How Do YOU Create Words?

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Varjhav
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How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by Varjhav »

Title. How do you create words for your conlangs?
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k1234567890y
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by k1234567890y »

at first you can do it more freely, but you need to determine the phonology, and how roots may look, and maybe make a "proto-form" to furher control the look of the outcome words too.

then you may start to derive new words from existing words. Well, control yourself from adding new roots, most words can be created from existing words.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by LinguistCat »

I'm basing it off the proto-lang of an existing language, so I'm constrained a little by what we know. But I get to pick out antiquated roots/words that might not exist in the rl descendant language(s) and work with my pet theories of reconstructions and then derive things as I need them.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by Reyzadren »

Whenever a new word is added, or even if it is after an automated process, it is manually cross-checked with other words to ensure its consistent phonotactics, no duplicates, and sometimes symmetry.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by Kehgrehdid »

I chose a few different languages as influences for my a priori conlang. To create a conword for a given meaning, I would look at the word for that meaning in those languages, choose two or more and start combining their sound and massaging it until it fit the word structure I chose for the conlang. So for 'father,' Hebrew "abba," Spanish "padre," and English "father" combine for the conlang word "abathre."

There are also word generating programs that allow the user to input sounds and syllabic structure and use those rules to generate word candidates, and also see how thhey like words that follow those rules. I have used those in the past too.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by KaiTheHomoSapien »

If I'm creating a new lexeme, I will often simply put sounds together until I come up with something that sounds sufficiently Lihmelinyan. Sometimes new words come to me while I'm biking or at school or in the shower...I keep notes on all my ideas on my phone and on my computer. Sometimes I'll just try out different words until I find one that I like the best. I have an a priori vocabulary, so I'm not basing lexemes on any existing language, but I do base their grammatical forms on IE. So once I come with a root that I like, I'll decide what declension/conjugation it should be in.

Sometimes when I realize I need a new word, I will consider which sounds I haven't used in a while, I'll come up with a preliminary form, then fine tune it until I like it enough to incorporate it into the lexicon.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by Varjhav »

Kehgrehdid wrote: 10 May 2018 00:41 I chose a few different languages as influences for my a priori conlang. To create a conword for a given meaning, I would look at the word for that meaning in those languages, choose two or more and start combining their sound and massaging it until it fit the word structure I chose for the conlang. So for 'father,' Hebrew "abba," Spanish "padre," and English "father" combine for the conlang word "abathre."

There are also word generating programs that allow the user to input sounds and syllabic structure and use those rules to generate word candidates, and also see how thhey like words that follow those rules. I have used those in the past too.
That's an interesting method, I might use that in my next conlang.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by alynnidalar »

I use a variety of methods, but because I prefer to create words with etymologies, I frequently use this method:

First, I try to come up with a plausible etymology. I might look at Old Tirina/Old Azen for an appropriate root, but if I can't find any (or want to create a new root), I often look at Wiktionary/other sources to see how other languages derive a particular word. When I come up with an etymology I like (which might be the same as a natlang etymology, or might just be inspired by them), I often find I need to create new words in the old form of the language for the sake of the etymology. To create these words, I either derive them from pre-existing words, or create them ex nihilo. (you will drive yourself crazy if you try to come up with etymologies for your etymologies for your etymologies; at a certain point, just invent words wholesale and call it a day)

When creating these new words, I have a couple methods. I might simply pick something that sounds good and fits the language's phonology, or I might use a word generator (either Zompist's Gen or the CWS generator) to give me several options that I choose from. (I like this method because it gives me a wide variety of wordshapes and encourages me to use phonemes I might otherwise forget about or overlook, while still allowing me freedom to pick between different options and massage words until I like them.) I also maintain a list of "good words", words with pleasant shapes/sounds that don't have meanings yet, so sometimes I'll save myself some time and grab something off that list.

The final step is to run my new word/etymology through the sound changes (using SCA2, mostly) up to the modern form of the language, adding/dropping affixes as appropriate. This is a dangerous step because I can very easily end up with something I don't at all like in the modern language! So I frequently will pick a variety of possible words for the old language, run them all through the sound changes, and pick the one I like the best. (to help with this step, I run all my "good words" list through sound changes ahead of time, so they're all guaranteed to at least be pleasant)

tl;dr: I use tools and real-world etymologies to narrow down possibilities and inspire me, then use personal preferences/aesthetics to select the final winner.

