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Re: Edeinal: Language of the Edeinos

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  • Matthew George
    ... I m afraid there isn t enough data being presented to reach that conclusion. Actually, finding that an alien language shares features with human languages
    Message 1 of 36 , Apr 17, 2013
      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 reason
      > 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.

      I'm afraid there isn't enough data being presented to reach that
      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.

      Matt G.
    • H. S. Teoh
      ... Welcome back! ... [...] It s funny, while you were busy honing Edeinal, one of my non-serious half-joke alien conlang sketches came to life and decided
      Message 36 of 36 , Aug 21, 2013
        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 the
        > world/culture it comes from. Your help was invaluable.

        Welcome back!

        > 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
        technological revolution.

        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

        voluŋtekmi gruŋgen
        voluŋ-tek-mi gruŋ-en
        spaceship-2SG.POSS-INSTR hands-1SG.POSS
        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:

        *voluŋtekmi gruŋtek
        *voluŋ-tek-mi gruŋ-tek
        spaceship-2SG.POSS-INSTR hands-2SG.POSS
        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
        constructions like:

        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:

        voluŋtekmi gruŋgen.
        voluŋ-tek-mi gruŋ-en
        spaceship-2SG.POSS-INSTR hands-1SG.POSS
        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:

        voluŋtekmi bufen.
        voluŋ-tek-mi buf-en
        spaceship-2SG.POSS-INSTR body-1SG.POSS
        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
        is specified:

        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
        possessor noun:

        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", etc..


        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
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