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Re: On writing grammars (Re: Conlangery podcast)

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  • Padraic Brown
    ... Ah, yes. The sort orders. The story there is a long one indeed. It makes more sense when we realise that human history in the World is a damn sight longer
    Message 1 of 10 , Apr 21, 2013
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      --- On Tue, 4/16/13, Alex Fink <000024@...> wrote:

      > From: Alex Fink <000024@...>
      > Subject: Re: [CONLANG] On writing grammars (Re: Conlangery podcast)
      > To: CONLANG@...
      > Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 5:33 PM
      > On Fri, 12 Apr 2013 19:33:41 -0700,
      > Padraic Brown <elemtilas@...>
      > wrote:
      > > >--- On Fri, 4/12/13, H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
      > wrote:
      > > > The alphabet, in spite of
      > > > being a Romanization, is sorted in native order,
      > rather than
      > > > in Latin
      > > > order, which might be another stumbling block for
      > those
      > > > expecting a more
      > > > .. Romanized ... Romanization.
      > >
      > > Of course -- but it ìs an in-world treatment, after
      > all, and one really
      > > can't expect it to be done a la Roma just because. In
      > my (non-native)
      > > grammar for Talarian, I recall starting out with the
      > words sorted in
      > > native order: I E A O U P T K Q H HH X M N FF F S SH H
      > L R W Y. But after
      > > a while of not being able to find anything quickly,
      > gave up and resorted
      > > in Roman order. :S
      > I suspect you might have a good story up your sleeve behind
      > how that alphabetical order was able to exist.  *Here*,
      > the Vedic culture is as far as I know unique in history for
      > having developed a theory of phonology before they were
      > literate.  Accordingly, when they did first gain a
      > writing system, they were able to sort it into
      > phonologically sensible order from the get-go, as opposed to
      > just retaining and letting calcify the alphabetical order it
      > came with as everyone else did. 

      Ah, yes. The sort orders. The story there is a long one indeed. It makes
      more sense when we realise that human history in the World is a damn sight
      longer than the paltry 5000 years it seems to be on the surface of things.
      The modern age with all its wonders and troubles is but the most recent
      episode in the long tapestry of human history. Men easily forget what came
      before, and would probably be entirely ignorant of much ancient history
      if it weren't for folks with longer memories indeed.

      It is curious, for example, that it is at Auntimoany that the
      half-mythologised history of how humans came to learn the art of writing
      should be recalled in its fullest by the Guild of Lamplighters.
      Lamplighters? Yep, it seems that the same people that go about at dusk
      touching the Spark of Life to all the various gas lamps, thaumic arcs or
      even those new fangled lights that dance with the spirits of Elektra City
      have their long held mysteries. In this case, they recall in their rites
      the kernel of truth about writing: "And yet we stand in these Younger Days
      upon the shoulders of our great fathers of old and fear not ... indeed
      fear not the hidden terrors of Lady Night. By what bold incursion and by
      what cunning tan do we now inhabit a world of splendor and light? List ye
      all my merry gentles, phosphors in a benighted world, and harken ye to the
      elucidated mystery, the riddled rune, that our ancient fathers recorded in
      their books of history."

      It is in these "books of history", that we find the well known myth of
      Prometheus and Epimetheus: "In those days of ancientry, there lived two
      brothers who were not like Men, nor yet were they like the Mighty Ones who
      dwelt in those days upon the holy mountain top. They were the winged sons
      of one of those Titans who had fought against Father Jupiter and been sent
      in chains to the strong prison-house of the Lower World..." And that it
      through the spite of these "Mighty Ones", selfish and powerful beings that
      had no thought for the misery of Men. “Not a spark or coal will I give to
      miserable Man, Atan's brood,” said mighty Jupiter. “No, indeed! Why, if
      Men had fire in hand, they might become strong and wise like ourselves,
      and after a while they would drive us out of our kingdom. Let them shiver
      with the cold, and let them live like the beasts they truly are! It is
      best for them to be poor and ignorant; in that way, we Mighty Ones may
      thrive and be happy.”

