. The server currently keeps monthly access logs, however, for security purposes.
  2. These aren’t handled by WordPress, so the plugin I’m using doesn’t count them.
  3. And now it’ll possibly find my site even more relevant for these topics … SEO-advertizing spambots will do so likewise. Also, as far as German speakers searching for images or descriptions of Tengwar goes, it’s interestingly the same for my German translation of the Language Construction Kit, where actual conlanging-related searches rank surprisingly low, and Tengwar is only mentioned in a single place.
  4. The articles are also mirrored at the Conlangers Blog Aggregator, though.

Guest on Conlangery Podcast #50

I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be a guest in the first half of Episode 50 of the Conlangery Podcast, which will be released on May 14, 2012 – that is, next Monday, if the regular schedule is followed. Thanks again to George and William for having me as a guest!

When I read in the comments to Episode 47 that there was going to be a scripts-related episode soon, I decided to ask whether they’d be OK with having me as a guest. Script-related things like writing systems and typography are a topic I’m interested in and fascinated by (you guess where my perfectionist obsession with my con-scripts stems from), so I was curious to join the discussion. Who would have thought it was up for recording the very Sunday (late) night of that week! However, it’s not actually about writing systems themselves, but mainly about prerequisites and tools for writing and literacy. Very interesting!

NB: I haven’t heard the edited episode yet myself, so I’m just as curious for it.

[You can listen to Conlangery 50, “The Technology of Literacy,” now. — CB, 2012-05-14]

Alleged Beliefs

On my Twitter timeline, a link to an article by Katy Steinmetz at the TIME magazine’s website, titled “Elvish, Klingon and Esperanto—Why Do We Love To Invent Languages?”, came up several times this evening. In this article, Steinmetz interviews Michael Adams, professor of English at Indiana University, on conlanging. I left the following comment:

“Are invented languages better designed than natural languages?
— That’s what their inventors believe.”

Invented languages better than natural ones? Well, I suppose that’s an idealist view. They will probably never be as complex, for one, as natural languages if that’s your criterion of measuring quality. Natural languages grew and changed and diversified by means of being spoken by hundreds to billions of people over the course of millenia – a process which a single creator or even a group can never fully immitate – leaving us with a wealth of forms to explore and build our own languages on, and be it just for the love of tinkering. On the other hand, do invented languages need to be as complex as natural languages, being consciously modelled after existing languages, in order to be of good quality? Not necessarily, I think. It’s about exploring possibilities and watch how things work or play together. That’s why you build models in the first place.

And actually I’ve only now realized that the question was whether constructed languages are better in their design than natural languages, not just objectively better, as I assumed in my reply was the question. 😕 Certainly constructed languages are usually designed more consciously than natural languages, which underly an evolutionary process that’s at least partly blind (or even for the most part?). But whether design decisions by authors make constructed languages inherently better than natural ones I have doubts about. They’re the results of different processes, so it’s hard to compare.

However, just for fun and because of a couple of rather elaborate sentences and vocabulary that seemed challenging, I spent the 1½ hours after writing my comment translating the whole shebang into Ayeri, minus the quotation from the article at the beginning:

Sa
PFOC
engyon
exceed-3PN
narānjang
language-PL.A
vehisa
build-CAU
ban
good
narān
language
suhing?
natural?
Māy,
Well,
neprayang
suppose-1S.A
adareng
that-A.INAN
paranas
opinion-P
sempayyanena.
idealist-GEN.
Menanyam-ikan,
one-NMLZ-DAT=very,
sa
PFOC
kamatong
be_as_as-3PN
tadoy
never
kamya
complex
narān
language
suhing
natural
bata
if
ang
AFOC
perava
measure-2S
bananley
quality-P.INAN
ada-yenueri.
that=category-INST.
Ang
AFOC
nakasyon,
grow-3PN,
ang
AFOC
tilayon
change-3PN
nay
and
sa
PFOC
palungisayon
different-CAU-3PN
narānye
language-PL
suhing
natural
naramayari
speak-AGTZ-INST
menang
hundred
yonangya
billion-LOC
pesan
until
manga
MOT
ling
while
sinkyanyēa.
century-PL.LOC.
Adareng
That-A.INAN
macamley
process-P.INAN
si
REL
ang
AFOC
ming
can
kusangisaya
double-CAU-3SM
ikan
completely
tadoy
never
tianya
creator
kebay
single
soyang-nyama
or=even
yenu.
group.
Eng
AFOC.INAN
hapangisāra
rest-CAU-3S.INAN
eda-macam
this=process
mahaley
treasure-P.INAN
dahasyena
form-PL-GEN
dilānyam
explore-NMLZ-DAT
nay
and
ling
top
sinaya
REL-GEN-LOC
sa
PFOC
ming
can
vehnang
build-1P.A
narānye
language-PL
sitang-nana,
self=1P.GEN,
nārya-nama
CONC=just
cānyam
love-DAT
veha-veha.
build~DIM.
Palunganya,
Difference-LOC,
ang
AFOC
​ilta​
need
kamayon
be_as_as-3PN
kamya
complex
narānjas
language-PL.P
suhing
natural
bananyam
quality-DAT
ban
good
narānye
language-P
vehisa
build-CAU
sang
REL-A
ri
INSTFOC
vehtos
build-3SN.P
miran
way
narānyena
language-PL-GEN
suhing?
natural?
Paronyang,
Believe-1S.A,
adareng
that-A.INAN
rapōy.
necessary-NEG.
Ri
INSTFOC
ming
can
dilavāng
explore-2S.A
mimānjas
possibility-PL.P
narānvehyaman
language-build-PTCP-NMLZ
nay
and
ming
can
silvvāng
see-2S.A
miranyam
way-DAT
sirī
REL-DAT-INST
mirāra
function-3S.INAN
linyayereng
thing-PL-A.INAN
soyang
or
kayvteng
together-3P.INAN
sitanyaley.
each_other-P.INAN.
CAUFOC
tiavāng
create-2S.A
menanyam-ikan
one-NMLZ-DAT=very
kusangan-kusanganyeley
double~DIM-PL-P.INAN
eda-yaman.
this=reason.

