28 October 2011

keyboard layouts

My brief note on alternative keyboard layouts, written in 2008, still gets comments occasionally. I guess people stumble onto it as a result of googling something or other.

One responder referred to Dvorak, Lojban and Linux as “3 of the most logical and smart things humanity has created recently,” proof that people exist who think very differently from the way I think.

27 October 2011

another band using a conlang

The musical group Prince Rama dabbles in conlangery/glossolalia.

From an article found online: “I kind of invented my own language in the process of making this record,” Taraka explains over the phone from outside a Cracker Barrel in Virginia… “I’d start experimenting with just letting syllables come out and seeing what happened.” The second cut from Trust Now, ‘Summer of Love’ (for which the official video was shot at a Hare Krishna temple on Comm Ave) starts out in Sanskrit, moves to English, and then into her invented language.

The full article is here.

26 October 2011

the Copaile Cipher

Researchers have cracked the Copiale Cipher, which I have to admit, I never heard of until this news story hit the wire services.

If you want to see close-up images of the manuscript, follow this link.

09 August 2011

an example of glossolalia


Just blurt out whatever syllables come to mind. In some churches this is viewed as a religious experience. You can see an example here.

25 June 2011

Viktor Medrano's conlangs


Viktor Medrano gives a nicely personal narrative of his constant conlanging on his Glossopoeisis page.

07 June 2011

50 days without speech

About 50 days ago my best friend had a major stroke. He has regained some alertness and some control of the left side of his body but he still can't speak or write. Visiting him in the nursing home is surreal, as I do a monologue describing local events and the condition of his house and his pets, and he says nothing.

Such a vulnerable situation, to be nearly immobile in a bed in a nursing home and unable to speak for yourself, unable even to moan or say "ouch" when in pain.

I tip my hat to Yaldabaoth, the demented demigod who created this world and filled it with disease and hatred and death, all of which are reflections of his own corrupted nature. Yaldabaoth, your skill in obfuscating and dooming all that is good astounds me. And yet I know that we will ultimately destroy you.

10 April 2011

random note

The domain name glossopoeia.com is available. I had registered it for a year or two but lost interest.

26 March 2011

pleasant and annoying

We need an adjective that means “simultaneously pleasant and annoying.”

I was planning to sleep until noon today but at 9 A.M. a bird perched in the boxthorn bushes outside my bedroom window and sang. Unusually liquid and loquacious was the song, full of vernal optimism and oblivious to the fragility of avian life.

“How utterly ___,” I exclaimed, lacking the necessary adjective.

21 March 2011

Indigenous Tweets

Indigenous Tweets is a project to measure Twitter usage in minority and endangered languages. Here is an explanatory article and here is their blog.

22 February 2011

William Rice Rode

I spotted a conlang-related sentence in New York Times coverage of the Outsider Art Fair: “William Rice Rode, a patient in an Illinois mental hospital around the turn of the last century, made extraordinary drawings of flying machines, people and text written in a self-invented language, on bed sheets; examples are on view at the Carl Hammer Gallery.”

See also the Carl Hammer Gallery website.

14 February 2011

poll results

I see that Mac OS X and Linux are the most popular operating systems among people who read this blog and choose to respond to the silly polls. Good to know.

I’m the one who voted for Mac Classic. Even though I don’t use it any more, Mac OS 9.2.2 was my all-time favorite for its ‘look and feel.’ It seemed to hit the sweet spot of balance between technical and aesthetic criteria, for me. When I am sleepy I still sometimes catch myself trying to find the calculator up there in the Apple menu, or find myself groping for the list of currently running applications up there (gesturing nostalgically)…

13 February 2011

my lamp also burning at midnight

I was staring (in amazement) at this English translation of one of Ryōta Oshima’s haiku last night:

Who is it that is awake,
the lamp still burning?
Cold rain at midnight.

and it occurred to me that this can morph into Esperanto fairly easily:

Kies lamp’ ankoraŭ brulas?
Malvarma pluvo noktomeze.

Hmm. Esperanto. It resurfaces in my mind when I least expect it.

11 February 2011

Voynich Manuscript dated

The Voynich Manuscript, one of the strangest books on earth, appears to be older than everyone thought. It may be 600 years old.

