Language Creation Tribune
A word from our President
Welcome to the 11th edition of the Language Creation Tribune! Yes, the Tribune’s schedule has been slipping a bit as of late, sorry about that. It’s bound to happen as we are a volunteer organisation, and we all have jobs and lives that need attending to once in a while (I know, how dare they demand such attention!). On the subject of jobs and lives, some of you may have noticed I haven’t been easy to reach lately. As it happens, I’ve started a new job recently (in the same company I’ve worked for for the past 11 years, but in a completely different department), and this is taking up most of my time. Also, as you may have noticed, spring has arrived (at least in the Northern hemisphere), and so have my allergies! I’ll survive, but it does mean I am only at 50% capacity at the moment.
But don’t worry, as all this stuff will not prevent me from attending the big event of this year: the 7th Language Creation Conference! By the time this column is published, the LCC7 webpage will have been updated with the programme schedule, and registering will be open. I advise everyone to register using that link, especially if you are not a Canadian citizen, as you may need an official letter of attendance to help you cross the border, and the registration process will take care of generating one for you (you can also contact local host Joseph Windsor for such a letter if you need one but don’t want to use the form–for instance if you want to register at the door). Non-Canadian citizens who are planning on flying to Canada should also make sure they have all the documents they need. Even if you are visa-exempt, you will most likely at least need an Electronic Travel Authorization, so you shouldn’t wait too long before applying for one. The best way to handle this is to go to this site and answer all the questions given truthfully. You will then be given all the information you need.
The LCC is one of the few occasions most of us (including myself) get to meet other conlangers face-to-face, and this fact alone makes the LCC a special event indeed. But this LCC is shaping up to be one extra special event: besides the “usual” talks (and we were once again overwhelmed by the quality of the proposals), attendees will be able to watch the full Conlanging Documentary, as promised, at the Plaza Theatre! This will be, as far as I am aware, the first actual screening of the documentary since its completion. As you can imagine, we are all very excited about it.
As I state above, I will be at the LCC on the 22nd and 23rd of July in Calgary, and I am looking forward to meeting everyone there. See you there!
President of the Language Creation Society.
by John Quijada
Cruising Around In My “Spin-Turtle”
So I was perusing back issues of Fiat Lingua (the LCS’s monthly online publication of scholarly articles regarding conlanging), when I came across the July 2016 article by Étienne Ljóni Poisson regarding “Absolute Descriptives” in his Siwa conlang. In reading it, I noted the author ends the article with an enticing little paragraph: “Siwa certainly has other novel grammatical constructions that are worth exploring…” followed by some example topics from the official Siwa Grammar.
Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued by the promise of “novel grammatical constructions”, as I am always on the lookout for the innovative and unusual in conlangs. So I decided to take him up on his offer (or perhaps call his bluff) and find some of these promised novel constructions in the Siwa grammar. I figured I was in for a treat upon discovering that Siwa’s influences include Finnish, Northern Sámi, and Georgian.
Ljóni, as he apparently likes to go by, is a graduate of the University of Iceland, having studied Icelandic, Finnish, linguistics, organic chemistry and biochemistry, and currently resides in Sweden doing graduate studies in organic synthesis at Linköping University.
Google managed to turn up a PDF version of the grammar and, lo and behold, I found myself quite taken aback by this masterful work. What a showcase of the art of language construction! At nearly 800 pages, the grammar is one of the most thorough and well-organized I’ve ever seen, on par with Matt Pearson’s grammar of Okuna. And while one might assume that such a lengthy tome implies overly-complicated explanations and endless delving into the intricate details of petty linguistic arcana, in fact, each section of the grammar is remarkably straightforward and comprehensible, and illustrated by plenty of example phrases and sentences. The coherency of the work as a whole is remarkable.
The work opens with a nice section on his Alopian language family (of which Siwa is a member) including con-history, diachronic evolution of the member languages, some nice con-cultural and ethnographic bits and, of course, the requisite map.
As a mere example of the level of workmanship, the section on phonology alone takes up 62 pages and is the richest, most comprehensive I’ve ever seen in a conlang grammar. While extremely detailed, it is quite natural and systematic, yet with just the right amount (and kinds) of irregularities and oddities to be realistic. Siwa’s morphology and syntax is similarly complex and nuanced, but we’re here specifically to track down one of those promised “novel grammatical constructions.” And, indeed, one finds several such delights, my favorite of which I describe below:
Agentive vs. Unagentive verbs: Siwa verbs inflect for two values of agentivity. As one might expect, AGENTIVE verbs indicate that the action is performed volitionally/willingly/consciously, while UNAGENTIVE verbs indicate involuntary and affective states like being wrong, being hot/cold, seeming to be something, growing, experiencing emotional states, etc. Where things get interesting, however, is a phenomenon the author calls “ambiguous agentivity”, where an agentive verb switches to unagentive, and vice-versa, for various rhetorical purposes, as shown below.
Unagentive becomes agentive, for purposes of personification of inanimate objects in storytelling or poetry, e.g.,
UNAGENTIVE: keųi te̓htṡa
‘the sun will rise’ [a simple natural phenomenon]
AGENTIVE: keųi te̓rhi
‘(the) Sun will rise’ [the Sun personified as a deity acting consciously]
Agentive becomes unagentive, for purposes such as pejorative sentences and to rhetorically belittle or diminish the value of the agent, as seen in the following examples:
Non-pejorative with verb form in AGENTIVE:
‘you even whistle’
Pejorative with verb form in UNAGENTIVE:
so medde svuihlo-ate
‘heh, so you even whistle’ [said to intimidate or bully someone]
Ambiguous agentivity is also used to distinguish a conscious act such as a craft from a similar act performed merely as a natural phenomenon, e.g.,
Euksami detkenůįůma ‘I produce quality knives’ [AGENTIVE]
Euka geletsta si̓růkůdi ‘Spiders produce silk’ [UNAGENTIVE]
Agentivity also comes into play in another interesting Siwa grammatical construction called “double agentivity,” which corresponds to English constructions of the type X wants/needs Y to Z.
