Zezhi script: a syllabary

In addition to working on the Vinuvu abugida, I’ve also been creating a new conscript, called Zezhi. It is a syllabary, and is used in Keta, specifically in and around Ngyenau Bwezh, a small country in Ei (north of Quarios). I have the beginnings of a majority language of Ngyenau Bwezh, called Bwezhi, but it’s far from usable yet. It’s at that awkward stage where I know what the phonemes are and some basics about verbs, nouns, and word order, but not much else. It is essentially a fetus.

Zezhi itself has independent symbols for combinations of consonants and vowels, in the CV syllable structure. It also has symbols for lone vowels: V structure. It doesn’t have codas embedded in each symbol, but rather marks a “default” syllable as “vowelless” for this purpose, as Bwezhi does have some codas.

Here are some examples:

This is a given name: Miza Lie

Another name: Minisa Burun.
This is the name of the country Ngyenau Bwezh /ˈŋʲɛnau bʷɛʒ/. You can see the diacritics that indicate patalization and labialization in co
nsonants. The line under the final character means that there is a null vowel after this consonant, i.e. a syllable coda. You can also see that in the previous name “Burun”. The character used for codas is always the Ce (consonant plus /ɛ/) character. So without the line underneath, the name would appear as “Burune”.

Below is a transliteration of my full name: Margaret Neal Ransdell-Green.
The transliteration works out to: /margaret nil ranzdɛl grin/

Some Lexember examples: new words in conlangs

December is the month that conlangers of all kinds participate in something called Lexember. We create a new word (in the lexicon) for our conlang(s) every day of the month. I’ve been participating and sharing words largely through tumblr (user: aeniith) and twitter (@MintakaGlow). Here are a few from the first days so far.



Rílin

Dec 1:

íha [ˈiha], [v tr/intr] : [1] forgive, pardon; accept, understand; [2] know, acknowledge, recognize; [3] bring attention to, point out, remark on; [4] notice, realize

Etymology: Possibly from iŵ- [iɸ] ‘take in, accept’ and ja ‘know’

Example:

íhazim kasa tañ lönenet naba ŵedínla
íha      -z        -im kasa       tañ        lön -en-et     naba                  ŵedí -n-la
forgive-pst.prf-1s already dist woman-pl-abs whatever wrongdoing-pl-instr
“I have already forgiven those women for any wrongdoing’

Karkin

Dec 2:

vkāmēgh [vkɑːˈmeːɣ] [v tr/intr] (ki-verb class) : [1] break out of, escape from within; [2] break down a wall or other barrier; [3] (fig) destroy a boundary, flout a rule, defy expectations

Etymology: From vkā ‘strike, hit’ and mēgh ‘run, run away’.

Example:

Psi  nux-ë     twë  qhrō    ki    vkāmēgh-ā  -yi         vuq     kuqhkë mi  ja   wëngi-ā   -pa   
dist girl-3s.p  who early part defy        -pst-3s.a    all       clan      gen part speak-pst-1s.a
“I spoke with that girl who had previously broken all the boundaries of her family clan.”

Rílin

Dec 3:

bióŝû [bɪˈoʃʌ] [v intr] : [1] walk precariously, walk on a slippery or icy surface; [2] be in a precarious or unsure state; [3] be in a risky state, ‘walk on thin ice’.

Etymology: From bió ‘slip, slide’ and [jó]ŝû ‘walk’.

Example:

Ŝy-ky  sé    zaín séfet   tû pre-t       pato        bióŝû -l -í
be-irr prox time now do care-abs because walk.slippery-prs.hab-2s.fam
‘Now is the time to take care because you are in a precious position’

Rílin

Dec 4:

móníhas [moˈnihas] [n, inan] : [1] portent, omen, sign; [2] hint, clue; [3] tell, revealing action.

Etymology: From móní ‘watch, guard’ and has ‘sign, signal’.

Example: Né      í-t     -íí          kuala              -n-et ómina-mí,    x-óly    -t      -aap      lí-et      
      if   look-npst-2s.fut constellation-pl-abs sky-gen  caus-solve-npst-3s.fut 2s-abs the

                 bí ǵom-et ka-ŝó      kalum-mí a       oma-mí.  
                 knot-abs two-adv world-gen and  soul-gen

“If you look into the constellations in the sky, it will let you untie the knot of both the world and the soul.”

Tosi

tūgh [tuːɣ] [n] : [1] face; [2] front; [3] cover, outside covering, skin; [4] sleeve, sock, outer layer (e.g. of a wrapping, of clothing); [5] protective layer, protection, assurance, aide, help, assistance, back-up, auxiliary force.

