Spec Tech: Conlanging 8 – Toyo sa ti fi menke fi Kohen, hake?

This is the eighth in a series of posts “live-blogging” the creation of a fictional language from scratch, with the help of our readers. We plan to construct a functional language one piece at a time, incorporating suggestions and preferences from our audience along the way. You can find a listing of our previous installments here, and a spreadsheet listing the words in our language here.

Toyo sa ti fi menke fi Kohen, hake?1

(You’ll find a full translation of this paragraph in the comments.)

Kohe nga2 lusau-feying3 nofa4 pa nahu sa Kohen.  Wa5 kohe nga ti wa sa Kohen!  Nen sa man6 fi menke lenata7 fi Kohen. Wa nen sa man fi wake fi ku nga himu8 kusa9 mala si10 lusau-feying mempi11.  Hewi12 sa Kohen, wa nen sa ti fi falo13 fi ku!  Nen sa ti fi hempo fi mom nofa.  Hau14 wake sa ti fi tanti15 pa ti nga nahu.  Hei16 falo fi hewi sa Kohen!  Toyo sa ti fi hempo fi hafuta17?


[1][a] We haven’t dealt with how to combine two verbs in a single clause yet, but I’m thinking it should work like this — the second clause stays as it is, minus whatever person is the subject of the first verb if they’re the same.  Some examples.  Menke sa ti fi Kohen “You are learning Kohen” ; Toyo sa ti fi [menke fi Kohen] “You want to learn Kohen” ; Toyo sa na fi [menke sa ti fi Kohen] “I want you to learn Kohen.” Note especially that, in this last example, the second part of the sentence (“you to learn Kohen”) is exactly the same as the first example.  You’ll see this construction used a number of times throughout this short text.

[1][bhake – This is a tag question, which goes on the end of a phrase and asks for confirmation from the listen, e.g., “…, isn’t it?” or “…, you know?”; we might also translate the English as “So you want to learn Kohen, do you?”

[2] Literally, “to”, but here in the sense of “for”

[3] lusau-feying – Literally, “soil-sky”; a compound for “planet, world”.

[4] nofa – “new”

[5] wa – “and” at the beginning of a clause, “also” when after a verb.

[6] man – This marks an indefinite subject, used for generic statements.  In English, this is often rendered by you or they — e.g., “You can’t ride a dugong!”

[7] le-  – “adverbializer”; nata – “easy”. Thus, lenata – “easily”.

[8] himu – “person, people, humanity”

[9] kusa – This is a relative clause marker; e.g., the who in “people who come from….” Don’t worry about this too much at the moment; we’ll have more to say about it later.

[10] si – “from”

[11] mempi – “complete, entire”

[12] hewi – “grow”

[13] falo – “help”

[14] hau – “or”

[15] tanti – “thought, idea”

[16] hei – The imperative marker; this, together with the missing subject, make the phrase an command.

[17] hafuta – “what (thing)”.  This looks a bit different than what we talked about in our sixth post, but it’s actually quite similar; I just decided that using ha, our question particles, as the first syllable of questions words (instead of the previously-suggested-but-arbitrary te-) is more transparent and makes these words even more transparent.


8 thoughts on “Spec Tech: Conlanging 8 – Toyo sa ti fi menke fi Kohen, hake?

  1. So you want to learn Kohen?

    Kohen is a language for our new world. And Kohen is also a language for you! Kohen is easy to learn (literally, “One can easily learn Kohen”). And you can speak it to people that come from all over the world. Kohen is still growing, and you can help us! You can make new words. Or tell us your ideas. Help Kohen grow! What do you want to do?

  2. Chris–great to see a decent-sized piece of Kohen text! The sprachgefuhle, the distinctive character of the language, is really emerging now. Time to practice and put these new structures and words to work. Thanks! — D

  3. So I thought I’d post a literal translation of Chris’s text as a bridge to help me (and I suspect others) make sense of Kohen syntax. Now that we have in place the syntax of an equational sentence which English would express with “be,” the syntax of two verbs, the two essential conjunctions wa (I like the Semitic influence!) and hau (almost wa backwards — appropriate!) and the relative clause marker kusa, we can write more complex texts!

    So here goes my literal translation:

    Toyo sa ti fi menke fi Kohen, hake? You want learn Kohen, eh? [a Canadian-sounding translation!]

