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Ilatamiutitut in Cyrillic

July 30th, 2011 Comments off

I was thinking about the possibility of writing Ilatamiutitut (or, for that matter, Inuktitut) in Cyrillic.

The first obstacle is /q/. As far as I know, most languages using the Cyrillic script tend to add little hooks to letters to create new ones, so I /q/ would be something like қ ҝ ҟ ҡ. But that looks a bit too indistinct from plain к, I think. (Similarly for ң for /ŋ/ – though ҥ and ӈ look more distinctive, IMO.)

So I thought about using digraphs instead, inspired a little by old orthographies for Inuit languages as well as the writing conventions for Syllabics.

Here’s what I came up with:

Vowels – a = а, i = і, u = у; aa = аа, ii = іі, uu = уу; ai = аі, au = ау, ia = іа, iu = іу, ua = уа, ui = уі.

Consonants – voiceless: p = п, t = т, s = с,  ł[5] = дл, k = , q = [1]; voiced: b[2] = б, v = в, l = л, j = я/ї/ю[7], g = г, r[3] = р; nasal: m = м, n = н, ŋ = нг[6], ɴ[4] = р.


  1. кр- at the beginning of a syllable, -рк at the end of a syllable, -ркк- when geminate, -р- as the first part of a consonant cluster.
  2. occurs only as the first part of a consonant cluster, e.g. mibvik = мібвік, kublu = кублу.
  3. As I mentioned elsewhere, the realisation of this phoneme (in particular, its manner of articulation: stop, fricative, or continuant) varies.
  4. Not a separate phoneme; only occurs as the first part of a consonant cluster.
  5. Only occurs as the second part of a consonant cluster, or geminate (then spelled simply дл); never as the first part of a cluster or by itself.
  6. ннг when geminate.
  7. I’m not quite certain yet what to do with geminate -jj-. Perhaps I’ll take advantage of the fact that this sometimes has a fricative or affricate pronunciation (compare the spelling “dj” rather than “yy” or “jj” in Inuinnaqtun) and write this combination as -жя/-жї/-жю.

To reduce the number of -рк- sequences, I decided to write a uvular place of articulation as the first part of a consonant cluster with a fixed -р-, regardless of the manner of articulation; this would be signalled unambiguously by the second member of the consonant cluster except in the case of a geminate voiceless uvular stop. This bit is a bit like Nunavik orthographical conventions, as I understand them.

An alternative, with slightly fewer digraphs, is to use Serbian Cyrillic њ for /ŋ/ and љ for /ɬ/; it would then seem attractive to use ј for /j/ (and -јј- for geminate /jj/), and since this gets rid of ї, we can use и for /i/. The only digraph then would be for /q/. I’ll admit that this leads to rather unusual values for the letters њ and љ.

I suppose it might even be possible to get rid of that final digraph by using х for /q/, as in Greek-script Ilatamiutitut. (Or ԛ, but font support for that is likely to be bad.)

That would lead to the following two spellings of the Lord’s Prayer as reproduced in the article on Greek-script Ilatamiutitut:

“Russian” –

Атаатавут крілангміітутіт: ангінірпангунііт ікпігіяуттіарлі;

атаніувііт краілаурлі; піюмаяіт атуртаулі нунамі суурлу крілангмі атуртаунгмат.

Ублумі нікріксаптіннік тунісівітігут.

Таммарніптіннік ісумакрарквінгіюнгніірлута саіммаутітігут, суурлу інуукратіпта уваптінгнут таммарнгнінгіт саіммаутіяраангаптігут ісумакрірквігіюннірпак каттігут.

Ууктуртаутіттаілітігут аюртаптігут, сапутітігублі саатаанасіміт. (Атаніунірк, аюгакрангірнірлу, інукранірюарнірлу пігігавігіт, ісукрангітумут.)

“Serbian” –

Атаатавут хилањмиитутит: ањинирпањуниит икпигијауттиарли;

атаниувиит хаилаурли; пијумајаит атуртаули нунами суурлу хилањми атуртауњмат.

Ублуми нихиксаптинник тунисивитигут.

Таммарниптинник исумахахвињијуњниирлута саиммаутитигут, суурлу инуухатипта уваптињнут таммарњнињит саиммаутијараањаптигут исумахихвигијуннирпак каттигут.

Ууктуртаутиттаилитигут ајуртаптигут, сапутитигубли саатаанасимит. (Атаниуних, ајугахањирнирлу, инуханирјуарнирлу пигигавигит, исухањитумут.)

