Artificial Language: Popular Sounds versus Dissimilar Sounds

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by ElectricFetus, Apr 16, 2011.

  1. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member

    So I'm making up an artificial language (don't ask me why, I don't know why, I think I'm possessed!). It is suppose to be an universal language with ease of learning as its highest directive, followed by logical simplicity and expandability. I got a grammar and word structure down, but I'm stumped on sounds, consonants specifically as I think I've settled on five vowels. There are two competing theories for me on what consonants to use, the first is simply to choose the most popular consonants, easy enough, Interlingua and Lojban claim to have done it already, and right away I see a problem. Lets take a look at lojban's consonants:


    Lets say your native japanese speaker, well the "v" and "b" sounds are going to be hard to differentiate: you will have difficulty hearing the difference between the two! For a Cantonese speaker the "l" and "n" sounds, etc, it looks like they notices these problem and fix the most obvious "r" and "l" confusion by putting in the less popular trilled "r" sound, no ones is going to confuse that for an "l". This leads me to a different counter-intuitive theory: Choose sounds regardless of how unpopular they are as long as they are less likely to be confused for other sounds. It can take years if ever for an adult foreign language speaker to master being able to differentiate between similar sounds.[1],[2],[3] Yet how long does it take learn to speak a new sound? I don't think it takes too long, when I was looking up consonants I found the click sounds, very rare sounds only used in a few Sub-Saharan languages, yet it only took me minutes to learn how to make those sounds with or without vowels at the beginning and/or ends. No one is going to confuse a "!" (click-clack sound like a horse hooves on pavement) or "|" (snapping sound like a branch breaking) for any other sound! So I made up a chart of 15 potential consonant sounds which are choose such that it would be difficult for a uninitiate to confuse one for another, the exact sound is boxed and similar sounds which might be allowable mispronunciations are colored the same.


    Am I right or wrong?

    [1]:Best, Catherine; Strange, W. (1992), "Effects of phonological and phonetic factors on cross-language perception of approximants", Journal of phonetics 20: 305–330

    [2]: Logan, John; Lively, Scott; Pisoni, David (1991), "Training Japanese listeners to identify English /r/ and /l/: a first report", Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 89 (2): 874–886

    [3]: Koyama S, Akahane-Yamada R, Gunji A, Kubo R, Roberts TP, Yabe H, Kakigi R. "Cortical evidence of the perceptual backward masking effect on /l/ and /r/ sounds from a following vowel in Japanese speakers." Neuroimage. 2003 Apr;18(4):962-74.
  2. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    Use the Hawaiian subset: HKLMNP. Their phoneme set was simplified after generations of having to understand each other while traversing the open sea on stone age-technology rafts.
    Actually the flapped R is practically a world standard. The unique English R (and even the Brits flap it between two vowels) is a mosh of the gargled R of the other Germanic languages (also inherited from the Frankish language substrate in Parisian French). Mandarin has its own unique R sound and I'm sure there are a few others scattered around the globe. But most languages flap their R like Spanish, Russian and Japanese.
    Just ask the millions of immigrants who can't pronounce English R or TH (voiced or voiceless) correctly. Or the millions who haven't mastered the palatalized consonants (T' D' L' N') of the Slavic languages. Umlauted vowels. The consonant clusters of Czech or even English. Speaking of Czech, all my friends say I'm the only foreigner who has ever spoken an Ř.
  3. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member

    I wonder about "M" and "N", can they be separated by everyone? I remember an experiment were people watched a video of someone saying "mice" or "nice" and they swapped the audio around so they would see the lips move to "nice" while the person said "mice" the result was that people would hear "nice when it was in fact "mice". I wonder for the few languages that lack one of those two if they can tell the difference between the one they know and the one they don't know.

    No I want actual studies showing how long it takes, because the studies I found on learning to distinguish new sounds apart say for adults it can take years if ever!

    All the sounds I listed in my table I can make and as an English speaker a voiceless retroflex fricative "s" or retroflex lateral approximant "L" are alien to me and to most people in the world (well not the former, but its alien to English speakers), yet I can make those sounds, it only took me seconds, Now they do sound very similar to "sh" and "l" and I might have difficulty hearing the difference but as long as I don't have any other "sh" or "l" sounds I think I will be fine.
  4. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    Even Hawaiian has them. If they can be distinguished when shouted from a raft fifty feet away on a stormy sea, they can probably be distinguished anywhere. This is the language that has no T because it sounds too much like K.
    Everyone's vocal organs have a different shape so no two people pronounce the same phoneme identically. This is why no language has 500 phonemes: You'd have to hear someone recite a familiar slogan in order to calibrate your ears to his mouth so you could make the subtle distinctions and hear his words as words.

