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Dothraki

I finally got around to watching episodes 1, 2, and 3 of Game of Thrones last night.  In general, I liked the show a lot, although I do think the pacing seemed a little odd (too fast in some places and too slow in others).

What really struck me, however, was how good the Dothraki sounded.  I was impressed with the flow of dialog, and the prosody.  The actors all made it sound very natural.  It’s really nice to see that HBO spent the time and energy to bring Westeros to life as well as they have.

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Bbaditsa I – phonology

Bbaditsa is a conlang that I began in early January of 2007.  I had become sick of my main conlang Tagela (now called Tsakela; I’ll put up some information on that later), which had complex morphophonological rules, noun incorporation, and in general was complex enough that translating any text took forever and made my head hurt.  I decided that I wanted a conlang that was less ‘alien’ than my previous few languages.  Bbaditsa is weird, but it’s not as weird as Tsakela.

Phonemes

Voiceless plosives / p t k / p t k

Aspirated plosives / pʰ tʰ kʰ / ph th kh

Voiced plosives / b d g / b d g

Implosives / ɓ ɗ / bb dd

Nasal / n / n

Fricatives / s  x / s x

Co-articulated plosives / k͡p g͡b / kp gb

Vowels / i i: o a a: / i ī o a ā

I haven’t really determined formal allophonic or phonotactic rules yet.  I’m trying to see if I can first develop a bunch of words and then infer the rules afterwards, rather than determine the rules and then try to create words which fit them.  Maybe I’ll end up with a more naturalistic system; we’ll see, I guess.  There are 25 words so far (I said in my first post that I’m a very slow conlanger!) and I’m already able to identify some phonotactic patterns:

  • Voiceless/aspirated plosives and implosives cannot occur in a syllable coda, but voiced plosives can.
  • Syllable onsets of /sb/ are legal.
  • /x/ cannot occur in a syllable coda, but /s/ can.
  • Syllable structure seems to be basically (s)CV(C), but there is one V syllable (with no initial C) in the vocabulary, so this rule isn’t absolute.

Typology

Bbaditsa has a basic constituent order of Subject-Object-Verb.

Nouns decline for four cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative) and three numbers (singular, dual, plural).  There are two basic inflectional paradigms for nouns, depending on whether the noun root ends in a consonant or a vowel (I’m not sure yet whether I want to turn this into a gender system or leave it as basically Declension A and Declension B. I’ll decide when I get to adjectives).

Verbs conjugate for two morphological tenses, past and nonpast.  The future tense is marked by an auxiliary.  There are three inflectional paradigms for verbs, depending on whether the verb root ends in –a/-ā, –i/-ī, or a consonant.  I haven’t gotten further than simple past/nonpast yet, but I like the idea of inflecting an auxiliary to indicate other tenses, aspects, and moods, along the lines of how habban and weorðan were used in Old English.

“The Linguists” are assholes

I watched the documentary “The Linguists” yesterday in my Native American languages class.  I didn’t like it.

I mean, I think it’s great that there’s a documentary attempting to make people more aware of language loss, but man, David Harrison and Greg Anderson (the two linguists profiled in the film) are assholes!

Maybe I’m just really sensitive to this sort of issue because I’m studying Native languages in the Southwest.  Most of the speech communities in this area (including the Tohono O’odham, the Keresan pueblos, and the Mescalero Apache) either don’t let their languages leave the community, or have set up an Institutional Review Board which makes a researcher prove that their studies won’t contradict the community’s wishes.  Tribes have implemented these policies because of scientists like Harrison and Anderson, who swoop into a community, collect data, and then leave, taking it with them.  There’s been a tremendous amount of animosity created towards linguists and anthropologists among indigenous communities.

Especially considering the poverty which is typical of many indigenous communities, I am all for a more equal exchange between language researchers and language speakers.  In “The Linguists,” Harrison and Anderson showed speakers the video they had recorded, and one of them commented that ‘we show them the video because it’s their intellectual property’ (or something like that), which I found offensive.  If they actually believed that a language is the intellectual property of its speakers, they wouldn’t be taking away that data without permission.

I plan to become involved in linguistic field work in the next few years, and it bothers me to see linguists like Harrison and Anderson perpetuating the stereotype of the Western scientist exploiting an indigenous people, taking what they want and never giving anything in return.  If you’re going to spend time studying an obsolescent language, create some learning materials for the speakers (I did like that they made a Chulym picture book), or teach an evening class at the tribal community college, or something.

Maybe I’m just overreacting.  What do you think?

Hello.

Well, after reading roninbodhisattva’s (and Risla’s) conlang blogs for the last week and a half, I’ve decided to make my own.  I intend to use the public nature of a blog as motivation for myself, since I seem to be the world’s slowest conlanger.  I’ll probably also post comments about interesting happenings in linguistics.

– Matt