On Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 6:37 PM, Padraic Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> --- On Wed, 2/29/12, Nikolay Ivankov <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > From: Nikolay Ivankov <[log in to unmask]>
> > Subject: Re: [CONLANG] Nonhuman features: birdspeak
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Date: Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 3:19 AM
> > On Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:19 AM,
> > Padraic Brown <[log in to unmask]>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > --- On Tue, 2/28/12, Nikolay Ivankov <[log in to unmask]>
> > wrote:
> > >
> > > > Therefore, I've been wondering, if someone has
> > studied sound
> > > > changes in
> > > > birds vocalization. Well, I anticipate the
> > problems of such
> > > > a research, but still, maybe someone has done it.
> > >
> > > I don't know if this has been done or not. I do know
> > that people have been
> > > transcribing bird song into musical notation for a
> > while -- one place to
> > > look would be in the direction of musically inclined
> > birdwatchers over the
> > > decades, and perhaps centuries back. Another direction
> > would be birdsong
> > > as translated into music (Respighi comes to mind
> > immediately -- one of my
> > > faovrites, Gli Uccelli), but of course keep in mind
> > that this isn't
> > > birdsong per se. It would be a matter of comparison of
> > those older written
> > > / notated records with recordings of modern birds of
> > the same species in
> > > the same regions.
> > >
> > > For example:
> > > "Bird Song" by F. S. Mathews (cited above) is available
> > at Amazon
> > >
> > >
> > > etc.
> >
> >
> > Thanks for the matherial. I've seen people doing this before
> > - not that
> > I've been looking for this on a purpose. Yet, I think these
> > works aim on
> > the aesthetical side of the songs - not something like
> > "_*tweet*_ in this
> > position becomes _*weet*_" or "this sound is a doubly
> > aspirated beak click".
> Right. Apart from birdsong cum musica, the above are more interested in
> the tonal and melodic nature rather than any putative phonemic nature. I've
> found a number of sources on how birdsong changes over the course of the
> seasons, for example:

I've took a look in the book. Sounds intriguing, I'll consider taking a
copy from the University library. Of course, if they have one.

> Yet still not precísely what you're after. I'm not even sure if ornithology
> has the descriptive language to define bird phonemes, let alone how to
> describe their change over time.

Well, it is not that I'm looking for something particular. Thanks God, I am
finally able to start studying the linguistics semi-seriously: took a
Corbett's "Gender" book from the library and now having fun with it. But
considering my speed of reading the spread of my interests, I'm not sure
I'll approach even human phonology within any soon. Mostly, I just would
like to know that there is some kind of knowledge that exists, is at hand,
and could in favorable circumstances be acquired. Just like having nice but
not used functions on a mobile ^)

> > Well, I won't really expect something like a bird IPA - the
> > number of
> > people on Earth exceeds the number of all the wild bids
> > nearly twice. I'm
> > afraid, this would only be possible is we've had a race of
> > sentient
> > raptors. But that's what I've been interested in: what if
> > there were
> > sentient creatures with non-human vocalization apparatus?
> Happily, this falls mostly under the auspices of fictive speculation rather
> than real-world biology and physiology! In other words, it's completely
> up to you how a given non-human species communicates. Terrestrial models
> can only go so far in this direction.

> They'll
> > definitely use all its advantages and suffer all its
> > disadvantages, and te
> > rules of the development of this idioms - I can't call it
> > language, because
> > I'm not sure they'll use the tongue - well, the rules may be
> > completely different.
> Language doesn't require a tongue per se. It does require some kind of
> intelligence and intent to communicate ideas from one individual to another
> using some system of signals.

Well, several years ago I played with an idea of a humanoid race
using radio waves for communication. Not particularly new thing, but still.
To be honest, I've became interested in birds because of a conculture of
humans that - by an idea of my co-autor - were supposed to sing their
language. To make the things even worse, I proposed to make many vowels,
many tones and only 2 real consonants: voiced glottal stop and voiced
bilabial click. So, in fact, the tongue was used only to make high/low
vocals, which is almost nothing. Thus, if their word for speech  had
something to with the organs, then it would be cognate rather with "throat"
or "lips" than with "tongue". However, an analogy with birds would
inevitably come to mind if the language is designed this way, therefore my

> If your bird-people communicate in a roughly analagous way to us, whether
> or not they use or even have tongues, they're using language. I have some
> bird-people in the World, but I know nothing at all about how they talk
> or what their languages are like. I suspect it's quite different than the
> other speaking races, who are mostly hominids of some sort. How much effort
> is made in understanding each other is also an open question -- perhaps
> they decided long ago that communication just wasn't possible and that if
> complete annihilation of the blundering oafs on the other side isn't
> practical, then studied avoidance might be best...