      So Prometheus, angered at the stubborn and willful immorality of Father
      Jupiter, goes off on his quest to enlighten the world of Man. He travels
      far into the East, where the Lady Sun arises in the morning, and gets some
      of her blazing flame and carries the torches so lit back to the rude caves
      where Men are eking out a bestial existence. "He went then to the land of
      Men and called out some of the shivering wretches from their caves and
      built a fire for them. At first, they feared Prometheus, for in their eyes
      he was as were the gods: tall and radiant and mighty in lore and wisdom.
      Yet a few stumbled forth and fell on their faces, muttering. He understood
      not their speech, but lifted them up, and a few remained nigh, while
      others fled away. It is those of the kindred of Frith-Atan who remained
      that became the greater kindred of Men, who became wise in lore and mighty
      in the earth; and it is those of the kindred of Frith-Atan who fled that
      became ever after the lesser kindred of Men, beastly and unintelligent,
      the cousins of apes and troglodytes. To those that remained nigh,
      Prometheus showed them how to make a fire and warm themselves by it and
      how to conserve coals and build other fires from the coals."

      Here we see the Second Sundering of Man -- into those who rise above the
      self-aware but still largely bestial life and become fully realised beings
      capable of higher intellectual, spiritual and moral activity. They've eaten
      the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and have become, much to Father
      Jupiter's chagrin, like the Mighty Ones themselves. Or rather, they've
      taken the first hesitant steps along that path. "After that, Prometheus
      taught them, little by little, a thousand things more, for his wisdom was
      wide as the world itself. He showed them how to work with wood and stone
      and how to make houses for themselves, and how to tame sheep and cattle
      and make them useful, and how to plow and sow and reap, and how to protect
      themselves from the storms of winter and the beasts of the woods. Then he
      showed them how to dig in the earth for copper and iron, and how to melt
      the ore, and how to hammer it into shape and fashion from it the tools and
      weapons which they needed in peace and war; he taught them how to write
      their words and how to shape their thoughts with language and when he saw
      how happy the world was becoming he cried out: “The new Golden Age is
      dawning, and brighter by far than the old!” "

      By now, you're probably asking me: "okay, so much for ancient myth, but
      you still haven't explained why the letters go I E A O U! And what that
      might have to do with Pannini." Of course, the answer lies in understanding
      the nature of Prometheus himself. The Lamplighters don't come right out
      and say as much, but it should come as no surprise that the "winged sons
      of one of those Titans who had fought against Father Jupiter" are the
      Daine, those people who were fashioned or wrought by the Elsewheremen, the
      Star People who become known in later times as the Mighty Ones and then
      finally as mere gods of thunder and sea. And it was as Father Jupiter
      feared, in rebelling against these Elsewheremen, they did eventually
      "drive [them] out of [their] kingdom". And history became legend, and
      legend passed into myth, and that is all pretty deep Sawyery.

      And it is these same people who hold that there are two kinds of art: on
      the one hand, there are the arts of hand and heart (music, crafting,
      image-making) and arts of tongue and mind (speaking, story telling,
      singing and so forth). These artists came to notice a number of things
      about their arts. Like tropes and motifs in story telling, declaimers and
      language artists noticed the shapes of sounds as they roll through throat,
      nose and mouth, how they feel washing over the tongue and around the teeth.
      They noticed that the air of some makes the throat dance with vibrations
      while others do not; some engage the lips, others the teeth, still others
      the palate or glottis. They never came up with clinical names like
      "voiceless bilabial trill", but they came to understand the principle.

      It was not until one of the image-makers decided that she would draw
      pictures of the sounds the language artists were making that the idea
      arose that pictures and sounds could be combined into a new art: writing.
      By this time, their aesthetic sensibilities had already gone to work on
      devising an order for all the speech and song sounds -- much like how
      musicians had devised modes and scales and notes -- and so when it came
      time to write down the speech sounds, there was already an aesthetically
      pleasing order in place: the singing sounds first (vowels), from throat
      to lips; then the sounds that make the throat dance (voiced consonants);
      them the sounds that tickle the nose (nasals); then the sounds that rest
      quietly after the dance (voiceless consonants).