05 February 2011

The Gift of the Chicken

Hypothetical situation. Someone hands you a magazine article, ripped out of some unknown hardcopy magazine. The title of the article is The Gift of the Chicken. There are no illustrations.

What do you think the nature of the article is going to be?

(1) it's an essay about the benefits which chickens provide to humans

(2) it's a story about one chicken which some person gave to another person as a gift

(3) it's a fairy-tale about a gift which a chicken gave to some other animal

That’s the gift of the word “of”.

29 January 2011

book giveaway

Update Okay, the book giveaway is over. Three books found new homes and three were unwanted.

These books were adopted:
Complete Enochian Dictionary by Laycock. Softcover.
Teach Yourself Welsh. Book and 2 CDs in plastic box.
Introduction to Pali by A K Warder. Hardcover, no dustjacket.


After reading Richard Hamblyn’s book The Invention of Clouds, which describes the life and times of the man who invented the cloud-classifying terms cirrus, stratus, cumulus and nimbus, I popped over to Google Books to look at some old weather-geek magazines.

In Symons’s Monthly Meteorological Magazine, February 1885, I found on page 8 a letter from J.H. Hill of Yorkshire announcing: “I have invented a Table of Rain which I call a Penthemeric Table, a term which explains itself.”

In a penthemeric table, rainfall amounts for the first five days of the month are added together and the sum is published as a single number. Then there is another number representing the next five days of the month, and so forth. This sort of table is more compact than a table listing the 30 or 31 days of the month separately, but gives more detail than a single number representing the whole month.

The word penthemeric seems to have vanished from the face of the earth after this one appearance in print. But I couldn’t help thinking there must be another word in English meaning “an interval of five days.” My first guess, quinquediurnal, only produced two Google hits.

And then by googling for definition ‘period of five days’ I came across the word pentad, which is widely used in connection with rainfall data.

So it seems that J.H. Hill’s idea of publishing rainfall amounts in five-day sums became popular, or perhaps it was independently re-invented elsewhere, but the word he/she coined failed to survive. How sad.

28 January 2011

Physicists call for alien comm protocol

Three astrophysicists suggest creating a protocol for contacting aliens.

No need to re-invent the wheel. We mustn't forget that Hans Freudenthal made an excellent plan for handling this in his book Lincos: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse (1960). The English Wikipedia article on Lincos is a bit crappier than the German article.

update: Holy cow, I just discovered that Lancelot Hogben devised a protocol for communicating with aliens called Astraglossa.

22 January 2011

umtwrfa (days of the week)

For many years I have been interested in the topic of one-letter abbreviations for the days of the week. It's difficult to know what to do about Tuesday and Thursday, and Saturday and Sunday, since their first letters are not distinctive.

When I had to independently invent my own 7 abbreviations for a work-related task several years ago, I decided to use R for Thursday since the American R is the vowel in that word's first syllable here in the USA. My final system was MTWRFAU.

Googling around today I found various systems in use. There are "about 96" Google hits for UMTWRFA and 7 for MTWRFAU.

Some people use H for Thursday and/or use S for Sunday with A standing for Saturday. Google gives about 3100 hits for SMTWHFA.

MTWRF scores 29,600 hits and MTWHF gets 5,710. So at least we can agree that R must be the abbreviation for Thursday and those who prefer H are deviants.

This is an idea that rattles around in my head when I design conlang vocabularies: Shouldn't the words for the numerals 1 through 12 be in alphabetical order, so the names for days of the week and the months of the year could be self-sorting?

If your word for one is ban and your word for two is din and so forth, your days of the week could be bantag (Monday), dintag (Tuesday) etc and the abbreviations might be BDFJLMP or whatever.

But then your abbreviations for the first 7 months would easily be confused with your abbreviations for days of the week, so maybe that's not such a good idea.

And another thing. How long will mainstream calendar publishers cling to the custom of putting Sunday in the left-most column of the calendar? In modern Western Civilization, the weekend is a distinct cultural phenomenon that begins on Saturday morning (some would say Friday night) and ends late Sunday. Clearly Monday is the the beginning of the week; the weekend days belong together on the right-hand side of the calendar. In some industries (such as broadcasting) people use printed calendars which are organized that way. But good luck finding a rationally arranged calendar for home use.

