Let’s make a language – 2016 Special

We’re taking a bit of a week off this time. Don’t worry, there’s more to come later on, but today is the first day of the new year, a time to take a break, a time to reflect on the 366 days to come. (2016 is a leap year, remember.) We’ve gone through ten parts of this series already, and we’ve come a long way. But there’s still a longer way to go, although the pace for this year won’t be quite as hectic.

So, to celebrate this new year of conlanging, here’s what we’re going to do. Today, you’ll get to see the first significant text in each of our two languages, Isian and Ardari. That text is the Babel Text, the first nine verses of Genesis 11. Sure, it’s a religious writing, but that’s okay, because we’re not interested in it for its theology, but for its linguistics.


The Babel Text is one of those “classic” tests of a conlang. It really has it all, grammatically speaking: tenses, moods, aspects, and all those different kinds of clauses. (Some of them we haven’t seen yet, but we can deal.) Plus, the story itself is about language, the Biblical account of the making of the world’s languages. Essentially, it’s a fable, one originally meant to be told orally. We’ll write it here, though, since that’s easier.

If you want to play along at home, you can use whichever version of the text you like. I’ve gone with this one, derived from the NRSV:

  1. Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.

  2. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

  3. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.

  4. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

  5. The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.

  6. And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

  7. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

  8. So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

  9. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

So that’s what we’re working with. (Yours, of course, may be different.) Now let’s see how it looks in our made-up languages.


First off, here’s the full text translated into Isian:

  1. Nec hi, e sota sata fanas yan sangoy wa es ilir beti.

  2. Ad ha is mishas si way keres, is cosas ta abe e Shinar tor i, ar is dalegas.

  3. Ad is kis lan es, “Cosa, ad tinte gados, ar becre sota hi sim.” Ar is fanas gadocat sencat afich, wa arcay empan afich.

  4. Toc hi, is kis, “Cosa, ad oste lan ir ta eblon, wa ta farin ke ey poy e timirot i, ar tinte ni lan ir. Loydaro mit hade par nos basagima e fayan e sata o sos.”

  5. E Domo esto cosas ha i chere e eblon wa e farin ke ostec im nakhit at terta.

  6. Ad e Domo kis, “Chere, is e yan cudisa, ar sota sim o fana yan sangoy, ar ne yahi e cu nawe ed ke te im is o. Anocal ke is wachi cu te nec nos e arisosan im ir.

  7. Cosa, esto wasa, ar golbata si sangoy til ni, ha is an nos noyta le gonas terta.”

  8. Teti, e Domo hade basagis sim til fo e fayan e sata o sos, ar is tarcas cu oste e eblon.

  9. Teyno, i par pasa Babel, ha e Domo golbatas til e sangoy e sota sata o todo; ar e Domo basagis til fo e fayan e sata o sos.


Most of the grammar is what we’ve already seen. Some of it, though, is new, particularly the adverbs. We’ll get into the details in later parts but here’s a preview that tells you all you need to know to get through the text:

  • Isian adjectives (and some nouns) can be changed into adverbs by putting hi after them. This works much like the English suffix -ly: ichi “beautiful” becomes ichi hi “beautifully”.

  • Adverbs usually go before their verbs, but they can also be moved to the front of a sentence.

  • A whole prepositional phrase can be used like an adverb by putting ha before it.

  • Conjunctions are close to their English counterparts. They’re simple little words that link sentences; in the Babel Text, for example, we have ad and ar, both roughly meaning “and”, but with slightly different connotations. Again, we’ll give them a closer look later on.

We get our first tastes of word derivation here, too:

  • The suffix -cat, when attached to a noun, changes the meaning to that of a material: gado “a brick”; gadocat “brick”.

  • One way to make an adjective into its antonym is by the prefix/suffix pair a-an. We see this in arisosan “impossible”, which is actually derived from risos “possible”.

  • Finally, the suffix -nas can convert a verb into a kind of “abstract” noun: go “to speak”; gonas “speech”.

We’ll see a lot more of derivation in later parts of the series.

