Archive for January, 2010


• Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Glyph of the word 'i'.


  • (part.) predicate marker (used before direct objects [or second arguments] for most verbs)
  • (v.) equivalent to “there is” or “there are” in English
  • (pref.) a prefix which derives a noun from a verb or adjective (sometimes another noun) which focuses on the instance of action, or picks out a characteristic point of whatever quality is being discussed

Ai iake ia i ipe omi i’i tou ai?
“Can you crack that macadamia nut for me?”

Notes: I realized a couple posts ago that I keep writing posts that ultimately end up referencing other glyphs that I haven’t posted yet. Today, then, I decided, “Enough is enough!” and I went to do this one, i, and realized…I’m going to end up having to make reference to another glyph.

So the basic object marker is i, and it looks like it does above. The glyph is abstract (I’m pretty sure) and doesn’t come from anywhere; just kind of looks like a big “T” with a thing on the left.

Way back when, though, when I was first planning the orthography, I thought I’d make the glyph for the direct object marker “iconic”. So I made the glyph look like an eye (since the direct object is getting “looked at”, so to speak).

Then I got to thinking. It’d get mighty confusing if this glyph for i is used both as a direct object marker and simply as a syllabic glyph. So I decided to create a different glyph. The glyph I ended up creating was this one.

That, though, left the eye glyph as the syllabic glyph for i. So now the syllabic glyph for i looks like an eye for pretty much no reason. Oh well.

In addition to marking objects (always the second argument, whatever its thematic role [though sometimes the second argument is marked by ti]), the use of i has been extended. Well, to be more accurate, the structure of Kamakawi sentences actually derives from i being the verb for existential clauses (think of the common sentence as a serial construction), not the other way around. But today, its role as object marker is probably the more common one.

One actual extension was its use as a prefix. It gloms onto words to kind of turn verby words into nouny words. There are tons of these. For example, if luku means “round”, then iluku is “ball”. If lu’a means “to chant”, then ilu’a is a chant. Etc.

There are more of these types of words than you can shake a stick at, though the association isn’t always as obvious. For example, moi is a strawberry guava tree, and an imoi is a strawberry guava; kavu is garlic, and ikavu is a clove of garlic; aye is a bee, and iaye is honey…

It’s polyfunctional and funky, I guess, but I figured since you see it all the time in the example sentences, I should probably say what it is.


• Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'alama'.


  • (n.) sand crab
  • (nm.) a boy’s given name

A tomi ei ie alama oi’i ti Akavo!
“I call my sand crab Akavo!”

Notes: The iku for alama is kind of interesting. It’s built out of two glyphs: the iku for maka which means “crab”, and the syllabic iku for ta, which is also the word for “sand”. The combination, then, is not phonological, but kind of ideological. Looks good, though!


• Friday, January 29th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'muve'.


  • (n.) feather
  • (adj.) feathery, feathered
  • (adj.) soft (like a feather)

A muve ie noliku oi’i.
“The feather is my enemy.”

Notes: For this caturday, I decided to show a picture of my warrior cat Okeo in fighting form:

Another picture of my cat Okeo.

For my birthday, my sister gave us this little plastic stick with feathers on the end, and Okeo is absolutely nuts for it. He attacks it viciously, sometimes wresting it from our grasp and stalking away with it. He is quite a cat!

I thought that I could make a reasonable feather with this iku, but it doesn’t really look much like a feather… Too fat and squat. Kind of looks like a helmet… Anyway, it was intended to be a picture of a feather, so an ikuiku it is.


• Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'hoata'.


  • (n.) owl

A pata hoata.
“The owl is brown.”

Notes: Ha. Those words kind of rhyme in both Kamakawi and English…

I’ve had a fondness for owls ever since I first saw Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. There such quaint little animals; so finely dressed. They look like they’re wearing little business suits.

The glyph can kind of be seen as an ikunoala, but I wasn’t confident enough to give it that category. I can see the glyph for ho and the glyph for a, but it’s the glyph for ta that eludes me… That characteristic swoop is missing. It’s clear that at least some syllabic elements are in there, though, so I’ve called it an iku’ui.


• Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'kelea'.


  • (n.) sorrow, sadness
  • (v.) to be sad, to sorrow
  • (adj.) sad

E poiu anamai kelea kiape heva…
“So sad mother duck went out one day…”

Notes: Over the hills and far away…

So let’s talk about this song. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you can look at the lyrics here. I heard this song for the first time as an adult, and I was struck by how bleak it is. Essentially, mother duck goes out each day with her ducklings, and they wander off into the wilderness (“over the hills and far away”). At the end of the day, one fewer duckling returns (almost sounds like the setup for a horror story). On the fifth day, mother duck is left with no ducklings at all.

So what happens now, you might wonder? The mother duck, bereft of all hope and joy with no ducklings, and so she herself goes “over the hills and far away” (a clear metaphor for suicide). But then, happily (and contrary to most Judeo-Christian beliefs), mother duck is reunited with her departed ducklings. (Well, unless they all committed suicide, in which case one wonders: Just where are they at the end of the song?)

I suppose death is something one has to learn about and come to live with in life, but is it really appropriate in a song about ducks? I’m just not sure.

Just when I thought this song couldn’t get any worse, I found this while looking up the lyrics. To spare you the autoplaying midi file on that page, what it shows is an alternate last verse to this song. So the first part is the same (mother duck taking her ducklings out, and one by one they lose their way), but the very last stanza, instead of having a sad mother duck, goes like this:

Five little ducks
went out to play
Over the hills and far away
Papa duck said,
Five little ducks came swimming back.

