A Martian (human) conlag

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A Martian (human) conlag

Postby HabitualGypsy » Wed 28 Aug 2013 2:47 am

So, as the subject line implied, this is not intended to be an "alien" language. It is intended to be the constructed language of human colonists on Mars in the 22nd Century.

The idea is that the further removed (time & distance) the colonists become from their "homeworld", the less they identify with their ancestral culture and seek to establish their own. Creating their own language is a blatant way to highlight their independence.

Of course, languages are rarely so pretentious in their development, so it would certainly have more organic origins as well. But for the purposes of this discussion, I want to focus primarily on the "artificial" nature of the language.

A bit of background as to why I set about doing this: I've been working on a story for quite some time that deals with the aftermath of an armed conflict between Martian colonists and "native" Earthlings. And since I'm also very interested in linguistics, the idea of a new "lingua-franca" for the Martian diaspora became intriguing. I considered using an existing one - Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, even Logban - but none really captured the essence of what I was going for.

So I decided to work on a unique one that borrows the best concepts (IMO) from existing sources and combines them with an etymological "clean slate", so to speak. What I mean by this is that while the alphabet, syntax & grammar have origins in various current languages, the actual building blocks of the words themselves are completely new. The reason for this is to, again, reinforce the nature of the Martian cultural independence. The idea is that the colonists no longer see themselves as Americans, Russians, Japanese, Germans, Chinese, etc. or even as Earthlings anymore. And by eliminating any etymological links to the ancestral tongues, they are cutting ties with the Earth/Terran culture.

The primary exception to this would be alphabet & names. The latin alphabet is used for expedience (both for me as a creator and the fictitious colonists). I see it as being wide-spread and already established, while flexible in the number of languages/families it can be effectively adapted to. I'll post the (abbreviated) version they use and its standardized pronunciations in my next post. The colonists also retain transliterated names from various Earth languages/cultures but have combined them into a complete stew as reflection of their inter-ethnic population. I'll also post transliteration guidelines and naming conventions eventually.

Finally, I wanted to actually touch on some of the structural details before elaborating on specific aspects. From a syntax standpoint, it uses a S-V-DO-IO format. Also, adjectives and adverbs are placed after the word they modify. Questions are established with a question participle (actually the word for "possible"). This is a bit similar to the Japanese usage of the participle "ka" but at the beginning of the sentence instead of the end. Punctuation is the same as most Indo-European languages.

Word endings identify the primary parts of speech (o/o' for verbs, a/a' for nouns and i/i' for adjectives & adverbs). Other prefixes can work as modifiers. The etymology of the lexicon comes from the philosophical concept of the language. Without getting into too much detail, the idea is that the most simple letter combinations form the most basic existential lingual concepts. Words are grouped together relationally as much as possible. For instance 'o' which is 'to be' relates to 'a' which is a 'thing' as well as 'i' which means 'existing'. This is the foundation of word creation. Words are generally built up out of modular "concepts" where a given word is typical descriptive of its meaning. Since I'm still in the early stages I might find this to be somewhat unwieldy when addressing complex concepts; but so far I've tried to focus on breaking words down to what they objectively represent and this has been helpful.

OK, so that long-winded intro is enough for the first post. But I want to make clear that I'm interested in feedback - I can't promise I'll agree with it :lol: but I'm interested to hear what others think even if it justs helps me re-inforce the "why" of my concepts. Also, it will not actually be called "Martian", but a translation of [fourth planet][communication] which won't be as cumbersome as it might first appear. I'm not far enough in lexicon creation for numbers and the concept of planets but the word for communication/language is "da" so you can see it probably won't be a long word.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what anyone thinks.

-Damon
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby HabitualGypsy » Wed 28 Aug 2013 3:30 am

OK, so a few comments are in order before I list the alphabet. First, it consists of 19 letters, although, three of these are alternate versions of existing vowels. I used the letter+' as it is more expedient than using non-standard latin letters.

