In Bloomfield's Language (1933), he presents a fragmentary sketch of Chinese, stating that Chinese can be described largely in terms of just three constructions. I decided I wanted to create a conlang in which all grammatical structures could be described in just those terms - in which those were the only structures available in the language. Although, I ended up adding one more. They are:
- Subject - predicate
- Action - goal
- Construct - modifier
- Topic - comment
I decided the constructions would be head-marked - counting the subject, action, construct, and topic as the head of each respective construction. The marking was initially a particle placed after the end of the phrase, but then I decided it would fuse with the preceding word, in the manner of a clitic.
Another thing I wanted to do was to have monosyllabic roots, like Old Chinese or Toaq. I really really liked the concision of monosyllabic roots. And I wanted them to stay monosyllabic even when inflected with a phrase clitic - but how to do it? I seriously considered suffixes, which weren't too bad, but raised some mild issues with self-segregating morphology. The most elegant and aesthetically pleasing solution, which would give the greatest freedom to root shape within the monosyllabic template, would be to implement the clitics tonally - like the grammatical tones in Toaq. One problem: I prefer to be able to pronounce my conlangs, and while I can sometimes dispense with that, I really wanted to be able to pronounce this one. And I'm not so good with tones. So, I ended up deciding on something else.
The grammatical "clitics" - by all appearances, an ablauting root vowel - consist of the rhyme of each monosyllabic root. There are fifteen rhymes in this language, but only three lexically contrastive categories of rhymes. That is, each root has five forms - the unmarked or citation form, which has an important role of its own in the grammar, and the subject, action, construct, and topic forms.
Early on, before I had even decided on the phonology of the language, I decided that the name of the language would be of the form change-CONST five, i.e. 'five changes', referring, naturally, to the five forms of each word. I have not decided on many lexical items yet, just enough to provide some basic examples, but I've decided on the relevant roots for the name of the language: laa shu, 'the five changes', or perhaps more artistically, or more linguistically, 'the five alternations', 'the five mutations', or even 'the five desinences'. Technically, this is a metonymy - referring to the language's most characteristic feature, instead of the language itself. A fuller name might be dle laa shu, 'the language of the five mutations', lit. 'the tongue of the five mutations'. In the language's roman orthography I intend to write each syllable/root separated by a space, but in English usage Laashu would be fine. The doubled <a> has orthographic import in the native orthography, to be explained below, but to an English speaker it could just as well be "Lashu", though for the sake of consistency Laashu would be better.
Next, I will explain the language's phonology, including the shape of roots and the system of alternations.
Edit: All phonological forms in the posts preceding "Changes to the Phonology" are deprecated; all grammatical information remains valid.