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The Probable End of “The Eljan Experiment”

September 10, 2010

Not long after I started this, I ended up having to go on semi-hiatus for a very long time. And then after that, a real hiatus for nearly a month. As things are now, it would be back to semi-hiatus again for awhile, with who-knows-what afterward. While I have partially resolved some of the earlier issues in developing this language, my heart just isn’t in it anymore. Since I also came up with a possibly better way to develop my primary ConLang, Niyo’a Kwaj, one which doesn’t resort to “scavenging” parts of other ConLang experiments like this one, it would be better to spend my very limited personal time focused on that instead. I won’t get rid of this blog for awhile in case things change and I have a reason to start it up again. But for now, it can be considered defunct.

Numbers Revisited

August 11, 2010

Okay, now the hiatus is over. I think.

Recently I have learned a bit more about the use of numbers in isolated stone age languages. Specifically, they usually don’t. Use them, that is. Not really. Often it’s just “one”, “two”, “many”… that’s it. If they need to keep track of multiple things of the same type, they’d usually just name them. For example, if a hunter who has four spears is asked how many he has, he’d respond with something like “favorite spear, rabbit killer, cousin’s gift, that other one”. (In the case of zero, it would probably be something like “do not have spear”. That’s one sad hunter.) In the rare occasions when naming isn’t practical and they need to be exact about some number greater than two they’d probably do something like holding up the appropriate number of fingers and say “this many”.

Of course not all of them are that limited. But even the ones which have more number-oriented words usually look something like this: “no”, “one”, “two”, “three”, “hand” (4-6), “several”, “a great many”. Stone-age peoples apparently do not need precise counting unless they regularly engage in trade or farming, neither of which is likely for isolated tribes.

Which means my options at this point in regards to numbers are as follows: scrap the base 6 number system and just have 6 mostly imprecise number-based words; drop the “isolated” part and have them engage in regular trade; say “screw realism” and use it anyway; stop at 6 and add one or two more general words for large numbers (it would be very unusual to go above 3, but “exotic” does happen to be a watchword here); or come up with some other very good reason why an Eljan culture would want or need precise counting (at least in the 3-35 range; only worry about larger numbers if that reason happens to call for it).

I’ll be getting into this one last time at some later point once this issue has been resolved.


August 1, 2010

The semi-hiatus should be almost over – but first, more randomly generated words! I’m not going to explain the exact method by which they were generated (only that it was more complex than the first few times) aside from the fact that the last one was completely random.

  • Back / backwards / rear  –  humby
  • Down / downwards  –  ende
  • Front / forward  –  laljjo
  • Left / leftward  –  wybu
  • Right / rightward  –  ida
  • Up / upward  –  ogi
  • (The) directions  –  ojwywajed

Note that some stone-age tribes don’t seem to have words for “left” or “right”, but I included them because we wouldn’t have a set of 6 otherwise. Anyway, it seems that so far there are 30 words total, including a few that I might change later. [Note: I had this posted yesterday but it seems to have disappeared from the blog. WTF?]

The Senses

July 25, 2010

Unexpected real-life issues have made it difficult to keep up the planning work behind these blog entries, so for now I’ll just generate some vocabulary. The main method which I have been doing so, semi-randomly but in a way meant to make all the words within a particular category as distinct as possible (probably to an unrealistic degree) will only be used with things which can be grouped neatly into sixes. For the senses, I’m going with the “classic five” plus “emotion”. For now, I’ll leave it ambiguous whether “emotion” refers to feeling one’s own emotions or emphasizing with others or even both. (This was indirectly inspired by the fact that the ancient egyptians considered “thought” to be one of the senses.) The phonetic  pattern will be randomly matching each non-nasal sonorant with each vowel and each stop, in that order. This resulted in:

  • Emotion  –  jwyb
  • Hearing  –  jan
  • Sight  –  leng
  • Smell  –  hog
  • Taste  –  ljum
  • Touch  –  wid

I particularly like “ljum” and “jan”. Those somehow rather seem to fit “taste” and “hearing” respectively. “Hog” for “smell” seems pretty weird, I’m tempted to break the pattern and replace one of the letters. Might do that later. And then a completely random word for the senses collectively:

  • Senses, the  –  ujwuwineb

I don’t know why, but “ujwuwineb” seems to scream “this word is important!” File that away as a cultural possibility: the senses are particularly important in some manner. Also note that “ujwu” already means “yellow”, but that may not be much of an issue since this is an isolating language (compound words will be rare).