    Furthermore, everyone has a phonetic overlay from his primary language, even his dialect.
    • In my company here in Maryland we have a man named Don and a woman named Dawn. When I refer to one of them in a sentence, the local people ask "which one?" Their regional accent underwent the cot-caught merger: they pronounce both vowels the same, about halfway between the two. Even though I pronounce them differently (which is odd because I learned to talk in Chicago, which the books tell me is squarely in the middle of Merger Territory), they don't hear the difference.
    • In Spanish a D between two vowels is pronounced like our TH in "these," whereas in other positions it's pronounced more like our D (although not identically because the tongue is between the teeth rather than up against the roof of the mouth). So when we say "dough" and "though," they don't hear the difference and think they are homonyms.
    • Mandarin (perhaps all the languages of China) has no voiced stops or affricates: B D G J DZ. It has two parallel sets of P T K CH TS, one aspirated (the puff of air after the T in "top") and one unaspirated (no puff like the T in "stop"). So they don't hear the difference between "napping" and "nabbing." And we have the symmetrical problem with Chinese, not being able to tell the two different P's apart.
    I didn't know there were any languages that lacked either M or N. Which ones are you referring to? I can't believe that any language could not have M, since that's the only consonant babies can produce, until the synapses to their vocal organs develop further. (Human babies are born with a less developed brain than any other mammal, otherwise it would be too large to fit through the birth canal, which is already so wide that the muscles around our uniquely broad pelvis had to be rerouted.) This is why "mama" is a universal word. All babies say it because they can't say anything else.

    Some phoneme losses are amazing. Russian does not have the cardinal O in "rose." Their closest sound is the AW in "dawn," as pronounced by those of us who have not merged "Don" with "Dawn." And even that sound only comes out when the syllable is stressed. An unstressed O or A in Russian is just an "uh" sound. I was in a meeting once discussing the impact of the latest insurance regulations in the various states on a new software system at an insurance company. The Russian guy kept saying, "But uh-KHY-uh is different." We had no idea what he was talking about. In exasperation he finally spelled out uh-KHY-uh on the blackboard: OHIO.
  5. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member

    Hawaiian not the case I'm looking for. Of the common sounds even m and n are not universal: Mohawk for example lacks a bilabial M sound, the Wichita language lacks the alveolar N (. The Makah language lacks both M and N. In short I have yet to find a phoneme which is universal.

    Good to know. Maybe I switch the K for a Uvular G. I was think of switching the H sound to a Uvular H (X) sound, it will sound more distinct but it will also sound less appealing, all the throttle sounds are horrible sounding.

    and this has to do with.. what? I want a small selections of phonemes not hundreds!

    I only use 5 vowels and dipthongs only at the end of a word, in fact all my words as made of strings of cvc syllables, with the option to begin with a 2 letter vc word and/or end with a 1 letter consonant word before the dipthong. So all my words are (vc)'cvc'cvc'...'(c)vv, examples "totau", "attotau", "attotcau", "attotmadcau" The language will be extremely agglutinative and made by stringing 1,2 and 3 letter words. The dipthong allows you to know when the word has ended, and tells you if the word is a verb, adjective, noun, operator, plural, tense, etc, so the word attotmadcau could be separated into individual words as "atea totau madoe cio" Now if I could just figure out the right consonants to go with those symbols.

    How can a D sound be between two vowels? Our D is Alveolar, the Spanish D is Dental, I chosen a Voiced Reflective Plosive "d" and the closes sound in my selection is a "t" which is voiceless verse voiced and Alve​olar instead of Plosive.

    Which is why I have selected only one and not the other, there is no B just a P.

    Well just because babies make the noise does not mean all adults make it as well. I have the links above on languages that lack m,n or both.

    Again I selected my vowels to be few (only 5) and as far apart as possible to allow ranging mispronounce that is still intelligible as a specific vowel. The vowels are: I: Close front un/rounded, e: Close to Open mid front unrounded, a: Open Front to Back unrounded, o: Open to Close mid back rounded u: Closed back un/rounded.
  6. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    Not to everyone. We don't have them in English so they sound strange to us, but to a Persian they're quite mellifluous. One of Shia Islam's holiest cities is named Qom. R is a voiceless uvular fricative in the Portuguese of the Rio de Janeiro region (Khiu dji Zhaneykhu). In northern French with its Frankish substrate, R is a voiced uvular fricative, as it is in many German and Scandinavian. regional accents.
    I should have expanded on my point. If you hear a very short set of phonemes from the mouth of a stranger, even in your own language, you might not be able to distinguish them from other similar phonemes, especially if they have only slightly different regional accents. As I pointed out, my friends in Maryland hear "Dawn" and "Don" as the same word, even though I pronounce them differently.
    You're going to all the trouble of creating a new language from scratch. So why are you going to hamstring it with Stone Age paradigms like inflections??? That's what's wrong with Esperanto. Even though it was invented only 150 years ago, it has singular/plural, nominative/accusative (both of which apply to adjectives as well as nouns), masculine/feminine, and quite an array of verb tenses and modes, all of which are expressed by endings, tolerable only because there are no irregularities. In addition, a noun can be turned into an adjective or adverb, and even a verb if it makes sense, by a different ending. It's easy to learn, but the rigid complexiity of the rules makes it as cumbersome for expression in the 21st century as Latin.