    Kohe nga lusau-feying nofa pa nahu sa Kohen. Language for planet new of us [is] Kohen.
    Wa kohe nga ti wa sa Kohen! And language for you [is] also Kohen!
    Nen sa man fi menke lenata fi Kohen. Can one learn easily Kohen.
    Wa nen sa man fi wake fi ku nga himu kusa mala si lusau-feying mempi. And can one speak it to people that come from planet entire.
    Hewi sa Kohen, wa nen sa ti fi falo fi ku! Grows Kohen, and can you help it!
    Nen sa ti fi hempo fi mom nofa. Can you make word new.
    Hau wake sa ti fi tanti pa ti nga nahu. Or tell you idea-of-you to us.
    Hei falo fi hewi sa Kohen! Help grow Kohen!
    Toyo sa ti fi hempo fi hafuta? Want you do what?


    OK, I have an annoying question about “Hei falo fi hewi sa Kohen.” Literally, “Imperative-help-object-grow subject-Kohen.”

    The unexpressed and understood subject is “you,” but “Kohen” is also the subject of its own clause with “grow.” Is “fi” also now a clause subordinator, or do we need something more to make it clear? I’m wondering (probably too far ahead!), for instance, if we can also handle subordinate noun object clauses the same way:

    Tate sa na fi mala sa ti. I know [that] you come.

    It feels strange to me to do so, like we need another subordinator particle there in the second clause, so I’m wondering if the syntax of this sentence is different from the syntax of “Help Kohen grow.” I’m wondering also about a similar sentence: “Help her grow.” English treats this as “imperative + object + infinitive” rather than “subject.” So how do we understand “falo fi hewi SA kohen”? In other words, is Kohen really a subject there, even in Kohen syntax? Sorry for the syntactic nitpick — I’ve run into this in my own conlangs, too.

    1. Well, languages use two strategies here. In English, we often “promote” the subject of a subordinate clause to be the object of the main clause and use an infinitive, as you noted:

      “I want her to go”

      But there’s nothing here that requires that subject to get converted into an object, cross-linguistically speaking. Equally valid would be:

      “I want that she goes”

      It’s this second strategy we’re following here. Does that help?

      1. I guess the (missing) “that” is what I wish we stated explicitly in Kohen, for consistency, to parallel the use of “kusa” as a relativizer:

        himu kusa mala si lusau-feying mempi
        “people that come from whole world”

        Hei falo fi [that] hewi sa Kohen!
        Help [that] Kohen grows!

        Also, could we say this?
        himu fi kusa pete sa ti
        “people whom/that you see”

      2. Well, I was thinking of the object marker in those cases as being equivalent to the “that”; maybe a transitive subordinate clause will make it clearer?

        Toyo sa na fi hewi sa ti fi ku
        “I want you to raise him”

        Are you still feeling like we need a

        (Also, regarding relative clauses—this is kind of an advanced thing we haven’t talked about yet, so if people are lurking and don’t get this, don’t worry about it. I formed “kusa” from the third person pronoun and the subject marker; you get this form if the argument extracted from the relative clause is its subject. For objects, we’d want “kufi”:

        himu kufi pete sa ti
        “people that you see”)

  4. Here’s a list of words from previous posts, and this one, to be included in the spreadsheet:

    yefei: cloud
    lusau: dirt/soil
    kisau: fire
    leloi: lake
    totong: moon
    mungkang: mountain
    suyon: ocean
    feyei: rain
    yulam: river
    kelon: rock
    kosaung: smoke
    feying: sky
    tisin: star
    hatong: sun
    yeilei: water
    peili: white
    peyau: light grey
    nupei: grey
    nuli: dark grey
    nuwau : black
    tilau: yellow
    luse: green
    loho: red
    loti: orange
    silu: blue-green
    sini: blue
    losin: purple

    hake: tag question
    lusau-feyin: planet, world, N literally, “soil-sky”
    nofa: new
    nata: easy
    le: adverbializer particle
    wa: and; also. “and” at start of clause; “also” after verbs
    man: indefinite subject
    le-: adverbializing prefix
    himu: person, people, humanity, N
    kusa: rel. cl. marker
    si: from
    mempi: complete, entire
    hewi: grow
    falo: help
    hau: or
    tanti: thought, idea
    hei: imperative marker used without a subject to express a command
    hafuta: what thing ha “what” + futa “thing”
    futa: thing
    Kohen: this language
    nata: easy

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