Author Topic: A Fictional Language Introduction...  (Read 1795 times)

Offline K2

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Re: A Fictional Language Introduction...
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2019, 09:56:36 AM »
Isn't this already true for English? Are you trying to differentiate your spelling? (Note that there is a big difference in doubled consonants in spelling vs. pronunciation: in spelling they mostly serve to indicate that the preceding vowel is short, which is an odd consequence of the history of English spelling.)

No and yes, hehe... I'm not 'trying' to differentiate my spelling, my goal here is to...

Here I must explain a little (what I'm trying to do). To aid everyone within the story to become fluent and literate in this new language, no matter their original language or level of education, words are pronounced and spelled as similarly as possible. Perhaps I'm using the term wrong, but might it be 'phonetically?' (using P-say spelling conventions).

English is not straight forward in that regard (like most other languages). It works, yet takes time to learn... The pastoral residents of CASE have not read or written anything in close to a decade (all the books/literature is gone, bluntly, eaten, burned or used to wipe their backside). The government has done all they can to continually dumb down the masses. They do not hear English except from those around them that speak it... and as discussed, as slang and intermingling of languages increases, proper English decreases. In the story, it's critical that the people find a common language to communicate, and that the written word is understood.

____________________

You continue with the point I suppose to some degree... "there is a big difference...in spelling vs. pronunciation." If a letter is not pronounced, generating a distinct sound, it is eliminated (in the P-say spelling). As an obvious example; 'e' at the end of the word makes the preceding vowel a long-vowel. In P-say, that designating 'e' is removed, and all long vowels are doubled (like the word 'seen') So, case = caas, same = saam, these = thees (though th is not used in P-say).

Back to identical double consonants, in P-say, if it is not pronounced, it is not written. So;
...in spelling they mostly serve to indicate that the preceding vowel is short, which is an odd consequence of the history of English spelling.
In P-say, the 'indicating consonant (double)' is eliminated. Typically = typicaly. Further, if the unstressed (short) vowel is not typically pronounced in lax/casual conversation, it would also be eliminated. Typically > typicaly > typicly... once into P-say pronunciation spellings: Tipiclee > may/may-not be further elided > tipclee.

Technically "elided" here would seem to refer to the whole word (=omitted), rather than, e.g. 'parts of the words are elided'. "The words undergo elision" is another way to phrase that, but not necessarily transparent for the reader. Something simpler like "some sounds are lost in the middle of words" would be fine of course.

Noted. I see what you're saying about my phrasing.
Perhaps something summed up as 'words are spelled as they are pronounced,' might work?

Since we're using it: spelled > speled > speld... Though speakers may/may-not use standard tense suffixes in conversation/orally (ed, er, ing, ly), when written, the word "spel (spe'l)" would likely be used, tense determined by context.

Why not just say that all unstressed vowels are eliminated? Is that correct?

That is more to the point, although at this point, I need to review my current vocabulary and determine if that is consistent in all cases, or, if it should be randomly applied (unstressed vowels I'm sensing is a 'gray range.' Meaning, just because it is unstressed, does not determine whether it is pronounced or not... though I don't state that as a fact, I'm still learning).

Thanks again!

K2
« Last Edit: December 09, 2019, 11:49:01 PM by K2 »

Offline Daniel

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Re: A Fictional Language Introduction...
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2019, 12:58:31 AM »
Isn't this already true for English? Are you trying to differentiate your spelling? (Note that there is a big difference in doubled consonants in spelling vs. pronunciation: in spelling they mostly serve to indicate that the preceding vowel is short, which is an odd consequence of the history of English spelling.)

