Conlang: An Introduction

My final Inquiry this year is to create a conlang: a constructed language.

In the early planning phases, I decided that I must also create a conworld around it, as languages reflect the values of the culture in which they evolve.

The Nopti (/nɒp’ti/) People live on Nopfa Island, trading with the peoples of the neighboring islands. They value what is called tsi-tsok (commonly, but mistakenly, translated into English as “solid”), which means tree-like, or stable and supportive, yet flexible and living. As such, the tree (and specifically the Nopfa Cedar) has become a central image to the Nopti people.

The Nopti language (locally called manghosh-nopti) is a very agglutinative one, where many words can be “glued” together to create long, yet complex “composite words.”

If we break down the Nopti word for its language into its constituent parts, we can see this in action. Like in French, names come after the thing named, so for English translation we would rearrange it to be Nopti manghosh. One might expect manghosh to translate directly to “language,” and for us to be done here, however the suffix hosh merely makes it plural and implies that one is talking in the collective.

Therefore, manghosh-nopti translates literally to the Nopti words collectively.

It is this kind of thing that reduces the number of morphemes (commonly defined in linguistics as the smallest unit of language that has meaning) needed.

Additionally, another neat feature of the language is that each type of word (or part of speech as I learned it in Grade 4) has a prefix to attach to each word. These “declarations” are:

  • tsi for adjectives
  • tsu for verbs

And then we have the six classes of nouns. These are sort of like a system of grammatical gender, except much less arbitrary :).

  • tsa for natural, inanimate nouns
  • tsan for natural, animate nouns
  • tsia for unnatural, inanimate nouns (pronounced tsya)
  • tsian for unnatural, animate nouns
  • tsua for abstract nouns (pronounced tswa)
  • tsuan for ambiguous ones (which don’t quite fall into any other category), and for plurals that cross class lines

This way, a word can have many meanings. The word tsuo (/tswɒ/) in its natural, animate sense (so transliterated tsan-tsuo, pronounced /tsan’tswɒ/) means person, but can also mean:

  • human corpse (natural, inanimate noun – tsa)
  • humanoid robot (unnatural, animate noun – tsian)
  • statue of a human (unnatural, inanimate noun – tsia)
  • wisdom (abstract noun – tsua)
  • wise (adjective – tsi)
  • to give birth (verb – tsu)

More details on the grammar structure of the language and vocabulary will be forthcoming.

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