Mark Rosenfelder has edited and updated my articles and essays from the Model Languages newsletter and the former Langmaker.com website, assembling them into the book Langmaker: Celebrating Conlangs. Available now as a Kindle or paperback from Amazon!
Here’s the third issue I ever published.
From firstname.lastname@example.org Fri Aug 4 12:13:39 1995 Date: 03 Aug 95 23:48:12 EDT From: Jeffrey Henning <email@example.com> To: BlindCopyReceiver: ; Subject: MODLANG 3 MODEL LANGUAGES The newsletter discussing newly imagined words for newly imagined worlds ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Volume I, Issue 3 -- July 1, 1995 MORE GYMNASTICS WITH ONOMASTICS Where the last issue of _Model Languages_ described in detail how to create model languages for generating names, this issue specifically elaborates on how different languages and cultures form names. Here are some useful terms to describe the study of names: _onomastics_ - the study of names (in general) _anthroponomastics_ - the study of personal names _toponomastics_ - the study of place names. CONTENTS 1 Structure of Names 1 Patroynmics: In The Name Of The Father 2 Constructing Names 3 Forming First Names First 3 Forming Family Names 4 Forming Names of Nations 5 Cultural Attitudes Towards Names 5 REGENERATE STRUCTURE OF NAMES There are many different ways a culture can structure a name, and the people who speak your language may use any of the following, or a different way besides: [given name] - Jeffrey [given name] [family name] - Jeffrey Henning (American) [family name] [given name] - Mao Ze-Dong (Chinese) [given name] [occupation name] - John Smith (English) [given name] [maiden name] [husband's family name] - Karen Flynn Henning (American) [given name] [middle name] [family name] - Jeffrey Alan Henning (American) [given name] [middle name] [confirmation name] [family name] - Karen Lee Kristina Flynn (Catholic Irish) [given name] [family name] [occupation name] - Mark Jones-the-petrol (Welsh) [given name] [son of] [father's name] - Bjo//rnstjerne Bjo//rnson (Norse) [given name] [daughter of] [father's name] - Vigdi/s Finnbogado/ttir (Norse) [given name] [father's name + "child of"] [family name] - Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (Russian) [given name] [middle name] [maternal grandfather's family name] [paternal grandmother's family name] [paternal grandfather's family name] -- Eliana Marcia Villela Gomes Soares (Brazilian) [given name] [middle name] [maternal grandfather's family name] [paternal grandfather's family name] [husband's mother's name] [husband's father's name] -- Maria Beatriz Villela Soares Veiga de Carualho (Brazilian) [given name] [father's family name] y [mother's family name] - Jose/ Aguilar y Ferna/ndez (Spanish) [given name] [father's family name] de [husband's father's name] - Mari/a A/lvarez de Aguilar (Spanish) [given name] ["father of" eldest son] [given name] [father's given name] - Tafari Makonnen (Amharic) This list is in no means exhaustive, with the possibility of variations even within a tradition. My friend Steve and his wife recently named their baby Joshua Patrick Lewis LaFrance Weissman: Joshua Patrick because they liked the Old and New Testament ring, Lewis after Steve's grandfather, LaFrance after his wife's surname, and Weissman because .... well, because! Throughout much of history, when most people never traveled far from home, a given name sufficed, with use of a nickname in case there were two Davids in the village, for instance. As people were exposed to more and more people, the family name was added to differentiate people, then the middle name was added for the same purpose. As mass communications and the Internet expose people to that many more individuals, it would not be surprising if people begin making more prominent use of their middle names and begin adding extra middle names, like my friend Steve did for his son. In Britain and the U.S., the first name, the given name, is the one the person regularly goes by. This is not so in Germany, where many people go by their middle names, so that Helmut Michael Schneid is likely to be called Michael by his friends, not Helmut. Of course, many Oriental languages put the family name before the given name, reversing the regular order of Occidental names. Thus, Mao Ze- Dong is known as Chairman Mao, not Chairman Ze-Dong. (Hungarian is another language that puts the family name first.) English names are unique in one respect -- no other language has a construct similar to the _Jr._ ("Junior") that gets appended to the names of boys who have the same names as their father's, so that Carl Glenn Henning's eponymous son is known as Carl Glenn Henning, Jr. Some languages, such as Russian, add gender endings to the family name, so that it is Mr. Molotov, but Mrs. Molotova. The Japanese routinely append an honorific to a person's name, such as _-san_; or _-sama_, a superhonorific; or _-kun_, for someone familiar or subordinate; or _- chan_, a term of endearment reserved for children. PATRONYMICS: IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER One of the more common elements of names is a patronymic, a reference to a person's father. LANGUAGE AFFIX EXAMPLE ----------------------------------- English -son Stevenson Greek -poulous Cosmopoulus Irish O'- O'Leary Polish -ski Jaruzelski Scots Mac-, Mc- MacDougal Welsh Ap Ap Gwilym Related to this, _Fitz-_ (as in _Fitzgerald_) is Old French for "son of", though it was typically used to mean "illegitimate son of". (So the next time you're angry with some idiot, but your kids are listening, call him a "son of a Fitz".) Amharic (which is a language of Ethiopia) no longer has a separate word for its patronymic, so a name is simply formed from the child's given name plus the father's given name (as if Robert Stevenson was just Robert Steven). While English has fossilized its patronymic, so that for all we know Robert Louis Stevenson's father may have been named Joe, many languages -- including Arabic, Hebrew and Icelandic -- give a new patronymic to each generation. In such a culture, Robert Louis Stevenson's son Jeffery would be known as Jeffery Robertson and his son Thomas would be known as Thomas Jefferyson, and so on, with each son give a different last name than his father. The Russians use patronymics in such a way that children still have the same family name as their parents. In Russian, the patronymic is the middle name, so Ivan's son has the middle name of Ivanovich, while Ivan's daughter has the middle name of Ivanovna. The Spanish and Portuguese are more fair to the people who carry these children for nine months. Both languages form last names from the family names of both the mother and father. In Brazilian, the name of the mother precedes the father's, so that the mother of Eliana Marcia Villela Gomes Soares has a surname of Villela, while Eliana's father had the surname of Gomes Soares (Gomes being the family name of his mother). Spanish reverses the order, putting the name of the father first. Related to patronymics, but different altogether, is _teknonymy_, where the parent is named after the child. In Arabic, the parent would be known as "father of" or "mother of" the eldest son. CONSTRUCTING NAMES FORMING FIRST NAMES FIRST The story is told, perhaps apocryphally, of a tribe in Nyassaland, Africa, that took its names from a publisher's book catalog that had found its way into their hands. The chief christened himself Oxford University Press. Ox, as his friends may have called him, had chosen his name in one of the more unusual ways. Typically, first names are formed from compounds, from saints' names, from places, from personal traits -- in fact, from many things other than publisher's book catalogs. German and Celtic frequently formed compounds (and served as the basis for the naming vocabulary described in the June issue). Examples of this style of first names include _Baldwin_, "bold friend", and _Gilbert_, "shining pledge". The first name is often, especially in Britain, called the Christian name, because after the Norman Conquest the first name was frequently taken from that of a Christian saint (Matthew, Mark, Luke and others). Other traditions would name children after places (_Norton_, "from the northern village"; _Glenna_, "from the glen"), personal characteristics (Joy; Kent, "handsome"; Kevin, "kind") and even animals (I'm not going to mention "Dances With Wolves" again). Arabic and Semitic, and many other languages, feature theophoric names, names referring to God, such as Arabic _Abd Alla-'h_, "slave of Allah", or Hebrew _Daniel_, "God is the judge", and _Michael_, "God-like". Anglo-Saxon names also referred to God, as in _Godfrey_ referring to "God's peace" (and surviving in the more common name descended from _Godfrey_, _Jeffrey_). The Anglo-Saxons had not always been Christian, and older names made frequent use of _Alf-_, "elf", the elves being divine spirits, so that _Alfreda_ meant "counselled by elves" and _Elvira_ meant "elf-like" (making it a suitable name for the host of a horror-movie theater). Since the elves, if not appeased, might take a baby and leave a changling in its place, it was hoped that a child named after elves would be left alone by them. Other cultures take the fear of evil spirits further. If a mother had already lost a child to disease, she might be likely to name her next child after something vile, to keep evil spirits away. So her baby might be given an _apotropaic_ name like "Ugly" or "Misshapen". A name like "Ugly" would not be accepted in many European countries. France, Germany and Scandinavia all have lists of approved first names; a baby must be given an approved name, or the child will not be legally recognized. (Perhaps a superstitious Norwegian will name his child "Illegal" in the hopes of keeping those modern evil spirits, lawyers, away.) Incidentally, many languages do not have separate names for men and women, as if all names were like the English neuter names of _Chris_, _Alex_, _Lee_ and _Kelly_. Other languages often use regular inflections for grammatical gender to indicate the gender of names, so that _John_ and _Jane_, for instance, which are both from the same Hebrew name, are represented as _Johann_ and _Johanna_ in German, _Giovanna_ and _Giovanni_ in Italian and _Juana_ and _Juan_ in Spanish. FORMING FAMILY NAMES In America, melting pot of the world, there are over 1.2 million last names, according