Creating vocabulary with Awkwords

July 27th, 2011 6 comments

A while ago, I became aware of Awkwords, which lets you generate random words matching a given pattern.

I thought I’d try to use that to create words for Ilatamiutitut, so I had a go at creating patterns that would sound like Inuktitut.

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Ilatamiutitut in Greek letters

June 23rd, 2011 1 comment

I’ve been thinking about how to write Ilatamiutitut in the Greek alphabet.

After all, if they had influence from Greece, then perhaps they would write the language in (a variation of) the Greek alphabet (rather than, say, in Syllabics or in Roman).

On the other hand, while Unicode has a whole lot of precomposed Roman letters with diacritics, and even a fair number of Cyrillic letters with diacritics, there are next to no Greek letters with diacritics, so font support for Greek letters with diacritics is likely to be poor. So for OOC reasons (I’d like the result to look nice given the fonts I have), I’d probably have to stick to the basic Greek alphabet.

(Historically, I suppose the reason for the lack of letters is the fact that the Greek alphabet wasn’t used much for other languages – and especially not as the official orthography of a language after the day of computing. For example, the use of Greek to write Albanian is quite a while ago, and Greek dialects aren’t written much except by specialists.)

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May 24th, 2011 Comments off

I’ve been thinking about making a polysynthetic conlang, where words can take lots of affixes.

And since I’m an a posteriori sort of person, I’ll probably base it on Inuktitut, with probably some influence from (Modern) Greek. For example, I expect Greek will take the place that English does in Inuktitut, and Danish in Kalaallisut, such as as the source of loanwords for things like higher numbers. I expect there’ll be some sort of concultural explanation for why the Greeks ended up having linguistic influence on an arctic people, but OOC, it’s mostly that it’s a language I know a fair bit about and that is already the basis for a number of my previous conlang projects.

Depending on how creative I get, it may be fairly close to Inuktitut, a relex with the same phonology, a relex with different phonology, or merely inspired by the idea, using it as an example of what sort of things polysynthetic languages do. (I suspect that it’ll fall somewhere near the beginning of the list. Which may also have the positive side effect of teaching me more about Inuktitut, a language I wouldn’t mind knowing more about anyway. On the other hand, I might also end up learning a bunch of wrong things which I would have to un-learn later, if I wanted to learn Inuktitut seriously.)

The tentative code-name for the language is Ilatamiutitut, from Ilata “(name of the place where the Ilatamiut live)” < Greek Ελλάδα “Greece” + -miu(t) “inhabitants (of a place)” + -titut “(similative case ending: like …)”; that is, “(speaking) like the inhabitants of Ilata”.

Though the area where they live should probably have a better name than Ilata eventually; it seems rather unlikely to me to simply call it that, without at least a “New” qualifier. (But that would break the single-word language name. So I’ll have to see.)

Categories: Ilatamiutitut Tags:

My Conlanger Code

May 23rd, 2011 Comments off

My conlanger code as of now would be roughly:

CIT v1.1 !l cN:R:S:H a- y1 n36:2d B+ A+ E+ L N4 Im k– ia@ p* s* m* o+ P- S Engadinese

Categories: meta Tags:


February 18th, 2010 Comments off

So, I read that French même, Spanish mismo, and Italian medesimo, all meaning “same”, all derive from Latin metipsimum < metipsissimum < -met + ipse + -issimus.

Now, I hadn’t heard of -met, but Wiktionary has an article on it, saying:

meaning “self“, and it intensifies substantive and less frequently adjective personal pronouns, it is usually followed by “ipse

At roughly that point I recognised it from Temet nosce, the phrase used in The Matrix to translate “know thyself” (rather than the usual translation of the original Greek Γνώθι σαυτόν, Nosce te ipsum).

It stands to reason that Romansh medem/madem also comes from the same source, so I thought I might derive the Engadinese word for “same” similarly. (That’s only western and central Romansh, though; Ladin has listess, presumably from the same route as Italian stesso, i.e. st + ipsu < istum ipsum.)

So I thought, what would be the equivalent of -met ipsissimum?

I don’t know of a clitic for “self”, but ipse is presumably εμαυτόν σ(ε)αυτόν etc., or perhaps αυτός; and -issimus would be -(ό/-ώ)τατος (with the vowel belonging to the stem of the adjective).

So ipsissimum would be something like αυτότατον—though I’m not certain of the stress. For “Greek stressed like Latin”, I’d have to know the quality of the alpha in the ending, which I can’t find out right now, so I’ll assume it’s short, in which case the stress would go on the antepenult.

