"The growth of understanding follows an ascending spiral rather than a straight line." ~Joanna Field

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Conlanging and you!

Alright, yesterday I explained through examples what a conlang can be at some of its highest peaks. If you're still with me you are likely insane or really bored. Both are acceptable.

You see these examples and think to yourself, hey, I want my own language! It'll be great for my book/my diary/confusing the hell out of teachers/profit/etc.!
While I give little hope to the last one, the others are a yes. Other neat things that can come from it are relieving boredom, procrastination, pure fun, the admiration of your peers(again, little hope), and gaining friends.

So let's get started, you yell. And I jump, because I startle easily.
Where, oh where to start when conlanging. It is different for a lot of people, some like to start with basic syntax, others have a random sketch of an intransitive verb combining with a noun in holy matrimony, still others start with a script, and a lot of people start with a phonology.

Wait, wait, wait. What? Intransi-whoey? Synta-what? Phrenology?

Okay, so I think it would be best to start at the top. Linguistics! Otherwise known as More Than Your Average High School English Class!

If you are groaning already and can't stand the thought of spending time on Grammar, then perhaps this is the wrong past-time. Maybe try cryptology? (Not to be confused with the science of crypts) (I hope to cover codes and ciphers another day, but for now that link should do)

So. Linguistics. Where to begin? Well, you certainly don't need a doctorate in it, but it would sure help. So if you think you can do it, go forth. I can wait.
Okay. You don't need to know a lot of linguistics to start with, just a few basic terms and you should be rolling:

Phonology: Basically the set of sounds possible within a language. English allows "sss" "ch" and "sh", but does not allow "sch" (Unless it is "school" but that is more of a "sk") We also don't allow things like "ts" or "zx"

Morpheme: The smallest linguistic unit (word or word bit) that has definable meaning. Think "un-" "break" "-s" These are pieces we can tear out of other s=words and hold up as having meaning. I can break "break" into "br" and "eak" but neither has independent meaning, so are not morphemes.
Phone: the tiniest definable sound, such as one possible pronunciation of "b"

Phoneme: the smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language. So the entirety of possible pronunciations for "b", including "allophones" or sounds that all mean the same thing.

Syntax: The way that all the other things are put together to form coherent thoughts, the rules dictating order of things.

Parts of Speech: Noun, Article, Conjunction and a slew of others, you might want to get re-familiar with these.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA): A set of letters based on the Latin alphabet that is intended to be used as a standard representation of all sounds used in spoken language (by anyone, anywhere).
Having at least the ability to know what the symbols are is a great start. Being able to move things back and forth with it is even better.

X-SAMPA: At the most basic, a way to use IPA using ASCII characters. I use it as I find it easier to remember.

Everything else is probably okay to learn as you come across it.

Ugh, that got long quick. Okay, splitting this into two for today.

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