Conlanging, in plain English.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thoughts on the seasons

The original seven-season cycle which interacts dynamically with the mërèchi calendar was as follows:

pëhlètim (frost)
pëfòrnim (snow)
pëgànim (waking)
pëlúthim (flower)
p'élatim (leaf)
pëshírim (growing)
pëníltëm (singing)

and füshín (mild, a condition rather than a season). Except for füshín, which has no beginning or end but is applied to any day that qualifies, each season begins when its namesake is first observed and ends when the next season begins. Some of them, however, are too short, and others make no sense (why flower and then leaf? Flower and leaf of what, exactly?)

So here is a set of seven I am contemplating replacing them with, to better spread out the seasons across my Zone 6 year:

green (when most of the trees begin to look green from a distance)
gold (when the leaves turn)

Grammaticalized adjectives

Many languages have a small closed class of words or affixes which encode some of the most basic concepts for which we in English use adjectives. For example, Japanese "-i adjectives", unlike their "na adjectives", are a closed class (meaning that new -i adjectives cannot be created any more than English could just up and create a new preposition and have it make sense to anybody). Some of the concepts for which Japanese uses -i adjectives include: small, big, narrow, wide, old, new, red, white, black, dark, good, and bad.

In Mohawk, adjectives are stative verbs; due to Mohawk's polysynthetic nature, they end up looking like suffixes or (occasionally) circumfixes to the noun when used adjectivally. The particular pair that caught my attention was -owanen (big) and ni- -a'a (small, a circumfix).

Putting the two together, I decided that languages in the mërèchi language family needed to have a small, closed class of adjectival operations which would include all sorts of affixes plus possibly suprasegmental operations to boot. As a first step, I designate two classes of adjectives, a more basic first class for the most extreme sorts of word modification, and a tamer, more derivative second class:

First class (orthogonal)

Second class (can be derived from 1st)

I will be back later with the mërèchi forms of these adjectives. My goal is to have no pair work exactly the same way as another.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why are there two different 'k's in mërèchi?

Well, yes, "because T.E. Hastely spelled it that way," sure. But in the case of 'k' and 'c', he was simply reflecting a distinction preserved in the native orthography. In fact, while the dialect he studied had merged the sounds represented by 'c' and 'k', the distinction was alive and well elsewhere: 'c' is labialized before front vowels, and 'k' is palatalized before back values, giving pronunciations as follows:

SpellingPronunciation (mërèchi)After sound shift (mirexu)

Note that the mirexu pronunciation which would have sound-shifted into */kwu/ dissimilates into /kwa/, giving a three-way distinction between cí /kwa/, có /ka/, and kó /kja/! Mirexu is also left without a /ke/ or /kju/ sound.

New words for 8/16/07

-dúr: to be anxious about X
yirdúr: to stress over everything
kàkesdür: to stress over nothing at all

-madü: an X which happens regularly or periodically
càlëmadü: menstrual period
yirdúria calëmàdüki: PMS
calëmadüdúria: anxiety about one's period

yirdúria màmi: anxiety of being a mom
mamiadúria: anxiety about motherhood
mamëdúria: anxiety over one's mother!

síri: moist, humid (but not necessarily càshi)
làri: arid, dessicated (but not necessarily kàli)
càshi: wet, dripping (but not necessarily síri)
kàli: dry, can be moist but not damp (not necessarily làri)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Smell words

New words for 8/15/07

nèlü - plants like rosemary or phlox
rosemary - nèlü sàlmai or (oh dear) salmanèlü
phlox - nèlü küèbi or nèlü lúpi; maybe küembèlü

Smell words

chéva - to smell
chëvàia - sense of smell
chëvàfia - scent, odor, aroma (neutral)
búlj - smell, unpleasant or strong odor, stink, stench
tòron - reek, stench, extremely unpleasant (and usually strong) smell of waste or death
sénë - sweet, floral scent
hàva - savory scent (cooking, garlic)
jíki - tang (mineral/chemical, sea, urine)
sàlma - aromatic sharp clear scent (rosemary, pine, citrus)
tèkshe - spicy scent (cinnamon, sandalwood)

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I'll be using this blog to work out changes in my conlangs. Currently the one I'm working on is mërèchi, perhaps soon to be known as mirexu, hence the URL of my all-mërèchi in-language blog:

mërèchi started out life when I was 13, and has been my first, longest-running, and most personal conlang. However, what it has not been is rigorous, realistic, and free from unwanted English influences. So I am trying to take it in a new direction - changing it from a quirky, idiosyncratic, badly-spelled personal language, into more of a LostLang-like form.

In this first post I will briefly outline two fixes for the benighted orthography of mërèchi (to see how, well, naive it is, check out here; ignore the half-baked reform at the bottom). The first is absolutely crucial: a native script. Putting the words in their own native script demotes the orthography to a mere transliteration scheme, and I have already come up with a reasoable excuse for the transliteration scheme: blame dead people! I have invented a 19th-century missionary-linguist upon whose ignorance I can place the blame for the orthography (see here).

But to go further, I feel the need to distance the "new" mërèchi from the old, in order to be able to scrap some of the things that will need scrapping. So there will be some sound changes. In order of certainty (from things I am committed to implementing down to wild speculation), they are:
  • the endings -i and -a change to -u and -e
  • other unstressed vowels change cyclically, i -> u -> o -> a -> e -> i
  • unstressed final ai -> O (this is X-SAMPA for the "short" o, or an aw sound)
  • unstressed final ue -> we
  • more restrictive rules for consonant clusters
  • maybe all the vowels change as above. Note that this still leaves /E/ and /O/ unchanged.
  • possibly degrade labial consonants: Cp/pC -> p -> b -> v -> w, f -> h -> 0.
Well, that's all for now. Stay tuned for more ramblings!