Language Creation Tribune
A word from our President
Welcome to the 10th edition of the Language Creation Tribune—the last one of the year! And my, what a year it’s been, right? For me personally, 2016 wasn’t a good year. I nearly lost my job due to a reorganisation, I have had various health issues, and a month ago I had to say farewell to my best friend Buddy (whose picture is below). And although he lived to the respectable age of 14 years and 9 months, his loss has hit me very hard, and I am still recovering from it. Luckily, the memories remain, and his name will forever remain in my conlang Moten as the word badi: “dog”.
But it’s not the right place for me to speak only of my personal life; for the art and craft of conlanging in general, and the LCS in particular, 2016 has definitely not been a bad year. The Paramount vs. Axanar court case resulted in a lot of attention—quite a lot of it positive—and while once again no definite decision was made as to the legal status of conlangs, the fact that Paramount effectively dropped their Klingon ownership claim (albeit silently) only strengthens our position on the matter (as described in the link) and conlangers’ ability to create without having to face spurious legal attacks.
Summer was also a good time, with the Conlanging documentary successfully completing its crowdfunding effort. LCS members had a big role in it being a success, as members generously donated to the cause, and ensured the LCS also made a full $3000 donation. Now, unless a calamity arises, the documentary should be ready next year in time for the next Language Creation Conference, where it will be viewed by the live audience!
Indeed, as the year draws to a close, we don’t only look back on it, but we look into the next year. And the big event next year is of course LCC7! (LCC7 in 2017? This calls for a logo that combines year and initialism. Anyone up for it?) As you know, we closed the call for proposals back in September. And if you’re wondering what happened since then, it’s quite simple: we had so many good proposals to choose from that the Board has had a hard time making a decision. But we eventually managed to make a choice, and I am happy to announce that the 7th Language Creation Conference will take place on the 22nd and 23rd of July 2017 in Calgary, province of Alberta, Canada! This time, the local host is Joseph W. Windsor, and the venue will be located at the University of Calgary. And Joseph is not alone in organising this LCC: he has enlisted the help of Christine Schreyer. If you think you’re somehow familiar with this name, that’s because Christine is rather well known in conlanging circles! She teaches a course called “Pidgins, Creoles and Constructed Languages” at the University of British Columbia, is the creator of the Kryptonian language for the movie Man of Steel (2013), and is one of the executive producers of the Conlanging film! With Joseph and Christine at the helm, I have no doubt that the LCC7 will be a resounding success!
Naturally, more information will be released as the event gets organised, but as I did back then with the LCC6 announcement, I want to use this occasion to start the call for presentations already. So if you are interested in giving a talk, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, the title of your presentation (or a placeholder if you are uncertain about it) and at least a short description of its topic. Once again, all topics relevant to language creation are allowed, with the exception of proselytism. If you have other ideas besides talks, you’re welcome to propose them via this address as well. And if you are interested in the LCC7 in general, whether you are planning to attend it as a presenter or as a participant, or even just remotely, don’t hesitate to join the LCC7 mailing list: email@example.com, which you can subscribe to via this webpage: http://lists.conlang.org/listinfo.cgi/lcc7-info-conlang.org. You can use this mailing list to ask us and/or the local hosts questions, discuss relevant ideas, or even plan your trip together with other attendees. It’s available for any discussion as long as it’s relevant to the LCC7.
Oh, and if you are wondering already, we will have an LCC relay once again, as we have done since LCC2. More information will be available in time, but I can already tell you that I am looking into providing the original text myself this time! Be very afraid?
President of the Language Creation Society.
by John Quijada
Oh, damn! I’m O’odham
I recently returned from an Arizona road-trip, during which I visited my ancestral homeland, the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation west of Tucson. During my childhood, my mother told me and my siblings that our deceased paternal grandfather was Native American. (My father would never talk about it.) My mother whispered to us that she thought our grandfather might be Yaqui because he was from Arizona. (No idea how she reached that conclusion.)
