Saturday 1 December 2018

Letter Names.

Diinlang will need names for the letters of the alphabet. Some of the English names cannot be used since they are the same as some words in Diinlang. It is preferable that a system is used that is logical, consistent and easy to learn. An advantage would be if the letter names are phonetically distinctive, helping when you have to spell things over a phone.

I call this system the “ek system” since it used either the letter “e” or “k”.

The names of the vowels are created by adding “-k” to the end. Thus we have “ak, ek, ik, ok and uk”. “ok” is pronounced as one word, to rhyme with “knock”, “uk” to rhyme with “buck”.

Consonant names are created by doubling the consonant and placing an “-e-” in the middle. Thus we have “ded, geg, jej, heh, mem, nen, yey”. The use of “e” gives distinct sounds for “c”, “k” and “s” as “cec, kek, and ses”.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Families of Verbs

I recently finished reading “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman. In the notes at the end Gaiman writes:
 And then one day about three weeks ago it was done. And after that I spent a week cutting and trimming it. (I’d read Stephen King’s On Writing on the plane home from Ireland, where I’d gone to do final rewrites and reworkings, and was fired up enough by his war on adverbs that I did a search through the manuscript for ——-ly, and peered at each adverb suspiciously before letting it live or zapping it into oblivion. A lot of them survived. Still, according to the old proverb, God is better pleased with adverbs than with nouns. . .)”
A lot more words are adverbs than most people think! Only some of them end in “-ly”. Vetting the “-ly” adverbs you use in a manuscript is not that bad an idea, however. Vetting the passive voice sentences is another good idea.

King seems to particularly discourage the use of adverbs in dialogue attribution. ie, use “she said” rather than “she said, quietly”. However, English gives us many options to achieve the latter without using an adverb: “she whispered”, “she muttered”, “she mumbled”, “she gasped” etc.

At the same time “lookoo’s” wonderful stuff on deviant art got me looking into Cheyenne grammar. Cheyenne verbs have a pre-verbal that works as an adverbial suffix. This suggest that a language such as Diinlang may have potential of families of related verbs formed by compounding: quiet-say, vague-say, breathe-say; fast-walk, slow-walk, vague-walk (dawdle), rural-walk (hike), escape-run (flee), attack-run (charge).

This infers Diinlang might have two classes of adverb: those acting directly on a verb and those that affect other parts of speech.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Launching Diinlang 2.0

Version 2.4
Recently I created a shorthand system for a friend of mine. This, in turn, gave me some ideas that could be applied to Diinlang. These changes are of sufficient magnitude that they constitute a new version, Diinlang 2.0.

Some of the changes that have been made include:


Articles (and other determiners) are how a common noun is identified. A verb or other non-noun is turned into a noun by giving it an article or determiner.
ve/ vez  is the definite article (“the” in English). Note that it has a singular and a plural form.  je/ jez is the indefinite article, equivalent to “some” in English. It also has singular and plural forms.
These can be shortened to “v” or “j” and “vz” or “jz” for the plurals.
un is an alternate singular indefinite article, equivalent to “1, one, a, or an” in English. It can be pronounced with a long “uu” sound like the French “une”, or short like “en” or “an”. Shortened form can be the numeral “1”, since u” is already used for a pronoun. Un may also be used when an impersonal pronoun is required. It is the equivalent of the English use of “one” in context such as “One should always brush one's teeth”.
ve and je can be optionally gendered to indicate the gender of the noun. The forms are “veo, vea, jeo, jea”. Potentailly un might be “uno” or “una”. 


Nouns are made plural by changing their determiner, rather than infecting the noun. Many natural languages pluralize both the article and the noun, but this is redundant and can lead to ambiguity when there is an error. Using a number higher than “1” for a determiner makes the noun plural. Using a plural article (vez or jez) makes a noun plural.
Uncount/ mass nouns use the singular form of article.

Bi and Av.

The verb “bi” (to be) has the short form “b”, the verb “av” (to have) has the short form “h”. Verbs are named by combining their bare infinitive and past forms. Hence “to be” in Diinlang is called “bi/bite” and “to have” is “av/avte”.

Personal Pronouns.

