Archeologists digging in my spare room have at long last reunited a lost notebook with its tattered first page, and I have rediscovered a language I had previously remembered only from a single surviving utterance.
In 1988, a 16-year-old highschool junior, I ran across the idea of polysynthetic, verb-based languages in the encyclopedia, if I recall correctly. What I remember from that point on is that I put together a few words, ran into difficulties in deriving various nouns from verbs in ways that *I* felt were "natural" and "not cheating", and gave the whole language up as impractical. What I did not remember is that I had worked on it sporadically for a few months, had 20 verb roots, 5 pronouns, 4 tenses, 3 noun class endings and 3 adverbs, and that I had used it in at least two letters to a friend! Also, I did not recall that my original inspiration had been Apache, a fact I would still be in the dark about had I not been reading old letters.
Awkwardly, however, I have the lexicon but not most of the utterances that went with it (probably scattered among my Chem and Trig notes), and one utterance found in my diary that has particles not found in the lexicon!
Anyway, presented for your enjoyment, here is "tanlenodelénadepéla", or "what we speak".
Vowels appear to be a, e, i and o. An acute accent is used on the first syllable of a root and the first syllable of any suffix to the root, for disambiguity. Consonant inventory is p b t d k l n z ', an amazing testament to my restraint in building my first ever conlang with an actual phonology. Phonotactics are also ridiculously minimal: all syllables are [CV[n], very Japanese.
Extant examples order finite verbs thusly: [OBJ].[SUBJ].TAM.V.[ADV] Examples: tadebélale ta de bélale 3pS AOR be.beautiful it is beautiful tanlezelánedéki tan le ze láne déki 3pS.ACC 1p.S FUT read later it I will read later
The noun is ordered as follows: [GENDER].[OBJ].[SUBJ].TAM.V.CLASS.[ACC] Nouns referring to humans take a GENDER prefix, o- for male and e- for female. Nouns may be the subject or the object of the verb phrase from which they are built. They may have just a SUBJ pronoun, just an OBJ pronoun, both, or (apparently) neither, if the lexicon entry for "detélepéla", n. love, is to be believed. All surviving nouns in the lexicon and extant utterances use the aorist "de" for their TAM particle. If I were actively developing the language now, I would permit other TAM particles here, and create the appropriate examples. The V is the verb root that forms the nucleus of the noun. One extant example adds a second "TAM.V" after the first one, with an implicit "and". I am not sure I approve of this. The CLASS suffix is one of: zána, a singular person or object; zéta, plural persons or objects; or péla, a mass noun. If I were actively developing the language, I would add a separate class of abstract nouns, reserving péla for words like tadezólepéla, water, and using the abstract class for words like "love", above. Nouns having the ACCUSATIVE suffix, in a departure from normal head-marking practice, agree with the accusative pronoun in the clause's main verb. Examples: tadezólepéla ta de zóle péla 3pS AOR flow mass flowing substance water tandekínedelánezánan tan de kíne de láne zána n 3pS.ACC AOR write AOR read sing ACC written and read thing (accusative) letter (accusative)
The following lexical entries are problematic: la- on di- at ni- to -'i when There are no extant utterances using the above prepositions and adverb, and since the paradigms were never laid out except in examples, the position of these prefixes in (presumably) the noun complex is unclear. If I had to guess, I'd imagine they came in first (outermost) place. dona- "have changed, have done in the meantime" This appears to be an expanded form of do- "past tense", and I assume I meant it to reflect the English present perfect tense. If I had it to do over again I would stay far away from relexing the English tense system. -ni not glossed, probably means "if" or "that" This is found only as a suffix to a verb in an untranslated utterance, and appears to nominalize or subordinate the verb, as it is followed by a finite main verb in the example.
A word about my methods back then is probably in order here. In my early conlanging, I was a strict JIT conlanger: coin no word (or particle) before its use! (Amusingly, this allows me to reconstruct with some confidence some of the missing utterances, just by looking at what order I added roots and particles to the list.) During the time that I was adding to this lexicon, I found a use for first person singular, third persons plural and singular, and second persons plural and singular. No first person plural is recorded. (In coining the name of the language tonight, I shoved first and second persons singular in there as an impromptu inclusive "we" to cover this defect.) Pronouns as we have them: Sing. Plur. 1st le 2nd no po 3rd ta ki Pronouns take the accusative suffix "n" to become object pronouns.
The following TAM particles are recorded: de- aorist (habitual or characteristic action) pi- present continuous ne- imperative do- past tense dona- present perfect 'o- obligative mood, unless I misread the shorthand for "should" li- abilitative mood (is this the right term for "can"?) ze- future tense bo- or debo- not glossed; might mean "would" Clearly, had I continued I would have populated this space with every TAM combination known to English (and no others :)
Three adverbs are listed: déni "much", 'íki "not", and déki "later".
The meat of the lexicon. The following verb roots are attested: zóle to flow bélale to be beautiful télile to sparkle on something lóbe to freeze? (writing unclear) líle to make a babbling sound, as a brook kíne to write lénade to speak tóbe to harrass, bully kánite to hate téle to love kónade to touch láde to ramble on (speaking) lótene to come lípe to look péline to grow bílake to miss (as in miss someone) pílibe "a bad word" (I needed a rude verb, didn't care what it meant) láne to read délole to see lóne to wait kálete to like? (not glossed)
Extant examples of nouns derived from verb roots: kidetóbezéta bullies Otadelénadezána "Speaker" (a name) tadezólepéla water Etadekínezána "Writer" (my name) nontadetélezána your friend (literally, "one who loves you") detélepéla love Etandebílakezána "She who is missed" (a name) tandekínedelánezána a letterAnd that's it. A lot more than I ever realized I had, a lot less than would be needed to speak it. No interrogative mood, no comparatives, no possession or adjectives (the latter not strictly necessary, but usually at least a small closed class exists!), no numbers. But at last I have it typed in!
Last updated: 7/13/2007