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?

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Oh Yeah, That was a Thing

So I was originally planning on starting this sometime in the beginning of the month, but I guess since I’m only remembering it now, I’m getting around to it now.

So you’re all familiar with NaNoWriMo, if you at all follow this blog. There’s a lesser known writing month called Lexember, meant for conlangers to work on creating words for their constructed languages. Jumping off of that, I thought of another month that could use a clever pun.

So I’m starting Grammarary.

It’s like NaNo + Lexember combined into one: over the course of a month, I will write a full grammar for a constructed language.

I’m not actually gonna invent a new language for this, mostly because I have way too many that I need to properly flesh out, and creating a dedicated month to getting at least a draft of a grammar out is significant world-building help.

Dunno if I’ll actually share the language, though. Guess that depends on if the three of you that read this are interested?

Star Wars VIII Analysis/Review

TL;DR: I liked it. You should totally go see it.

I had a few issues with it — one part being that it could have wrapped up half an hour earlier than it did, and that there’s a major section of the plot ended up being rather pointless and “Nice job breaking it, Hero” territory, but I can’t really get into it without getting into spoilers.

Despite my issues with it, there was a lot of stuff that was really cool and awesome, but I want to get into that after I talk about my issues, so this review/analysis thing can end on a positive note.

So I guess we’ll just jump straight into the *SPOILERS*.

Problems first, praises second.

1. Going, Going, Going….

So first the Resistance needs to outrun the enemy fleet, then the transports just need to get to the surface, then they just need to destroy the laser, then they just need to escape the mine. Yeah, I feel like they could have trimmed out two or three of these. Although the Hoth-esque fight on the planet surface was really cool, and it meant we got that lovely quote from Rose and all the feels, I think it would have done better to have the confrontation between Kylo Ren and Luke on the flagship, rather than on the surface.

Or maybe just removed the part about the transports getting shot down on the way down. Actually, now that I think about it, I feel like that was probably the part that could have been cut. If they had moved straight from abandoning ship to setting up defenses on the surface, it probably would have run more quickly and much better. There really wasn’t much during the escaping transports section except drama and stress, and gratuitous drama and stress at that.

2. Canto Bight

I wouldn’t exactly call this entire “side quest” unnecessary, but I felt like it got close. Sure, Finn and Rose and Poe go way out of their way to help out, it all turns out to be unnecessary, and they end up just making everything worse, but there were a few little things in it that I think made it worth doing — though perhaps differently.

On the one hand, showing the oppression of the First Order was important. So too that the Resistant has a lot of silent support in the galaxy. And the shades of gray present in the conflict — weapons dealers selling to both First Order and Resistance.

On the other hand, the whole thing could have been avoided by purple-hair woman (name?) telling Poe what her plan was, that it was more than just running. If she had just pointed to a star chart and been like “That’s our destination”, the whole side quest could have been avoided.

3. Silent Majority and Galactic Stakes

Probably the biggest issue I had with the film was the size of the Resistance. The film frames them as a tiny force, basically just one ship and a few smaller vessels. Kylo Ren basically manages to cripple their entire force single handedly (aside from the bombing squad that suicided into the dreadnought) between bombing the hangar and bombing the bridge (yes, I know he didn’t do that himself, but he was part of the group of fighters that did that).

There’s mention of other Resistance cells that this particular group could reach out to, but we never see them (even a shot of some other Resistance leaders debating and deciding not to help Leia’s group would have been good in this regard — better than the “they’ve received it, but not responded”). The film frames Leia’s group as basically the only bit of the Resistance left — a convoy that ends up being only a couple dozen people at the very end — which really stretches my ability to believe that they can actually defeat the First Order.

It also stretches my ability to believe that they represent the will of the people. The scenes of the children in Canto Bight helped me believe this a little bit, but I wanted to see some adults who were like “Yeah, we’d love to take down the First Order, but we just don’t think we have the power to.” And if Leia’s group is essentially all of the Resistance that exists, then they really don’t. It feels like the equivalent of a high school class deciding to overthrow the US, or of Winston Smith taking down Oceania.