The personal pronouns are now based upon “em”, “yu” and “ze”, with the short forms “m”, “u” and “z”. These are, respectively, the first, second and third person. The plural forms add “-z”. Optional objective marker is “-em” or “-m”. The gendered forms of “ze” remain “zo” and “za” and “it” remains third person impersonal. For the moment I intend to retain mi” as an alternate to em”, both using m” as a shorthand. Mi and em are fully interchangeable. Tu” will be retained as an alternative to yu”, and this may be more comfortable to the speakers of certain languages. Note that there is no formal/informal distinction between tu and yu in Diinlang. They are fully interchangeable.
The plural pronouns are made by adding “-z” to the singular forms. All male or all female groupings can be emphasised with “zoz” or “zaz”. “Yu” only needs to be pluralized if it needs to be emphasised that more than one person is being addressed or referred to.
If needed, an “inclusive we” pronoun can be constructed as “ yu-em/ yu-emz”.
The objective nature of a pronoun can be emphasised by adding the ending “-m” or “-em” to give, for example “zem” or “zemz”.
Reflexive constructions (“myself”, “himself”) are made by repeating the related pronoun or by use of the pronoun “se/ sez”. Se is used in this manner in several languages. English speakers can remember this from their phrase per se”.
Jon VERB himself = Jon VERB zo/ze or Jon VERB se.
Su/ suz” is a relative pronoun used to join two clauses. This can be remembered from the English word “subject”. It is the equivalent of the English “who”, “what”, “which”, or “that” when used in a non-interrogative sense. For “whose” it combines with vo” as su vo”.

Comparative and Superlative.

Comparative and superlative change once again. “ar-” forms the comparative suffix, “us-” the superlative. These combine with “ta” and “ko” or other terms as “e- and “o- did. Hence, “arta, usta, arko, usko”. This will hopefully avoid confusion with terms like “email”, “econference” etc. As in English, “us-” has to be preceeded by the definite article to be a superlative. On its own “us-” it is a pronoun meaning “more/less than half”.
For the word “than” for comparison Diinlang can use “as, imi or di”. The construction “as…as” is used when two items are the same in some respect. Alternately the word “iyso” (same, equal) may be used. 

Yes and No.

In addition to “ya” and “no” for yes and no the alternates “yay” and “nay” will be permissible. Short forms for both forms of each are “y” and “n”. This should help add variety and euphony. When “no” is prefixed to a vowel it becomes “non-”.
More changes and new ideas to follow.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Fine Tuning The Verbs

This blog is about a few tweaks to Diinlang’s verb system, intended to make it simpler but more versatile.

The core of the verb system use the verb infinitive, modifying it with a preverbal as necessary. This system is used in many conlangs and creoles and can also be found in some non-creole natlangs.

Gon” and “wen” indicate future and past tense. “Nou” (“now”) can be used to emphasise an action is in the present. Preverbals to distinguish something is just about to happen or has just happened in the recent past may be useful. The past preverbal may be changed to “te”, which is used in many French-based creoles. This has some symmetry with using “-t” to create single word past forms of verbs.

Dun” is used to create a clause with a completed or “perfect” aspect. This can be combined with tense preverbals for a past perfect or future perfect clause. Tense preverbals are placed before those of aspects.

Ge” is used to make a clause in a passive voice. This can also be combined with tense preverbals. In the past I have treated “ge” as a prefix placed on the verb infinitive. Changes to the verbal system make this a preverbal.

Zou” is used for subjunctive and/or conditional clauses.

Another preverbal will be used to form clauses of habitual actions.

An example of a basic clause would be:


In a previous post I suggested that it would be useful to be able to create an alternate form of past that was a single word. This is achieved by adding “-t” to the verb infinitive. With this system in place it is no longer necessary for there to be a separate one word form for the perfect aspect. English regular verbs use the same word for both the simple past and the perfect form. This is achieved by using the verb “to have” as an auxiliary verb.


