Lego Words

  One of the current problems with the Diinlang project has been the lack of vocabulary. Most of my work has been with respect to verb structures, pronouns, noun genders and similar subjects. Essentially I have built some bones for Diinlang but we also need some “meat” to better illustrate how the bones are working.
A number of approaches can be made towards creating a vocabulary. The one that I favour at present is the use of “lego” syllables. Each syllable has a specific meaning so the meaning of a word can be deduced by consideration of the “bricks” it was built with. An often repeated piece of information on language webpages is that the Mandarin word for “plumber” is “water pipe technician”. The three characters used can be read in a number of ways and an alternative might be “pipe working expert”. This does, however illustrate the lego syllable idea. If we have syllables that mean “water”, “pipe/tube” and “work/ worker” we can build a word for plumber and have a reasonable chance that a Diinlang speaker who has never before encountered that word would have a good idea of its meaning. For example, if water was “kwa”, pipe was “piy” and work “gung” our plumber would be a “kwapiygungzo”, or perhaps just a “piygungzo”.
This approach has been tried with some other artificial languages. Ithkuil is an example of a language with information dense words. Possibly the best know example is Searight’s Sona language. Sona uses syllables as “radicals” and the meanings and associations with related syllables can sometimes be more intricate that you might first assume. Like many conlangs it is geared more towards written rather than spoken use and some of the distinct radicals are phonically similar. See this article for an essay on the use of radicals and a convenient list here.
One of the initial concepts of Diinlang was that syllables should have a “CVn” format, where “C” is a consonant, “V” is a vowel and “n” is a nasal such as “m”, “n” or “ng”. It should be understood that C and V represent phonemes rather than single letters. In practice Diinlang has expanded to use phonically clear mora (“CV” and “VC”) and some “CVC” constructions, particularly when the final C has a hard sound.
There are therefore plenty of syllables to choose from. The real work is selecting what the building blocks to assign them to should be!