Second, I have chosen only one of the two from what I consider similar pairs (mostly from a Japanese language perspective): b/p, c(h)/j, d/t, g/k, l/r, m/n & v/f.

Third, each letter has a single, consistent pronunciation and superfluous letters have been eliminated. For instance 'c' by itself would be unnecessary but here it represents 'ch'. Also 'g' is always hard, 'y' is always a consonant and the confusion of 'x' is resolved by using the Chinese influence and making it 'sh'.

Also, there are no multi-letter diphthongs. When multiple vowels appear consecutively, they are pronounced independently.

Finally, each letter is presented first as it appears in "Martian", then the IPA pronunciation* and finally an English example of the sound. I believe the examples are relatively universal to various dialects, but when in doubt, the American English usage is intended:

a - ɑ - car
a' - äʊ̯ - how
b - b -bat
c - t͡ʃʰ - chair
d - d - dog
e - eɪ̯ - play
g - ɡ - go
i - i - feet
i' - äɪ̯ - high
l - l - last
m - m - man
o - oʊ̯ - bone
o' - ɔɪ̯ - toy
s - s - safe
u - u̟ - moon
v - v - vice
w - w - we
x - ʃ - shall
y - j - yes

Again, the "official" pronunciation rules are rigid; however, as with all things human, variations will inevitably occur. In some cases, pronunciations will vary due to speaker comfort, in others it might be slang. The bottom line, however, is that standard "Martian" pronunciation is totally standardized.

In the next post I'll address names and, by natural extension, transliteration.

-Damon
aka Habitual Gypsy

*for some reason, the IPA symbol for the 'oo' sound of 'u' isn't displaying; just be aware that it is the same as it is most commonly pronounced in most American and Canadian dialects, as well as Received Pronunciation.
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby daniel84 » Wed 28 Aug 2013 10:52 am

HabitualGypsy wrote:Again, the "official" pronunciation rules are rigid; however, as with all things human, variations will inevitably occur. In some cases, pronunciations will vary due to speaker comfort, in others it might be slang. The bottom line, however, is that standard "Martian" pronunciation is totally standardized.


Of course that nobody are following rigid official pronunciation rules, that's why we have some many types of English languages today in the Wold.. Only "rigid" official pronunciation rules are still unites them together..
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby HabitualGypsy » Wed 28 Aug 2013 10:16 pm

daniel84 wrote:Of course that nobody are following rigid official pronunciation rules, that's why we have some many types of English languages today in the Wold.. Only "rigid" official pronunciation rules are still unites them together..

Well, I would use English as example of pretty much the opposite of what I foresee "Martian" as being... at least when it comes to standardization. The last word of the previous sentence is a prime example. That word is only spelled with a 'z' in North America - not to mention that the letter 'z' is called "zee" in the U.S. but "zed" in every other English speaking country. "Standard English" is far from "standard" even when taking the three or four broad regional/dialect groups into account.

Also, my point wasn't necessarily that every "Martian" always pronounces everything the same way but more that when following "official" pronunciation rules, each letter has one unique consistent sound.

Again, using English as example, there is pretty much at least one exception to every rule. Take the letter 'c' - off the top of my head, I can think of at least four different valid potential pronunciations when used in standard English words: ='s', ='k', ='ts', ='ch'. Of course, since English has absorbed so many words or linguistic influences from other sources, it has a certain "anything goes" quality to it. This isn't even considering its two very disparate primary parent languages: Anglo-Saxon/Old English, an early Germanic language and Norman French, a (fairly atypical) Romance language.

Since "Martian" has no etymological ancestor, these spelling/"official" pronunciation inconsistencies do not apply. By this logic, any deviation here from the official "standard" is due to human/"Martian" nature. And this is, of course, is an influence on any language to one degree or another. Also, note that the consistency of "Martian" would be far more unassailable in written, as opposed to spoken, form.

Thanks for the feedback! I hope that clarifies what I was trying to say in the original post.

