06 June 2008

Book of the Week #3

This week I present Basic Sileerian by J.P. MacKey. This is available from Lulu.com as either a PDF download or a hardcopy paperback (17.5 cm tall, 112 pages). I ordered the hardcopy version because I collect conlang books and, obviously, you cannot collect, appreciate and cherish a PDF file; ebooks are about as attractive as used tissues in my opinion.

The book has well-done layout and could almost pass for a Berlitz-type tourist phrasebook, except that this book uses a serif typeface and those tourist books almost always use sans-serif fonts. The North American branch of Lulu has done a good job of printing and binding, as usual.

Sileerian is supposed to be the lingua franca of a group of alien worlds. The book gives an introduction, pronunciation guide, 8 pages of useful phrases, and the rest is a vocabulary list.

The language does not seem very alien. The inventory of phonemes is a subset of English. The syntax is OSV and the number system is base-6 (heximal), but otherwise the grammar is unremarkable and Earth-pidgin-like. All of the items in the vocabulary can be explained with one-word or two-word English glosses. There's a map of Sileeria at the end, but no description of the cities and what might attract a visitor to one city or another. There are no Sileerian texts in the book: no legends, news items, histories, poems, or complete conversations.

So, in all honesty I have to say, I found this book a little disappointing. Perhaps the author will expand his vision of Sileeria and offer an expanded edition someday, or write a better-developed view of some other alien world.

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