Let’s make a language, part 28a: Entertainment (Intro)

Entertainment, in some fashion, has been around since the dawn of humanity. Though our ancestors may not have conceived of streaming music, photorealistic video games, or 4K movies, they had their own pastimes, their own ways to amuse themselves. Thus, it stands to reason that languages, even those spoken by less-than-modern cultures, will have a wide array of vocabulary related to entertainment.

Having fun

Everyone plays. The idea of play, of games and amusement, may be a cultural universal. We can’t work all the time, even if political forces seem to want to push us in that direction. Different peoples, of course, will have different forms of play. Today, we have a number of sports, as well as video games, toys, and other such diversions, but “play” is a common enough concept that essentially any language will have a native term for it.

What kinds of play can we expect from the speakers of a particular language, though? As usual, it’s a very culture-specific question, with a good dose of technological bias thrown in for good measure, but we can sketch an outline based on those common threads throughout the world.

First off, a lot of the traditional “equipment” of play pops up in various forms. Balls, for instance, appear in most cultures in some form. Depending on what technology a group of people have, they might make them from animal bladders, rubber, wood, ivory, or modern materials like plastic. But they’re always going to start out roughly the same: a sphere. The games will vary wildly, but even then they come down to a few basics. Moving a ball into a goal, for instance, is the chief objective in football (either kind), basketball, billiards, etc. It’s only the ways in which you move that ball that change.

Sticks or bats are also common for “sport” type play; look at baseball and hockey as two examples. Nets, baskets, rings, and other objects may find their way in, too. Sports, though, have a tendency to spread even to neighboring cultures, and they can take their vocabulary with them. Take football, a word that circles the globe in various guises, while also describing no fewer than four distinct variations.

Child’s play is another realm where native terminology tends to arise, because so much of the field is so…basic. Dolls are fairly universal. Kites can appear anywhere the materials are present. And, though some may not approve of it today, older cultures very frequently gave their children mock or training weaponry. All of these can find themselves named with native roots, or words borrowed very early on, and you only have to look at the toy aisle of your favorite store to find other inspiration. (Look for the “traditional” toys.)

On the adult side of things, play tends to reflect the cultural expectations of grown men and women, but gambling is another area where each culture develops its own style. Dice, for example, are a good option for independent invention; making good, fair dice is difficult, and actually takes some knowledge of geometry, but you can get a game going with something rough. Cards are a bit harder—they really need paper or very thin wood, at the least—but well within a pre-industrial society’s means.

Win, lose, or draw

Competition is the impetus behind most kinds of play. Sports are, like warfare, clashes involving strategy and tactics. So is a game of chess or go. Winning and losing are such fundamental concepts that it’s hard to imagine a language not having native terms for them. A draw or tie may not provide the same satisfaction as the others, but it could be common enough for a culture to give it its own word, too.

Depending on how a culture’s style of competition develops, a number of other terms can arise. If the speakers of a language prefer games involving, say, moving a ball towards a line or goal zone, then “score” and “goal”, among others, will likely become important concepts. And sports and games can become so ingrained into the social fabric that these words then find themselves in idioms, metaphors, and other phrases throughout the language. We speak of a “home run” in America with the assumption that everyone understands it, and the same goes for “touchdown”, “three-pointer”, and a number of other sports-related terms. (Cricket, on the other hand, is impenetrable to most Americans—including myself—which is why some British figures of speech referencing it don’t quite translate.)

Other competitions can also fall under this same banner. We don’t often consider, say, weightlifting or horseback riding to be sports (outside of the Olympics), but they can offer their own contribution to the vernacular. And many games are so generic (in the sense that they have little “specialization”) that they can use existing terminology, yet give it new connotations. “Pawn”, to give one example, refers mostly to the chess piece, but that definition only arose when chess began to use a word indicating a low person moved about by another.

Art for art’s sake

Another form of entertainment is art. Now, art is a huge topic, easily worthy of its own set of posts, but we’ll stick to the highest level here. And we’ll include music, song, and theater, as well as the visual arts like painting or sculpture. All of these are possible in a culture, and all those that culture develops on its own will likely spawn a host of vocabulary. Much of that will then find its way into the common tongue: “backdrop”, “broad strokes”, etc.