Part of this I feel stems from events in The Force Awakens, particularly the moment when the core Alliance planets are annihilated. I really hated that that ended up being a thing.

I guess this all comes back to stakes. The stakes of this film should have been smaller than they were (well, for the last film too, but this is about VIII, not VII). I think I would have preferred something like war between the Alliance and the First Order, rather than the First Order against a paltry force of rebels. Because defending the Alliance still has galactic stakes without gratuitous urgency. (I mean, we can still have urgency, especially if there’s a planet+ death weapon taking aim on part of the Alliance.)

A big part of me, though, is starting to think that, between the power of the Empire and the immediate followup of the First Order, the galaxy WANTS an autocratic empire (perhaps because autocratic security is better than chaos?). Which brings me back to the whole will of the people thing. Of course, the First Order/Empire is still evil and thus needs to fall for that reason, but the conflict never seems to be framed in that way. (Well, Rose and Finn do this some, but for most of the Resistance members, it seems to be more democracy vs autocracy.)

4. Great Job Fixing It, Villain

A minor issue: Snoke’s been manipulating Kylo Ren for years. Why now is he unable to see that telling Kylo Ren to kill his crush is a terrible idea? Especially when he was the one to basically get the two together.

Whatever. I still felt so satisfied when Kylo Ren killed him.

5. Stop Killing Everybody!

Why’d you hafta kill Akbar? Why you gotta sever everything that was in the old series?

Now for the positive stuff.

1. Porgs

❤ Porgs ❤

2. Rey and Ben

These two were great. Especially Kylo Ren. Kylo was perfectly impulsive and passionate, in a way that made him a good villain. Unlike Snoke, while his decisions weren’t always necessarily the best, they always made sense for him. Of course he sends ALL the TIE fighters after the Falcon, even though it’d be better to keep even one in front of the mine; of course he orders ALL the AT-ATs to shoot Luke, for like a whole minute straight; because that’s how he does things: impulsively, all in.

Part of me hopes that he could make the First Order a better place, but I suspect that if he hadn’t already made it a better place as Snoke’s lieutenant, he won’t as Snoke’s replacement. But that’s getting into theorycrafting about IX.

His hesitation to kill his mother was also significant and good.

To make Rey the daughter of nobodies, rather than giving her some questionable connection to an established character was also good. Star Wars needs to be more than the drama of just a single family. (Though perhaps a case could be made for transposing the drama and politics of the entire galaxy onto a microcosm of a single family, such as the Skywalkers, but that would have to be a very deliberate route planned out in advance, resulting in a story with a very different plot than the whole Star Wars series. That is to say, that would be a different story to tell.)

The revelation of Rey’s parentage was really good as well. Rey has been in denial about her abandonment, understandably, looking for some kind of parental figure to overcome her abandonment issues; the way Kylo Ren says “You’re nobody. But not to me.” was incredibly sweet.

A pity those words had to come out of a villain.

3. The Force

Oh my gosh the Force. VII and VIII have had literally the BEST examples of uses of the Force.

It’s kinda understandable that the original trilogy doesn’t really have any good Force usage, seeing as Luke is much less focused on using the Force, after a fashion, than Rey has been. Probably the best use of the Force in the original trilogy was Luke tapping into clairvoyance to see Han’s and Leia’s torture. And the Mind Trick-ery Ben Kenobi uses in the first film. And I guess Luke redirecting the photon torpedoes into the exhaust shaft. And Force Ghosts.

Okay, the original trilogy had quite a few good examples of Force utility.

The prequels, however, do not. Despite basically ALL the major characters being Jedi trained from birth. You’d think they’d be able to pull off even half the stunts that Rey, Snoke, Luke, and Kylo do in the Disney trilogy, but all they do is do some flips, make some cool landings, and deflect a few blaster bolts (and they can’t even do this last one consistently).

