30 December 2007

Free File Frenzy, part 1

One of my bad habits is downloading audio courses that teach various languages. I describe it as a bad habit because I am addicted and it uses too much of my time. I have made a New Year's Resolution to spend less time doing this sort of thing. We will see if I can restrain myself at all.

In this series of articles I will mention a few sources of courses.

Indiana University's CeLTIE Audio Archives provides audio material for Bambara, Igbo, Lithuanian and Uzbek, among others.

In most cases you would need to obtain a hardcopy textbook to accompany the audio if you actually want to learn the language. But in many cases just hearing samples of a language is satisfying. These courses often begin with a native speaker reciting all the phonemes of the language, then giving a few simple greetings before moving on to more complex sentences.

Indiana University also provides its students with a Foreign/Second Language Portal. Some of the materials there can be downloaded by the general public. Others require a user-ID and password which are only available to students and staff of IU.

this topic will be continued...

28 December 2007

word of the day: Worldlang

In recent months the participants in the Auxlang list have been using the term worldlang to categorize a posteriori conlangs that borrow their vocabulary from a wide variety of language families, not just Indo-European. So, rejoice, now we have another one of these "lang" words in our jargon.

There is, of course, a Yahoo Group for fans and makers of these worldlangs. There has to be a Yahoo Group for every concept. It's a law of physics.

A Google search on worldlang brings up worldlang.org, the home of Kotava, which is an a priori auxlang. Kotava is somewhat mysterious; it's hard to get a picture of how many people are actually using it, and the English documentation is less than eloquent.

Google also points to several sites that use worldlang to abbreviate the phrase "world language" in its old-fashioned sense, meaning any language that has global importance. One of these sites is The World Language Institute, a very small site with a very grand name.

That's the best I can do for a blog entry today. I'm still a bit shaken up. I think I almost got shot this afternoon, and I think it was accidental, but who knows, the situation is ambiguous. The rural South has its good points and bad points, with the amount of hot lead flying through the air during hunting season being one of the bad points in my opinion.

24 December 2007

A Klingon Christmas Carol

Two weeks ago A Klingon Christmas Carol was performed (in Klingon with English subtitles) at the University of Minneapolis-St Paul Student Center. The City Pages blog-article is here with audio samples here and here. Another blogger covered the event here.

YouTube has a video clip of a rehearsal.

23 December 2007

correction, Panaleze

Judging by this message from the creator, the correct spelling is Panaleze.


Just in case you haven't heard of it, I would like to mention Paneleze. This appears to be a two-tone artlang, in other words, you need two colors of ink to write it properly. There is a vague description at
socialfiction.org ... also entertaining is the Wikipedia bio of GX Jupitter-Larsen, the creator of Paneleze.

21 December 2007

when it hurts the most

Having all of one's conlangs in a shambles, down for maintenance, in the shop awaiting repairs, can be downright painful at times. For me it hurts most when I find some brief poem or quotation that I would like to translate into The Conlang Formerly Known as Vorlin or The Conlang Formerly Known as Penta. Most recently these pangs were caused by my discovery of a series of short poems written by Tachibana Akemi.

What a delight it is
When, sitting alone on the tatami in my little hut,
I make myself at ease.

What a delight it is
When, having borrowed a rare book from a friend,
I open up the first chapter.

(A few more of these poems are here.)

How idiotic of me to want to translate these translations; to want to do it so intensely that I consider whipping up a ”five minute euroclone” just to make it happen. I sometimes pretend to study Japanese, so I should be busily appreciating the originals instead of entertaining such idle thoughts.

20 December 2007

natlang scripts that seem conlangy, part 2

Another script that looks very much like it could be the product of one person's imagination is the modern Yi syllabary. If somebody showed me a sample of this and I were not already acquainted with it, I would never believe that it is a natlang writing system.

The Yi syllabary is included in Unicode and a free font is available. If I had unlimited time and energy I would definitely recycle this script for some conlangerific or crytographic purpose.