to an analysis of the Social Security rolls. In an analysis of my own business address book, consisting of 4,240 U.S. computer professionals, I found 2,936 unique names, ranging from _Abate_ to _Zytniak_. Choosing any individual at random revealed a 48% chance that no one else in the address book had the same last name as them -- this is simply an amazing diversity, representing the hundreds of cultures who have seen citizens migrate to the United States. Koreans, in contrast, have just a few principal last names, such as Kim, Pak and Yi, though they have different spelling variations (Yi is also spelled Li, Lee, I and Rhee). Because ancestry is so important to Koreans, they have been culturally adverse to changing their last names; in fact, family names are so important that women do not change their family names upon getting married. As a result, Koreans have preserved the last names of the three major families that first settled the present-day Korean peninsula. Like the Koreans, the Welsh also have few family names. So to tell apart all the people named Jones, Price or Evans, the Welsh tend to distinguish people with 'by-names', so that Welsh _Mark Jones-the- petrol_ is distinguished from _Mark Jones-the-gardener_. Many family names derived from such a casual use of referring to people by their occupations: farmer, weaver (e.g., Webster), baker. One of the most prestigious occupations in ancient times was that of the blacksmith, who forged swords into ploughshares in time of peace, and pikes into pole-arms in time of war. In fact, blacksmiths were among the most influential members of community, which is why the most common family name in many cultures is "Smith": Arabic _Haddad_ English _Smith_, _Smythe_, et. al. French _La Fe\vre_, _La Forge_ German _Schmidt_ Hungarian _Kova/cs_ Portuguese _Ferreiro_ Russian _Kuznetsov_ Spanish _Ferna/ndez_, _Herna/ndez_ Besides occupations and patronymics, other sources of family names include places (Henning, for instances, means "the meadow filled with larks"), colors (White, Brown, Green) and virtues (Good). FORMING NAMES OF NATIONS Many groups of people (races and nations) see themselves as "the people" of the world. If they are isolated from other tribes or realms, they are even more likely to name themselves "the people", as the Innuit (Eskimos), the Bantu (an African tribe) and the Illeni Indians (for whom Illinois is named) did. The Chinese were chauvinistic about it; their name is derived from the dynasty of Chin, with Chin being the word for "man". The more different realms a group of people are aware of the more likely they are to name themselves after the place where they live: the Canadians live in Canada, the English live in England, the Germans live in Germany. But the Jews live in Israel (the name of one of their greatest ancestors). If your imaginary people are imaginative enough to call themselves something besides "the people" or "the people of [place]", they will nonetheless give themselves a flattering name, something like "the people of God" or "the blessed people" or "the people of [person]", where the person is any suitably noble patriarch or matriarch. So how did the English get to be called the English? Well, in the fifth and sixth centuries AD, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes migrated from northern Germany to southern Britain. The Angles' name was related to their word _angel_, "hook", and is assumed to refer to hook-shaped stretches of the German coast. By the ninth century, _Englaland_ was used to describe the island all three tribes had settled, and the form of the name was quickly shortened (not by happenstance, but by haplology) to _England_. CULTURAL ATTITUDES TOWARDS NAMES "No one knows a man's true name but himself and his namer. He may choose at length to tell it to his brother, or his wife, or his friend, yet even those few will never use it where any third person may hear it. In front of other people, they will, like other people, call him by his use-name, his nickname -- such a name as Sparrowhawk, and Vetch, and Ogion which means 'fir-cone'. If plain men hide their true name from all but a few they love and trust utterly, so much more must wizardly men, being more dangerous, and more endangered. Who knows a man's name, holds that man's life in his keeping." - _A Wizard of Earthsea_, Ursula K. Le Guin. Names are invested with a power. Many cultures have private names, or true names, that are only to be used by family and close friends, with a public name used regularly instead. The fear is that a wizard or witch will learn their true name and so be able to cast a spell over them. In Mu/harafic, the model language spoken by desert nomads in an exceptionally dry science fiction novel a friend and I once wrote, each person's name exerts power over them. The most powerful person in the clan is the watersinger, who names each child upon ascension to adulthood, and therefore knows the names of everyone in the clan. The watersinger can declare a person outcast by announcing his true name to everyone. Alternatively, a person can _gnomifesi_, "confide one's true name to another", to give themselves in marriage to their partner. The Todas of India are not