-Damon
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby HabitualGypsy » Wed 28 Aug 2013 11:22 pm

Before I get into transliteration I forgot a key pronunciation concept. The penultimate syllable normally receives the accent. One interesting by-product of this, in conjunction with modular lexicon building, is that related words will often have emphasis on different syllables even seemingly unimportant ones. As I present more vocabulary, this will become more obvious.

Also, at least for now, when typing "Martian" words, I will make them red when first introduced. This is opposed to enclosing them in single quotes as I have been doing so far. This should alleviate confusion concerning the letters, a', i' and o'. If anyone finds this confusing, let me know and I'll see about another solution.

OK, now on to transliteration. Remember how I specified the way I limited the alphabet and, therefore, number of sounds? Well, this works as a shortcut for transliteration, as well. When encountering a missing letter/sound, you replace it with the letter it is related to. The primary exception to this is 'h' which is nearly always ignored - think "Cockney" accent. Occasionally, 'y' could be substituted if it makes phonetic sense, but generally, skip the letter 'h'. As far as the others, here's the basic progression: 'f' > 'v', 'j' > 'c', 'k' > 'g', 'n' > 'm', 'p' > 'b', 'q(u)' > 'gw', 'r' > 'l', 't' > 'd' and 'z' > 's'.

Ultimately, the important thing to remember about transliterating foreign words into "Martian" is that everything is as phonetic as possible. In other words, don't use the spelling of the other word; use how it "sounds". Along these lines, a trick common to Asian transliteration of Western languages is to change 'er' to 'a'. This seems natural for "Martian" as well since it also lacks an 'r' sound.

So let's try putting our guidelines into practice with the English word 'feet'. This would actually be transliterated as 'vid'. Since there is no 'f' or 't' in "Martian", they become 'v' and 'd' respectively and the long-'e' sound of 'ee' is written as 'i'. Note that the word 'feed' would also be transliterated the same way. This is an unfortunate side effect of the limited phoneme palette.

However, due to this same limitation, we have a "beneficial" side effect, as well... we have established a consistent and authentic "Martian" accent. If you were to take a sentence in any other language and transliterate using the above guidelines you would have the way a "Martian" would intuitively speak said foreign language. Of course, our hypothetical "Martian" could be well versed in the language and might not have an accent at all; but what we are seeing is the tendency to pronounce words from a "Martian" language bias.

Due to the cultural and philosophical nature of the "Martian" language, transliterating is only used for things when there is no real equivalent (aside from the example directly preceding - seeing how a typical "Martian" might pronounce foreign phrases). This means that pretty much the only "loan" words in "Martian" are proper names. And even these would only apply to things where there's no logical reason for "Martians" to not have their own word.

For instance, there would be native "Martian" words for the planets but not the individual nations of Earth/Terra. To create one of these, the name in question starts with the adj name native to its inhabitants. This is then transliterated and "Martian" grammatical rules are applied. For example, let's use Germany. The native adj to describe things pertaining to Germany is 'Deutsch'. Transliterated, this would would be Do'c. Applying "Martian" grammar, the adj would be Do'ci. A person from Germany (Deutschlander) would be an Do'ci-gibica, the German language would be Do'cida and the country itself (Deutschland) would be Do'ci[land]... sorry I'm not that far along with vocabulary. But I think you get the idea.

And this leads us perfectly into people's names. Transliteration of names simply follows the above rules. As far as naming conventions, "Martians" have three names (in order): a personal name, a paternal surname and a maternal surname. When a child is born, he/she is given a personal name by the parents and inherits the father's paternal surname and the mother's maternal surname.

So for instance: Abdul Galimsgi-Ximada and Olivia Iblahim-Samces have a daughter. They name her Malia. She inherits Galimsgi from her father and Samces from her mother, so her full name is Malia Galimsgi-Samces.

In common usage, names have three levels of "formality". In formal situations, a person's full name is often used, or at least an honorific + both surnames. In non-formal, non-familiar situations, an honorific + gender appropriate surname is used. The generic "Martian" honorific (regardless of gender) is simply Gibica (lit. 'person'). So, a man would be referred to as Gibica [Paternal Surname] and a woman as Gibica [Maternal Surname]. In informal/familiar situations, the personal name is used. Children are normally addressed by their personal name until they are sixteen, at which time the guidelines above apply.

