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Today, we spend a ridiculous amount of time talking about adpositions, creating an hour-long discussion out of something William thought would be short.  We also have an extra special featured conlang today — one hand crafted specifically for this podcast!

Top of Show Greeting: Opaki Aŋkuati

Links and Resources:

Featured Conlang: Junen Rhá

Hey Guys,

Here’s my try at the caseless conlang exercise. Sorry it’s a little
late in coming, but I was busy the last few weeks and am only now
catching up with the podcast. 🙂

It’s been a good many years since I sketched out more than a phoneme
inventory for a conlang, so I apologize for it being a little rough.



Question, I am new to the whole conlang concept.
I have been a podcast subscriber since week 1 when I read about it on the Conlang Mailing List.
I have been lurking on the subject for years at this point, but still haven’t started.

Your podcast is the first place I have heard about IPA, I have downloaded the chart from Wikipedia,
Is there some way to make sense of it?  I mean if IPA is somewhat necessary for others to understand what you are doing.
I have no formal linguistics training.

Any help with IPA would be appreciated.

Matt from Oklahoma

Response to Feedback:


13 Responses to “Conlangery #43: Adpositions”

  1. Ossicone

    It’s the Stroop test.

    EDIT: BTW, ‘stop’ and ‘plosive’ don’t mean exactly the same thing. But it is very common to use stop to mean plosive. (I do this myself because I think the word plosive is dumb.) Stops include nasals (and some other junk) whereas ‘plosive’ only includes oral stops.

    EDITEDIT: The new guy is good. 😀

    • Michael (葉明毅)

      @Ossicone – Thanks for the input! XD

      You’re absolutely right; Well done!


  2. MBR

    You do sound much better, George! Blue is a fantastic mic maker, and I have the Blue Snowball as well. I second it as well!

  3. Estonian Learner

    Adpositons! Love them and their quirkiness in Irish (Gaelic Celtic) and Estonian (Finno).

    The Unfolding of Language by Deutscher is a very interesting read and part of it deals with metaphor and having read it I became aware of how prevalent it is in language.

    English: The BACK of the building, in the FACE of adversity, and the FOOT of the mountain.

    I love the use of ‘juur’ (root) in Estonian.

    Mine isa juurde! – Go to father! (lit. Go to father’s root)
    Olen Eva juures. – I’m at Eva’s place (lit. I am in Eva’s root)

    In Estonia there is also, like in English, use of pea ‘head’

    Laua peal – On the table (table-genitive head-locative)

    but also kõrv ‘ear’ as in

    Istu minu kõrval – Sit beside me (lit. Sit at my ear)

    Nice to hear you mention the Celtic languages. Fused prepositional pronouns are an area that English-speakers find very confusing at first.

    When I was at school we hated learing these long lists but now as an adult I don’t even think about it. It just seems so normal and natural.

    It gets funny sometimes because we don’t have a verb for possession in Irish. Rather we say ‘there is x at y’ tá x ag y. In Irish (and in Irish English) you can say ‘I have French’ just like in German languages you say ‘I can French’. Anyway to say some relative clause like:

    I see the men who speak Irish you must say ‘Feicim na fir a bhfuil Gaeilge acu’ (lit. I see the men that there is Irish at them)

    We also have this repetition of the object like:

    Sin í an bhean a bhfanann siad léi
    ‘That is the woman they stay with’
    (lit. That is the woman that they stay with her)

    And you’re right. The preposition ‘ag’ (at) is used in forming the progressive

    They are crying literally translates as ‘they are at (the activity of) crying’

    They are hitting me ‘they are at (the activity of) my hitting’

    Love the podcast, keep it up!

  4. Anthony Miles

    A good example of what William was describing as ‘inpositions’ in Latin is “magna cum laude.” It literally means “with great praise,” (cum is “with”). In English, however, the entire phrase is adverbial – “He graduated magna cum laude.” If anyone wants to see how a minimal adposition system works, I suggesst Tok Pisin and its cousins.

  5. Joe Schelin

    I had a comment for Matt- trying to learn the IPA…
    I used this book “A Practical Introduction to Phonetics ” to learn most of what I know about phonetics. It takes you through how sounds are made, and where in your mouth. It’s got experiments to guide you through making all the sounds on the IPA chart, with a good explanation of how to make the sounds. It was really helpful when I was trying to figure it out myself 🙂


  6. Bryn LaFollette

    Great to hear you guys liked my humble little artlang! Also that you guys enjoyed the “easter eggs” (I like Mike’s term) throughout. One of my favorite aspects of reading grammars has always been the tantalizing patterns that aren’t mentioned in the analysis proper, hinting at deeper levels of historical derivation and grammar. So, aesthetically, I guess that’s the most artlangiest of nerding out I’m prone to.

