Saturday, February 26, 2011

Inlis: Importation and Homonyms

The main thing to remember when importing vocabulary into Inlis is that you will be importing nouns--not verbs as such nor adjectives as such. However, the forms may look like adjectives or (less often) verbs.

Verbs are imported as verbal nouns, and they generally end in -in: tinkin (thinking), wakin (working), wokin (walking), and so on. The reason for this ending is that -ing can suggest a noun or participle (and -en a participle), thus indicating the usage, and the marking as a verbal noun can avoid homonyms: rid (reed), ridin (reading); rait (right, privilege), raitin (writing). To avoid unwanted diphthongs, use -en instead of -in for roots ending in -a (rare--in fact, I can't think of an example right off) or -o: noen (knowing), goen (going). We also use -en after -i: sien (seeing, sight), not *siin. After -e we use -yen: breyen (braying), freyen (fraying), preyen (praying, prayer).

On the other hand, phrasal verbs don't use -in: bloap (not *bloenap, much less *bloapin), setap, wakaut (workout), etc. This generally coincides with English usage.

We seldom use -ion forms unless they are more common than the verb: neshan, opinyan, etc. Thus "creating, -ion" is krietin, not krieshan, which may however be used for the religious idea: Dem tok dibetin da krieshan oa da evolushan (They debate creation or evolution). Similarly, "sight, vision, seeing" is (as noted above) sien; vijan is vision in the mystical sense or that of what a visionary has.

Adjectives are imported in the shortest, simplest form unless that creates a homonym. Thus "wise" is wais, not wisdam, though the latter is more distinctive. Also hai (not *hait), waid (not wid, which means "weed"), and so on.

For nouns as such, we sometimes resort to the plural to avoid a homonym: tri "three," tris "tree"; bi "be," bis "bee."

In some cases, however, homonyms are acceptable. Thus, both "coat" and "court" become kot, but "court" will normally be lo-kot ("law-court"). But in compounds lo- will normally be dropped: kot-haus ("courthouse"). This won't keep punsters and fantasy-writers from construing it as "coat-house," nor is there any danger in such a move.

We try to avoid final consonant clusters, so the final consonant usually drops: impotan ("important"), esperantis ("Esperantist"), but esperantisam ("Esperantism").

This doesn't cover everything, but it should make current choices more intelligible and help someone who wants to import a form do so accurately.

Next time I'll sketch the grammar, which should explain some of the quirks we've already encountered.


  1. I was just wondering what use it is to keep all the English vowels sounds if your aim is keep Inlis simple.

    If TH from THINKING can be dropped in favour of T in TINKIN, why can't these dozen or so vowel sounds be reduced to continental vowels?

    If you don't want to touch the vowel sounds, don't you think it would be easier to read if umlauts or other diacritics were introduced over vowels.

    For example, one can write

    TRAP as TRÄP,
    NURSE as NÖS,
    START as STAHT...


  2. Apparently I wasn't clear: the various English vowels are reduced to the standard five (plus diphthongs). Thus the form of "trap" might remain the same, but it would have a standard (non-English) "a" sound; "nurse" would be pronounced "nas" and "start" as "stat"--all with the same standard "a" (generally /a/).

    The idea is to reproduce the kind of simplification and remapping found in creoles and even in borrowings from English to other languages.