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I wonder if other people have thoughts and experience on this topic from the conlanging perspective. Have people with lots of translation experience found the distinction between (for example) 'aha' and 'oh' worth translating into a conlang? What interjections are worth "translating" into parallel words?

I could get foreign language dictionaries and check for how many are listed there.

Thanks for considering.

4 Answers 4

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This is as much a question of invented culture as it is invented language. Strictly speaking, one can devise as few or as many such interjections as one likes. Likewise, the breadth and depth of meanings, overlaps and distinctions are similarly up to the inventor.

I'd argue that if the speakers of the invented language sense the need to distinguish "aha" from "oh", then the discoverer of their language ought to take note! Likewise, if they divide the semantic space of "aha" into three distinct areas, or if they don't distinguish "aha" from "oh", then that should also be noted.

As for the question of which are worth making words for: that's more a matter of pragmatism. Most language inventors engage with the art out of inner joy and as an expression of fundamental creativity and generativity. Making words is almost never a problem for most language inventors! If she should discover that the speakers of the invented language have a little used interjection, a word will surely present itself!

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  • Thank you for your input!
    – Vir
    Apr 24, 2021 at 13:32
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For other people considering this question in future, these 20-odd are what I have happened to think of since I first starting thinking of these 13 months. Specifically, this is copying from the definitions column in case someone else wants to check their "interjection toolkit" against mine. I brainstormed like half a dozen originally (surprise, pain, hello, yes, etc.) and the rest have come up over time: from translating things, budding naturally off related words, etc.

  • hey, hello, look, see here: an interjection calling for attention

  • shh, a call for quiet, often repeated like a bird call

  • good health, wellness; as an interjection, used as a wish and valediction by itself like 'goodbye' or more formally with 'aŋcyo' as 'aŋcyo aŋcyala,' like 'farewell'

  • leisure, free time; as an interjection, used as a wish and valediction by itself like 'bye' or more formally with 'aŋcyala' as 'aŋcyo aŋcyala,' like 'farewell'

  • good evening or good night, when you are expecting the person to go to sleep

  • good evening or good night, when you aren't expecting the person to go straight to sleep

  • wow, aha!: expressing surprise which is not unpleasant

  • a cry of pain or alarm

  • dang, whoa, oh man, shoot: expressing surprise or alarm which can be pleasant or unpleasant

  • dirt smell; as an interjection, an expression of assent equivalent to "no problem," "alright"

  • okay, fine, alright

  • yes

  • intensified yes

  • no

  • intensified no

  • dark cloud, temper; as an interjection, an expression recognizing a bad situation, as crap, damn, alas, yikes

  • warning; as an interjection, warning

  • "lizard's loincloth": a mild curse alluding to something ill-fated, ruined, or worthless

I have some other idiomatic/cursing phrases that "feel like" interjections, but the line between what's an interjection and what's just an expressive thing reflexively to exclaim seems blurry. So, I omit here further short, idiomatic responses and regular words that could obviously be curses. I include here hello/goodbye, which don't feel reflective but which do feel worth the reader's considering for their own lexicons.

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Essentially, you can add as many interjections that you could keep in your memory. Be it a hundred or more interjections with similar meaning (e.g. aha + yes) or a couple of interjections with definitive meanings (yes!, No!, What?, etc.)

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    I appreciate the input. Thanks to your bringing this back to my attention, I'll add to the topic what I've come up with so far.
    – Vir
    May 10 at 23:34
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I personally oftentimes stick to the basic template of:

  1. An interjection meaning yes, true, and correct.
  2. An interjection meaning no, false, and wrong.
  3. An interjection meaning f*ck, ouch, damn it.

This is, of course, merely my opinion. Your conlang may have as many or as few as you see fit.

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  • Thank you for providing a tested baseline
    – Vir
    Jun 6 at 17:15

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