Biocrystal: Salt and Composition

I recently picked up “Salt: A World History” by Mark Kurlansky, which has been getting me thinking about the biocrystal system. Of course.

While it was initially silica in grass that inspired the biocrystal system at first, salt has a similarly interesting half-life, as it were, as a rock not only edible but necessary for life.

So basically I’ve been considering giving biocrystal qualities similar to those of salt. I’m certain that I want biocrystal to taste salty, though I’m less certain about other qualities. Silica in grass is more of a substitution in the cellular structure, or something like that, while salt is just a small molecular structure (more or less). Granted, I haven’t actually delved into what the structure of biocrystal is on a microscopic level.

For example, I’ve considered water having corrosive effects on biocrystal, causing a sample to dissolve into salt or sand (at least on most varities — I think albate and flavite would be immune to this).

But aside from this, considering salt has brought other qualities of biocrystal to my attention: how much does each type weigh? What’s the density of each type? How brittle or tough is each type?

Albate is certainly the toughest of each type. Cyanite should be the lightest. Other than that, though, I think I’ll need more space to consider these sorts of things. And more brain power than I currently have.

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Honskhardn: Done!

Finally finished up the whole grammar.

Google doc here.

Progress lagged quite a big at the end, when I started needing to come up with text examples. This grammar won’t have a major text example as Pretistelen grammar did, largely because I just couldn’t think of anything to write for it.

Probably going to be a lot of updates to it later, since I’m still working on the Pretistelen lexical cognates in all the daughter languages. Indeed, I’ve already changed how two particular words in Pretistelen work (which means I’ll have to be changing the Pretistelen grammar), and that’s gonna create all sorts of chaos.

A lot of the text examples are probably a bit sloppy, since I last minute changed major elements of word order — in particular changing the prepositions back to postpositions (as the adpositions are in Pretistelen) and the order of the object and the verb from VO to OV.

 

Honskhardn: Pronouns

I’ve been having a little trouble working out the pronouns for this project.

Pretistelen, the origin language, has three personal pronouns of relevance:

Na, no, ne, né, nu, ni: I/we

Ta, to, te, té, tu, ti: You

Sa, so, se, sé, su, si: He/she/it/they

Each of these inflect for gender and number (a/é = feminine singular/plural, o/u = masculine singular/plural, e/i = neuter singular/plural).

Since monosyllablic words aren’t affected by the final-syllable dropping, these remain more or less unchanged into Hónskhardn.

However, I did adapt the 3rd person pronoun (sa, so, &c) to also function as a definite pronoun, to carry a word’s gender and number when, due to this syllable-dropping, it’s no longer clear on the word itself (kinda like how German uses its pronouns).

(So nid “fish” can become either sae nid “the (one) fish” or si nid “the fishes”, depending on what’s being talked about.)

Pretistelen is supposed to be spoken in a relatively developed society, and it’s become my understanding that developed civilizations tend to start doing weird things with their pronouns, like develop formality levels (see: late Latin, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, various Mesoamerican languages, &c), which generally seems to corrolate with heavily stratified societies.

The easiest way for me to do this was with a pair of suffixes I’d developed for nouns and adjectives: -ól-, the diminutive suffix (nid “fish” > nidól “tiny fish”), and -aed-, the magnificative suffix (nid nidaed “huge fish”).

The general plan has been to create a three-tiered pronominal formality system for all the daughter languages of Pretistelen, applied to first- and second-person pronouns.

The first of these would be the informal/neutral set, which would be the bare pronouns (i.e. na, nota, to, &c), to be used between friends, family, co-workers, and people of similar social standing.

The second of these would be the formal set, modified with the magnificative suffix (naed, taed — note that the gender/number markers are dropped), the first-person used by a superior addressing an inferior, the second-person used by an inferior addressing a superior.

The third of these would be what I’m calling the “differential” set, modified with the diminutive suffix (nól, tól), the first-person used by an inferior addressing a superior, the second-person used by a superior addressing an inferior.

On the other hand, this doesn’t seem to be how formality systems evolve in natural languages? Which honestly kinda puzzles me, cause this system feels pretty logical, but probably a potentially pejorative pronoun wouldn’t really gain traction, save in certain contexts (such as between enemies).

Alternatively, with Hónskhardn at least, I’ve considered going a more European route, with the common-gender (that is, the feminine and masculine) plurals becoming numberless formal pronouns, and the neuter gender plural becoming the standard plural pronoun. (NOTE: the Neuter in Hónskhardn works differently than in English, as it’s not supposed to carry connotations of inanimacy; it’s more of an epicene.)

Thoughts?

End of January/Grammarary

It honestly feels like more than a month has passed so far this year, but that’s more due to other factors than anything.