Etymology: From Old Tosi tūhuz- “face; scalp”

Example:

Tapi sur ja da chi tūgh i vis rīy.
imp angle vrblz 2s.fem gen face obj to sky
“Turn your face toward the sky”

Tosi

Dec 6:

gungar [ˈɡuŋɡar] [v, tr] : [1] chase, pursue; [2] hunt (e.g. animals); [3] fish, catch fish; [4] seek out, look for, search for.

Etymology: From gar ‘follow’, and gun-, an emphatic prefix (cf. gun ‘great, might’).

Example:
Na gangur na chi xeti gek i, gempe tapi ixari!
1s.f pursue 1s.f gen female.servant drunk obj please imp help
“I’m chasing after my drunken servant, please help me!”

Tosi

Dec 7:

hās [hɑːs] [v, tr] : [1] fill; [2] replenish; [3] add to, increase.

Etymology: From old Tosi hāh-, hāθ- ‘full, plentiful’

Example:
Tapi hās na chi kūn i ge na gō tiv gunāl.
imp fill 3s.f gen cup obj if 3sg.f be punct.fut empty
“Fill her cup if it is empty”


Tosi proverbs + religion

Translation of a Tosi religious proverb, from the texts of Lamat.

Sa tapi gō fū sanā jela ji chi lōlchu i
neg imp be content without kneel.before 2sg.m gen goddess obj

“Content thee with naught without first kneeling before thy goddess”

I am working on writing the tenets of Tosi belief systems, which primarily focuses on one deity, Lamat, war goddess, but also on Kalu, god of silence and peace. The current matriarchal expansionist empire of the Tosi obviously draws most political attention to the cult of Lamat, but the priesthood of Kalu endures and cannot be denied its importance to the history of the Tosi people.

The highly stratified culture of the Tosi traditionally feeds/gears different sections of the texts toward either men or women, to further enforce gender roles. The modern translation (into Tosi from Old Tosi) shows this with the use of the masculine 2nd p sg pronoun: ji, rather than da (feminine).

~

In creating these deities, I originally wanted Lamat to be the only main goddess, to show the Tosi reverence for power and might through warfare, but I then decided that they should have more nuance in their spiritual and religious beliefs. Before Tos was an Empire, it was simply a small nation, with no massive army and military force to show the world. People would have worshiped a multitude of gods and demi-gods, as well as other divine spirits. I think, as Tosi culture changed over time with the changing political structure and the ever-expanding Empire, the religious institutions would have changed too, to emphasize those things that were politically beneficial for the expansion of the state and the Empire. The primary means of this expansion was via the military, so Lamat, as the goddess of war, would have expanded as well, from a goddess to whom soldiers would offer supplications for protection before going into battle, to a central deity whose texts would come to have a greater influence over many areas of life.

The masculine deity Kalu, who represents many of the opposing forces of Lamat (silence, peace, introspection, asceticism, purity, etc) is fundamentally seen as an extension of what the Tosi view as the perfect man: one is is serene and peaceful, not governed by passion. Women are seen as intrinsically superior in this matriarchal society, but they are also seen as imperfect in that they supposedly naturally of a stormier and more tempestuous nature. Men are supposedly a tempering force of quiet, darkness, passivity, rationality, as well as “softer” emotions, such as compassion and mercy. I don’t want to remove this opposing force in Tosi society, because I think without it, the religion becomes more one-dimensional.

Previously, I had only addressed the adherents of Kalu in terms of the priesthood–men who would cloister themselves from the rest of the world (including the world of war, which is seen as primarily the purview of women) and devote their energy to preserving some special force of calm in a culture that is known for its systematic violence and occasional chaos. I want to build up this side of the religion more, and include it in more fiction that I write for the Tosi.

Translation practice in Rílin

I’ve been doing more practice translation for Rílin, to fill out any needed grammatical or lexical gaps. Here is a recent one, taken from here.

English: “That is the city of the Goyanim. They are a strange people. They light their cities at night, as if the stars weren’t sufficient for their needs. They fight and kill each other, not realising the greater danger beyond their small world. And they do not hunt each other with bows and arrows. No, they have strange devices that kill from far away without arrows. And take care near their strange iron horses they use to travel. They travel faster than any natural beast ought to, and ignore the strength of the bow and arrow. Best if you avoid their cities, my son.”

Rílin: “Tañ yẃäp Góyanimenmu. Be’a li apen. Xavéjalapen tañ yẃäpet bänkasla, do be hyzû bín kuan. Ŝílapen apenset a zansalapen. Be mílulapen bí gaŝ krur̂ûet dexe ẃy kalumla apenmu. Be siŝulapen apenset kótûñla a ítäla. La, lykylapen be’a mönet baes zansalapen róŝó ŝa ítänla. A toroky né lí mu be’a ǵasíaínla zar̂mí baet lykylapen níñgíle. Zaílapen psötar̂ó dexe gölhañ ŝutréla, dexe lhyntíla kótûñmí a ítämí. Ptatí histä tañ yẃäpenet, mävû.”