    I recommend that you study Chinese a little more deeply and marvel at the simplicity, adaptability and expressiveness of a language without inflections. A ten-syllable sentence in English typically translates to seven in Chinese, so the language can be spoken much more slowly, which greatly aids comprehension.
    Between two vowels or at the end of a word a D is a voiced dental fricative, equivalent to English soft TH. In most other positions it is a voiced dental stop, like D in the Slavic languages.
    Fascinating. So there are languages in which the word for "mother" does not begin with M.
  7. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member

    No not strange, I said they sound like shit, I'm quantifying a frivolous thing (beauty) and any language that uses a throttle sound is uglier because of it. Its not up for argument its simply my opinion.

    and so? I don't see how this has anything to do with my statements on language.

    lets see I could say "many thing" or I could say "things" one certianly cuts down on what I need to say. With inflection i can change one word, one morpheme into several words into a noun, verb, adjective, I can even reverse its meaning, thus I need less morphemes. I don't see what so wrong with inflections?

    Well what would be the alternative? Lojban is not any less complex! With the diphthong ending you know when a word ends, something I figure I need if the words are going be agglutinative. I have 25 possible diphthong/double vowel endings, might as well us them for something! Hell I can even make grammatical order unnecessary, for example "ea" is my verb (present tense), "io" is my object noun (singular specific) and iu is my subject noun (singular specific). So the made up phrase "takiu vea nofio" could be rearranged in any format SOV, OSV, VSO, VOS, SVO, OVS and nothing would change. I'm not trying to make an efficient language just a universally easy one to learn, and minimizing grammar rules sounds like a good start.

    Your probably not counting tones. There is no fucking way I'm going to incorporate tones!

    That still doesn't make it a vowel.

    aaah yeah.
  8. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    After learning to think in Chinese I realized that 95% of the time it's unnecessary to express number.
    • Often it doesn't matter. "I love parrot" or "I love parrots," what's the difference?
    • Other times it's obvious from context. "Dog is in yard," we all know how many dogs and yards are in this particular universe of discourse.
    • And still other times, only one way makes sense. "Remember, mother told you to clean kitchen before you go out and play." "Mothers" and "kitchens" would be silly in most households.
    The same can be said for present/past/future tenses in verbs.

    After all, all of us anglophones know intuitively that it's not necessary to inflect nouns for case or verbs for person--except the -s for third person singular, and even that is vanishing in urban American slang with its phonetic substrate of African languages with no final consonant clusters. Why should certain other inflections be sacred?
    Yes, Esperanto does the same thing and it does make it easier to learn as a foreign language in adulthood--which is what Zamenhof rightly expected. But Chinese does the same thing by analysis instead of synthesis. Instead of having inflections as a separate category of morphemes, all morphemes can stand alone, or be combined as needed to form compound words unbound by grammatical rules. Instead of having a particle like "un-" that can only be embedded as a prefix, it uses a word like "not" or "without" to form an opposite. By having only nouns and verbs, it frees itself from the strictures of parts of speech, so you don't have to tie your words in knots to make sure they are proper adjectives or adverbs. (The words I translate as "not" and "without" are actually verbs.)

    This economy of morphemes in Esperanto is not something poets rave about. It's very difficult to write rousing poetry in Esperanto because you end up using the same morphemes over and over again. Our poets tend to concentrate on alliteration, rhyme, and unorthodox use of suffixes as stand-alone words to surprise us and make us laugh. The best Esperanto poetry looks like it was written by Dr. Seuss. So be careful that you don't frustrate your poets. ;)
    The Bronze Age syntax of Latin. English and Chinese are the richest, most expressive and powerful languages of the Post-Industrial Era. Word order is constrained in the former and absolutely rigid in the latter.
    Then why don't you just join the Esperanto movement??? We could sure use the help! That would probably be a very useful thing for you to do anyway. See how Zamenhof's efforts worked out in real life, and learn from his mistakes. I learned Esperanto in three months when I was 14. I much prefer Chinese but I do a whole lot more actual communicating in la internacia lingvo.
    Mandarin has a very constrained phonetic structure. Every morpheme is only one syllable. Each syllable is of the form KSVF, where K is an optional consonant, S is an optional semivowel, V is a mandatory vowel, and F is an optional semivowel or N or NG. And many combinations that conform to this oversimplified statement of the rules are not permissible. Because of this there are only 400 possible morphemes, multiplied to 1600 by the four tones. As a result every morpheme has, on the average, three homophones in vernacular speech and dozens in scholarly language. This gives the language the added burden of requiring all but the most basic concepts to be expressed in two-syllable compounds to avoid ambiguity. If you design a richer phonetic paradigm you should be able to provide your language with a great many more monosyllables, as we have in English and French, the most compact European languages. Don't blow it by requiring an extra syllable for a suffix that adds no meaning in 95% of its appearances.
    Sorry, I must have misread your post. I didn't realize that was your point.

    Where were you when they were looking for somebody with the minimal credentials to start a Linguistics subforum, and had to settle for me? :)
  9. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member


    • "I love parrot" could mean my parrot, or a particular parrot, but that may just be because of the English phrasing.

      I should note there are no articles in my language, does that help? I don't see the problem with inflection, it can be useful, take a more ambiguous phrase like "it eat it" what is it, is it eating its self or another 'it'? Is it eating now, yesterday or tommorow? Now I'm not requiring inflection, a phrase like the above would be valid in my language, it isn't in English. More so I could rephrase it as "it it eat" or "eat it it" or the reverse "it eat it" (I switch one it for the other) and it would still mean "it(1)(singular) eat(general) it(2)(singular)"

      There are no "final consonant cluster" in my language only diphthongs. There are the word bases consisting of 1,2,3 or even 5 letters, with consonant/vowels arrange as 1=c, 2=vc, 3=cvc, 5=ccvcc, to make a complete word it must end in a dipthong (vv). So lets say 'tot' is a base word, now "totau" is a subject noun of 'tot', "totoa" is a general verb of 'tot', "totoi" is a greater preceding adjective of 'tot', etc. The dipthong is a clear ending to a word if not then a hearing compound words like "totkamzuptrastsmoskf" you won't know if one word was said or ten without having to know intuitively through learning the whole language and how ever one of those base words interact with each other in a sentence, but with the diphthong ending you know "totkamzupprastsmoskfau" is just one word, even if you have no clue what "totkamzupprastsmosk" is. And since I got 25 possible diphthong endings I figure I might use them for something, hey why not inflection?

      Chinese is more complicated then your claiming, unless your saying mandarin has no grammar! Of course logically it does have grammar and the very nature of attaching words like a "prefix" is grammar. Instead of inflection they have classifiers and particles, big whoop.

      But manderin has adjectives, they are just arrange grammatically different from English adjectives. Are you speaking of just the general idea of having only nouns and verbs? I'll consider it, considering my emphasis on agglutinatives they might be useless, for example "the big black dog" could be expressed as "bigblackdog" single word. As is the adjectives in my language can be added before or after the noun or verb they modify as a separate word with a dipthong ending declaring it as a adjective, its strength (greatest, greater, normal, lesser, least) and if it precedes or follows the word its modifying. I do like options more than rules, so if its optional to say them separate or as one.

      I don't give a shit about poetry. But if they want it to rhythm I guess it helps that in the language I'm making word order is mostly irrelevant, so they can say: "cotau foa tanao" or "tanao foa cotau" or "cotau tanao foa" or "tanao cotau foa" or "foa tanao cotau" or "foa cotau tanao". It all means the same thing. Maybe that will help them... I don't know, I don't care.

      So? Are you saying grammatical rigidity makes a language great? Can you prove this isn't merely mistaken casualty and thus its merely correlated with other factors like that British and American empire or the fact the land of china is grossly populated?

      Esperanto was made for European speakers from the get go, it was based almost exclusively on European languages, I was thinking of a language that was even simpler and more universal.

      no this is all a waste to time, artificial languages have no useful future, imperialism won, we all have to learn someone else natural language with all its complex rules and exceptions rather than some utopian artificial universal auxiliary, reality is not fair.

      Yeah, I've been doing that.

      Oh really, to whom and for what importance?

      Yeah, thank you for confirming what I heard from other sources.

      I have 15 1-letter base words, with 45 possible word classes or 375 possible words when the dipthongs are attached. For 2-Letter base words its 75, 225, 1875. For 3-letter based words its 1125, 3375, 28125. For 5-letter base words its 31360, 94080, 784000... add those all together is that enough? but wait there is more! I can make compound words consisting up 2, 2-letter bases plus endless 3 and 5-letter bases and finally up to 1, 1-letter base. So "idistotkamzupprastsmoskfau" is "id'is'tot'kam'zup'prast'smosk'fau" is a possible word.

      Again compactness is not a requirement, just ease of learning.

      I have a masters in biochemical engineering, I don't think I have any credentials for this forum. I just have a lot of dead time right now apply for jobs and have gone insane with weird compulsions like writing up an artificial language on a spread sheet.
  10. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    Yes it could. Since people who know me know that we have a house full of parrots, if I said that they would assume that I mean "I love all parrots," or "I love our parrots." There isn't much substantive difference between the two sentences, since anyone who has that many parrots must love them all. I could easily add the one syllable word for "all" or "our," just as I could in Chinese. If someone who doesn't have a parrot said that, you would reasonably assume they meant that they love all parrots, although perhaps not quite affectionately enough to have one in their house. If they only have one parrot then there's an ambiguity, but they would probably be effusive enough to say "I love my parrot," if that's what they meant.
    I give you a lot of credit for figuring that out. Zamenhof didn't. Esperanto has a definite article but no indefinite, and at least it's not declined for case and number the way adjectives are. Most of my Esperanto friends speak Slavic languages so they tend to leave out the la in front of nouns and it's never caused any confusion. After all these decades I find myself writing like that too.
    So how is putting one "it" in the nominative case and one in the accusative case going to resove that? You have to have some way to express reflexivity. In English we have the compound "itself." The other Germanic languages (sich, selv), the Romance languages (se, si) and the Slavic languages (sya) have a separate standalone pronoun meaning he/she/itself. Chinese just appends the word zi-ji, meaning "oneself" after any pronoun (I, you, he) to indicate reflexive.
    My point is that in half of the sentences we build in modern discourse, time is not an element of the context. "Lions hunt zebras." "My dogs love to sleep." "I play the bass guitar." "Grass is green." In half of the other half, the time is obvious from context. And once again, in the minority of cases when I need to specify "yesterday," "today" or "tomorrow," those are all nice compact two-syllable words in Chinese.
    Yes it has grammar, but its syntax is analytical instead of synthetic. None of those morphemes are prefixes or suffixes. With very few exceptions they can all stand alone. My point is that you can shove almost any two morphemes together to build a compound word, and if it makes sense, you've succeeded. You don't have to limit yourself to a list of inflections, none of which mean quite what you're trying to express.
    Classifiers are only used in a couple of specific syntactical situations. As I noted, one is with numbers. And as usual, the true reason for adding an extra morpheme to a number is to make it clear that it's a number, rather than any of the two to six one-syllable morphemes that sound the same. If Chinese had a richer phonetic structure it wouldn't need those.
    It only has one particle in common use, de, which, as I said, serves less as a grammatical tool and more as a spoken comma or semicolon to help the listener parse the sentence. Once again, this is fallout from the impoverished phonetic paradigm, the need to sort out homophones; you could omit most instances of this particle in writing, although AFAIK no one does. To be precise it is a collapse of two particles, di, which means "belonging or pertaining to whatever the preceeding bunch of words defines," and dei, which is the equivalent of -ing on the end of a gerund and only applies to verbs. They figured out that those two usages are almost the same, although in some dialects of Mandarin such as Sichuan they still pronounce them differently.
    No, although some old-fashioned authorities disagree with me. The word we translate as "red" means literally "to be red." So when we translate tian hong as "(the) sky (is) red," we're accusing the Chinese of speaking a pidgin in which the verb "to be" is elided. (I hope no Russians are reading this because I just called their language a pidgin.) That way we can translate hong tian as "red sky." When in fact tian hong means literally "sky be-red" and hong tian means "being-red sky."

    The same is true of the words we translate as prepositions, a part of speech that Chinese also lacks. Wo zai fang li doesn't mean "I (am) in (the) house" with "in" as a postposition. It means "I occupy house('s) interior.
    That makes a language more adaptable. The preposition, for example, strangles English. Unlike nouns and verbs, there is no grammatical mechanism for us to create new prepositions, and the new ones that have been added to our vocabulary in the last 1500 years are very few: inside, onto, without, regarding, etc. We had to give up and create an entire new rule of grammar in the last century, the ability to create the noun-adjective compound to express relationships that we can't express with the meager paradigm of prepositions our Stone Age ancestors bequeathed us. Fuel-efficient, cost-effective, labor-intensive, user-friendly, this whole family of constructions isn't much older than I am.
    So your people won't be able to write songs? If they have to get their music from another culture they're not going to be very loyal to yours.
    Not grammatical rigidity but syntactical rigidity. A precise syntax correlates with minimal grammar. Latin sentences could be rearranged in almost any order, but every word had to have an inflection. In Modern English we have to agree on word order, but even with its Germanic relics our grammar is so free-form that we hardly even distinguish between nouns and verbs any more. Have you friended anyone on Facebook? Was that book you borrowed a good read?
    (You mean Indo-European.) Nonetheless, Hungarians, Finns and Japanese find it quite easy to learn.
    If yours is full of inflections I don't see how it can be much simpler than Esperanto. Esperanto's big draw is that the inflections allow you to change nouns into verbs, positives into negatives, objects into the containers that hold them, actions into the places where they take place, etc. But in the process it built a vocabulary with no richness. Need a new word, just cram two together. That sounds a lot like Chinese until you realize that Chinese has at least ten times as many words as Esperanto, and that if you cram four Chinese words together to make your point you've got a four-syllable compound, whereas in Esperanto it's more likely to be ten. The reason Esperanto is so easy to learn is that there aren't a lot of synonyms, which usually do not in fact have exactly the same meaning. You have to build long sentences to get the nuances you want, rather than choosing different words.
    I don't use Esperanto to reorder the world. I use it to make friends in exotic foreign lands and stay in touch with them. Hearing their view of life is greatly enriching.
    I have pen pals in several countries, mostly Eastern Europe where English is still not widely studied. When I was in Europe in 1973 I met many of them in person.
    A language with a high-syllable count is difficult to learn because it must be spoken quickly. This is why it's easier to learn French than Italian by listening to native speakers. You can tell where one word stops and the next one begins.
    You seem to know a lot about the subject. My degree is in accounting and my profession is IT. Although I have to admit, that places me in an office full of people speaking Telugu every day. ;)
    The last two times I was unemployed for long periods I joined a band and entertained a lot of people. Although I just did that again and I've been employed for almost a year.
  11. Delphi Registered Senior Member

    Does Chinese have a way of creating new nouns and verbs? I would assume that for nouns it would be something like "electricity brain" (computer), but can you give some example of verbs?
  12. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member

    I thought I posted my response days ago, guess it never made it, so here it is again.

    Oh so people need to know you or your situation in order to understand what your saying, yeeeaaah that sounds like a really effective language :bugeye:

    Easy "it(1) verb it(1)" is reflexive, or Object Verb Object, but I guess I can create a word for "self" and compound it with "it" to make "itself".

    Well in my case it can be a single syllable. Again since I made it so all words end in dipthongs and I got 25 possibles dipthongs I might as well use them for something!

    I'm not limiting my self to inflection, my language is entirely built on compounding words. So I don't see your complaint as valid for my languages cases.

    I hate those, I just want universal rules and no exceptions or special situations.

    Sooooo your saying we should/not have adjectives?

    What people? Unlike Esperanto or Lojban I don't have any silly expectations of this garnering a culture of its own. I'm making this language up for fun, and I'm making it as simple as possible to learn if anyone wants to join in the fun. By the way I tried singing a few verses and the dipthong endings really give it some rhythm, I don't see why it can't be song, though it depends on the phonemes I choose, if I put in clicks and snaps that might make it harder to sing but then again the bush people of the kalahari make do with that.

    That does not really answer my question.

    That exactly the kind of flexibility I'm going for. With the dipthong I can make any base word into a noun, verb or adjective, just be changing the last vowel of the diphthong.

    I think the Japanese would find an Esperanto like language based on Asian languages easier to learn. Esperanto is an easy to learn language by design, but I'm sure easterns find it harder to learn than westerns on average.

    My language does not even have enough rules to fill a cue card, how is that not simple?

    of course there are tables for the dipthong endings (25), and 1-letter words (75), and so far I don't have tables/dictionary set up for 2,3,5 letter words

    I can generate 15 1-letter base words (not including diphthongs), 75 2-letter base word, 1,125 3-letter base words and 31,360 5-letter base words, is that not enough for a rich lexicon? But there is more! With diphthongs each base word can become a verb, noun, adjective, so that means each base word plus diphthong can make at least 3 different morphemes. All base words are one syllable each, a compounding of 4 words would be 5 syllables including the diphthong, doesn't seem so bad.

    Exotic lands you say, so I'm likely going to china this summer, think I'll just run into Esperanto speakers here and there?

    Why must it be spoken quickly? And again the syllable count of my language it not very high. I tryed translating English into it and I get an equal syllable count on average.

    Easy enough in my language, all words must end in a diphthong, and diphthongs exist no where else. So you know exactly when a word ends and another word begins.

    I can't sing, dance or play music.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    Dian nao. Dian is "lightning" but in compounds it means "electricity."
    My vocabulary isn't that big, but kan shu, "see book" means "read."
    Every communication is full of assumptions.
    No, I'm saying that prepositions have outlived their usefulness. My Indian colleagues use them almost at random and it doesn't make them difficult to understand.
    The term "Asian languages" doesn't really mean anything. There are at least five language families that I can name (Mongolic, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai, Japonic and Austronesian), several that I can't, and a few isolates like Korean. There's no pattern to borrow in order to build an artificial language that would seem familiar to all of them.
    So maybe it takes them five months to achieve fluency instead of three. Big deal!
    There were quite a few in the 1960s, they even published their own magazine. I don't know about now, although I'm sure many of those people are still alive. The movement is still alive in Japan, to the extent that it is still alive anywhere.
    How patient are you? Would you be willing to stick around and wait for someone to finish a paragraph in Italian if he were speaking it as slowly as we Americans speak English? What if he were trying to tell you that you're about to step into a manhole?
    That's great! You have to pay other people to entertain you, like my band. ;)
  14. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member

    Yes, but we are talking magnitudes here and your suggest a level of assumptions necessary which seems very extreme.

    Neither is there for Western languages if we include all of western and easter Europe. But it is still fundamentally unfair to build a language using only certain languages as a bases and cutting out all of eastern Asia.

    Does it take that long? Any studies? I don't know how long my language would take to learn the rules are simple enough, all that necessary is memorizing base words and diphthongs.

    Again I'm not finding the syllable count of my language any larger than English, so I don't see what the problem is.

