Conlanging through Translation

If you're new to these arts, this is the place to ask "stupid" questions and get directions!
Post Reply
HoskhMatriarch
mayan
mayan
Posts: 1779
Joined: 16 May 2015 17:48

Conlanging through Translation

Post by HoskhMatriarch » 06 Feb 2016 05:19

I had this idea to take blocks of texts and translate them and develop my conlang through that, as a sort of holistic approach. I don't like thinking about phonology and syntax and all that stuff people tend to get hung up on so much as how language is used. Has anyone ever tried conlanging by just translating texts before? My main problem so far is my tendency to want words to sound too much like English and German ('i's is probably the best copula ever though). Right now I have an English and German version of Der Aufbruch in front of me and I'm still trying to figure out things like words for "the" and agreement affixes, although I've been figuring out nouns and verbs fine.
No darkness can harm you if you are guided by your own inner light

User avatar
Ahzoh
korean
korean
Posts: 6253
Joined: 20 Oct 2013 01:57
Location: Toma-ʾEzra lit Vṛḵaža

Re: Conlanging through Translation

Post by Ahzoh » 06 Feb 2016 06:00

I develop most of my vocabulary when I need them, which is when I translate texts.
This is why I have barely 1400 words when I should have over 4000 (given my derivation system).
Image Ӯсцӣ (Onschen) [ CWS ]
Image Šat Vṛḵažaẇ (Vrkhazhian) [ WIKI | CWS ]

User avatar
Micamo
MVP
MVP
Posts: 7198
Joined: 05 Sep 2010 18:48
Contact:

Re: Conlanging through Translation

Post by Micamo » 06 Feb 2016 08:11

Thing is, it turns out that if you want to make something that's both aesthetically and logically consistent and coherent, you *do* have to think a lot about stuff like phonology, morphology, and syntax. These things aren't just high-falutin' abstractions linguists made up to give ourselves jobs, they're the building blocks of "how language is used."

Now, that's not trying to disuade you from this: Honestly I prefer to sketch my grammar this way instead of writing paragraphs and paragraphs of descriptions or tables of inflections. I find it more useful to do it with example sentences in isolation rather than complete texts, though.
My pronouns are <xe> [ziː] / <xym> [zɪm] / <xys> [zɪz]

My shitty twitter

User avatar
gestaltist
mayan
mayan
Posts: 1812
Joined: 11 Feb 2015 11:23

Re: Conlanging through Translation

Post by gestaltist » 06 Feb 2016 09:28

I don't do it that way for the sole reason that my results end up too much like one of the languages I speak. If you can avoid copying English grammar, it's a valid approach.

User avatar
abi
cuneiform
cuneiform
Posts: 87
Joined: 19 Aug 2010 20:09

Re: Conlanging through Translation

Post by abi » 06 Feb 2016 17:09

I usually come up with a phonetic inventory, orthography, grammar outline, about 50-60 words, and a few dozen simple sentences to get a feel for the language before I start translating. Translating for me is mainly a way to get common vocab and derivation without slogging through lists of "most commonly used words". I usually start with simple short stories, then work my way up to childrens books like The Little Prince. After short books like that I've never gotten far enough to translate a whole book because I get bored and the cycle starts over.

User avatar
Lambuzhao
korean
korean
Posts: 7798
Joined: 13 May 2012 01:57

Re: Conlanging through Translation

Post by Lambuzhao » 06 Feb 2016 17:29

HoskhMatriarch wrote:I had this idea to take blocks of texts and translate them and develop my conlang through that, as a sort of holistic approach. I don't like thinking about phonology and syntax and all that stuff people tend to get hung up on so much as how language is used. Has anyone ever tried conlanging by just translating texts before? My main problem so far is my tendency to want words to sound too much like English and German ('i's is probably the best copula ever though). Right now I have an English and German version of Der Aufbruch in front of me and I'm still trying to figure out things like words for "the" and agreement affixes, although I've been figuring out nouns and verbs fine.
abl wrote:I usually come up with a phonetic inventory, orthography, grammar outline, about 50-60 words, and a few dozen simple sentences to get a feel for the language before I start translating.
Most of my :con: S start with this. I kind of depend on the 50-60 words to give me some phonetic constraint parameters within which to work. The words themselves are usually grouped as Pronouns, Numbers, Common Verbs, Family Relationships, Element-Related words (mashup of various ancient elemental traditions: earth, air, fire, water, wood, lightning, metal, stone), some animals/plants/fungi, some names of possible hierarchical positions, some meteorological phenomenon, some descriptive words, the basic DIR.INTERR-IND.INTERR-REL-CIS-TRANS Correlatives. A lot of this may sound bloody Earthbound (and possibly PIE-centric), but more original/autochthone features often come with time and knocking the lang around with texts such as these.

The synopses on the back of DVD/VHS cases, the "In the News" blurbs of local newspaper, National Geographic, Discover, Scientific American or other magazines,
1-2 verses & chorus of Songs - these are great little texts to do precisely what you're talking about. I couldn't wait to give my conlangs a try on these.
They're short, pretty complete, and are guaranteed to make you come up with 15-30 new vocab apiece.

In the beginning, they helped me look at my conlangs as a whole and say "My Gosh, that's way too englishy. Lemme see what'll happen if I do this with verbs... and this with adjective order...". In other words, great exercises for metacogitating on the holistic aspects of yer :con: langs.

What a splendid idea! This translation sounds fun! I wholly endorse it - let's do it at once!
Mayor of Conlang Town
Image

HoskhMatriarch
mayan
mayan
Posts: 1779
Joined: 16 May 2015 17:48

Re: Conlanging through Translation

Post by HoskhMatriarch » 06 Feb 2016 19:41

Micamo wrote:Thing is, it turns out that if you want to make something that's both aesthetically and logically consistent and coherent, you *do* have to think a lot about stuff like phonology, morphology, and syntax. These things aren't just high-falutin' abstractions linguists made up to give ourselves jobs, they're the building blocks of "how language is used."

Now, that's not trying to disuade you from this: Honestly I prefer to sketch my grammar this way instead of writing paragraphs and paragraphs of descriptions or tables of inflections. I find it more useful to do it with example sentences in isolation rather than complete texts, though.
OK, thanks. Also, I mean, I do think about those things, just not as much as it seems a lot of other people do, since the first things people do when they describe their languages are give phoneme inventories and say "it's VSO and analytic".
No darkness can harm you if you are guided by your own inner light

User avatar
elemtilas
runic
runic
Posts: 3484
Joined: 22 Nov 2014 04:48

Re: Conlanging through Translation

Post by elemtilas » 08 Feb 2016 03:14

HoskhMatriarch wrote:Also, I mean, I do think about those things, just not as much as it seems a lot of other people do, since the first things people do when they describe their languages are give phoneme inventories and say "it's VSO and analytic".
Everyone's got their own way of it. First off I like to lay out a complete text, when I can. I'll almost never give a phoneme inventory. Not that I don't think about those things or write em down, but frankly, they're the least interesting things about any language real or imagined. [:|] Let's get on to seeing how the thing actually works and in its native context already!

I wholeheartedly endorse conlanging via translation. This is not only good practice, but can also be the inspiration for new and wonderful things for a world!

I also endorse "thinking" about those things like phonology and syntax and so forth -- but never to let facts of human linguistics to get in the way of a beautiful conlang!
Image

If we stuff the whole chicken back into the egg, will all our problems go away? --- Wandalf of Angera

Post Reply