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KathTheDragon
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Rawa mentioned in his Q&A that Obduction might feature its own in-world language, but he also responded to most questions about D'ni by saying he's very rusty on that front.


So, if Cyan does want to put an in-world language into Obduction, who'd be up for making one here in the Guild?

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November 26, 2013 at 4:30 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
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Posts: 381
Rawa just sent me a PM to confirm that he has looked over the site, and at potent, he rather likes the set-up.
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November 28, 2013 at 5:03 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Korov’ev
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Posts: 160

This reminds me I recently acquired Rosenfelder's Language Construction Kit and haven't started it yet...

 

Good to hear from Rawa!

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November 28, 2013 at 1:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
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Posts: 381

I have a copy of the exact same book! And it's sequel. And the world-building one too.

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November 28, 2013 at 4:48 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Orz
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Posts: 15

I doubt RAWA or Cyan have any desire to outsource language construction for Obduction, but I'd enjoy working on a language anyway.

December 1, 2013 at 11:44 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
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Posts: 381
Maybe, maybe not. Won't hurt to leave it on the table should Rawa or another Cyanist poke their head down here.
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December 2, 2013 at 9:07 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Khreestrefah
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Posts: 96

If they do "discover" another alien language, I hope it won't conform to some Language Construction Kit.

I prefer the way that D'ni is both vaguely familiar (enough for very approximate translations in our languages) and yet with strange quirks that continue to baffle after a decade of study.

December 14, 2013 at 4:39 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
Site Owner
Posts: 381

The LCK (and it's successor) are very helpful for making realistic languages. It's not a do-this-do-that, but rather a here's-a-bunch-of-things-real-languages-do-and-while-we're-at-it-here's-some-really-nooby-things-you-should-avoid. FTR, these are kitchen-sinking, standard-fantasy-languaging, and standard-average-europeaning. D'ni avoids the former well, just escapes the second, but it could well fall under the latter.

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December 14, 2013 at 5:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Khreestrefah
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Posts: 96

That is my point.  A really artistic "alien" language would not be "realistic" by any preset standard, regardless of how clever the standard-makers might think they are, and regardless of whether the rules are stated as recommendations or proscriptions.


Also, I think D'ni only looks "European" because all that we know about its semantics is filtered through explanations in a European language.  The general point is that an LCK written in a European language can at best induce one to invent an "anti-European" language, not an "alien" one.  But that is only my (perhaps not so clever) opinion :)

December 15, 2013 at 3:35 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
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Posts: 381

Have you even read the LCK? Here's the online version. I'd reccomend you read it before you criticise it.

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December 15, 2013 at 3:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
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Posts: 381

Just done a little research, and in terms of phonology and grammar, it's somewhat European, but not enough to make me want to lynch Rawa. Semanticly... Possibly. Very hard to tell.

It is, however, very close to your prototypical SFL in terms of phonology (ie English + /x/, and maybe a few other common phonemes)

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December 15, 2013 at 4:20 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Orz
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Posts: 15

Khreestrefah wrote:


> Also, I think D'ni only looks "European" because all that we know about its semantics is filtered through explanations in a European language.


Uh, no. D'ni is an SVO nominative-accusative language with strictly concatenative morphology, a tense/aspect system consisting of past/present/future + aorist/perfect, subject-verb agreement for person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (singular and plural) specified with verbal suffixes, no object-verb agreement, separate verbs for "to be" and "to have", verbal negation expressed by a separable adverb rather than by an auxiliary verb or affix*, no productive causative or inchoative forms, no productive constructs involving reduplication, right-branching relative clauses with relative pronouns, both definite and indefinite articles, prepositions (rather than postpositions or special verbs), closed syllables, no non-pulmonic consonants, no glottal or pharyngeal consonants, no lateral fricatives, no alveolar/palatal distinction, no retroflex consonants, no velar/uvular distinction, phonemic voicing, no phonemic aspiration, no voiceless nonobstruents, and no phonemic pitch or tonality.


I can't name one language from outside Europe for which even half of those are true, and I can't name one (non-Caucasian**) European language for which even half of them are false. Not even Basque. (Though there's probably some Polynesian language with a small phoneme inventory that slips in thanks to all the phonemic-inventory "no"s at the end. Which, honestly, is what gets Basque.)


The only feature of D'ni I can think of that I would consider "non-European" would be the possessive suffixes.