Perfect: PRO have/had/has PASTFORM

The tense of the perfect form is indicated by the tense of the auxiliary verb. Perfect construction in Diinlang can also be formed using “av” (“to have”) as an auxiliary. A preverbal is used to tense the auxiliary if necessary. Some languages form a perfect construction by using a “to have” verb with the infinitive of the main verb. This can also be done in Diinlang. It is the presence of the preverbal “dun” or “av” as an auxiliary that determines if a clause is perfect aspect. Thus, there are four ways to form a perfect aspect in Diinlang





A passive voice in Diinlang can also be formed by using “ge” with the PASTFORM. Using the PASTFORM with the verb “bi” (“to be”) used as an auxiliary also forms a passive construction. Logically, PRO wen bi INF is also passive.  The present tense construction “PRO bi INF”, however, is ambiguous and should be avoided. Since the main verb lacks the continuous/progressive prefix such a construction should probably be regarded as passive.

This brings us to the continuous/progressive form of the verb. Most dynamic verbs in English use their PROG/CONT form more often than their simple present. It can be argued that many such verbs are inherently progressive (in present tense) and that the verb does not therefore need marking. In Diinlang the PROG/CONT form is marked by a prefix. This is currently “is-“ but this may be changed. Many French creoles used “ap” or “ape” before the verb. Others use “pe”, “ke” of “ki”. The use of a prefix allows the “-t” suffix to be used to make a past PROG/CONT construction. In English a continuous/progressive construction is accompanied by “to be” as an auxiliary. In Diinlang this is optional, the presence of the prefix being adequate. PRO bi is-INF has the same meaning as PRO is-INF.

This leaves us with non-verb uses of verb forms. When a verb is used as an adjective, adverb or a noun a single word form is used. Active adjectives are made with the PROG/CONT form, passive adjectives made with the PASTFORM. Nouns are made from the INF, PROG/CONT or PASTFORM.

Thursday 30 August 2018

More on Progessive and Perfect.

I will admit that I was not totally happy with the system of using suffixes for the progressive and perfect forms of verbs. Since the prefix “ge-” is used for passive forms of the verb it seems logical to resume the system of using prefixes for progressive and perfect too.

What was not made clear in previous posts was that progressive and perfect constructions can also be made using auxiliary verbs, as in English and many other languages.

For progressive/ continuous constrictions the auxiliary “bi” (to be) can be used, although I see no reason why “du” (to do) might not be used too. For perfect constructions the auxiliary verb “av” (to have) is used. A case may be made for also having a dedicated perfect marker such as “dun” or “did” too. This would avoid inelegant “have had” or “had had” constructions.

The prefixes are “is-” for progressive/ continuous and “va-” for perfect, although this latter may change if there is a better suggestion. “ge-” is used for passive constructions. The prefixes are more useful for use as gerunds or adjectives. I suspect most adjectives will use “is-” and “ge-” rather than “va-” but there may be exceptions. Auxiliaries and prefixes may be used together, which is likely with constructions that combine the perfect and progressive. For example, “past progressive perfect” would be “wen av is-VERB” or “wen dun is-VERB”.

Thursday 21 June 2018

Latin into Diinlang.

