Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Moten Word for the Day

badi /badi/, noun: “dog”

My desktop background (half of the year in any case. I’ve got an alternative for the winter months ;) ).

I can’t believe I haven’t done that word yet!

Anyway, it’s the generic word for “dog”. It doesn’t specify nor imply gender in any way.

And yes, this word comes from my dog’s name, Buddy :).


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Sunday, 24 August 2014

Moten Word for the Day

mejto /me̞jto̞/, interjection: “hello, hi”

Dogs and conlanging, the two main themes of this blog in one single post. My life is complete now ;).

Anyway, mejto is the most basic way to greet people in Moten. It’s neutral and can be used in all situations unless you want to be very polite, it’s symmetrical and you can just answer someone using it by repeating it back to them, and it’s usable in all situations, whether face to face, on the phone or through written text.

In terms of etymology, it seems pretty clear that it’s related to the verb imeti: “to greet (someone)” (especially when you remember that the root of this verb is met, with i-…-i being a circumfix marking the infinitive). The exact nature of the relationship is unclear though, or at least, there’s no productive derivational pattern in Moten that could explain the form mejto. There is, however, another interjection that seems to have arisen much the same way: the word davi|zo means “thank you” in Moten, and is obviously related to the verb idavi|zi: “to be happy with, to thank”. Both mejto and davi|zo seem to be derived from their respective verbs in the same way: an infix -i- after the last vowel of the stem (usual phonotactic rules in Moten easily explain why that infix ends up as -j- in mejto and disappears next to the i of the davi|z stem), along with a suffix -o (Moten productively marks case with the combination of an infix and a suffix, so it’s pretty much standard fare for the language). This probably used to be a productive pattern in Moten, but as the language changed it stopped being used and the two words mejto and davi|zo got fossilised as interjections.

As to the original meaning of the -i-…-o form, my bet is that it must have been some kind of hortative. It’s probable that in the past, verbs in Moten had more finite forms than they have now, and this might simply have been one of them. So the original meaning of mejto may have been “let (me) greet (you)”. An alternative explanation is that it may have been an optative (“(I) wish to greet (you)”). Both are possible, and without more evidence it’s impossible to rule one out.

One bit of evidence that both mejto and davi|zo probably started as finite verb forms is that even today they can take adverbial phrases, and when they do those always appear in front of them (i.e. they take the typical final position verbs normally always take). One can for instance say (using a benefactive): |laba mejto: “hello to you!” or |laba davi|zo: “thank you”. It’s not definitive evidence (in particular, since imeti is a transitive verb with the person being greeted as the object, one would expect the expression *bdan mejto, with the pronoun ba: “you” in the accusative case, to be licit. Yet it’s not, at least not in Moten as it is currently spoken), but it is tantalising.

In any case, what you can take away from this particular word as a language creator is that even if you don’t create your language according to the historical method (i.e. derive it from a proto-language), you can “fake” historical depth in your naturalistic conlang by peppering it with recognisable but non-productive derivation patterns, that hint at a previous stage where the language was somewhat different. Do not overuse it though: if a pattern is really common, why should it ever stop being productive? But used sparingly and with care, it can really add depth and naturalness to your language.

Questions?


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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Moten Word for the Day

|la /ʎa/, noun: “peace, good health; also as adj. peaceful, healthy”

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find good peace memes on Internet?!

|La seems to be a central concept in Moten culture (a bit like “aloha” in Hawaiian culture, although it seems somewhat less broad). Not only does it refer to good health (for a body) and peace (for a community), but it’s also used in various expressions and greetings. The informal expression |lag: “bye”, for instance, seems to be derived from ko|lea ag: “leave in peace” or “leave in good health”. The expression saj ko|lea, literally “definitely in peace/good health” is used as a polite form of both greeting and parting, and is also the usual expression used to mean “welcome” or “have a nice trip”.

Finally, there’s the expression |ledan, which is basically |la in the singular definite accusative case. It’s only used on its own as a reaction to someone sneezing (equivalent to “bless you” or “gesundheit”). Mostly, it’s used along with terms referring to a specific event as the equivalent of “happy…” or “merry…” in English. For instance, with adamla: “anniversary”, one forms adamla |ledan: “happy birthday, happy anniversary”. With Noel: “Christmas”, one forms Noel |ledan: “Merry Christmas”. And with Imonuj: “New Year celebrations”, one gets Imonuj |ledan: “happy new year”.

And that’s just looking at the surface. |La is used a lot in Moten.

Questions?


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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Moten Word for the Day

ivepe|nej /ive̞pe̞ɲe̞j/, verb: “to apologise”

vepe|ne /ve̞pe̞ɲe̞/, noun: “apology”

vepe|ne /ve̞pe̞ɲe̞/, interjection: “sorry, thank you”

I couldn’t feel like sharing some kind of interesting word, so I’m sorry…

But to be fair, vepe|ne is actually interesting, in that it’s one of the few stems that can be used in more than one part of speech.

Normally, in Moten stems are strictly limited to one part of speech, i.e. a stem can be used as a noun or as a verb, not as both. It’s very unlike English, which can both have “a dream” and “to dream” with the same root being used as a noun or a verb without a change, and which is so flexible in this that one can actually talk about “verbing nouns” and everyone will know what you mean! In Moten, if a stem is used as a verb, it cannot be used as a noun without some explicit derivation.

