How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

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Shemtov
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How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Shemtov »

I want to make an exolang, but I am afraid that my idea is too kitchen sinky.
Here's the features I want to include, please tell me what would be a good idea to jettison:
Phillipine alignment
Arabic plus retroflexes as base of consonant system.
No labials except for /m/
Prenasalized stops
Aspirate/unaspirate distinction
Creaky and breathy voiced vowels
Ablaut for plurality
Clicks
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Pabappa »

The only thing that jumps out at me is having aspirates *and* breathy voice vowels. I have only heard of one language that does it ... apparently Gujarati .... which means it's possible. But I suspect the distinction is not very robust ... i.e. you wont find minimal pairs all over the place. At the very least, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gujarati_phonology suggests that the two features never occur together ... e.g. you cant have a breathy voiced consonant followed by a breathy voiced vowel; the consonant then becomes a fricative instead. I think it may also be saying you cant have a breathy consonant *preceded* by a breathy vowel either.
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Sequor »

Apart from Pabappa's comment, which I agree with, I think all of that is fine.

Heck, if you posted it as a challenge I would make a sketch of a conlang with it. :p
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by DesEsseintes »

How exactly are you defining ‘exolang’ for the purposes of this project?
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Salmoneus »

If "exolang" means an alien language, then my concern would be that it looks very human - it's borrowing a whole bunch of rare human things, which makes it look less alien.


Regarding the idea of the KSL more generally: the point isn't that there are any specific features that people tell you to jettison. The point is just that when you go around the world and collect all the weird things you can find and put them in one language, people will think "oh, they've just gone around and stuck all the weird things they've heard about in one language".

[but of course, if you make good use of the features, you can put any features you want in a language... the key is to really understand what you're doing, and not simply to dress a language up in superficial oddities, which often mask a fundamentally unambitious core concept]
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Shemtov »

Salmoneus wrote: 21 Apr 2020 15:23 If "exolang" means an alien language, then my concern would be that it looks very human - it's borrowing a whole bunch of rare human things, which makes it look less alien.


Regarding the idea of the KSL more generally: the point isn't that there are any specific features that people tell you to jettison. The point is just that when you go around the world and collect all the weird things you can find and put them in one language, people will think "oh, they've just gone around and stuck all the weird things they've heard about in one language".

[but of course, if you make good use of the features, you can put any features you want in a language... the key is to really understand what you're doing, and not simply to dress a language up in superficial oddities, which often mask a fundamentally unambitious core concept]
There's a weird thing I plan to do with the focus markers, that as far as I know, doesn't occur in any Austronesian language. I've actually been thinking about how far I want to go with it, and I'm really committed, the other weird features are just to make it a bit more alien
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by qwed117 »

Pabappa wrote: 21 Apr 2020 03:19 The only thing that jumps out at me is having aspirates *and* breathy voice vowels. I have only heard of one language that does it ... apparently Gujarati .... which means it's possible. But I suspect the distinction is not very robust ... i.e. you wont find minimal pairs all over the place. At the very least, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gujarati_phonology suggests that the two features never occur together ... e.g. you cant have a breathy voiced consonant followed by a breathy voiced vowel; the consonant then becomes a fricative instead. I think it may also be saying you cant have a breathy consonant *preceded* by a breathy vowel either.
iirc breathy vowels in Gujarati descend from ɦV sequences which was subject to Grassman's Law earlier, since the presence of that law isn't certain, or maybe isn't even phonologically likely in the exospecies, it's fair game imo.
Salmoneus wrote: 21 Apr 2020 15:23 If "exolang" means an alien language, then my concern would be that it looks very human - it's borrowing a whole bunch of rare human things, which makes it look less alien.


Regarding the idea of the KSL more generally: the point isn't that there are any specific features that people tell you to jettison. The point is just that when you go around the world and collect all the weird things you can find and put them in one language, people will think "oh, they've just gone around and stuck all the weird things they've heard about in one language".

[but of course, if you make good use of the features, you can put any features you want in a language... the key is to really understand what you're doing, and not simply to dress a language up in superficial oddities, which often mask a fundamentally unambitious core concept]
Yeah, to add to this, a KSL is putting everything in the bucket. What strikes me as "kitchen-sinky" about this project is the collocation of these abnormal features- Phillipine alignment, Arabic base, [IE/Germanic] Ablaut for plurality, Clicks, that appear to be related to various Earthy Sprachbunds. It seems a bit more like you're picking and choosing things from the Old World and using that to base your language on, not making a language that you like.
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Salmoneus »

Perhaps I can explain my reservation more coherently...

What does an alien language look like? Well, anything you want. It could be very SAE. Or it could be completely, mindblowingly different from any human language.

What you seem to have done is collect all the things that are weird relative to human languages, and put them together, for no reason other than that they'd be weird in a human language. But with an alien language, this runs into two problems (or one, expressed two ways):

- it's legitimate to say that an alien language would be alien. But yours is extremely humanlike. Which is also fair enough: you're a human, and so are your audience. But given that you're dealing with a humanlike language, why should this language be maximally human-weird? Either the language has these features because by an incredible coincidence the alien language is extremely humanlike, but also as non-humanlike as humanlike languages get (imagine: to one side, a vast sea of non-humanlike languages; on the other side, a vast sea of fairly ordinary languages; and yours just happens to land right on the thin sheet of paper separating the two oceans?), or else it's just that way because you're throwing weirdness at it in lieu of something more distinctive. I'd like to think the former, but...

- given that we're dealing with a language with humanlike features, isn't it a weird coincidence that everything weird for us is normal for them (and presumably vice versa)? I mean, nothing unites the weird features other than that they're weird for humans; but that doesn't automatically make them ordinary for aliens. Aliens, you'd think, if their languages are humanlike at all, would be as likely to have ordinary features as weird ones - because they're not actively trying to be the opposite of humans...
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Shemtov »

While keeping the weird features, I am going in a different direction than just plain old"weird features" morphosyntactically. There's another feature, one that is weird, that I am adding, but, unlike the phonetic features, and some of the morphosyntactical ones don't exist in isolation of the other features- it's layered over the Philippine Alignment. Yes, it's a feature that natlangs have, but I hope that by not having it in isolation, in a way no natlang does, it will feel alien- maybe a bit like having a cover of weirdness to be weird, but with a kernel of genuine alieness in it
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Khemehekis »

When I think of the term "alien languages", I think of languages that are different from all human languages in at least one fundamental way. For instance, Hapoish has no nouns (neither does Ilish), while Fith has FIFO stacking, and Cetonian is spoken through a blowhole instead of a human vocal apparatus. The ultimate exolang would be Rikchik.
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Salmoneus »

I should probably get around to writing up U properly, sometime. U is also a sign language spoken by tentacled creatures, but is rather more alien than Rikchick (which is ingenious, but I think strays a bit too far into 'human philosophical language' territory for me to think of it as genuinely alien). Of course, it's easy for me to say that when I don't have a description to back it up...

[U, for example, has no words. Well, no content words, at least, I guess you could argue for grammatical words.]
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by gestaltist »

It sounds like a weird coincidence that your aliens have the exact same vocal tract as humans. I agree with Sal that this seems a "weird human language" and not a proper exolanguage.
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Shemtov »

gestaltist wrote: 04 May 2020 10:40 It sounds like a weird coincidence that your aliens have the exact same vocal tract as humans. I agree with Sal that this seems a "weird human language" and not a proper exolanguage.
I'm not going to acknowledge it in any works I would write (it's common to have humanoid aliens in scifi anyway), but the universe this is set in has guided evolution, in such a way that it's natural that aliens would have a human vocal tract. It's mainly in psychology that the aliens are different.
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by gestaltist »

Shemtov wrote: 06 May 2020 21:44
gestaltist wrote: 04 May 2020 10:40 It sounds like a weird coincidence that your aliens have the exact same vocal tract as humans. I agree with Sal that this seems a "weird human language" and not a proper exolanguage.
I'm not going to acknowledge it in any works I would write (it's common to have humanoid aliens in scifi anyway), but the universe this is set in has guided evolution, in such a way that it's natural that aliens would have a human vocal tract. It's mainly in psychology that the aliens are different.
That's fine Shemtov but no point calling this an "exolanguage" in that case. It's just a human conlang spoken by aliens.
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by Salmoneus »

gestaltist wrote: 07 May 2020 18:48
Shemtov wrote: 06 May 2020 21:44
gestaltist wrote: 04 May 2020 10:40 It sounds like a weird coincidence that your aliens have the exact same vocal tract as humans. I agree with Sal that this seems a "weird human language" and not a proper exolanguage.
I'm not going to acknowledge it in any works I would write (it's common to have humanoid aliens in scifi anyway), but the universe this is set in has guided evolution, in such a way that it's natural that aliens would have a human vocal tract. It's mainly in psychology that the aliens are different.
That's fine Shemtov but no point calling this an "exolanguage" in that case. It's just a human conlang spoken by aliens.
I don't think that that's necessarily true. Whether a language can be spoken by something with a vocal tract analogous to that of humans is a pretty superficial way to define whether something is a 'human' language or not. Fith and Lojban are both human-speakable, but not exactly humanlike...
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by alynnidalar »

Agreed. There's no reason a physically similar vocal tract would imply a species thinks similarly to humans.
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by qwed117 »

alynnidalar wrote: 08 May 2020 05:22 Agreed. There's no reason a physically similar vocal tract would imply a species thinks similarly to humans.
Or speaks similarly to humans. Seriously, there's hundreds of sounds that human vocal tract can produce that are not present in human languages: An ingressive alveolar trill, apical palatal plosives, percussive consonants, all the different fart noises children can make...
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Re: How to make an exolang without being kitchen sinky

Post by gestaltist »

I agree with all of you actually. I may have been a bit unclear.

What I mean is that if you advertise your language as an exolang, I'd expect it to have some features which you consider to be alien or which showcase the "exo" part in any way. So far, all the ideas Shemtov listed could easily be a part of a human language. I don't see anything "exo" about it from the description so far.
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