Re: Edeinal: Language of the Edeinos
- On 11 April 2013 20:00, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:
> On Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 03:40:25PM -0600, Jasyn Jones wrote:[...]
>> H. S. Teoh wrote:
> Again, likely not every possible combination of L, M, H would be used;If every vowel quality has 288 variations that can all potentially be
> but the above is a reasonably plausible system: level contours are
> either high or low (having a 3-way distinction here may be stretching it
> a bit), and both rising and falling contours have 2-way distinction
> (low/mid rising or mid/high falling). I threw in the LHL and HLH
> contours just for kicks. Even this simplified and quite-plausible tone
> system already gives you 8 tones, which, if you combine with the
> previous breathing/nasality/length combo, gives you a whopping 288
> possible realizations of every vowel(!). Even if Edeinal only uses a
> small subset of these 288 combinations, that's still a LOT of wiggle
> room to do everything it needs and more. (And I haven't even started
> getting into vowel modifications unique to alien physiology, that Logan
> was suggesting.)
> Moreover, most of these distinctions are opaque to English-speakers,
> since in English we don't make such distinctions, and it's
> understandable that we wouldn't "hear" them upon first contact with the
> Edeinos. Hence, you have here a ready-made rationalization of why the
> written form of Edeinal is missing out from all of these distinctions --
> those poor Americans simply can't hear the difference!
phonemic (or a subset of them is phonemic), that would kind of kill
off the feasibility of my multi-channel analysis; it's not multiple
channels, it's just that Edeinal has ridiculously huge number of
symbols that it can use in one channel (Chinese tones on Language
Growth Hormone or some such thing).
In that case, though, I would wonder about why the extra tone-plus
information was considered non-letter-ish, and why all of the
alternations happen to keep the basic vowel quality the same and only
vary other stuff, as opposed to allowing grammatical vowel alteration
to operate on any arbitrary set of phonetic features.
Maybe the truth is somewhere halfway between the different analyses.
In any case, it is entirely possible that may alt-reality self may
have his expert opinion quoted, and yet turn out to actually be subtly
wrong in the final analysis.
> One thing that apostrophes are used for, that isn't cliché, is toThat of course raises the question "Do they have glottises?" Not a
> represent the glottal stop /?/. I believe Hawaiian uses it that way. (My
> Tatari Faran also does.) You could make glottal stops phonemic in
> Edeinal, which would be very naturalistic. :) So a name like _Tal'Mar_
> would be pronounced [tal?mar], whilst _TalMar_ would be [talmar]; the
> distinction is likely opaque to your average English-speaker, though
> quite obvious to someone with some linguistic training.
particularly important question, though, as I'm sure it's not
particularly complicated for any reasonable vocal apparatus to produce
a momentary stoppage that a human would consider "close enough".
> <anecdote> Some years ago a bunch of us from this list were hanging outThat would be fun. We should do that again. It'd force me to maybe
> in an IRC chatroom, and got this idea of learning a few basic phrases
> from each others' conlangs. Of course, we learned it imperfectly, but
> one conlanger decided that rather than chalk it down as grammatically
> incorrect, why not adopt the "wrong" phrase as correct, but in a
> different dialect of the language? Much fun ensued as we "invented"
> dialects for each others' conlangs. :-) </anecdote>
finally get some things about Celimine set in stone once and for all.
>> > it just beggars my imagination to think that there's no one who hasOo, that is brilliant. And it would fit nicely in with the
>> > figured out how tones work in this language.
>> Yet. As of Month 9. Though that would no doubt change, if slowly.
> A more plausible scenario, that doesn't jeopardize the simplicity of use
> in a game setting, is to recognize that even in tonal languages on
> Earth, there is quite a wide latitude in how a specific tone is actually
> pronounced. For example, in my L1, there are 7 tones, which is more than
> enough to scare a native English speaker to death (and confuse the heck
> out of him), but on top of that, there are what you call "tone sandhi"
> rules, that is, a particular tone that comes immediately before another
> particular tone will shift to a different tone for euphonic purposes.
> However -- and this is the key point -- the native speaker *still* hears
> (or rather, perceives) the original, unmodified tone!
> I suggested the word "toneme" (by analogy with phoneme) to describe this
> phenomenon -- it's as if each word has a fixed toneme (or logical tone),
> but this toneme can be realized in multiple ways (actual tones) in
> speech, depending on the surrounding context.
> In the Edeinal's case, you could say that some possible tones have been
> identified, but due to complex tone sandhi rules, nobody has been able
> to figure out how to *reliably* discern which toneme is being said, and
> often will mistake one tone for another, which may completely change the
> meaning, so the whole thing still remains opaque.
multi-channel analysis as well. I can just imagine distinguished
alt-reality strategic linguists H. S. Teoh and L. R. Kearsley having
heated debates about the true nature of Edeinal suprasegmentals. :)
>> For now, I'm working on other pieces of the (huge, huge, oh-my-god isI wonder, have you ever come across the webcomic Unicorn Jelly (and sequels)?
>> it huge) project.
> Yeah, no kidding!
> And *I* thought I was being ambitious, having invented an entire
> universe (complete with its own version of the Big Bang origin theory
> and "physics" that looks nothing even remotely resembling real-world
> physics) in which the Ebisédian homeworld exists, and outlining a
> history of the Ebisédi which includes travel to other universes... ;-)
> (Turns out I had trouble even working a single story to completion, much
> less fill in all the details of an entire universe, or outlining several
> other universes for that matter. Ahhh, the youthful dreams of attaining
> the unattainable and conquering beyond the conquerable!)
It's all about life in a wildly different universe in which humans get
deposited in the distant past by some catastrophic natural cosmic
event. Eventually, with the help of the native life forms, they
develop the technology to intentionally travel between universes, and
create new ones, and go in search of their original home... but are
doomed to never find it because whenever they get close, they just
can't imagine that life could possibly evolve in such a radically
alien cosmos. :)
On 11 April 2013 20:47, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...> wrote:
> On Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 05:53:40PM -0600, Logan Kearsley wrote:
>> It certainly helps to have a good excuse for handwaving a whole lot of
>> stuff away (for the time being, at least). It's easier to get a little
>> bit of details right than to get a lot of detail right, and as far as
>> I can tell there is nothing that would inherently lead to problems
>> inventing a greater degree of detail later on.
>> This could actually turn into a really cool experiment in "using a
>> language into existence", if a large enough corpus of low-detail,
>> ambiguous Eidenal is produced first, and then those bits with their
>> English glosses have additional consistent information (in the form of
>> diacritics, explanatory notes, re-transcriptions or whatever) added to
>> them later as the in-world linguists decipher more (and the
>> extra-world you invents more).
> Isn't that how some of us build our own conlangs? I remember in the old
> days some of us use to play by this little fancy that we are just field
> linguists recording what our informant, who is a native speaker of our
> conlang, tells us. Sometimes what he tells us isn't entirely accurate,
> and we don't find out until later, which is why we have to go back and
> revise our grammar sketches every now and then. :-) Or, we only have
> sporadic contact with him, but each time, our understanding of the
> language deepens and more details are worked out.
It is. I've been trying to take a more direct approach to it by
developing a two-person language with my wife (which I have talked
about here from time to time, called Mev Pailom), but it goes ever so
much more slowly than I would've liked. But as you note farther down,
most of us lack the benefit of a community of gamers to use the
language for us.
>> For a little more background on where I'm coming from describing
>> things that way in particular:
>> English uses both the phonetic content of words and the relative order
>> of words to encode information; these are two concurrent, independent
>> channels that provide different bits of the complete linguistic
>> information stream entering one's brain, and phonemic material tends
>> towards encoding lexical information while sequencing tends towards
>> encoding grammatical information (though it's not a perfect division).
>> Russian, in contrast, puts much less information into word order, and
>> makes up for it by putting more information (encoded by much more
>> extensive inflectional affixes) into the phonemic material channel.
>> Both English and Russian also make use of
>> prosody/stress/tone-of-voice/etc. to simultaneously convey additional
>> grammatical or pragmatic information, but not to the same extent that
>> other languages do.
> My favorite example of Russian prosody/tone-of-voice is how one asks
> questions vs. state a fact: none of the words change, neither the word
> order (for the most part), just the overall tone contour of the entire
> clause follows the indicative pattern or the question pattern.
I feel it should be noted that Russian *does* also have a special
syntactic form for questions, and English *can* also make use of
prosody alone. But Russian does lean much more towards using prosody,
and English does lean much more towards using special syntax.
I now find myself somewhat annoyed that I know that I know how to use
the "-li" vs. prosodic interrogatives Russian, but I have no idea how
to *explain* it. Sometimes, one just feels better than the other. And
I suppose my non-native intuitions about that are probably slightly
different from native intuitions anyway.
And that reminds me about how I had such a difficult time in my
semantics class this afternoon trying to explain the proper colloquial
usage of "rebjata" and why it is not quite the same as "dudes" or
"guys"; I probably made a complete hash of it, and really wished our
actual Russian student were around to help me out, but sadly she is
gone and won't be back from Russia again until the fall.
And it's not like there's a serious shortage of Russians to ask around
here, but none of them were in class with me....
> That's a really interesting way of looking at it. It's like Russian
> intonation carrying the information about whether a sentence is a
> statement or a question, e.g.:
> Это - он?
> [EtV ón] (rising pitch on [on])
> Is that he?
> Это - он.
> [EtV òn] (mid-high pitch on [tV]; falling pitch on [on])
> Except in the case of Edeinal, this is far more pervasive, and carries a
> lot more information than merely whether something is a question or
> Another conlinguistics idea w.r.t. Edeinal that just occurred to me:
> nasal vowels in natlangs (on earth) often arise from historical nasal
> consonants that dropped out, for example, final /n/ in French. What if
> Edeinal historically had an /n/ affix that indicated, say, the object of
> a verb, but which has since been lost to sound change? So we might say
> that in proto-Edeinal, _tu_ is nominative "you", and *_tun_ is
> accusative "you", but in present-day Edeinal, the /n/ has dropped out,
> leaving its trace as a nasalization of /u/. So /tu/ means "you (nom.)",
> and /tũ/ means "you (acc.)".
Taking advantage of Alien Vocal Tract here, I would wonder if it makes
sense to posit a single consonant reasonably glossed as 'n'; maybe the
Edeinos have more distinct nasal consonants than we do, or maybe they
don't consider nasalization to be a feature that applies to consonants
at all because they can make such extensive use of nasal tones
independently of and parallel to oral articulation; in which case, one
would expect the nasal feature to be a primitive "toneme" or some such
all by itself, without need to derive it from assimilation with a
> Furthermore, since _tu_ is glossed as meaning either "you" or "him", one
> may conceivably rationalize it this way: proto-Edeinal had an aspirated
> /k_h/ sound that has since been lost, having first fricativised into
> /x/, then ultimately eroded into a rough breathing of the preceding
> vowel. So then we may postulate that proto-Edeinal had the distinct
> pronouns /tu/ and */tuk_h/, with their respective accusative forms
> */tun/ and
> */tuk_hn/. These then underwent the sound changes:
> k_h -> x -> h
> n -> [+nasal]
> With the result:
> tu ("you", nom.) -> tu (no change)
> *tun ("you", acc.) -> tũ (nasalized)
> *tuk_h ("he", nom.) -> *tux -> tu (+ rough breathing on /u/)
> *tuk_hn ("him", acc.) -> *tuxn -> *tũx -> tũ (+ rough breathing on /u/)
> which all sound like "tu" to English ears, but are obviously distinct to
> the Edeinos themselves.
> The seemingly prevalent trend of monosyllabic roots in Jasyn's lexicon
> seems to corroborate with lost segments in a proto-language that
> resulted in the shift of much semantic information into features like
> nasality, tones, length, etc.. (These are all attested processes in
> natlangs, after all.)
All of that argues against my multi-channel hypothesis. But, as I
noted above, it's possible that the truth is somewhere in between, and
there does tend to be leakage between the kind of information encoded
in different channels anyway. Displaced contrasts like this may mark
some of the grey area where things could in the process of reanalysis
back and forth between phonemic and suprasegmental / parallel-channel.
Or, it could be that some subset of all of the features that Edeinos
can apply to vowels beyond what untrained Americans notice are
phonemic features like Chinese tones, while others are
separate-channel suprasegmentals, and this kind of displaced contrast
could interfere with both.
(This whole conversation could probably be re-worked into a dialog
format and included as part of the story at some point- the collected
letters of L. R. Kearsley and H. S. Teoh concerning the Edeinal
Deciphering Project or some such.)
- On Wed, Aug 21, 2013 at 11:33:39AM -0600, Jasyn Jones wrote:
> Hello the List! Been a while, but I am still honing Edeinal and theWelcome back!
> world/culture it comes from. Your help was invaluable.
> I just had one little piece to add (mainly because one of the earlier[...]
> respondents said they'd be interested in sounds the edeinos can make,
> but humans can't).
> On Apr 10, 2013, at 5:47 AM, Jasyn Jones <jasynj@...> wrote:
> > Unique Edeinos Sounds
> > Other unique sounds are used in their verbal communications. These
> > include:
> > Clack: An edeinos can snap its teeth together, creating a sharp
> > snapping sound (with the echoey undertone of the nasal cavity). This
> > is represented in speech by an apostrophe, such as in the name
> > Tal’Mar.
> > Whuff: An exhalation of air through the nose, like a human snort,
> > though lower pitched and louder.
> One more unique sound.