There have been a number of attempts to create an auxlang based on or derived from Latin. International Scientific Vocabulary (ISV) uses many Latin words. The Romance languages have a considerable lexicon of words evolved from Latin. Many non-Romance languages have assimilated Romance or Latin words.
In a previous post I fielded some embryonic ideas of conventions for deriving Diinlang words from Mandarin. Protocols for creating Diinlang words from Latin can probably be more definite.
Several times on this blog I have referred to Novial, which is derived from Latin. Rather than using Novial I am going to start with another Latin-derived auxlang, “Latino Sine Flexione” (LFS), developed by Guiseppe Peano.  
Peano selected his noun forms from the ablative case of Latin words, using the genitive form as a guide.
  • First declension (-a stem) nouns took an “-a” ending.
  • Second declension (-o and -r stem) nouns took an “-o” ending.
  • Third declension (-i and consonant stem) nouns took an “-e” ending.
  • Forth declension (-u stem) nouns took an “-u” ending.
  • Fifth declension (-e stem) nouns took an “-e” ending.
Obviously both third and fifth declension nouns produce words with “-e” endings. This is only a problem if homophones are created. If this is a problem for Diinlang then fifth declension derived nouns can be given an “-em” ending, derived from the accusative form. The majority of first declension nouns in Latin are feminine so the above system will give us many Diinlang words ending in “-a” that have genuine female context. For example, “filia” for daughter. The majority of second declension words are masculine or neuter, so we get many “-o” ending words with a male context. For example, “filio” for son. Some fine tuning will be needed. The nouns for “farmer” and “sailor” are first declension in Latin and end in “-a”. The Diinlang words will be more obviously neuter and probably agent nouns. The word for “dog” may be more recognizable as “kanis” rather than “cane”. Some words will need to be changed to suit  Diinlang phonetics.
Peano converted verbs into LFS by taking the infinitive (present?) form in Latin and dropping the “-re” from the end. This generally gives a verb that ends in a vowel.
This article suggests an inflection-free Latin based on infinitive verbs and accusative nouns. An interesting idea, but the objective here is to create Diinlang words that may be comprehendible to users familiar with some Latin.
Peano’s system for converting adjectives was:
  • Adjectives with a neuter nominative form ending in “-e” used that form in LFS.
  • Adjectives with a neuter nominative form ending in “-um” replaced the “-um” with “-o”.
  • All other adjectives used their ablative case, based on the genitive form, as for nouns (above).
I am less certain about using Peano’s system for converting adjectives. Many conlangs attempt to mark nouns, verbs and modifiers, usually using different endings. In some natural languages, such as English, the same word form can serve as a noun, verb, modifier or other part of speech. The word is not distinguished by its ending, but by its context and position relative to other words. A verb becomes a noun simply by adding a determiner or article. A noun becomes a verb by using it as one. Many adjectives and adverbs are simply nouns used for description. This is the system that I would prefer for Diinlang. This would work well with the system of using determiners to mark the plurality of nouns.
The above system gives use “matre” for “mother”, but obviously, this is a feminine word, so Diinlang will use “matra”.
  • De matra = the mother
  • Dez matra = the mothers
  • Tri matra = three mothers
  • Za matra zo = she mothers him
  • De ave matra = the mother bird
Peano’s system does not create nouns with “-i” endings. The majority of the verbs created will not end in “-i” either. This suggests that many Diinlang adjectives and adverbs can be created from these nouns and verbs using the suffixes suggested here. Hence:
  • matrahili (matrahli) = motherly (adverb)
  • matrahing/ matrahin = mothering
  • matrahi = mother-ry
Some details will need further work, but this looks like a sound foundation.

Thursday 24 May 2018

Comparatives and Superlatives Part Six

I am making a few changes to the comparative and superlative system that I hope will make it more flexible and user friendly.

The system is now based around four words, these being:

Ta”, meaning “big, large, much, etc”.

Ko”, meaning “small, little, not much”.

Plu” meaning “much”.

Min” meaning “not much, little”

Obviously there is some overlap in meaning here, and in many cases either of the two possible words can be used. They may also be used in combination. “Ta” and “ko” have been used in Diinlang for some time now and are used to form several other terms. When used as suffixes they serve as augmentatives and diminutives. “Plu” and “min” are used in a number of other conlangs.

To form a comparative the words are prefixed with “e-” to give “eta” and “eplu” meaning “bigger, more” and “eko” and “emin” for “littler, less/ lesser”. These can be used as standalone words or compounded on to the front of another word with a hyphen. Thus, “eta-green” is “greener/ more green”.

To form a superlative “o-” is used to create the meaning “most, biggest” or “least, smallest, littlest”.

Ta, ko, plu and min are used for uncountables, abstracts and other qualities. For quantities plural forms of the above words are used. “Taz” and “Pluz” mean “large number, many” and “koz” and “minz” mean “small number, few”. “e-” and “o-” form the corresponding comparatives and superlatives as already described.

In many languages the same word is used for “more” and “most”, the latter being distinguished by placing a definite article before it. We see a semblance of this in English. “Most people…” means a majority of people, not the maximal possible number. The actual superlative is “the most people…” Diinlang will use the same system as in English.

As in English, Diinlang words for “more” may be used to mean “extra” or “additional”, “an extra number of”, or “an additional quantity of”.

If an absolute superlative is needed the word for “very” can be utilized.

“The very most XXX” = “De reta oplu/ota XXX”.

When comparing two or more items we have a number of options in Diinlang that serve the function of “than”. These include “da” (of), “no”(nor) and “as”.

