Friday, August 28, 2009

Just noodlin'

I got to thinking the other day about what kind of language I would like to create if I were to go into the active phase of this game. I came up with two features, one phonologic and the other everything else.

For phonology, I would like a language without vowels. Any continuant can be a syllabic peak, so that need not come from within the triangle i-u-a. And many language use some of these continuant consonants (especially lmnr, but Chinese us s-sh-sr) occasionally or in paralinguistic utterances (Pfft! Psst!) . These usages often get disguised with added vowels in the orthography, but in the language I have in mind there would be no vowels to begin with, so no temptation to add them (unless the habit is so strong that one nominal vowel would be used throughout).

Maybe some implosives and clicks, too?

For everything else, I think of Whorf's occasional almost intelligible formulations of SWH and of his idea of what the world is really like and what language would bring us to that perception and wonder how to build such a language. He worked with Hopi and Menominee, in which (I gather) most sentences reduce to complex verb forms, subject and object (as we SAE speakers say) being incorporated somehow. I have to assume, to get close to the ideal BLW was after, that the incorporated bits were also verb forms and that the notion of a verb here ceases to have its distinctive value (from nouns and adjective and ...) and means a reference to an action, motion, stasis, etc. in the flow. But (even after looking at bits of Hopi and Menominee) my SAE mind cannot visualize how to do this (and maybe go beyond what happens there). Maybe I should go read a few thousand pages of Li Er and Whitehead and Hartshorne.

I think these ideas arose for me out of the languages I have played with and the stuff I have read and taught over the years. toki pona claims a Daoist inspiration and has very fluid grammatical categories (though not syntactic slots), Loglan/Lojban started as a test for SWH, albeit not a very appropriate one, I think. And years of reading Daoist and Mahayana Buddhist literature has put me in the midst of a landscape of constant flow -- or at least instant ontic replacement.

I don't suppose I would derive any SW effects from this language, because I would have to get those effects in order to construct it correctly. And that might be an interesting thing to try, if I ever figure out how to begin. Some suggestions are quantum mechanics, ordinary mechanics, and hydrodynamics, all of which start out with things v things (except maybe the first -- and Lord knows what it starts with).

Well, I can mess with the phonology alone anyhow.

1 comment:

  1. As for phonology -- gjâ-zym-byn has clicks (and an ejective) as the only syllable nuclei besides vowels. One artlang I sketched once but I think I lost in a hard disk crash, spoken by reptilian beings, used fricatives for all its syllable nuclei.

    For verb-dominant languages with subject and object incorporation, you might look at some of Jeff Burke's conlangs as well as, I think, Tup'ik and the Algonquian languages Jeff based his conlangs on. If I recall correctly, Jeff has a lot of his nouns being fossilized verb forms or verb phrases.

    I don't know if there are any polysynthetic natlangs (or conlangs) where roles other than the subject and direct object get incorporated into the verb, or where the incorporation-into-the-verb anaphora or noun slots are more sensitive to semantic than syntactic criteria (I mean like in an engelang such as gzb or Voksigid where the adpositions mark patient, agent, recipient etc. instead of subject, object, indirect object, etc.). That would be interesting.