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Matthew George wrote:

> A quick search of the list's archives doesn't reveal much discussion of the
> use of homophones in the construction of a naturalistic language.  Is
> English unusual in having so many?  Do you try to include them in your
> languages?

I suspect that my conlangs have too few homophones. I've actually 
changed some words to avoid them, e.g. the Tirëlat word for "three" was 
changed to avoid conflict with the word for "apple" borrowed from Jarda 
at one point (I did eventually change it back, but by then I'd changed 
the rules for borrowing words from Jarda, so there wasn't a conflict any 
more).

It's been a while since I actively tried to avoid homophones, but I 
haven't tried specifically creating them, and when I need new words, I 
tend to look for underused combinations of sounds. Jarda does have some 
words that are homophonous when voiced sounds are devoiced at the end of 
a word (e.g. mjas "recent" vs. mjaz "wax", nôk "to show" vs. nôg "throat").

Mostly, though, where I have homophones in my languages is with 
inflected forms of words, e.g. "ližan" in Tirëlat (either the verb 
"liža" with a suffix -n, or the verb "iža" with prefix l- and suffix 
-n). Tirëlat has (thus far) only a few roots that are homophones: ren 
(upon, stem), van (some quantity of, emotion), łašpa (scimitar, to 
squeeze), and tsiki (heel, a kind of herb).

I think it's a similar problem with including words that sound like 
English words. Natlangs often have words that happen to sound like 
English words, but when I'm looking for a new word for one of my 
languages, I tend not to think of English-sounding words. Similarly, if 
I need a new word, I think I tend to skip over words that already have a 
meaning in one of my languages. I guess that's one advantage to the plan 
of starting with a proto-language and letting it undergo changes in 
sound and meaning similar to what natural languages have historically 
experienced.

So homophones could be a useful feature for making your language more 
natural-seeming, but unless you point it out, it could easily go 
unnoticed. E.g. "vynjalaxan maj xindzi łašpa" can only mean "they seemed 
like cruel scimitars", not "they seemed like cruel to squeeze" (which 
isn't even grammatical).