Tag Archives: conlang

Update on the Grammar Writing Process

Draft for the 2016 Ayeri grammar cover
Draft for the 2016 Ayeri grammar cover
At the moment I’m still working on rewriting the grammar. It’s at about 150 pages of content proper now (at regular copy paper size, no less) and I’m working on describing the morphology of the verb right now. Much more still needs to be written, for instance, the chapter on syntax. It’s proven useful to some degree that I’ve already written blog posts detailing the one or the other issue in the past. In these cases, I could simply adapt what I had written before, which sped up the writing process a little. Other than that, I’ve more or less come to mostly ignore what I had written some 5 years ago, since most of it was not very detailed anyway. The new grammar will thus be completely rewritten for the most part, not merely adapted to LaTeX and with extended contents.

For the past four months I’ve tried to basically return to the mode in which I worked on my MA thesis last winter, which involved writing at least 1–2 pages every day. This seems to be the most workable way for me, since taking too long breaks has proven deadly with regards to motivation before. Thus, permanence is probably a virtue with such things, at least as far as I’m concerned, and seeing things grow in manageable increments effectively counters the paralysing fear of the whole mountain of work. Since life is life, however, I have not managed to keep this schedule up very strictly, but I’m still trying to do my best.

At the top of this article, you can see a front cover draft I’ve come up with some weeks ago. My current motivation is to finish writing this thing this time, and to then print out a full copy and have that bound as a reward to myself. It won’t be quite like a real book, of course, but it will still be something I can proudly put on my shelf as an Achievement. I’ve already written an 80-page MA thesis before, so I know I can manage this as well if I want to, even though this time it’s likely going to be three times as long. Plus, if I manage this, I suppose a PhD thesis will also be manageable.

You can still find all the source files in my GitHub repository at https://github.com/carbeck/ayerigrammar/. There’s also a PDF of the most recently compiled version of the grammar there, as well as an overview of the topics covered so far.

Simple Interlinear Glosses Shortcode Plugin for WordPress

  • I don’t actively develop this plugin anymore, since things have so far been working reasonably well enough for my purposes. For something more modern and Javascript based, you may want to have a look at Leipzig.js.

[Last updated: 2012-02-16] For a long time I’ve been slightly annoyed of formatting interlinear glosses in HTML by hand. I had hoped that there would be a plugin for WordPress at least, as a widely used content management system, that would do things automatically and to my liking. But as far as I can tell, nobody has published anything like that so far. Thus, I finally tried and programmed a shortcode plugin for very simple interlinear glosses myself, hoping that it may be useful for others, too. Especially blogging linguists and conlangers, of course 🙂 Continue reading Simple Interlinear Glosses Shortcode Plugin for WordPress

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:

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


  • 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.

“The Problem with Conlanging” – A Response

[Dieser Beitrag ist jetzt auch auf Deutsch zu lesen, nämlich hier. — 20.08.2011]

Fellow conlanger Vecfaranti wrote a thought-provoking posting on the ZBB some weeks ago. Unfortunately I’ve only managed to read it now, and I would like to share it with you, and also answer with my own thoughts and experiences. Please be so kind not to necromance the thread, if the current date is months past May 24, 2011. What I am doing here is quoting passages from Vecfaranti’s forum posting and comment on them below. So, without further ado —

Conlangs require context. Some conlangs are created for the modern world, although those are becoming less and less frequent. Most conlangs made by ZBB members are artlangs meant for conpeople. But for a lot of us, creating the language is much more fun than creating the […] people.