Again, the types of art most likely to be described by native terms are specific to the culture, but also specific to an era. English music theory borrows heavily from Italian, for instance, because of that language’s influence in classical and later music, but modern inventions like “riff” and “EP” also exist, spread by American cultural influence.

Most kinds of art, however, are universal, or so close to it that you can freely develop a sizable list without worrying about outside influence. Singing is older than humanity—birds do it—and some of our oldest man-made artifacts are paintings. Sure, the more technical terms might be imported, especially if there’s a rich, vibrant culture right next door that already worked it all out for you. But the basics are everywhere, and everyone will call them by something different.

Playtime’s over

With this part, I think the Let’s Make a Language series has run its course. Most other parts of a language can be better handled by more specific posts that don’t focus on illustrating with our example conlangs, and I’ll be doing that sometime in the coming months. Otherwise, I believe you can take it from here. Over the next two weeks, I’ll put up the Isian and Ardari words for this particular topic, and I’ll try to do another long-form translation early next year. Until then, have fun with your own creations, and I hope to see you soon.

Let’s make a language, part 27c: Religion (Ardari)

Although I’ve been intentionally vague on the whereabouts of Ardari, it’s definitely less attached to European culture than Isian. To that end, it has few true borrowings for religious terms, instead relying on reinterpreted roots from the native belief system. Angels and devils, for instance, are firar and ghemar. A priest is an ekòna—but modern reformation has led to the creation of a feminine variant for what was once a masculine-only term: ekòni.

The Ardari priesthood might not have been a bastion of equality, but the faith itself was. Most supernatural beings in the old polytheistic system came in male and female forms, so there are pairs like tsora and tsori, or fira and firi, and these stand alongside the neuter terms used as the default.

That’s not to say that Ardari doesn’t import religious terms from other languages. It does, but it uses native words for most of the basic concepts. The sole loan in the list below is tyorymat “religion”, a conceptual term that only came in once Ardari speakers of eras past needed to talk about religion as distinct from faith. Other borrowings are made instead to describe concepts specific to one religion, such as santös “saint” (from Latin sanctus), èklecha “church” (from Latin ecclesia), or mazhid “mosque” (from Arabic masjid).

Word List

  • angel: fir (or gendered fira/firi)
  • devil: ghem
  • fairy: lyun (or gendered lyuna/lyuni)
  • faith: mitraz
  • ghost: qoj
  • god: tsor (or gendered tsora/tsori)
  • heaven: èlyas
  • hell: uldall
  • holy: mirs
  • magic: bräz
  • priest: ekòna (also modern feminine form ekòni)
  • religion: tyorymat (distant borrowing from theo-)
  • ritual: plan
  • sacred: grès
  • soul: jull
  • to bless: konye-
  • to curse: dakya-
  • to pray: nyes-

Let’s make a language, part 27b: Religion (Isian)

Isian, as we have seen, has borrowed more than a few terms from European languages. That shows up again in the matter of religion. Its speakers are mostly Christian, thanks to an earlier period of conversion and reformation. Before that, however, they had a polytheistic faith similar to many of their neighbors.

Remnants of this still show through in terms like alam “god”, which stands alongside the Latinate loan Domo “Lord”. The latter refers specifically to the God of Christianity, while the former, native, word can be used for any deity. It’s also more amenable to derivation, such as alanchi “demigod” or alamel “godly”. Domo on the other hand, is essentially fixed in form.

Other borrowings include engel “angel” and sacrel “sacred”, though the second is more of a calque. The word helin, meaning “ghost” or “spirit”, may also be related to the Germanic root underlying English “holy”. And it’s clear that priests have always been considered “holy men”, as the Isian word for them is a direct compound: chisam.

Word List

  • angel: engel (borrowed, possibly from Germanic)
  • devil: nukh
  • fairy: su
  • faith: sahe
  • ghost: helin
  • god: alam (Christian God usually trans. as Domo)
  • heaven: timiro
  • hell: hasilo
  • holy: chi
  • magic: ampen
  • priest: chisam (lit. “holy-man”)
  • religion: caltir
  • ritual: ronden
  • sacred: sacrel (borrowed from Latin/Romance)
  • soul: mit
  • to bless: leya
  • to curse: murgo
  • to pray: barda

Let’s make a language, part 27a: Religion (Intro)

As with the last part, we’re going to delve into a topic that may be a bit controversial. This time around, it’s the other half of church and state: religion.