afraid to have their names known, but they will not themselves pronounce their own names. When an individual is introduced to someone new, she asks a companion to say her name. As David Crystal writes in _The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language_, "People in the 20th century may find it easy to dismiss such attitudes, but things have not greatly changed. It is unlikely that popular opinion would ever allow a new ship to be named _Titanic_." ------------------------------------------------------------------------ POSSIBILITIES AND PURPOSES FOR MODEL LANGUAGES "Nobody believes me when I say that my long book [The Lord of the Rings] is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real. But it is true. An enquirer (among many) asked what the L.R. was all about, and whether it was an allegory. And I said it was an effort to create a situation in which a common greeting would be _elen si-'la lu-'menn omentielmo_ ['A star shines on the hour of our meeting'], and that the phrase long antedated the book." - Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Christopher Tolkien, Feb. 21, 1958 Model languages come in many different sizes and types. You can classify a model language both for its scope and for who is intended to speak it. CLASSIFYING BY SCOPE For different scales, a model language might be used for jargon, names, proverbs, conversations or literature. Each layer of complexity requires a more detailed lexicon and grammar, ranging from a jargon consisting of a handful of words and a way of forming plurals to a complex language that can be used to carry on a conversation or support a literature. Most of the model languages that have gained recognition have been intended for use as true languages, but many other model languages of smaller scale exist within works of fiction. Few writers can create an entire language, as Tolkien or Anthony Burgess did; few writers need that much detail in the first place. When trying to decide what model language to create, you should not be intimidated by the magnitude of the works accomplished by Tolkien or Burgess -- that would be like fearing to write a short story because you had read _War and Peace_. Creating a language for jargon simply means you are only interested in having a few words to convey the flavor of another culture. A model jargon is rarely even dignified with a name, since it is so small. A science-fiction author might coin a few words for unusual aliens and new technologies. For instance, I do not recall much linguistically about Larry Niven's _Ringworld_, other than to remember that he coined the word _tang_, "there ain't no justice", as the curse word used by his characters; no doubt he had coined other words to reflect the technology and topography of Ringworld and to enhance its ambience. CLASSIFYING BY TIME-FRAME OF SPEAKERS Besides classifying a model language by its use, you can classify a language by whether the people who speak it are alive today or are an imagined people of the past or future. A model language might be intended to represent the language of a people who lived in the remote past. It might be intended as a linguistic experiment, showing how a language might have evolved if the past had been changed (alternate past). A model language is commonly something intended for use in the present, such as Esperanto. Finally, it might be set in a future world, such as Burgess' Nadsat or Marc Okrand's Klingon. CLASSIFYING MODEL LANGUAGES The following chart illustrates one way of classifying some popular languages. Most of those languages listed under "Present" and "Literature" are meant as auxiliary languages or international languages, designed to be learned as a common second language. Alternate Past History Present Future ------------------------------------------------------------------ Literature | Quenya New Norwegian Nadsat | Esperanto | Basic English | Volapu_:k | et. al. Conversations | Klingon | Proverbs | Yilane | Fremen Names | Hobbit English | Jargon | | IDEAS FOR MODEL LANGUAGES What follows are some ideas drawn from across the above classification matrix, to encourage you to create your own model language. NAMING LANGUAGES A naming language is a model language created primarily for the purpose of naming people, places and things in an imaginary country or world. It is the simplest type of language to create, since it doesn't need a detailed grammar. The last issue provided an overview on how to create such a language. ALTERNATE LANGUAGES Science fiction contains a sub-genre of literature known as the alternate history, which postulates worlds that never existed, but might have. What if William the Conquerer, instead of Harold, had fallen at Hastings? What if the French Quebecois and their English neighbors had assimilated? What if the Moors had not stopped at Spain but had conquered England? Alternate universes such as these suggest languages that might have emerged but didn't -- these alternate universes are ripe for the creation of model languages. If William the Conqueror and his Norman troops had failed to conquer the Anglo-Saxons, the English language would have taken a different course altogether. English would have retained much more of