In other words, the reason the ducklings aren’t coming back is simply because they have no intention of respecting their mother’s authority. They’re off having a great time over the hills and far away, and they hear their poor mother quacking for them, and they’re all like, “Psssh! Whatev! Me an’ my homies is chizzillin’, yo!” It’s not until their dad calls for them that, suddenly, they feel the need to come back (i.e. “Oh, wait, they’re serious: Dad’s calling! We better go!”).

I’m not sure which is worse: The haunting suicidal version, or the misogynistic version. Either way, it’s a strange song for children, and a bizarre setting for ducks.

Oh, forgot: This iku is an inversion of the iku for kemea, which means “to make love”. The inversion technique is employed often to indicate the opposite of something, or the bad version of something. The usage here should be obvious.


• Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ivi'.


  • (v.) to strike one’s fancy, to amuse, to please
  • (adj.) pleasing, amusing, likable

A ivi ivu’i i’i oku.
“I don’t like cranberries.”

Notes: It’s true, you know.

This verb kind of works like gustar in Spanish, which is a verb that works like English “to like”, but backwards. In English, we subjects like things; in Spanish and Kamakawi, things are liked by us (though in a non-passive sense).

The iku is derived from the syllabic glyph for fi wrapped around the “good circle” determinative (which contrasts with the “bad line” determinative). I haven’t yet decided if this word is actually a metaphorical extension of ivi, which means “lightning storm”… Seems like it is (because that’s what it’s like when you like something: it’s like you’re hit by lightning and killed with amusement), but I’m not sure…

Of course, since all these posts are definitions of glyphs, the point is moot, as this ivi and “lightning storm” are written differently, and, thus, shall be different entries. Nice to note, though, I suppose.


• Monday, January 25th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ulu'.


  • (v.) to be weak
  • (adj.) weak
  • (n.) weakness

A ulu iloa.
“My shoulder is weak.”

Notes: Ahh, finally! Another ikuleyaka! I have a ton of these, but I guess they’re underrepresented in my totally random sampling of words (I probably should develop some sort of systematicity when it comes to choosing words to put up here…).

The iku for ulu works as follows. First, you have the glyph for “man”, hopoko (also the syllabic glyph for ho). This glyph is then modified with the “bad line” determinative, as I call it (similar to the syllabic glyph ka, but it’s always used to modify other glyphs to indicate a bad version of the former). So in a culture where male strength is prized, a weak man is a bad version of a man. Hence, the glyph.

So…perhaps this is sexist. In my defense, here the “man” glyph refers to humans, in general, but that, too, I suppose, is sexist, even if it’s crosslinguistically common (though note: not universal!). But, geez, making an ikunoala out of the syllabic glyphs for u and lu would’ve been a nightmare! This made sense to me at the time, and so I guess I’ll stand by it.


• Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'hile'.


  • (v.) to be warm
  • (adj.) warm
  • (n.) warmth

A hile hevaka kiko.
“The wind is warm today.”

Notes: I hesitate to call this an ikunoala, but that is how it was constructed. It’s kind of like a blend of the syllabic glyphs for hi and le, but not at all a straightforward one. You can kind of see the top of the hi there (the little head), as well as its crossbar, and then the rest is, I think, an attempt to write le without making any unnecessary lines…

I have to tell you, this word is featured on my 2009 Conlang Card Exchange card, and I had a devil of a time writing this iku. It never came out right, no matter how hard I tried. I think the font version looks nice and sleek, but my handwritten versions were clumsy and barely recognizable. This might be because I had a small space to work with (and a relatively fat pen), but I think it has more to do with the fact that I don’t handwrite Kamakawi very much. This, I think, should change, but it’s so hard to memorize all those glyphs! Hopefully this blog will help me with that. :)


• Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'mayali'.


  • (n.) a general word for any sea plant, including seaweed and algae, but also algae-like substances growing on the land

A mayali ie uela lileveya.
“Algae is the moss of the sea.”

Notes: So now I get what I meant when I wrote the definition to uela. Mayali can be used to talk about moss, but uela is another term that refers solely to moss as its found on the land (not to algae).

This iku is a straightforward combination of the syllabic glyphs for ma, ia and li. As I recall, I was surprised by how well it fit together, and that’s what prompted me to coin a word for the phonetic form mayali. I think it’s a good one.


• Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'keli'.


  • (v.) to flutter
  • (v.) to trail behind, to leave a trial, to leave a wake (as with a boat)
  • (v.) to fly (as with a flag)
  • (v.) to wave (as with a flag)
  • (adj.) flying, waving (said of a flag)
  • (n.) tail
  • (n.) trail (that has been left behind)

Oku kopu ia ie keli o ei oku!
“Don’t touch my tail!”

Notes: Happy Caturday!

The word keli began either as “wake”, in general, or as “fluttering”, or some variant thereof. It was extended liberally to include all things that trail along after one, including animal tails.

Speaking of animal tails, here’s a picture of my cat, Okeo!

Another picture of my cat Okeo.

Quite an amusing one here. If you’ll notice in the photo, there’s a tiny little speck of something on the ground right below Okeo’s nose. That’s a piece of litter from Okeo’s litter box. For whatever reason, on this day, Okeo decided that that piece of litter was his prey. He kind of tossed it out of the bathroom, then sank down low, narrowing his eyes. And then, without warning and with terrible ferocity, he pounced mercilessly on the little piece of litter, claiming it as his own and teaching it a lesson all at once.

This picture was taken just after he pounced. He was staring the piece of litter down, but as he heard me approach, he raised his eyes to me, defiantly, ready to fend off any would-be predator who would challenge his claim to the piece of litter. Naturally terrified, I left him to it, though I did take his photograph. He didn’t seem to mind.