To use the family above as an example (non-formal), we have the father: Gibica-Galimsgi or Abdul and the mother: Gibica-Samces or Olivia. The daughter would also be Gibica-Samces... once she turned 16. Prior to this, she would normally be addressed as Malia, Malia Samces or Malia Galimsgi-Samces, depending on how formal the situation was.

While "Martians" are not especially formal, there are some typical guidelines. As an example, Abdul Galimsgi-Ximada would usually address his colleague, Liam Wu-Xevalye, as Gibica-Wu unless it was a social situation. In this case, he would likely address him simply as Liam. If Liam was his boss/superior, Abdul would normally address him as Gibica-Wu-Xevalye or, in an especially formal situation, Liam Wu-Xevalye. In social situations, he might address him as Liam or Gibica-Wu... depending on the their level of familiarity. Also, when a "Martian" is introduced to someone for the first time, the full name is always given.

I've given a nice list of transliterated "Terran" names so that you can get an idea of the type of names "Martians" typically have. I settled on ten broad linguo-regional-ethnic groups then came up with 5 male, 5 female and 10 surname examples for each. Some are identical in "Martian"/"Terran" spelling, others are close and some are not so obvious - see how many you can decipher (remember the guidelines above!):

Adam, Adex, Aleando, Amad, Ba', Cals, Como, Da, Dev, Devid, Dida, Diego, Dube, Edwad, Gi, Idowu, Ilya, Isao, Ixmael, Leo, Li, Liam, Lui, Madias, Mags, Masami, Masud, Migel, Mixa, Mixel, Moamed, Musdava, Oleg, Ose, Sadao, Said, Salim, Samdib, Uva, Vasili, Vice, Vilelm, Vlad, Vlamswa, Wagim, Wamgali, We, Xi, Xoci, Yasuo

Emilya, Eva, Gamila, Gogomi, I'go, Isabel, Lalima, Lela, Lim, Lisa, Lola, Ludmila, Luisa, Magda, Malia, Masego, Maxa, Megu, Micigo, Mu, Olga, Olivia, Osumale, Salma, Sdevi, Soma, Sovia, Svedlama, Vadima, Xalad, Xu, Xulied, Yemamde, Yulia

Co', Dacev, David, Dawa, Devis, Dias, Docesda, Dugal, Dwivedi, Ga', Gadegi, Galaxmigov, Galil, Gemyada, Gimamdi, Gocima, Godie, Gomsales, Gubda, Gwo, Ivcemgo, Ixida, La', Lam, Leveba, Lewa, Li, Livi', Lu, Ludvig, Lugas, Ma, Magomde, Malimbwa, Maloba, Masamimo, Masi', Masuda, Medvedev, Memsa, Mewadi, Mi'a, Mi'ba'm, Miyasagi, Moales, Musab, Navalo, Odega, Odimga, Olivia, Oyama, Sadig, Sadovsgi, Salim, Samces, Samdiago, Samdu, Samsiba, Samyuls, Saud, Selewad, Suguma, Swami, Vagas, Vilalobos, Vimdix, Vogovic, Volmie, Wadase, Waxigdam, Wilyams, Wu, Xabas, Xabel, Xevalye, Ximada, Xmid, Xslesimga, Xumaga, Yadav, Yamaguci, Yaxgim, Yega, Yosev

So there you go. I'll start getting into more detailed grammar and vocabulary in future posts. But I think this is plenty to digest for now. And, again, I'm more than happy to get some feedback. I'd love to know what other people think after reading this. Thanks!

-Damon
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby HabitualGypsy » Fri 30 Aug 2013 12:10 pm

So it looks like we're already in need of a revision 1. :oops: Keep in mind, this is definitely a work in progress... if that wasn't already completely evident.