its vocabulary, which instead was largely displaced by Norman French. Since an Anglo- English would have retained much of its vocabulary, it might have proven more resistant to borrowing foreign terms. Anglo-English syntax would depend more on inflections, for English lost the Anglo-Saxon inflectional endings under pressure from Norman French, which had a different system of inflections all together. Anglo-English would be a fascinating language indeed. (If anyone out there wants to be the Ivar Aasen of English, let me know.) If the French- and English-speaking people of Quebec had been less interested in preserving their own backgrounds and more interested in building a community together, a new Gallic-English might have evolved as the two languages merged. This new language would have an even simpler grammar than English, as speakers concentrated on the distinctions that French and English had in common. The Moors expanded from North Africa to conquer much of the Iberian Peninsula. Had al-Mansur been able to forge a kingdom that would have survived his death (rather than degenerate into quarelling taifas), the Moors might have tried to invade England, giving rise to a Moorish English. Alternative languages are fun to think about, and you should always be able to come up with one moor version of English. FUTURE LANGUAGES The model linguist need not stop at the past or imagined alternate pasts. He can move to the future, postulating languages that might come to exist. For instance, the Roman Empire spread Latin across Europe. As the Empire declined, the farflung local speakers of Latin slowly changed the language they had learned from Rome. As a result, Latin evolved into Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Sardinian, Catalan, Rhaetian, Occitan and Dalamation (now extinct). A different type of empire has risen today, the cultural empire of English. English is now spoken as the mother tongue in Britain, the United States, Canada, Guyana, Australia and New Zealand. Over time, the dialects of English spoken in these areas may diverge as much as Italian, Spanish and French diverged from Latin, giving rise to new languages, based on English, but different from it. English has already given rise to new Englishes, such as Krio (an African creole) and Singlish (Singaporean English). The great thing about constructing a future English is that you already know English! You have already mastered its vocabulary and grammar and can postulate how you would like to see those evolve in a future descendant of English. AUXILIARY LANGUAGES Anyone who has traveled extensively through foreign countries wishes there was one language she could learn that people everywhere could speak. English comes close, but carries with it a cultural baggage that many find oppressive or offensive. From Volapu_:k to Esperanto to Interlingua, people have struggled to create languages to make it easier to bring people together. Nor are these efforts in the past. For instance, Phil Hunt is creating Eurolang, which he hopes to position as the common language of the European Union. It is easy to think of situations where simplified bridge languages would be beneficial to people -- to Quebec and to the U.S./Mexico border, to give two North American examples. While the practical steps required to see that an auxiliary language establishes a significant community of speakers are daunting, you can always choose to create such a language as simply a fascinating linguistic exercise, rather than a new social movement. The possibilities for model languages are endless. Timothy Miller has been entertaining CONLANG subscribers with his Monkey Language, and he is also developing a Ferengi language for Star Trek fans (the Ferengi are the big-eared aliens, in case you didn't know). The possibilities are endless, so get working on your language today! *** You have just finished reading _Model Languages_, a regular on-line newsletter published monthly and provided free to all interested parties as part of the "gift economy" of the net. Feel free to post this newsletter on BBSes or online services and feel free to e-mail it to others, so long as you include this trailer. To subscribe, send a message with the text "SUBSCRIBE MODLANG \3 [your name]" in the subject header to firstname.lastname@example.org. To cancel a subscription, send a message with the word "UNSUBSCRIBE MODLANG" in the header. I look forward to all comments, including the inevitable corrections, and am always interested in possible articles for inclusion in future issues. To retrieve back issues, send a message with the text "RETRIEVE MODLANG #(-#)" in the header, where the number signs represent the issue or issues you want to retrieve; e.g., "RETRIEVE MODLANG 1" for the first issue, "RETRIEVE MODLANG 1-2" for the first two issues (you are reading issue 3). Retrievals are processed once a month (until I find a volunteer to set up a mailbot). NOTE: This document looks best when formatted with a monospaced font such as Courier. NOTE 2: This newsletter was transmitted late, due to problems with my home-grown mailbot. The August issue will be transmitted in mid-August. Contents copyright 1995 Jeffrey Henning. All rights reserved.