Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Conlanger's Thesaurus

In the last year or so I have been thinking about writing a piece of software which would spit up a skeleton dictionary which I could fill in with a new language being created. The point was to help me get out of certain lexical ruts, while still creating a language that would be more or less internally consistent. I gave up on that project, but one side effect was a lot of reading about recent work in lexical typology. I found the semantic maps especially interesting as tools for conlanging. I've collected a bunch of that work in A Conlanger's Thesaurus.

The core of that document is a word list, lightly edited, but mixed in whenever possible are cross-linguistic semantic maps, to prod thinking about new possibilities for words that don't simply reproduce the semantic boundaries of languages I already know. There are still a lot of gaps, but this seems a good start.

The last two pages have some dense but very interesting semantic maps relating to matters most people would consider grammatical rather than lexical. But there's a lot of interesting stuff there, too. Whenever possible I have included links to free, online papers and articles which discuss the maps in much more detail, so people can hunt down details if they are moved to do so.

If you know of cross-linguistic maps I have missed, please let me know. I'm sure I'll be updating this document from time to time as I run across new work.

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