Category Archives: Tsali

A new trick for vocabulary

You might have noticed that vocabulary is one of the things, which I care very deeply about in conlangs. The posting I get most links to details the creation of vocabulary. Now that I am reading Steven Pinker’s book The Stuff of Thought, I realize that there is a different trick to look at what might be missing in vocabulary. Apparently it was originally invented by Bertrand Russel in the 1950s, even though not for conlanging. What you need is a basic word, like to eat. Now create a progression from the best connotation to the worst one. This can be two or three steps. here a German example: ich esse, du schlingst es runter, er frisst. (I eat, you eat (hastily), he eats (like an animal)). Or in Tsali: Uka anda, oparlki hima (I eat, you eat (undeservedly or too much)). Here is an english example with another term: I exploring my sexuality, you are promiscuous, she is a slut*. Using longer terms and idioms is perfectly okay and even encouraged.

Feel free to post some degrees of connotation of your conlangs (with explanation) into the comments.

* I would like to point out the hypocrisy of this term or rather, the lack of a male equivalent. So I am going to announce to use the term slut from now on also for males :√ĺ


Conlanging intuition

I have to admit that the topic on the Conlang Mailing List was quite interesting to me. If I was more spiritually inclined, I might think that somethings are something In knew from a language of a former life, because they just feel so right. Like the really odd system of rejistanian comparisons. For no-one else, 14 comparisons make probably no sense at all, but forme, it is something which just clicked with the language.

Another thing which sounds so very RIGHT for me is putting the adjectives behind the verb. German does not do this and neither does English (with a few exceptions like ‘something blue’) but for me, this just felt exactly how it should be*. I guess this makes only a very limited amount of sense to anyone else, but sometimes, I do get this feeling about things, not all of them related to conlanging. When for example I discovered Forth, I got the feeling that this programming language actually makes sense. I am sceptic enough to accept that the idea that something like this stems from a former life is not even wrong (ie: so bizarre that it is unfalsifiable), but I like it in the way I like a bizarre plot twist in a story. The Rejistanis however probably are not so sceptic about this and it makes sense that they actually have a word for something like that. *has an idea which completely fits the idea and creates word*

Someone on the list said the feeling that something just clicks is inspiration. Maybe it is related to it, but it misses a component. Inspiration to me is “Hey, I suddenly have a great idea how to do it!”, it is not “Hey, I suddenly have a great idea how to do it and to me it feels as if THIS AND ONLY THIS is right!” (but then, languages cannot and will not cover every nuance in connotation with a different term).

Whatever it is, it is one of the reasons to conlang since it is one of the most satisfying moments which exist.

* I used it so often that I intentionally decided not to use that feature in Tsali.

What makes a language complex?

There is a thread on the CBB forum concerning the most complex conlang and it was wuite strange to me what many people understood as complexity. Complexity, IMNSCO does not only mean a grammar with many categories, as many people seem to think. So here a few thoughts on what makes a language complex:

