Posts Tagged ‘education’


• Friday, October 8th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ilau'.


  • (v.) to read
  • (n.) reading

A ivivi ilau ie feya oi’i.
“My baby loves to read.”

Notes: And it’s true. She reads a lot, too—and fast. I read a lot, but read very, very, very, very, very, very, very slowly. Erin, on the other hand, once read four novels in one day. Four novels! It’s unthinkable.

Anyway, HAPPY CATURDAY! :D To accompany today’s word and sentence, here’s a nice picture of Keli and Erin:

Erin and Keli reading.

Actually, Keli there looks like what I look like if I’ve been reading for longer than thirty minutes (another impediment I have to deal with).

The iku for ilau should look slightly familiar. You’ve got the “eye” shaped thing from i, and it has the “ground” determiner beneath it. I kind of think of it as an eye on a book.

If the Kamakawi were to advance so far as to be in a “modern” world like we have, I always imagined that this iku would be used as an icon for libraries—even if the Kamakawi writing system were replaced entirely by the Zhyler writing system. I could see it working very well on signs…


• Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'kavaka'.


  • (v.) to write
  • (n.) writing
  • (n.) a piece of writing (of some kind)
  • (adj.) writing

A kavaka ie hala’i o ei.
“Writing is my life.”

Notes: Yesterday’s post forced me to gloss over the fact that it was Sylvia Sotomayor’s birthday. Happy belated birthday, Sylvia! :D

Sylvia is the woman behind the Kēlen Word of the Day: The blog that started the whole conlang word of the day thing (though I take credit for suggesting the idea to Sylvia in the first place :P). It’s been a lot of fun learning about Kēlen over the past…wow, almost a year! But there’s a special reason to tune into Sylvia’s blog now.

You see, yesterday Sylvia arrived in Australia to attend WorldCon: a large convention of science-fiction and other things I’ve recently been made aware of. On the Kēlen Word of the Day blog, Sylvia will be keeping track of her progress, posting a word a day, per usual, but also including a picture from Australia, and some details about her travels. As one who hates to travel, this is top notch for me: I get to see Australia, and I don’t have to leave the house! :D

So check it out! It should be a fun month to hear about how things are going down under.

Oh, duh, I almost forgot! The sample sentence was done in honor of Sylvia. See, it’s a sentence without verbs, in honor of Kēlen, the verbless language! :D There was a method to this madness, I swear!

As for this word, it certainly does look like it was derived from kava, the word for “fire”, but you want to know the real secret? The word for “write” comes from Franz Kafka: One of my favorite authors. If you were to render “Kafka” in Kamakawi, it would come out “Kavaka”.

Of course, Franz Kafka doesn’t exist in the world where Kamakawi is spoken, but that’s just fine by me. After all, it’s a legitimate word form. And the derivation (fake or otherwise) is one I love. In fact, I love everything about this word. I’m going to give it a smiley face of some kind. :) There we go.


• Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'e'.


  • (part.) cooccurs with a singular subject that is identical to the previous subject in the discourse
  • (art.) the singular definite article (i.e. “the”)

Oku male li ei, i ia e fili po…
“Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down…”

Notes: I had to do some fun stuff to the chorus. See, while Kamakawi lexemes are (for the most part) minimally disyllabic, I can mix things up when it comes to verbs and their subjects. Here, I borrowed the serial verb construction used with li (linking to that entry; hoping it explains serial verbs) and created a single clause that takes the place of the two in the song.

I had to make a decision early on. In the original, the words “never gonna” are repeated each time. If something were to be repeated in the Kamakawi version, it would have to be “oku male”. That would leave me three syllables to translate “give you up”, “let you down”, etc. The word for “you” as an object (i ia) is three syllables already. The verbal part would have to fit into a two syllable verb, and to sing it, you’d have to run i ia together into one syllable. I thought it would sound too jumbled, so I gave it up.