For some languages, the whole subject is unnecessary. Quite a few, even among fictional conlangs, won’t need too many words for religious concepts. Auxiliary languages can likely get by with borrowing the needed terminology. And a far-future sci-fi setting might consider religion to belong to an earlier era.

On the other hand, even if the hypothetical speakers of your conlang don’t need to talk about their religion, that doesn’t mean they won’t want to talk about any religion. So it helps to have a bit of vocabulary specifically tied to the subject.

Gotta have faith

Religion and spirituality, in some form, have been around since the earliest days of humanity. Even if it’s nothing more than simple ceremonial burial, you can find evidence of the practice from the Stone Age, and some of our oldest human creations are religious in nature. It stands to reason, then, that a few basic ideas are going to be universal. The specifics might be wholly different even between two neighboring cultures, but they’ll both likely have some common ground in the fundamentals.

According to those who study the field (I don’t), religion of any kind probably started when someone first asked, “Why?” Why is the world like it is? Why do the seasons change? Why do people die? Maybe they begin as simple answers to those questions and more, or a shared set of stories, myths, and legends that only increase in popularity as they are told and retold over the generations.

This bare summary already gives us fertile ground for linguistic roots. The concepts most common to all religions are very likely going to be represented by native terms: faith, prayer, blessing and cursing, gods (or a monotheistic God, such as the case may be), an afterlife. Depending on the culture, you can also add in those placed in charge of religious matters, whether priests, shamans, or something else entirely. The ceremonies, rituals, and rites will also be in this field; they’ll likely be too specific to translate directly, but the words describing them won’t be.

As the folklore surrounding a religion grows, it necessarily gains a bit of verbal cruft. Even in Western Christianity, you’ve got quite a lot of vocabulary, from saints to bishops to crusades. (Note that many terms associated with Christianity, like “crusade”, tend to be related to “cross” or its analogues in Latin, Greek, and the Romance languages. That’s certainly not a requirement, but more of a historical quirk.)

Not only does a growing religion gain more words, but it also spreads across the lexical space, as it envelops closely related fields. Western faiths might all be monotheistic, but they each have a collection of supernatural beings, including (to use Christian-specific terms) angels, devils, demons, and ghosts.

This is where the twin forms of borrowing come into play. First, a highly organized religion will be able to spread its message far and wide, sending its specific terms to new places on the lips of its priests. So many English religious words come from Latin and Greek for this very reason. Similarly, Arabic loans related to Islam pop up everywhere from the western coast of Africa to the farthest reaches of Indonesia.

The second bit of borrowing comes when a new religion overtakes an old one. Here, it’s not so much that new words are borrowed, but the old ones may be reinterpreted, then spread in their new connotations. An example might be English ghost, which seems to have spent the last thousand years or so cycling between referring to a malevolent supernatural entity, the haunting spirit of the deceased, or even a kind of supernatural essence (as in the word spirit, itself a Latin loan). Fairies got their own bit of folk reinterpretation, while possibly-wise daemons became always-evil demons.

No matter what your conlang’s speakers believe, they’ll have a number of words specifically for their religion. The native terms will be made for that. If, along the way, the people were converted to some other faith, then they’ll likely take it in one of those two ways. Either they’ll import the words they need (spirit, bible, angel) from the “official” language of their church, or they’ll take some of their own and remake them to fit the new worldview: ghost, holy. Coinages tend to come about for new ways of thinking about the religion, and even then they aren’t made from whole cloth.

Let’s make a language, part 26c: Government (Ardari)

As is ever the case, Ardari is more likely to construct terms of its own. This is certainly true in the realm of government, where a number of words are derived from the root verb tysan- “to rule”. Indeed, in the short list below we already see tysanönda “authority, right to rule”; tysanègh “government, center of rule”; and tysanyn “rule, regulation, law”. Note also that these are native terms, not borrowings, though Ardari does have a few of those, including zhudis “court” (probably from “judicial” or something similar) and polisa “police force”.