This whole method takes forever, so here are some alternate, significantly faster methods I sometimes use:
1. make something up for the modern language, list it as "etymology unknown" like a coward
2. make something up for the modern language and declare that it's a recently-invented word/brand name/based off of someone's name
3. derive it from a pre-existing word through compounding, weird affixes, or bizarre polysemy
4. borrow something directly from another language and run it through appropriate sound changes for whenever it was borrowed in (e.g. English for a lot of technological or scientific terms, which makes in-world sense because this is an urban fantasy conworld)
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by DesEsseintes »

I don’t, which is probably why my conlangs never get anywhere. [xD]
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by Ælfwine »

My focus is exclusively a-posteriori at the moment (though I do have a few ideas for an a priori lang), so in most of my cases, I simply derive the words from the parent family through sound changes. Loan words are generally taken by their prestige (i.e. since I am doing a romance language in Hungary, I figure having a lot of Hungarian terms for pastoral related activities might be apt, while loanwords related to government and administration and increasingly taken from Common Slavonic and German.)
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by sangi39 »

I do the following:

1) Design the phonology, and a bit of morphology
2) Plug the phonemes and syllable structure into Awkwords
3) Copy and paste the results into an excel document (well, the OpenOffice equivalent), remove any duplicate words until I have a total list of around 20,000 to 30,000 monosyllabic, bisyllabic and trisyllabic "roots" (depending on the language)
4) Use a random number generator (with the appropriate bounds) to pick out which root I should use next, and assign that root to a particular meaning.

I usually use that method for basic vocabulary, usually starting with the Swadesh list, and also going through Mallory and Adams' "The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World", just as a basic overview. It's not a case of translating words one-for-one, though, and instead I like to throw in little nuances, or broaden the meaning (for example, Proto-Sirdic has two words for "fruit", i.e. *derrir, meaning "fruit from a bush", as well as "testicle", and *kuguw, meaning "fruit from a tree", as well as "nut").

After that, I'll use the derivational morphology I came up with to derive more words. Every so often, I'll also throw in a couple of words derived from real-world references:
So far I have the Proto-Skawlas word for "elephant", /'pʰin.kʰa/ ['pin.kʰə] binkë, which comes from the pink elephants of Disney's Dumbo, and the Proto-Sirdic word pinkes (root, pink-), meaning "a strong alcoholic beverage", from the same thing.

I was also thinking of throwing in /pʰrat'ʂit/ [pʰrəʈ'ʂit] prëḍṣid (identical in the plural) into Proto-Skawlas, meaning "story-teller", from Terry Pratchett's surname, and then /'ter.riar/ ['ter.rer] terrer (stem: terri-) into Proto-Sirdic as something like "wise man" or "dispenser of knowledge", and finally [nyaxa] terri and [qido] terri in Lesi Kirra as "wizard" and "deity" respectively, all from "Terry".

I want to throw in little other ones every so often, like /'wes.lias/ ['wesles] wesles in Proto-Sirdic for "to silence oneself" From "Wesley", i.e. Wesley Crusher...
When it comes to daughter languages, I try to decide which bits of derivational morphology remain productive, apply sound changes, semantic changes, come up with new derivational morphology, and try to come up with vocabulary that isn't from the proto-language (which is what sparked the creation of this thread, since I wanted most of the borrowed vocabulary to actually have a source).



On the whole, though, I'm pretty bad at coming up with vocabulary, since I keep getting distracted by trying to come up with phonologies for the proto-languages of the 81 language families spoken by humans on Yantas in the rough equivalent of 1AD in our world (I've only worked on 14 so far), and working on what the languages of the Kovur sound like. And, of course, real life getting in the way [:P]
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by eldin raigmore »

DesEsseintes wrote: 10 May 2018 15:39 I don’t, which is probably why my conlangs never get anywhere. [xD]
[+1] [:(] [:$]

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But I really like sangi39’s post!
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by alynnidalar »

sangi39 wrote: 10 May 2018 18:00 I do the following:

1) Design the phonology, and a bit of morphology
2) Plug the phonemes and syllable structure into Awkwords
3) Copy and paste the results into an excel document (well, the OpenOffice equivalent), remove any duplicate words until I have a total list of around 20,000 to 30,000 monosyllabic, bisyllabic and trisyllabic "roots" (depending on the language)
4) Use a random number generator (with the appropriate bounds) to pick out which root I should use next, and assign that root to a particular meaning.