* ril is often enough written separately that I can't legitimately analyze it as a verbal clitic.


** I do have to exclude the so-often-excluded Caucasus: almost none of these hold for Georgian.



> A really artistic "alien" language would not be "realistic" by any preset standard, regardless of how clever the standard-makers might think they are, and regardless of whether the rules are stated as recommendations or proscriptions.

> The general point is that an LCK written in a European language can at best induce one to invent an "anti-European" language, not an "alien" one.


I do not see any compelling reason why either of these things would be true.

December 15, 2013 at 7:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Khreestrefah
Member
Posts: 96

I thought we were talking hypothetically about a  potential "alien" language in Obduction.  I was not criticizing the book Kath cited (at least that is not what I intended to convey) -- only expressing my view the the sort of constructed language that such a book would tend to encourage in a language creator who reads it, would not be the sort of artistic "alien" language that I happen to like and think is worthy of study.


Just to give an analogy: I do not actually have to read a book entitled How to Write a Poem in order to know that someone who sets out to write poetry using the advice of such a book will not end up writing a poem of the sort that I like.


Orz: your assessment of the phonetics of D'ni is based on descriptions of how to approximate its pronunciation, stated in Englsh to an European audience.  I suspect that if Rawa had been a native speaker of a non-European language his descriptions might have sounded non-European.  As far as the syntax, after 10 years of trying to account for what is translated by "voice" and the basic constituency rules of what are translated as "verbal direct objects" our utter failure to come up with an complete explanation suggest to me that the syntax is non-European.

December 15, 2013 at 8:01 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Orz
Member
Posts: 15

> Just to give an analogy: I do not actually have to read a book entitled How to Write a Poem in order to know that someone who sets out to write poetry using the advice of such a book will not end up writing a poem of the sort that I like.


To extend your analogy: anyone who uses the advice in How to Write a Poem to make a poor poem would still not have made a good poem without it. Conversely, in poetry as in conlanging (and, I am assured, in the visual arts as well), you do have to know what the rules are before you can properly break them.

 

 

 

 

> Orz: your assessment of the phonetics of D'ni is based on descriptions of how to approximate its pronunciation, stated in Englsh to an European audience. I suspect that if Rawa had been a native speaker of a non-European language his descriptions might have sounded non-European.


Point zero, just to make things clear: The D'ni language does not exist except as descriptions to an audience and as notes in RAWA's possession. There are no native speakers of D'ni, and no other reality behind the illusion. If he consistently depicts D'ni as having a phonetic inventory equal to that of English (plus /x/), then that's what it actually has.


Point one: My assessment of the phonetics of D'ni is based almost entirely on the D'ni writing system, as presented in Myst IV. If RAWA has ever detailed the phonetics of D'ni out-of-game (outside of denying Esher's apostrophe-as-ʿayin), memory of it eludes me. I suppose it is possible that a tenuis/aspirated distinction was presented as a voiced/unvoiced distinction (much as pinyin does for Mandarin Chinese); but either the majority of the rest of my observations hold, or the D'ni writing system is markedly defective.


Point two: I am acquainted with at least one conlang produced by a native speaker of a non-European language: Baronh, by Hiroyuki Morioka. While his native Japanese shows through in the sentence construction and case syncretism, it's phonologically much more European, and somewhat so morphologically as well. This does not rely on "sounds like" descriptions; Morioka has provided the IPA for the phonemes of Baronh in published works. (The right-hand column is labeled "Example words" and is non-normative.) Conversely, there exist many conlangs written by native speakers of English which are specified to contain decidedly non-European phonemes: just off the top of my head, Klingon, Na'vi, and Ithkuil. Even H. P. Lovecraft's descriptions of the pronunciation of "Cthulhu", while inconsistent, clearly described sounds not present in the Indo-European languages.


Point three: You can ignore the phonetic tests completely. Just strike "closed syllables" and everything after it, and focus on the statements about grammar and syntax; the half-vs.-half comment will still hold true. (Although then Basque won't be considered "European". But then, Georgian has already made it clear that "European" isn't the right word; "member of the SAE Sprachbund" would be better.)


> As far as the syntax, after 10 years of trying to account for what is translated by "voice" and the basic constituency rules of what are translated as "verbal direct objects" our utter failure to come up with an complete explanation suggest to me that the syntax is non-European.


