How to Not Verb

Logan Kearsley lived in multilingual Belgium for three years as a child, but didn’t realise other languages were cool before moving back to the anglophone United States, where he started conlanging at a still-young age and eventually studied Russian in high school. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Masters in Linguistics, and has had the opportunity to study a wide variety of languages while working to develop software for teaching and learning foreign languages at the university level and researching language pedagogy.

Abstract

“Can a language exist without verbs? What would such a language look like?” These are perennial questions in many conlanging communities. They do not, however, have a single unique answer. Whether a language can exist without verbs, or what that question even means, fundamentally depends on how one chooses to define “a verb”–something which is not universal between language or between linguistic theories. Under any given definition of “a verb”, however, a number of different strategies have been investigated by different conlangers over the years for eliminating the category from their languages. In this article, Logan Kearsley surveys some of the strategies that have been tried, with an analysis of which definitions of verblessness they do or do not meet, and provides reference materials and recommendations for other conlangers who may wish to tackle this kind of project themselves.

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Potential Paonese: A Reconstruction from Jack Vance’s “The Languages of Pao”

Logan Kearsley lived in Belgium for three years as a child, but didn’t realise other languages were cool before moving back to the anglophone United States, where he started conlanging at a still-young age and eventually studied Russian in high school. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a minor in linguistics, and has had the opportunity to study a wide variety of languages while working to develop software for teaching and learning foreign languages at the university level and researching language pedagogy.

Abstract

While Jack Vance’s novel The Languages of Pao provides next to no information about the eponymous languages themselves, there are tantalizing glimpses of the intrafictional natlang Paonese. Based on narrator’s comments, glosses, and a small corpus of individual words, this article describes the process of analyzing the attested data on Paonese and producing a reconstruction. Due to the sparsity of the evidence, there is an enormous amount of room for individual interpretation and creativity in filling in the gaps; thus, we cannot say that this or any reconstruction necessarily represents the original, correct Paonese, or even that such a thing actually exists. Nevertheless, we can create a description of a language that could have been Paonese—a potential Paonese. For this particular reconstruction, I have chosen not to produce the simplest possible language that accords with Vance’s work; but rather to develop a language which is naturalistically complex, does not reflect an obvious anglophone bias, and yet still can explain the evidence in the book.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Posted in Analysis, Conlang Descriptions, English Language. Tags: . Comments Off on Potential Paonese: A Reconstruction from Jack Vance’s “The Languages of Pao” »