I usually use that method for basic vocabulary, usually starting with the Swadesh list, and also going through Mallory and Adams' "The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World", just as a basic overview.
Now this is an interesting method. Perhaps rather than coming up with new Old Tirina roots every time I want to coin a Modern Tirina word, I should invest a little effort ahead of time to create a large number of roots this way. It would definitely reduce time for me; my method as outlined above takes forever. (of course I'm left with my "but do they sound good in Modern Tirina" dilemma, but it's easy enough to copy and paste a list of potential Old Tirina words into SCA2 and only use ones that yield good results. At some point I should really do a phonological analysis of what the ramifications of this are, with regards to Old Tirina's phoneme frequency and phonotactics. On a side note, if you're creating affixes in a protolang or old form of a language, your future self will be very grateful if you check these affixes yield pleasant results when sound changes are applied to them.)
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by sangi39 »

alynnidalar wrote: 10 May 2018 19:45
sangi39 wrote: 10 May 2018 18:00 I do the following:

1) Design the phonology, and a bit of morphology
2) Plug the phonemes and syllable structure into Awkwords
3) Copy and paste the results into an excel document (well, the OpenOffice equivalent), remove any duplicate words until I have a total list of around 20,000 to 30,000 monosyllabic, bisyllabic and trisyllabic "roots" (depending on the language)
4) Use a random number generator (with the appropriate bounds) to pick out which root I should use next, and assign that root to a particular meaning.

I usually use that method for basic vocabulary, usually starting with the Swadesh list, and also going through Mallory and Adams' "The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World", just as a basic overview.
Now this is an interesting method. Perhaps rather than coming up with new Old Tirina roots every time I want to coin a Modern Tirina word, I should invest a little effort ahead of time to create a large number of roots this way. It would definitely reduce time for me; my method as outlined above takes forever. (of course I'm left with my "but do they sound good in Modern Tirina" dilemma, but it's easy enough to copy and paste a list of potential Old Tirina words into SCA2 and only use ones that yield good results. At some point I should really do a phonological analysis of what the ramifications of this are, with regards to Old Tirina's phoneme frequency and phonotactics. On a side note, if you're creating affixes in a protolang or old form of a language, your future self will be very grateful if you check these affixes yield pleasant results when sound changes are applied to them.)
I completely forgot about phoneme frequency [:P] You can mess around with it, to an extent, in Awkwords, so you can have some phonemes be more common than others (I'm not sure you can do the same thing for syllable structure, though).

So Awkwords, as far as I know, treats all phonemes as being equally likely to occur, so if you use if to throw out like 20,000 roots, then using a random number generator, I suppose, should mean that, more or less, phonemes appear as frequently as each other in a given position. If you mess around with the phoneme frequency beforehand (say you want more /p/s than /b/s, then when the random number comes up, the results should, hopefully, roughly follow that distribution.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by QuantumWraith »

sangi39 wrote:(I'm not sure you can do the same thing for syllable structure, though).


Because of the nesting nature of Awkwords, you could simply set aside a seperate category for your different syllable shapes, then assign weights to those.

One thing about this question, of which it seems I'm doomed to never get a satisfactory answer, is how do you determine which word/root you like the most/is best for a particular meaning, i.e. assigning meaning to roots. My phonology is designed to sound pleasant to me. As a result, I find I have a hard time discriminating which words sound the best (they all sound the best!) One thing I've considered to whittle this down, is to use the notion of simple sounds for common words vs complex sounds for less common words. Other than that, I just set Awkwords to generate 1 root until I have a shape that fits the frequency I imagine it should have. I can't seem to get any further than that though, I can never settle on anything. Maybe it's a psychological issue on my part with indecisiveness.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by alynnidalar »

Unfortunately I don't have an answer for how I decide a particular word feels right for a particular meaning--I go where the spirit leads. (by which I mean, I just sorta pick one. Sometimes I'm like, yes! This is a beautiful word and my subconscious thinks it fits. Sometimes I'm just like, well, I need a word for this, this is as good as any.)

But a method you could try is to "try out" words before you settle firmly on them for your lexicon. I don't recall what conlanger mentioned using this system (I think it was on the CONLANG mailing list), but IIRC they kept a spreadsheet of vocabulary. Newly added words got a particular color (red or something), and they would "try them out" and see if they liked them. If the word just didn't fit, for any reason, they would freely swap it out for something new. Then, as a word became more comfortable/they felt it was more fitting, they'd upgrade the word's color to blue or green or something, at which point they could still change the word if they felt strongly about it. Finally, when a word was firmly cemented in their mind and in the language, it'd be an official part of the lexicon.

Perhaps giving yourself the freedom to realize you don't have to pick "correctly" the first time can help with that indecisiveness? You just need something "good enough" to begin with, and then you can replace it later if you like.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by sangi39 »

QuantumWraith wrote: 15 May 2018 12:16
sangi39 wrote:(I'm not sure you can do the same thing for syllable structure, though).


Because of the nesting nature of Awkwords, you could simply set aside a seperate category for your different syllable shapes, then assign weights to those.