Perhaps this is supposed to represent how stale the Jedi Order has become, that the Jedi aren’t very powerful after generations of galactic peace and lack of practice. Or maybe it’s supposed to be Law of Conservation of Ninjitsu, where three hundred Jedi become only as powerful as one lone Jedi for the sake of drama. Or maybe it was just bad writing. (Given the quality of the prequels, I suspect the latter.)

Honestly, I feel like this new trilogy, rather than that old video game, should be called The Force Unleashed. Sure, that game had some interesting abilities, but those were mostly just amped up versions of the ways the Force was used in the prequels. The Disney trilogy has been expanding the vision of how the Force can even be used.

Force projecting onto a different planet probably takes the cake in this regard. Although stopping a blaster bolt midair takes a close second.

Given the way Rey and Kylo were able to connect and project — and even get Kylo all wet — I expected one of them to be able to teleport (instant transmission?) to each other’s position. I kinda hope one of them will demonstrate this ability in IX. If only because it’d be totally awesome.

Also, Leia moving herself back to the ship after the bridge blows up was totally awesome.

So, overall, I really liked it, despite some issues with the plot.

NaNoWriMo 2017 Reflection

So, being a writer, of course I did NaNoWriMo.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it all the way to 50,000 words this month; rather, I only got just over 32,000 words. On the one hand, this is a little disappointing; on the other hand, this is a marked improvement over previous years — it’s more than I’ve ever written for any November since I started doing NaNoWriMo.

This year saw some interesting challenges, which I’m ascribing my lack of word count to (rather than my propensity to procrastinate, though I won’t pretend that was a factor as well). Rather than a standard piece, I wrote a fanfiction for an animated television series (okay, it was an anime); this meant having to watch the series in order to make sure I was getting scenes and dialogue right.

Which ended up being a problem when the fan in my room was roaring too loudly for me to properly hear what the characters were saying.

“But dude,” I hear you say, “why didn’t you just write somewhere else?”

A fair point. And sometimes I did, and got quite a bit of work done in other places. But doing that meant having to carve out specific time to write, which I’ve been finding really isn’t my style. I’ve been finding my style is more to write in the gaps, as it were, rather than at specific times.

Fabrication: Biocrystal Life Cycle

So I’ve had some time to reflect on my last post, and some responses to it.

One of my commentors mentioned that they liked the idea of parasites, and suggested that a compound naturally fatal to biocrystal might also be a good weakness.

Another commentor brought up the idea that, if biocrystal is supporting itself on local sand/stone and expelling a waste product back into the environment, some of that waste might end up in the biocrystal itself, building up and making the biocrystal less efficient, until the waste eventually just kills off the biocrystal.

Personally, I find I really like the latter idea, as it gives a definitive lifetime to biocrystal. It also allows for some interesting interactions.

That’s not to say there wouldn’t be parasites and other creatures that feed off of biocrystal — that’s definitely something that would be present, whether it be bacteria or viruses or integrated biocrystal beings that feed on biocrystal as an herbivore would on a plant. But these wouldn’t be the primary means of culling biocrystal.

So a slow atrophy is probably the best way for biocrystal to die. The speed at which this happens will probably depend on the size of the sample, with larger subjects dying off more slowly than smaller subjects (all else being equal).

Furthermore, this atrophy would begin in the core of a sample and spread outward. That way, new pieces budding off of a structure are unaffected and the surface from which the buds form would also be unaffected — at least until the end.

Dead biocrystal would then quickly fall to the elements, no longer able to sustain or repair itself. Any buds it had produced by the time of its death would break off then and start the cycle all over again. Either that or they would consume their dead progenitor in lieu of standard material.

But I also think that the matieral biocrystal consumes would affect the speed at which it atrophies and decays. Material rich in carbon (such as diamond) or silicon would be the most efficient, while materials with naturally radioactive elements would be the least efficient. That being said, it feels like a totally decayed piece of biocrystal should be bad for living biocrystal, or at least not optimally efficient, but it also feels like this would be an excellent way for the biocrystal ecosystem to recycle itself. But maybe it would be better for scavengers to consume dead pieces and turn them into something else?