> There are a few edeinal words that are written with double T's, like
> Jakatt and Jakutta. These are pronounced, oddly enough, as two T's, one
> after another.
> The way they're produced is kind of odd, however. Edeinos have a very
> long snout, and a tongue to match. The double-T is made by snapping the
> middle of the tongue against the roof of the snout, then the front of
> the tongue against the front of the snout. (Of course, this means the
> first "T" is somewhat softer than the second, sort of like a sharp "D".)
It's funny, while you were busy honing Edeinal, one of my non-serious
half-joke alien conlang sketches came to life and decided that it wanted
full conlang status (as opposed to just remaining as a jokelang). Its
setting is still somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as the native speakers are
stereotypical green aliens having a spherical body, a single eye on an
eyestalk that grow from their equivalent of the tailbone, two arms with
claws in place of hands, and webbed feet. They ride in your
stereotypical saucer-shaped spaceships manufactured by FTL Tech Inc.,
who first popularized the concept of personal iFTLVs (interstellar
faster-than-light vehicles) after being inspired by reports that on a
certain distant planet, the concept of personal computers caused a major
Having only one eye, their language has many pejoratives based on
many-eyed creatures being regarded as monstrous, and their tender
eyestalk gives rise to threats being of the form "I'll grab your eye!".
Their oral cavity is larger than a human's, and their tongue is
therefore longer and more flexible; one of the sounds they make is a
kind of trill where the *middle* part of their tongue vibrates --
something impossible for the human tongue. The voiceless version of this
trill is phonemic. Fortunately, the human voiceless uvular trill /R_0/
has phonological characteristics very similar to this sound, and serves
as a pretty good human approximation thereof, so this sound is, by
convention, transcribed as /xR_0/. It appears, appropriately enough, in
the word _ehrlu_ /ExR_0lU/ "tongue". This sound contrasts with /r/,
which is a *voiced* alveolar trill.
Grammar-wise, their language is structured in a rather peculiar way.
While sharing a lot of similarities with human languages, it also has
some unique features. One of the most fundamental structures is the
possessive, which is constructed as a head noun followed by one of a set
of possessive personal pronominal suffixes. For example:
ipf - eye
ipfen - my eye
ipftek - your eye
ipfet - his eye
ipfut - their eye
ipfah - their (distal) eye; or eyes in general.
This is relatively tame as far as human natlangs go, of course. Where it
goes crazy is when the verbalizing/instrumental suffix -mi comes into
play. This suffix seems to behave like an instrumental marker sometimes,
but also like a verbalizer; it turns a possessive noun into a verb
characteristic of that noun, with the possessive turning into a personal
ipfen - my eye
ipfemi (= ipf + en + mi) - I see.
ipftek - your eye
ipftekmi - you see.
apfat - mouth
apfattek - your mouth
apfattekmi - you eat.
ehrlu - tongue
ehrlunen - my tongue
ehrlunemi - I speak.
But this is only the beginning of the weirdness. While it kinda makes
sense that a verbalized body part would be associated with the action
performed by that body part, you also have constructions like:
voluŋ - spaceship
voluŋgen - my spaceship
voluŋgemi - I fly (by spaceship)
which leads to the question: what if I want to say "I fly *your*
spaceship"? The answer is that the instrumental character of -mi becomes
more obvious, in that the subject of the clause detaches into a separate
I fly your spaceship (lit. with-your-spaceship my-hands).
Here, another peculiarity of the language is manifested: there are no
standalone personal pronouns! It's impossible to refer to "you" or "I"
directly; one can only say "your body" or "my body" as a circumlocution.
The pronominal affixes are always possessive, and a stand-in noun like
"body" is required by the grammar. "Body" is the default periphrasis; it
may be substituted with other body parts depending on context. In the
above example, the act of flying a spaceship is done with the hands, so
the chosen periphrasis is _gruŋgen_ "my hands".
It seems really odd that _voluŋtekmi_ by itself would mean "you fly by
spaceship", whereas _voluŋtekmi gruŋgen_ means "*I* fly your spaceship".
Note the change of person on the verb simply by the presence of another
NP in the clause. So far, the only way I've managed to rationalize this
is that clauses like _voluŋtekmi_ are actually *abbreviations* of a
hypothetical full form:
You fly your spaceship (lit. with-your-spaceship your-hands).
in which the subject _gruŋtek_ is elided because it is coreferent with
the possessive affix in _voluŋtekmi_.