When things are equal we can use the word “iyso” (“equal”, “same”) instead of the comparative. We can also use the construction “as…as…”.

As alternate comparatives and superlatives the words “major”, “minor”, “maxima” and “minima” can be used. Lancelot Hogben in Interglossa’ 1943 notes that these words are in wide international use in mathematics and the physical sciences. Interstingly, Interglossa used “plu” but unlike many conlangs used it to mark plurality.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Possession in Diinlang

Following the latest changes to Diinlang I will cover how possession is dealt with. There are several ways to do this in Diinlang.

The first way is to use an “X of Y” construction as is used in most Romance languages. In Diinlang “the book of Jon” would be “de buuk da Jon” and “the books of Jon” is “dez buuk da Jon”.

As in English, the possessor can be placed before the possession. In English this uses the apostrophe that so mystifies so many users. In Diinlang the system is simpler and uses the connecting word “vo”. “Jon’s book” is “Jon vo buuk”. To say “Jon’s books” “vo” can be pluralized to make “Jon voz buuk”. The same mechanisms are used with pronouns, which do not change other than being placed with “da” or “vo”. “De buuk da mi”, “mi vo buuk” are “The book of mine”, “My book” and so on.

vo” effectively marks as noun or pronoun as being the possessor of the thing discussed. Therefore “buuk Jon vo”, “buuk mi vo” and “dez buuk Jon vo” are viable constructions.

Note that the use of “vo” is effectively optional. It can be omitted when the meaning is clear. Looked at another way, it is applied when clarity is needed. Such a construction is most likely to be used with a pronoun or proper noun. With normal nouns the meaning may be less clear. Thus, “Jon’s book” can be simply “Jon buuk”.

The third mechanism is to use the possessor as an adjective for the noun of interest. “The Jon book” = “de Jon buuk” or “de buuk Jon”. This can also be done with a pronoun: “de mi buuk” or “de buuk mi”. This system is most useful when the possessor is designated with a pronoun or proper noun. With other nouns the meaning may become unclear and one of the other schemes should be used.

Monday 16 April 2018

Of and From

When I was researching Scots I came across the use of “o” for “of”. Something similar is sometimes encountered in English but as a contraction. In Scots, the word for “of” is “o”. The recent changes I made to the coordinating conjunctions have eliminated this possible use in Diinlang, “o” now meaning “or”.

I am not totally satisfied with the use of “del” for “of/from”. I prefer the most used words in Diinlang to be short. In many Romance languages “de” is used for “of/from”. “De” is used in Diinlang as the definite article. This word, or similar sounding words such as “the” in English are used by a wide number of languages, particularly Germanic ones. I cannot see many viable alternatives for the definite article. “Li” or “le” could be used but the “l” sound might trouble some users, and “re” already has a distinct use. Additionally “li” is already used to mean “way” and is used as an adverb ending with similar meaning. English has a wider distribution than any of the Romance languages so I went with “de” for “the” rather than “of/from”.

With “de” off the table Italian offers “di” and “da”. “Di” is a homophone of “de” so that leaves “da”. In practice I think that Diinlang will need two words that mean “from”. In English the use of “of” and “from” overlap. “Book of Jon” could mean it is a book belonging to Jon, or a book about Jon. It can even mean a book written by Jon. “Book from Jon” also has multiple meanings. Did Jon make the book, write it or send it?

In Diinlang we will use “da” and “po”. “Po” is derived from the Latin “ab” and the derived term “apo” that is used in several conlangs.

Da” means “of/from” and is the term used when the meaning is mainly possessive.

Po” mainly means “from” and is used when describing movement or spatial relationship.

As in English and some other languages there is some overlap. “Left of the ship” and “left from the ship” are equally valid.

The Italian “da” and “di” and their equivalent “de” in other Romance languages have a number of other applications that may be applicable to Diinlang. For example, these words can also mean “at”, “by”, “as”, “since” etc.

Sunday 15 April 2018

Shorter Conjunctions

One of my aims in Diinlang is to make the words that are used the most as compact as possible. On the past I suggested that the conjunctions “and” and “or” be “et” and “or” with the related terms “etor” and “nor”. Portuguese uses “e” for “and”, equivalent to the Spanish “y” and phonetically similar as an “i” sound. In Portuguese “o” as used as a definite article.