Didn’t manage to finish the grammar I started this month, but given that I started late, I think I can give myself a little bit of a pass on that one.

It didn’t help, though, that I’ve also been pushing myself into several other writing projects at the same time. Probably should limit myself to only two or so projects at the most, rather than try to juggle like four or five.

Or maybe it’s been my energy level. Or some combination of the above.

Anyway, I’ll continue posting updates on Hónskhardn over the next couple weeks as I continue to work on that: I’m not gonna stop working on it until it’s finished, and I’m currently about halfway done with it.

Honskhardn 3: Verbs

So last time we did nouns, now we’re doing verbs.

So Pretistelen had verbs that agreed with the subject noun in person, number, and gender, in addition to having inflections for time, aspect, mood, and voice.

Cue Hónkhardn messing with everything cause it’s dropping the vowel of a word’s last syllable. (You may notice this has been a trend.)

Or rather, messing with the agreement markers.

Each of these elements are very specifically placed on the verb.

[Aspect] — VERB STEM — [time] — [mood] — [(gender/number agreement)] — [voice/person agreement]

EX: hokin-hokin-toll-j-ý-n “We will have to be cooking.”

Aspect, at least, has been totally unaffected. I may end up adding more aspects, perhaps, or deleting the two-way distinction that has existed so far, depending on if I see any verbs that could become satisfactory helping verbs or particles or inflections. Or any other words that could do those things. So far, though I just have the imperfective-perfective dichotomy, with imperfective marked by reduplicating the verb stem.

Time was similarly relatively unaffected, though I find the original past marker -u- / -ut- and future marker -at- to be needlessly similar. So I replaced the future marker with -toll-, from the word for “down” (the language having a vertical temporal axis, rather than horizontal as in English).

I have two voices, active and passive. For some reason unknown to my present self, I decided to mark person and voice with the same suffixes in Pretistelen (and, because language is messy and does all sorts of crazy things all the time, decided to just whatever keep it). However, as the passive voice markers all contain a full syllable, this means that the subject agreement marker is untouched, unelided, on passive verbs.

EX:
ot (second-person masculine singular active) > –ts
ondhe (second-person masculine singular passive) > –ondh

(Nouns and verbs share gender/number markers.)

Which means that passive verbs inflect for gender and number, whereas active verbs don’t.

Active markers:
1st: –n
2nd: -ts
3rd: -s

Passive markers:
1st: ng
2nd: -ndh
3rd: -z

And then the mood markers. Oh boy. This is where things got really interesting. I have three moods, in addition to the unmarked indicative mood: subjunctive, necessitive, and imperative (the imperative being the Pretistelen optative).

Although, if I think about it, I may have a better way to doing the mood than I had previously been doing it.

The mood markers in Pretistelen are as follows: -wé- (sub), –re- (opt), and -jy- (nec). These were generally placed right before the agreement markers, and because adjacent vowels contracted, this ought to result in horrible mutant inflections, which would only stick around because they’d be stressed and thus resist any elision (since, technically, the elision happens on any vowel after the stressed syllable).

However, I feel like it’d be simpler to just cut the vowel part of the mood markers out, to reduce them to -w-r-, and -j-, so that the conjugations turn out simpler, rather than dealing with four different agreement systems. (Which, I understand is a thing languages do, such as ancient Greek, but is not something I’d necessarily like to deal with.) But I guess this is one of the things I’d like some thoughts on.

Finally, I have two non-finite forms (well, four, but they split into active and passive).

First is the participle, which is formed with the suffix -is (active) or -az (passive).

Then is the gerund/infinitive. Because the Pretistelen infinitive was only marked with a diphthong on the stem, it basically has no right to exist in Hónskhardn. Instead, I have had its role taken up by the gerund, which is marked with just -s (active and passive). Which I understand is the same as the third-person active marker, but German is a thing.

Thoughts? Questions? Lay ’em on me. I’ll be here all week. And hopefully I can get the whole thing finished in four days. I haven’t even started on syntax yet.

Honskhardn 2: Nouns

So I was planning to post this stuff more often. Whoops.

Oh well. Time for nouns.

I have four declensions, with six cases, two numbers, and three genders. I’m going to be talking about all three, not necessarily in order.

Of the daughter languages I created for Pretistelen, this one probably has one of the more divergent morphology compared to the others, since it deletes or simplifies all the word-final syllables (that aren’t stressed).

Cases

Pretistelen has five cases, which I expanded into six in Hónskhardn, mostly because of some of the peculiarities of the aforementioned word-final elision and because of how possessives function.

The nominative is the zero case, with no special marking, used for the subject of a sentence.

The genitive is marked with n, and is used for possessives and prepositions of originitve motion. However, possessives have additional suffixes after the genitive marker, so that the word agrees in person, number, and case with the possessed word. (EX. ro “fang” > rono garo “the puma’s fang”.)

