Son of a bitch, I told myself I wouldn’t do any conlanging for this series.
I told myself and for some reason I have the wikiarticle to the International Phonetic Alphabet open in one tab and a multitude of grammar articles open.
Last night, filled with some ideas, I started writing in my little gridded notebook some notes that to the unenlightened would look little different than Quenya.
[hjmi njfɔlm] “I had a dog”
[mia njfɔlm] “We have a dog” (We here is inclusive, meaning the listener is included)
[θɪmiga e mjfɔlwð] “He will have the dogs”
So that is about all the language has right now. I have a verb for “to go” as well and some pronouns, though as you can probably notice the subject is optional when made obvious by conjugation (e.g. “I” is made obvious because it uses the first person singular conjugation, but he/she/it use the same conjugation and therefore need it).
Conlanging then, if you didn’t get it, is the art/science/past time of making up languages. There are lots of ways to do it, it is a ton of fun for those of us with a background in linguistics or a pretty alphabet. It can be as simple as Pig Latin or as complex as Ithkuil. It can be as realistic as Quenya or as simplistic as Esperanto.
Right now the language as it is is strongly rooted in the languages I speak or have been studying: English, German, Irish, and Esperanto.
So shall we deconstruct things a bit? That’s sort of what I want to do because talking about it with you will help me think about it as well. All these examples are, therefore, works in progress. In two weeks none of these things might exist. They might all be different. So grain of salt and such.
Okay, so we are going to take a step back. Of the three sentences two of them have only two words. I’m going to shorten them into something I can write with only my keyboard and not copy-pasting. By the way, things in //s are theoretical and things in s are in practice. So let us transcribe these three sentences.
“hmi nfolm” I had a dog
“mia nfolm” We have a dog (inclusive)
“thmiga e mfolwth” He will have the dogs
So, between sentences 1 and 2 the change is “hmi” to “mia” and the changes in English are “I had” to “We have.” So we can guess that “nfolm” means “a dog.” This mostly implies that the language is either VSO or SVO (Verb-Subject-Object) or (Subject-Verb-Object).
We can confirm the word order with sentence 3, where we go from “mia” to “thmiga e”. We are assuming that the words “hmi” and “mia” are verbs that imply pronouns, something that is common in languages. Since “thmiga” has that “mi” base, we can take “e” to mean “he.” So the language is VSO, and uses conjugation to imply pronouns.
Now we only have three sentences, which makes data gathering hard. Lets add some more.
[ɹ̝̠̊en] “hren” – I go
[ɹ̝̠̊en] “(h)hren” – I went
[θɪɹ̝̠̊en] “thhren” – I will go
Oh no, things aren’t getting easier. Two of those are pronounced the same! Well, as the language’s creator I can tell you the theoretical pronunciation of sentence 5:
Which is very difficult to pronounce, in real life it would be realized as the given sentence 5.
We can combine 1, 2, 4, and 5 and see that going from present to past tense adds a /h/ at the head of the word. In the same way we can use 2, 3, 4, and 6 to say making present to future tense adds /θ/ at the head of the word. Using English words it would look like:
(I) Go – I go
(I) Hgo – I went
(I) Thgo – I will go
So if “hmi” is “I had” and “mia” is “We have” we can subtract the “h” to get “I have” (“mi”), which means that adding an “a” at the end changes the plurality of the person (“I” becomes “we”). Same Idea as above:
(I) Go – I go
(We) Goa – We go
So, what about the end of that? “Thmiga e”. If we know “e” is “he” and the “th-” is future tense, that makes “-ga” the third person singular conjugation.
It is going to get a bit harder with “nfolm” and “mfolwth.” The word for “dog” is “folm.” In my work so far “n-” is the indefinite article and “m-” is the definite article. The plural is “-th” but it also mutates the consonant before it. /M/ just happens to mutate to /w/ in this particular case (funnily when /m/ undergoes lenition in Irish, it turns into /w/, that is why “good” is “maith” and “good night” is “oíche mhaith”).
Anyway, I am rambling and I am actually going to do some editing tonight. This is a pleasant distraction to me and I’ve enjoyed sharing a slice of madness with you.
Oíche mhaith! [ihə wa]