Friday, December 15, 2023

Lexember, Day 15: lencura

I have a lot of diachronic rearranging to do. 

I’ll try to remember to blog about it if I come up with anything particularly interesting. 

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Lexember, Day 13: ôtri

I’m having a bit of an existential crisis about the language today, rethinking a lot about how to tetris together the many 3D diachronic puzzle pieces that make up the language. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to unravel it all today, or in the foreseeable future, so in case you notice some inconsistencies, that’s probably why. 

Really, next year, any other month is probably better for this!

Anyway, in the meantime here’s a recycled word I created a few years ago that still holds up to scrutiny, and has some interesting stuff going on:

Lexember, Day 12: istêna, pethru

Today’s words are an example of something that happens quite often in mixed language and languages with strong influence from another: synonyms of the same word from different families. Usually over time such words take on narrower meanings as they attempt to “share” semantic space. 

In this case, while both have a base definition of ‘stone’, istêna often has a further connotation of a decorative or precious stone or mineral, while pethru is generally more of a common rock or stone on the ground or perhaps used for building; a bit like stone (a direct cognate of istêna) and rock, an early borrowing from Medieval Latin rocca, from an uncertain source (possibly from a Celtic or non-Indo-European language).

Monday, December 11, 2023

Lexember, Day 11: frêiu

This is a weird little word that trickled down from Germanic. It means ‘world’, but in an abstract sense not tied to the planet – the Earth itself is called Ṫerra. Frêiu is more like “the range of human experience.” Originally frêius carried only the meaning of ‘world’; it took on the secondary meaning of ‘people’ in the same way that French monde took on the same connotation, probably from an earlier tout le monde ‘everyone’ (compare: le monde entier ‘the whole world’). 

Interesting side-note: The Proto-Germanic word, *ferhwuz, also meant ‘oak tree’, and is related to the Latin quercus with the same meaning, hence the taxonomic genus.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Lexember, Day 10: nôs, vôs

The plural pronouns in Gothic Romance are a busy set. In addition to the first person plurals, nôs (exclusive) and vôs (inclusive), there is also the second person plural iôs

Etymologically, nôs comes to us directly from Latin nōs via Romance Novelle and Bad Romance nos. Not many places to hide there! And iôs is only slightly less direct from Proto-Germanic *jūz via Griutungi *jūs, Old Valthungian iuvs, and Italian Gothic yous. Vôs, on the other hand, is a little trickier. It comes from Germanic *wīz via Griutungi *wīs and Old Valthungian vijs, but with Italian Gothic and Bad Romance co-existing in close proximity, Bad Romance vos ‘you’ was quickly replaced by the Germanic form to avoid confusion, but the influence of the Romance pronouns caused the change in vowels to vôs from where we would normally expect **vês.

Each of these three plurals also have a dual variant: ioth ‘you two’ from Italian Gothic yoth, from Old Valthungian jut, unchanged from Proto-Germanic *jut; veth ‘you and I, we two’ from IG veth, from Old Valthungian vit, Griutungi *wit, and Proto-Germanic *wet. Finally there is neth, a dual pronoun innovated from the exclusive nôs, ‘the two of us’ – mostly useful for couples referring to their significant others.

There are also oblique forms, such as second person dative plural iżus, or first person inclusive dative dual venqua, but those are for another day.

Lexember, Day 09: comprao

The l in the infinitive ending in Bad Romance and the resultant o in Gothic Romance are from a dissimilation rule that kicks in after Romance Novelle, in which two r’s cannot coexist in adjacent syllables, so ostensibly all verbs with r in the final stem syllable have infinitives in -ao where we would normally find -ra. Meanwhile the final o is from another Bad Romance era rule that turns pre-consonantal and word-final /l/ into /u/.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Lexember, Day 08: combreċa

Bear with me, I’m trying out something with the orthography. I have this whole palatal series, and I don’t really like digraphs, but I also don’t really like putting diacritics over consonants.

