26 December, 2014

A Fox's Guide to Conlangs (Part 8) - Root Combinations and Permutations

Since the essence of this language is modular, it makes sense for us to delve deeper into the root terms. With these root concepts assigned fragmentary sounds, we can then append complementary fragments that build full words.

It seems to be common practice across many conlangers to describe syllables in terms of Cs for consonant sounds, and Vs for vowel sounds. For example, Japanese syllabary consists of forms that could be described as V, CV, or CcV (where I’m using a lower case “c” to represent sub-consonant sounds like the ‘y’ in ‘Tokyo’). More common western European forms of syllable tend to follow patterns of VC, CV, or CVC, but there might also be double Cs or double Vs. A full range of syllable symbols in this language would be C/c/{V}/V/C/c (where every syllable has a mandatory vowel, even is that mandatory vowel is a neutral schwa), that gives us a range of...


If Cs have 8 possible choices, and Vs have 13 possible choices (when the schwa is included), we have almost countless possibilities for these root syllables. If a schwa is used as one of the syllables, it defeats the point having two vowels together, one neutral sounds is pretty much overwhelmed by the non-neutral sound adjacent to it.  

C/V (8 x 13 = 104)
C/V/C (8 x 13 x 8 = 832)
C/V/V (8 x 12 x 12 = 1248)
C/V/V/C (8 x 12 x 12 x 8 = 9216)
C/V/V/C/c (8 x 12 x 12 x 4 x 1 = 4608) Only 4 of the consonants have the option of a secondary consonant, and there is only one secondary consonant to go with them.
C/c/V (4 x 1 x 13 = 52)
C/c/V/V (4 x 1 x 12 x 12 = 576)
C/c/V/V/C (4 x 1 x 12 x 12 x 8 = 4608)
C/c/V/V/C/c (4 x 1 x 12 x 12 x 4 x 1 = 2304)
V (13)
V/C (13 x 8 = 104)
V/V (13 x 13 = 169)
V/V/C (13 x 13 x 8 = 1352)
V/V/C/c (13 x 13 x 4 x 1 = 676)

That’s a total of 25,862 possible root terms that are a single syllable long (if you include diphthongs as single syllables). Most of those root terms are probably rubbish, but if 1% of them are good, then that’s 258 roots that we can use, and if another 4% aren’t too bad (but maybe need an extra syllable to contextualise them and thus render them meaningful), that brings the total up to 5172 words. More than 5000 words in a vocabulary is pretty robust.

A basic vocabulary of basic English is generally considered to be 800-900 words, where a specialist might need 1500, and then you get lists like the Oxford 3000 which someone should be familiar with before they’d be passably ‘fluent’. More likely, we’d be looking at 10,000+ words, since we’re only looking at the numbers of base root forms, adding affixes to the roots can exponentially increase the possibilities.

I want to delve into the actual words, but we need a bit more background structure for the language.
Each of these

I’m thinking of some basic prefixes (or syllable beginnings) at the moment to determine the types nouns that might be used in the language. These continue to follow the vague structure of vowels in the sixfold cycle, not strictly but there retains a conceptual link between the form in these and the vowels as they link in the cycle. 

Noun Forms
Proper Nouns – [N] a/A
Common Nouns – [K or N] o/O, i/I, o/O, or e/E
Concrete Nouns – [K or N] o/O or i/I 
Countable Nouns – [K or N] o/O or i/I
            Living – [K] o/O
            Non-Living Countable Nouns – [N] i/I
Uncountable and Mass Nouns – [N] o/O
Abstract Nouns – [K] e/E
Collective Nouns – [K] u/U
Pronouns – [D] a/A

Adjectives generally describe nouns by giving some information about an object’s size, shape, age, color, origin or material. They may also be used to describe the number of nouns, either vaguely (using adjective terms meaning ‘few’ or ‘many’), or specifically (through the use of numbers); but when adjectives describe multiples of an item, English typically provides a variant of the noun form (some other languages don’t).

According to yourdictionary.com

When you list several adjectives in a row, there’s a specific order they need to be written or spoken. Native speakers of English tend to put them in the correct order naturally, but if you’re learning English, you’ll have to memorize the order. It goes like this:
·         Determiner – This means an article (a, an, the), a number or amount, a possessive adjective (my, his, her, its, your, our, their), or a demonstrative (this, that, these, those).
·         Observation/Opinion – Beautiful, expensive, gorgeous, broken, d This causes certain elicious, ugly
·         Size – Huge, tiny, 4-foot-tall
·         Shape – Square, circular, oblong
·         Age – 10-year-old, new, antique
·         Color – Black, red, blue-green
·         Origin – Roman, English, Mongolian
·         Material – Silk, silver, plastic, wooden
·         Qualifier – A noun or verb acting as adjective
This is the correct order for adjectives that come directly before a noun, and they are separated by commas.
·         My beautiful, big, circular, antique, brown, English, wooden coffee table was broken in the move.
If the adjectives come after the verb “be” as the complement, then the qualifier will stick with the noun at the beginning of the sentence. The adjectives in the complement are separated by commas with the final two being separated by “and.” For example, My coffee table is beautiful, big, circular, antique, brown, English and wooden.

If I understand correctly there are certain real world languages, most of which are Nordic, where the vast majority of adjectives are purely incorporated into the noun, each refining the noun in turn and producing words that have incredible length. But here I’m thinking of a combination of refined nouns with incorporated and detached adjectives, when a certain combination of adjective and noun is commonly used, a new compound word enters the vernacular.

But for the moment, that still means developing the root terms, and some core noun and verb forms for them.

For verbs I’m thinking of linking the consonants to specific consonantal letter forms. With four letters, we could look at four categories of actions being done “You do it”, “I do it”, “We do it”, “They do it”…just something I’ve considered as a variant, I haven’t considered what verb types link to which letter forms yet (I’ll probably use the supplemental consonant forms, because they haven’t been touched yet and can thus have new specific meanings attached to them).  

Sorry, I’m bouncing around all over the place here…I’ll try to get more focused on the actual conlanging shortly.
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