Possession in Diinlang

Following the latest changes to Diinlang I will cover how possession is dealt with. There are several ways to do this in Diinlang.

The first way is to use an “X of Y” construction as is used in most Romance languages. In Diinlang “the book of Jon” would be “de buuk da Jon” and “the books of Jon” is “dez buuk da Jon”.

As in English, the possessor can be placed before the possession. In English this uses the apostrophe that so mystifies so many users. In Diinlang the system is simpler and uses the connecting word “vo”. “Jon’s book” is “Jon vo buuk”. To say “Jon’s books” “vo” can be pluralized to make “Jon voz buuk”. The same mechanisms are used with pronouns, which do not change other than being placed with “da” or “vo”. “De buuk da mi”, “mi vo buuk” are “The book of mine”, “My book” and so on.

vo” effectively marks as noun or pronoun as being the possessor of the thing discussed. Therefore “buuk Jon vo”, “buuk mi vo” and “dez buuk Jon vo” are viable constructions.

Note that the use of “vo” is effectively optional. It can be omitted when the meaning is clear. Looked at another way, it is applied when clarity is needed. Such a construction is most likely to be used with a pronoun or proper noun. With normal nouns the meaning may be less clear. Thus, “Jon’s book” can be simply “Jon buuk”.

The third mechanism is to use the possessor as an adjective for the noun of interest. “The Jon book” = “de Jon buuk” or “de buuk Jon”. This can also be done with a pronoun: “de mi buuk” or “de buuk mi”. This system is most useful when the possessor is designated with a pronoun or proper noun. With other nouns the meaning may become unclear and one of the other schemes should be used.


Of and From

When I was researching Scots I came across the use of “o” for “of”. Something similar is sometimes encountered in English but as a contraction. In Scots, the word for “of” is “o”. The recent changes I made to the coordinating conjunctions have eliminated this possible use in Diinlang, “o” now meaning “or”.

I am not totally satisfied with the use of “del” for “of/from”. I prefer the most used words in Diinlang to be short. In many Romance languages “de” is used for “of/from”. “De” is used in Diinlang as the definite article. This word, or similar sounding words such as “the” in English are used by a wide number of languages, particularly Germanic ones. I cannot see many viable alternatives for the definite article. “Li” or “le” could be used but the “l” sound might trouble some users, and “re” already has a distinct use. Additionally “li” is already used to mean “way” and is used as an adverb ending with similar meaning. English has a wider distribution than any of the Romance languages so I went with “de” for “the” rather than “of/from”.

With “de” off the table Italian offers “di” and “da”. “Di” is a homophone of “de” so that leaves “da”. In practice I think that Diinlang will need two words that mean “from”. In English the use of “of” and “from” overlap. “Book of Jon” could mean it is a book belonging to Jon, or a book about Jon. It can even mean a book written by Jon. “Book from Jon” also has multiple meanings. Did Jon make the book, write it or send it?

In Diinlang we will use “da” and “po”. “Po” is derived from the Latin “ab” and the derived term “apo” that is used in several conlangs.

Da” means “of/from” and is the term used when the meaning is mainly possessive.

Po” mainly means “from” and is used when describing movement or spatial relationship.

As in English and some other languages there is some overlap. “Left of the ship” and “left from the ship” are equally valid.

The Italian “da” and “di” and their equivalent “de” in other Romance languages have a number of other applications that may be applicable to Diinlang. For example, these words can also mean “at”, “by”, “as”, “since” etc.

Shorter Conjunctions

One of my aims in Diinlang is to make the words that are used the most as compact as possible. On the past I suggested that the conjunctions “and” and “or” be “et” and “or” with the related terms “etor” and “nor”. Portuguese uses “e” for “and”, equivalent to the Spanish “y” and phonetically similar as an “i” sound. In Portuguese “o” as used as a definite article.

“o” and “e” are clearly workable as stand-alone sounds in a spoken language so using them for “or” and “and” in Diinlang seems logical. “etor” therefore becomes “eo”, which will probably be pronounced as “ə-oh”.

“Nor” poses a problem since simply putting an “n” on “o” gives us “no”, which is already in use. Some languages use “ni” or “ne” for nor. Referring to Lingua Franca Novial (LFN) shows they have only four coordinating conjunctions: “e”, “o”, “no” and “ma”. “No” joins sentence components where the first is valid and the second is not. “Ma” is used for “but” and joins valid but contrasting components. LFN has no distinct word for “nor”, instead using “no…no” constructions as the equivalent of the English “neither…no”. In a sentence where “nor” might be used at the start “no” can be used instead. Based on this Diinlang may also do without a specific word for nor. If nothing else this will avoid the error in English of using “neither” with “or”.

Ma” is a word that I would like to reserve for “mother” in Diinlang. Interestingly some linguists believe that this is a word babies teach parents, rather than the reverse. Many languages use “mas” or “mais” to mean “but” but a more compact word would be preferable. “But” can be thought of as an exclusive “and” so logically “ne” may be the term used in Diinlang. This is compact and sufficiently distinct from the other conjunctions. “Ne” will also have the meaning “yet” (as a conjunction), “nevertheless” and “however”.

Coordinating conjunctions are therefore:

e, o, eo, no, ne.

Chinese into Diinlang.