To those who responded last time, thanks! Having someone to bounce ideas off of has been helpful. If you have further thoughts or want more clarification or such, please comment.

Fabrication: Biocrystal Death

This has been something of an issue for me. I think I’ve stated previously that biocrystal is more or less immortal, but immortality isn’t something I really want to deal with, particularly among humans or other beings that are usually mortal.

So I need to figure out how to kill biocrystal.

The primary way I would think this would be achieved is by starving the biocrystal. By the model I’ve been using, that would mean placing the biocrystal in a totally dark environment for an extended period of time, but I’m not sure I like that idea. More importantly, I’m not even sure what dead biocrystal would even look like. Maybe it would just fade into incolorite? That at least would be interesting, a cool twist on the function on the only variety that lacks any powers. Furthermore, I think this would in a way relate it to how we work with wood, with wood essentially being dead tree, requiring replacing and/or preservative measures. Incolorite would probably require similar measures, though I’m not quite sure just HOW it would deteriorate.

Living biocrystal, at least, I have already established requires light and sand — or really any kind of rock or mineral — to exist. The light is used for powering its ability(s) and the sand for growing the biocrystal. However, I think it would be better to require that biocrystal uses at least a portion of the light it intakes and a majority of the sand it intakes for its own self-preservation, in the same way that plants require not only light but also sufficient nutrients from the soil.

The biocrystal would probably also produce waste products, some kind of inert crystal that would be the end product of the sand running through its system.

This waste crystal, however, could easily be transformed back into sand by aurantite.

As I understand it, what eventually breaks down plants is fungi and various scavenger bacteria. It would probably be useful to have some manner of creature that feeds off of dead (or even live) biocrystal, in order to ensure the materials are properly recycled. Perhaps even something like biocrystal insects.

Thoughts? Feel free to leave comments/feedback ❤

The Best Superhero Story Isn’t A Comic Book (or a Film)

TL;DR: It’s actually this, an online serial novel entitled “Worm”.

Taylor Herbert is your average ordinary high school girl. By day, she gets picked on by the mean girls. By night she’s a superhero.

Okay, so not so average ordinary.

Under the alias Skitter, Taylor basically smashes her way through a whole host of villains, making Squirrel Girl and Superman look like elementary school dodgeball players. And she does this with only two powers: 1) she senses all bugs (insects, spiders, worms, &c) within several hundred feet and 2) she can control the bugs she senses within the same radius.

The whole thing is a massive (and I do mean massive) deconstruction of the entire superhero genre. It hits all the standard notes: worldwide superhero league, supervillain prison, a team of incredibly dangerous supervillains, existential monsters that make enemies like Doomsday and Galactus look like tutorial bosses, a multiverse….

But I really shouldn’t say too much, because there are a ton of twists and turns to the story. Suffice to say that this novel takes all those common superhero elements and delves into why they exist at all: where did these superpowers come from? Why are those with superpowers so prone to voilence — either causing it as supervillains or fighting crime as superheroes?

Worm also has hands down the best superpowers in the genre, considering not only just the powers themselves, but the changes to a person’s mind and body that such powers would require. Taylor, for example, gains a huge boost to her ability to multitask to compensate for her need to constantly micromanage the army of bugs under her control.

The author also adds two useful categories for superpowers: Tinkers and Thinkers. Thinkers are supers with great mental powers, such as telepathy and prescience, but also things like super-analysis. One character, Tattletale, is basically Sherlock Holmes. Tinkers, then, have access to advanced technologies so far advanced that no one else is able to even repair the things they build. So in this world, people like Iron Man and Batman are justified in not mass producing their great inventions simply because they can’t.

I should warn that this story gets really dark. Lots of characters die, some in very horrible ways. There’s also quite a bit of cussing and a little sexual content.

That being said, if this post hadn’t already thoroughly implied as much, I very much suggest reading this. It’s amazing and beautiful, and is more than just a good superhero story but a good story in general. The thought put into this is phenomenal.

In case you missed the top, click

here

to read.