  • Strange phones/phonemes: Yes, Hindi and Tagalog might consider a certain sound common, but this does not mean that for me as a German speaker, it is. I am guilty of that sort of complexity for at least one British-English speakers about Rejistanian: Apparently, /h/ and /x/ were indistinguishable for him.
  • FUBAR phonotactics: “Sandhi, bloody sandhi” ūüėČ
  • Strange use of aspiration: This belongs to the previous point, but then, it is a more specific difficulty
  • A misleading orthography. Apparently, I am guilty of this as well: “r” for /x/ makes sense given the history of the sound or the fact that [R] is a valid allophone. However, Englishspeakers do not expect this. The fact that I write /s`/ as “x” (rejistanian, quuxlang) or “z” (Kenshuite He Mo Gie, Tsali) is probably misleading at first, but not on the level of English orthography’s oddity
  • Odd clusters of consonants or vowels: Someone mentioned to me that he prefers Volap√ľk over Esperanto because it does not have clusters like “-nstr-” which are hard to pronounce for people not used to them. From that time, I liked Volap√ľk better. While certain sounds are very easy to pronounce in isolation, in certain combinations, they are hell. I created Jasabag√©’a to eliminate difficult clusters, because I know how very guilty I am of that one: /zt/, /ss`/, /wk/ and /lt/ in initial positions of words in various conlangs
  • Tones: From a European perspective, tones are rather difficult and I assume that this is also true if the conlang has nother pattern than your L1. If your L1 has ‘only’ low and high tones and you want to speak a conlang with 9 different tones, there will be an issue. At least I assume that.
  • Dissimilarity: Try to learn these quuxlang words: “hibalama” means “woman and one of her children”, “luZatso” means “father, mother and girl”, “kae” means “human carries object” (all from quuxlang). And now remember these words: “lana” means “child”, “jile” means fast, “c√≠m√≠” means twelve (all from jasabag√©’a). And now remember “rapida” means fast, “birdo” means bird and “modifi” means to edit (all from Esperanto). I think it is safe to assume* that the Esperanto terms are easiest to remember. But even if you use a priori vocabular, if the concepts differ too much, this constitutes complexity.
  • References: It is an issue in natlangs that certain words mean something because they refer to something related. Some examples here: “Iraq is another vietnam”, “Tempo” (literally: speed) for paper tissues because the most popular brand is called like that, and “‘xikila” for “to qualify using 2 different routes” because the team which first ‘xikila-ed into the rejistanian national soccer cup was Xikila**. As the last example showed, even conlangs can and probably will develop these.
  • Irregular grammar: The grammar does not have to have many rules, but if these are really strange and have many exceptions, the language is hard to learn. Esperanto has for example 4 different ways in which an adjective can agree with the noun, Tsali has 2. Despite that, Esperanto is easier because when you know how to decline “granda” (big) (granda domo, grandan domon, grandaj domoj, grandajn domojn), you also know how to decline “nova” (new) and bela (beautiful), while Tsali does not tell you that: mazdzu’ feri, mazdzu’tik feri but elat feri, elati feri and fadi feri, fadiu’ feri.
  • Different grammar: Let’s assume that you had to learn Esperanto in one week. In terms of grammar, it would definitely be doable. Now let’s assume you had to learn rejistanian in one week, it seems as easy if there were not these darn subjunctive moods, which in this form do not exist in English, the week passes and you realize that you still have no idea when exactly to use ‘lanja, when ‘meshi, etc. In general, a grammar which makes distinctions which your natlang does not make is more difficult. As such, even 2 different evidental forms are harder to learn 3 tenses which have an equivalent in your language.
  • Complex grammar: Now we’re at the point you wanted to be. Yes, a language with no tenses is easier than one with 10 tenses***.
  • Pragmatic differences: Here, you can find things like the very indirect, ‘spiral-shaped’ way in which Chinese say things, the many pitfalls of politeness in German, the fact that according to the Language Construction Kit book, poles consider the imperative for less rude than English speakers…

BTW: this must be a record: 860 words about complexity and no hate against Toki Pona. ūüėČ

* yes, “assume makes an ass out of u(sic!) and me”, but bear with me. It might make sense nontheless.
** a fourth league team can qualify for he cup by winning either the league or the “nantical” (ie: the nanti-wide tournament for teams in the leagues below the 3rd one and non-ASR teams). Xikila did both in the first year of the cup.
*** “Yes, of course there are ten of these, this is why they are called tenses!”


“Which ruler do you obey?”

Kenshuite He Mo Gie was created based on a definite idea how the culture is like and this idea was implemented in grammar and vocabulary. Tsali started with a vague non-cultural idea and a Pentium 1 computer. As such, creating the language meant also making up the culture on the go. While I was walking to Bergisch-Gladbach, the language gave me a big hint on the culture behind it: I thought about asking about the nationality in the various conlangs I created. Rejistanian would probably ask “Where were you born?” since Rejistanis do not have any concept of naturalization. You are citizen of the country you were born in. If they would want to know the official nationality, they would probably ask something like: “Where does your passport come from?”

The Kenshuite He Mo Gie speakers live on a barely inhabitable planet as survivors of a crash. Visitors would be asked a lot of things, nationality probably not being one of them.

Naeso would use a rather direct construction, though that has not been voted on yet.

And Tsali would ask which ruler one obeys. The reply would take the form “Berlin-obeyer am I” ie: the term for nationality is derived from the capital city, not the country. This is inspired by Singularity Sky by Charles Stross and I suspect that the Tsali speakers also have a distinctly authoritarian culture. Or if I go for the irony: Are a young egalitarian democracy, which still uses the language of earlier, absolutistic times. Irony or not: Some nations are going to be named after the family which rules them: Wintsor dia kpektsi (Windsoer-land) will the the UK and Sahud dia kpektsi (Saud-land) Saudi Arabia (which is named in this manner in German and English as well).


Hello world

This is a blog about language, constructing of language and my own conlangs. I will post here whenever I feel I have a good reason to do so, not daily like on the Rejistanian Word of the Day. I am going to write about experiments, experiences, Kenshuite He Mo Gie, Tsali, quuxlang and all the other stuff. Even some rejistanian might sneak its way in. ūüôā