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My new conlang (constructed language): Bowtudgelean

As many of my friends and family are aware, I am currently writing a video game, The Ditty of Carmeana, an action-adventure title set in the fictional Kingdom of Bowtudgel. Also as many people know, I am very interested in linguistics. Therefore, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to create a new language for my fictional kingdom. The (in progress) result is Bowtudgelean.

Here's a summary of some of the aspects of the languages.

Nouns and Adjectives

Nouns in Bowtudgelean are inflected for number and state. Number is familiar to English speakers: a noun can be singular or plural. State—also called definiteness—is the distinction between something specific (usually signaled in English by the definite article "the") and something not. State is not an aspect of grammar in Indo-European languages (the family that includes English, French, Latin, Russian, Greek, and many others), but it is in Semitic languages such as Arabic. Bowtudgelean is like Arabic in this respect: adjectives agree with nouns in state. However, Bowtudgelean takes state to the extreme: it has ten different states.

Briefly, here the states and their usages:

  • 1st person: Is or includes the speaker or writer.
  • 2nd person: Is or includes the listener or reader.
  • Nominal: A name.
  • Referred: Something just referred to.
  • Indicated: Something indicated by a limiting adjective, prepositonal phrase, or relative clause.
  • Local: Something near the speaker.
  • Remote: Something away from the speaker.
  • Past: Something that occured in the past.
  • Future: Something that will occur in the future.
  • Indefinite: Nothing in particular.

Here's an example of the declension of the adjective gæðu ("whole").

State Singular Plural
1st Person gæðunupi  
2nd Person gæðuken  
Nominal gæðuzdek  
Referred gæðun gæðuni
Indicated gæðut gæðuti
Local gæðutaj gæðutajev
Remote gæðubel gæðubelev
Past gæðulabo gæðulabov
Future gæðumex gæðumexev
Indefinite gæðuha gæðuhay

An interesting effect of this aspect of grammar is that there are technically no personal pronouns. The word that is used to translate English "I" () is actually the 1st Person singular state of the demonstrative pronoun.

Besides number and state, I'm leaning towards adding a gender distinction to nouns as well.

Verbs

There is one notable disctinction nouns are not inflected for: case. Bowtudgelean neither uses cases nor word order to determine a noun or pronoun's role in the sentence. Instead, Bowtudgelean prefixes a noun or pronoun with a particle, called a marker, to determine the role. What makes these markers different from case endings is that they are part of the verb, not part of the noun.

Any given action involves a certain set of participants. In Indo-European languages, the participants fill fixed grammatical slots, regardless of the verb. One of those slots is called the subject, another called the direct object, a third is called the indirect object. In Bowtudgelean, there is no such framework to fit participants into. A participant for a particular verb exists only for that verb; a different verb has a different set of participants. The participants a verb has make sense for it; for some verbs it makes sense to have different participants than the subject-object system would supply English. A few verbs have as many as five participants, and some verbs (for example, ŋejreð "it is raining") have none at all.

Let's consider an example: æð, which can be translated as "come" or "go". Whereas come and go are intransitive in English, in Bowtudgelean æð has three different participants. There is the person going, which is marked by the particle ho. There is the place being moved away from, indictated by the marker tamæ. And there is the place being moved to, indicated by nuð. Here is an example sentence:

Ho voŋ æðga tamæ ðæln nuð patexpejen.
"He went from the house to the store."

(Key: voŋ = "he,she,it,him,her", -ga = past tense. Also, notice the referred state ending -n on the nouns.)

In Bowtudgelean, the set of markers used for a given verb (the signature) are not predictable and must be learned, though sometimes they do follow patterns. The most notable is the za-epu- signature used mostly by verbs of manipulation, where a person (marked by za) physically manipulates an object (marked by epu). But in general there are a lot of irregularities in these patterns.

One little side note is that there are a few verbs that have no stem at all; only markers. Naturally, the verbs that mean "to be" are among them (there are two variants: i-linum- and i-nui-). Another is ak-gwa-has-, which means "to say" (ak marks the speaker, gwa the listener, and has the words being spoken).

Phonology

Unfortunately, there are only two sounds that exist in Bowtudgelean but not in English, and they're very rare. (They are the velar fricatives: the sounds of German ch in ach, or of the letter gamma in Greek.) I didn't plan for it; I wanted to have at least one common foreign sound. I had written a word generator to generate random words, and tuned it until it got words that looked like I wanted. Unfortunately, the velar fricatives hardly ever come up.

However, there are plenty of consonant clusters that are not found in English, so it's not all bad.

Here's a quick, and approximate, pronounciation guide. The alphabet is phonemic: meaning that letters correspond exactly to sounds (thanks, King Hengou II!)

Letter Pronounciation
a like the a in father
æ like the a in cat
e like the a in lame
i like the i in machine
o like the o in home
u like the u in dilute
x like the sh in shape
j like the s in measure
ð like the th in those
þ like the th in thin
ŋ like the ng in sing
c like the ch in German ach or Greek gamma
g like the g in go (always hard)

The letters b, d, p, t, k, l, w, f, v, s, z, y, w, m, n, h are all pronounced as in English.

Babel Text

One of the rites of passage when inventing a conlang is to translate the story of the Tower of Babel. Here's mine, presented (for now) without further comment.

Ðeŋa za ŋome gæðuzdek epu kalðira mogaþa, buzolka-za epu taþihay mogaþay.

Pema lagærigara ar dora xke koyra, æðga ho surka nuð ŋezbey komu jdot Xinaræt, te ruhi surka nomarga lir voŋ.

Ak surka gwa surka hazg: "Umijnotram ar sæz mogi hoxtæhay, te jguxki-ak epu surka mæsæ pomoha." Za surka lelþoŋa tor hoxtæhay mogi zilæmuha, te tor danurjbyosa mogi ritbazuha.

Þilabo hazg: "Æðmi-ho, ajderam ar sæz mogi axa dæŋu sæz, te mogi newgasiha iðæ jbyæt xpavoŋ komu enra, te þid u sæz guŋærdo. Jraŋ lojozapen epu sæz jalkapu zdomæ.

Ho Jbago æðga nuð moðbel natox ar voŋ ala lux axt te newgasit peŋat ajde-mogi ar stizen.

Þilabo ak Jbago hazg: "Mip þyaþ, pema i surka linum dora ðeyxera osuhæha ðenolka-za epu kalðira mogaþa, za surka þkæðne deþaga epu modlabo, ŋab kowæwtæ ŋætunzæ tojpen þalpe za surka deþa mod peŋa ŋab surka fkersteb þalpe deþa-epu za surka.

"Sajbiðæn æðram ho sæz nuð mika te komu voŋ æhalnæram za sæz epu kalðirt xpasurka, punebe xpodusonpen ruhi kowæwtæ lir mod peŋa has ak æwtæpiz."

Amusa za Jbago lojozaga epu surka æðolka-ho tamæ voŋ nuð zbalkap zdomæ, te lakipæ ajdega ar surka mogi axen.

Ŋab modlabo zæneyoŋa þalpe simoke ar voŋ lux Babel, kaj komu voŋ za Jbago æhalnæga epu ðenjda xpa ŋome osuhæzdek. Igusen tejdæn ædkolka-tamæ nuð zbalkap zdomæ, za voŋ lojoza epu surka.

Final Note

Bowtudgelean is the Anglicized name of the language. Bæwtujdelix is the language's own name for itself.

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