Category Archives: Prosody

Of valley girls and unemployed expats

I always thought that upspeak in English is a strange phenomenon but nothing to complain about just as much. Then, I got into contact with this person who is from my own country and lives here in Ireland but whose English is by far worse. At least it feels that way. I realized that the reason is not so much that he makes grammatical mistakes or has a strong accent (he does make some mistakes in terms of pronunciation, but I have heard much more glaring ones in English classes at college). What I realized was that his intonation and prosody was so off that it was actually hard to understand him.

Okay, prosody is a topic I have not yet covered, in anything like great detail, but it definitely deserves being covered. Most conlangers do not mention intonation in their grammars. At least not the ones, I know of. Personally I do mention it in passing in Rejistanian, but have not thought about it for my other languages (if you could see me now, oyu’d notice that I blushed in embarrassment). It is an interesting topic and one I need to read up about more myself.

I suspect that again the oral exolangs are in the best position here. They can be however their creators want them to be without any qualms about feasibility (on that note: how do the likes of Na’vi, Klingon and Dothraki do it? Keep an English inflection in order not to confuse actors and fans? Go wild?). Auxlangs are at a much worse position. People do not only have a different linguistic background but probably will use the inflection of their native language (or just a language they know very well*) for the auxlang. This can create a set of problems in how to distinguish yes/no questions from statements. The typical way to do that is via a question particle, a way which is also done in some natural languages (for example colloquial German uses “ne” at the end of yes/no questions). That has a set of problems like the placement and how that affects the intended correct intonation, but I guess the other ideas are worse in terms of ease. They might not be though, as I said, difficulty is not only the existance of a strange rule but also its application. Artlangers, of course are free to do as they like.

So, how to create a conintonation and conprosody? To be honest, I am not that sure. I would suggest babbling. Seriously, babble in random sounds in the vague conphonology and try just by that to convey something. Try to make it sound as if a teacher instructs a class or as if a child tells a sibling to be fruitfull and multily, just not in these exact words ­čśë . Maybe this will lead you to something good. Don’t forget to document speech in your conlang with recordings to retain these things.

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