Observations:

  • Causative marking on verbs and the resulting meaning is still nicely irregular: Sa palungisayon (PFOC different-CAU-3PN) is supposed to mean ‘they are differentiated’, while ang ming kusangisaya (AFOC can double-CAU-3SM) is supposed to be ‘they can copy/immitate’.
  • Reduplication is fun.
  • I think I’m going to allow concessive adverbials in sentence-initial position, like English does.
  • Numbers still are a bit odd for me to work with: menang yonangya pesan (12² 12⁸-LOC until) ‘hundred to billion’ as an attributive phrase, with yonangya, although not nominalized, marked for the locative case demanded by the postposition. If I did nominalize it, the resulting meaning would be ‘billionth’.
  • The question pronoun for ‘how, in which way’ (simin) should not be used as a relative pronoun, at least not in more formal language. Instead, use miran sirī (way REL-Ø-INST) ‘the way in which’, which is also how I arrived at simin.
  • Adams, Michael. Interview by Katy Steinmetz. “Elvish, Klingon and Esperanto—Why Do We Love To Invent Languages?” TIME. 2011. Time, Inc., 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.

Digitale Typografie für fiktionale Schriftsysteme – ein Rant

  • Dies ist die Übersetzung eines englischsprachigen Beitrags (click for English version), den ich bereits im August 2011 geschrieben habe. Da scheinbar ein größeres Interesse an diesem Beitrag bestand, dachte ich, es wäre eventuell sinnvoll, ihn auch ins Deutsche zu übersetzen.
  • Mittlerweile habe ich auch einen Font mithilfe von Graphite gebastelt.
  • Beachte, dass ich nicht einmal ein halbprofessioneller Schriftdesigner bin. Alles, was du hier liest, ist learning by doing und daher sehr subjektiv. Ich habe mir bisher nicht mehr über Schriftdesign beigebracht, als nötig ist, um meine eigene Schrift umzusetzen.

Eines meiner fortlaufenden, mit dem Sprachenbasteln verbundenen Projekte ist es, das Schriftsystem meiner Kunstsprache auf den Computer zu bringen. Ich versuche seit mehreren Jahren, brauchbare Lösungen zu finden, bin aber immer früher oder später gegen eine Wand gerannt.
Continue reading Digitale Typografie für fiktionale Schriftsysteme – ein Rant

Other Things Ayeri (Not the Language)

According to my website statistics, many people get here by searching for “ayeri” on Google. Nothing bad as such, but as it seems, it’s also a regular name in the Arab world. Among others also that of a former al-Qaeda leader … Apart from the fact that the Turkic language spoken in Azerbaijan is called Azeri (And what do I find in the place of Z on my German keyboard? Right, Y!). Once again a reason to state that any similarity with actually existing places, people, languages etc. is entirely coincidental! In fact, back in the day, I just made up the language’s name for its sound.

Should I now change the wording on the welcome page to something more specific than “all things Ayeri,” as only my constructed language and potentially its equally fictitious speakers are involved on this website? I’m reluctant to change the name of the entire language after so many years to avoid confusion, since it’s gained some reputation over the years. Especially since so far, I haven’t received any requests from anyone to do so.

“Das Problem mit dem Sprachenbasteln” – eine Antwort

  • Dies ist die Übersetzung eines englischsprachigen Beitrags (click for English version), den ich bereits im Juni 2011 geschrieben habe. Da scheinbar ein größeres Interesse an diesem Beitrag bestand, dachte ich, es wäre eventuell sinnvoll, ihn auch ins Deutsche zu übersetzen.

Continue reading “Das Problem mit dem Sprachenbasteln” – eine Antwort