DailyDirt: Speaking The Language

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

It’s not hard to make the case that language is more worthy of study than any other topic — after all, it’s virtually impossible to study any other topic without relying on language, and all its built-in assumptions and biases, in the first place. You can learn a lot about people by the words they use, and you can learn a lot about words from the people who use them. Here are a few interesting language facts to consider in whatever language your inner monologue prefers:

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Speaking The Language”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What I like about Esperonto is that it begins to implement this idea that all nouns have something in common. Nouns, for example, end in o. What would be a good idea is if we can have a consistent way to change all verbs into nouns. For example sit and seat could share the same root but one has a verb indicator and the other has a noun indicator. A chair is a type of seat and so is a stool so they should share a common root for seat. There should be a word for seat if the speaker wants to be general and two slight variations, perhaps an added letter, for specificity. The variations should make clear to anyone somewhat familiar to the language who sees the word chair, even if they don’t know what it is, that it is a type of seat. It would be preferred if the variation is a common adjective that describes the noun and is also frequently used to modify other nouns.

Pencil and pen are arguably cognates. Perhaps there could be a word for the thing that you write with with a possible modifier that indicates whether you mean the the ink or graphite thing that you write with.

Book and library should have a common root, perhaps a place of books.

(I know that I borrowed from other languages in these examples).

For example in Arabic kitab is book. Maktiba is the place of books or the library.

KeillRandor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

At the end of the day, the whole reason for language to exist – its purpose – is to enable and allow for more consistent communication. (The ability to communicate more abstract and complex pieces of information is a useful side-effect of this.)

Language functions by using relationships and similarities between different pieces of information to affect the use of their representations, to allow such information to be more easily deciphered.

That such representations can also demonstrate such relationships is merely an effect of communication itself (and ultimately semiotics (semantics) via communication) – and is not part of what defines a language for what it is – merely how it is applied, (which language), though it is very useful, and most languages use it to a certain degree, even if it’s not part of their basic rules. What you’re looking for is a language for which that IS true, yes?


The foundation of language is the consistent perception and recognition of – and distinction between – four basic concepts, by humanity in general:

Things, properties of things, things that happen, and properties of things that happen.

(Any language that doesn’t have such distinctions as its root functionality will not function very well – and anytime you come across a definition for a word that doesn’t respect and obey such distinctions, then you know it’s wrong and inconsistent, too. You would have thought that recognising and understanding such things would be such a fundamental part of our understanding and study of language that such mistakes wouldn’t be made that often, but…)

The functionality of language is to relate specific manners of use with specific concepts – (though not all languages use/possess the same concepts nor treat the same concepts in a similar manner – (hence the difference between SVO/SOV etc..)) (Chomsky’s inherent rules of grammar (combinations of the two!) are therefore demonstrably ****.)

The foundation of any language is therefore to fully recognise and understand what particular concepts it wishes to group it’s individual combinations into, and how they are linked with a manner of use. (The concepts often fit into a single taxonomic hierarchy, that is then required to understand the full and consistent relationship between the two.)

The problem with most ‘natural’ languages, is that we do NOT fully recognise and understand what all the concepts are that the language happens to use (including English, which contains/uses 42-55 basic concepts, for example).

Unfortunately, such a lack of understanding then affects the creation and functionality of ‘synthetic’ languages too.

The scale of functionality of language generally relates to being basic/simple->complex, both in information and representation, though the individual combinations of both are ALWAYS basic/simple (1 piece of information + 1 representation).


The language you are looking for has to function in a particular manner, in order to be consistent with actually being a language, and not merely a collection of individual (semantic) combinations (of representation and information) that are merely used for what they are in isolation.

I happen to have created a language that functions in such a manner for a friend, who required a language for a story she was/is? writing, though it still follows the basic SVO of English in its overall grammatical rules.

(She called the race/group she wanted the language for, the Rah‘nuhkii, which then turned out to make perfect sense once I’d created the language around the types of sounds she wanted (think Klingon type sounds – can be very growly/gutteral). (It means ‘I will be resurrected’ (with I meant to be both individual and collective (as a race/group), even though it’s normally singular.))

In this language I created, each syllable, (which is a combination of 1 consonant and 1 vowel), represents specific information that can then be combined to form a specific single piece of information as a single word – (basic information/complex representation).

