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Showing posts from June, 2011

Kahtsaai Word of the Day: Keilo'éík

Ok, so I'm not going to start a series on Kahtsaai words just now, but I thought I'd share this one...

When I arrived home today I noticed that the poor, ratty poppy I planted two years ago finally outpaced the bunnies and produced a single bloom. I decided Kahtsaai needed a word for "poppy," and I immediately thought of the vivid Homeric simile, when Gorgythion is hit by an arrow,

μήκων δ᾽ ὡς ἑτέρωσε κάρη βάλεν, ἥ τ᾽ ἐνὶ κήπῳ
καρπῷ βριθομένη νοτίῃσί τε εἰαρινῇσιν,
ὣς ἑτέρωσ᾽ ἤμυσε κάρη πήληκι βαρυνθέν.

His head fell to the side, just as a poppy, which in a garden
is weighed down with fruit and the rains of spring,
so his head nodded to the side, weighed down by his helmet.

(Please forgive the Old High Translationese. It is an occupational hazard of even the amateur classicist.)

So, the Kahtsaai word for "poppy" is keilo'éík, from keilsoldier, fighter and éíkhead.

Kahtsaai: Devising a Practical Orthography

All of my conlangs that do now or ever have existed are written in the Latin alphabet. I have from time to time tried my hand at inventing scripts, but the results are never satisfying. One of the first attractions to me about foreign languages was not the languages themselves, but the writing systems. I gave myself an intense early education in calligraphy in several scripts, which makes me a harsh judge of invented writing systems. I rarely find a conscript beautiful, or at least harmonious, and this applies doubly or triply so for my own. So, I'm stuck with Latin.

All my early languages aimed at a phonetic representation. Thus I was rather shocked the first time I encountered Dirk Elzinga's wonderful Tepa, which spells things like [tuɣu] as tuku and [yɨška] as yɨyka. But now that I've spent a lot more time staring at Native American languages — including plenty in the Uto-Aztecan family, which seems to be the inspiration for Tepa — I've come to appreciate phon…

A Little Kahtsaai

I've been churning through sketches and modifications in the last year, resulting in the current rather full language, Kahtsaai. A lot of the work is based on Bixwá, which in turn was the outcome of several sketches. It became clear that Bixwá was getting cognitively unwieldy for my purposes, so I stepped back. I generalized some of the ideas a bit. In particular, I ditched the instrumental prefixes in favor of full-on noun incorporation, with instrumental significance one use available for that (Mithun's type IV NI). This cleaned things up a bit.

I dropped case marking altogether, with one marginal exception. Semantically inanimate nouns are marked when they are the subject of a transitive verb. The verb subject prefix for an inanimate noun is also different. So, in both case marking and verb conjugation, inanimates follow an ergative alignment (mostly), while animates are nominative-accusative:

he-nop3IN-fall.overit fell over

kí-tá-nop-im3IN.TRANS-1SG-fall.over-CAUSit k…