Lexember 2015

I follow David J. Paterson, the conlanger who invented Dothraki for HBO’s Game of Thrones, on tumblr (here’s his link). Today, he made a post about Lexember, described on the FrathWiki as “a social media event in the conlanging community where the participating conlangers put in an effort to create at least one new word per day for the duration of a whole month.”

I first got into linguistics through a love of etymology, which I put to work by creating a language called Xhorian, and I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for conlangs. I absolutely loved Arika Okrent‘s In the Land of Invented Languages (2009), and in 2011, I got an official certificate in Esperanto from Esperanto U.S.A. Plus, I have a lot of free time this month – so I’m doing Lexember this year. I’ll be cross-posting my daily words on here as well as on my personal tumblr.

The first step in constructing a language is identifying the population who would use it. Some conlangs take an alternate-history approach, like Anglish, which imagines English without the linguistic consequences of the Norman conquest. This semester, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Plinian races, especially the Blemmies, headless people with faces in their chests, and I’ve decided to develop a language for them.

Blemmy-Nuremberg_chronicle

My first entry is Abul [a.’bul], the Blemmy word for “blemmy” (i.e. the people as well as the language). It is a singular noun – pluralized, it would be Abil [a.’bil]. As the adjective for “normal” is abula [a.’bu.la], abul can also be translated as “one who is normal” or “thing that is normal.”

I wanted the word to be similar enough to “blemmy” that a European explorer could conceivably have misheard and domesticated it to “blemmy.” I also wanted to create a language where pluralization is marked by vowel change and adjectives are derived from nouns by adding a suffix (and nouns are derived from adjectives by removing the vowel suffix). To contrast this language with the Indo-European family, it features no case or grammatical gender, no contrastive vowel length, and no consonant clusters.

Joseph Pentangelo

About Joseph Pentangelo

I’m a fourth-year doctoral student in linguistics. Research interests include morphology, etymology, onomastics, historical linguistics, Germanic, early modern English and Anglo-American witchcraft, and folklore.

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