Tag Archive: conculture

After I answered a question on the amount of vocabulary, apparently, Google thinks that I am an expert for all things vocabulary related. Why else would a search for “how to create words for a conlang” hit my blog?

But okay, unknown googler, I will answer your question. Of course, this is my personal take on it and it is probably inadequate for your needs. Feel free to comment which parts you personally consider good, bad or ugly.

Generally, you are in one of 3 stages:

  1. just decided to start
  2. already formed the first sentences in $CONLANG
  3. some form of basis exists

These 3 stages differ. The first words are very important for the character of the language. Later in the development, they can be relegated to legacy terms or even struck off from the vocabulary*, but the damage will already been done. These words are going to appear in each and every of the first example sentences you are going to use. They will greatly influence how you perceive the language. Which words you will coin for this depends on your personal preferences and the culture of the language. A stone age culture might want a term for ‘hunt’, a future tech language might prefer a word for ‘compile’ for the first example sentences. Use something typical. Build a unique feeling for the culture with the first sentence you are going to write. Make sure that the words fit your phonotactics (or change them while you still can) and fit your phonoaesthetics. Try to speak them, shout them, sing them. No, this is not a joke. Singing words makes sure that you avoid too horrible insults to pronuncability, taste and common sense. At this point, developing a feeling for the language is most important.

After you finished the first few sentences and have a stable-ish grammar**, your priorities can change. You probably still have to work on hitting the exact aesthetic quality, but it will become easier. It will however become very important now, not simply to relex English. You now need to think about what meanings a word has. If you are fluent in a different language, it might help you. But here is a random list of things to keep in mind to prevent relexing:

  • Work from sentences. At this point, to look at a list (like Swadesh) probably means to take the English assumptions and meanings and translate them 1:1. Thus, better think about how to use each word in a sentence.
  • Think about what the word means. Take ‘spoon’ and ‘fork’: they are both implements to take food and move it into your mouth. The difference is the shape. Maybe you want to have a word for this purpose and specify the exact kind of implement differently. Or think of the difference between ‘to buy’ and ‘to acquire’. OTOH, if you have the feeling that a word mushes two meanings together, think of the meanings separately (right can be the antonym of left and of wrong).
  • Think about your culture: If your conculture uses chopsticks for eating (or the right hand), the words for ‘fork’ and ‘spoon’ might be complicated terms or loan words from a language of a culture which uses them.
  • Base your vocabulary distinctions at least partially on a foreign language, best of course, is one you are fluent in. If a language which kinda fits the culture already exists, an online dictionary might come in handy: translate a term into a target language (which fits the perceived quality of the language) and take one of the the translated terms and re-translate them into English. Or ask someone who knows the language.
  • Consider usage: Maybe a certain word which your L1 uses intransitively is used transitively in $CONLANG, maybe it is the other way around. Maybe there is a choice where English does not allow one, maybe a word which is almost exclusively used in passive voice (frex: to get relegated) is used in active voice in $CONLANG (German uses absteigen), or the other way around (English uses to assign a grade, but rejistanian ‘rala’sidekhir runa which literally means “to get reached a grade”), maybe the meaning is more general, more specific, more polite, more vulgar and maybe it has different connotations.
  • Consider existing vocabulary. Given existing Unabsteigbarkeit of your language*** you might be able to derive or compound the word. Remember here that it has to fit the culture. Remember also, that many languages do compound verbs (Rejistanian has many verbal compounds with ‘visko for “to speak”. Some examples are ‘ytinvisko=to.change-to.speak: to translate, or ‘idavisko=to.turn.into-to.speak: to declare). Or express it idiomatically.
  • There are always onomatopoetic expressions to fall back to (‘iaia for ‘waking up with a hangover’ for example is supposed to sound as it feels). And even when you are not using a strictly onomatopoetic word, think about whether the sounds represent what the meaning represents. Maybe create own onomatopoetic rules (rejistanian for example often uses the u as only vowel in stems with an unpleasant meaning).
  • Maybe there is no term. This does not mean that there is a Sapir-Whorf component involved, there can be many reasons why ‘they have no word for it’. Many English speaking countries do have democratic governments despite the lack of a word for ‘kandidieren’ (they say: to run for office) and they seem to dislike work as well but lack a word for ‘Feierabend’ (the end of the workday as well as the time after work). Maybe $CONLANG has no word for something $NATLANG considers important (rejistanian for example lacks a word for ‘art’, mainly because its definition is so wishy-washy that I cannot get to the associated concepts behind it).
  • Write it down. Not only the general idea, but also things like connotations and usage.