“o” and “e” are clearly workable as stand-alone sounds in a spoken language so using them for “or” and “and” in Diinlang seems logical. “etor” therefore becomes “eo”, which will probably be pronounced as “ə-oh”.

“Nor” poses a problem since simply putting an “n” on “o” gives us “no”, which is already in use. Some languages use “ni” or “ne” for nor. Referring to Lingua Franca Novial (LFN) shows they have only four coordinating conjunctions: “e”, “o”, “no” and “ma”. “No” joins sentence components where the first is valid and the second is not. “Ma” is used for “but” and joins valid but contrasting components. LFN has no distinct word for “nor”, instead using “” constructions as the equivalent of the English “”. In a sentence where “nor” might be used at the start “no” can be used instead. Based on this Diinlang may also do without a specific word for nor. If nothing else this will avoid the error in English of using “neither” with “or”.

Ma” is a word that I would like to reserve for “mother” in Diinlang. Interestingly some linguists believe that this is a word babies teach parents, rather than the reverse. Many languages use “mas” or “mais” to mean “but” but a more compact word would be preferable. “But” can be thought of as an exclusive “and” so logically “ne” may be the term used in Diinlang. This is compact and sufficiently distinct from the other conjunctions. “Ne” will also have the meaning “yet” (as a conjunction), “nevertheless” and “however”.

Coordinating conjunctions are therefore:

e, o, eo, no, ne.

Saturday 14 April 2018

Chinese into Diinlang.

Yesterday’s post got me thinking further about importing Mandarin/ Standard Chinese words into Diinlang. The main problem is that many words are rendered the same in English, the only distinction being the tone marker. On the plus side, the potential exists for a consistent system to derive a word dependent on the tone value assigned. For example, for the word rendered in pinyin as “ma” the first tone, meaning “mother” would be “ma”, the second, for “hemp” would be “mab”, the third for “horse” would be “mak” and so on. In practice some of these words and meanings already have other assignments, but that is an example of how the mechanic might work.

The following is a suggestion to get the ball rolling. The actual system is undoubtedly better managed by someone with a better knowledge of Standard Chinese than my own.

Most Chinese words are composed of an initial and a final. The initials are all consonants. Initials are combinations of vowels or semi-vowels and some may end in the codas -n, -ng or more rarely, -r/-er. In some words there is a medial between the initial and final, written in Pinyin as i-, u- or ü- but often having a y-, w- or yu- sound.

The standard system for converting Chinese into the Roman alphabet is Pinyin, which unfortunately for our purposes is not phonetic. Some of the Roman letters it uses it assigns very divergent phonemes to. More useful for our purposes is Bopomofo (Zhuyin). Interesting is that the symbol that Bopomofo uses for “en” Pinyin changes to “-in” if there is a “y-” medial before it. Similarly “eng” becomes “ing” or “ong” in Pinyin depending on medial. Just to complicate matters, the actually pronounciation of “ong” is apparently closer to “uung”.

Bopomofo has seventeen symbols for finals. Pinyin renders these as the following. I have put more phonetic renditions of some words in green. Some of these finals may be preceded by medials, which would change the Pinyin spelling:

i, yi, wu, yu, a, o, e(uh), ye, ai(iy), ei(ay), ao(ou), ou(oh), an, en, ang, eng, er

A word/ syllable in Bopomofo is therefore up to three characters plus a tone marker or number. To use this for creating Diinlang words a consistent protocol for transcribing initials needs to be adopted. -n and -ng endings work well for Diinlang, therefore any modification of the word for tone should precede nasal codas. How to handle “en” and “eng” also needs to be considered. Should these become “in” and “ing” when preceded by a “y”?

Standard Chinese has four tones and a neutral tone. If the number one tone is transcribed directly from Bopofomo this suggests we need four modifier letters that can be placed at the end of a final and before a nasal coda. Possible letters are b, l, k, r, s.

Friday 13 April 2018

Language Influences for Diinlang.

