From hatred to singing in two easy steps
- I came across this blog article today:
"From hatred to singing in two easy steps".
In it, the author describes how _šnu_ "sing" in Kabyle apparently
derived from Arabic _šani'a شنئ_ "hate"... which seemed a bit
improbable at first, until he found a plausible link. (Read the
article for details.)
Anyway, I thought it's an interesting article on conlanging,
especially in the case of diachronic development or borrowing, where
derivation and/or cognacy is obscured by shifts like these. And that
if all relationships between words are obvious, the development may
not be very naturalistic :) (For example, if a Romlang can be easily
read, with correct comprehension, by anyone with a good knowledge of
Vulgar Latin and a cheat-sheet of sound changes.)
Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
On 04/03/2011 13:49, Philip Newton wrote:
> In it, the author describes how _šnu_ "sing" in Kabyle
> apparently derived from Arabic _šani'a شنئ_ "hate"...
> which seemed a bit improbable at first, until he found a
> plausible link. (Read the article for details.)
> Anyway, I thought it's an interesting article on
> conlanging, especially in the case of diachronic
> development or borrowing, where derivation and/or cognacy
> is obscured by shifts like these.
> And that if all
> relationships between words are obvious, the development
> may not be very naturalistic :) (For example, if a
> Romlang can be easily read, with correct comprehension,
> by anyone with a good knowledge of Vulgar Latin and a
> cheat-sheet of sound changes.)
Yes, indeed. Equipped with a cheat list of sound and
spelling changes from Vulgar Latin to modern contemporary
French, for examples, may cope with a quite a bit of
vocabulary, but there are an awful lot of exceptions and
lacunae. Two obvious ones come to mind:
One would expect VL _vespa_ (wasp) to be *vêpe - it ain't;
it's _guêpe_. Blame Germanic settlers for that.
One would expect VL _a'more_ (love) to give *ameur - it
doesn't (tho i have been told _ameur_ survives in dialect
for the rutting of animals); the actual modern French word
for 'love' is _amour_ - an irregularity? Well, yes - it's
borrowed from southern Occitan. Probably partly because the
influence of the troubadours but also, I suspect, because the
southern word sounded more 'pink & fluffy' than the regular
Applying the great sound change/ orthography change to verb
forms would produce nothing much resembling the modern
French verb system where analogy, leveling out of
irregularities etc has been rife.
There's also change in semantic. Altho _poison_ is derived
regularly from VL _poti'one_ (drink), it doesn't mean
"drink" in modern French!
And both French _blesser_ (to wound) and English _bless_ are
from the same German root, the modern words don't mean the
same. And why did the French abandon the VL _vUlnE'rare_ in
favor of this Germanic word?
And so one could go one and on and on.
If one wants a Romlang to appear naturalistic, there's a
good deal more to be done than just applying the "master
plan" to Vulgar Latin ;)
The same considerations, of course, would apply to a
Slaviconlang, Celticonlang or Germaniconlang etc.
Frustra fit per plura quod potest
fieri per pauciora.
[William of Ockham]
> _nu_ "sing" [...] _ani'a_ "hate"... which seemed a bit improbable atfirst [...]
But a complete reversal of the meaning (with some additional leeway) is
quite common, I'd say.
The standard example cited is German "Gift", which came to mean 'poison'. In
Slavic, _*won-_ apparently was just the neutral word 'smell', but then came
to mean _von'_ 'bad smell, stench' in Russian and _vune_ 'good smell,
fragrance' in Czech. Or _*tchrstv-_ which apparently meant something like
'strong, full of energy', came to mean 'fresh' or 'cheerful' in some
languages, but in Russian _tchjorstvyj_ 'hard and dry' - used of old stale
bread, or in the emotional sense 'hard-hearted, callous'.
(Sorry for the inadequate transcription.)