No and yes, hehe... I'm not 'trying' to differentiate my spelling, my goal here is to...
To clarify, I meant that it seemed like you were describing/highlighting differences, but that your description also sounded similar to current English spelling, so I was suggesting clarification.
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Here I must explain a little (what I'm trying to do). To aid everyone within the story to become fluent and literate in this new language, no matter their original language or level of education, words are pronounced and spelled as similarly as possible. Perhaps I'm using the term wrong, but might it be 'phonetically?' (using P-say spelling conventions).
Right, that makes sense. You could say the spelling system has 'lost irregular spellings' and been simplified. The key word from an analytical perspective would be regular (consistent) spelling, rather than lots of exceptions.
The phrase 'spelled phonetically' is widely used but somewhat misleading. Spelling is inherently arbitrary, so there's no inherent logical way to represent sounds as symbols. But English spelling is one more step removed: it's irregular/inconsistent. Generally a "phonetic" orthography is understood to be one that lacks ambiguity either for how to spell a word, or how to pronounce a spelling. The simplest scenario is a one-to-one mapping from sounds (phonemes) to letters. Few languages actually reach that level of simplicity. One example that comes close is Swahili, except for a few digraphs like "ch", but it's entirely consistent without any exceptions at all. It's easy to spell and easy to read. I can read Swahili out loud without any idea what I'm saying but still pronouncing everything correctly (or close enough with my learner's accent). Spanish and some other European languages are also close to this, but do have some minimal ambiguity like "b" vs. "v" or "ll" vs. "y" (and "z" vs. "c" in Latin America), as well as the silent letter "h". At the extreme of irregularity is English and a few other languages.
Now another problem with the assumption of "phonetic" spelling is that you're still basing the general principles on the English system. As a linguist, I'm trained to use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to represent sounds (it's an ideal one-to-one mapping system, for all of the speech sounds of the world, obviously with many more than 26 letters!), and that seems like the obvious default to me now. It's essentially an expanded version of Latin (or general European) spelling, which differs from English especially in the vowels: e.g. the vowels of the alphabet "A E I O U" are pronounced in Spanish as "ah, eh, ee, oh, ooh". So in that sense, you're probably still using English principles for your spelling (rather than some abstract "phonetic" variant), and in fact you probably need to do that in order to not entirely lose your readers. (English speakers, in contrast to basically everyone else in the world, have the odd notion that "e" is pronounced "ee" instead of "eh"! -- only the few of us who end up studying linguistics find out just how weird this way of thinking is from a comparative perspective: the historical explanation is complicated, but goes back to a major pronunciation shift just before Shakespeare's time, called the Great Vowel Shift-- English vowels used to be 'normal' but then shifted a lot). Anyway, that's a long tangent, but gives some context to why this is a slightly complicated issue. Regardless, you should be able to explain it intuitively to your readers by talking about regularity/consistency. And, yes, if you want "phonetic" spelling since your readers will understand it that way even though it's a bit of a myth. Mostly you're just doing away with all of the quirks that make English spelling unique.

Quote
You continue with the point I suppose to some degree... "there is a big difference...in spelling vs. pronunciation." If a letter is not pronounced, generating a distinct sound, it is eliminated (in the P-say spelling). As an obvious example; 'e' at the end of the word makes the preceding vowel a long-vowel. In P-say, that designating 'e' is removed, and all long vowels are doubled (like the word 'seen') So, case = caas, same = saam, these = thees (though th is not used in P-say).
There's a complicated technical issue here, relating to the Great Vowel Shift that I mentioned in a tangent above. English does not have a true long/short distinction in vowels. We say that, but the situation is much messier than in other languages. In languages like Arabic or Finnish or even Italian, long vowels are just pronounced... longer. Some languages represented these as doubled vowels in the spelling, because that makes sense. English used to do this to some degree as well. Again, that makes sense. But that was before the Great Vowel Shift, which actually specifically only affected the long vowels. At that time, they were just longer. But now, they're different sounds (as well as longer). In other words, "bet" is pronounced today roughly like it would have been before the Great Vowel Shift. But "beet" is now pronounced like "biit" would have been pronounced before. Instead, "beet" would have originally been pronounced more like "bait" today. (If you know any other European languages, you'll have an intuitive sense of this mapping.)
So you're welcome to take some creative license as the author of the book and call these "long" and "short" vowels as we think of them in English today (we're just retaining that idea from before, even though they're now very different sounds!). But it doesn't seem that plausible to me that in the future English spelling would represent "long" vowels with these same symbols but doubled, because there's no sound-based correspondence between the single-vowel and double-vowel pronunciations then. In short, you'd be inheriting a weird quirk of English into a 'simplified' system where that wouldn't necessarily be intuitive. It's entirely possible some English speakers would be attached to the idea of "e" making an "eeee" sound and actually might suggest this, but at the very least it's not just simple doubling length and doubling spelling. Again, though, you might need to do this in order to avoid confusing your readers! This is tricky.

Quote
Technically "elided" here would seem to refer to the whole word (=omitted), rather than, e.g. 'parts of the words are elided'. "The words undergo elision" is another way to phrase that, but not necessarily transparent for the reader. Something simpler like "some sounds are lost in the middle of words" would be fine of course.

Noted. I see what you're saying about my phrasing.
Perhaps something summed up as 'words are spelled as they are pronounced,' might work?
Yes, that's the simplest way to convey the idea to your readers. (Again the same issue as above for "phonetic" spelling applies, but it would be clear what you mean regardless.)
Quote
Why not just say that all unstressed vowels are eliminated? Is that correct?

That is more to the point, although at this point, I need to review my current vocabulary and determine if that is consistent in all cases, or, if it should be randomly applied (unstressed vowels I'm sensing is a 'gray range.' Meaning, just because it is unstressed, does not determine whether it is pronounced or not... though I don't state that as a fact, I'm still learning).
Yes, there is a range of variation. Vowel reduction is on a continuum from the stressed, "long" sounds, to the "lax" "short" sounds, to schwa, and then to loss of the vowel. (Note that sometimes we also add vowels, via a process known as 'epenthesis', thus epenthetic vowels, when words get hard to pronounce because of complex consonant clusters, so don't go too far with the "simplification" or it might become unnatural, at least to English ears. Some other languages out there like Berber languages or Georgian can have much more complex consonant clusters than English, practically to the point where some words don't seem to have vowels at all, or at least many syllables, but that isn't the effect you're going for I don't think.)