      That ancient order was something like I E A O U W  B  L  D  LL  DD  J  Y  G  R  ʔ  M  MB  N  ND  NG  NGG  V  Z  ZH  ZD  HW  P  Þ  T  TT  CH  HY  K  HR  Q  H  F  S. Ancient history indeed, and predates Panini by rather a
      few myriades. Jump up to about 40000 years ago, the Second Age of
      Man, and we find that Men have wandered up from the woodlands of eastern
      Phazzanea and into the southern districts of Hespera where they meet with
      Daine already living in the region. It is here where the "first flowering"
      of Men occurs. The first precivilisations arise along the Nile and Indus
      rivers, which are guided by Daine. Daine teach Men how to write, and quite
      naturally pass along their own order. This age flows into the Third Age
      and its mighty empires (known to moderns as "archaic empires", on account
      of their remote age). It is during this time that a language not at all
      unlike the ancestor of Proto-Indo-Aryan is spoken in the Empire of Punt.
      But the history of Men is one of highs and lows, of building up mighty
      kingdoms and throwing them down again, of learning, forgetting and
      subsequent reinvention. By the time of the World's Panini-analog, the
      memories of the archaic empires of Punt and Harrap have long been washed
      away from the facile minds of Man, and so, largely ignorant of all the
      previous invention and loss of the same, he and like-minded philosophers
      happily reinvent the wheel. He comes up with a similar scheme of points
      of articulation -- after all, the mouths of Men and Daine are
      physiologically very similar -- and sorts the letters of the Sandhian
      languages accordingly.

      Shortly after the fall of Punt, the proto-Aryans are forced to scatter
      away from their ancestral home, some towards the north and west, others
      towards the eastwards, and still others towards the south-east. It is these
      last that are of particular interest, as they are kissing cousins of the
      proto-Aryans and will give rise to the various neo-Anatolians (Hittites,
      Luwians, Talarians). Around the first century of the present era or so is
      the time of the Great Migration. The first of the migrants are the
      Talarians themselves, and by this time are already wandering along to the
      north of Ehrran and Sandhia, and it is from the now established
      civilisations in those lands that they pick up many aspects of their
      future culture and religious practice. By the time the Rumans, the Gyptians
      and the Teutons arrive in the Eastlands, the Talarians are already

      So, the Talarian sort order is ultimately derived from the Puntish sort
      order, which itself derives from the first scribbles of Man some forty
      thousand years ago who learnt the art of scribbling from the Daine who'd
      had a good deal of time practicing. The main difference is almost
      entirely in the loss of voiced consonants in Middle Talarian (O.T. had
      voiced consonants). This, modern philologers (rather ignorantly) call the
      "Aryan Alphabet".

      Other descendants of the Punt -- the Shemans -- took a different tack
      entirely. They kept the idea of writing, but devised their own letters
      and their own sort order, the familiar A  B  G  D... It is this modified
      writing system that becomes exported around the Middle Sea, becoming the
      basic alphabet for the Hellades, the Etruscans and the Remans. Along with
      the growth of Reme and its own influence throughout Atelante and
      Phazzanea and the spread of Loucarian, their own alphabet comes to be
      used by many non-Puntish peoples, especially down along the coasts of
      Nubia. And who knows where else beyond those distant and little known

      From the confluence of Etruscan, Ruman and Helladic influence, the
      ancient Tutones, who had been inhabiting the lands to the north and east
      of the Inhospitable Sea, (re)learned to write some time around the first
      century of the present ere and shortly before the Great Migration. The
      Tutones take that basic Hellado-Italic alphabet and reshape it for their
      own ends, coming up ultimately with runes. They dispense entirely with the
      ancient Daine sense of aesthetics and opt for a magical ordering of the
      letters. Their alphabet is divided into four houses of eight runes each:

      1. W Ê M B L Ô NG UH
      2. G Â S P R Î T Z
      3. F O Þ Q U N D WR
      4. H A K E Y AE X SH

      And that's that story!

      > Alex

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