These two are examples of modernization at work. The area where Ardari is spoken hasn’t entirely transformed into a modern Western democracy. There are plenty of elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and bureaucracy still around. At present, it might be best described as a parliamentary monarchy, closer to the UK than the US. It’s certainly not decentralized, however: the word for a province, dalrit, being a transparent derivation from dal “nation” is proof enough of that.

Most other terms are native, and they often have other connotations besides those shown here. For instance, makhèla, here glossed as “army”, can also connote any gathering of forces. (Phrases can be used to disambiguate: dalin makhèla “national army”; idyaze makhèla “attack force”; illin makhèla “rebellion”.) The same goes for byara “navy”, with creations such as dable byara, literally “land navy” but actually referring to an amphibious assault.

Word List

  • army: makhèla
  • authority: tysanönda
  • border: aroned
  • capital: präzdoza (lit. “great city”)
  • court: zhudis (borrowing, cf. “judicial”)
  • crime: karha
  • free: arin
  • government: tysanègh (lit. “place of rule”)
  • judge: tölera
  • law: gla
  • official: (tysanèghin) fèlokön (shortened nafèlokön “worker”)
  • nation: dal
  • navy: byara
  • peace: sèsym
  • police: polisa
  • province/state: dalrit
  • right (a right): èkhros
  • rule: tysanyn
  • tax: èzas
  • to control: träm-
  • to elect: soslin-
  • to permit: ejoten-
  • to prohibit: èkoten-
  • to punish: laqas-
  • to rule: tysan-
  • to vote: jamull-
  • war: jova

Let’s make a language, part 26b: Government (Isian)

Isian, when it comes to its government, fits into the usual “small” Western mold. It follows the typical European-style parliamentary system, with a number of parties vying for power. But it still has vestiges of a monarchy, too, a time when the land was ruled by a lakh or king. Today, even that is long gone, but remnants survive in words such as lactor “province”, literally a “king’s land”. The fact that nashil had to be borrowed should say something about Isian speakers’ centralization…or lack thereof.

The rule of law is also respected in its modern form. There are courts, judges, trials, etc., and they are (mostly) fair and just. On the national level, there is a standardized police force (borrowed term polisi), while localities generally have a holtedos—roughly speaking, a city guard or neighborhood watch. Officers of these are generally called holtem, which can also be more literally translated as “guardian”, while national policemen are instead polisimi.

In these tumultuous times, it’s also important to note that Isian speakers are protected by a defensive army (ancha) and navy (busa), though the latter is quite small and admittedly anemic. Historically, it has always been thus; Isian is a language of land forces, not sailors. But peace (histil) has reigned for a long time, and the last war involving speakers of the language is simply known as Cabrigo: The Great War.

Word List

  • army: ancha(s)
  • authority: awtorit (modified borrowing)
  • border: obres
  • capital: lireblon
  • court: caje
  • crime: cofan
  • free: mir
  • government: orisanas (from orisi “to rule”)
  • judge: teldem (from telde “to judge”)
  • law: rokh
  • official: rokhesam (from rokh + sam, lit. “law-man”)
  • nation: nashil (modified borrowing)
  • navy: busa(s)
  • peace: histil
  • police: holtedos (also holtem or borrowed polisi)
  • province/state: lactor (from lakh + tor)
  • right (a right): mas
  • rule (regulation): liyo
  • tax: ferma(s)
  • to control: camida
  • to elect: jiro
  • to permit: likha
  • to prohibit: nasco
  • to punish: agri
  • to vote: banki
  • war: cabri

Let’s make a language, part 26a: Government (Intro)

Ah, government. One of those things you can’t really live with, and you can’t really live without. But let’s not get political today. There’s enough of that going on without us adding our two cents. Instead, let’s talk about the ways government can be filtered through the lens of language.

Rules of rule

First off, remember that there’s no real “hierarchy” of government systems. None of them are truly natural, and all have their problems. (Democracy, so the quote goes, is the worst form of government…except for all the others.) Rome had a republic 2000 years before the US, the UK and Japan both have hereditary monarchs who wield little actual power, and although the West may have backed away from theocracy centuries ago, it’s still alive and well in the Middle East.

