Monday, 17 June 2013
Wednesday, 3 April 2013
A few weeks ago, on Twitter, +Wm Annis of the +Conlangery Podcast pondered whether he should add ideophones to an existing conlang or create a new one. I said "Let your conlang decide." This remark deserves a bit of explanation.
I think that a good conlang should feel like it has a mind of its own. Yes, Khangaþyagon is my creation, and I can technically do what I like with it, but whatever I do has to feel like it naturally belongs to the language. So, to start with, I don't use word generation software. I'm a committed handcrafter of vocabulary, because I have to feel I've got the right match of sound to meaning. Sometimes the word comes first, sometimes the meaning, but whichever way round it is, it has to mean what Khangaþyagon wants it to mean.
A good example is "oplen". When I first thought of it, I thought it was a verb. I'd worked out what the correct form and sense of the present participal were (Khangaþyagon verbal nouns have quirks), but I didn't have a suitable meaning (it was meant to be something to do with travel). So I slept on it, and in the morning I had the answer. "oplen" wasn't a verb at all. It's a noun, and it means "glade".
If you want to work this way (and it won't be to everybody's tastes) it's important to internalise your language's phonaesthetics. When I started work on Khangaþyagon, my wife and I were doing an evening class on History of Art. Under the influence of Wassily Kandinsky, I decided that all wizards should be synaesthetes. This set me an interesting challenge, as I'm not one myself. You should have seen me, when I was making up names for herbs and spices, going round my kitchen, sniffing at jars, trying to fit sounds to scents. I'm particularly proud of those words.
Another word I'm proud of is "dapt-" which means "be the weather". I had been thinking that Khangaþyagon would express the weather with phrases like "The sun shines", "the rain falls", "the wind blows" etc. However, during Lexember, I came up with this verb, which fits in much better with the character of Khangaþyagon. Given that Khangaþyagon is a magical language, just think of the possibilities of the first and second persons.
Khangaþyagon can reject words too. Early on, I coined egorigik and namassateus, but Khangaþyagon didn't want them. If your conlang does, it can have them.
It's not just about the words. A language's personality should pervade every aspect of its grammar. You remember I said that verbal nouns had quirks? I started Khangaþyagon by taking a runic inscription from an Anglo-Saxon ring, ærkriuflt kriariþon glæstæpontol, and parsing it as "Let the bleeding be healed by conjuration." This gave me two forms, on and ont, for what I loosely call the present participal. However, I later created words for which these forms acted more like agent nouns. Which form and which sense go with a particular verb are lexically determined, and they don't correlate. This started out as a mistake, but I liked it so I kept it.
The segunak "ut" means "at" or "exact location". "omb" means around. So why does the combination "utomb" mean "made of"? Your guess is as good as mine.
Does the verb "to be" even have a passive in any language? It's Khangaþyagon's way of expressing "there is". It seems to work.
You might say that all this talk of letting your language think for itself is all a flight of fancy. After all, aren't I the one making all these decisions in the end? But creating a language is a flight of fancy to start with, one that you have to be fully involved in to undertake successfully. This is a flight of fancy that I've been on for over 10 years. Khangaþyagon is part of me now.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
One thing that quite a lot of people get annoyed about is using "literally" to mean "figuratively". Fortunately, these Vikings know how to use the word correctly.
(Of course, they're not literally Vikings. They're really actors playing Vikings in Horrible Histories, but you knew that, didn't you?)
I'm off to York for a few days, and it just happens that the Viking Festival is on, so I might post some more Viking-related stuff.
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Saturday, 9 February 2013
class CustomSorter(object): def __init__(self,alphabet): self.alphabet=alphabet def __call__(self,word): head,tail=self.separate(word1) key=[self.alphabet.index(head1)] if len(tail): key.extend(self(tail)) return key def separate(self,word): candidates=self.Candidates(word) while candidates==: word=word[1:] candidates=self.Candidates(word) candidates.sort(key=len) head=candidates.pop() tail=word[len(head):] return head,tail def Candidates(self,word): return [letter for letter in self.alphabet if word.startswith(letter)]
Thursday, 29 November 2012
Over on Twitter, Mia Soderquist, a fellow conlanger, mentioned that, after 5 years, she finally had a word for "table" in her language, Nevashi. It's a common enough experience - no matter how long you work on a conlang, there are always gaps in the vocabulary. I mentioned that Khangaþyagon has no word for "dog" (I've only been working on the language for about 10 years). Between us we came up with the idea of creating and posting an everyday word each day during December. A few other conlangers wanted to join in, and after a bit of debate, we decided to call it #Lexember. As I write, it's 2 days to kick off, and I'm getting excited about it. It will run in parallel on Google+, under the auspices of the +Conlang Tip Exchange.
One story I'd like to share about how this got started. I saw some seals on TV. I thought, "You know, a seal's face looks a bit like a dog's. The Khangaþyagon for seal should mean sea-dog. That's þoa… bother, no word for dog."
Tuesday, 6 November 2012
If you want to write fantasy (I'm about 30 pages into a book I've been working on for 10 years), you need to make your magic believable. One way to do this is to research the magical practices of the past and try to understand the thinking behind it.
Take alchemy, for example. Why did alchemists want to make gold? Not for its monetary value, or even for its beauty, although that was relevant. No, the real reason was that they believed that gold was the perfect metal. In mediaeval philosophy, imperfection is manifested as corruption and decay, and gold does not corrode.
The philosopher's stone was thought of as a sort of magical catalyst that would transform things to their most perfect state. Hence the fact that it is also the elixir of life. A perfect human being would be free from the corruption of disease and death.
But it doesn't stop there. The state of perfection is not simply physical, but spiritual and moral. Anyone using the philosopher's stone would have to repent of all his misdeeds.
So, if an archvillain is trying to get hold of the philosopher's stone, the best thing you can do is to give it to him.