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.

Writing Inquiry: Update 2 & Prologue

I have written the prologue for the novel, which gives a glimpse into the plot of the story.


Once, in the years before the Great Quake, which marks the beginning of our calendar, Cascadia was split between two great countries: Canada and the United States. These vast countries, with their governments situated in the east, became out of touch with the west coast of our continent. The representatives supposedly elected by our people became distant, unavailable to us and our problems.

Those powerful governments forced our people to endanger our natural treasures. They compelled us to watch as they brought giant ships into our ports, and loaded them with all manner of dangers to our marine life and coasts.

Our disheartened people watched in shock as one ship, its captain inexperienced in navigating our waters, hit a rock formation and broke, spilling millions of gallons of harmful oil into our waters.

We made protest to those responsible, but they did not care. Our people, dismayed by the destruction, were forced to rebuild our natural infrastructure and marine life with a tiny financial sum, entirely insufficient for the damage caused.

Later, when the Quake came among our Nation, we were affected severely, and our people were left dead, dying, and hungry.

But those powerful eastern governments blocked access to our ports, roads, and airways. They prevented aid from reaching our people, and refused to help in any way.

In doing so, they killed millions of our people.

The Ecosocialist Party, out of their pure generosity and kindness, saved us from poverty and freed us from servitude to the wicked Federal Governments of Canada and America.

Or so it’s written in our history books.

But five dozen years and then some later, Alex might learn otherwise, and it will shake up nir entire understanding of the world.

Writing Inquiry: Update 1

I have thus far forgotten to document my progress, so, here I go.

My inquiry project is to write a story which is based in a genderless society.

I’ve thus far created a government website for Cascadia, the setting for the story, which is the presentation method for my Dystopia project.

The website should explain the basics of the setting and its governmental structure and social practices, although it won’t seem very dystopian at first.

Thus far, I’ve mostly finished the characterization, although I need to create some more government figures, such as the Chancellor, and some other cabinet ministers, as well as some bureaucrats and assistants.

As for the setting, the story will start off in Victoria (in what is currently BC), about 100 years in the future, after the fabled “Big One” happens, and all anyone remembers is that both the Canadian and American governments hindered the re-building after the quake.

So Cascadia stretches from Bella Bella to Sacramento, along the Pacific coast. Most cities, destroyed by the quake, are centrally planned, and there is a new capital city, built from scratch since Liberation, called Port Shadehaven.

More details will be forthcoming.

iSearch Assignment

On the Publicity of Government Surveillance in Oceania

One of the first things mentioned in the novel is the poster in the hallway of Victory Mansion (where Winston lives), which reads BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING. Also named are the telescreens, found in nearly every setting in the story, which are widely known to be surveillance tools.

My question is, why would the government be so explicit about its surveillance of the People?

Surely a society so technically advanced would have concealed cameras and microphones, and could make use of them, so why didn’t they?

The short answer might be fear, as a population would be “scared straight,” as it were, by the surveillance, and even the dissenters and thoughtcriminals would keep themselves in line as a necessity of being so closely watched.

However, the Party could just as easily have kept the surveillance a secret (and probably vaporize those who tried to spread this fact), and it might have even been better for them this way. If only a few knew of the level of surveillance being enacted against them, the population as a whole would be more open and willing to express their dissent, even if only in the “privacy” of their own home.

Then, the Party would have a whole new slough of people to “re-educate” or “heal.” The Party’s goal  to have the entire population know and love Big Brother would be even closer to their grasp, as the same tactics used on Winston would surely work on everyone, or at least the vast majority of the detainees.

Of course, there is also the psychological aspect of the knowledge of your constant surveillance. A person, knowing they are being spied on, will typically distrust the spiers and their productivity will be diminished (see here).

Why it was this way in the story, I can only guess that it was more convenient to the writer. It was easier to portray the world as dystopian and backwards if the people are constantly under surveillance and made to listen to propaganda through the telescreens, a world unimaginable by people in the 50’s, when the book was written.

The constant surveillance may have been publicly carried out, and perhaps in our world, this would lead to negative side effects. However, in the (I was going to say Orwellian here, but realized that would be redundant) world constructed by the Party, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The Party, in contrast, keeps such an iron grip on its people (almost to the extent of an organized religion with many devout followers) that such negative results were not found.

Whichever way the Party carried it out, they achieved the same goal: total domination of the masses’ lives.

1984: Part 3

Winston finds himself in a cell, a square room with white walls, lights that never went out, and a telescreen on each wall. He assumes that it is within the Ministry of Love, as that is the logical place for such a thing, but he has no definite clue. Many other prisoners are gradually brought in and out of his cell, in quick succession, but they all sit rigidly on the narrow wooden bench which lines the room.

Throughout the time in which he is at the Ministry (which might have been weeks or months, perhaps longer; Winston had no way of knowing), he is kicked, beaten, and left alone to recuperate for a few hours, before the guards come back to repeat the process.

After a while of this, O’Brian, whom he thought had been a member of the Brotherhood, who is revealed to be an spy for the thought police and an interrogator for the Ministry of Truth, begins to have sessions with Winston. O’Brian places Winston on a table, where he is bound for several hours at a time. He asks many questions about the nature of the world itself, and persuades Winston that the Party is the embodiment of humanity itself. The Party creates, controls, and can terminate all that was formerly considered part of human nature.

At first, Winston is reluctant to accept this worldview (as it contradicted all of his closest beliefs), but after an uncountable number of sessions, Winston gradually succumbs to this philosophy. He becomes goodthinkful, as the Newspeak word describes it, but remains emotionally unchanged. He still hates Big Brother and the Party, but his brain prevents him from thinking against them.

He is placed in Room 101, which is notorious in the prison for its brutal techniques of torture. Winston had previously asked O’Brian what was in Room 101, but all he had in reply was, “You already know.”

Winston is bound to a chair, and a mask is placed on him. It was a wire cage, and at the end was a sealed chamber (opened by a lever on the outside), containing 3 rats. Rats, as Winston’s primal fear, terrify him, as well as being able to tear through flesh with their teeth. This last fact was calmly explained, by O’Brian as the mask is placed on his face.

The last scene in the novel leaves the reader with the image of Winston, a drunkard with very little work, sitting, released from the prison, in a café, drinking Victory Gin.

He is goodthinkful, and he is loyal to and loving towards Big Brother. He remembers what he thought before being “cured of his insanity” in the Ministry of Love, but has convinced himself that they are fallacies, constructed in his mind in an incomprehensible hate for the Party.

Winston is reminded blissfully of this, as he daydreams of being back in the Ministry of Love, walking in the corridors, when he feels a bullet enter the back of his head, but he is not alarmed. He had been expecting this ever since he was caught, in the room over Mr. Charrington’s shop.

He feels at peace as he loses consciousness, because he knows that he will have died loving and adoring Big Brother, and that the battle with himself was won.

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