19 December 2007

Entropy: LangMaker, Mulivo, Exolinguistics

Bad news from around the web:

The LangMaker wiki has been down for several days, due to some sort of database problem.

While revisiting the Mulivo site today I discovered a message posted last month saying its organizers don't expect to work on it anymore. That's a shame because Mulivo is one of my favorite polyglot dictionary projects; I like the way the entries are laid out.

In alt.language.artificial, someone mentioned that the Exolinguistics group on Yahoo simply disappeared.

17 December 2007

Language Documentation-Conservation Journal

The December 2007 issue (Volume 1, Number 2) of Language Documentation & Conservation (LD&C) is now available at: nflrc.hawaii.edu/ldc/

This journal publishes articles about efforts to document and revitalize languages which don't have many speakers. It often mentions exotic language features, new bilingual dictionaries that may be of interest, helpful software, and other items that may be inspiring or useful to us conlangers. And it's free.

16 December 2007

Volapük Wikipedia Shenanigans

Another blogger noticed the large number of articles in the Volapuk Wikipedia and decided to find out what Volapük is, and how it got so many articles. His/her conclusion:

"The administrator of the Volapük Wikipedia thought that he `could try to get some new people interested in learning the language and contributing by doing something a little crazy -- like increasing the size of the Volapük wikipedia as fast as I could, with Python programs for copying and pasting information onto pre-translated templates'..."

"...the strategy to increase exponentially the amount of Wikipedia articles in Volapük proves once again the ease with which information can be manipulated there..."

Those tricky Volapükists! They are lots of fun at parties because you never know what they'll do next.

18 August 2007

natlang scripts that seem conlangy, part 1

There are some writing systems used by natural languages which, to my eyes, look very much like they were consciously planned by a single person with good taste. (Some scripts which actually were designed by a single person look like they evolved in a helter-skelter haphazard way, e.g. Cherokee.)

Some of these scripts have such a strong appeal to me that I am tempted, oh so tempted, to create a conlang optimized for using the script, possibly with its original phonetic values, or possibly with a new phonemic inventory altogether. So far I have resisted the temptation to do this because it doesn't seem like the most worthwhile use of time, but on the other hand, borrowing an existing writing system for which fonts are available would certainly be quicker than designing a new script and trying to create fonts for it.

One of the natlang scripts that has a strong aesthetic appeal to me is Lontara a.k.a. Bugis, a syllabary used to write Buginese and other languages spoken on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. This script is not used by many people in modern times but naturally there are some who want to revive it. (This is true of any script or language that is dying out.) The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems says the script has some deficiencies, such as lacking any way to write the glottal stop and geminate consonants which are phonemes in the associated languages.

You can read a description of the Bugis writing system at ancientscripts.com

A freeware TrueType font designed by Andi Malarangeng and Jim Henry is available (with good instructions) at seasite.niu.edu. A font optimized for Mac OS X can be purchased for $19 from XenoType Technologies (whose website is fun to browse, by the way).

12 August 2007

Kalaba-X 50th Anniversary

Praise strongly Kalaba-X speaker.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Kalaba-X's first appearance in print. This delightfully strange and incredibly useful conlang was designed by professional linguist Kenneth L. Pike (1912-2000). In 1957 a lecture that he gave during the prior year was published in Bibliotheca Sacra. People who are having trouble breaking free of their native language and grasping the underlying meanings of what they are trying to say should spend a few hours with Kalaba-X. It is a great emancipator; it helps to rip up the straitjacket of native language habits.

Two versions of the Kalaba-X article are online. The full-length original, minus some of its formatting, is preserved at archive.org here. (After Dr. Pike died, the Summer Institue of Linguistics removed his writings from their website, which strikes me as reprehensible behavior.) If you have good pop-up blockers and spam filters in your web browser, you might prefer the more tidy version of the article which is here.