Yesterday’s post got me thinking further about importing Mandarin/ Standard Chinese words into Diinlang. The main problem is that many words are rendered the same in English, the only distinction being the tone marker. On the plus side, the potential exists for a consistent system to derive a word dependent on the tone value assigned. For example, for the word rendered in pinyin as “ma” the first tone, meaning “mother” would be “ma”, the second, for “hemp” would be “mab”, the third for “horse” would be “mak” and so on. In practice some of these words and meanings already have other assignments, but that is an example of how the mechanic might work.

The following is a suggestion to get the ball rolling. The actual system is undoubtedly better managed by someone with a better knowledge of Standard Chinese than my own.

Most Chinese words are composed of an initial and a final. The initials are all consonants. Initials are combinations of vowels or semi-vowels and some may end in the codas -n, -ng or more rarely, -r/-er. In some words there is a medial between the initial and final, written in Pinyin as i-, u- or ü- but often having a y-, w- or yu- sound.

The standard system for converting Chinese into the Roman alphabet is Pinyin, which unfortunately for our purposes is not phonetic. Some of the Roman letters it uses it assigns very divergent phonemes to. More useful for our purposes is Bopomofo (Zhuyin). Interesting is that the symbol that Bopomofo uses for “en” Pinyin changes to “-in” if there is a “y-” medial before it. Similarly “eng” becomes “ing” or “ong” in Pinyin depending on medial. Just to complicate matters, the actually pronounciation of “ong” is apparently closer to “uung”.

Bopomofo has seventeen symbols for finals. Pinyin renders these as the following. I have put more phonetic renditions of some words in green. Some of these finals may be preceded by medials, which would change the Pinyin spelling:

i, yi, wu, yu, a, o, e(uh), ye, ai(iy), ei(ay), ao(ou), ou(oh), an, en, ang, eng, er

A word/ syllable in Bopomofo is therefore up to three characters plus a tone marker or number. To use this for creating Diinlang words a consistent protocol for transcribing initials needs to be adopted. –n and –ng endings work well for Diinlang, therefore any modification of the word for tone should precede nasal codas. How to handle “en” and “eng” also needs to be considered. Should these become “in” and “ing” when preceded by a “y”?

Standard Chinese has four tones and a neutral tone. If the number one tone is transcribed directly from Bopofomo this suggests we need four modifier letters that can be placed at the end of a final and before a nasal coda. Possible letters are b, l, k, r, s.

Language Influences for Diinlang.

Diinlang is both an “a priori” and “a posteriori language. By studying existing languages we can gain an insight into what mechanisms work. Drawing on natural languages (“natlangs”) for vocabulary provides us with words that may be familiar to the user and aid in learning. There are, however, times when the cluttered table must be swept clean and a new mechanism trialled. Today I am going to look at some of the other languages that may or should have an influence on the development of Diinlang.

English is apparently the third most spoken native language in the world. It is the most widely spoken of the Germanic languages. It is the most globally spoken language, with native speakers stretching from Canada to Australia. Significantly it is also the most spoken second language. If you are struggling in Spanish or Mandarin, throwing in the English phrase might help. Using Spanish when speaking Mandarin or vice versa is not so likely to be successful.

As I have remarked before, a conlang does not exist in a vacuum. Nor, for that matter, do most modern natlangs. In many conlangs there seems to be a tendency to try and pretend English does not exist, ignoring that it is one of the most widely spoken of languages.

English can be very compact, a single syllable performing the task that other languages need multi-syllable words for. On the downside some English syllables can prove problematic for non-native speakers. Diinlang needs to establish what syllable structures are permissible if it is going to utilize English words.

Of course, English is not without its faults. It has many irregularities and homophones. The same word can have diverse and event contradictory meanings. I have seen it claimed that thirteen per cent, approximately one in eight, of English words are not spelt as they are pronounced. When this is not the case there are often multiple ways that the word can be spelt.

Conlangs such as Lojban/ Loglan include English in the languages there derive words from but fail to take into account is distribution and popularity as a second or official language, so give it less weighting than Mandarin and Spanish.

Mandarin is the most spoken native language, although the majority of its speakers are in China or Taiwan. Mandarin/ Standard Chinese is a tonal language so even worse than English for homophones. The same word can have four tones and consequent changes of meanings. This makes it difficult to integrate Chinese words into Diinlang. The grammatical structure of Mandarin is apparently relatively consistent and this may be useful in the refinement of Diinlang.

Spanish is the second most spoken native language, although the majority of speakers are in the Americas. On the plus side Spanish is closely related to many of the Romance languages, so words and mechanisms derived from Spanish may prove comprehensible to speakers of other languages. Lingua Franca Nova may also prove to be useful when drawing from the Romance languages for inspiration.

Another language that Diinlang must consider is International Scientific Vocabulary (ISV), which uses many words derived from Greek and Latin in addition to some novel terms or usages.  Many of these terms are comprehensible or familiar to speakers of other languages, even those not scientifically inclined. Glossa and Interlingua may prove useful inspirations here, although phonology will need to be addressed. ISV has obvious applications in creating the names of animals, plants and chemicals in Diinlang.

I am inclined to suggest that Japanese also be considered in the construction of Diinlang. Its number of native speakers is not particularly high, although higher than most European languages. Distribution is also rather restricted. However, Japan has a notable economic and cultural influence so many Japanese words are in global use. This should probably be considered when creating Diinlang.