Stuff I Been Thinkin' Of

Hóunoih móuhgin*.

Random thoughts.

  • There's a manga called Lost Seven. I haven't read much of it, it seems like pretty standard fare, but I just love its basic conceit. Why?

    Basically, "Snow White and the Seven Samurai".

    Oh yes.

  • So remember how the Elvish language for the D&D setting I was doing uses Proto-Uralic roots and the grammar of Tibetan? Well it does, even if you don't remember.

    Anyway I finally decided that for my Dwarvish I'll use Proto-Vasconic (Basque) and the grammar of Chinese. Mandarin, probably, Cantonese is actually remarkably hard to set up, considering its an isolating language.

    It's really too bad so little Proto-Vasconic vocabulary has been reconstructed. And apparently modern Basque having 101 words for "butterfly" is not an aberration, the reconstructed proto-language has a lot of roots dealing with bugs. What are they, Japanese nine-year-old boys?

  • Incidentally, people need to stop pretending Basque is hard to pronounce. It's easy to pronounce. No, what's hard about Basque is its ergative grammar.

    Huh, Tibetan has that too. Is there something about living in the mountains that makes you like ergativity?

    Then again most of the Native American languages that have it don't seem to be spoken by mountaineers, so probably not. And seriously, what is it with this hemisphere, that so many of its languages are ergative-absolutive? I think the only place with a higher concentration of that structure is Australia (those languages actually are hard to pronounce, some of 'em that I've looked up, I don't even know how to go about making those sounds—I do not think my tongue can move that way).

    Further weirdness, I don't think there's a single ergative language in Africa. Lemme check. Apparently something called Shilluk, spoken by one of the Christian peoples of South Sudan, is ergative. And that's it.

  • Interestingly, Welsh, though it doesn't stack consonants anywhere near as much as Slavic or Indic languages (let alone Caucasian ones), is, actually, pretty hard to pronounce. It's apparently one of very few European languages with that unvoiced lateral L (the one it writes "ll"); trying to learn Welsh in my misspent youth is probably why the only thing I find hard to pronounce about Navajo is the tone. Didja know it's also in Taishan dialect Cantonese? Yeah.

    Welsh also has unvoiced nasals, which are one of Satan's most insidious inventions. Fortunately the forces of good have managed to contain their evil—they are all freaking rare, seriously, look 'em up in Wikipedia sometime. Half the time the list for "voiceless (whatever) nasal" has, in its list of language-examples, "Welsh, Burmese, Yupik". And that's it.

  • The worst language to have to learn—and its speakers had the decency to keep it secret—was, apparently, Damin, a ceremonial language from Australia that, apparently, uses every single possible airstream mechanism, except implosive. That is, it uses pulmonic egressive, velaric ingressive, glottalic egressive, pulmonic ingressive, and velaric egressive. I don't blame you if you don't know what those mean (breathing out, like normal; pulling air in through where "K" and "G happen; pushing air out through where "H" happens; breathing in like normal—except while producing speech-sounds; and pushing air out through where "K" and "G happen)—most human speech never uses any airstream mechanisms but pulmonic egressive, and one only occasionally meets glottalic ingressives (no idea what those are) and lingual ingressives (tongue clicks).

    It's not only the only click language outside Africa, it's also, apparently, a conlang. Now, the folks who speak it (the Lardil and Yangkaal) believe a mythological being came up with it in the dreamtime, whereas the anthropologists think it was tribal elders, but either way, that language was devised. Just because Aulë is a Vala doesn't change the fact he, personally, came up with Dwarvish.

  • And just now, having been reminded of Aulë, and Oromë, Valar who made the Dwarves and found the Elves, respectively, did you know that the Elvish equivalent of Terpsichore is Nielíqui, daughter of Oromë and Vána?

    Terpsichore is my favorite of the Muses, though I can't dance particularly. It's interesting, by the way, that she's also Apollo's favorite—Apollo, remember, shares an origin with Shiva (Rudra and Apaliunas were considered equivalent gods by the proto-Hindus and Hittites who signed the Mitanni treaty). Shiva's aspect of Nataraja ("Dancing King"), anyone?

  • Interestingly, though the Mitanni spoke Hurrian, apparently their horsemanship terminology all came from Indic. Which, I mean, makes sense, their rulers having been Indic invaders and the leaders of all Indo-Europeans being cavalry warriors.

    Incidentally, Apaliunas was the special patron of a city-state called Wilusa. The reason that's significant is that Wilusa was also called Truwisa, and was sacked by the Ahhiyawa, possibly during the reign of one Piyamaradus, who had a son called Alaksandu. That is, Ilion, or Troy, beloved of Apollo, was sacked by the Achaeans, because of its prince Alexandros (better known by his nickname "Paris"), son of Priam.

  • On a similar note, you know how ancient Near Eastern monarchs called themselves "Great King", to distinguish themselves from all the little kinglets here and there (did you know the Latin word "rex" only means "chieftain"?). Later they had to specify "Great King of Kings".

    What's interesting about all that is, "Maharaja" and another title I just found out about, "Maharajadhiraja". Hindi, to this day, still uses a pattern in titles that was first established among the Hittites 3600 years ago. That is frickin' awesome.

  • Speaking of the airstream mechanisms of Damin, you think parrots' weird voices are because birds default to breathing in, not out? Seriously, talk while inhaling: don't you sound like a parrot?

    Which reminds me, people are sissy-pants when it comes to conlangs for aliens. Okrand thinks giving Klingon the phonics of Tlingit makes him a big man? Please, take yer training bra off and give it click consonants that don't have an IPA letter. You know, unless you're scared, or something.

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