Archive for March, 2010


• Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Glyph of the word 'fa'. and Glyph of the word 'fa'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable fa in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (n.) seed, seedling
  • (v.) to plant seeds, to seed
  • (n.) dad

Ape owa ei i fa ipuke…
“Every time I plant a seed…”

Notes: He say, “Kill it before it grow!” He say, “Kill them before they grow!” And so!

The world was given a gift in Bob Marley, the old Iron Lion himself. And while it’s too bad he fell under the sway of Rastafarianism, it didn’t strip him of his soul.

So I just now realized how suggestive it is that the word for “seed” (the determined version of fa) is cognate with the word for “dad” (just the name a kid calls his father; the proper word for “father” is different). I swear that it wasn’t intended! The shortening of fala is fa, which just happens to be the same word for sowing seeds. I’m not taking the blame for this one!


• Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'lu'. and Glyph of the word 'lu'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable lu in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (n.) a glint or flash of light, a gleaming
  • (v.) to gleam, to glint, to flash suddenly and brightly, to catch one’s eye
  • (adj.) eye-catching
  • (n.) epiphany, sudden flash of inspiration

A fe’a ei ie motu o nea ti lu.
“I knew her face in an instant.”

Notes: For the most part, I’ve been remembering how the iku for these syllabic glyphs came to exist, but this one had me buffaloed. How could a glyph whose basic meaning is “flash of light” have an iku that basically looks like a human with a line coming out of it? Well, I went back to check the original script, and actually it’s pretty good! Check it out:

Old glyph of the word 'lu'.

So that’s a dude merrily going along his way, when, all of a sudden, something catches his eye, and he turns all the way around to look at it. Huh? Not bad! At least that looks like a turned-around dude to me.

I’ve found myself thinking (if not using) this word in English—e.g. “I knew in a lu how to do it.” The first time I used it was in one of the books I did for my little sister, but there I was purposely using Kamakawi words here and there. After that, it stuck.


• Monday, March 29th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'lo'. and Glyph of the word 'lo'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable lo in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (n.) root

A nolu i lo.
“Taro is a root.”

Notes: Here I mean the plantish sort of root, not the root of a word. The determined version is used for “root”, and the undetermined for the syllable.

This iku looked a lot more rootish in the original. Now it kind of looks like a 7. It lends itself to a number of fancy iku which we’ll likely see in the future, but this one, as it is, is a little plain, I suppose.


• Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'li'. and Glyph of the word 'li'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable li in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (let.) name of the Zhyler alphabet letter l
  • (v.) to get, to obtain, to take hold of, to grasp, to take
  • (pref.) genitive prefix used between humans that bear a professional relationship (for more information, see the section on Kamakawi pronouns)

Ka li ei i kolata ke nevi i nea.
“I gave her a pineapple.”

Notes: Determined Li may be the most frequently used verb in Kamakawi (well, unless you look at my examples, in which case mata is probably the most common verb, since whenever I can’t think up an example sentence, I end up writing, “I see x“). Its functions are too numerous to list, but essentially, it encodes the idea of obtaining (as you might be able to tell from its iku, which is an arm with a hand holding an object).

The sentence above showcases a common serial construction in Kamakawi. Rather than ditransitive verbs, Kamakawi uses a construction like the above which literally translates as “I got a pineapple (and) I gave to you” (there is no “it” in the second clause).

The genitive prefix li- is used when the possessor possesses an inanimate object that is not a product of the possessor. For example, if someone in general is holding a copy of Paradise Lost, then that book is their book, in a sense, and you would use li-. However, if John Milton were holding a copy of Paradise Lost, then it would be his book in quite a different way, since he wrote it. In that case, one would use a different prefix (in this case, ti-).

I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more of li in the future. For the time being, this shall suffice. Thus I have commandeth! And soeth shalleth iteth beeth doneth!


• Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'le'. and Glyph of the word 'le'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable le in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (prep.) because of, on account of, for, in order to, to
  • (suf.) because, that, for that, as a consequence of, on the occasion that (attaches directly to the status subject marker)

Ka li ei ie leka li ia poiu aele takepalaki ia ima!
“I took your potato away because you’re really mean!”

Notes: This was the first sentence that came to mind that used the word “because”. I’ll leave it to you to decide if being mean is reason enough to deprive someone of their beloved potato.

As happened several times in the history of the Kamakawi writing system, this iku was designed to encode a concept that eventually came to be encoded by another iku. The suffix -le (not the one above, but the other one) is used in causative constructions (so hava is “to eat” and havale is “to feed”), and this iku was a kind of iconic version of the causative (one human pushing another human). Later, a new iku took the place of the causative suffix, leaving this one to represent the syllable le.

The determined version of le is used only with the preposition “because of”, and then only when it clears things up. Otherwise, the undetermined version is used.

I got a question about how the sometimes long strings of vowels are pronounced in Kamakawi, so a little later I’m going to make a recording of this example sentence and post it here. Stay tuned!

Edit: I added an .mp3 file which you can listen to above!


• Friday, March 26th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'la'. and Glyph of the word 'la'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable la in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (n.) spear
  • (expr.) a positive answer to a negative question

He tivale ei ie la li’i…
“Let me sharpen my spear…”

Notes: Good ol’ la pops up a lot. The determined version is used for “spear”, and the other is used for a positive answer to a negative question. We don’t have a word for this in English, but other languages do (French, for example). To give you an example for how it might be useful, consider the question, “Don’t you love me?” An answer of “yes” in English could mean “Yes, I do love you”, or it could mean “Yes, I don’t love you”. Quite a predicament! In languages like French and Kamakawi, there’s a special affirmative answer to negative polarity questions like this which always means “yes” (or the most positive answer), and then “no” means the negative one. That’s how undetermined la is used.


• Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'nu'. and Glyph of the word 'nu'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable nu in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (n.) wood
  • (adj.) wooden (used only when referring to something that is naturally made of wood)

Fule nu ie eneta ti ue.
“We need wood for the boat.”

Notes: The iku for nu was formerly the drawing of a stick. This stick was then rotated 45 degrees and straightened out a bit. That’s how it looks the way it does today.

For some reason, this iku was used to build some of my most favorite iku. You’ll be seeing them in the future.


• Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'no'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable no in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (num.) three
  • (adj.) third
  • (v.) to triple
  • (suf.) creates a trial

Au ivi iano i’i.
“I like you three.”

Notes: As with ka, no can be used as a suffix to modify pronouns to create a kind of ad hoc trial form. I don’t know how official it is, but it exists.

You might notice that there’s no determined version of the iku above. This is intentional. To get either the number three or the syllable no, one must use the undetermined version. The reason is that the determined version is reserved exclusively for something else (and that we’ll see later on).


• Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ni'. and Glyph of the word 'ni'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable ni in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (suf.) before (placed directly after the subject status marker)

Kani kaumu ei ke hava.
“Before I went to sleep I ate.”

Notes: This iku doesn’t really mean anything—or, more accurately, it’s meaning has been irrecoverably lost. In the original, it kind of looked like a basket, I think. Now, one of the sides of that basket has been lost, and the stuff that filled the basket has been reduced to a line.

The determined version of the glyph actually has no use. It might be used with the suffix, but, honestly, I can’t imagine that happening. It’s there to look at, though.


• Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ne'. and Glyph of the word 'ne'.


  • (syl.) glyph for the syllable ne in the Kamakawi syllabary
  • (n.) seagull

Ane ne ima.
“Seagulls are really loud.”

Notes: I think that’s a pretty good seagull. Originally, it looked a lot more like the little “m” seagulls we learn to draw in kindergarten, but the iku was made more angular and stretched to fit what came to be the canonical glyph box over time.