Instead, what we have is a phrase that means, “I will never let you go”. Literally, though, it’s “Never will take I you and let go”. The nice thing about the serial construction is that it takes with it the object, so the second verb is intransitive.

The second time around, unfortunately, the lines are much more contentful. We’ll see what I manage there…

The iku above isn’t simply e. When used by itself it is, but it will often cooccur with the present tense glyph (which I haven’t done yet), or the past tense glyph, or the plural glyph, etc. It could very well be realized as e, u, ke or ku. It’s difficult to define in terms of sounds. It makes much more sense in the original orthography.

For today’s Rick Roll moment, how about a change of pace? See, when I was a kid, I really loved this song, and the other one by Rick Astley. I didn’t know who did them, had no idea what he looked like (or how he danced), or any of it: I just loved the sound of the songs, and the sound of his voice. In case you haven’t heard in awhile, here’s a link to Rick Astley’s other big hit from the 80s: “Together Forever”.


• Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'favatu'.


  • (n.) rule(s), ruleset, instruction(s), guideline(s)

Fe’a’u favatu ti ia oi’i…
“You know the rules and so do I…”

Notes: Continuing with my translation of Rick Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, we have a word derived from another word I just recently posted (fancy that! It usually works the other way around…). In case you’re curious about how a partial reduplication of “number” can get us to “rules”, it comes from the sense of fatu that means “orderly” and “obedient”. The favatu are what you’re supposed to do or follow. If you do, you’re fatu.

One thing that a number of conlangers (myself included) are having trouble with when it comes to translating this song is keeping with the meter. The problem has nothing to do with the conlangers, but could have something to do with our native language(s). English (and German as well) have a lot of content words that are monosyllabic. One thing I’ve noticed is that many of us conlangers who have a Germanic language as our first language tend to create languages that are just the opposite. Take Latin, for example. You can count the number of monosyllabic content words on two hands and a foot—and even those aren’t always monosyllabic (rex, “king”, is monosyllabic, but put that word anywhere in a sentence other than subject position, and there it goes!). It’s this type of language, it seems to me, that Germanic-speaking conlangers go for; there aren’t many like English or Chinese.

So think about the first part of the line above: “You know the rules.” Without even knowing the exact words, I can look at that clause and tell you that it will be six syllables at the minimum in Kamakawi. Why? Because there are three content words: “you”, “know” and “rules”. There are fewer than 40 content words that are monosyllabic in Kamakawi, and I pretty much have them memorized, which means that each of these words will be at least two syllables long, giving us at least six syllables—and probably more. That’s two more syllables than the English line already, and we haven’t even gotten to the “and so do I” part.

Rather than try to translate it piece by piece, then, I changed the line to get as close to the meter as possible. I changed it, essentially, to “The rules are known by you and me.” Passivizing eats up a syllable, true, and “rules” turns out to be three syllables. But getting rid of a verb in the second half of the clause really frees things up. For an eight syllable line, then, I cut it down to twelve in Kamakawi, which itself can be cut down to ten in singing by cramming a couple things together (ti ia can become tia), and those extra two syllables can be throw in during a second or two when there’s no singing.

While I’m translating the song, I’m going to link to some of my favorite Rick Roll stuff online. Today, I’ll link to my favorite Rick Roll video: The Muppets’ Rick Roll Video. Enjoy! :D


• Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'fatu'.


  • (n.) number
  • (v.) to count
  • (v.) to number
  • (adj.) orderly, in order
  • (adj.) obedient

A fatu ue!
“Let’s count!”

Notes: Awhile back, a commenter posted a short comment about how conlangs ought not have the same number of words beginning with each letter/phoneme in their inventory. This was when I had pointed out that there weren’t enough l words in the Word of the Day. I pointed out then that, as I select which words to do, the Word of the Day words were not a random sampling of Kamakawi words, but that got to me thinking: Just how close are the counts?