Yet there are a few exceptions, and some stems can be used as a noun or a verb without one being derived from the other explicitly (the circumfix i-…-i that marks the infinitive is not considered a derivation in this case, it’s the stem itself that is used nominally or verbally). Vepe|ne is one of those. It’s even at the peak of flexibility as it can not only be used as a verb ivepe|nej: “to apologise” and a noun vepe|ne: “apology”, but also as a particle (the third Moten part of speech), here an interjection vepe|ne meaning “sorry”.

Besides this grammatical quirk, vepe|ne also has a semantic quirk. Notice that I translated its interjection use as “sorry” or “thank you”. That’s because in Moten, vepe|ne is sometimes used when in English people would thank people rather than apologise to them. For instance, when receiving a present, English speakers will thank the gift giver, while Moten speakers would apologise instead. In the same way, if you ask someone a favour, and they do it, you wouldn’t thank them in Moten, but apologise instead. Basically, you would apologise in those cases as a way to acknowledge the person’s efforts towards you.

That’s not the only semantic quirk of vepe|ne, and indeed the entirety of the notion of politeness works somewhat differently in Moten than in English. But that’s a discussion for another time. Sorry :).

Questions?


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Friday, 15 August 2014

Moten Words for the Day

fe|su /fe̞t͡su/, interjection: “sorry, sorry to bother you, excuse me, see, you see”

akfe|su /akfe̞t͡su/, interjection: “sorry for leaving early, I have to go now, bye”

Last time I explained how vepe|ne, while generally meaning “sorry”, didn’t quite match with its English translation (being often used when one would say “thank you” in English). But there are other cases where one would use “sorry” in English, yet vepe|ne is not the right word to use in that case. Two of these situations are represented in the words for today.

Fe|su is used to call someone’s attention, hence the translation I used: “sorry to bother you”. Say you need to ask directions to someone on the street. You would typically approach people by saying fe|su first, to indicate in a polite manner that you need to talk to them. It’s also used when you’re already talking to someone, to emphasise that what you’re about to tell is important and they need to listen to it carefully. In that sense, I’d translate it in English as “see” or “you see”. In all cases, fe|su is about getting someone’s attention, in a relatively polite manner.

Akfe|su is a bit like the opposite of fe|su. Rather than to initiate or sustain a dialogue, akfe|su is used to end one, in a polite manner. If you’re having a meeting with someone, but suddenly need to leave before the meeting is supposed to end (you’re late for something else, or you’ve received a call that asks you to come as quickly as possible, for instance), then you would use akfe|su to indicate that you have to cut the meeting short. In this case, it means something like “sorry, but I have to go now”. It is also customary, however, to use it even when the meeting actually reached its expected end. The person leaving will then use akfe|su like we would say “bye”. The idea behind using this word then is that you indicate that you would have gladly stayed longer, but you need to leave now.

Notice that akfe|su can only be used by the person leaving the meeting place first. You can’t use it to dismiss someone. Even if both people leave the place at the same time, only the person initiating the end of the meeting can use akfe|su. The reason for this is probably the etymology of the word, which is a compound of fe|su with the root of the verb jagi (who said interjections cannot get compounded? :) ), which means “to go, to leave”.

Fe|su and akfe|su are vital to approach and leave people in a polite yet friendly manner, and as such are commonly used in Moten, even among friends. So it’s important to understand well how they differ from each other and from vepe|ne.

Questions?


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Friday, 8 August 2014

Moten Word for the Day

va /va/, noun: “colour, tint, hue”

Yes, I went there ;).

Anyway, as promised last time, here’s the second part of my discussion on Moten colours.

While no|se and leksod refer respectively to brightness and darkness, as well as specific parts of the colour spectrum, va is just the generic word for “colour” or “hue”. On its own, it’s nothing special, but it becomes much more interesting when we look at its use as part of compounds.

Although Moten lacks basic colour terms, it can form ad-hoc, context-sensitive colour names by compounding various words with va as the last element. Before you ask how this is any different from for instance naming a colour after a fruit (“orange”), notice the key words here:

  • ad-hoc means that the compounds used are not set phrases. They do not have a generally accepted meaning and are not lexicalised. They are just compounds that are formed on the fly, something that Moten’s strong compounding capabilities easily allows.
  • context-sensitive means that the same compound can refer to a different colour depending on the context where it is used. Moten, in a similar way to Japanese, is very strongly pro-drop and relies a lot on context to clarify sentences. In other words, to a European ear Moten sentences will often sound more like hints towards a specific message, rather than the specific message itself.

To illustrate, here are a few examples:

A common ad-hoc formation is to combine the noun at: “fire” with va, forming adva: “fire colour”. But what does adva mean exactly? Well, it depends. Fire has various colours. So in the absence of any specific context, adva will usually refer to some kind of warm colour, ranging from yellow to orange to red. However, if the conversation mentioned something like a natural gas or an alcohol fire, which naturally burn blue, then adva will normally refer to that kind of blue colour!

In the same way, a term like bova: “sky colour” will usually refer to a colour “similar to that of the sky at the moment of the conversation”, unless the context says otherwise. In any case, bova can refer to basically any colour the sky can take, from light blue to grey to orange to black!

A last example is knamava: “grass colour”. If you think this will usually refer to a green colour, you’ll be right some of the time. But grass can also be yellow, and some specific sorts of grass have blue-grey hues. Knamava can refer to all those tints, and once again you need to rely on context to know which one is meant.

Naturally, it’s possible to form more specific compounds, when one wants to be clearer and rely less on context. But in any case, the various colour terms formed that way do not have a meaning independent from the thing or object described by the compounded word.

Questions?


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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Two Languages Needed for Graphic Novel

Two Languages Needed for Graphic Novel:

This looks like a great job offer! Don’t hesitate to apply!


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