On Wed, 7 Jul 1999, Ed Heil wrote:

> Not being a professional linguist, I'm not sure I've ever seen a
> complete description of the phonotactics of a natlang, so I'm not sure
> how I would go about describing such a beast.  I don't explicitly know
> the phonotactics of any of the few natlangs I've studied, nor of my
> native language.  As for phonologies, I've seen phoneme inventories
> but I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like a complete analysis of
> the phonology of a natlang (allophones and all).

A lot of modern, descriptive grammars have a good and full chapter on
the phonotactics of the language they describe - you could do worse
than trying to find Solnit's _Eastern Kaya Li_, Rutgers' _Yamphu_ or
Ikroro's _The Kana Language_. These really differ from the old-style
grammars for classical languages.

> Given a "sound" that I might want a language to have, when I try,
> clumsily, to analyze that sound and make a formula for creating it, I
> usually don't end up getting anywhere near it.  And when I try to make
> a system from scratch, not following a vision but just making up some
> rules and seeing where they lead, I don't often get anywhere I want to
> be.
> I've tried using Jeffrey Henning's _Langmaker_ and Christopher
> Pound's  _werd_ and you can do some cool stuff with them, but again, I
> suffer from an inability to come up with formulas for word creation
> that produce quite the sets of words I want.

I'd prefer to hand-craft each and every word only when it's needed.

> Do the rest of you start with this kind of harcore linguistics
> description and proceed to specific words, or vice versa, or somewhere
> in between, or some cycle between the two, or something entirely
> different?  Where did your words come from?

Well, I've got it easy in some respects. I've designed the core of Denden
at secondary school, when I was very naive linguistically. All I have
to do nowadays is analyze the data from those days. It does mean that I
don't have a consistent phonological system, but that's all right since
Denden is spoken by native speakers of a wide variety of languages. So in
the case of Denden, the words were first, and I've never really bothered
with an explanation.

When designing new languages (far to much work to persevere in, I'm
afraid, although Northern Charyan had progressed quite far) I start
with the decision whether it's to be a tonal language, or not. Then
the consonant and vowel inventories, the choice between mono and disyllabic
roots, and the syllable structure. I've never gone so far as to determine
the actual phonotactics, but the grammars I mentioned have good examples.

I've had a list with possible, plausible sounding, roots for a while,
but I forgot to top it up, and once depleted, it fell into disuse.

Boudewijn Rempt  |