Right now I am working on this, a list of words to translate into the conlang. At first I started by manually deriving the words from Hebrew/Arabic/Sanskrit/Greek/Latin/English/Spanish, but then found it to be too tedious and time-consuming, so I started just randomly assigning many of the words to a set of precomputed words which fit a specific pattern. The patterns are (c = consonant, v = vowel):
- cv (2 letters, like "do")
- cvc (3 letters, like "bol")
- ccvc (4 letters, like "gran")
- cvcc (4 letters, like "bord")
- ccvcc (5 letters, like "start")
- cvcvc (5 letters, like "tekal")
Everything except the 2-letter words is a "base" word form, which starts and ends with a consonant. Then there are these rules:
-a: make it into a noun
-i: make it into a verb
-o: make it into a "feature" (modifier/adjective)
-aha: make noun into plural
-iha: make verb into continuous (like "-ing")
-iho: make verb into past tense (like "-ed")
-ihi: make verb into future tense (like "will x")
-oho: make feature into an adverb (like "-ly")
Then you can start combining words to make more complex words. There are things like
-tion (capturing the result of action, written as
xom by itself), or
-er (the person performing the action, written as
pum by itself). So you have for example:
This seems all fine and well, with little ambiguity so far. But then I start running into trouble with the following I think.
nav: number 9 (happens to start with
na-, but not prefixed with
rod: "path" or "road"
So you can have the word phrase "ninefold path" as
<navo> (feature/adjective) <fodo> (feature/adjective) <roda> (noun), or
All is fine and well so far. We separate the words with their POS tag basically.
But now say we add a word like
vofod (cvcvc), which isn't derived from "fold" (
fod), but means
voice. And say we want to say "without voice path", that would be the same then!
navofodoroda. So now there is ambiguity!
Darn, how do I avoid this? I already have a pretty strict word-formation structure/system, but it seems to break down even then. I don't get how to avoid such ambiguity.
Perhaps I could put constraints on what letters can be used to create words, but that seems like a nightmare, how do I know what to prevent and where? In that case, no word other than
na could start with or contain
na-. But that seems quite restrictive, I don't know. Do other natural languages do such a thing (or conlangs)?
If I do that, how many different ways am I going to have to put constraints on word structure, and given what? What are the key words that will restrict other word formations? I have no idea if this is the right track to go down... Any other suggestions?
It is like
fourier analysis, it has the word
four in it, but it doesn't mean "four" the number. Somehow you are able to tell what it should mean. Or "dominican republic", you have the name "dom" (dominic), but don't think of this as containing it. And the word 'republic' which contains "re" and "public", but it has nothing to do with re + public directly. What are some other examples like this? I can't think of many? Or "nineveh" (assyrian empire), does not mean "nine" + "veh". But we don't have a same word "nine+veh" that means something else, so we never encounter this problem I'm solving. Hoping for some guidance on how to solve this.