I was watching and episode of “Legends of Tomorrow”. One character is a fairy godmother and is accompanied by a child. “She is here until we determine her deepest need” she explains.
I thought that fairy godmothers dealt in wishes, or desires, not needs!
Unfortunately, this is a language pattern that I have encountered frequently in the past few years. People tell me they need something rather that that they would like it or want it.
It is shoddy vocabulary, but does it matter? Yes, it does, since a significant proportion of these people clearly have trouble differentiating between their desires and what they may actually have. And when they do not get what they believe they are entitled to, that generally is unpleasant for those around them.
Some readers will be familiar with “E-Prime”, writing without using the verb “to be”. E-prime may be useful in encouraging a greater variety of copulas used, and in creating more accurate statements. Rather than saying “Jon is disgusting” one might say “I dislike Jon’s treatment of his girlfriend”.
It occurred to me that a similar strategy might be applied to the use of modal verbs in English. I will call this “Can-Prime”, since “can” is one of the most misused of verbs. Eliminate “can” from your writing. Replace it with “able” or other suitable verbs. Commonly people use can/ could when they actually mean may/ might. Use of other modal verbs should also be practised. Do not use “need” unless the requirement is truly a necessity.


The other day I was discussing telepathy with a friend. Commonly in science-fiction telepathy is a convenient solution to any language barrier. Humans, at least, tend to think in language. If telepathic communication is possible it may need to be in the form of images and sensations. There may be problems with differing sensory apparatus and sensitivities. An object may look very different if your visual range extends into the mid-infrared. Many creatures have a world-view that is more reliant on their olfactory senses. Cultural context will also be a problem. A human might transmit an image of a middle-aged woman with a feeling of warmth. This might be translated as “spouse” but could have been intended to mean “mother”, the receiver being unable to appreciate the context of age. One species’ “warm” might be considered uncomfortably hot by another, and taken to mean “danger”.
Thinking about visual communication took me back to Blissymbolics. When I wrote about Awgzing, I suggested that some Blissymbols might be used for written communication such as signposts. In fact, the symbol for Awgzing was derived from Bliss.
According to various websites there are around 5,000 Bliss-words, 900 of which are “Bliss characters”: single symbols with a meaning. Some of these characters are combinations of two or more other other characters. In his original book Bliss suggests 100 basic symbol elements that can be combined.
Blissymbolics is used in the education of people with communication difficulties. Some of the simpler symbols deserve wider usage. The symbol for “exit” is a doorway-shaped arch with an arrow coming out from it. The symbol for gas is a small circle with an upward arrow, representing a rising bubble. See here for a searchable database of symbols
Blissymbolics suggests a number of strategies that may be applied to Diinlang.
Firstly, it is highly modular, so may help design a conlang where the majority of words are formed from compounds of simpler words. Bliss’ first 100 concepts could each be assigned a single syllable phoneme.
Addition of a modifier symbol to another symbol changed the symbol to a “chemical thing”, “action” or “human evaluation”, the equivalent of substantives, verbs and modifiers. This expanded with other symbols that indicate tense, aspect and voice of a verb. We see something like this in Diinlang. A small number of determiners make a word a noun, use of auxiliary verbs designates certain verb forms. Certain endings distinguish some modifiers, but there is probably room for improvement.
The original book by Bliss contains many interesting ideas. The addition symbol could mean “and” but also served as “also” and “too”. A symbol for “part” combines with other symbols for related meanings. With the symbol for fire, it has the meaning “flame” and with water it means “drop”
Blissymbols are inspiring some new trains of thought, so expect to see some of their influence in future posts.

4lsh "Every Word Can Be Abbreviated To Four Letters"