Thus, there’s not really a point where we can say that this form of government can’t be native to a language’s culture. Maybe you won’t find technocratic socialism in a Middle Ages society, and it’s doubtful that a far-future Earth will have brutal autocrats in charge. But the concepts don’t really change much. No matter how a land is governed, some things are near universal.

Most English terms regarding this subject are derived from Classical sources, usually Latin and Greek: republic, democracy, judicial. That’s okay; political science really started to get going around the same time that the classical revival was on, so it’s no surprise that the thinkers of that era chose the old tongues. And in many cases, the concepts themselves come from those same sources.

But there’s no reason it can’t be different elsewhere. Maybe a language’s culture developed a form of representative government on its own. Growing out of some kind of tribal council, for example. Then, republic would very likely be translated by a native root. So would elect and a lot more. As an alternative, they may use a “calque”, or loan translation, translating the meaning of the borrowed word instead of taking its form directly.

Law and order

Government, however, encompasses more than just the rule of a nation-state. It can also include a lot of basic societal structure. How are cities managed? Who protects those who cannot protect themselves? What about handling war, crime, or just simple grievances?

In many cases, a language will have native roots for the most fundamental concepts. Every civilization has something like cities; that’s practically the definition of civilization. War is, alas, within our very nature. Codes of law date back millennia, whether Hammurabi or the Hebrews. At its heart, you might even call all government merely different varieties of conflict resolution, and one of those philosophical conlangs could definitely find something there.

However you do it, the “oldest” things are likely to be native, but it’s not always certain. That’s especially true if you trace a culture’s history. There might be periods of occupation or enslavement, where they were wholly subservient to another people; in this case, many words would be borrowed from the “overlord” tongue, and not always with positive connotations. On the other hand, an imperialist culture would probably have more native terms for its institutions, rarely borrowing at all from its victims. (After all, they’ve already got all the words they need to rule.)

High and low

Now, all this pertains to government as it’s seen by its citizens. Not everybody is a political scientist, so most will tend to use the words they know. On the other hand, those who work with or study government will develop a much broader vocabulary. Legal codes tend to use verbose language, as they need to be definitive. Political treatises very often need to draw very fine lines, so they’ll need complex words or phrases to subdivide the concept space. And there’s nothing stopping the government itself from creating new words to describe its actions. (We’ve got a few of those in English, such as gerrymandering.)

In all, this causes a kind of diglossia. There’s the “high” language of the learned, describing nuances that most people neither want nor need to know, using words and phrases like autonomous, technocratic, subcommittee, or continuing resolution. Then you have the “low” vernacular, which talks plainly of votes and armies and judges and the like. It’s like this in many fields, particularly the scientific, but it somehow seems “thicker” when government gets involved.

Not every language will be subject to this process. It’s more likely to occur with agglutinating languages, because they’re practically made for it. Isolating types, on the other hand, will have more complex phrases instead of words, and those phrases might retain a bit of their transparency. That’s not to say the nuances won’t be there, but they’re expressed in different ways.

Moving on

No new part next month, as I’m working on a few other writing projects that need to take precedence. But I’ll be back in September with Part 27, covering the other half of the phrase “church and state”. Yes, we’ll be looking at religion, and I won’t deny that I’m glad I’m taking a month off before I deal with that.

Let’s make a language – 2017 translation special

It’s been awhile since the last time we saw our two “Let’s make a language” conlangs in action. Since I’m a bit preoccupied right now, to the point where I’m not really “feeling” the series as much, I thought I’d change that. So, here we’ll see another short bit of text translated into our two favorite fictional languages.

A year and a half ago, I used the Babel Text. This time around, it’s another linguistic classic, Aesop’s fable of the North Wind and the Sun. I chose it because it’s very popular for comparative language research, and—oh, never mind. I picked it because it’s short.

The North Wind and the Sun

The version of the fable I’m using is lifted directly from Wikipedia. I’m not entirely sure which translation it is, so yours may be slightly different. Nonetheless, it’s not that difficult a text, except for some fairly complex grammar bits.

The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.

They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.

Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;

and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.

And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.

Isian

First up is Isian, and here’s what our little story looks like in it:

E Ul Naf wa e Sida nactas ed e folosin mid, ha ta usangam cosas cu disine ta him capat ijedo.

Is awcos ed ke costan hi ades los e usangam cu asine ey capat cal par pasa folosin dir a.

Ad e Ul Naf dosemay hi furus, nu i cu furus, e usangam otasis ey capat im oto;

ar tarkinas ni, e Ul Naf madeshis cu gati. Ad e Sida him hi shalis, ar necamay e usangam asines ey capat.

Teti e Ul Naf tole kinadid e Sida tes e folosin a o es naw.

Grammar

Mostly, the hardest part about translating this story is the sometimes complex sentence structure. Fortunately, Isian is fairly close to English in word order and the like (except for the postpositions thing), so it’s a lot more straightforward than it might seem at first glance.

That said, there are a few pitfalls. Lo, for instance, is a new verb meaning “to cause”. As you might expect from that gloss, it’s a causative verb. Its object is a subordinate clause, which makes things a bit hairy in line 2.

Most of the rest is just finding out which word to use. The indefinite pronoun ed is used to mean “which one” on line 1, and ijedo has a secondary meaning of “when” or “at the time of”.

Vocabulary

Not too much new vocabulary in this one, as you can see. Then again, there’s not a lot of text to translate, and it’s a bit repetitive.

  • to dispute/argue: nacta
  • about/concerning: mid
  • strong: folos
  • to travel: usanga
  • cloak or coat: capat
  • to cause, make happen: lo
  • to take off, remove: asine
  • other: dir
  • but: nu
  • to release, let go: madeshi
  • to try, attempt: gati
  • to shine: shali
  • immediately, at this moment: necamay
  • to admit, confess: kinadi

Ardari

Now we’ll move on to Ardari, and you can’t believe how much this one made my head spin.

Kyama Fawatövi Chitö qa èlldad am dortö mantö krazènedyt, tym jechinkön fynine pärine ilya ky vi tonad.

Ys bèt torydyid: Mantö qa jechinköntö ani pärine sudram ky twèralyët am dor zèt lembejëdall.

Drä, Kyama Fawatövi am dor èll ky furadökhan, adam furad jechinköntö ani pärine anön òs sòvadjyn,

Kyama Fawatövi èftanyntö zhajopad. Drä, Chitö fynin blajadjyn, jechinköntö ani pärine nyasab sudramad.

Ghinyas Kyama Fawatövi qa Chitö am dortö weghetö èllda is ky kómaryd.

Grammar

As with Isian, most of the grammar should be obvious. Here’s what’s not:

  • -khan is a conjunction clitic. When added to a verb, it’s like saying, “, but…”

  • len- is a derivational affix for verbs, roughly connoting “in a specific way”. Here, it’s used to create lembejë- “to think of” from bejë- “to see”. (Usually, this will make a ditransitive verb, but Ardari is fairly free about dropping verbal arguments.)

  • The verb kóma- “to cause” works essentially the same way as Isian lo, taking a subordinate clause as an object. Again, this is much different from the English method of “that” followed by a clause.

Vocabulary

Note that, in this list of new vocabulary, I haven’t included regularly derived terms like jechinkön “traveler”.

  • to dispute, argue over: krazèn-
  • strong: dor
  • when: tym
  • to travel: jechin-
  • coat, jacket: pärin
  • to consider, see as, think of: lembejë-
  • should (adverb): zèt
  • to take off: sudram-
  • but (conj.): -khan
  • more: adam
  • near, close: myll
  • to give up, surrender: zhajop-
  • to attempt, try: èfta-
  • to shine: blaja-
  • immediately: nyasab
  • to make, cause: kóma-

Conclusion

And there we go. It was a bit later this year, and it wasn’t nearly as much as last time, but we’ve successfully added another extended text to our repertoire for Isian and Ardari. Hopefully, you can do the same for your conlangs, whatever they are.

Next month, we’ll pick back up with the usual topic-based posts. Specifically, we’ll be looking at government, because nobody’s doing that these days, right?

Will there be more translation exercises? Probably. Not this year, most likely, but stay tuned. Who knows? 2018 might have something even better in store.

Let’s make a language, part 25c: Business (Ardari)

Ardari has a large vocabulary for dealing with business, and its agglutinative nature expands that even further. But we’ll stick to the basics here.