So perhaps the word for “same” could end up something like τόδατ todat? Not sure, but it’s an idea.

(While doing research for the vowel, I came across -γε as in έγωγε έμοιγε, but that clitic seems to be restricted to only three or four forms. Still, it might give -γε αυτότατος > γαυτόδατ gautodat?)

Eating verbs

January 18th, 2010 Comments off

Recently, I’ve been looking a bit at the development of Vulgar Latin into modern Romance languages, including how words changed meanings.

So, for example, the word for “head” in some languages derives from a word for “pot”; the word for “liver” from “figgy” or “fig-stuffed”; and so on.

One of those changes is “to eat”, which in some languages (e.g. French manger, Italian mangiare, Romansh mangiar) derives from manducare, which (I gather) originally meant something along the lines of “chew” or perhaps “gnaw”.

So I thought that for Engadinese, I might derive the basic “eating” verb from an Ancient Greek meaning “chew”.

So I turned to my trusty Langenscheidt German–Greek dictionary, looked up “kauen”, and found—τρώγω.

Imagine my disappointed when I saw that Modern Greek had beat me to the punch! (Because that’s the basic verb for “eat” nowadays, either in that form or, perhaps more commonly, in the shortened form τρώω. Its aorist stem is φαγ-, though, which harkens back to the suppletive aorist 2 stem  of the basic Ancient Greek verb εσθίω.)

Ah well 🙂

Stress in Engadinese

January 7th, 2010 Comments off

One of the things I was never really happy with in Engadinese was the fact that Greek has a fair number of words with stress on the final syllable—this resulted in a language with a rather different feel from Romansh since all the dropping-unstressed-final-syllable thing didn’t work as pervasively.

Most importantly, a word such as σοφός could not really give σοφ or the like, so I settled on something like σοφό—but then you have masculine/neuter words ending on consonant or stressed omicron, which seemed odd to me. Similarly, contract verbs with their final stress also didn’t act much like non-contract verbs.

So, perhaps something that I could do would be to do a wholesale stress change, to make Greek stress more Latinate, before going on to do sound changes.

That’s not unheard-of; after all, that’s what happened at some point in Proto-Germanic, where the PIE accent turned into a stem-initial stress. And, though I know less about such things, presumably also more or less what happened on the way from Proto-Slavic (with, presumably, variable stress) to Polish with its fixed penultimate stress.

It would also be interesting to see what changes to inflectional morphology (and indeed, to the entire feel of the language) such a stress change would bring about. (For instance, it might be easier to merge final -η with -α if the final syllable is never stressed.)

I think I’d have to study Latin stress a bit more carefully first, in order to get a bellyfeel for it.

Engadinese would, of course, not have no final stress; it would almost certainly acquire it through dropping of formerly-final syllables. (See e.g. Romansh -ziún from -TIÓNEM.)

Possessives in Engadinese

January 7th, 2010 Comments off

One of the problems in Engadinese is how to form the possessive.

In modern Romance languages, of course, this is typically accomplished with a preposition derived from Latin DE. The question then becomes, how to do this in Engadinese?

We can’t turn to Modern Greek for help, because the genitive is still alive and well there. And Ray called my first attempt, από, unsatisfactory, instead proposing εκ for TAKE. So that’s one possibility.

But a thought came through my mind: why not look at how other languages do this—specifically, non-Romance languages? And even more specifically, Maltese?

If I recall Bonġornu! Kif int? correctly, the Maltese possessive particle ta’ comes from a construction with an Arabic noun mata‘ or similar, meaning something along the lines of “possession”—so something like il-kiteb ta’ ommi “my mother’s book” comes from something like al-kitāb mata‘ ’ummi “the book, the possession of my mother”.

So perhaps that might be an idea worth following up. Though Greek does not, of course, have the construct state that inspired this construction in Maltese.

But perhaps it’ll lead to something more “organic” than just using εκ.


May 6th, 2009 Comments off

When I read texts in Sursilvan, I keep getting caught out by “el” — I keep parsing it as merely the definite article (under the influence, no doubt, of Spanish, or possibly even colloquial Arabic such as Egyptian) rather than as a contraction of “en il”.

Though I don’t have the same problem with other contractions of preposition + article such as “cul, pel (pil?), dil (dal?)”.

I think it’d be clearer if it were spelled “e’l” as is (I believe) the case in Ladin.

Categories: Romansh Tags: