What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

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What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

I have, for a while, been itching to make a conlang for an indigenous people in Antarctica. What I know is that I would like it to be a bit more synthetic than not. What I can't decide on is, whether or not this language should be a-posteriori or a-priori? And if it were to be a-posteriori, what would be related to? I think a-priori might be the way to go, but I would like to tackle an a-posteriori, because I haven't done one in a while.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by Frislander »

Have a watch of this video - essentially the upshot of this is that the native population would most likely be related to the Fuegians, so if you wanted to do a posteriori you'd have to somehow reconstruct some kind of "proto-Fuegian", or at the very least try and back-derive an ancestor from one of the existing Fuegian languages to use.

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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by qwed117 »

It could be Teheulche or Onan, possibly as well.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by WeepingElf »

Yes - your Antarcticans probably arrived from the southern tip of South America, so one may expect their languages to be related to languages spoken there. If you can find documentation of those, that is.

BTW, a guy named Brad Coon has already constructed an Antarctican conlang, but that should not deter you. Rather, you may draw some inspiration from it.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by Lambuzhao »

Although a stretch, possibly include a smattering of Palawa kani (Tasmanian) ¿?
That would be interesting if Tasmanians followed seal-hunting via MacQuarie Island and arrived at Antarctica.

Mebbe Maori ¿¿??

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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by WeepingElf »

Maori would work; they apparently got there, but for understandable reasons did not stay. I have heard of a Maori tale about a sailor venturing south and finding a frozen wasteland.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

A Fuegian language would be interesting, and would probably be a Chonan language. It would probably be island Chon, so a relative of Ona and Haush. I also like the idea of some Austronesian influence, as the last time I tried making one of these, it was Austronesian. I'm on the bench about Tasmanian influence, because most of them weren't documented, and the others just got word-lists.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by WeepingElf »

Of course, it is a long way from the Antarctic Peninsula, where people from southernmost South America would end up (and AFAIK Brad Coon placed his Feorran language), to Victoria Land, where that legendary Maori sailor probably arrived - in fact, they are almost diametrically opposed.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

WeepingElf wrote:
10 Mar 2019 21:17
Of course, it is a long way from the Antarctic Peninsula, where people from southernmost South America would end up (and AFAIK Brad Coon placed his Feorran language), to Victoria Land, where that legendary Maori sailor probably arrived - in fact, they are almost diametrically opposed.


Of course, but this isn't necessarily supposed to be a realistic language.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by WeepingElf »

In that case, you need not worry about any of the things discussed here. But frankly, there are reasons why Antarctica has no native people - the environment is just too harsh for people without modern technology to thrive, it seems.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by Salmoneus »

That was my first reaction.

However, looking at it, it maybe might just be possible? The west coast of the antarctic peninsula is actually survivable, no worse than Inuit habitats in Greenland and Canada (and probably better). The big downside is that the temperature is only barely ever above freezing, so there's virtually no vegetation beyond a bit of moss (only two flowing plant species have been found anywhere in Antarctica).

I suspect that an Inuit-style diet heavily dependent on seals, supplemented with birds and bird eggs, might be viable. It would, however, be worse than the Inuit diet - Inuit can vary their diet with land mammals (caribou, etc) and with berries and the like. Antarctic hunters couldn't do that - they'd be all sealmeat-and-bird-eggs, all the time.

I think the big problem - other than getting there! - would be variation. Greenland, for example, has seen several rapidly annihilated societies - Independence I, Independence II, the Vikings, probably others. There are probably specific reasons for this, but a big one is that climate changes over time - the vikings disappeared when the little ice age sent temperatures plummeting. A barely survivable environment can be unsurvivable in a bad year. To some extent, the Inuit have managed to avoid this by (aside from by not appearing until relatively recently) through mobility - when things are bad, they can retreat. But if you're in O'Higgins Land, you can't retreat (or get help by trading for food and suplies). A run of bad winters could kill the whole population.

There's also, I think, a problem of adaptation. The Inuit are physically abnormal in being able to survive on their diet - they have giant livers, for a start. This probably reflects a period of adaptation - they would have started out in Siberia, moved to Alaska, and only as the final step were they evolved enough to be able to spread across the extreme icy environments they came to inhabit in modern times. Settlers in Antarctica would have to leap from the relatively benign Tierra del Fuego to the merciless antarctic in one bound, and that might be a physical challenge.


But looking at it, it seems like it would be more "highly improbable" than "outright impossible".

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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

I was looking for resources for Selk'nam (Ona) and found this beauty: http://etnolinguistica.wdfiles.com/loca ... elknam.pdf
Now I just need to find something like this for Haush, and I can attempt to create a Proto-Island Chon language.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by WeepingElf »

You could of course flout realism completely and invent a species of sapient penguins, whose language would obviously be unrelated to any human language ;)
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

That sounds absolutely incredible!
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by sangi39 »

WeepingElf wrote:
25 Mar 2019 21:44
You could of course flout realism completely and invent a species of sapient penguins, whose language would obviously be unrelated to any human language ;)
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by WeepingElf »

I can't remember seeing a penguin conlang, but googling for "penguin conlang" throws up this old Reddit thread in which penguin phonology was discussed.

But my proposal to use sapient penguins rather than humans was not very serious. Certainly, a sapient penguin species is a MUCH bigger stretch, realism-wise, than an indigenous human population that somehow survives in the harsh environment of Antarctica!
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

Wow, I feel like I was pretty rude in these posts. I've dropped the project for now, but I might pick it back up someday. I thank everyone who contributed to this thread.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by Pabappa »

If you ever do return to the project, I'd add to this just a bit ....

It's highly questionable whether the Māori ever actually made it to Antarctica. Evidence against is that:
1) All we have is a single story about a sailor named Ui-te-Rangiora, who may or may not have even existed,
2) The sailor only encountered floating ice, which can be found quite a distance away from the continent itself, and
3) The Māori were certainly aware that the southern tip of their territory was colder than the north, with occasional snow in winter, and that any place to the south of the islands would be colder still.

I find the South American route more likely. A tribe of people who knew about South America would have little reason to colonize Antarctica, but in an alternate history scenario, it could certainly be made more attractive by changing just one simple thing, of your choice ... e.g. maybe Antarctica was going through a warm period at the time, or had some natural resource that the Fuegians really needed but was in very short supply. Or else, the Fuegians were pushed off their home continent by the other tribes and simply had no choice but to settle in Antarctica. This last scenario though would make it unlikely that they would abandon the peninsula for the much colder eastern side of the continent.
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by GoshDiggityDangit »

Thank you for your input! I was already working on the South American scenario, trying to reproduce a Proto-Chon language to work from. I'm thinking now because of your last suggestion, however. What if there was an earlier, smaller people in Tierra del Fuego, who were pushed out of South America by the Yaghan people?
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Re: What would be the best approach for an Antarctic 'lang?

Post by Curlyjimsam »

I guess a relevant question to ask for this is when the Antarcticans are supposed to have arrived there in the first place. If relatively recently (I dunno, a thousand years), then an observable relationship with some other language very far south is more likely, but if they've been there some time then we might expect a language isolate.

I have long toyed with some vague ideas about an Antarctican culture of my own, though never developed it beyond some very basic thoughts. My solution to the problem of the climate is to have the people be basically a different subspecies of human, or even another (closely related) species entirely, heavily adapted to the environment (e.g. with fur). That of course suggests they have been on the continent for a very long time indeed, and their language is entirely distinct from any language spoken by Homo sapiens sapiens. But other approaches are of course conceivable!
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