I can’t end this article without commenting on a section toward the end of the Siwa Grammar entitled “Modernization.” This section provides Siwa neologisms referring to modern concepts and technology. The particular lexemes chosen for use in compounds are quite curious in many cases, e.g.,
mįariḍmi ‘airplane’, derived from words meaning ‘shield’ and ‘raven’
tugįai ‘alcohol’, derived from words meaning ‘poison’ and ‘clear’
gemkot ‘economy’, derived from a word meaning ‘to make advantageous’
And my two favorite Siwa compounds:
dionųaddi ‘computer’, derived from words meaning ‘counting’ and ‘beehive’
gįelvis ‘automobile’, derived from words meaning ‘X will spin’ and ‘turtle’ (Note: the word for ‘bus’ substitutes ‘salamander’ for turtle!)
Anyway, I’m gonna sign off now from my beehive-counter and go for a drive in my spin-turtle!
LCS Lending Library Update
New library books
The LCS Lending Library has acquired the following new books:
- Languages of the Andes by Willem FH Adelaar
- Grammars in Contact: A Cross-Linguistic Typology by Alexandra Aikhenvald
- Ethnosyntax: Explorations in Grammar and Culture by N J Enfield
- The Papuan Languages of New Guinea by William A Foley
- Vowels and Consonants by Peter Ladefoged
All LCS members are welcome to check out books free of charge!
The Library will be closed July 22 to August 17.
- The First Conference on the Interslavic Language (CISLa) took place June 1 and 2 in the Czech Republic, and Jan van Steenbergen was one of the speakers (see:http://cisla.slavic-union.org/program.html).
- David J. Peterson taught a conlanging course, “The Linguistics of Game of Thrones and the Art of Language Invention,” this summer at UC Berkeley.
Fiat Lingua‘s latest articles
- July 2017: “Constructed Language: An analysis of the phonemic sounds influenced by historical stereotyping” by Ashlie Devenney
- Abstract: “The perception of constructed languages in film is not a topic that has been researched extensively in the past due to the scrutiny concerning the field of constructed languages as a valid field of study. An understanding of how humankind perceives constructed languages is vital in our understanding of how natural languages are perceived. The purpose of this research is to examine how the base phonemic sounds of a language (particularly constructed languages) affect how the listener hears and perceives a constructed language as well as how and why this perception is constructed. This study is done through a survey consisting of several languages wherein the participant rates the languages on certain qualities which establish how the participant feels towards the language. The research finds that a historical relationship between the beginnings of language construction and the listener’s perception of that language, discovered through an analysis of the phonemic sounds, exists in both constructed and natural languages. This finding will help those who create constructed languages determine what sounds need to consistently occur for their language to be perceived according to intention.”
- June 2017: “An invented language project for the introductory linguistics classroom” by Skye Anderson
- Abstract: “This paper presents a brief description of a constructed language project developed for the introductory to linguistics/language classroom. The paper describes the project, its history of development and use, and provides links to sample syllabuses, the project outline, and student project examples. The project described has been used with thousands of students at three different universities. Developed for a large lecture-style setting with up to 500 students at a major research university enrolling over 30,000 students, the project has been taken to a smaller research university (12,000 students) and a metropolitan university (13,000 students), where it has been implemented in a variety of undergraduate courses. The project has been used as a means to introduce basic linguistic concepts to the non-major in a general education setting. In addition, it is currently being piloted in a course on typology. These applications demonstrate the versatility of the project as tool for a variety of linguistic classrooms.”
- May 2017: “Three lesser-known tools for lexicon-building in your conlang” by John Quijada
- Abstract: “At the Fifth Language Creation Conference in Austin, Texas, John Quijada presented on some advanced lexicon building techniques. Unfortunately, his talk was shortened due to some organizational mishaps. In this paper, John goes over the main thrust of his talk, and uses the opportunity to share some of the examples and ideas he wasn’t able to share at the talk itself.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions must be in PDF format.
- June 2017
- Conlangery #129: Non-vocal languages
- Description: “Jake Malloy and David Peterson join George to talk about sign language as well as a few other ways humans communicate non-vocally.”
- June 2017
- Conlangery SHORTS #25: Listen like a conlanger – Specialized terms
- Description: “George talks about how to listen to the language all around you like a conlanger, especially when you encounter weird specialized terms or senses of words.”
- May 2017
- Conlangery SHORTS #24: Personal conlanging progress
- Description: “George talks a bit about his personal progress with Middle Pahran.”
LCS Member Milestones
The fourth video from John Quijada’s Kaduatán music project is now on YouTube. Once again, David J. Peterson sings the lyrics in Ithkuil. The text with translation can be found on the Texts page of the Ithkuil website. (NOTE: John really indulges his clown obsession in this one, so viewers with an aversion to such might consider listening to the audio only!)
Nina-Kristine Johnson published a book about her conlang on April 28; it is available as a paperback and Kindle ebook.
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 email@example.com. Also, all communication regarding your membership will come from that address as well, so please white-list firstname.lastname@example.org.
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