14 January 2011

Microsoft taunts Google with Esperanto comparison

In a fit of pique Microsoft has hurled a snarky insult at Google, satirically likening Google's WebM video codec to Esperanto. The story is at PCMag.com and CNET News among hundreds of other sites.

In fact this story was published on so many websites and blogs that the Esperantists haven't been able to catch up; I only saw the obligatory "no you've got it all wrong, Esperanto is really popular and useful" responses on one of ten sites I checked.

monk-scribery vs. printing press

One of the web comics I read regularly is Wondermark, and its creator David Malki has written an interesting blogpost. Fifteenth-century abbot Johannes Trithemius wrote a tract called De laude scriptorum manualium — “In Praise of Scribes.” Trithemius was "a lexicographer who was also deeply interested in cryptography and steganography" -- probably a conlanger too, I would wager.

Trithemius wrote in praise of hand-copying scriptures and holy texts rather than mass producing them with printing presses. Malki's commentary and the responses from his readers are worth a look.

11 January 2011

prosecuting a language-less man

According to this article, the court system is having a hard time prosecuting a man who has little or no ability to communicate in any known language.

The comments posted by readers raise some interesting questions. How could he drive from Las Vegas to Philadelphia if he could not read highway signs? And here's a question from myself: Why don't they try drawing cartoons or using computer animated images to communicate with him, instead of insisting that manual sign language is the only option?

05 January 2011

random flashcards in a blogspot blog

There's a blog that serves up random Sona radicals with their definitions in English: sonarads.blogspot.com …How does that work?

03 January 2011

ULD 3 update

I’ve been merrily lexicographizing version 3 of the Universal Language Dictionary.

Now planning to publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 License.

I’ve been forced to scale back my plans for the initial publication. I was originally planning to include 20 languages, then 16, then I whittled the list down to 12. Now that I have seen how much time it takes to look up each item in “reliable sources,” sometimes checking two or three sources for confirmation, I realize I will never get the first pass completed with that many languages.

Also, writing clearer definitions for each of the concepts can be time consuming. I have to narrow down a lot of the entries and focus on the most universal (easily translated) senses. This is very contemplative work.

So I’m going to start out with just seven tongues: English, Papiamentu, Japanese, Indonesian, Lakota, Esperanto and Tango. I am vaguely familiar with 5 of the 7 languages so I am fairly confident that the entries will be as qualitiferous* as I want them to be.

After I get the first pass through the lexicon done I will invite comments and see if anybody wants to add more languages. Although a few people have occasionally offered to type in the vocabularies of the their native languages, I don’t think it would be a whole lot of fun to key in 1,800 or more dictionary entries. Seriously, it gets tedious after the first 200 or 300 items. The rapid progress we made on the early version of ULD back in the early 1990’s was done before the graphical worldwide web existed, before Facebook and YouTube were entertaining people to death. I have some doubts about being able to achieve such rapid completion under current conditions.

*Qualitiferous (kwal-ih-TIFF-er-us): an unforgettable (to me) word coined in an awkward moment in 2005 by a weird acquaintance of mine.

02 January 2011


I’ve been using a service that might be useful to you. It’s called Dropbox. Basically it is online ‘cloud’ storage for some of your computer files.

If you install the software on more than one computer, it will synchronize your files on all of the machines. In other words, if you edit your conlang vocabulary file on your desktop computer at home, the changed version will be stored on the Dropbox servers and then copied to any other computers on which you have installed Dropbox.

Even if you only run the software on one computer, you can log into Dropbox via the web and grab a file if you suddenly need it when you are at work / school / whatever.

I used a vaguely similar service called box.net for a while but I am finding that I prefer the Dropbox software. (It is available for Mac, iPhone, Linux other operating systems whose names I refuse to type.)

You can read about Dropbox on Wikipedia or visit their website.

01 January 2011

Russian cursive alphabet

Idle curiosity department: The Russian cursive alphabet is interesting. Several surprises in there.