Each consonant represents a particular concept, and the associated vowel adds additional context (usually morality and tense, but depends on the associated concept), and though there are 18 basic consonants and 12 vowels, each basic consonant has three different ways of being spoken/spelt/applied, to represent three different (related) concepts, making 54 in total. (It therefore has an inherent base-12 numerical system.)

So, yes, similar pieces of information will share such similarities in representation as part of the rules of the language – which one one hand makes it easier to figure out for both it’s use and its perception (to decipher), but on the other makes it harder to represent more complex pieces of information. Since it’s a fairly (information) dense language, however, (though deliberately not as extreme as some), I wouldn’t expect it to be spoken particularly quickly.

The trick to making a language like this work (well, any language, really), is to get the basic concepts right, in a manner that is suitable for its functionality. For this reason, I chose to split up the different types of things at the basic (consonant)level, (living/ex-living (dead)/animate/inanimate/places/information/time/space etc.), instead of merely having one consonant for things, in general, that we would then have to add more to, to make it so specific.

IMO, the most powerful aspect of this language, however, is the ability to add, and use, any such basic consonants (concepts) as a suffix to any individual word – for example: to take a particular piece of information and make it a property (absolute, relative or comparative/similar) – add a t/t/t at the end.

The overall concepts themselves are split into four groups:

Things, properties, things that happen and a mixture of what we call determiners and conjunctions -(especially since numbers and logic are grouped together).

For this reason, this language uses a combination of manners of use AND representations to help communicate such similarities and relationships between different individual pieces of information, consistently – which is what you seem to be after…?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You make some good points and I understand that trying to create a spoken language that categorizes everything as a system of roots is not always practical (perhaps a written language but not a spoken one) because then you will either have to clump together several characters in patterns that are difficult to distinctly pronounce and understand or you end up with very long descriptions for common items.

For instance (and I know I’m somewhat borrowing from other languages and making my own modifications) you can have a word for “the thing that flies” (notice I didn’t use the word ‘glide’ so something like a frisbee would be excluded).

The thing that flies could refer to

a housefly
a bird
An airplane
a helicopter

You can further say “the mechanical thing that flies” which may refer to

an airplane
a helicopter

or “the biological thing that flies” which may refer to

a bird
a housefly

You can further specify “the biological animal that flies” which may refer to

a bird
a bat
a pterodactyl

(Within bird there maybe different types of birds).

You can also refer to the “biological insect that flies” which may refer to

a housefly
a bee

So trying to create an easily speakable combination of sounds to refer to a bird as a combination of roots may have you either ending up either clumping together characters that are difficult to pronounce or requiring you to have a very long word or combination of words just to refer to a common everyday object like a bird.

KeillRandor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You need to recognise that EVERY SINGLE LANGUAGE is fundamentally based upon and around a collection of basic concepts – I gave you the most basic four in my first reply – because without that, there’s nothing to distinguish language from communication in general.

The only question is WHAT concepts you wish to use to base the identity and functionality of a language upon and around.

In English, there is no systematic link between the type of concept and information being represented, and the actual representation itself – the link is almost completely arbitrary. (Let alone that the relationship between the spoken and written forms of the language isn’t entirely consistent, either.)

The basic premise of the original reply was to figure out how to create a language where the representation is as much a part of the rules as the information being represented.

In my language each syllable contains 2 pieces of information, not one, and suffixes also makes things easier, too. Each basic concept can therefore have 12 subsets when necessary (and for most types of thing, that will be) – and if not, then the default is a combination of morality and tense.

But yes, as I said, the side-effect of this type of language is that the more complicated and specific the information, the more complex the representation is in relation.

So for a bird, we can start with one concept/consonant for animals. (J is the basic consonant for living things in my language (split into animals/plants/? (maybe fungi?) – was in the middle of working on this with my friend for her story, but haven’t heard form her in ages – kinda left it incomplete atm. – only got most of the basic concepts/consonants figured out/basic grammar so far etc..))

The question is how we then split up the definitions between the 11/12 associated vowels – (the most neutral is usually kept for the basic concept itself). Since birds would be recognised as such a basic type of animal, however, it would certainly only require a single vowel in combination (as a single syllable) – let’s say, Ji (or Jih). Of course, you could go for a more specific label, based on that it flies, (Jah(wahsi) (animal, thing that happens, high), or has wings (Jah(jihwahsit)).

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