Lexember 4

Yesterday, I introduced imit, a Type I verb in Abul, which is used with people, animals, plants, bodies of water, and celestial bodies. Today, I’m introducing a Type II verb, which is used with inanimate nouns: kušu [’ku.ʃu], ‘shatter, break apart’ (intransitive).

The three verbal prefixes are semantically the same as those for Type I verbs, but are morphologically distinct. They are: the singular, ka- [ka], the plural, ša- [ʃa], and the honorific, tulu- [tulu]. (Honorifics are used for especially revered inanimate objects, e.g. antiques, the skeletons of revered ancestors, or the gallstones of lightning-strike victims.)

There are far fewer pronouns used with Type II verbs than with Type I, encompassing:

ak [ak] ‘it’
lin [lin] ‘they’
lik [lik] ‘something’

In Abul, “something breaks apart” is “lik kakušu.” Using vocabulary from two days ago, “the tumor breaks apart” is “uveš kakušu.” Referring back to the first entry, “the things that are normal are breaking apart” is “abil šakušu.”

Tomorrow I’ll give the vocabulary words for some revered inanimate objects, including (but not limited to) those listed above.

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Lexember 3 – imit (v), ‘to run’

In Abul, there are two classes of verbs: Type I applies generally to living things (people, animals, plants, celestial bodies, and bodies of water), and Type II applies to everything else. Most verbs have parallel forms in each type.

My third entry for Lexember is a Type I verb, imit [i.’mit], ‘to run.’

Abul’s verbs are marked using prefixes, and, like French and English, must be used along with pronouns. (In other words, Abul is not a pro-drop language.) There are three verbal prefixes: the singular, ik- [ik], the plural, iš- [iʃ], and the honorific, it- [it].

The pronouns (which are not marked for case) are:

va [va] ‘I’
ma [ma] ‘we (inclusive)’
na [na] ‘we (exclusive)’
val [val] ‘you (singular)’
mal [mal] ‘you (plural)’
nal [nal] ‘they’
ku [ku] ‘he/she’
kul [kul] ‘someone’

So, for example, “I run” would be “va ikimit.” If you’re feeling pretty egotistical, you could say “va itimit.” To use a word from the first entry, “Blemmies run” would be “Abil išimit.” We can’t use this verb with yesterday’s word, uveš, ‘tumor, head’ because it’s inanimate and would produce an ungrammatical sentence – it should instead use the Type II form of ‘to run,’ which is muti.

Tomorrow, I’ll write up a Type II verb, as well as the pronouns that Type II verbs use.

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Lexember 2

I’m participating in this year’s Lexember, a month-long event where conlangers coin at least one new word in a made-up language for each day of December. I’m working on Abul, the language of the Blemmies, a monstrous race from late antiquity.

Today’s word is uveš [u.’veʃ], ‘tumor, head.’ According to the writings of Pliny and others, the Blemmies are remarkable for being headless, with their faces on their chests. As such, the Blemmies consider people’s heads to be tumors.

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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.


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.

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sneasoning, snalt

From reddit:

Full shot glass of snot evaporated

Every once in a while my allergies get so bad that my nose will drip non-stop for hours/days. So one day while watching some movies I placed a shot glass under my dripping nose, it filled up pretty fast. It looked no different than a shot glass filled with water, I was curious what would happen if I left it out to evaporate. After a month or two these salt ‘snot crystals’ were all that was left.

The full thread, complete with a photo, is in the link above – but what’s relevant is the comments.

malgoya: Hehe, did you grind this up to use as a seasoning?
epsilon022: Sneasoning.
happyhank: Snalt and peppa

Is this blending with snot, or is it the combination of sn- ‘nose-related’ phonestheme with pre-existing words?

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When the Misfits burst onto the punk scene in the late 1970s, one thing that set them apart was their lyrical obsession with the cheesy b-movies of a few decades past. With song titles like “Teenagers from Mars” and “Return of the Fly,” campiness was always an essential part of their identity – but their lyrics also veered towards real darkness, with frequent mentions of sexual violence, murder, and nihilism. (See the lyrics to “Last Caress” and “Hybrid Moments” for a glimpse into what I’m talking about.)

Recently, I decided to put together a corpus of classic-era Misfits lyrics, to see what sort of patterns arose. (After an acrimonious breakup and a decade of legal battles, the Misfits “reformed” – without their founding member and lead songwriter, Glenn Danzig – in 1995, as what was essentially a parody of their former selves.)

There were 54 songs written and recorded during Glenn Danzig’s tenure with the band. I downloaded and normalized these lyrics, which entailed turning all instances of “whoah” and “woah” into “whoa,” as well as removing excessive repetitions of a chorus or phrase in a given song (based on the methodology employed by Petrie, Pennebaker, & Silversten (2008) in their analysis of Beatles lyrics). Then, I removed a list of super-high-frequency ‘stop words,’ primarily pronouns and prepositions, from the corpus, leaving me with the meat of what makes the Misfits the Misfits.

The findings are pretty neat. The top ten words were:

  1. oh (110)
  2. go (80)
  3. hell (45)
  4. blood (38)
  5. yeah (38)
  6. gonna (37)
  7. whoa (37)
  8. come (36)
  9. death (33)
  10. face (28)

This is especially cool when compared with Katznelson et al.’s (2010) list of the top 10 rock lyrics:

  1. love
  2. time
  3. way
  4. pain
  5. world
  6. life
  7. baby
  8. eyes
  9. head
  10. heart

Of course, my corpus is much smaller than theirs is, but the difference is still striking: there is no correlation between the lists. Although the Misfits functioned within the general realm of rock music, their lyrics were totally different from those of mainstream rock.

Other striking features:

  • Oh appears at least once in 19 songs, or 35% of the corpus.

  • Whoa appears in 10 songs, or 18% of the corpus. In all but one of these songs, whoa is followed by oh.

Next, I’m going to build a corpus of punk lyrics contemporaneous with the Misfits lyrics I’ve already compiled. That way, I can tell whether punk lyrics generally showed a greater degree of convergence with the rock lyrics examined by Katznelson et al., and, more importantly (to me), I can tell whether the Misfits’ lyrics were unique among punk lyrics as well.

Who to populate this punk corpus with? Definitely Ramones, the Damned, the Sex Pistols, and Black Flag. I’ve got to be sure to get a good amount of lyrics from bands in the Misfits’ general milieu, in order to get the fairest apples-to-apples comparison, but the bands must also be representative enough of punk in general to be valuably compared with the rock lyrics. The Damned, for example, easily meet these requirements: they played several shows with the Misfits, and also released the first ever British punk single, New Rose (1976).

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