How to evolve my proto-conlang

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KusaFox
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How to evolve my proto-conlang

Post by KusaFox » 14 Sep 2016 15:50

Hello everyone. I've made a small Proto-Elvish language, which I want to use to make other languages for my world building project, with the priority being:
Proto-Elvish -> Common Elvish -> Northern Elvish -> Old Imperial Elvish -> Imperial Elvish.

Here is a rundown of Proto-Elvish (Neolithic to Early Bronze Age):
Spoiler:
Phonemic Inventory

Consonants: / m n b t d k j f s l w r kw gw g /
Vowels: / iː i uː u eː e o aː a /

Phonotactial Rules

- CVC
- Onset: All Consonants
- Nucleus: All Vowels
- Coda: Only / l r n f s m /
- 0 -> uː / C_#

Morphology: Agglutinative
Word Order: VSO
Gender: 2 non-sex based genders i.e. Light and Dark
Adjectives: NAdj
Number: NNum
Possessive: PosN
Articles: NArt
Adpostions: Prepostions
Pronouns: No sex distinction in personal pronouns. i.e. No "he" and "she" type pronouns.
Plurals: Prefix / da- /
And a rundown of Imperial Elvish (WAY less developed)(Late Middle Ages to Early Renaissance):
Spoiler:
Phonemic Inventory

Consonants: / p t d k g kw m n ŋ f v s ʃ x ɹ j l w /
Monophthongs: / ɐː æ eː e iː ɪ ʉː ʊ ɔ /
Dipthongs: / ɑɪ æɔ oɪ oʊ jʉː /
R-Coloured: / ɪɹ ɜːɹ /

Morphology: Agglutinative
Word Order: SVO
Now my problem is, I've never made language family stuff before, and I am looking for some advise on how to do so. How do I evolve my proto-lang into it's desired final daughter form? I hope I've made some sort of sense with explaining myself.
Thank you in advance.
"You can't fight progress, no matter how strange it sounds. ”

— Miriam Stockley, voice provider of "MIRIAM"

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k1234567890y
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Re: How to evolve my proto-conlang

Post by k1234567890y » 16 Sep 2016 10:08

should I directly help you design sound changes? or you can read the index diachronica by Linguifex of this forum(his signature has a link to the family) to see what sound changes are atrested.

also, it is said that the following sound changes are common:

- final vowels often lose
- intervocalic(being between two vowels) plosives and fricatives are often voiced
- plosives may become fricatives(nonetheless, every natural language has plosives)
- word-final voiced plosives and fricatives often devoiced(or say, neutralized)

also these rules might also be common:
- /z/ often becomes /r/
- dental/alveolars and/or velars are often palatalized before front vowels and /j/
- unstressed vowels are often weakened, this might be connected to the fact that final vowels often lose
- unstressed vowels between two syllables are also prone to disappear(especially when the preceding or following syllable is stressed?)
- long vowels often diphthongize(e.g. /i:/ > /ai/; /u:/ > /au/)
- diphthongs also often become monophthongs(e.g. /ai/ > /e:/ or /a:/)
- stress positions can change, and when they change, they usually become predictable

some other changes:

- word-final consonants can also become weaken and disappear
- when a nasal consonant after a vowel disappears, it makes the preceding vowel a nasalized vowel
- final plosives can weaken to the glottal stop before they eventually disappear, and when the final glottal stop eventually disappears, it may give rise to a distinctive pitch accent/tone to the vowel preceding it.
- final fricatives can weaken to the glottal fricative/sonorant /h/ before they eventually disappear, and when the final /h/ eventually disappears, it may also give rise to a distinctive pitch accent/tone to the vowel preceding it.
- nasals can become voiced plosives and vice versa

moreover:

- umlauts seem to arise from vowel harmony
- high vowels(vowels like /i/, /u/) are more prone to weakening and elision(the disappearance of a phoneme), for example, the Havlik's law of Slavic languages.
- certain sound changes can take centuries before it completes.
- stressed vowels in open syllables might be lengthened.

principles of sound changes:

1. sound changes mostly ignore grammar: affixes are also affected by sound changes, and in my opinion, that's partly why some grammatical features, like nominal cases in English and adjectival inflections, have lost in some languages.
2. sound changes have no memory: if phoneme X and phoneme Y merge into Z under rule 1, and then a rule 2 that affects Z emerges after rule 1 has been applied, rule 2 can't only apply to X-origin phoneme Z or Y-origin Z
3. sound change rules are mostly exceptionless: if a sound change can happen on a word under a certain condition, it applies to every sound meeting the same conditions; however, sometimes, sporadic, irregular sound changes might still arise, in my opinion, exceptions are at least partly due to dialect levelling and/or grammatical regularization.
4. sound change is unstoppable: every language changes from time to time and place to place, there's no way to stop it, and this rule is exceptionless(unless the language is spoken by immortals?)
5. most sound changes are conditional, they only occur when certain conditions(for example, being word final or between vowels) are met
6. it seems that certain sound changes tend to cluster together, because they act on the similar places or manners of articulation and under similar conditions, at least in my opinion

These are only my opinions, they can be wrong, and you may need to read more about sound changes, both of the Wikipedia and the Index Diachronica made by Linguifex of this forum are good materials.
Last edited by k1234567890y on 17 Sep 2016 04:06, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to evolve my proto-conlang

Post by k1234567890y » 16 Sep 2016 11:28

Sorry for double posting.

Besides Sound Changes, Grammatical changes and Semantic changes are also important aspects of language evolution.

It is said that languages have the following pattern of morphological changes:

analytical > agglutinating > fusional > analytical

a way to gain new affixes is grammaticalization. Generally, grammaticalization has the following pattern:

content words(nouns, words, etc.) > functional words(adpositions, particles, etc.) > affixes

you can see here for some common patterns of grammaticalization: https://books.google.com.tw/books?id=rP ... on&f=false

In my opinion, sound changes described above may cause morphological changes(for example, if you originally had nominal cases solely distincted by means of final vowels, and now original final vowels are all reduced to /ə/ or have become lost, how come can you still have nominal cases?); also, regularization can also cause morphological changes, irregular forms tend to decrease from time to time, but irregular forms that are used very often are resistant to regularization.

Besides, there's a specific way for negations to evolve, it is called the Jespersen's Cycle, the Jespersen's Cycle is listed below( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jespersen%27s_Cycle ), it seems to be connected to both of the morphological and syntactic aspects of the grammar of a language:

preverbal negation > double negation with both preverbal negation and postverbal negation > postverbal negation

Syntactically, word orders can occasionally change, especially when language contacts happen. Besides mutual borrowing, language contacts can also make aspects of the grammatical structures, and the phonological systems, of languages more similar, that is, languages of communities that have many interactions tend to become more similar in respect of grammar(both of morphology and syntax) and phonology.

Semantically, even if there are no loanwords, some words can become obsolete and be replaced by other words from time to time and from place to place, so after a certain period of time, different dialects can use different words for the same meaning; also, the meaning of a word can also change from time to time.

The meaning of a word may not shift completely first, sometimes the range of meanings just extend or shrink; also, metaphorical meanings of a word is still a part of the meanings of the word, they must also be considered, metaphorical meanings of a word can also be used in compounds as their literal meanings. Without the use of metaphors, it can sometimes become increasingly hard to describe some phenomena.

Metaphorical use of words exist in all languages without a single exception, and there are some patterns of metaphors that are common to most if not all languages. For example(taken from http://www.unepd.info/IntlYearofLanguages.html ), all languages have metaphors that:

- Show “time” in terms of movement through space (along a “time line” with “distant” dates “far” in the future” or “nearby” dates “coming up soon”.(different languages can do this very differently, but it is the matter of how they do it, not the matter of whether they do it at all)
- Show importance in terms of size: all languages describe “important events” as “big” (i.e., “it’s a “big day for our team”, less important ones as “small” (e.g., “it’s just a small, unimportant detail”)
- Show positive emotions in terms of “brightness” or “higher temperature” (“Her smile “lights up” the room”, “He is a very warm person”), less positive ones in terms of “dullness” or “coldness” (“After she left, his world went gray”, “He can be as cold as a fish”)(however, it seems that "hotness" is connected to "anger" a lot)
- Show difficulty or ease in terms of “hardness” or “softness”, “bitterness” or “sweetness” (“go through a hard time”, “have a soft job”, “have a bitter experience”, and “know sweet success”)
(Above information on “metaphor” is from a presentation by Prof Carmen Betones, University of Almeria, curso de verano 2008, Fine Art, Language, and Synesthesia)

Besides, it seems that showing relative directions in terms of body parts is also very common in many languages.

It seems that if an originally honorific word is used too often, it can become neutral and even somewhat derogative; also, some words that are originally derogative can become less derogative after a certain period of time.

As far as I can see, words related to certain areas are more prone to gain derogative meanings, like words related to sex, excrements and intelligent disabilities(idiot and retardation were originally medical words, but now they have become offensive words).

Some cultures have taboos related to words that have become the names of the dead people and other occasions, and it seems this habit also serves as a device of semantic changes, you can read the following articles:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidance_speech

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taboo_on_the_dead

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naming_taboo

you can go to http://semshifts.iling-ran.ru to know how the meanings of a word may change.

For loanwords, functional words and grammatical affixes are very resisting to borrowings, that is, they are very unlikely to be loanwords(although the English 3rd plural forms are of Norse origin); common, everyday words(you can google the Swadesh list and the Lepizig-Jakarta list for some likely examples of such words, another way to know likely examples is to look for English words that are inherited from Old English) like those related to core kinships(father, mother, brother, sister, etc), body parts, natural phenomena and basic verbs are also pretty resisting to borrowings; also, in my opinion, verbs might be more resisting to borrowings compared to nouns.
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Re: How to evolve my proto-conlang

Post by Nachtuil » 16 Sep 2016 16:45

Wow, amazing information! Thank you Ky(I hope I can call you that lol)

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Re: How to evolve my proto-conlang

Post by k1234567890y » 17 Sep 2016 04:05

Nachtuil wrote:Wow, amazing information! Thank you Ky(I hope I can call you that lol)
you are welcome lol

there are people who know more than I am, you and the OP can also read articles written by other members in this forum.

Unstressed vowels tend to have less distinctions compared to their stressed counterparts.

Also, I personally think that the rule "high vowels(vowels like /i/, /u/) are more prone to weakening and elision(the disappearance of a phoneme), for example, the Havlik's law of Slavic languages." mostly take place when there are at least /a e i o u/ in the vowel system.

Moreover, you people may need to know something about linguistic universals to ensure that your language don't look too strange if being naturalistic is your goal; however most if not all of the rules are general tendencies rather than absolute rules, so they might have exceptions:

http://typo.uni-konstanz.de/archive/intro/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linguistic_universal

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenberg ... universals

Supplement: I forgot a pretty common sound change: compensatory lengthening, below is the description of compensatory lengthening:

when a syllable-final consonant is lost, the preceding vowel of the syllable is often lengthened.(the lost consonant doesn't need to immediately follow the vowel, for example, in the Szemerényi's law of the Proto-Indo-European language, word-final /Vrs/ becomes /V:r/ due to the loss of the final -s)
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Re: How to evolve my proto-conlang

Post by KusaFox » 18 Sep 2016 07:37

Thank you so much Ky ^_^ All of this is amazing, tho I will admit quite daunting, I just need to do my research and do my best.
Thank you again.
"You can't fight progress, no matter how strange it sounds. ”

— Miriam Stockley, voice provider of "MIRIAM"

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Re: How to evolve my proto-conlang

Post by Linguifex » 20 Sep 2016 06:49

k1234567890y has mentioned me! Here is a link to the PDF version of the Index, and here is chri d. d.'s searchable online version.
(Avatar via Happy Wheels Wiki)
Index Diachronica PDF v.10.0
Conworld megathread

AVDIO · VIDEO · DISCO

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