The instrumental is marked with t, and is used for instrumental functions (“with” or “by means of”) and prepositions of station.

The instrumental originally also had a dative function, but the preposition ros “toward” ended up fusing with the instruemental suffix to form a separate dative case, marked with –tros. This solely covers indirect objects.

Finally, the accusative case is marked with m, and is used for the object of a sentence and for prepositions of approaching motion.

With all that in mind, for Hónskhardn I decided to split the genitive into a genitive and possessive, particularly because many nouns end up retaining their word-final vowel morpheme in possessives (and in the dative). (EX. sisa “water” > sis (nom), sisn (pos), sisan (gen), sists (inst), sisatrs (dat), sism (acc).)

However, I’m unsure if I should unload the prepositional uses of the instrumental onto the genitive, since all it’s being used for now is prepositions. And if I do that, should I also pull all the prepositions that require the accusative onto the genitive as well?

Gender and Number

I put these two together because in Pretistelen they’re all conflated together. Pretistelen had two numbers and three genders, and each combination had a unique vowel assigned to it.

Masculine singular: o
Masculine plural: u
Feminine singular: a
Feminine plural: é
Neuter singular: e
Neuter plural: i

However, due to the final-syllable elision, these vowels only appear in monosyllabic words and in the possessive and dative cases (granted, they also only appeared on nouns in one declension).

Gender assignment aside, the most interesting development from this has been that number is no longer marked.

While I solved this problem in other daughter languages by applying a gender-neutral plural suffix from another declension more broadly across the nouns, I kinda like the idea of having at least a few of these daughter languages losing plural marking on the noun itself?

That being said, unlike some languages around the world, plural marking is always obligatory, so I figured that the speakers of this language would attempt to create some way of continuing to mark number (and gender).

The third-person pronoun is a monosyllable and inflects just like an adjective, which inflects basically like a standard noun, so I basically turned it into a definite article (saesaso). Sort of like how the German definite article carries more of a noun’s grammatical meaning than the noun itself.

Declensions

Pretistelen has four declensions, which I’ve called 1st Declension, 2nd Declension, 3rd Declension, and 4th Declension.

Or, if you prefer, based on the letter each ends on, V-Declension, N-Declension, S-Declension, and M-Declension.

So far I’ve been talking just about the V-Declension (“V” for “vowel”), since it both covers the most number of nouns and it’s affected most by the phonological changes between Pretistelen and Hónskhardn.

The other three declensions each have their own dedicated plural marker, but don’t mark gender. I’ve anticipated, however, that a number of nouns in these latter three would be brought into the 1st Declension, since a number of these words have endings similar to the now vowelless V-Declension. Though, upon reflection, there’d also be some flow the other way, too.

Essentially, I’ve been putting any noun with a long vowel or a syllabic consonant in the final syllable into one of the latter three declensions, and putting all the others into the 1st Declension.

Which still manages to be tricky, cause many of the words with long vowels could work as 1st Declension nouns and some words without might maybe retain their original designation? (EX 1. ansuan “pearl” > ansún (nom), ansýn (gen-2) or ansúnn (gen-1)? EX 2. tircas “bird” > terks (nom), terkizn (gen-3) or terksn (gen-1)?)

Thoughts?

I’m thinking I should maybe supply more vocab for examples and so that people don’t get lost, but I’m not sure if a small list at the beginning is helpful, or just bringing up an example or two per point.

Introducing: Honskhardn (and Phonetics)

So apparently a few people were actually interested in this constructed language I’m working on this month.

Which is kinda cool but also a little frustrating, since this particular language is vested in a lot of prior work I’ve done — which is to say, there’s a lot inform people about before getting to the language itself.

So let’s get started.

So a few months back, I finalized a grammar for a constructed language I’d been working on for some time, called Pretistelen (< link to the Google doc). Pretistelen is meant to be a large piece of background worldbuilding for a set of novels I’ve been working on (incidentally, the same world that the Biocrystal system will be used in).

However, Pretistelen itself as described in the grammer I wrote is spoken 800 years before the events of the novel. So I’ve also been working on a set of daughter languages used in the novel’s temporal setting. In particular, four I’ve determined to be relevant to the story (out of 10+ I could have easily gone for, and six that I’d originally planned for).

The language I’m working on this month, Hónskhardn, is one of the less relevant of the four, and the least complicated, historically and culturally; so it felt like the best daughter language to start on, to sort of experiment with what I could do with these languages. To try to find the happy medium between changing too much and changing not enough.

So we’ll see how that works out.

Let’s begin with the phonetics.

