--- On Mon, 10/19/09, Harry Aspinwall <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Hey folks, I've been trying to
> de-lurk myself gradually, and since I
> always appreciate everything that everyone else posts, I've
> been
> wanting for some time to contribute myself.

Hello and welcome to the List (although I think you've posted before, no?
> Well, I'm a student at Brown University, and as though I
> don't have
> enough language-oriented classes on my plate at the moment
> (Arabic,
> Semantics, Evolution of Biology and Language and History of
> the
> English Language), I've decided to start getting into
> developing a
> language family. I'm calling its original form Proto-Ragda,
> and I'll
> take it through several sub-families: the main Ragda
> families, Sazgwa,
> and some others. I really wanted to evolve some tonal
> structure (since
> I understand that most of the world's languages have some
> degree of
> tonality other than simple prosody), so I've been reading
> up on
> tonogenesis, and it is quite fascinating. Tone can evolve
> very
> quickly, it seems!

Sounds very ambitious, very interesting. Good luck!

> Tones typically come from
> laryngealisation,
> shortening of long stressed syllables, and deterioration of
> codas.

Among many other factors, as you probably know.
> Anyway, I have a few questions for people:
> Have you ever taken on generating an entire family of
> languages? Where
> do you begin? 

Several of us have, as you've probably seen already. But I've never specifically started that way, although one should....After working on my Kash for a long time, I have sort-of tried to reverse-engineer the proto-language, but haven't had time to really work on it(excuses, excuses). I've always had ideas in the back of my mind, since my official field was historical/comparative (Austronesian family).

Do you typically envision a people before
> creating their
> language?

in my case, certainly. It all started with a planet and a story-idea almost 30 yrs ago, which I'm just now working on for our "LoCoWriMo".
> Finally, how have people used tone in their languages? 

I have a tonal language called (Bau Da) Gwr-- monosyllabic, five tones (high, low, high-fall, low-rise, mid/neutral). But of course it's only a branch of a much larger family that I've only thought about a little bit. Analogous to Romance, maybe, vis-a-vis IE. I did make a list of potential BDG proto-forms (mostly 2-syl) to work with, and first wrote out a bunch of files that combined sound changes and tonogenesis--that got a little confusing, so I went with the sound changes alone (using generative phonology). 

> Are
> there
> tonogenesis resources you've found helpful? I've found a
> lot of things
> in different places, but no collected online resource.

That last sentence is very true, in my experience. My best influences were auditing (1) a course with James Matisoff (the father of tonogenesis, as you probably know) and (2) a proto-Tai course; plus a lot of miscellaneous reading. I seem to have picked up at least some (no doubt partly wrong) ideas about how the process works, and someday I really should go back to those first Gwr files and discuss the tonogenesis specifically. Someday. :-)))) 
> Thanks for your patience! I hope to participate further in
> the future.

We'll all be looking forward to that. 

A lot about my planet and Kash, a bit less about Gwr, + a third new language, at