From this level on, you can start using The Method, described below, however still remember that the first words shape the character of the language rather much. An example for this is probably ‘sidekhir. Its original meaning is “to reach”. Not only has its meaning expanded into many different areas (to arrive at a place, to get a mark, to get/change into a state), but its at that time dubiously-legal became quite common. (This is not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you will like the place you reach when something seemingly random influences your language.)

You have made it into the next stage? You don’t know? Well, if you find that you actually can say things without constantly coining vocabulary, you are out of the hard area and probably have established enough feeling for the language to think of the pitfalls of relexing automagically. Depending on how different the culture of $CONLANG is from your own, you might always have issues reaching its state well enough to easily figure out how $CONLANG says it, but you are much less unsure about these things. Now you can think of areas of meaning and fill the gaps in vocabulary. At this point, you can probably start to use lists. I personally still abhor it. Lists however are not the only thing, Languages also have terms which might not have a direct equivalent in other languages. Maybe you think that your culture considers certain things important enough to name them (‘xikila means to qualify via 2 different routes and it became important after it happened in my soccer leagues not only once but twice), maybe you personally want a name for something (rejistanian for example has ‘kamandi (to let others down out of laziness, incompetence or bad motives) and ‘selka (to contribute your share of the work or more) because I thought that group work required these expressions). Maybe you want to include inside jokes, there is nothing wrong with that, Klingon does it, Rejistanian does it, Kamakawi does it to a point. I personally use The Method to help assigning sounds to a meaning.

The Method works like this:

  1. open your (alphabetically sorted) $CONLANG to $NATLANG dictionary in a text editor, make the window small enough only to show about 25 lines (using a textmode editor would be ideal)
  2. close your eyes and randomly scroll in the file
  3. open your eyes and look at the first and the last word in it
  4. the new word needs to fit in between there somehow. This will mean that certain changes to meaning are required to fit the ‘feel’ of the word. It also means that the distribution of initial sounds is more natural. The areas which have already many words will gain words quicker than the other areas.

And don’t forget: have fun doing it! 🙂

* if you are the kind of person who does that. I am not.
** is it ever really stable? That was a rethorical question.
*** I want to establish the word Unabsteigbarkeit for the ability of a language (including surrounding culture) to build new words via affixes. Toki Pona has the lowest Unabsteigbarkeit out there (it is completely isolating), Esperanto is in a completely different league (the word Unabsteigbarkeit is ne-mal-promoci-ebl-ec-o in Esperanto, just without the dashes which are just inserted to show the affixes), pun intended.

There are also new IRC quotes for you:

I fully agree with malvarma: Why does everyone seems to love Quenya?

( malvarma) I think I will learn a language that sounds pretty to me.
( B-rat) learn sindarin or quenya!
( malvarma) Klingon sounds pretty, but it’s too hard.
( malvarma) I think quenya sounds like dreck.

And here a quote just for the lulz of it:

( malvarma) ithkuil does sound nice. lojban sounds like a nerd mating call.

And the word of the day? It is vylisni’het, which means “lip”. Since I know no good example sentence with it, here a bad one.

Example: Vylisni’het’ny’il min’redy takani. (lip-PL-GEN2S 3PL-be.red mature: Your lips are in an arousing shade of red)

Someone earlier mentioned that xamie (for, well, intercourse) shows a rather cultural openness towards the act. I think this is not necessarily true. If you allow me a strange comparison: Neither does the fact that Fred Phelps refers to homosexuals very often an openness towards homosexuality.