Version 1.1

While I was researching a topic for this blog I came across the webpage “Every Word Can Be Abbreviated To Four Letters”. Last night, while pondering what a long word “maintenance” was, I was reminded of this page.
Can any English word be represented by four letters? There will be a few homographs. An early one I encountered was that “short” and “shirt” might both be “shrt”. “Shorts”, however, worked as “shts”.  As the author of the page says, sometimes using five letters is necessary for clarity. Context plays a part, and use more letters if the meaning is unclear.
This idea has some merit as a shorthand for informal communications using type. A number of complimentary ideas occurred to me, in a system I call 4lsh:
The first is that any noun (four letters or otherwise), becomes possessive by placing an apostrophe at the end. Unlike formal English, the apostrophe is always at the end, it never sometimes occurs before an “s” when used genitively. It can be used to mark a pronoun as genitive, when necessary. For example “their” becomes “thr'”. Apostrophes are still used to mark abbreviations and omissions. “Cant” and “wont” are different words to “can’t” and “won’t” so using the apostrophe increases clarity (which should be the guide in using any grammar system!).
Third person present inflection of verbs is dropped. “Needs” is just “need”, “thinks” is just “thnk (tink?)”. The “-ly” of some adverbs can be dropped if the meaning is clear. In Scots and informal English, this is already done for some words. For example “want it bad”, rather than “want it badly”.
Plurals are made by adding a terminal “-s”. Plurals of four-letter contractions will be five letters, the last letter being “-s”. Where possible irregular plurals are regularized. “Chlds” is “children”, “goozs” is “geese”, “knifs” is “knives” and “sheps” is “sheep”. Since this is a variant of English there will always be exceptions. “Oxen” is already an understandable four-letter plural, although “oxs” is possible.
Getting phonetic can help in the creation of 4lsh words. “Actn movi” is “action movie”. “Nslv” is “enslave”. “Thru” for “through”. Some words are clearer as hybrids of phonetic and traditional, “whol” being “whole”.
While vowels are used in 4lsh, one of the first moves in creating a word is to see what it looks like without its vowels. “Maintenance” becomes “mntnnc” for “mtnc”. Certain terminal letter combinations will often represent a particular phoneme, or similar phonemes. A terminal “-g ”is often “-ing”“-r” is often “-er”, “-or”, “-ar” or “-ir”. “-d” is “-ed” and adding it to a 4lish word makes a past tense or passive participle. “-l” will often be “-al” but may be “-le”, while “-bl” is “-able”. or “-ible”. “-n” may be “-ion” or “-en”. “-st” is either “-est” or “-ist”, depending on the word. Being English-based, there will be exceptions! The original page suggests “addr” for “address”, but it could be read as “adder”. “Adrs” might be an alternative for “address”.
4lsh can be combined with other abbreviation systems such as that proposed by Molee or Dutton’s single-letter Speedwords and correlatives.
For English, Molee initially suggested nine abbreviations, but expanded the system in later books:
e (the), b (be) hd (had), v (of), bn (been), n (and), t (to), h (have), hs (has), nsf (etc), u (you), shl (shall), shd (should), wd (would), cd (could), whc (which), whn (when), whr (where), wht (what), thn (then), tm (time), ths (this), thr (there), tht (that), cm (come), cn (can), wl (will), ws (was), wth (with), s (is), z (as).
An ampersand (&) could be used for “and”, but “n” is more convenient on a keyboard. It could be confused with “no” unless the capital is reserved for “no”. “nsf” for “etc” is redundant. Possible additions to the Molee codes are: cnt (cannot/ can’t), wnt (won’t), bt (but), wr (were), thr' (their), ar (are), bg (being), xg (thing), ys (yes), x (it) and nt (not), the latter compounding with cd, shl, shd, wd etc.

Diinlang 2.0: Asking Questions.

Asking questions in Diinlang is very easy. The grammar of Diinlang resembles that of English but is more regular and simpler.
Asking a question in English often uses inversion. One says “Have you a phone?” instead of “You have a phone?”. English also makes use of “do-support” so the above inquiry might be “Do you have a phone?”. Diinlang makes use of neither mechanism, so the equivalent translation would be “Yu av je fohn?
In fact, a Diinlang speaker would generally add the interrogative “ke” to the sentence and say either “Ke yu av je fohn?” or “Yu av je fohn, ke?” As you can see, this may occur at either the start or the end of a sentence. In the initial position you can think of it as having a similar function as “do-support”, although the literal meaning of “ke” is not “do”. At the end of a sentence it is rather like how some English speakers will add “eh?” to the end of a question. Alternately, think of it as an audible question mark.
On its own, ke means “what?” It can be combined with a number of other words to construct alternative interrogations, which would usually be used at the start of a sentence. Some of the possibilities are:

Ke? What?
Ke do? Where? (What place/ area?)
Ke per? Why (What for?)
Ke tem? When? (What time?)
Ke zem/jhen? Who? (What person?)
Ke li? How? (What manner?)
Ke jeve/un? Which one? (What each?)
Ke ving? What is that/there?
Ke vang? What is this/here?
Ke ta? How much/big?
Ke taz How many?
Note that a different word (su) is used for who, what, which, that when they are used as relative pronouns for connecting parts of sentence.

Diinlang 2.0 Prepositions Group 1

Here is the first group of updated prepositions for Diinlang 2.0. To facilitate learning the prepositions will be given in clusters of no more than seven items. It will be noted, however, that some of these are pairs of related words, such as on/af and ad/po. “In” is a word in Diinlang with the same meaning as in English, and is used in the below. In and its complement will be formally introduced in a later post. 
Di, may be used as one of the default prepositions of Diinlang. It denotes an association or origin, so can mean “of/from, from, since, by” If you are stuck for a preposition, di will often serve. A play is “of/from” Shakespeare rather than being “by” him, so di is used. A person is of/from Rome, so di. “Book di Shakespeare”, like the English equivalent “Book of Shakespeare”, is a little ambivalent. To stress that something is about or by a subject we may use “on” instead.
On, as in English, means “on” or “about/concerning”. “On” can be used to mean “about” in the context of “a book about …” The literal translation in Diinlang would therefore be “a book on”. Constructions such as “talk about…” could either be “talk of (yak di)…” or “talk on (yak on)…”. On is also sometimes used where English would use at. The ball is not at the edge but on the edge. The Diinlang word for “off” is “af”.
Ad” is the word used for “to” in Diinlang. It may also used like “at” in English for contexts such as “at 7.00pm”. In Diinlang you can also say “ 7.00pm” rather than “at” In Diinlang the opposite of “ad” is “po” meaning “from” or “away”. This is more concerned with direction but there is some overlap with “di”. For example “left of (di) ship” or “left from (po) ship” can sometimes be used interchangeably, but may also have distinct differing meanings. Ad, po and di are often used with words for directions. One way to say something is over/above something is “…up po/di...”.
Per” is used a little more broadly in Diinlang than in English. “Per” is used for “for” in uses such as “leave for Rome” or “bus for Milan”. In the past Diinlang has also used “pro” to mean “for” in the context of being in favour of something or inclined towards something. This usage needs to be considered in greater depth. When in doubt, use per before pro. Per may introduce an intended goal or recipient: “Work per money”. An exchange: “Money per nothing.” An intended period of time: “Gone per a week”. Something favoured or represented: “I spoke per you/ voted per it”. As in English it can mean “for each”, “in accordance with.” or “to each, in each” : miles per hour, price per person, per your idea. It can mean “through/using” in contexts such as “leave per the door”. The reflexive pronoun se combines with per to create per se with the same use as in English. Statements that cannot use di” may be understandable with per”.
Veng, is a Diinlang word for “near” and can be used as a preposition. Veng is one of the words that should be considered where you would use “at” or “by” in English, and this can be used instead of “by” or “at”. Rather than “meet by the café” or “at 7.00pm” veng can be used in either case.
Tra. In Italian “tra” and “fra” are interchangeable and mean “between” or “within (a time)”. Diinlang now uses the word “tra” to mean “through”, as is done in several other conlangs. The Diinlang word “dia” also means “through”.
Imi is the Diinlang preposition meaning “between”, “amoung”, “during” or “within (a time)”. The English “I get married in two years” would use “imi” rather than “in” in Diinlang. “Imi” can mean “than” in comparisons. Jon arta imi Dean = Jon bigger between Dean = Jon bigger than Dean.
Group 1: di, on/af, ad/po, per, veng, tra, imi.

Diinlang 2.0: Useful Verbs

Afrikaans makes no distinction between the present and infinitive forms of verbs, with the exception of the verbs for “to be” and “to have”. Diinlang uses the bare infinitive for all verbal uses, although the past form may be optionally suffixed with “-te”. I suspect there may be no need to form clauses with a full infinitive. If a full infinitive is needed it is formed with the word “du”, rather than the word for “to”, “ad”. Thus we have the verbs “du bi” and “du av”. The verb for “to do” is only written as “du”, not “du du”. To name a verb in Diinlang we state its infinitive/pastform.
The verb “bi/bite” has a number of uses, one of which is as an auxiliary verb. Placed before another infinitive it makes the verb of continuous/ progressive aspect. Zo bi go = He is going.
Similarly, the verb “av/avte” acts as an auxiliary making a verb of perfect aspect. Zo av go = He has gone. The two auxiliaries are used together to create perfect progressive forms. Zo av bi go = He has been going. A verb to create habitual statements is planned (possibly “iban”, used as an auxiliary.
The verb “ge/gete” is another auxiliary which has the effect of making a clause in the passive voice. Zo ge nyam = He got chewed. “-ge” placed at the end of an infinitive makes the past/passive participle of a verb.
Par/pate” is a very useful verb for using as a copula. Par means “to seem, or to appear to be”. In English we often say that something is something. Par makes a less definite but more realistic statement. Ving ave par blu hu = That bird appears blue coloured. Used as a suffix/terminal compound -par describes something has having a resemblance to something else. Hence “Avepar” would mean bird-like or birdoid.
Ija/ijate” is a verb that means “begin to cause”, “become” or “start to be.” and is thus used to make inchoative or inceptive statements. The suffix -ija is used to create inchoative/ inceptive verbs from other roots. “Za redija” would the equivalent of the English “She reddens”.

Pitman Phonetics

The other day I came across an alphabet using different shapes of leaves instead of letters. This was a basic substitution of the 26 letters, with no attempt at phonetics or other innovations. It occurred to me more could have been done with the idea. Using the simplest leaf shapes for the vowels and more common letters was an obvious one. The idea that the symbols could be used both stem down and stem up reminded me of the shavian alphabet which used tall letters for voiceless consonants and deep letters for voiced.
Thinking about the shavian alphabet took me to Quikscript, and on the theme of quick writing, to Pitman shorthand.
One thing I noticed in the article about Pitman was that it used six long vowels, six short and only four diphthongs. These were remembered by: “That pen is not much good”  /ðæt pɛn ɪz nɒt mʌt͡ʃ ɡʊd/ for the short; “Pa, may we all go too?” /pɑː | meɪ wiː ɔːl ɡoʊ tuː/ for the long and “I enjoy Gow’s music.” /aɪ/, /ɔɪ/, /aʊ/, /juː/ for the diphthongs.
In the phonetics system I developed for Diinlang these would be represented:
Short: a, e, i, o, u, uh. “Dhat pen iz not mutsh guhd.”
Long: ah, ay, ee, or, oh, uu. “Pa(h) may wee orl go(h) tu(u)?”
Diphthong: iy, oy, ou (or au), yu “Iy enjoy Gou’s/Gau’s myusik”
This is only sixteen “vowel-type” sounds. This is less than my previous attempts at phonetics, although the above generally ignores combinations of vowel or diphthong with -r. In Diinlang the short e also represents schwa. This article shows systems with up to 24 vowel sounds for English.


Elias Molee is an interesting but somewhat neglected figure in the field of Conlangs. This is a shame since his work and insights have much to offer a language creator.
Molee was born to Norwegian parents and raised near Milwaukee. His neighbourhood containted many children that only spoke their own, non-English languages. He recalls that the children managed to fuse this mix into a workable means of inter-communication. This suggest some interesting potential experiments, but probably not any that you could get past the ethics committee! There was a relatively recent experiment on similar lines, allowing a community of robots to develop a language.
One of Molee’s early projects was to create a unique language for America to adopt. One wonders if this might have eventually incorporated the spelling reforms of Webster and the alphabet of Franklin. How different our history might have been if American spoke a language different to the rest of the world. In this book Molee seems to be reaching a little too far in places, but one can see him discovering some of the solid foundations upon which he built his later works. Like all his works, this is worth a read if you are interested in constructed languages.
The project with which he persisted with for several decades changed name several times, but is now commonly known as Tutonish.
The late nineteenth century saw the creation of a number of constructed languages. Most were intended to be universal, international languages, often heavily bases on romance and classical roots. Instead, Molee intended to create a zonal language based on a single linguistic group of languages. This group happened to be one that was more widely dispersed than other language groups, so he expected it to be globally useful as a trade language. Tutonish, as the name may suggest, was based on the Germanic grounp of languages and therefore drew from English, German, Dutch, Yiddish and the Scandinavian languages.
This may be the reason why Molee is so neglected these days, phrases such as “German unity” and “bringing German races together” having received something of a taint since Molee’s day. Molee’s work has nothing to do with Nazism nor racism. If you read Molee your will see his reasons for concentrating on the Germanic group of languages were logical and practical. Any evil intent assumed is just from our own flawed and biased modern hindsight.
Many of Molee’s principles and ideas are worth noting by any would-be language creator. One is that grammar should be as simple as possible. Of his possible choices Molee opted for English grammar as the simplest. As we know, English grammar is not perfect, so he suggests a number of means to simplify and regularize it. These form a good basis for any conlang.
Since English had provided the word order Molee felt the other languages should supply the vocabulary. Many of the words are Low German or Dutch, with some Scandinavian derivations apparent. My personal opinion is that he veered a little too far in this direction. Many words he selected have simpler and more widely recognizable English alternatives. Some of the Latin and Greek-derived words he avoids are nowadays widely used, particularly in the fields of science and technology. Molee’s spelling system is intended to be phonetic but he admits it could have been more so, the choice instead being made for keeping words more recognizable to native speakers of Germanic languages.
Molee advocates that a student or speaker should not be unnecessarily taxed by a language. He suggests that traditional English spelling and grammar puts pupils several years behind their equivalent leaning German. Tutonish is designed to create new words from compounds. This gives the student that encounters a new word a reasonable chance to deduce its meaning, and a better chance of remembering the word once it is learnt. Many of the problems with English come from the long established practice of importing foreign words rather than compounding existing words for new names. Hence we have a multiplicity of different terms for similar things, a redundancy of affixes and inconsistent phonology.
Molee’s books include a number of his other ideas. One is the idea of abolishing capital letters for general text, which he applies to his books. Another is using a single letter as shorthand for frequently learned words. He uses this system in both English and Tutonish passages, although the meaning of some letters changes with language.
One of the ironies of writing about conlangs is you often need a good command and understanding of English to explain what is intended or how something is working. Molee tend to take a different approach, although his technical command of English is high. His books start in English but he gradually increases the use and frequency of Tutonish as you progress. The similar word order of both languages facilitates this. The intention seems to be that by the time you reach the end of the book you will be reasonably fluent in Tutonish. Unfortunately this makes it very difficult to dip into the later stages of the book and read a passage about how a particular word is used. There are a number of simple terms in Tutonish that I do not yet know since I have not had time to translate the passages. Tutonish is too scarcely known for there to be an internet auto-translate!
Tutonish has been unfairly criticized for not being intended to be a universal language like many of its contemporaries. Reading Molee’s actual words his approach and justification seems logical and reasonable. In one of the Tutonish sections of a book he notes that the design principles of Tutonish could also be applied to create a language from Latin and romance languages. Possibly he imagined that one-day these two languages might merge once they had spent a few generations as the mother tongue of the two linguistic groups. Similarly eurasia and the orient might have developed their own zonal languages, and eventually the handful of zonal languages would become a whole.
Molee’s books are available on-line and worth reading, even if your conlang is not Germanic.

Diinlang 2.0 Phrasal Verbs

The other day I had a reason to reread a section of my novel. In it was the sentence:

“She brushed her hands together to clear some of the dirt from the rock off, and then began to walk towards Ianas.”

Nothing technically wrong with this, but it would read better as “… to clear off some of the dirt from the rock, and …”

In English it is acceptable to split phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs are formed from a verb combined with a preposition/directive/adverb/particle or combination of these.

In Diinlang the preposition/directive/adverb/particle(s) should be joined together, for example, by a hyphen. Thus “She handed it in” would have the order: “She handed-in it” and “They brought that up twice” becomes “They brought-up that twice”. Note that the verb comes first and the preposition last. This will be easier to learn and clearer. 
The interpretation rules of Attempto Controlled English require that the phrasal particle of a phrasal verb (e.g. look up, drop out, shut down) and the direct preposition of a prepositional verb (e.g. look at, apply for) are hyphenated to the verb. This will become a standard practice for Diinlang.


Indefinite Plural(s)

A useful shorthand in English is placing the “s” in parentheses, such as in phrases like “the girl(s) may come”. This indicates that the phrase may relate to one or multiple individuals or objects.

I have chosen to call this a shorthand since there is no verbal form. If reading the above statement out loud one would have to say “girl or girls” or edit the statement to the correct context.

In Diinlang plurality is indicated by the form of the determiner. A singular object has the articles “ve” or “je” and plural has “vez” or “jez”. The plural forms of the pronouns follow the same convention: “em, yu, ze” become “emz, yuz, zez”.

Clearly “optional plurality” could be indicated by “(z)” but it would be nice to have a form that could be distinguished in spoken conversation. I am not sure of the best way to do this. It may be to add an ending to the plural form that makes it less definite. Or it may be better to create a new determiner, effectively a quantifier that will mean plural or singluar.