OK, so first of all, I realized there are three things I've introduced so far that aren't really logically consistent with the philosophy I've been trying to establish:

1) Modifiers should come before the word they modify, not after. At first, I thought it made sense because the word being modified is conceptually more important, so it should come before its modifier; but then I realized that with the "word-ending defining the part-of-speech" paradigm along with modular word-building, that putting modifiers after would be inconsistent and/or confusing.

2) The concept of a question participle, while in some ways interesting, doesn't really fit with the syntax either. Since, I'd already established a rigid sentence structure (S-V-DO-IO), it made more sense to simply alter the syntax (V-S-DO-IO) to create a question (as with German).

3) The letters 'w' and 'y' seem to be more or less superfluous. Realistically they aren't "pure" consonants, anyway. If you replace them with 'u' and 'i' respectively, the resulting diphthongs functionally duplicate them. The exceptions to this would be 'wu' > 'uu' and 'yi' > 'ii' which, IMO, could just be eliminated (as with 'h').

This contradicts my earlier guideline about no multi-letter diphthongs. This has caused me to rethink the idea of a', i' and o' being their own letters. Perhaps the Japanese pronunciation model is useful to emulate here: while technically all are sounds pronounced independently, there are certain letter combinations that are functionally diphthongs. For instance, the name Uehara should be pronounced (phonetically) oo-ay-hah-rah but realistically, most Japanese people say it (more or less) way-hah-rah.

So, by changing a' > au, i' > ai and o' > oi, while retaining the "official" pronunciation rules of one letter is equal to one sound, we've introduced an obvious slang/dialect element. Since it's highly likely that most people would naturally "slur" these individual syllables into diphthongs, "Martian" starts to have a certain natural feel to it. And realistically, varying degrees of adherence to the "one letter=one sound" rule could start to define specific various "Martian" dialects.

Also, once I get into more detailed grammar and vocabulary, there'll be a more explicit connection between a/au(a'), i/ai(i') and o/oi(o'). But for now, I think this is an improvement.


OK, with those syntax/grammar elements addressed, I'd like to also point out that the words I defined for 'person' and 'language' will no longer be valid. Conceptually, they'll stay the same but the actual syllables used will change. For instance, 'person' will still be a compound of [sentient/thinking][living][thing], it will just use different syllables from 'gibica'. Also, 'language' will still (probably) be the noun form of 'to communicate'.

I'm going to hold off a bit on actual translations until I've got some conceptual groundwork finished. I'll address this in detail in the next few posts but I want to make sure I've got a solid foundation before proceeding with things that will be hassle to revise.

So that's it for now. While, I'm not eager to make revisions, I'm open to it - as long as I feel that things are improved and that ultimately logic and consistency are at least maintained if not outright improved.

Again, feedback is encouraged. I hope you guys are at least amused at the very least... :lol:

-Damon
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby Dan_ad_nauseam » Mon 02 Sep 2013 2:31 am

As far as I can tell, you're trying to make this work like a natlang would. That makes the phonology interesting, as you have only unvoiced stops (<b>, <d>, g>), but the fricatives and affricates are almost entirely unvoiced and the affricate has aspiration to boot (<v> against <s>, <ʃ >, < t͡ʃʰ>). I think your speakers re likely to converge toward one pattern of voicing.
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby Dan_ad_nauseam » Mon 02 Sep 2013 2:31 am

As far as I can tell, you're trying to make this work like a natlang would. That makes the phonology interesting, as you have only unvoiced stops (<b>, <d>, g>), but the fricatives and affricates are almost entirely unvoiced and the affricate has aspiration to boot (<v> against <s>, <ʃ >, < t͡ʃʰ>). I think your speakers re likely to converge toward one pattern of voicing.
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby HabitualGypsy » Mon 02 Sep 2013 3:06 am

Hey, guess what? More fun with possible inconsistencies! It looks like adding letters to create multi-letter diphthongs will create monumental confusion with the "word-ending=part-of-speech" paradigm. Of course, I'm sure some of you saw that right away; however, it took a couple of days for it to become obvious to me.

