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Kílta metaphor: SALT IS VITALITY

One standard feature of my current grammars for new languages is a separate section after the dictionary where I focus on particular areas of interest or difficulty. For example, copulas and verbs of existence in Kílta have a few complications, so there's a section on those. This lets me limit cross-references in the dictionary definitions to something reasonable, while still being able to give a thorough overview later.

A subsection on conceptual metaphor (Conlangery Podcast #66) is now standard in my grammars. I've recently been working out the metaphor SALT IS VITALITY (for some reason, conceptual metaphors are often given in all-caps like this). 

When I first thought about this metaphor, I spent a little while first thinking through the implications. In this instance, I already had an idiom involving salt that would interact a bit oddly with it —

Ches si tirat vuëtiso.
salt ACC give.1R-INF try-PFV
They tried to bribe me. (lit., "they tied to give me salt")

I decided this wasn't a vital problem, and in fact slightly enhanced the idiom and the conceptual metaphor I was about to develop.

Kílta has a modest set of derivational affixes, so I first thought about how some of those might work:

  • chesámin - "saltless," has the standard meanings of dull, lifeless, with an additional sense of mildly ill
  • chesëtin - "salty, having salt" is the core sense, but also means vital, lively, vigorous
For now, no other derivational elements have suggested themselves for this metaphor. In general, I try to take these metaphorical derivations only if they have a clear literal use, too.

Next, Kílta, as a verb-final language, favors N-V combinations for creating new verbal senses from nouns, rather than derivational affixes. These are more obviously idiomatic, with less clear-cut literal use:
  • ches si raho - literally, "throw (the) salt," has the same basic sense and tone as the English idiom "kick the bucket," but is a touch less respectful than the English
  • ches tëníto - literally, "(the) salt is gone," matches the idea of being dejected, or "the life has gone out of him/her/it"
  • ches si kwilë relo - literally, "carries too much salt," is for someone who has too much nervous energy, or a pet having the zoomies
That's as far as I want to take things for now with a new metaphor. I've made a notation in the dictionary entry for ches salt which reminds me of this sense if I add new examples to that headword, in addition to the conceptual metaphors section after the dictionary. Maybe that's as far as this metaphor will go, but it's always nice when a new metaphor-based idiom suggests itself.


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After several years of slow work, I think Kílta is far enough along that I don't mind other people seeing the documentation: Kílta (PDF via Dropbox).

The thing I'm most pleased with this is that the dictionary is so large, and has so many examples. I've been on a pro-examples kick for quite a few years, but this is the first language I've worked on where nearly every word has an example sentence, often more than one. As of the day I write this post, Kílta has:

1158 headwords166 sub-headwords (idioms, light verb constructions, etc.)1592 definitions on the above1924 examples for everything That said, there are still a handful of words I didn't bother to give examples to, but as I notice them and non-idiotic examples present themselves I'll add them. The main benefit to a good example is that it helps nail down the semantics more clearly. If I really cannot come up with an example that clarifies the meaning at least a little, I'm liable to skip it a bit, thoug…