Then a couple of years ago, my cousin learned from one of the aunts or uncles that our mutual grandfather Juan Quijada and his brother Eduardo had been enrolled in one of the Arizona Indian schools during the early 1900s. (Similar to the situation with the aborigines in Australia, these “Indian schools” were designed to take Native American children off their reservations, teach them to hate and deny their culture and heritage, then train them to be docile and obedient second-class American citizens.)
My cousin did some sleuthing and managed to turn up the 1910-1911 enrollment ledger for the Phoenix Indian School, listing Juan and Eduardo Quijada and indicating their tribe as Papago, the politically-incorrect former name of the Tohono O’odham people. (NOTE: Being south of the Gila River, the tribe’s lands were entirely in Mexico prior to the Gadsden Purchase of 1853. Therefore, most Tohono O’odham adopted Spanish-language names to avoid persecution by the Mexican army, which is why I have a Spanish surname.)
So, like Paul Muad’dib Atreides from Dune, I can now say I am a desert person, as tohono o’odham means “desert people” in my grandfather’s native tongue.
Needless to say, upon seeing the records my cousin unearthed, the first thing I did was purchase a Tohono O’odham grammar book and dictionary. I’ve been studying this Uto-Aztecan language off and on since then and, as is often the case when examining a non-Indo-European language for the first time, I discovered some nice linguistic surprises, one of which I want to share with you.
It turns out the language has a really cool feature when it comes to describing spatial position and orientation of objects — something that some of you might want to think about for your conlangs.
Like many languages, the language utilizes postpositions to indicate the usual array of positions or direction of an object relative to the speaker or relative to another (landmark) object. Where things get interesting, however, is that sentences containing such a postposition are accompanied by one of three particles called “specifiers” that precede the noun: ʼab, ʼam, or ʼan. These specifiers are used to indicate the orientation of the directional/interactive “face” of the noun relative to the speaker. Specifically, the sentence tells the listener whether the object is facing/moving toward the speaker, facing/moving away from the speaker, or standing/moving alongside/parallel to the speaker. Here are some examples using the postposition wui ‘to(ward)’ and the verb of motion him ‘walk’:
Huan ʼo ʼab Cuk Ṣon wui him.
Juan 3rd/sg/IMPERF SPECIFIER1 Tucson toward walk
John is/was walking to(ward) Tucson [coming toward the speaker (who is in Tucson)]
Huan ʼo ʼam Cuk Ṣon wui him.
Juan 3rd/sg/IMPERF SPECIFIER2 Tucson toward walk
John is/was walking to(ward) Tucson [going away from the speaker (who is not in Tucson)]
Huan ʼo ʼan Cuk Ṣon wui him.
Juan 3rd/sg/IMPERF SPECIFIER3 Tucson toward walk
John is/was walking to(ward) Tucson [parallel to/alongside the speaker (who is also headed toward Tucson)]
(ORTHOGRAPHIC NOTE: the letter <c> represents the affricate [tʃ] while <s> with underposed dot represents sibilant [ʃ], both unrounded. Long vowels are indicated by a colon.)
Here are some examples using the postposition ba’ic ‘in front of (a person)’ and the static verb ke:k ‘stand’:
Mali:ya ʼo ʼab Klisti:na ba’ic ke:k.
Mary 3rd/sg/IMPERF SPECIFIER1 Christina in-front-of stand
Maria is/was standing in front of Christina [and facing the speaker].
Mali:ya ʼo ʼam Klisti:na ba’ic ke:k.
Mary 3rd/sg/IMPERF SPECIFIER2 Christina in-front-of stand
Maria is/was standing in front of Christina [and facing away from the speaker / with her back to the speaker].
Mali:ya ʼo ʼan Klisti:na ba’ic ke:k.
Mary 3rd/sg/IMPERF SPECIFIER3 Christina in-front-of stand
Maria is/was standing in front of Christina [and on a line parallel to the speaker’ s position relative to Christina].