One thing about this question, of which it seems I'm doomed to never get a satisfactory answer, is how do you determine which word/root you like the most/is best for a particular meaning, i.e. assigning meaning to roots. My phonology is designed to sound pleasant to me. As a result, I find I have a hard time discriminating which words sound the best (they all sound the best!) One thing I've considered to whittle this down, is to use the notion of simple sounds for common words vs complex sounds for less common words. Other than that, I just set Awkwords to generate 1 root until I have a shape that fits the frequency I imagine it should have. I can't seem to get any further than that though, I can never settle on anything. Maybe it's a psychological issue on my part with indecisiveness.
That was part of the reason I started using a random number generator. If the phonology is complete enough, then any root that's thrown out should "feel" like that language, or add to that feeling. Since human language is marked by arbitrariness, i.e. a (more or less) unpredictable connection between sound and meaning, then randomly assigning meanings to sounds should produce a more "natural sounding" language. And, of course, it relieves me of the burden of having to second-guess whether I actually like a root, because if I did that then all of my languages would sound the same [:P]
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by Pabappa »

alynnidalar wrote: 10 May 2018 15:20you will drive yourself crazy if you try to come up with etymologies for your etymologies for your etymologies; at a certain point, just invent words wholesale and call it a day
It takes a long time, but it can be done.... all Poswa and Pabappa words have solid etymologies going back over 7000 years, at which point they are entirely composed of CV and CVCV particles whose deeper etymologies I assign little importance. Thus for all practical purposes the 7000 year old etymologies can be used as 16000 year old ones, so long as I account for the sound changes and random semantic shifts.
I also maintain a list of "good words", words with pleasant shapes/sounds that don't have meanings yet, so sometimes I'll save myself some time and grab something off that list.
i like this idea a lot.
3. derive it from a pre-existing word through compounding, weird affixes, or bizarre polysemy
I do this a lot. There's a lot of phonological coalescence in my languages, so sometimes when two words collide I say that the speakers merged the two senses, so that for example the word for spear can mean "flowerbud weapon" and sword can be "bipedal weapon" even if neither is a good semantic match.

Edit: It may help that my languages either use grammatical classifiers or are closely related to ones that do, so semantic leaps like this can be made by the speakers even without a phonological coincidence.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by Corphishy »

Protolanguages have rarely (read: never) worked out for me. At least, if I try to create words from proto-forms instead of the other way around. With Saipačn, my longest running conlang, and the one with the most words (about 730 at this point), a lot of the words were either generated with the lexicon sculpting game, or else they were some kind of joke that has since become obscured because it stopped being funny. (For example, krim /krim/ was the word for "to come." As in, you know, cream? (Genius pun I know). Now the word is hem, mostly because I wanted more words contain <h>). More often it's just people or characters names from shows I watch, like all the Homestuck trolls have a word, and the My Little Pony main characters when I still watched that not but 4 years ago. And (not in Saipačn but in others) lots of kinship terms will be derived from the names of my actual family members.

There are also many words which act like-I don't know how to describe it other than like a watermark or a signature. Basically, for example, basically every language I have ever made has a word for "to do" that looks similar to ansi
Vuase: ance (the original language I coined this word in)
Bozeto-ei: aŋsi
Saipačn: anła
Etc.

Saipačn doesn't have nearly as many of these words as other languages, however it does have the word for horse be orđn based on Vuase utra. This method, besides just being a personal quirk, also helps me when I'm coming up with grammar. I don't have to worry about coining lots of new words to test out linguistic ideas, since I have a database of wordshapes in my head I can just run through the language’s phonology.

Getting back to Saipačn, it is actually the odd one out for a lot of languages I've made. Many languages I either create the words myself or randomly generate them. I prefer random generation as I always feel pressured to make something sound good and meaningful if I'm making it personally, whereas if I just take what a computer gives me, and maybe chop and screw it a bit, I can much more easily allow words to be.

I have color-grapheme synesthesia, so often times I will become stumped trying to get the right color for words. This is why the orthography is always the hardest part for me, because seeing a word written down literally colors my perception on how it sounds. Oftentimes for a long stretch of a language’s early career it will be written entirely in IPA for this reason; because the extra symbols I don't have as strong of color connections with help to let my mind stop worryong about painting a pretty picture with letters and just make a damn language.
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Re: How Do YOU Create Words?

Post by Pabappa »

if you feel like a more hands-on method of word generation, you could buy a few of these and put 'em in a box where you shake it with the lid closed and then pull out a few blindly. Could have vowels and consonants in seprate boxes so you dont end up with e.g. "gtjs" as a word. with enough complete sets, you could also throw out less common consonants so that e.g. youll have much more /p t k/ than /b d g/. cheapers than doing the same thing with Scrabble sets but also takes up more space.
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