I’ve had the phonology of this language more or less set in stone for years; the real trick for them, however, is proving to be the orthography — that is, how to represent all those sounds without resorting to the IPA. I think I’ve found a solution for Hónskhardn, at least, but I’m not entirely satisfied with it still.

Hónskhardn has 29 consonants and 13 vowels. Not including allophones, length contrasts, and diphthongs. But we’ll still list most of those.

a /ɑ/ This is the “ah” at the back of the throat, as in English “father” or “pardon”.
á /ɑ:/ An accent mark indicates that a vowel is long. As in English “wad” or “sod”.
ae /æ/ This is the “ah” at the front of the mouth, as in English “bat” or “pass”. NEVER pronounce this as in “rate” or “Caesar”.
aé /æ:/ As in English “pad” or “bad”.
b /b/
d /d/
dh /ð/ Soft “th” sound, as in “this” and “those”.
dl /dɮ/ A voiced lateral affricate. Basically take “lh” from below and add it to a “d”.
dz /dz/
e /e/ This always has an “ey” sound, as in the word “freight”.
e /ɛ/ The “eh” in “get” or “wreck”. Yes, I know it’s weird to have <e> representing two different sounds. This is the main problem I’ve been facing.
é /e:/
f /ɸ/ Basically just the “f” sound, but more forward in the mouth.
g /g/ Always pronounced hard, like “get” or “gain”. NEVER as in “gin” or “gyro”.
gh /ɣ/ A non-English sound produced by starting to produce a “g” and then releasing a continuous stream of air from the throat. Or, if you prefer, simultaneously pronouncing “g” and “h”.
h /h/
i /ɪ/ The “ih” in “gin” or “bit”.
í /i:/ The “ee” sound in “machine”. NEVER as in “bite”.
j /j/ Pronounced as in German; that is, it’s always the consonantal “y” sound.
j /ɥ/ Pronounced by producing the consonantal “y” sound but with rounded lips. Unlike <e> and <o>, I’m not concerned about this one using the same letter as /j/, since I’ve only had it appear in a couple of words total.
k /k/
kh /x/ As in the German “ch”. Produced by pronoucing “k” with a continuous stream of air from the throat. I’d like to use <x> to represent this, but I feel readers will very easily misinterpret it as “ks” instead.
l /l/ Always pronounced as light (“light”, “list”), never as dark (“poll”, “hill”), even at the end of syllables. For best results, make sure your tongue is touching your top front teeth when pronouncing this.
lh /ɬ/ Pronounced more or less by producing the “l” and “h” simultaneously. The equivalent of the Welsh “ll” sound.
ll /ʟ/ Basicaly the dark “l” sound, but darker. Produce by pronouncing an “l” but with the tongue in the position for producing a “k” or “g”.
m /m/
n /n/
ng /ŋ/ The “ng” sound from “sing” or “rang”. Not that this sound may occur at the beginning of syllables as well as at the end.
o /o/ Always as in “code” or “road”.
o /ɔ/ As in English “for” or “core”. Another problematic letter being used for an extra sound.
ó /o:/
oe /ø/ Yet another non-English sound, most similar to the German “ö”. Produced by pronoucning “ey” and then simultaneously rounding the lips.
oé /ø:/
p /p/
r /r/ Always trilled, NEVER as in the English “r” or the French/German “r”.
s /s/
t /t/
th /θ/ The hard “th” sound, as in “thin” and “thimble.”
tl /tɬ/ Produced by pronouncing the “lh” sound after a “t”.
ts /ts/ Pronounced in full, as in German “z”; NEVER as English speakers pronounce “tsumani”.
u /ʊ/ The sound in “good” and “should”.
ú /u:/ The “oo” in “uber” or “blue”. NEVER with the “y” sound in front of it, as in “cute” or “huge”.
v /β/ See note on “f”.
w /w/
y /ʏ/ A non-English sound, pronounced like the German “ü”. Basically, pronounced as in “ih”, but with the lips rounded.
ý /y:/ Pronounced as in “ee” but with the lips rounded.
z /z/

Additionally, Hónskhardn has five diphthongs and four syllabic consonants.

Diphthongs: ai (“aye”), au (“cow”), ei (“hey”), oi (“toy”), and ou (“tow”).

Syllabics: m, n, ng, r. These only appear at the end of words, in more or less the same fashion as in English.

The stress is pretty simple: it always falls on the last syllable, unless that syllable is a syllabic consonant; then it falls on the second-to-last syllable.

So the name of the language is pronounced hon-SKHAR-dun. (hone-SCAR-dun, but with the “c” replaced with a velar fricative?)

My main concern is with “o” and “e”, since I feel the orthography should really distinguish between /o/ and /ɔ/, and between /e/ and /ɛ/. But I’m not sure how to do that without having to get into some really crazy digraphs or using more diacritics.

Thoughts? I guess?