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World Building Blog

GENERAL UPDATE

Well, it’s one of those times. “Those times” being when “I’ve been struggling with getting any art, design, ‘or anything, really’ done because I’m a total perfectionist and it’s so much easier to just spend forever researching +/- 37 different things simultaneously” (ranging, of course, from how pteradons fly to the best way to scientifically (and most painfully) determine exactly where in a particular binary star system the life zone – a.k.a habitable zone or Goldilocks zone – would fall).


WORLDS OF SAND

3D landscape header

Fortunately, I’ve been insanely fortunate enough to be selected as a finalist-interviewee – a writing position – for an indie game company currently working on their first big project, which happens to be based on some of my favorite themes/genres, movies, game-types, etc. The company is Starboard Games L.L.C. (links tp FB page) and the game is called INT (short for Interstellar). While this blog has been primarily about art, design, and more “visual-creative” projects, I’ve been world building – and creating languages – for years now (almost a decade, and that’s not counting the totally-uneducated attempts I made back in middle school).

In the interest of not only continuing to explore those areas of interest but also to get all the research I’ve done and ideas I’ve been exploring out there to share and discuss with other people, I’ve decided that now is a great time to start a blog specifically for world-building and all that goes into that (or can, at least)! Taking the first step applying for this writing job has been a great push forward towards the blog, but whatever happens with the job itself – all power to them, the idea sounds great – I’m looking forward to writing again. Well, writing in a “public forum” and getting feedback and having discussions, anyway. All the writing I’ve been doing recently has been kept … under wraps, so to speak.

Perhaps I’ve reached a kind of “critical mass” in terms of the amount of information I’ve amassed. Now it’s time to actually make use of it all, even if I end up just sharing it and helping others use it for their own epic ends.

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Language development

Today I’m working on my conlang, finally. I’ve redone the phonology (sounds) of the language, but still need to update the grammar PDF on the conlang page. I’m also modifying the name of the language slightly, to Mijanyu (from Mijanu). I’ve created the radicals for the semanto-phonetic writing system, which is supposed to look like the Chinese Seal script. I need to do some serious modification/editing of the glyphs I’ve roughed out, but now that I have them roughed out I have something to work with. I have also started translating a poem called “Upon the Tip of a Needle” (Guhatthaka – Suttaniddeso), a Buddhist text. I only have the first stanza right now, and I’m sure there’s quite a bit wrong with it, but it’s an interesting look at where Mijanyu is now. Here’s the stanza in the Latin alphabet:

Elun, eleau, sen, for mauna
ー Nena.ar.na lorai denyu manyu deni
Duyu aduyu kena ja
ー Meri.na kena laya.lan daleausu

The period in the text above indicates the connection between particles and words, where the particles mean nothing without the context of the word they’re attached to. At the moment, there’s a character for each word and particle, but I’m reconsidering that idea. I still want 3 writing systems, so I’m thinking it might be best to use the block alphabet for simpler parts of the language (particles, prepositions, and conjunctions).

Once I’m done translating the poem (there are 7 more stanzas), I hope to have the writing systems more or less completed, although I certainly won’t have all the semanto-phonetic characters done. I’d like to make a recording of the text as well, but I’m not sure yet.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Con-langing

The art of constructing languages. And it sure is an art – in patience, determination, and … overcoming the fear of math, apparently. I recently decided I didn’t like where my vocabulary was going, or the look of my writing systems. Well, the writing systems I still like, but they need work. What I was really bothered by was the sounds of my constructed (fictional) language. The Phonology, to be linguistic about it. So I sort of “shopped around” for ideas, keeping in mind that I like the sounds of Japanese, French, and Italian. I also like the sounds of Russian, Arabic, Irish, and Greek, but I want to keep things pretty simple. So I looked into French vowels and … all the possible syllables in Chinese (since there’s more variety/possibilities in Chinese than in Japanese, and I wanted a broader range of sounds to work with). I came up with a list of 11 vowels, 23 initial/medial consonants, and 3 medial only consonants. For clarification, a few of those consonants (all of the medial only consonants, and 6 initial/medial consonants) are actually what we call “clusters” in English – two (or more) consonants next to each other with no vowel separation. In addition, I included what’s called a “terminal” /n/, a consonant (in this case /n/) that can come at the end of any syllable. Otherwise, consonants must be followed by a vowel. Vowels, however, can act as single  syllables. So I set up a chart listing all the possible syllables available, and came up with 304 possible single syllable words, not including the medial only syllables (since they can’t act as single syllable words).

After doing a lot of math, here are the possibilities:

  • 304 single syllable words (including syllables that end with a terminal /n/)
  • 92,979 two syllable words (including the use of medial only syllables)
  • ~ 305,424 three syllable words
  • ~ 8,540,721,616 four syllable words
  • ~8,541,124,323 total words (1-4 syllables in length)

Obviously, not all of the ‘generated’/possible words will “work” – based on sound aesthetics and sound/concept associations – but that is a lot of possibilities! Plenty to work with to create an extensive lexicon.

All of this work was inspired by the excellent author (Gary Shannon) of the article Auto Lex Word Generator, who also runs a really interesting website called Fiziwig. His articles on conlanging (constructing languages) are particularly interesting, and easy to read.

Based on his Auto Lex Word Generator article, I determined that for my current phonology I can assign approximately 92 two syllable words – to use as “roots” – to each of the 1000 categories in Roget’s Thesaurus. I got a list of all the categories from Wikipedia, which provides a nice outline of the Thesaurus, which I’ve printed and will begin assigned roots to over the weekend. As I translate texts (starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then working through the Lord’s Prayer and the Babel Text), I’ll be able to just look up a word in the thesaurus, determine which of the 92 possible roots I’d like to use, and create the words I need based on those roots. Of course, first I have to create a table of all possible two syllable words … Which could take the rest of the weekend!

On a final note, Gary Shannon also provides on his Conlang Page a series of “graded sentences” which, according to his description,”A translation of all 1200 of these sentences would constitute a fairly complete documentation of the grammar of any language, constructed or natural.”

At some point, I’ll work through those sentences; first, I’ll be translating those 3 texts I mentioned above so I can get a feel for the phonology and the grammar. Once I’ve translated those 3 texts, I’ll be revising/recreating the writing systems as well, starting with a character system (like Chinese Hanzi/Japanese Kanji, but looking more the Seal or Grass/Running scripts of Chinese). Then from some initial characters (probably 1 character for each primary root of each of the 1000 categories, so about 1000 initial characters) I’ll develop a sort of “block” alphabet similar to Korean Hangul. Finally, from that script I’ll be developing a cursive style alphabet, which I’d like to set up 2 “forms” for – one for writing vertically (based on Mongolian or Manchu), and one for writing horizontally (based on Arabic, Avestan, and handwritten Tibetan).

I know that sounds like a lot, but the idea is that the original writing system was just the character system. The block alphabet was then later developed to help teach pronunciation and to write loan/foreign words. The cursive script(s) were then developed even later simply for aesthetic purposes (because so many people wanted a more “organic”, curving alphabet to use for shop signs, in advertising, or simply to make writing by hand a little easier). The vertical version of the cursive alphabet will be developed first, since vertical writing is most common. The horizontal script will be adapted from the vertical script just so I have that option.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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