Diinlang is both an “a priori” and “a posteriori language. By studying existing languages we can gain an insight into what mechanisms work. Drawing on natural languages (“natlangs”) for vocabulary provides us with words that may be familiar to the user and aid in learning. There are, however, times when the cluttered table must be swept clean and a new mechanism trialled. Today I am going to look at some of the other languages that may or should have an influence on the development of Diinlang.

English is apparently the third most spoken native language in the world. It is the most widely spoken of the Germanic languages. It is the most globally spoken language, with native speakers stretching from Canada to Australia. Significantly it is also the most spoken second language. If you are struggling in Spanish or Mandarin, throwing in the English phrase might help. Using Spanish when speaking Mandarin or vice versa is not so likely to be successful.

As I have remarked before, a conlang does not exist in a vacuum. Nor, for that matter, do most modern natlangs. In many conlangs there seems to be a tendency to try and pretend English does not exist, ignoring that it is one of the most widely spoken of languages.

English can be very compact, a single syllable performing the task that other languages need multi-syllable words for. On the downside some English syllables can prove problematic for non-native speakers. Diinlang needs to establish what syllable structures are permissible if it is going to utilize English words.

Of course, English is not without its faults. It has many irregularities and homophones. The same word can have diverse and event contradictory meanings. I have seen it claimed that thirteen per cent, approximately one in eight, of English words are not spelt as they are pronounced. When this is not the case there are often multiple ways that the word can be spelt.

Conlangs such as Lojban/ Loglan include English in the languages there derive words from but fail to take into account is distribution and popularity as a second or official language, so give it less weighting than Mandarin and Spanish.

Mandarin is the most spoken native language, although the majority of its speakers are in China or Taiwan. Mandarin/ Standard Chinese is a tonal language so even worse than English for homophones. The same word can have four tones and consequent changes of meanings. This makes it difficult to integrate Chinese words into Diinlang. The grammatical structure of Mandarin is apparently relatively consistent and this may be useful in the refinement of Diinlang.

Spanish is the second most spoken native language, although the majority of speakers are in the Americas. On the plus side Spanish is closely related to many of the Romance languages, so words and mechanisms derived from Spanish may prove comprehensible to speakers of other languages. Lingua Franca Nova may also prove to be useful when drawing from the Romance languages for inspiration.

Another language that Diinlang must consider is International Scientific Vocabulary (ISV), which uses many words derived from Greek and Latin in addition to some novel terms or usages.  Many of these terms are comprehensible or familiar to speakers of other languages, even those not scientifically inclined. Glossa and Interlingua may prove useful inspirations here, although phonology will need to be addressed. ISV has obvious applications in creating the names of animals, plants and chemicals in Diinlang.

I am inclined to suggest that Japanese also be considered in the construction of Diinlang. Its number of native speakers is not particularly high, although higher than most European languages. Distribution is also rather restricted. However, Japan has a notable economic and cultural influence so many Japanese words are in global use. This should probably be considered when creating Diinlang.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Adjectives Group One.

Version 1.1
Adjectives continue to be a challenge. Probably the most logical approach is to break them into smaller bites. If lists of things such as suffixes must be memorized then it seems prudent to break them into “chunks” of seven or less.

Many constructed languages choose to mark adjectives and adverbs with distinct affixes. In fact, some of these only mark descriptive adjectives, using different systems or none at all for other types. Similarly, marked adverbs tend to be adverbs of manner.

In most natural and many constructed languages there are many adjective words that have no distinctive marking. Some of these words also serve as verbs or nouns. Function is indicated by position and context. If the role of a word can be determined in this fashion also marking the word seems redundant and an unnecessary source of errors.

Many adjectives are formed by compounding words.

A large number of adjectives or words that serve as adjectives in English are derived from the active, perfect or passive forms of verbs. Examples include “opening, running, wooden, winged” and many others. For Diinlang I feel it is easier to use these in a single form rather than switching suffix depending on whether the word is serving as a verb, gerund, adverb, adjective etc. In Diinlang these verb-derived “adjectivoids” will end in “-ing/ -ying” or “-d/ -id”. The progressive/ active forms might be termed “adjectives of doing” while the perfect/ passive are probably “adjectives of having/ being”.