And, as with many challenges in a creative project of this nature, this concept had led me down a new path that I had previously avoided... using a conscript. In my initial post I had stated that "Martian" would use an abbreviated/slightly modified version of the Latin Alphabet.

But, the farther I get in this project, the more it's becoming obvious that it just doesn't make sense. While, as I originally stated, the Latin Alphabet is easily the most widespread (in its various incarnations) script in relation to how many different languages use it today, it still has an unmistakably European (specifically Western) bias to it. This doesn't fit with my envisioned philosophy behind the creation of "Martian" in the first place.

With all this in mind, I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to need a unique "Martian" alphabet... eventually. I have many more pressing issues to address, IMO, and I'm not sure this is something I'll be to accomplish by myself; I know because I've already had a few attempts that yielded fairly unsatisfactory results. If someone else out there is interested in giving-it-a-go for some reason, contact me and we'll see what we can figure it out. For the time being, though, I'll be using the original alphabet/pronunciation/transliteration rules originally established - sans the letters /w/ and /y/. There will also be no diphthong replacements for these which will, again, make more sense shortly.

Also, I will continue to use the Hindu-Arabic numeral system - specifically the glyphs used with the Latin Alphabet (0-9), as this is the standard in international mathematics and science. Since the "Martian" population would have a disproportionately high percentage of scientists, academics and intellectuals (not to mention a technically oriented labor-force), changing the glyphs for the numbers becomes, for lack of a better word, pretentious.

-Damon
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Re: A Martian (human) conlag

Postby HabitualGypsy » Mon 02 Sep 2013 6:23 am

Dan_ad_nauseam wrote:As far as I can tell, you're trying to make this work like a natlang would. That makes the phonology interesting, as you have only unvoiced stops (<b>, <d>, g>), but the fricatives and affricates are almost entirely unvoiced and the affricate has aspiration to boot (<v> against <s>, <ʃ >, < t͡ʃʰ>). I think your speakers re likely to converge toward one pattern of voicing.

For the most part, yes, I am emulating a natlang. Although, there are many planned elements like an auxiliary language. Conceptually, its not really designed to be an auxiliary but a primary language.

As far as the issue of phonology and how it is primarily unvoiced, that was intentional - if not, at least somewhat, subconscious. When first deciding on the phonemes, I wanted to limit pronunciation ambiguity as much as possible. That was why I had identified the various minimal pairs, at least from an English standpoint. These are also minimal pairs in a variety of languages; in fact, Japanese distinguishes many of them very well through the use of dakuten and handakuten modifiers to hiragana and katakana.

Once I had established the minimal pairs, I set about picking only one from each. In theory, I could've chosen any method I wanted including randomly picking one or the other; but I decided to find a consistent motive. I sounded them all out over and over, looking for "patterns". I started to realized that, for the most part, there seemed to one "active" and "passive" sound in each pair. Active and passive were the conceptual labels I assigned them as I was, at the time, unaware of the specific terminology of phonology. Anyway, I went with, for the most part, the passive (unvoiced) phonemes because as I sounded out various combinations, they seemed to feel more natural.

So keep that in mind... the "Martian" phonemes were chosen - quite dictatorially -based on the ease of pronunciation for a native American English speaker. It's probably worth noting that I do speak a decent amount of German and have at least a passing familiarity with Spanish and (not surprisingly) Japanese. But again, as much I've tried to portray the fictional "Martian" as a cultural neutral and unique language, there is undoubtedly a RW editorial influence.

As far as your last point, I confess that I'm not entirely sure I understand your conclusion. Are you suggesting that it's unlikely that different pronunciations/dialects would develop - due to the specific phonology? If that's what you are implying, then I confess: that was my intention. However, I am as aware as anyone that you should never underestimate the ensuing chaos when human influence is applied to something. I always like to think of the saying "nothing is truly foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool" and apply it to the whole of humanity. But that may come off a bit more cynical than I really am...

Either way, I appreciate your feedback! Your observations about my process so far were very insightful.

-Damon
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