    I might see it if you lived in the area.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2011
  15. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    I don't think so. I never have a problem understanding the context in which Chinese people speak. Remember, it's a lot easier to add context hints in Chinese than in English. And it's hardly unreasonable to assume that anyone who knows I have two dogs here would understand the meaning of "Fraggle love dog."
    All of the languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European family and manifest the same basic perspective on the universe: masculine/feminine, present/past/future, relationships via prepositions, etc. The only exceptions are Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian and Saami ("Lapp"), which are Uralic languages. And that little corner where they speak Turkish, a member of the Turkic family and possibly a larger Turko-Mongolic family. Oh, and of course Basque, a language with no family, probably a survivor of the pre-Indo-European Cro-Magnon inhabitants of Europe.
    Sure, but it was 1887 and the Europeans didn't even like each other, much less caring about non-Europeans. Zamenhof would have been happy to simply get all the Europeans communicating with each other.

    Besides, it's impossible to build a language that would be even slightly familiar to everybody. Ethnologue lists more than seven thousand languages in more than one hundred families. Forget about peppering it with words from each of them: nobody would recognize more than three or four. Working at the language family level and crafting a world view that would be comfortable for all of them is inconceivable.
    I've asked every Esperanto speaker I met how long it took to learn and they all said just a few months. Even the Japanese, the Finn, the Estonian and the Hungarian.
    I agree. But you did ask why it mattered if a language could not be spoken quickly and I answered the question.
    The Washington-Baltimore region.
  16. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member

    Again what about those that don't know you?

    In my language with or without context it would still have the same number of syllables.

    So then I was right.

    Again this brings me back to the premise of this thread which has been so ignored: I'm not making a language that is familiar to everyone, rather I'm making a language that should be roughly equally easy to learn for everyone. How to do that, well for starters what phonemes should I use? Should it have the most common aka most familiar thus easiest to say, or the most dissimilar yet easiest to hear apart?

    Nothing of the sort, so far on my spread sheet I use a random number generator to select letters and create words, completely acultural!

    That not exactly a scientific survey, I'm sure Esperanto is much easier to learn then a natural language, but I want average times per peoples and how long it takes to become fluent in verbal communication, not just via text.

    Yeah, I live here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN.

    Anyways give me a few phrases to translate into my language I want to test it out, I can write in it, but as yet I still have not set the phonemes, :( I also would like to generate symbols for it separate from Latin or ASCII characters.
  17. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    No matter what you're trying to say, the familiarity of the person you're addressing with your context of discourse can vary from intimate to total-stranger-from-New-Guinea. You always have to decide how much explicit context you have to add to your sentences.

    As a project manager I found this to be the real killer of the massive offshore outsourcing movement in I.T. projects. The people in India and other countries understand computer hardware and software as well as anyone and better than many. But they have only the most cursory knowledge of American business practices. We found that our requirements documents had to be twenty times thicker than normal, in order to explicitly state things that are implicit over here. And this took more than twenty times the effort, because we were struggling to put into words things that we had never spoken about but just took for granted--often unconsciously.
    You've answered all of my questions about your language and I'm not beating up on it anymore. At this point we're asking and answering questions that wander off the initial thread.
    I vote for the smallest number of phonemes. With a little care, that will automatically make them easier to tell apart. As for "easiest to say," just don't combine them into daunting clusters, like Czech vstup and Plzeñ, both of which are one-syllable words. And speaking of Czech, you obviously don't want phonemes like Ř or the clicks of the Khoisan and a few other African language families. If a sound is limited geographically that probably means that it's not easy to pronounce.
    I can't speak for the Japanese guy, but the Europeans, speakers of both Indo-European and Uralic languages, began attending the huge annual multi-national Esperanto gatherings that were held (almost always) in Europe in the 1960s and 70s, within a year of beginning their study. So they were speaking, not just writing.
    The Lord's Prayer is the universal reference. If you don't want that, just pick a paragraph from a newspaper or whatever you're reading. You'll be more interested in what will turn out to be a more laborious task than you expect, if you pick the text.
    Dude, you seem determined to make your language as impractical and unpopular as possible! The internet is the communication infrastructure for this entire planet. If you and your acolytes can't send messages back and forth via e-mail, you won't be sending many messages back and forth at all, and you won't establish very much collegiality in your interesting endeavor.
  18. raydpratt Registered Senior Member


    Thank you for a great, well-informed thread. I speak English, reasonably good Spanish, briefly studied Esperanto, and am starting to learn Chinese.

    As to Esperanto, I enjoyed how easily and quickly that I was able to start reading it, but I remember that one or more of the typographical conventions was a pain on an English computer keyboard, but I also found that changing the convention to something that I could easily type did not confuse or lose anyone. I wanted to stay with Esperanto, but life and times threw me curve balls.

    As an aside, I had read that there are two million Chinese speakers of Esperanto. I found that amazing because part of the ease of Esperanto is that I could figure out a lot of the ancient roots of the words, but how would a Chinese speaker remember the sheer volume of words in Esperanto without such clues from his or her own language? Well, 2M/1B probably sums up the difficulty as 2 1,000ths of a percent of the population studied and speak Esperanto (many of them probably weary intelligence staff).