But there do exist certain metaphors for doing the specific thing. And ‘vorika is often used for these metaphors. It can still be used innocently. If parents and children ‘vorika (the word is commonly intransitive), it just means that they do spend time together doing unspecified things parents and children do together. If the subject however are 2 adolescents of the preferred sex and a private place is mentioned (or a time when people are supposed to be sleeping), well… *whistles*

Example: Syku ji Kansu min’vorika sijiv’het’jet lune imaxte’ta.
Syku and Kansu 3PL-spend_time day.TEMP last assigned-NEG.
Syku and Kansu spend the last free day together.

Whether it is due to the weather or just because nothing in infinite. At one point, plants will wither and die. The force of nature, which is responsible for this is, at least according to the majority religion of Rejistania, Jaortirkansa. Jaortirkansa is not only the divine embodiment/God of death, but also of reincarnation. As such, the deity is more like Shiva based on my limited exposure to Hinduism than like a devil or Greek god of death. Even though I did not know of the song at the time I created Inikresaism, the filk song Eternal Flame (by Julia Ecklar and Bob Kanefsky) has a very fitting line:

Now, God must know all these languages,
and a few I haven’t named.
But the Lord made sure, when each sparrow falls,
that its flesh will be reclaimed.

Of course, it is about the wrong deity, but I think about this lyrics whenever I think of Jaortirkansa.

Jaortirkansa is one of the two main deities of inikresaism. The other being Relekhakansa, the God of life and growth. The name Inikresa meant something, but while Inik’tan means ‘order’, I am not sure what resa was.

Example: Jasam’het mi’jaortu sakas’tan’jet (Flower 3S-wither drought-TEMP: the flower withered during the drought)

heven’het: league

First of all: Thanks to whoever added the article on kihjune to stumbleupon. I do not quite know why (if you could comment on what I did right there, I can attempt to improve my postings here). The article seemed to be neither insightful nor is it about a word I feel particularly proud about. I also want to say “Hejida!” to everyone who found the Rejistanian Word of the Day in this way!

Now back to constructed languages: heven’het means league or level. It is a horizontal distinction: Bundesliga vs. 2. Liga, Premier League vs. The Championship, Heven mje’het sekhika rejistaniha (Abbreviated in text as H1SR and in speech as HeMjeSekRe) vs. Heven xi’het sekhika rejistaniha (H2SR or HeXiSekRe), etc. Vertical distinctions have a different term: divisasi’het. By vertical, I mean that the difference between Regionalliga Nord and Regionalliga Süd or between H2SR Divisasi Jya vs H2SR Divisasi Kisut.

Related words which I already mentioned are ‘ehasalan (to get promoted) and ‘ehaanik (to get relegated).

Yoyo teams, ie teams which tend to go up and down quite regularly are said to be in H1.5SR (Heven mje xihim’het sekhika rejistaniha: 1.5th league of rejistanian soccer).

Example: Itamil mi’la’viki heven’ra xi’het ji jya. Mi’ki’ehasalan. (Itamil 3S-PST-win league-LOC two-ORD and east. 3S-FUT-get_promoted: Itamil won the 2nd eastern league (Heven xi’het sekhika rejistaniha divisasi jya). It will get promoted.)

If the rejistanis invented the soccer, the word xkora’het would not be required. Instead itva’het’ny (malus points, see yesterday’s posting, derived from the word ‘itva: to fail) or lehiju’het’ny (same thing, but derived from the word ‘lehiju: to concede) would be assigned to the team scored against. However since it was not, the idea of positive points came into the -tani and the word score was loaned into xkora’het. It generally means any positive point in sports, a goal in soccer, hockey or handball, a point in basketball, etc. ‘xkora is the verb for ‘to score’. Oh, and get your mind out of the gutter, not in that idiomatic meaning*!

