li [Rex May] mi tulis la > I'm going to be up all night puzzling over this. > So what would be the optimal word for "water"? > > xwey, straight from Mandarin > pani, straight from Hindi > xweywa - all of mandarin, 2/5 English, 1/2 Spanish? > paniwa > xweywair (adding Indonesian air at the end, and > incorporating Maori "wai") > and Arabic ma' could fit in somewhere. > > This sounds like I'm kidding, but I'm not. I mean, > just how can you mathematically judge this > stuff? Should you limit it to two syllables? I wasn't > kidding when I said I was a poet not a scholar. > > So, seriously, how would you set the math up > to do this? http://xahlee.org/lojban/hrefgram2/c4-s14.html The first conlang I started many years ago, though it was a Euroclone used methods something like this but there was no mathematical method, just my own judgement based upon the shapes of the source words. Suppose you have a words like "two" with its European cognates. eng two [tu:] nld twee deu zwei [tsvaI] swe tio fra deux [d0] spa dos [dos] por dos [duS] ell duo [Dio] rus dva Each begins with a dental [t, d, D, ts]. Most begin with a stop [t,d] and most are voiced [d, D] so will use [d] for the initial. Next, most have either a rounded vowel [u, O, o], or the semivowel [w] as the next phoneme so let's use [u]. Assuming a CV wordshape, we'll have the word [du] for "two". Now let's take it a step further in case we are working with CVC. Most have no final, and those that do have a fricative [s, S] so the final could be [s] or [S] depending upon how it needs to fit the phonology. It's also possible to consider the [v] used in a couple and just make the final phoneme a [v]. This would make a few good possibilities [dus], [duS] or [duv], each of which has high recognition. The only problem with an approach like this, is that it only works really well with lists like the example above where it's clear the roots are all cognates. Mixing together unrelated, or loosely related roots from different languages tends to render a form that not only isn't recognizable, but may not even have a mnemonic trigger attached either, even when created mathematically.