The following example using the postposition we:big (in some dialects we:gac) ‘behind/in back of’ further illustrates how the specifier ʼan is used with static verbs:
Mali:ya ʼo ʼan Klisti:na we:big ke:k.
Mary 3rd/sg/IMPERF SPECIFIER3 Christina behind stand
Maria is/was standing behind Christina [and next to the speaker].
While the above system is reminiscent of the elaborate matrix of spatial/locative noun cases found in Northeast Caucasian (Dagestanian) languages, e.g., Tsez, those languages merely specify position relative to a landmark object and any accompanying direction of motion relative to the speaker (or lack thereof). They do not specify the orientation of the face of the object relative to the speaker as does the Tohono O’odham system.
I am reminded of Benjamin Lee Whorf’s claim that Hopi (also a Uto-Aztecan language) is a better language than English for discussing physics. For those readers who know some higher physics, Tohono O’odham’s capacity for specifying the internal orientation of an object relative to the speaker seems to echo the mathematical description of an object in Hilbert space, where in addition to the usual three-dimensional x-y-z coordinates, an object’s internal orientation (like the degree of pitch, yaw, and roll of an airplane) is also specified.
Pretty weird/cool for a natlang, eh? I’m guessing other Uto-Aztecan languages do the same thing, and perhaps a few natlangs elsewhere in the world, but I’ve certainly never encountered such a system before. Now that I think about it, I ought to explore how to incorporate it into Ithkuil, as a nod to my own heritage!
p.s. An interesting note for conlangers/conworlders regarding tribal nomenclature: the former name of the Tohono O’odham, “Papago,” is a Spanish-language corruption of an insulting nickname used by the neighboring (and closely related) Pima tribe for the Tohono O’odham: ba:bawĭko’a “eating tepary beans.” Ironically enough, the name “Pima” is a Spanish-language corruption of the words pi mac “(I) don’t know,” apparently indicating their frequent reply to questions from the Spanish conquistadors. (The correct name for the Pima is now Akimel O’odham “river people.”)
LCS Lending Library Update
New library books
Any member can check out these books.
Phonetics & Phonology
- Phonology and Language Use by Bybee (Bybee2001P)
- A Practical Introduction to Phonetics by Catford (Catford2002P)
- The Phonological Structure of Words: An Introduction by Ewen and van der Hulst (Ewen2001P)
- Writing Systems An Introduction to Their Linguistic Analysis by Coulmas (Coulmas2002W)
- Writing Systems of the World by Akira Nakanishi (Nakanishi1980W)
- Writing Systems by Geoffrey Sampson (Sampson2015W)
- Serial Verb Constructions: A Cross-Linguistic Typology by Aikhenvald and Dixon (Aikhenvald2006S)
- Changing Valency: Case Studies in Transitivity by Dixon and Aikhenvald (Dixon2000C)
- The Semantics of Clause Linking: A Cross Linguistic Typology by Dixon and Aikhenvald (Dixon2009S)
- Rules of the Aztec Language: A Translation by Arthur J O Anderson (Anderson1973R)
- Grammatical Examples, Exercies, and Review: For Use with Rules of the Aztec Language by Arthur J O Anderson (Anderson1973G)
- The Loom of Language by Frederick Bodmer (Bodmer1944L)
- Language, Usage, and Cognition by Bybee (Bybee2010L)
- The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason by Mark Johnson (Johnson1987B)
- Melidora by Ryan Z Dawson (Dawson2014M)
Articles and online media relevant to conlanging
- There’s still time to sign up for the 2016 Conlang Card Exchange! Please visit https://goo.gl/lSuzIg to sign up by Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 24th). If you have any questions about the Exchange, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The LCS now has an official Tumblr: tumblr.com.
- Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets was interviewed for Apex, a British radio show, for a segment focusing on conlanging, titled “From the Mouths of Snakes.”