None of this, however, explains "where the verb is". Is the -mi NP
actually a verb in disguise? Or is this some kind of weird verbless
language which uses instrumental NPs as verb substitutes? So far, I'm
still holding out hope that "true" verbs (not based on -mi NPs) exist in
this language, but that hope is gradually dimming when I encounter
gruŋgemi tseŋteku ahshapftu
gruŋ-en-mi tseŋ-tek-u ahshapf-tu
hands-1SG.POSS-INSTR glass_dome-2SG.POSS-PAT outside-DAT
I open your glass dome (lit. with-my-hands your-glass-dome to-outside)
The instrumental/verbalized NP _gruŋgemi_ is typically translated as "I
handle (something)". Here, though, the dative NP _ahshapftu_ "to the
outside" seems to be acting as an adverbial modifying (what may be
construed to be) the verb "to handle", narrowing its scope of meaning
from a generic "to handle", to a more specific "to open". A similar
construction using a different dative NP provides the antonymic meaning:
gruŋgemi tseŋteku vershtu
gruŋ-en-mi tseŋ-tek-u versht-tu
hands-1SG.POSS-INSTR glass_dome-2SG.POSS-PAT inside-DAT
I close your glass dome (lit. with-my-hands your-glass-dome to-inside)
This suggests that the verbal meaning of the clause is actually not
borne by any single NP / verbalised NP, but rather distributed across
the NPs in the clause. Further evidence for this comes in the difference
in nuance between the following two clauses:
I fly your spaceship.
At first glance, it may appear that the role of "verb" is being filled
solely by the verbalized NP _voluŋtekmi_; however, the following dispels
any such notion:
I ride your spaceship.
The change from _gruŋgen_ "my hands" to _bufen_ "my body" (possibly
simply "I", since _bufen_ is the usual periphrasis for "I") caused the
verb to shift from "fly" to "ride", showing that part of the verbal
meaning is being carried by the subject NP as well!
Here are some examples of the verbal meaning being distributed across 3
NPs in a clause:
voluŋgetmi gruŋgen aiherltu
voluŋ-et-mi gruŋ-en aiherl-tu
spaceship-3SG.POSS-INSTR hands-1SG.POSS distant_skies-DAT
I fly his spaceship away (to the distant skies).
voluŋgetmi bufen aiherltu
voluŋ-et-mi buf-en aiherl-tu
spaceship-3SG.POSS-INSTR body-1SG.POSS distant_skies-DAT
I ride his spaceship away.
voluŋgetmi gruŋgen aiherlat
voluŋ-et-mi gruŋ-en aiherl-at
spaceship-3SG.POSS-INSTR hands-1SG.POSS distant_skies-ABL
I arrive on his spaceship (I was the pilot).
voluŋgetmi bufen aiherlat
voluŋ-et-mi buf-en aiherl-at
spaceship-3SG.POSS-INSTR body-1SG.POSS distant_skies-ABL
I arrive on his spaceship (I was a passenger).
Notice how the combination of _voluŋ...mi_ (spaceship-...-INSTR) +
_aiherltu_ (to the distant skies) carries the meaning of "fly away",
whereas the combination of _voluŋ...mi_ + _aiherlat_ (from the distant
skies) carries the meaning of "arrive (by spaceship)". The subject NP,
depending on which periphrasis was used for the standalone pronoun,
varies the meaning from "fly (as a passenger)" to "fly (as a pilot)".
Thus far, I'm still unsure how this strange grammar can be rationalized
in human natlang terms.
In any case, the pronominal possessive affixes seem to play a very deep
role in the language. They are retained even when an explicit possessor
voluŋ - spaceship
cheŋ - male person
voluŋget - his spaceship
voluŋgetcheŋ - the male person's spaceship (lit.
It's ungrammatical to omit the 3rd person singular possessive affix -et:
*voluŋcheŋ - [ungrammatical]
Furthermore, plurality is marked on this possessive affix, *not* on the
The male persons' spaceship.
Well, I'll end with a cutesy little phrase that I learned from my
sheŋt cheŋ he vaht fraht
seven male and eight female
['SENt 'tSʰEN xE 'vAxt 'frAxt]
A group of people (lit. 7 men and 8 women).
This phrase, surprisingly English-like in construction, is a colloquial
phrase that refers generically to some unspecified group of people. It
does not literally mean 7 males and 8 females; rather, it has the effect
of "some number of males and some number of females" in a generic sense.
The numbers 7 and 8 were chosen solely for rhyme. :) It's used in
contexts like "oh, yesterday a bunch of people showed up at my place",
"I saw a group of people walk by", "he got beaten up by a group of
People who are more than casually interested in computers should have at
least some idea of what the underlying hardware is like. Otherwise the
programs they write will be pretty weird. -- D. Knuth