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We throw out some tips for how to kick certain creative habits you might have developed as you create languages.  Then we review the Akana language Tmaśareʔ.

Top of Show greeting: Myonian

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Featured Conlang: Tmaśareʔ


Okuno Zankoku (email)
Since you always want to know, I’ve just started a sketch of an analytic language, and have been trying to think of how I might create an aspect that’s realized lexically rather than morphosyntactically. You’re podcast on politeness and formality was pretty much exactly what I needed, now I just have to figure out the exact levels and derivations.Keep these coming, they’re very enlightening, even to someone already relatively experienced in the subjects you discuss.

8 Responses to “Conlangery #15: Getting out of Creative Ruts”

  1. Jan Strasser

    Thanks a lot for selecting Tmaśareʔ as your Featured Conlang! It’s great to receive feedback in this way, and I’m glad to hear that the aesthetic flavor I was shooting for with this language appears to have worked out! Much of the Native North American flavor is actually based on just four sound changes: a merger of /u/ into /o/, a collapse of the three plosive series of Proto-Western into one (with aspiration metathesizing with the following vowel, giving lots of coda /h/), a collapse of all word-final plosives into /ʔ/, and nasal mutation of approximants /w l j/ into /m n ɲ/ when adjacent to a nasalized vowel (creating lots of those distinctive consonant clusters such as /tm/ or /kɲ/).

    Of course, it’s also a good thing to receive some constructive criticism to respond to. I’ll address a few points here briefly, and I’ll be happy to add more detailed explanations to the Tmaśareʔ grammar in the next months.

    There are several example sentences with applicatives in the syntax section, and many more in the sample texts. What the applicative prefixes do is promoting the object of an adposition to a core argument of the verb, specifically the primary absolutive, which triggers agreement on the verb. Any previously existing absolutive argument of a transitive clause will be demoted to secondary absolutive (syntactically parallel to the recipient in a dative clause), and will not require agreement anymore. For the core meanings of the four applicative prefixes (beneficiary or purpose, instrument, location, goal), Tmaśareʔ usually prefers using applicatives rather than postpositional phrases. As an example, the following two sentences are semantically equivalent, but the second one would be the more usual way to say it:

    Pahohcaʔǫ weyoʔ kǫpe.
    paho-hca-ʔo-ɴ weye-oʔ kǫpe
    walk-towards-DIR-1SG hill-GEN towards
    ‘I’m walking towards the hill’

    Weye kpahohcaʔǫce.
    weye-Ø k-paho-hca-ʔo-ɴce
    hill-ABS LAT-walk-towards-DIR-1SG>3.VII
    ‘I’m walking towards the hill’

    Noun incorporation
    Again, there are more examples in the sample texts (try searching the page for “-<", which I've used in the glosses for segmenting incorporated nouns). The exact pragmatic effect of this feature is still taking shape while I'm using the language for translation challenges and relay games. However, I have recently gained access to Marianne Mithun's great book The Languages of Native North America (which I had not read when I wrote the current description of Tmaśareʔ), and the natlang examples in there will definitely help a lot when I get to describing the usage of noun incorporation more fully.

    Vowel deletions
    When I came up with the sound changes for Tmaśareʔ, I had a clear notion of what typical syllables should look like, and that certain unstressed vowels should be deleted. I couldn’t find a satisfying way to code these deletions in the sound change applier though, and so I did them by hand. The patterns appear to be quite consistent, but I still haven’t quite figured out what exactly the rules for vowel deletion are… Most of the other phonological alternations in Tmaśareʔ are somewhat easier to describe though; I think I’ll add them to the grammar sometime in the near future.

    As for your suggestion that someone should derive a tonal daughterlanguage from Tmaśareʔ: Go ahead, whoever’s interested! I’ll be curious to see how it’d turn out, and I’ll be happy to answer any kind of questions that might help with such a project.

    @Bianca: I’m not so sure that “The horse and the sheep” in Tmaśareʔ is actually the same text that you have translated. 😉 The text we’ve been using as a sample text for the Western language family within the Akana project is based on Schleicher’s Fable, but the story is only roughly similar, and presented from the opposite point of view. Compare the original and the Akana version

    • Wm Annis

      If you can find a copy of her seminal paper on NI (Mithun, Marianne. 1984. The Evolution of Noun Incorporation. Language, Vol. 60, No. 4. pp. 847-894.), I highly recommend reading that. Somewhat useful notes on that paper, though too short. These days almost everyone discusses NI in terms of the four types Mithun lays out.

    • Ossicone

      Indeed. I was thinking of Schleicher’s Fable but same difference really. Well maybe not… sheep *are* delicious.

  2. Jan Strasser

    Another thing that might be interesting in connection with this episode of the podcast is the presentation that I gave at the Language Creation Conference in Groningen/NL a few months ago, together with Tam Blaxter (see here for details, for a link to a video of the presentation, and for a link to the slides). It doesn’t say anything about Tmaśareʔ, but it explains to some extent how the languages of the Akana project have become what they are, summarizes the methods we have used in creating these languages and keeping the material somewhat coherent, and gives a few hints on how to manage a collaborative conworld. Here’s the abstract:

    Collaborative conworlding projects are rarely successful. When they are proposed on a web forum or mailing list, they often receive enthusiastic responses at first, but then fade out of favour after only a few months of activity. The Akana project, however, has been running for six years so far. It features one of the largest known conlang families, and new material is still being created by a stable team of about a dozen main contributors. What is the key to its longevity?

    The talk will summarize the rather unique history of this conworld, which has developed from two diachronic conlanging games, and outline strategies that have helped to keep it alive for such a long time. We will have a detailed look at how some significant pieces of content were assembled, describe how these particular methods of collaboration have shaped the world of Akana, and single out obstacles that have arisen as the result of a certain approach. Some of the conclusions drawn from our experience with Akana may be applicable to other collaborative projects as well, and we hope to provide some hints how to keep people interested in contributing.

  3. Okuno Zankoku

    Yes! I am confusing!

    No, actually, George more-or-less had it right. I was originally going to create alternation between some sort of technical aspectual thing like perfective/imperfective or a telicity thing, or something, so that’s why I wrote aspect (I guess). After listening to you guys, though, I thought a little bit more out of the box, and I’m probably going with lexical alternations for politeness now, especially now that I’m on record 0.o

    I dunno, actually, it’s all very much in flux, and a lot of things might be incorporated lexically rather than grammatically. Except the part where I have too many voices <.<



  1.  Tmaśareʔ is Conlang of the Week « [+resonant]

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