Constructed Language: Second Week

During my second week of research into constructed language, I worked on constructing and describing my own language. Hilariously enough, although I expected this phase of research to be the simplest, it was very difficult. I began by creating a list of goals for my language, including a hierarchical derivational morphology, extreme simplicity and comprehensibility, and root-words from Proto-Indo-European language. I almost immediately scrapped these goals, as they proved impossible to accomplish in the remaining forty hours.
From then on, I took a more “organic” approach to language construction, focusing on my language’s lexicon and structure before establishing any goals. I decided to derive my language from Latin roots, because Latin is a language with which I am already very familiar. Here is part of the current lexicon of nouns in my language:

English approximation Translation
time temp
person hom
year an
way mod
dollar pecun
day dies
thing res
man hom
world mund
fish pisc
life vit
hand man
part part
child infan
eye ocul
woman fem
place loc
work lab
week hebdom
case caus

 

Many of these words probably seem familiar to you; this was a calculated advantage of using Latin as the source language. To further make the language simple, I made all nouns end in consonants, all adjectives in “o”, and all verbs in “i”. There are no noun or verb endings (i.e., it is a non-inflectional language), although there are various suffixes and prefixes which change the meanings of the words they modify. In this respect, my language is agglutinative, although it is also isolating in some cases. For example, the tense markers for verbs are separate words:

Eg vidi. = I see.

Eg vidi fin. = I saw.

To construct the lexicon, I first glossed the 100 most commonly-used English words, and then added words as needed in order to translate random quotations into my language. Here is a fun quotation translated from English into my language, and then back again, this time literally:

A three-year-old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a fifty-six-dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm. Infan det-an-i tre sei veci-z qui tam-amusi e-grec de-pecun-i cinque-se det-oscil-i tam-amusi e-truvi parvo flavo-caerulo verm. Child of years three be being who so much has fun from set of dollars fifty-six of swings so much has fun from find small yellow-blue worm.

 

The syntax of my language is obviously quite different from that of English, which was my intention from the beginning. This design choice made syntactic analysis a huge pain, however, especially because I could not sufficiently analyze many structures using only my knowledge from LING 220. Here is another quotation, along with an ungodly attempt at a syntax tree to describe it:

Not snow, no, nor rain, nor heat, nor night keeps them from accomplishing their appointed courses with all speed. Not-aut nix, ah, not-aut pluvus, not-aut calor, not-aut noct prohibi pluro-dam de-fai plur-at doi-t lab-i cu-celerit omno. Not or snow, ah, not or rain, not or heat, not or night prevent them from do their given works with speed all.

chart
For those of you who know something about syntax, it will be clear that I invented some new categories to better describe this sentence; even so, I don’t think that my current method does it justice, and I have no way of analyzing questions or more complex sentences. There are other ways to analyze syntax, of course. These include X’ theory and DP theory, which could potentially work better for my language.

In my next post, I will include a finished lexicon, many examples, and an aesthetic analysis of my language.

Comments

  1. sahernandez says:

    As most modern languages have evolved over hundreds of years, it is really impressive that you were able to make your own in under 40 hours. The robust diversity of languages that exist illuminates the multiplicity of factors that play into the creation of language. Who knows- in an alternate universe, maybe the language you just created could have naturally evolved from latin. I found it interesting how you came up with your own syntax- how did you come up with it?

  2. teramage says:

    Thank you for the nice comment.
    My guiding principle for syntactic design was to follow English syntax wherever possible. In those places where doing so was impossible (e.g., where the placement of a prefix or suffix interrupted normal English word order), I had to make some changes. The syntax was easily the most difficult part of my research, and so staying close to English was a strategic move given the 80-hour time constraint. Thank you for your question.

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