In the end, one of the most important points I can emphasize for you is that it was a major discovery in the study of historical linguistics (i.e. how languages change) that sound change is regular. When a particular sound changes in some way in one word, then it also should change the same way in another word. This is how we can work out how languages are related. For example, you'll find a correspondence between "p" in Latin (etc.) and "f" in German (etc.), so that for example English "fish" and Spanish "pes" are related. (Lots more can be learned by looking up Grimm's Law if you'd like, and by the way, yes, that Grimm, one of the brothers who wrote the fairy tales too.) That's all fairly technical, but the point is that sounds don't often shift randomly. The rules can be very specific, such as changing a sound one way at the beginning of a syllable and another way at the end, or even adding in whether it's a stressed syllable, and so forth, or what the neighboring sounds are. But in the end, these changes apply consistently. So when in doubt, try to apply the changes consistently across words.

However, there is a distinction to be made in the scenario you describe: abrupt change via complex mixing, rather than typical slow sound change transmitted all via uninterrupted generations of native speakers. So some inconsistency could fit in well with your story. There's also a trick you can use as the author, which is that you can spell words in a way that may seem more intuitive for the reader, even if that's inconsistent across words or even sentences/speakers/writers, all in the name of showing some inconsistency in usage/spelling, but then also as a bonus allowing for easier comprehension. What I mean then is that you could maintain some relatively transparent relationship with current English, never allowing any sentences in the book to be too hard to understand, even if in principle they should vary more than that. On the other hand, you've said the spelling should be clear and standard to allow for consistent communication. So it's up to you, but you have some options. (In principle, this could even be a plot point, with some more anarchist spellers leading an orthographic rebellion to express their identity. Something we haven't really gotten into in this discussion yet is the central role that language and especially variation play in presenting one's identity: this is a main reason why teenagers speak like their peers and why that way isn't the same as how adults speak. In intense political situations similar factors would apply, as well as the counter-force of some speakers trying to sound 'standard' or blend in so that the government (etc.) doesn't notice them. Do they want to stand out? Remain unnoticed? It can become a plot point if you want.)
« Last Edit: December 13, 2019, 03:55:08 PM by Daniel »
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Offline K2

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Re: A Fictional Language Introduction...
« Reply #17 on: December 10, 2019, 08:31:16 AM »
Daniel, thank you for taking the time it must require to answer each of my inconsequential points (it is a fictional story after all) in such detail. Just as I already have your previous posts, and will do again, I'll be reading over this last post numerous times hoping to glean all I can from it.

I believe it is important to remember, and why I made it the lead point in my introduction, that P-say uses American English as the lexifier. That allows me to use English words and with a bit of simplification, integrate those words to even complete thoughts as a word into the language. I'm not trying to generate some vastly different or new language. I'm simply trying to present my 'best guess' as to how American English might change to accommodate many different language speakers' limitations.

Perhaps the most encouraging response I've had to it was through my alpha-readers as they read over the original story. Some stated they wanted easy access translations, others didn't preferring to work to understand it. All, however, laughed about "how I made them stupider." Stupider in that after a short while, they all began to understand what was being said in P-say and Sowfee-say passages.

In those passages of dialogue, there is a LOT of 'telegraphic speech, code-switching, and elided English words.' However, since the characters all speak English to some degree, conversational English clause/sentence phrasing 'order' is retained. Why change it? It wouldn't be true to the origins of the language. The only significant difference being... all question sentences begin with the word 'po.' Po, ya' yacha wut mi say'n?

In any case, your point regarding vowel naming conventions is exactly why in my appendix I've changed what particular vowel types are called. I don't want someone to apply preconceived notions as to how vowel/consonant sounds, orders, etc., should be applied. I aid that by using American English best guess pronunciations in the manuscript spellings (IOW, I want a reader to infer how the word sounds easily). Only later (if they wish) they can see how that translates into a P-say spelling... naturally, already having a direct example in the glossary:
Pessy – Pesee – pretty

As you might imagine, I'll be taking what I have learned here from you and apply it in a simplified fashion (mostly for myself) to the introduction, rules and ultimately the vocabulary. Fortunately, I do have a hedge for any subsequent criticism from readers to experts... This is a language just beginning its growth and evolution. It is expected to change, firm up, and formalize. Fortunately, that comes well after my 'Liberty Stumbled' series timeline is over. ;)

Thank you again for your help! Once I've brought this appendix up to its beta-stage, I'll post it in this thread so you can see if I learned what you taught.

K2





« Last Edit: December 10, 2019, 06:25:56 PM by K2 »