The vast majority of D'ni's known syntactic features are—insofar as the adjectives "European" and "non-European" mean anything here—very European in nature. Ceteris paribus, any unknown syntax is likely also to be. If you would like to suggest specific non-SAE constructs that you think describe observed text more properly than any current interpretation, feel free to do so; but your implication that everyone who has analyzed D'ni over the past 10 years has been blinded by SAE strikes me as... unlikely. I put forth instead the hypothesis that the gaps in our understanding of D'ni syntax are far better explained simply by the small size of the corpus.

December 17, 2013 at 4:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
Site Owner
Posts: 381

Might I point Khreestrefah to this forum, which just so happens to have two subforms dedicated to con-langing, another to language in general, and a fourth to the owner's conworld. There are real gems in there, from Eurolangs, Romlangs, Xenolangs, everything. Even one of my own. I think it is conclusive proof that that anyone speaking an IE language can make decidedly non-IE languages.

Also this, in that forum's parent site. Note particularly the myriad languages listed on the left-hand side of the page. Kebreni and all the ones in the right column are all distinctly non-IE. The others belong to a family intended to be IE-like.

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December 17, 2013 at 5:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Khreestrefah
Member
Posts: 96

I recognize the possibility for language invention per se to give aesthetic pleasure; but my own interest (personal taste if you will) is in language as an internally consistent part of the "subcreation" of a secondary world (in Tolkien's sense) and the aesthetic pleasure that that gives as a form of the art of storytelling.  Naturally, I have some decades ago recognized that de gustibus non demonstrandum :)  But the consequence for me as regards D'ni is that it makes no logical difference whether one believe that there is a real language of which our evidence for D'ni is an approximation, or one pretend this to be the case.  And the point is that I have to do one or the other in order for the study of D'ni to be of any interest at all.


As for "European" vs. "non-European" I think Orz may have been on the right track to question (at least hypothetically) whether these "mean anything here."  In any case, if one is allowed to qualify the categorization as very European, then it seems to me that a ceteris paribus argument is meaningless ipso facto ;) To put it in practical terms, if D'ni is, say, 75% European and 25% non-European, then surely the grammatical rules that remain to be explained are more likely to be found among the non-European segment -- not necessarily because of any "blindness" to non-European grammar on the part of European speakers, but rather from being less familiar, on average.  Just consider the recent reaction to the realization the D'ni phrase for "grand master" had been in one of the earliest published texts all along...


An interesting statement was pubished by Cyan eight years ago:

  "The D'ni language is not an Earth language, but it has many similarities to some of our native tongues.

  "D'ni is most frequenty compared to Hebrew because the two languages have similar characters and sounds.  But there are many differences, the most obvious one being that Hebrew is written from right to left, while D'ni is written from left to right."


This does not really say anything of much consequence -- but that in itself might be a hint  8)

January 1, 2014 at 5:48 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
Site Owner
Posts: 381

Well, virtually every language has similar sounds to many other languages.

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January 2, 2014 at 3:43 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Talashar
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Posts: 30

At http://web.archive.org/web/19990224124858/http://www1.riven.com/backstage/language.html there's an old interview with some interesting things about the development of D'ni and points of similarity to real-world languages.

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Talashar Geltahn; Ki 183867 An overview of D'ni grammar | My books

January 2, 2014 at 7:27 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Khreestrefah
Member
Posts: 96

What Kath says is true (at least of current Earth languages).   But if we consider the matter from the point of view of someone attempting to decipher and interpret an ancient non-Earth language, then it might seem significant that the phonology and writing system of D'ni are closer to Biblical Hebrew than, say, to Ancient Greek or Vedic Sanskrit, not to mention Hieroglyphic Egyptian, Sumerian, or Old Chinese.

January 3, 2014 at 2:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Talashar
Member
Posts: 30

The use of dots in letters was probably inspired by the Hebrew alphabet, the D'ni consonants not present in English ([x], [ʔ], syllable-initial [ts]) also occur in modern Hebrew, and Rawa has explicitly compared the D'ni schwa to that of Hebrew. But the D'ni and Hebrew writing systems strike me as fairly different in letter forms and general principles (D'ni having full vowel letters rather than diacritics).

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Talashar Geltahn; Ki 183867 An overview of D'ni grammar | My books

January 3, 2014 at 10:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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