In the human-populated conworld in which the culture I've been talking
about lives the races went so far from each other, that some of them are
just unable to hear what the others say - just like chimps do not really
hear the human speech, because they ears are tuned for higher frequencies.
So they had to invent an interlingua that is entirely written. Well, an
idea of an entirely written language came first, of course.

By the way, can I read something of your fiction?

> > In writing, I can present some non-human characteristics by
> > choosing a
> > proper vocabulary. Say, the creatures have a different kind
> > of colour
> > perception - so I never use the adjectives for colorus
> > except for the
> > grayscale, and use something like "the colour of the sky" or
> > "mottled" when I need to go beyond that.
> Can always use their own word for that colour. The Hotai, for example, have
> a word, zola, for the kind of baleful and shadowy red that blazes forth
> from ovens, tea kettles and smithies that we can not see. We can *feel*
> the blast of heat from the forge, but they can *see* the firedemons that
> fly all around the place.

Right, that's what is done sometimes. Say, Vernor Vinge uses far-violet and
checked (though I'm not sure in my reverse-translation) for the colors
percepted by his spider-like creatures. I may hypothesize that the latter
is concerned with seeing the polarization of light like some insects do.
Still, introducing a new notion may be quite a task for the reader - one
may end up with a text, that is becoming more and more unintelligible.
Though, my problem was that mine were unintelligible from the very

> > Of course, if sometimes I'll continue writing something
> > about my conworld,
> > I'd use "human" letters and sounds - for these are the
> > humans who would be
> > supposed to read this stuff. But still, I feel rather
> > uncomfortable knowing
> > that my approximation may be quite far from how it could
> > sound in fantastic reality.
> Well, this is a problem we áll have -- I have no way of offering anything
> more than an approximation of a conversation with a Daine would be like.
> They think differently than humans, and they have wings which they use
> when they talk. I'm sure that if I ever investigate the bird-folk language,
> that too will end up with a description far from its fantastic reality!
> Padraic

At least, the author have an ark of refuge for their ideas: appendices. I
was really quite surprised to learn that Frodo and Bilbo were in fact Froda
and Bilba, and the final -a was replaced by -o only not to make a gender
confusion. In the internet era the authors are not even dependent on the
publishers: if a publisher is to greedy to waste paper on a seemingly
unimportant crap, the author can just place the appendix on a personal
website and feel her or his duty to the conworld fulfilled. I find it
really encouraging.

> > Kolya

On Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 6:43 PM, Padraic Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> --- On Wed, 2/29/12, Nikolay Ivankov <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > From: Nikolay Ivankov <[log in to unmask]>
> > Subject: Re: [CONLANG] Nonhuman features: birdspeak
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Date: Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 3:30 AM
> > On Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 1:38 AM, Gary
> > Shannon <[log in to unmask]>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > I'm sure this is a tangent and possibly semi-off topic,
> > but how cool
> > > would it be to get some kind of electronic gadget that
> > could reproduce
> > > various birds sounds by twisting knobs and pushing
> > buttons. It would
> > > have to be hand-held and with the kind of button
> > arrangement used on
> > > game controllers you it could be manipulated quickly
> > and fluidly to
> > > produce a huge variety of sound sequences. Then build a
> > conlang around
> > > that "phonology".
> > >
> > > In fact, you wouldn't necessarily have to be limited to
> > bird sounds.
> > > You could include buttons for white noise shots, light
> > bell-like
> > > tinkles, spectrum-sweeping "whoop-whoops", and whatever
> > the
> > > imagination could conjure up. Now imagine two people
> > having an
> > > animated conversation using a pair of such "language"
> > devices. That
> > > just sounds really exciting! :)
> > >
> >
> > Yes, this sounds really nice indeed:) In fact, we do, or at
> > least did have
> > something alike - for instance, military commands given by
> > pipe and tabor.
> Still do -- bugle & drum calls.
> > Not really a language, but an improvement to it was and is
> > definitely possible.
> Well, in the heat of battle, what's important is communicating things like
> "you lot run towards that lot and kill as many of the bastards as you can"
> or "run away!" Niceties of grammatical mood or person or fiddly adjectives
> would only get in the way. A distinct bugle or fife tune that has a
> definite meaning is indeed part of the language.

Well, you do not need a train to get to the kitchen. Yet, you'd consider
the train if the kitchen you need is in another city. Tamtams in Africa
were the most efficient way to communicate in the jungle - so the
"language" became complex enough to inform everyone about the death of
George IV. Were drums and bulge the only way to transfer information in a
complex society, I think we could have had a blare-tabored love poetry
within decades, centuries at most.

> > Or the tamtam telegraph, which was used to transfer a more complex data.
> >
> > And I'm afraid this gives me an idea...
> Oh dearie me!
> Ideas can be dangerous be careful there! :)

No panic! I've already forgotten it ^)

> Padraic