Conlang Relay & New Insights on Conlanging




The Third Language Creation Conference is THIS WEEKEND! If you aren't going, it will be simulcast on the web at the previous link. I'll be there, when I'm not working.

The podcast is my translation of the conlang relay text into Pitak (pee-tawk) from Kapakwonak.

Translation: Li pisu na mul kiso funefemu - I close to sea seated in-a-time
En molfos kotiko i a mol fimilu pumo - A wave up-broke and the water over-me swept
Li tepo molfous netokwa i ama nami tilwato - I tried the-wave to-not-fight and this to-me happied
Li meno onos molfousi pumisu puma - I dreamt about the waves away-me sweeping
Wo la tiko, li komanu kuso - When it broke, I continuously-it felt
A molfos komanu moso sapwa i pumisu teko - The wave continuously was-able to-go and away-me took

First of all, participating in the relay was a great experience for a bunch of reasons, and I highly recommend participating in one on the ZBB or other conlanging forums! One reason was that it forced me to really get into someone else's mentality about language and their conlang, and break outside of my own. Another reason was that it also forced me to think about my conlang from someone else's point of view, as I had to type up enough of an explanation for them to be able to translate it.

Kapakwonak is a fusional language and difficult to parse through; it was a challange to figure out how each infix added meaning to a sentence or word. There were six sentences in the text, and each one seemed to get a little harder; I think because the message was getting more garbled as we got into it. The first sentence had the peculiar challenge of figuring out that 'I moved downwards upon my legs' meant 'I sat down.'

Pitak is meant to be a simple, primitive language; the biggest challenge with translating it was simplifying what was being said. I did not translate 'I moved downwards upon my legs' literally; and more's the pity - it would have been hilarious to see how this got interpreted by the conlanger after me in the relay! But it wouldn't be said in this way in Pitak - unless you were describing a dance move, perhaps. However, there are other confusing things about Pitak - most words can be nouns or verbs, depending on how they are inflected; so to sit, would be translated more like 'to seat,' or 'to be seated,' because 'kis' means 'seat,' not sit.

I realized something as I came out of this. I've written about simplicity in conlanging, but I think there is an inverse relationship between simplicity and comprehension/transferability of meaning. I think that the simpler a language is, the easier it is to misconstrue meaning and what is trying to be said. I still believe that simplicity is the way to start; that if you don't understand all the underlying linguistic principles you should keep breaking it down until you get to a level you do understand, and I believe that too much complexity can make your own conlang impossible to conjugate/speak/write. But I no longer believe that complexity is the enemy. And I still believe there is a lot more I have to learn about linguistics.

More on the 3rd Language Creation Conference soon.

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