Isian English
abe a plain
ad and then…
ar and (conjunction)
arcay tar (or bitumen)
arisosan impossible
basagi to scatter
bet word
cudisa people, group
domo lord
empan mortar
esto down, downward
farin tower
gado(s) a brick
gadocat brick (material)
golbata to confound
gonas speech
hade away
ilir same
keres while
loydaro otherwise
misha to move
nakhit mortal
nec now
noyta to understand
pasa to call by a name
sangoy language
sencat stone (material)
si east
tarca to stop doing
teti so, because of this
terta so as to…
teyno therefore
til there
timiro heaven
toc then
tor a land
wa and (noun phrase)
wachi to desire, wish
yahi only
yan one


Now, let’s switch to Ardari. Again, here’s the full text:

  1. Lokhi omaritö jane kolrachevi sun lagrelltös nyas perodjyn.

  2. Ysar sälltö tov tapsined ky vi, Chinare me dablan wi mokiti lim tonedjyn, ysar jeren wizèledjyn.

  3. Lataj ry isedjyn, “Tonje, tyolton grätje, ajon warhan sechaje.” Gwanan bòte tyoltanvi, pyuryse bòte pamöre peredjyn.

  4. Drä isedjyn, “Tonje, präzdanvi, qa me khaj èlyasòndös wi kombran lataj da mollje. All grätje, sinran omarini sòletö ori oprös utuweryll.”

  5. Tsoratö qa sèlokynar molledadyt präzdantövi kombrantö ivit ky tèghdaradjyn.

  6. Tsoratö isad, “Ivitje. Ysar jane banöladan èllejyn, ysar me laz jane kolrache perejyn, zalman qa aghell me sòto ky èlla. Duqom qa agh ky märyke ysar da urburdosdill.

  7. Tonje, tèghdarje, ysoj kolrache jeren kamrulje, lataj me simënda rejvetell kyus.”

  8. Èlladjyn Tsoratö ysar jeren tov omarini sòletö ori utuweradid kyus, ysar präzdantö moll ky uq.

  9. Yse Babèle filtyda, Tsoratö omarini kolrache jeren kamruladjyn, jeren tov Tsoratö ysar omarini sòletö ori utuwerad byu.


Ardari looks much different, doesn’t it? Much more complicated, too. As with Isian, we haven’t really gone over all the grammar bits you need, so here’s a primer:

  • Ardari lets you use most adjectives directly as adverbs, with no changes needed.

  • Nouns, noun phrases, and some adjectives instead require you to follow them with èll ky. (This is the infinitive form of èll- “to be”.) An example would be kone èll ky “like a man, manly”.

  • “Subordinate” clauses are complicated enough that the full story will have to wait. Some of them let you use a bare verb stem followed by ky, like above, and you use them as a postpositional phrase before a sentence’s head verb. Others appear mostly as normal, but they follow the verb. (This is the only way Ardari lets you put something after the main verb of a sentence.)

Ardari’s words also tend to have more subtle shades of meaning, and these don’t always line up with their English translations:

  • nyas means “now”, but only as an adverb
  • drä, meaning “then”, connotes a time long in the past
  • jeren “there” is used for things very far away; closer things instead use pren
  • oprös normally works as an adjective meaning “other”; as an adverb, its meaning becomes “otherwise”
  • kyus denotes an effect or implication
  • èllad literally means “it was”, but it’s also used to introduce a subordinate clause
  • filt- “to know as” is a ditransitive verb, like “to give”

We’ll see conjunctions later on, but we have two here. They’re suffixes, not bare words, so you might not have even noticed. They both mean “and”, but -vi is used for noun phrases, while -jyn is for verbs. To use them, you suffix them to each head word (noun for -vi, verb for -jyn) except the last one.

And then we have a few regular derivations we can point out:

  • -ölad (alternate form -ëlad) creates “mass” nouns for substances, collections, and things like that.

  • ur- negates adjectives; urburdos “impossible” is the antonym of burdos “possible”.

  • -önda (alternate form -ënda) creates abstract nouns from verbs: sim- “to speak”; simënda “speech”.

Ardari English
banölad a people
bòte instead of
dabla land
drä then
èlyas heaven
filt- to know as, call by
ghinyas therefore
gwana stone
jan one
jeren there (far)
kamrul- to confuse, garble
kolrach language
kombra tower
kyus so that, because of
lagri word
lòkh whole
märyk- to propose, plan
moki a plain
nyas now
oprös other, otherwise
pamör mortar
pyurys pitch, tar
rejvet- to understand
säll east
sèlokyn mortal
simënda the act of speech
sun same
tapsin- to migrate
tèghdar- to descend
tsor(a/i) a god
tyolta brick
uq- to stop doing
urburdos impossible
utuwe- to scatter
warhan thorough
wizèl- to settle
zhi thus, in this way


So there you have it: the first full text in both Isian and Ardari. I hope you’re playing along at home, and you’re close to making your own translation of the Babel Text (or whatever you prefer).

Starting in the next part, we’ll be filling in the blanks that I had to leave in here. That should keep us occupied for a while. And then we’ll need some more words.

By this time next year, Isian and Ardari should be radically different. It’s my hope that 2017 will open with something far more…intense. By then, our conlangs will be well on their way to general usability. They won’t be complete, mind you, because when can you say a language is complete?

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