The requested word however was ‘ghost goal’ and apparently, this word has two meanings, either a goal which should count but does not or a goal which should not count but does. In both cases it can be described by general paraphrasings like “merdisde’het” (misdecision), “merxkora’het” (mis-goal), “minjialari’he mi’la’ena oasua’het’mi” (the referee needed his dog), “minjialari’he mi’jeduni ji mi’vyei” (the referee is drunk/high and hallucinates!), “ada’he mi’ma’ta ‘mesu!” (the linesman is blind) (BTW: adding the curse slani can be used to add empahsis to the expression). But a bit more specific terms do exist. A goal, which the speaker thinks was granted even though it never should have been (Wembley!) is a “xkora’het aru’veri” literally: an existenceless goal. In the other case, when a clear goal was not granted (very unlike in Bloemfontein where the ball didn’t cross the line), it is a “xkora’het vuraknil” a denied goal.

Example: Xkora mji’het mi’jaliex’ta milhan’jet. (goal four-ORD 3S-valid-NEG game-TEMP: During the game, the 4th goal was invalid/was a ghost goal.)

* it takes a dirty mind to know one, I know.

I remember the Conlang Code v2 question about the relation between culture and language:

CuLTural expressiveness: Shows that it is attached to a specific culture.
clt++++ A sociolinguist could create a complete analysis of the mores, technological level, and societal structure of the culture that uses this language just from looking at the language.
clt++ The language is clearly tied to a strong cultural
clt—- You can’t even tell that such a thing as sociolinguistics exists judging from this language.

Personally, I thought that clt++++ was pretty unattainable and unrealistic. But today, I realized something which made me understand that something like clt++++ probably can exist. In Rejistanian, the term, for scoring (in sports) is a loan word. The word for conceding however is not. I thought that this was kinda unrealistic for quite a while but both words were too established to change them. And today, while fighting headaches from hell, I realized why it is in this way. Rejistanian traditional sports have no bonus points (like in soccer) but malus points (like in minigolf and show jumping). Points are not assigned for reaching an objective (like scoring a goal), but for failing to do so (failing to leave the rails untouched when jumping over a fence or failing to defend the ‘flag’ in a capture the flag-like game). Thus, in traditional rejistanian sports, a result like “Sike 10 – KaMaRi 0” is not bad news for KaMaRi but for Sike. This interpretation also makes sense in explaining the rejistanian love for defensive tactics in soccer.

It all makes sense now! Also the fact that “lehiju’he’ny” (conceders) is a quite common fan insult against bad teams.

Example: Lasane’het’xen mi’la’lehiju xkora’het xi Sike’tes sijon. (team-GEN1PL 3S-PST-concede goal 2 Sike-ABL yesterday: Yesterday, our team conceded 2 points against Sike.)

Another straightforward word, another completely regular derivation. Veran’tan is the color of nature, but also that associated with traffic due to green traffic lights. Veran’tan xala (dark green) is part of the colors of the city of KaMaRi (dark green, white, blue). And of course, Rejistania’s Esperanto movement uses the litiku’tan ethana veran (green star flag). Esperanto is quite a common language in NationStates, so the Esperantists are far less of a strange minority than in real life.

Yes, veran happens to be similar to the esperanto word verda, but this is just by accident.

Example: Sunhe mi’la’renhi tisa’het sinu veran sistenha’het’ra hame? (who 3S-PST-add clothing foot green system-LOC clean: Who put the green sock into the washing machine?) Well, veran’tan tae (light green) is so much better than kimi’tan (white). 😉

BTW: would anyone be interested in me speaking the Example sentence of the say for y’all?