Business itself is prejn; in Ardari, the same word can also stand for “economy” or “a transaction”. This is different from the actual root for “to trade”, chachen-, which refers to any sort of exchange.

Grammatically, a number of “business” verbs can be ditransitive, taking two objects. These include mänyt- “to borrow”, dyem- “to buy”, khipy- “to lend”, and vird- “to sell”. In all of these cases, the indirect object is in the dative, and it marks the other party in the transaction besides the speaker.

Back in the list of words, we see a few interesting and idiosyncratic derivations. “Generous” is derived from the noun tyamin, meaning “charity”, which thus also stands for “generosity”. And dròv is the root for dròvymat “greed”, rather than the other way around. Also, the general term for money, dènyèr, is a loan, possibly deriving from the French denier, but almost assuredly related in some way to Latin denārius.

Finally, the Ardari verb fors- “to own” carries much of the same connotations as its Isian counterpart. It’s more than a simple possessive, rather indicating the possession of something worth having in the first place. The derived adjective forsynt, however, has a bit of an idiomatic meaning: it’s considered poor form to use it to describe human beings, as it connotes a master/slave relationship, something Ardari speakers do not approve of. The further derivation ärforsynt, though, is used as a religious term referring to demonic possession, and it only refers to people. Language is strange sometimes.

Word list

  • business: prejn
  • cheap: zelk
  • cost: kamnad
  • expensive: long
  • generous: tyaminösat (from tyamin “charity”)
  • greed: dròvymat (from dròv “greedy, grasping”)
  • job: kroll
  • money: dènyèr (borrowed)
  • poor: nydor
  • rich: agris
  • to accept: lèp-
  • to borrow: mänyt-
  • to buy: dyem-
  • to gain: gir-
  • to get: baj-
  • to keep: chòll-
  • to lend: khipy-
  • to lose: malyos-
  • to offer: makej-
  • to own: fors-
  • to receive: bèrill-
  • to reject: lèghan-
  • to sell: vird-
  • to steal: tyek-
  • to store: jols-
  • to trade: chachen-
  • value: säfyn

Let’s make a language, part 25b: Business (Isian)

Isian, as we have seen before, is spoken by a culture that tends more towards the old-fashioned. It’s not the highly corporate environment of the West, nor the planned, centralized systems common in the East. It’s its own thing, really, a kind of land out of time.

Lucky for us, that makes things easier. We can look at the basic terms below (I’ll assume you can follow along), but I’ll pick out a few that have more nuanced meanings.

First up, masca, “to trade”, is a kind of catch-all. It’s intended more for the economic type of trading, a generic term for buying, selling, bartering, etc. That’s why “business” is translated as the derived noun mascanas. The Isian word might be better considered as “to do business with”.

“Cheap” and “expensive”, dib and gowan respectively, follow the style of other large/small pairs by having distinctive vowels: the high, front vowel i is characteristic of “small” things in many languages. “Poor” and “rich”, on the other hand, might seem backwards, but this could mean that the quality being measured here is poverty rather than wealth. Or it’s just happenstance. That’s a more likely explanation.

Next up, cosen is “money” when used as a mass noun. As a count noun, however, it means something closer to “price” or “amount”. (The difference is that count nouns take articles and quantifiers, while mass nouns don’t.)

And then we come to ama. It’s a bit of an oddity in Isian. It’s strictly translated as “to own”, and it does have an element of possession as its primary connotation. But it’s different from the simpler fana “to have”, because it carries a secondary meaning: the object being owned has monetary value to its owner.

Word list

  • business: mascanas
  • cheap: dib
  • cost: chake
  • expensive: gowan
  • generous: nemis (“generosity”: nemiros)
  • greed: sumat
  • job: bor
  • money: cosen
  • poor: umar
  • rich: irdes
  • to accept: achine
  • to borrow: mante
  • to buy: tochi
  • to gain: elge
  • to get: gana
  • to keep: ifa
  • to lend: hente
  • to lose (possession of): pulo
  • to offer: acate
  • to own: ama
  • to receive: rano
  • to reject: nuyana
  • to sell: dule
  • to steal: toya
  • to store: odaga
  • to trade: masca
  • value: luros