I imagine a Rílin father telling his son about a culture with more advanced technology (possibly Tosi?). I may do an interlinear gloss but for now, it stands as-is. More to come.

Naga: Land of Butterflies



The western continent of Elta is a vast, largely tropical or forested region. It is known as Naga to outsiders, thought inhabitants don’t generally have a term for the continent as a whole. Some have adopted the term “Naga”, which is of Tosi origin, into their vocabularies. Contact with peoples of other continents, however, is mostly confined to restricted trade deals, mostly involved precious metals, timber (many common endemic trees of Naga have unique and highly sought after qualities), and fruits, although the latter are usually dried or otherwise preserved before their long journey across the sea.

Naga is known for its biodiversity. The dense jungles of its central regions rival those of northern Quarios. Culturally, Naga is not a monolith. It consists of myriad peoples, cultures, languages, and histories. There are few strict borders, and there cannot be said to be very many nation-states, but rather a variety of largely self-governing peoples that may, at any given time, interact, get along, fight, trade, or just ignore each other.

There are, however, a few notable exceptions. One is the known as the Lair of Kithaba, a religious group that has taken up resident in a long system of caves near the territory of the Alta people. They subsist largely from banditry and highway robbery, given their hidden location in the caves is suited to little else but hiding and practices their poorly understood religious practices. Despite the repeated efforts of their neighbors to eliminate their numbers, they remain a blight on the region and source of woe to many who are unfortunate enough to become their victims.

New alphabet (abugida) for Seloi and Karkin!

I have been doing a LOT of conscripting (making new writing system) for my languages this summer! Now that the semester has started (only just), I may slow down somewhat but I am promising myself not to stop!

Much of what I’ve worked on has been the new alphabet for the Seloi and Karkin languages. Before I get into the writing system itself, I will give a little background on the people who use this alphabet.

The Selupa (speakers of Seloi) and Karkin people live on a shared island, off the east coast of the Izoi continent (in Elta–so we’re on the side of Aeniith with Tosi, Ríli, etc.). The Selupa (of the zuna species of humanoid–same as the Tosi and Karkin) have a very secretive but comparatively technically advanced society. Their cities are highly protected, entry and exit is tightly regulated, and their technology and medical advances are not generously shared, when they are shared at all. The Selupa value art and culture as well as science, and are famous for their universities where topics like drama, writing, philosophy, rhetoric, and even culinary skills are taught.

The other major cultural group on the island are the Karkin, also a zuna people, who live in parts of the island not inhabited by the Selupa. Their population is largely split into two–some live inside seven cities that are protected by ruling clans. Just outside of these guarded cities are agricultural areas that supply these cities with food. Others, who dwell outside the protection of the cities, live in an arid expanse of land called the Planulum (sōngē’ën /soːˈŋeːʔən/ in Karkin). This is a harsh land, and its soil is hard and difficult to grow in. The people who live in the Planulum are not under rule of the city clans, and lawlessness is rampant in areas that are outside of settlements. Settlements in the Planulum are lightly governed by consensus, if at all. In the winters, sand storms ravage crops, and in the summer, hot winds can wilt them if not enough rains come. It is a difficult place to live. Caravans travel between the various Planulum settlements and the seven cities, but sometimes are detained due to crime or bad weather conditions.

The original inventors of the present alphabet, which I’m tentatively calling Vinuvu (Seloi for ‘scratched pieces’ or ‘written bits’), are the Selupa. Seloi itself has a very small phonemic inventory (collection of differently recognized sounds)–just 10 consonants and 6 vowels. Vinuvu is technically an abugida–a variant of alphabet in which the consonants are represented by full letters and the vowels are represented by modifications to the consonants (often diacritics or small marks on or near the consonant letters). The following is the version used for Seloi, its original intended use.

Seloi alphabet: VinuvuEach consonant is a full letter with the following vowels being marked as diacritics over the consonant. Freestanding vowels are written as full, and diphthongs and double vowels are either combined diacritics or a full vowel symbol plus a diacritic.

So this is simple enough, but then I decided I wanted this whole system to be used by other zuna cultures in the region of Izoi. That includes the Tosi and Karkin. The Tosi are a massive empire, but I decided that I wanted them to have borrowed the alphabet after the Karkin–the immediate neighbors of the Seloi–had already borrowed it.