    Phonologically, my inspiration was native California languages (especially Maidu and Inezeño Chumash), and South-East Asian languages, specifically Hmong but also the Mon-Khmer langauges. The vowel inventory was sort of a lark, but my idea was to take a typical four-vowel system, like George guessed, and then add the high central vowel typical of pretty much all of the above languages. Then I just sorta decided to toss out roundness on the high back vowel. (Incidentally, although Japanese is more well known for this, Hopi also went that way.) I don’t think the resulting inventory would be stable in the long term, and likely even in its current form the orthographic ‘e’ could be pronounced [ə] (schwa) with complete comprehensibility. Perhaps I’ll take up William’s challenge of produce some audio recordings of readings. 🙂

    Syntactically, I’ll admit that I can’t speak to the naturalness splitting the specific roles of Topic and Focus to distinct, opposite locations as I did. My thinking was that both clause initial and final positions are points of high salience, and riffed on that concept. Part of my inspiration for this is how in casual spoken Japanese you can sort of shunt a noun phrase off to append it sentence-finally, thereby giving it a sort of nonchalant focus. The effect being sort of like saying “I already ate it. The cookie (that is).”

  7. Bryn LaFollette

    One clarification of my use of the term Hortative in Junen Rhá: The interpretation you were giving of “Let’s V” in the podcast would specifically be the Cohortative mood (which is also sometimes referred to as the Volitional or Commitative). While that is included in the set of moods covered by the term “Hortative”, and I think in the right context that would be a possible interpretation of Hortative constructions in Junen Rhá, my intended meaning was closer to an Exhortative mood along the lines of English “should”.

    • Michael (葉明毅)

      Thanks for the clarifications, @Bryn! And thanks for sharing Junen Rhá with us! XD

  8. Melvar

    Lojban has two classes of prepositionable things: tenses and the so-called modals. The latter each correspond to a verb, allowing one to add its first place to the sentence. The classical example is bau, corresponding to bangu “is a language”, to add an argument to the sentence in the role of language. One can use the inverse particles (SE) to convert modals to refer to a different place of their corresponding verb (thus se bau adds an argument with role “language-user” instead). Any verb can be converted to a modal preposition with the particle fi'o.
    Tense particles have a historically separate origin, and do not generally correspond to verbs, though certain ones are obviously related. For example ca “at the same time as”, also the present, relates to cabna “is simultaneous with”, while vi “near, at, close to in space”, also “nearby, here”, relates to no verb I can think of.
    Their use alone (yes, I realize that violates the primary test mentioned) acts much as ellipsis of their subordinate phrase. That is the way that ca indicates the present tense, etc.
    The particle mo'i can be used with tenses to indicate motion (towards by default, it seems), so ne'i is “inside”, and mo'i ne'i is “into”.
    As for “the man on the moon”, the straightforward way to put it would be with a relative clause le remna poi zvati le lunra “[nominalizer] is-human [restrictive-relative-clause] is-at [nominalizer] is-a-moon-of”, “the human which is on the moon”, but alternatively one might link a prepositional phrase to the verb remna “to be human”, yielding le remna be vi le lunra “[nominalizer] {is-human at [nominalizer] is-a-moon-of}” with the grouping indicated by {}, “the human-be-(at-the-moon)-er”. The latter, I would judge, focuses the humanity more and the being-at-the-moon less, and does not mention the restrictiveness of the relative clause (which I assumed; if you meant it to be nonrestrictive, replace poi by noi).

  9. Rhamos Vhailejh

    I actually created a custom keyboard layout for Windows which allows me to type IPA for English and for all of my conlangs. I need to go back and modify it a bit though. Having to copy/paste the symbols for its modern allophony is such a pain. Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator 1.4 for the win.

  10. Teal Briner

    I know this comment is a few years late, but I found a FANTASTIC resource for IPA! Some of the more exotic sounds are difficult to manage without a proper description, but a youtube channel called Glossika Phonics offers diagrams of exactly how to form the words. And not just for your boring everyday [ɮ], but also various mutations of “base” IPA. Want help pronouncing [ ɹ̠ˁʷ ]? They’ve got you covered. They’re really helping me master some of the more exotic sounds (and no, I’m not being paid to say this!) They’re over here:


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