The Spem conlang
The Spem conlang: demonstrative- and quantifier-type compounds
Demonstrative is the technical term for words like 'this' and 'that'. English has only the two; where 'this' denotes something near or associated with the speaker and 'that' denotes something not so. Most other languages that I've seen (Spanish, Latin, Japanese) separate 'that' into one that denotes something near or associated with the listener, and one that denotes something distant from both of you. So basically a first, second and third person.
Spem has four person-distinctions for this. A first person, a second person, a third person, and a "first and second" person, which denotes something near or associated with both the speaker and the listener.
There's also a time axis. In English (and as far as I can tell the other languages I've seen with three) this/that has a connotation of "the present or the near future" versus the past. For example:
- "I didn't mean to say that." 'That' is still referring to something associated with the first grammatical person, but because it's something said in the past, it gets 'that' instead of 'this'.
- "Don't take this personally, but..." Referring to something about to be said, it gets 'this'.
Note also the existence of *place* versions of the demonstratives: *here* and *there*. There are also time versions: *now* and *then*.
Spem uses a prefix-suffix structure for these words: there are prefixes for each of the demonstrative persons, and suffixes for thing, place, time, and a couple others. There are also quantifier prefixes, which allow building words like "everywhere", "somewhere", "often" and "never".
- dje - 1st person present
- djɵ - 2nd person present
- djɪ - 1st & 2nd person present
- djʌ - 3rd person present
- da - all
- dɑ - most
- do - many
- de - some
- dʌ - few
- nʌ - none
For demonstrative persons, remove the initial *d* to form the past version.
- n - thing
- m - person
- ŋ - place
- l - time
- θ - case (used instead of non-literal uses of place and time)
- djen - this
- djeŋ - here
- djɵn - that
- djɵŋ - there
- dal - always
- dol - often
- nʌl - never
- deŋ - somewhere
Here are some use examples for the demonstrative persons:
- You and a friend finish a game and you want to say, "That was fun". Use jɪn because it's something associated with both the first and second person, but in the past.
- Your friend is reading a book and you want to ask, "what's that book?". Use djɵn.
- You see a building across the street from you and your friend and want to ask, "what's that building?". Use djʌn.
- You find out everyone else in the room believes something stupid and want to say, "This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard". Use djɵn because it's associated with the people you're talking to.
- You're mad about something that's happening to you and want to say, "This is bullshit". Use djen. If it's happening to both you and the person you're ranting to, use djɪn. Although this one is a grey area. A case could be made that it'd be better to use djʌn or even nɑi since it's not something being done by you or the listener. After all if you were ranting to the person doing what you see as bullshit I'd use djɵn.
- You and a friend are trying to solve a problem and you want to say, "This isn't working". Use djɪn.
- Someone misquotes you and you want to say, "That's not what I said". Use djɵn because 'that' is referring to what the person you're addressing just said (or, if you feel you're actually addressing the person the misquoter was speaking to and you'd proceed to use third-person pronouns to refer to the misquoter, then djʌn is correct).
- Someone explains that they don't trust your friend because of something they did before and you want to say "That was a long time ago. They've changed". Use jʌn.
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