3 Responses to “Conlangery SHORTS #10: Phrasebook: How do you say …?”

  1. Otto Kerner

    I’ve never heard that Romance expression before, but I liked that and the instrumental case for languages both so much I decided to rip both of them off for my conlang:

    mwámwo t́úʼạȟ Îňgališáʼ nuʼẹ́lu ñéliš wazáňgo
    ˈmwɑmwo̝ ˈtʰuʔɑ̰χ ˌiŋgəlɨˈʃɑʔ nʊˈʔḛlu ˈɲelɨʃ wəˈzɑŋgo̝
    mwámwo.t́úʼạȟ Îňgališ- áʼ nuʼẹ́lu ñél- iš wazá- ňgo
    “slow loris” English- INST using.PRTCPL what- OBV say.IRR- DES.3S>3
    “How do you say ‘mwamwo tu’akh’ (slow loris) in English?”

    Semantically, this sentence is identical to/could also be translated as “What does the slow loris want to say when it’s using English?” The distinction is purely from context (I’m sure a native speaker could come up with a circumlocution if it were really necessary).

  2. Gleki

    This series of phrasebook episodes is probably even more interesting to me than all the previous episodes. The explanation is very simple: practice. Instead of picking arbitrary aspects of different languages like words, syntax, sentences you are now turning to discussing real life situations. Once we tried to create a multilingual phrasebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/nizami-phrasebook) but it soon appeared that even the most simple phrases vary among languages and there can be no direct translation. So instead of making phrasebooks one needs to make “A traveller’s situation guide”.

  3. Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets

    Hi there!
    First, thanks for using my full name (and nearly getting the pronunciation right :P).
    I just wanted to add a small comment to the Basque situation of using the “to want to say” idiom (esan nahi in Basque) to mean “to mean”, as in Romance languages.
    One thing one needs to remember is that for nearly as long as we have records of the language, Basque has never been the only language of the Basque people. It may be the native language of a majority of Basque people (even nowadays), but in all of recorded history the Basque people have always been at least bilingual. There have just never been monolingual Basque speakers, as far as we know. Of course, during the course of history the other languages the Basque people spoke have changed (from pre-Romance languages in the past, to Vulgar Latin in Roman times, to Romance languages like Gascon in the Middle Ages, to Modern French and Spanish nowadays), but bilingualism has always been the norm in the Basque Country.
    This intimate and centuries-old contact between Basque and other (mostly Romance) languages means that Basque has assimilated quite a few features from them. Besides straight up borrowings (including grammatical borrowings, like the postposition (!) kontra: “against”, and the suffix -tu, from Latin -tus, now the productive suffix to form verbs in Basque), such long contact means calques are far from out of the question, and the expression esan nahi could just be one of them, especially since it’s an expression that is common in both Spanish and French, the two languages Basque has been in most contact with for at least three centuries.
    Another small comment is about the use of the instrumental to indicate the language one is speaking in (as in euskaraz: “in Basque”, with -z being the instrumental case suffix). Interestingly, in Basque the instrumental case is losing ground, mostly to the comitative case -ekin: “with” and to the elative case -tik: “from”. One of the few areas where the instrumental use is still strong and seems in no danger of falling out of use is in denoting means of expression, including languages, but also expressions like hitz batez: “in one word”, izkribuz: “in writing” or seinalez: “by signs” (and it’s productive: Poe-ren hitzez azal dezakegu: “We can explain it with the words of Poe”).
    Somehow, this use of the instrumental case is seen as important enough not to fall out of use, despite it becoming more an more uncommon in other uses, including its canonical use to indicate instrument or means!


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