Idea for a new engelang

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matmcv
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Idea for a new engelang

Post by matmcv »

Hi all

I have an idea for a new engelang, I wonder if anyone will be interested in working with me on it or if they have any useful feedback (including telling me it won't work or someone has done it before, that's fine!)

It's basically a language that would have the opposite grammar to English, as directly opposite or distantly different as possible. My current name for it is Shilgngí [ʃɪlgˈŋɪ] [SIlg'NI], although I also think of it as "Antinglish". It began with my answer to a question on Quora: https://www.quora.com/Which-language-is ... ew-McVeagh. Having given a list of what features a language grammatically most opposite to English would have, I was then asked to 'write' something in it (when it doesn't yet exist!) so I 'translated' the Babel text into a form of glossing with abbreviated terms for inflections and shifted word order. Even this doesn't include all required features (e.g. gender) but it gives the gist and made me think a lot about what would be required.

Some notes:
  • The purpose is to test whether it's possible to create such a language, whether it can be made to work. Does it 'feel' opposite to English? It could be used to help English L1 speakers get out of their heads a bit, stop taking their native grammar for granted. It's not meant to be used in practice or associated with a fictional people or situation.
  • It's not meant to be phonologically and lexically opposite as well, as in lots of clicks and ejectives and whatever. Possibly I could use the phonology of English, only switched around temporally (as in [ʃɪlgˈŋɪ], e.g. /ŋ/ is mostly onset, only coda before vowels), or I could just create a random one, as it's not really what the lang is testing. I could back-engineer English lexemes or generate randomly.
  • Some issues do not have an obvious 'direct opposite' to the scenario in English, in which case it's a question of what is most alien, what would be most challenging. E.g. what is the 'opposite' of SVO? Some might say OVS, which is literally the reverse - but that shares the feature of "verb in the middle"! I've already decided the morphosyntactic alignment should be tripartite rather than ergative.
Matthew

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Creyeditor
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Re: Idea for a new engelang

Post by Creyeditor »

I once tried something similar. My idea at that time was to start with the WALS features and always take the option most opposite to English for each feature. The project name was "anti english". Hereis the phoneme inventory. I can't recall why I did not include any click consonants. Maybe the number of consonant/vowel ratio?
Spoiler:
Vowels
i y o
a

ĩ ỹ õ
ã

Consonants
t̪ ʈ c k q ʔ
t̪ʼ ʈʼ cʼ kʼ qʼ
f s ʂ ɕ x χ ħ h
fʼ sʼ ʂʼ ɕʼ xʼ χʼ
ɬ
ɬʼ
ts ʈʂ kx qχ
tsʼ ʈʂʼ kxʼ qχʼ

tɬʼ

Tones
a neutral
á rising
à falling
â rising falling
ǎ falling rising
I also once had an idea for a somewhat different a posteriori engelang. The idea was to take each segment in English and invert each of the phonological features. A voiced, i.e. [+voiced], sound would become voiceless, i.e. [-voiced] and so on. Such a language might still somewhat Maybe there is way to extend this to syntax or morphology? For syllable structure this could be arranged around the absence or presence of an onset or a coda.
Spoiler:
V -> CVC
CV -> VC
VC -> CV
CVC -> V


A third idea for the phonology, was to include all the attested sounds that are not used in English. Such a language would look unnaturalistic and be weird. For the morphology you could use all the categories that are not used in English.
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matmcv
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Re: Idea for a new engelang

Post by matmcv »

Thanks for the reply, Creyeditor. I'm not sure I want to try to get the 'opposite' phonology to English - the more I think about it the more I want to keep English phonology, or at least the phonemes and maybe reverse their direction and order. I might even keep English vocabulary and just reverse it (suah for house for instance). The main focus on oppositeness is grammar. I know the original Quora question referred to 'typology', and that could be interpreted as including phonological typology, but I took it to mean grammatical. Grammar is my main focus in conlanging, perhaps alongside lexis and word formation. The 'opposites' I give on that Quora answer give some idea of how I'm thinking of morphological and syntactic opposites.

Incidentally I think it would be very hard to include all the phones that are not in English in a language's phonology! There must be thousands of them, when you add every feature and combination.

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Re: Idea for a new engelang

Post by Creyeditor »

You could still use WALS for the polar opposite in morphology and syntax. This might give you a good first approximation.

The grammtical feature approach could also be used. Let's say -/əd/ -<ed> marks [+past] verbs in English, /də/- <de-> in Anti-English could be used to mark non-past verbs, i.e. present and future verbs. Similarly, /əz/ -<s> maybe marks third person singular, [+3,-pl], agreement on verbs, but in Anti-English /zə/- <s>- could mark all non-third person plural forms, i.e. [-3,+pl]. In English, preposed /ðə/ marks [+def] noun phrases, but in Anti-English post-posed /əð/ could mark indefinite noun phrases. Another noun phrase marker in English, -<'s> marks the genitive case. I have seen this case described as a governed, oblique case, i.e. [+dep,+obl]. Maybe the nominative case could be marked with <s'>- on Anti-English noun phrases since it is a non-governed, non-oblique case, IIRC.
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Re: Idea for a new engelang

Post by jimydog000 »

Having /ŋ/ only in the onset reminds me of what the Pama-Ngungan sprachbund does, having a coronal-peripheral split, where syllable onsets begin with non-coronal-consonants, and syllable codas are are coronal.
But then you would probably have a lot of /s/ final words, which feels very English like. One solution would be to change /s/ into /h/ in some situations.

The more I think of a mirror English vowel system, I'm thinking about how our /ə/ is almost never phonemic, how our /æ/ alternates with /a/ and /e/ e.g: /mæn/~/men/, <castle>:/kɑːsəl/~/kæsəl/~/kɛsəl/, and how many vowels most dialects possess...
So I then think about Berber's vowel system (from Wikipedia):
/i ʊ ə æ/
and possibly add vowel length to it, as very few English dialects differentiate vowel length by vowel length alone.

As for phonotactics on consonant clusters, that seems like another rabbit hole. You could simply make sure /mr/ and /nr/ clusters exist (they don't occur in English except in scientific taxonomy). English syllables are of the type (CCC)V(CCCC). So you could make Shigngi's (CCCC)V(CCC), but I bet you can think of better possibilities.

If English had alternate word orders, I would of suggested you could simply flip around the occurrence of those word orders. But somehow, a language that allows every word order except SVO and maybe VSO seems odd.
OVS with OSV as an alternate order feels like a good choice.

Not sure on morphology. I had a think about it before looking at your gloss on Korra, and you have the articles and determiners as a suffix as did I. I think you have Morphosyntactic alignment down.
As for typology, I would suggest it lean in towards synthetic somehow.

Khemehekis
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Re: Idea for a new engelang

Post by Khemehekis »

jimydog000 wrote:
24 Jul 2020 01:14
You could simply make sure /mr/ and /nr/ clusters exist (they don't occur in English except in scientific taxonomy).
What about the musical instrument called a mridanga?
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jimydog000
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Re: Idea for a new engelang

Post by jimydog000 »

Khemehekis wrote:
24 Jul 2020 01:25
Non foreign then.

edit: Just non-scientific terms, mridangam, and anagrams.

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