July 22, 2010

Hmmm. When it comes to the vocabulary, it looks like I’m going to have to put a lot of work into designing the culture behind the language. Simply saying “isolated stone age culture” isn’t going to cut it. Well, I mean, I could simply create a broad variety of generic terms that would be useful for a broad variety of generic stone-age peoples, but that wouldn’t be realistic. People need specialized terms for survivng in and interacting with their environment. But even if I say, screw realism, there’s still usually considerable cultural influence on the generic level. For example, is there a generic word for “animal”? Would they count insects as “animals” or something else? If there isn’t one, how do they divide different kinds of animals into broad categories? (In western societies, it was usually “birds, beasts, fish” where fish is anything that lives in the water. Don’t ask me how they classified frogs.) Do they have any meta-categories which all things fall under, like the gendered languages (male, female, sometimes neuter) or more exotic categories (women, fire, dangerous things? No, I haven’t read the book by that name). And so on.

I’m tempted to divide everything into 6 very broad categories (you were expecting some other number?) and having a different ergative article for each instead of a single, generic article. And set the culture in my native pacific northwest USA (even though, historically, that makes no sense for an isolated culture, as the original locals were anything but) just so I can apply my own knowledge of survival in this region.

Ah, I’ll figure it out eventually. This is what happens when you try to plan things rather than doing them haphazardly.. Meanwhile, this is a good time for any readers to comment.

Some Corrections and Miscellanea

July 18, 2010

After some consideration, I decided to change the pronunciation of y so /ʏ/ is the preferred pronunciation, but /y/ is still an allophone. /ʏ/ is basically “ih” as in bit except with rounded lips, much like /y/ is to “ee”. This is because sometimes I have been slipping up and saying /ʏ/ when I meant /y/.

Apparently there will be dipthongs and consonant clusters, but not that often, and probably not in common words. The randomizing charts have been adjusted to accomodate these possibilities. Three of each: au, ei, oy, nd, mb, ljj. Okay, that last one looks weirder than it sounds. I’m tempted to use dl, but I already use that a lot in language experiments.

“Au” is sort of like the sound in “cow”, but the vowels blend all the way from /a/ to /u/ instead of stopping short at /ʊ/ (which is like in book). “Ei” is much like weigh except it blends from “eh” to “ee” rather than “eh” to “ih”. “Oy” is like “boy”, only the lips are kept rounded all the way through. Or you can pronounce them like cow/weigh/boy if it’s too hard to get it right. See if I care.

In addition: Step 10: Adjectives and Adverbs

It seems like the best way to deal with this is to put both the adjectives and adverbs after the words they modify. And as a “simple” isolating language, to use the exact same words for both adjectives and adverbs without modification when the general concept makes sense as either one. For example, “Quick rabbit runs quickly” = “Quick rabbit runs quick”. Or in Eljan’s word order, “Runs quick rabbit quick”.


July 14, 2010

So long as I’m semi-randomly generating things – let’s do colors! That’s another thing which can be easily numbered in sixes. Actually, from what (admittedly little) I know, 6 might actually be a bit high for a stone-age tribe. Some have only 3 or 4. Anyway, the linguistic relativity theory of color states that in languages with 6 colors, it’s most often black, white, red, yellow, green, blue. Good enough. Again using random word generation, I chose to pair off each color with each vowel, each non-nasal sonorant, and then 50% chance of O or U, in that order. And then a word for “color” which is completely random. Let’s see how that ends up…

Black  –  ylo
Blue  –  owu
Green  –  ajo
Red  –  ihu
Yellow  –  ujwu
White  –  elju
Color  –  ljiluly

“Ljiluly” feels like kind of a strange word – like the word itself has substance and I’m pushing it forward through my mouth. I don’t know if it’ll be kept it or not. While these words were “rolled up” earlier, I just realized that perhaps I should have done a word for “number” for the last post. Heck, might as well come up with a word for “word” too, just ‘cuz.

Number  –  oneb
Word  –  yji

Those seem fine. Now let’s hold off with any further words until I’m absolutely certain whether or not there will be any dipthongs or consonant clusters.