Counting today’s f word, here’s the percentage breakdown for the initial phonemes of the Words of the Day so far:

Rank Initial Phoneme # of Posts % of Posts
1 T 25 12%
2 H 24 12%
3 K 21 10%
4 I 19 9%
5 P 17 8%
6 O 16 8%
7 F 14 7%
7 M 14 7%
9 N 13 6%
10 L 12 6%
11 E 11 5%
12 A 10 5%
12 U 10 5%

That’s the Word of the Day breakdown. Now let’s compare that to the actual breakdown in Kamakawi.

To do that, I’m going to make use of a statistical analysis conducted by a great conlanger Jim Henry a year or so ago (two years? Can’t remember). Jim created a Perl script which he ran on my modified Kamakawi dictionary (he stripped out all the definitions leaving just the words). What it did was it separated the entire list into syllables, and counted initial, final, medial and total syllables. Though the lexicon has since expanded, I think it’s a fair representation of just how frequently a given syllable is used in Kamakawi—and in which position.

In order to get the initial phonemes, I took his count of the initial syllables of Kamakawi and added all the like CV forms together. Then I did a little math and came up with the percentages for initial phonemes in Kamakawi. Here are the results:

Rank Initial Phoneme % of Words
1 I 16%
2 K 11%
3 H 9%
4 T 8.6%
5 N 8%
6 M 7.6%
7 F 7%
8 P 7%
9 L 6.6%
10 E 5%
10 O 5%
10 U 5%
13 A 4%

Quick note on the above: F and P have pretty much the same percentage, but there are two more F words than P words, so I didn’t list them as tied. Oddly enough, though, there are exactly the same number of words starting with E, O and U (or, rather, there were at the time that Jim ran these statistics. I’m sure that’s no longer the case).

As you can see, the percentages are close sometimes, but not near enough to be accurate. Also, you can see by the real count that I words blow all the rest out of the water. That’s due in large part to the i- prefix which enjoys a lot of use. If you stripped those out, K would be the winner, which isn’t surprising (or, at least, not to me, the one who coins the words).

Other than I, though, I realized that it shouldn’t be surprising that the vowel-initial words should come in last. Vowel-initial words can be thought of as, essentially, beginning with an empty consonant. If you added them all together, then, you’d get a count much like the other consonants, where, with K, for example, you get every word that starts with ka, ke, ki, ko and ku all together.

A small note about the iku here. This is essentially the Kamakawi equivalent of the pound (#) sign. It just means “number”. You may recognize this iku from the entry for ape, “one”. All the number glyphs are shapes traced from the original number system, which was just a series of dots. Since one dot is too small for a character, a short stroke (or dot above, originally) was added to the glyph for fatu, and that’s what became the iku for “one”. Basically, it reads as if it were “number one”.

All right, now to start on something exciting for the next week or so!


• Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ikavaka'.


  • (n.) book, or other piece of writing (document, tract, etc.)

A fulele e ni’u i iko ikavaka…
“I want to bite this book…”

Notes: Happy Caturday! :D

Here’s the picture that inspired the sentence:

Keli getting cosy with a book.

So my wife’s brother sent us a book for us to scan and send to him while he’s in Sénégal (apparently he needs to finish it for school). I opened it up and put it on the bed, and Keli was fascinated by it. She rubbed up against, she started to bite it, she clawed at it a bit. Eventually she laid down on top of it, finding it to be a fine seat. We did get it scanned in, but not until she’d had her way with it.

This word is derived from kava—or at least that’s what it looks like. It’s not immediately apparent to me what fire has to with writing, but the derivation from “write” to “book” is pretty clear.

Oh, but I forgot to do an entry for “write”… Oops. I’ll get to it by and by.


• Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'maha'.


  • (v.) to learn
  • (n.) learning, wisdom

Ka ma’a ei iu uila tomi o upea.
“I learned all their names.”

Notes: I remember when I created this iku. I specifically wanted to create something that wasn’t a combination of syllabic iku, and that wasn’t identifiably iconic. What you see above is the result. I really don’t get it. Just looking at it, it seems like it’s related to either ma or ha, but it isn’t. What a weird glyph…