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This week we cover the monumental and yet incomplete amman îar, a heavily Tolkien-inspired language that nevertheless manages to have its own flavor.

Top of Show Greeting: Uskra

Featured Conlang: amman îar


Email from FE:


I don’t know if someone has already addressed this, however, in episode 40 you discussed the ubiquity of British-esque varieties in fantasy media and introduced the implications thereof but weren’t able to come up with examples besides the Game of Thrones series and which William (or Bianca?) noted largely features British actors. There is also the issue, unaddressed, that fantasy media like Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings films portray fantasy worlds explicitly based at least partially on an indeterminately ancient Britain.

Some examples that came to my mind during this discussion that can’t be explained away by the native variety of the performers were the films “Gladiator” and “Troy”. While the former is not strictly fantasy its pseudohistorical adventure genre utilizes the same linguistic trope.

In the case of “Gladiator”, I vaguely recall that a cast member on the DVD commentary addressing the fact that nearly all the non-British cast members (among them Americans, Danes and Kiwis) who were portraying Romans adopted their own approximation of the English accent that actors like Derek Jacobi had naturally. If I recall correctly, the commenter mentioned that someone (either one of the producers, the director, or actor Richard Harris) found their mangled fake accents appalling, but it was par for the course on a film like this.

The dialogue in Troy features the constant use of the term “Milord” by characters when addressing their social superiors. This word shows up in a lot of fantasy and historical films as a generic marker of social stratification despite the fact that, as I understand it, until very recently in English it was never used as a form of general address and only used in a specific context (that is, addressing a person to who bore the specific title of “Lord”). See also “Game of Thrones” and the 2004 film “King Arthur” (English people before they were English!).

Thanks for making the podcast. William’s brain is a sexy beast.

11 Responses to “Conlangery #61: amman îar”

  1. Anthony Docimo

    Do my ears deceive me – was that Bianca doing the intro conlang? (seriously, were my ears tricking me again)

    when I was growing up, “bushy-tailed” could be used with or separate from “bright-eyed”…”bushy-tailed” normally tended to be a (synonym) for “perky” and “overly-cheerful” and (which was the original meaning) “alert.”

    ps: unless there’s a missing podcast you guys are going to save for a special occassion, shouldn’t this be #61?

    • admin

      Yes, that is Bianca, I happened to strike up a conversation with her on Skype and told her that I was out of greetings, so she made me one.

      And yes, this is #61. I am an idiot. I’ve fixed it now. Thankfully, the metadata and filename for the MP3 were correct.

      • Anthony Docimo

        more proof of Bianca’s verycoolness and greatness.

        not an idiot,. just very busy. it was an easy mistake to make and not notice until someone points it out.

    • wm.annis

      I don’t hate [æ] myself, but for me using it would make implications about the size of my vowel inventory. Since I tend to stick with smaller phoneme sets, [æ] would tend (though not absolutely) to fight against smaller inventory sizes. I briefly considered it as an allophonic realization of /a/ in Kahtsaai, but decided against it in the end.

  2. MBR

    Hey, hey, don’t be hatin’ on [ɹ] and [æ]! I have [ɹ] in Hra’anh (even in the name!), contrasting with [ɾ], and [ɹʷ] in Fok’iándole with occasional [ɾ] allophony. Just for that, I’m going to create a conlang with [æ]. 😛

    And it looks like I’m going to have to hurry up and create more greetings!

  3. Okuno Zankoku

    I actually do meditate (after picking a few good conwords from a generator) when I’m putting meanings onto words. Then again, I generally end up with 12-25 words and the same number of meanings I want to assign (from a translation, usually). So instead of having one word or one meaning and thrashing about for a pair, I just partition pairings up based on which words are better for which meaning (as opposed to good in an absolute sense), which really speeds the process.

    What I really hate is when I’m down to one word shape in my dictionary and need to come up with a meaning so I can reach a suitable stopping point >.< Yeah, that's the worst. Of course, unlike Will, I'm not able to put a lot of phonotactic richness into my generator, technologically or otherwise. So, I'm not willing to entrust my lexicon to a machine just yet, and as a programmer, I know exactly the price I'm paying for that T.T

  4. Matthew

    To add another example of the fascination with English accents. My father got really upset after my family went to see “Hugo” because everyone was using an English accent; strange since the majority, if not all, of the characters are French or grew up in France, and the film takes place in France. The movie isn’t fantasy, and it’s set in a real place, but it certainly isn’t going for realism, so I think it fits.

    BTW Uskra sounds incredible! 😀

  5. Roman Rausch

    Sorry to say it, but ámman îar seems like a total mess historically, it confuses the heck out of me:
    – How can nasal mutation yield an+m > av while in compounds one has nm > mm? It would mean that nasal mutation just selects certain prefixes which is not how things work in natural languages.
    – Sindarin already had an established umlaut in the plural triggered by -i which vanished later. Ámman îar doesn’t continue it, but tells us that -i was appended to words again (from Quenya or what??) and caused new umlaut independently (??).
    – There is no internal i-umlaut: Why is the initial vowel in amil unaffected, but becomes emil in the plural? It would mean that i-umlaut just selects plural -i and no other i, which is not how things work in natural languages…
    – Lenition caused by r is strange enough in its own way, but here again we see words like erthulel < er-tulo e-l contradicting this rule.
    – The vocabulary is a wild and strange mixture of Quenya and Sindarin. The root ADAR is clearly S. adar ‘father’, while ADHAN is S. adan ‘man’ with secondary lenition for whatever reason. ALDAR is the Quenya plural ‘trees’ (why??).

    I think the language would have fared better just as an a priori language without the Elvish stuff. (Among the given 33 A-roots I count 18 Elvish ones by the way, so more than half.)

    • Opalescent Yams

      A morphological process whereby an -[i] suffix occurs along with vowel change on the preceding syllable seems perfectly reasonable as something naturalistic to me? Of course it would mean that the i-umlaut is a process that does not properly belong in the phonology per se but is rather something morphophonological, and I don’t know enough about ámman îar to be able to say if this is a supportable interpretation, but just based on what you mentioned above it seems fine?

  6. Qwynegold

    I have created a couple of pen and paper word generators where you use a dice. The good thing about this is that you can specify how common different phonemes should be, and you can set up rules so you don’t generate words that break your phonotactics (like which two consonants can appear next to one another). The downside is that depending on complexity, it might require a lot of dice tossing.


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