When I talked about yellow snow, I already mentioned this word. This is one of the few words, non-rejistanis tend to know. Not only because it is an odd word* and a faux cognate to the plural of line, it is also part of the name of the maybe most infamous rejistanian soccer club: “Karela Lines“. Some explanation is required here: Rejistania is a nation in the online game NationStates. In the NationStates-equivalent of the Champions League, the first-ever participating team was this amateur team from KaMaRi kali**. The fact that they had very low-scoring games there led me to roleplaying them as a very defense-oriented team. And slowly, the term ‘karela‘ started to mean pretty much this: defensive soccer. It went to the point where this term left Rejistania and got loaned into the various IC languages of other sports roleplayers. And used OOCly. It probably still is what people associate with the -tani — besiders the strange rejistanian language of course 😉

Example: Jasam’het’ny lines min’vetix lelej’tan. (Flower/blossom yellow 3PL-mean hope: Yellow flowers symbolize hope.)

*I thought about how to call ‘yellow’ while inline skating and got this idea while/immediately before falling down. Seriously.

**KaMaRi is an abbreviation for Kalimnintan-Maiju-Riandu, Karela is a quarter of this city.

Seli is a color between blue and green. It in general is not a cyan-like color but a somewhat dark one. Like… well, the background of this blog for example*. Seli is one of the colors which are ‘standard’ which means: the mass transit companies use it for certain lines. I think this needs to be explained: busses have no numbers but instead a certain combination of colors. This (and in modern times, the logo of the mass transit company) suffices to identify a bus. This was done to allow visually impaired people (and also foreigners and children, who are not able to read numbers in the rejistanian system) to use the busses.

BTW: a light turquoise/seli is seli tae. A dark seli selis xala. These adjectives are used also for other colors.

Seli’het is something turquoise**, seli’tan is the color.

Example: Jui’het mi’seli ji xilat’het mi’omeh ,xe’keska saovi’tan’tes ‘lanja’asu il keteka’het’jet, venil. (Ocean 3S-turquoise and sky 3S-blue ,1S-prefer loneliness-ABL (INF)-SBJ1-be_near you monsoon-TEMP, but: The ocean is turquoise and the sky is blue, but I prefer to be with you during the monsoon to my loneliness.)

*unless you are reading this either via the aggregator or at some point in the future when I was mad enough to change the theme.

**Many ‘het forms might sound strange. However, they can be useful. I again have to justify a rejistanian design decision by MC Frontalot lyrics, I guess (the decision was made much earlier, don’t worry). In the song It is pitch dark the following appears:

Better punctuate your sentences and never redact
the name of anything ambiguous. You’re about to get asked,
do you mean the red one, the round one, the crooked, or the blue?

This is exactly where the ‘het forms would be used in the translation.

Il’rala’tinhu ,il’seve kata’tan oda’tan’il’ra ji il’ranhi’ta elu’het’mi tenva’ta, jet. Il’rala’oly: Il’hadada redy’het ve itu’het ve derek’het ve omeh’het.

One of my readers asked me to do a posting about internet memes in Rejistania. I have not forgotten that, but it is rather hard because I would have to explain colloquial rejistanian first.

Generally, the rather verbose affix system is reduced to what is needed to understand someone If written, the apostrophe (or as rejistanis would call it: kulsi’het) is omitted unless before and after the stem of the word. Lolcats are allowed to omit these kulsi’het’ny as well (if you are not a lolcat, you just look stupid if you do this). However even lolcats retain the apostrophes indicating the infinitive.

What does that have to do with the current Word of the Day? Mainly that there is no impersonal ‘it’ or ‘there’ in rejistanian. Don’t get me wrong: They do use jilih quite often, but only if it refers to something. Otherwise, there have to be different constructions. One of these uses ‘aru or rather: its negation. ‘There is no X’ becomes X mi’aruta. Even lolcats would not make that “*X aruta”, but there is something worse than lolcats: People who do not speak rejistanian. Which brings us back to the topic of internet memes. “*Hakim aruta” (everything does not exist) was what a subtitle-translator made of “all cancel” in a film about a woman stranded in a third world country which experiences an economic crisis. And this or the more general “X aruta” has become a meme in the rejistanian-speaking parts of the internet.

Other derivations of ‘aru:
aru: existant, also current
aru’tan: existance

Example: Isuxeku’het mi’aru’ta. (cake 3S-be-NEG: There is no cake.)