Ayeri, too, is a language that is supposed to somehow be linked to an imaginary world not much unlike ours. Nonetheless, I can say that it’s also become kind of a personal language to me, so it also contains words for things that may or may not exist in this world my language’s speakers are supposed to live in, such as television, internet, or car. The necessity for this has arisen from writing the one or the other journal entry in the language, as well as doing Translation Challenges at the ZBB that I did not bother to somehow adapt culturally. Whenever I can, I try to either metaphorically extend the meaning of already existing words[1. E.g. bukoya ‘library’ → ‘web server’] (natural languages also seem to do this a lot!), or I calque these words,[2. E.g. narakahu ‘telephone’ ← nara- ‘speak’ + kahu ‘far’ (cf. German legalese Fernsprecher ‘far-speaker’)] and as a last resort borrow them. However, this borrowing mostly happens from the language I mainly work in: English. Even “in-universe” borrowing is a problem, because, as Vecfaranti observes, conlangs require context, and I don’t have much.[3. I drew a map some years ago, but not much has come of that. Also, the level of technology of my con-people varies a lot.] Ayeri is the third language I am working on technically, but I’ve completely given up on the “Nameless Language” and Daléian, both of which I created in my first half year of language tinkering back in 2002. Also, I must say, that my interest in languages as such is bigger than in the people who speak them. Cultural Studies, history and sociology simply are not my primary interest. Trying to create a believable, naturalistically complex culture around my conlang and doing that on top of trying to create (an) artificial language(s) in depth seems quite “taxing” indeed to me, and frankly I have no idea where to start, hence my reluctance to come up with at least some kind of setting.

Are you going to make a book using it? Are you going to make a movie? A game of some sorts? Or are you just making it for the sake of making it and presenting it on a website in encyclopedic format? Which brings me to the other problem. No one likes reading grammars. […] And most people don’t have in depth knowledge to critique aspects of grammar besides phonology and maybe rudimentary morphology. […] Which is why most threads about in depth grammars do not get many responses around here.

My work on Ayeri is kind of a purpose to itself, though it also helps exploring Linguistics as a discipline, thus helping me to learn more about things as I go. Personally, I must admit that it’s no joy for me to sit down and read grammars – whether “nat” or “con” – cover to cover. Exploring bits and pieces here and there is more interesting, though it takes me conscious effort and concentration to sit down and read linguistic papers, and I don’t feel like doing that all the time. Also, I naturally have knowledge holes in areas I didn’t do any reading in for my own conlang, since I’ve never learnt Linguistics formally. In my experience, posting things on small issues you come across and want to hear others’ opinions about is far more successful in terms of response than just posting a link to your grammar, and say “Discuss.” For the same reason I’ve started this blog, more or less: I can write short articles about things, which helps working out details, and I can utter my thoughts so that people maybe can look into my reasoning and the way in which I create grammar, or decide on how to proceed. If they’re interested. However, all bite-sized, if possible.[4. This and the last couple of posts on Ayeri grammar have become quite lengthy, however…]

For context, we must work and work and work tirelessly. And the process usually ends up being private. This board is good for quick questions and socialising, but deep questions require outside research. For presentation, we must either have a lot of work already done, in order to get away with the website approach or we must set a goal for ourselves that goes beyond conlanging (and conworlding) for conlanging’s (or conworlding’s) sake.

Working tirelessly? Well yes, creating a whole world on your own must be very tiresome and takes ages if you want to arrive at a high level of depth. People say they admire my work, however be aware that I guess it could only achieve a certain level of quality because I’ve been working on this for about 8 years. Which goals beyond “conlanging (and conworlding)” should I pursue, though? I guess one I’ve already mentioned above: self-education, and releasing the little scholar in oneself to satisfy one’s curiosity.

Once I make a conlang, relatively in depth, I’m not easily willing to just discard it and not put it to use.

What Vecfaranti writes above I can affirm. And it’s also why I’m stubbornly clinging to Ayeri, although others have suggested to start a new thing, e.g. to make a parallel language or several less in-depth parallel languages to borrow words from. Maybe if I come round to make up a diachronic history of my conlang I will derive some sister-languages. But so far I have been very reluctant to try even that. It’s definitely a goal of mine, though, even if another 10 years have to pass (and should I still be interested in this kind of thing then).

  • Vecfaranti. “The Problem with Conlanging.” Zompist BBoard. 8 May 2011. Mark Rosenfelder, 2002. Web. 4 Jun. 2011.