Semantic primes morphology

A forum for all topics related to constructed languages
Post Reply
Posts: 354
Joined: 03 Sep 2012 21:27
Location: Modena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Semantic primes morphology

Post by Alessio » 17 Aug 2019 20:05

Lately I'm obsessed with semantic primes, to the point I decided I want to try to build a conlang basing its morphology entirely on them. It seems so natural to have a language express all of its concepts via units that have an inherent meaning, therefore having words that describe themselves, without the need for a dictionary.
Whether this is actually 100% feasible is another question I haven't even got to the point of asking yet. The thing is I have no idea how to start.
I thought of making up words by putting together sounds representing each prime, therefore having one sound for each of them, which is "easy" but has a big problem - you do not exactly decide where to put vowels. It's not like you can just have a cluster of 25 consonants - maybe 25 plosives - because your concepts needs to be expressed entirely with primes represented by a consonant. So what do I do, dedicate both a consonant and a vowel to each prime? There are way too many concepts and way too little vowels, even if I took tone and length into account. It would be an incredible mess.

Just to clarify, my goal would be to express words like this:
EYE = see + organ(= body + part)
The parentheses themselves are another problem I need to address. Once I have "see", "body" and "part" laid out, how do I mark the difference between (see + body) + part and see + (body + part)?

Also, I got the semantic prime list from this Wikipedia page:

So what are my options? Does anyone have any ideas?
:ita: :eng: [:D] | :fra: :esp: :rus: [:)] | :con: Hecathver, Hajás, Hedetsūrk, Darezh...

Tin't inameint ca tót a sàm stê żōv'n e un po' cajoun, mo s't'armâgn cajoun an vōl ménga dîr t'armâgn anc żōven...

Posts: 2323
Joined: 14 Aug 2010 09:36
Location: California über alles

Re: Semantic primes morphology

Post by Khemehekis » 18 Aug 2019 00:36

You might want to look at aUI, an oligosynthetic engelang based on one-phoneme morphemes. In aUI, the most "nouny" concepts are reserved for the vowels:

Space a /a/
Movement e /ɛ/
Light i /ɪ/
Life o /ɔ/
Human u /ʊ/
Time A /ä/
Matter E /e/
Sound I /i/
Feeling O /o/
Spirit/Mind U /u/
Condition Q /œ/
Negation Y /y/
Together b /b/
Existence c /ʃ/
Through d /d/
This f /f/
Inside g /ɡ/
Question h /h/
Equal j /ʒ/
Above k /k/
Around l /l/
Quality m /m/
Quantity n /n/
Before p /p/
Positive r /ʀ/
Thing s /s/
Towards t /t/
Active v /v/
Power w /w/
Relation x /x/
Part z /z/

Squirrels chase koi . . . chase squirrels

My Kankonian-English dictionary: 60,137 words and counting

31,416: The number of the conlanging beast!

User avatar
Posts: 253
Joined: 18 Nov 2017 02:41

Re: Semantic primes morphology

Post by Pabappa » 18 Aug 2019 01:16 (IMS) has oligosynthetic traits, though it's not fully oligosynthetic, nor are the morphemes semantic primes. But there are quite a lot of single-phoneme words nonetheless, and some C_C shells that require a vowel to appear between them. There's not much information on that wiki page that would be helpful because I mostly work offline these days.

What I can say is that, yes, it helps to have allomorphs for concepts that can appear in more than one position in a word. e.g. IMS /f/ and /o/ both mean "water", because water can either be the head ("sea water") or a modifier ("water boy"). However, some concepts, i think, are not really that flexible, ... e.g. if you have a morpheme /t/ that means "not", it's likely it will always appear in the same position in the word, so there's no need to give it an allomorph that's a vowel.

Also, I see no problem with having an equal number of tones and consonants. if it helps, maybe you can allow things like /lo/ to function as vowels, so that /plom/ would be CVC, and /lon/ would be VC. this assumes, of course, that youre willing to allow a cluster of any consonant plus an /l/.
Sorry guys, this one has the worst sting.

User avatar
Posts: 920
Joined: 11 Mar 2011 21:11

Re: Semantic primes morphology

Post by lsd » 18 Aug 2019 09:13

my advice: try by your own for avoiding relex, and find a new track...
give news on the board, I'll be happy to follow...

Post Reply