    As to Spanish, I still do not readily use the subjunctive, and I've been studying off and on for over ten years. It's deplorable.

    In starting Chinese, I refuse to make the same mistake that I did in Spanish, which was to let my reading of latin letters anglicize my pronunciation and expected hearing of Spanish. I have yet to entirely overcome that beginning error in Spanish. In starting Chinese, I often shut my eyes to pinyin and just deeply listen to and try to imitate sound recordings, and I refuse to move forward in studying the language until I am comfortable with both speaking and hearing the correct sounds.

    To that end, I have recently discovered the site which offers quite a bit of free instruction in listening to and speaking Chinese (I'm at lesson 3, sentance 311 of 395). The interesting thing for me is that the site lessons have been explaining linguistic terms that have helped me understand how to make and hear the required sounds (voiced, unvoiced, aspirated, unaspirated, fricative, retroflex, palatal, and dental -- so far).

    This thread about creating an artificial language would have been mostly unintelligible to me without learning the meaning of some of those linguistic terms, and so I enjoyed this thread on several grounds.

    To get back on topic, my guess is that divorcing an artificial language from the roots of any of the target speaker's native languages would make it as hard to learn as for a Chinese learner of Esperanto, though perhaps less difficult than for an English learner of Chinese (and vice versa).
  19. Fraggle Rocker Moderator

    In the days of typewriters the convention was to place an x after a letter to fill in for the missing circumflex or breve.
    So what's to stop you from getting back into it? There's still a whole world of people waiting to correspond with Americans, assuming that's what you are.
    They're probably all my age and learned it in the 1950s and 60s when the PRC thought it might be a good propaganda tool.
    The reason is that it's not a "sheer volume." The ability to create, for example, a noun from a verb via change of inflection, coupled with the word-compounding feature, reduces the vocabulary size required to achieve any given level of fluency to about 1/10 of what a natural language requires.

    As I noted in my earlier posts, I have (well had anyway, people do drift away and even die :() correspondents in Finland, Estonia and Hungary, where they speak Uralic languages instead of Indo-European and none of Esperanto's root words are recognizable. It took them maybe four or five months to achieve the level of writing fluency I achieved in three months, and within a year they were able to attend the annual Universala Kongreso and jabber with everyone else.
    Some of those nuances are easier to master by immersion. I spent most of my life in Arizona and Los Angeles, where you meet Spanish-speaking people every time you turn around, and they're always patient and happy to help you practice. Just be on the lookout for a sentence that begins with "if." There's probably a subjunctive in there somewhere and that will account for about 80% of its occurrences.
    My professor used the Yale system, which is somewhat more intuitive for anglophones. Xiang, qiang, jiang are syang, chiang, jiang. -- Shi, chi, zhi, ri are shr, chr, jr, r. -- Ci, zi are tsz, dz.
    Yes. One of the most difficult things for anglophones to understand about Chinese is that there are no voiced stops, B D G, no matter that the Pinyin system appropriates those letters for other sounds. There are only aspirated voiceless stops like P in pot, T in two, K in kick, and unaspirated voiceless stops like P in spot, T in stop, K in scoot.

    This is why the old Wade-Giles system used, for example, K and K' to transcribe those sounds, with no G. The apostrophe represents the puff of air after an aspirated consonant.
    As I mentioned, speakers of non-Indo-Europeans only take slightly longer to learn Esperanto. Familiarity of the wordstock was an inducement to Indo-European speakers, but it was a rather fraudulent one since Finns, Estonians, Hungarians and Japanese learn it quite easily.
  20. ElectricFetus I'm just going for a walk... Valued Senior Member

    Interesting... such as?

    15 is consonants and 5 vowels is less then the other artificial like Esperanto, Lojban, Interlingua. If I go fewer it would mean I have fewer permutations to make base words. If I was to use 10 consonants I would have only 10 possible 1-letter base words, 50 2-letter words, 500 3-letter words and as few as 6,250 5-letter base words. I could have 40,500 5-letter base words assuming all double consonant sound are pronounceable (5-letter base words are ccvcc). But I do find your suggestion agreeable, what 10 consonants would you use? I'm thinking m,p,v,t,z,trill r, reflexive d, reflexive s, reflexive l, k.

    No triple consonant syllables in my language, double at most.

    I can easily do the "Click" (!) and "Snap" (|), so I don't understand how it could be so hard, every tried to mimic the sound of a horse running? Click and snap are completely differentiable for each other and any other sound so there would be no differentiation difficulty.

    Yeah I want to know how well say a Japanese Esperanto speaker learns to separate v and b, I doubt it any better than with English despite the fact that the rest of the language is much easier.

    Matthew 6:9–13? Ok, but first we have to agree on the number and type of consonants.

    I'm not saying Latin script can't be used, I would just like to have a completely new script as a way of show off its aculturalness, in general Latin script would be used because there is no other choice.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2011

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