The above suggests that it is unlikely that a single suffix can be used for all adjectives, even if it is limited to only descriptive adjectives. More logical is to use affixes only when it is necessary to indicate that an adjective is a particular variant or when adjectival nature needs to be emphasised.

Several conlangs opt to use “-al” as a generic adjective suffix since this is also used by a number of natlangs. In English this suffix is more specific and indicates adjectives “of or pertaining to the root”. The suffix “-ic” has an identical use in English, and some adjectives even have “-ical” as a suffix, although the “ic” may have a non-adjective origin. It is worth noting that the “-al” suffix also produces nouns in English.

For Diinlang I am going to propose that an equivalent of the English “-y/ -ie/ -e/ -ey/ -i-” be used as the generic adjectival marker. This is a very useful and productive suffix in English. Wiktionary notes that this ending or its homophones can be added to nearly any English word to create an “adjectivey” meaning. (Soon after I had made the decision to use “-y” I overheard my girlfriend jokingly use the term “wettie” to describe a rain-soaked friend.)

When used with a noun root “-y” has the meaning of “having the quality of” while with a verb it has the meaning of “inclined to”. Examples being “messy, hairy, sticky, runny, clayey, doggy etc”. This suffix also forms abbreviated/ diminutive/ affectionate nouns without any confusion with it adjective role. The same word often does both duties. Consider “I love granny” vs “you wear granny boots”.

In a previous post I suggested the Diinlang equivalent of “-y” be “-yi”. Both are phonetically very similar to “-i” endings of Diinlang words. Possibly words with an “-i” ending can be treated as having an optional adjectival (or adverbial) use. If so, adding “-i” to the end of a word that lacks an “-i” or “-yi/ -hi” to one that has one creates an adjective. See here for vowel clash rules.

Adjectives equivalent to “-al” or “-ic” in English are formed with “-ali/ -yali/ -hali”.

Adverbs of manner are created by adding “-ili” as a suffix. Many such adverbs will be formed from adjectives that already end in “-i” in which case just “-li” may be added. This gives the phonetic equivalent of the adverbial “-ly” ending in English. “Li”  is already used in Diinlang for constructions such as “ke li?” meaning “what manner/ how?” This needs some fine tuning. Were a root ends in an “-i”, “-u” or non-vowel just “-li” may acceptable. Should “-a”, “-e” and “-o” take “-hli” or “-hili”?

Adjectives specifying time intervals (daily, monthly, etc) are formed in Diinlang using “-re” or perhaps “-ire”. This is obviously related to “-adre”, the verbal suffix for a repetitive action.

Many “adjectives of similarity” in Diinlang are likely to be compounds; the equivalents of English suffixes such as “-like”, “-ish”, “-oid”, “-ful”, “-esque”, “-ous”. “-osi” is an adjective of similarity that is grouped here since it resembles –i/ -yi, -ali, -ili. “oso/ osa” is used in a number of languages to mean “-ous/ -ose”. Therefore Diinlang has “-osi” meaning “having an abundance or characterised by the root”. “-osi” also means “-ful” in the adjective sense. “-osi” can therefore be used to create the Diinlang equivalents of “hateful”, “bulbous”, “golden”, “wooden”. Nouns of measurement such as “handful” or “bowlful” are made in Diinlang by compounding with “-fu” (full).

“-able/ ible” is a very productive suffix in English and a number of other languages use it or a direct equivalent. As previously noted, it has a wide range of uses and a decision needed to be made as whether to embrace this fuzziness for Diinlang, or how much to. My original idea was that such adjectives be created by compounding with “zhan”; “to be able”. Most of the uses of “-able/ ible” appear to be passive, however. In the definitions on the wiktionary page “to be” can be replaced with “to get” with no change of meaning. For Diinlang I am going to suggest “-ibel” as an equivalent suffix. Note that the “-i” at the start has a short sound.
This group of adjective/ adverb suffixes are therefore:
  • -i/ -yi Generic adjective suffix: “inclined to” or “having the quality of”.
  • -ali “of or pertaining to the root”.
  • -ili/ -li Adverbial suffix meaing “in the manner of”.
  • -osi Forms adjectives which mean “having or possessing, especially in great quantity, apparently made of”.
  • -ibel Denotes “what is susceptible to the root”.