Friday, March 5, 2010

Build-Yer-Own Language (Part 4)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

It's been a while. Sorry. To review: last time on BYOL, I talked about what goes into making words—types of morphemes, types of combinations, variants in morphemes—and promised I'd do a "show" to match the "tell".

This is the show.

I've already proposed the following morphemes for Pamak: pa tuk klen mifs snopt bimf plan vlant snaif san mis bim fa tlant bal mamf ba vlask vlan vlaxt xmal. They're all single-syllables, so far, but morphemes don't have to be. I'm going to add flaxin natuft laubu pavbam and xoiktap to that list, for variety. (I'm getting all these by playing with that chart I made in Part 1:

Consonants: p b t k m n f v s x l 
Vowels: i e a o u
Types of Syllables: CV CVC CCVC CVCC CCVCC (repeat all with VV)

Now that I've got a basic list of morphemes, I need to separate them into categories. I'm going to need root morphemes, to form core meanings, and non-root morphemes (or affixes), to give grammatical meaning or change the part of speech (noun to verb, let's say).

It'll probably be slightly helpful right now to decide which kind of language I want Pamak to be, because some require more affixes than others. Because I'm want to demonstrate word formation but don't want to confuse anyone with massive amounts of grammatical terms, I'm going to say it's agglutinative.

From Part 3: "Agglutinative - Most if not all words are formed by adding lots of morphemes together. There's probably a morpheme (with allomorphs) for most kinds of inflection, and plenty for derivation too. Every morpheme will have a single meaning. The words will tend to be mid-length to longish. Examples: Japanese, Bantu, Turkish, Quenya, Klingon"

This is a fairly simple type of language to make words for. It basically follows the pattern of x + root + y (+ z +…), with every segment have a single meaning or purpose. Possibly this is why Quenya and Klingon are examples.

I'm also going to state that Pamak roots are more complex than Pamak affixes. This can totally happen, because roots have the more distinct meanings and we need them to stand out as a result.

Roots: snopt vlant snaif tlant mamf vlask vlaxt xmal  flaxin natuft laubu pavbam xoiktap 
Affixes: pa tuk klen mifs bimf plan san mis bim fa bal ba vlan

Further divisions! I need nouns and verbs, as well as adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and morphemes that give gender, number, person, tense, etc. For nouns and verbs, I can be lazy and divide the root list in two:

Nouns (N): snopt vlant snaif tlant mamf vlask vlaxt 
Verbs (V)*: xmal  flaxin natuft laubu pavbam xoiktap

For the rest… that'll take some thinking. Which grammatical bits are Pamak speakers going to deem important? Will they care enough to want adjectives and adverbs separate? Do they care about gender? Number? Tense?

Fortunately, since I'm making up this language, I get to play God and lay down the rules.
  1. Adjectives will be made from Ns and Vs by adding -mis to the root
  2. Adverbs will be made from adjectives by adding -san to the root
  3. Words become verbs when you add -mifs
  4. Words become nouns if you add vlan-
  5. The information we put in pronouns will be indicated by prefixes, not separate words. pa-, tuk-, and klen- give us 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, respectively. bal- means "plural". There is no gender.
  6. These prefixes can be put on nouns to signal possession.
  7. fa- is past tense. Future is signalled like in English, with a separate verb.
  8. -ba makes nouns plural.
  9. Compounds can be formed from N+N, N+V, V+V, or V+N.
Note that I haven't used up all the affixes I put forward. I still have bimf plan bim ba to play with, and I'm keeping it that way for now. I'm sure I'm forgetting uses I'll need affixes for, and want to have them handy when the time comes.

Morpheme order is just as important as word order. "Pronoun" prefixes in Pamak (the inflectional morphemes) will be placed outside the past tense prefix (also inflectional), which goes outside anything that changes part of speech (derivational).

Test Run

to sit - xmal
seat - vlan-xmal
my seat - pa-vlan-xmal
I sit - pa-xmal
s/he sits - klen-xmal
you sat - tuk-fa-xmal

boy - laubu
his/her boy - klen-laubu
their boys - klen-bal-laubu-ba
boyish - laubu-mis
boyishness - vlan-laubu-mis
to become childish - laubu-mifs

And to give a hint at the syntax lessons**, here're some simple sentences:

Your boys sit - klen-bal-xmal tuk-laubu-ba
They become childish - klen-bal-laubu-mifs

I'd like to add that my lists of morphemes aren't anywhere close to the number I'd need if I was planning on using Pamak in a novel. For that, I'd want at least 100-200 nouns and 50-100 verbs, probably 10-15 more affixes, and a handful of function words (conjunctions, exclamations, possibly prepositions). A toolkit that size would let me cover daily life but probably not much more. My English dictionary contains 130,000 entries, and I've seen longer.

Till next time!

* I'm lazy
** dum dum dum…

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