Re: Edeinal: Language of the Edeinos
- On Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 11:41 PM, Patrick Dunn <pwdunn@...> wrote:
> It depends, it seems to me, on the nature of language, which is one reasonI'm afraid there isn't enough data being presented to reach that
> I'd be signing up. If we found that, in fact, they did have nouny-things
> and verby-things, then we'd know that there's something about the structure
> of consciousness itself (and not necessarily the H. sapiens brain) that
> gives rise to syntax.
conclusion. Actually, finding that an alien language shares features with
human languages is probably the least informative possibility. If a
feature is fundamentally different, we've learned something new - but if
it's present, that tells us only that there are probably some similiarities
in how we and the aliens conceptualize. Two data points isn't enough to
derive many conclusions about the entire space of possibility.
- 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