- There will be a panel on conlanging and linguistic pedagogy at the January 2017 Linguistics Society of America conference in Austin, TX. The panel is called “Teaching Linguistics with Invented Languages,” organized by Jeffrey Punske (Southern Illinois University) and Amy Fountain (University of Arizona). The panel will be held at the JW Marriott Austin, Grand Ballroom 7, on Saturday, January 7, 2:00-5:00 p.m. Anyone who wishes to attend will need to register for the LSA conference.
Fiat Lingua‘s latest articles
- September 2016: “Nuvutani: Introducing a new language” by Sylvia Sotomayor
- Abstract: “Sylvia is most famous for Kēlen, a verbless language, and so for her second language, sodna-leni or sodemadu, she created a language with a closed class of verbs. However, in fleshing out Sodemadu, she became frustrated with its limitations, so one weekend she decided to forego the limitations of Sodemadu and created a new language, her third, that had an open class of verbs. Like Sodemadu, most of the vocabulary has cognates in Kē At the end of the weekend she had a draft of a story in this new language. The story comes from a book of Australian Aboriginal myths and legends, shortened and adapted to suit her and this new language.”
- October 2016: “Language Creation in Early Learning” by Danny Garrett
- Abstract: “This paper explores how conlanging impacts learning outcomes for middle school students in a structured English classroom. Starting in May and ending in the same month, 6th and 7th graders from Iberville Charter Academy in Plaquemine, LA created conlangs for their end-of-the-year English projects. 44 students participated. Danny Garrett, their teacher, oversaw the project, taught the necessary material for it, and studied the project’s pre- and posttest data. The data and highlighted student works are presented in this paper, framed in their proper historical, pedagogical, linguistic, and literary contexts. To protect student identities and statuses as minors, all student names are fictional and thus obscured in accordance with California law.”
- November 2016: “A Naming Language” by Jeffrey Henning
- Abstract: “In this essay, Jeffrey Henning describes how to create a naming language. Unlike a full conlang, which has its own grammar and syntax, a naming language is a phonology coupled with rules for compounding that can, among other things, allow a novelist to generate realistic, language-like names for characters, towns, regions, and geographical elements. Since its first publication in 1995 it’s continued to serve as a useful tool for world builders and game makers—and has also served as a jumping off point for many conlangers.”
Call for submissions: Fiat Lingua publishes everything conlang-related, including reviews of conlang-relevant books, conlang grammars, essays on style, conlang criticism, scholarly work on a conlang-related topic, and conlang artwork and prose or poetic composition. If you have something you’d like to publish or have an idea you think might work as an article, email email@example.com. All submissions must be in PDF format.
- September 2016
- Conlangery #123: Stress Systems
- Description: An overview of word-level stress systems.
- October 2016
- Conlangery #124: Old Irish (natlang)
- Description: Matt Boutilier, a guest speaker, focuses on Old Irish.
- November 2016
- Conlangery #125: Grammatical Number
- Description: A discussion on grammatical number distinctions in languages and how it interacts with other grammatical systems.
LCS Member Milestones
In July, John Quijada posted a new video on YouTube as part of his Kaduatán progressive-rock music project, once again featuring David J. Peterson singing the lyrics in Ithkuil.
John E. Clifford celebrated his 80th birthday on September 21. His daughter flew in from Portland, OR, and his niece’s choir serenaded him. How cool! Happy birthday, John!
On October 22, William S. Annis gave a brief talk, “How to Invent an Alien Language,” at the Science Storytellers’ Jam, part of the Wisconsin Science Festival.
LCS Membership benefits
You can find more information about becoming a member, as well as more information on the benefits, here.
- Two permanent yournamehere.conlang.org domain names and free full web and email hosting; for more information or to fill out the form to claim a domain name, please visit this page.
- Checkout privileges for the LCS Lending Library.
- Access to a Hightail account (you can find more information about Hightail, an online file server, at its website); please email Sylvia to create your account.
- Full voting rights in the LCS.
- Discounts on all LCS events.
Please direct any questions you have regarding LCS membership to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, all communication regarding your membership will come from that address as well, so please white-list email@example.com.
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