The main challenge here was due to the Karkin language itself. It has a lot of sounds, far more than the particularly sparse Seloi. Karkin is mad for different consonants: it has 32 of them! It also has six vowels that can all be long or short (in duration). So obviously, when the Karkin borrowed this writing system, they were going to have to do a lot of modification to make it work for their language…

Behold!
Karkin modifications to VinuvuAs you can see, many letters are modified to represent the numerous additional sounds that Karkin has. Some consonants have added marks to indicate that voicing (Seloi doesn’t have voiced stops like b, d, g, for example). Some letters have descender marks below them to indicate a change in place of articulation (usually farther back in the mouth). Some fricatives (like the letters for v and s) are reversed to show a change in voicing (f and z). The letter for /l/ is modified to represent /r/ and /ʎ/. Various other changes show sounds that don’t exist in Seloi. Long vowel are represented by double diacritics.

A few examples of writing in Vinuvu for Karkin.

ED3F05DA-B0EF-4B37-BF5E-7951C2B44AE3

Also the punctuation marks and numerals:
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More information will be coming–watch this space!

 

Margaret

Greetings after a while!

It’s once again been a while. I’ve been busy with a lot of things–mostly my research and lots of international travel! I’ve been in six countries since May!

One of the things I was doing while traveling this summer was attending the Language Creation Conference (the 8th biannual) in Cambidge, UK. My husband Eric and I started off the conference with some musical performances of songs in several conlangs (Gotevian, Tosi, and Rílin). We’d written some Aeniithian music before but wrote several of the pieces for the conference specifically. Eric is a composer and musician, as well as a 3D graphics designer and synth expert, so we jointly designed musical instruments unique to Aeniith cultures. We also designed musical notation systems for each culture and the musical scales that they represent. We performed four songs, two of which can be heard/seen: , and Ŵatakap Bí Xabhét (Rílin), which has a video that can be seen here.

We also presented a poster that explains a bit about the unique instrument designs (and includes 3D models of them by Eric), musical notations, etc.

Conference-Poster

I am starting a mailing list since a lot of people wanted updates for lyrics, new songs, etc. So if that’s you too, email me at ransdell AT hawaii DOT edu, and I will add you!

 

Margaret

New words in Ori + examples

Dropping in to note that I am in fact not dead. I have been super busy with stuff related to doing my doctorate! But I am still conlanging, worldbuilding, etc.
#Lextreme2018 and #Lexathon are my continuing daily lexicography conlang project via twitter (https://twitter.com/MintakaGlow). Here are yesterday’s and today’s words, plus example sentences!

Nov 20
Ori: [adj] milon- /’milon/ ‘slow, unhurried; easy; soft’

Nov 21
Ori: [n, inan] pilya-s /’pilʲas/ ‘tear, teardrop’

Examples:

Abbreviation key:

1 = 1st person

2 = 2nd person

3 = 3rd person

nom = nominative

sg = singular

an = animate class

in = inanimate class

adv = adverbial

pst = past tense

perf = perfect aspect

q = question (interrogtive) particle

acc = accusative

pl = plural

hab = habitual aspect

Pilyas eun syolle miloni plecir cyan
pilya-s eun syol-le milon-i plec-ir cyan
tear-nom.sg.in 3sg.an.dat face-loc.sg.in slow-adv fall-3sg.in pst.perf
‘A tear fell slowly down his cheek’

Nasya milonis ti ma?
nasya milon-is ti ma
why slow-nom.sg.an you.are q
‘Why are you being slow?’

Eme! pilyatyin cityin bayalbra lyes
eme  pilya-tyin ci-tyin bayal-bra lyes
alas  tear-acc.pl.in many-acc.pl.in weep-1pl pst.hab
‘Alas! we cried so many tears’

Rílin script

So you’ve all probably seen at least some of my numerous poems written in Rílin, along with their accompanying script. I wanted to explain how the alphabet for Rílin works.

It is pretty simple conceptually. Rílin traditionally uses a phonetic alphabet, where each letter corresponds to a phoneme (distinguished sound) in the language. Rílin has a large phonemic inventory (29 consonants and 13 vowels), so there are as many letters in the alphabet.

In the below image, you can see the IPA symbol for each Rílin phoneme, followed by (in brackets) the Romanized representation (sometimes there are variants available for those times when it is not convenient or possible to use diacritic marks)

rilinletters
Consonants

vowels
Vowels

 

Ori poem

A poem in Ori. I use poetry to expand on my lexicon and grammar, as well as invent new ways of doing metaphor.

~

Clidolyal

Catyin-gae nalistityin tyae

Calin natin nalepa can iyutu cyan

Yullacu tyuhacu

Bane cohace

Nye nalemasye

 

Catyin eltrutyin tyae

Na lyen-tatyin tyo

Ilu cyalace

Na syutace

Milis cuheo bumi

Na misuhile lunin cyon-lastilen

Bine

Nyilleya hatanulya.

 

 

A false vow

But you knew my reasons

You never saw me how you should

Every year

We would slip further

From the truth.

 

You know my ways

And I know yours

We come together again

And split apart

A tree cloven in two

And from the sap running from our wounds

Perhaps

A new story.