Or, I should say, in this context – I’ve said stuff like that before, and someone always comes up with some kind of “…but you use ǧ ž č š in Valthungian!” or “…what about all the wild digraphs in Modern Standard Imperial?” but not every feature is going to “taste” the same in every language. Think of it like this: Features like diacritics and special characters and deep orthographies – and, for that matter, palatals and pharyngeals and approximants, and anti-causatives and impersonal voice and iterative aspect – are all just individual spices in your conlanging cupboard. You can’t use them all in every recipe. I have recipes where I use offensive amounts of nutmeg, and I have conlangs that have an uncomfortable number of diacritics sprinkled on them. But 2tbsp of nutmeg doesn’t belong in most recipes, and diacritics on more than half of the graphemes don’t belong in most conlangs – and in the case of Gothic Romance, I’m a little diacritic-shy. 

(Is it a run-on sentence if there are four other complete sentences and a secondary parenthetical enclosed in a parenthetical?) 

Anyway, I’m trying out the dot-above-as-palatal thing for a minute, because I don’t like the taste of the cedilla option, and all of the digraph possibilities I can think of feel a little flat to me.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Lexember, Day 07: iê, ieth, que

There are two important things to take away from today’s Lexember words. 

The first is the distinction between and ieth, which is etymologically vast, but for practical purposes is the same as the distinction between a and an in English, or knowing when to use le or l’ – or any other kind of liaison – in French. There are a lot of these sorts of words with alternate pre-vocalic forms, though this is the only one (so far) in which the two forms come from completely different sources.

The second important takeaway is that of the clausal versus phrasal conjunction. These are not interchangeable: and ieth must always be accompanied by a verb and join two clauses, while que connects two words in the same clause (usually nouns). It can help to think of and ieth as equivalent to “and then” while que is closer to “and also.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Lexember, Day 06: cronu

I set out today to showcase and discuss a small but bigger-than-you’d-think class of words in Gothic Romance that can be traced back equally to Latin and Gothic. That is, their forms are similar enough and a few sound changes align in the right way that the resulting word would be the same ragardless of which branch it came from. This is compounded by the “word game” culture of the speakers of Bad Romance and Italian Gothic (which, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, were spoken in tandem by mostly bilingual speakers in a small city in northern Italy from the 12th to the 17th century), where jocular swapping of the occasional vowel often gave rise to permanent hybrid forms (cf. voqua ‘water’). 

In addition to cronu, a few others are veru ‘man’ (cf. Latin vir, Gothic waír, both from PIE *wiHrós), ezja ‘her’ (cf. Latin ea, Gothic ija), dreombra ‘to dream’ (cf. Latin dormīre ‘to sleep’, Gothic dráumjan ‘to dream’), and lôgura (cf. Latin lavāre ‘to wash’, Gothic lauga ‘laundry’).

However, before I got through making the above panel for cronu, I went for a trip down the proverbial rabbit-hole, trying to figure out the best way to derive a deadjectival (adverbial) suffix (‘‑ly’). Romance languages pretty universally use the suffix ‑mente from Latin mēns ‘mind’, and while it has an interesting semantic history, it wasn’t where I wanted to go with Gothic Romance. Germanic languages are a little less uniform, but a plurality of them use some derivation of ‑līk, from ProtoGermanic līką ‘body’. Now, a reasonable person would just look for a good derivation of a word that means ‘way, manner’, and for a moment I almost used ‑mo, cf. modus, quomodo, &c. But at the last minute, it occurred to me that another merger was at hand: mēns ‘mind’, līką ‘body’ – the obvious bridge to that gap is ‘heart’. 

The word ‘heart’ itself is another mixed word, croth (cf. Latin cor, with a stem-final d that gets lost in the nominative, and Gothic haírtō), but I wanted it to remain a little bit removed from the sound shifts applying to the full word, so after some fiddling around I settled on ‑cre from an earlier ‑core.

Then there’s the use of the genitive where in Romance languages we might find the “partative de,” which I’ve been noodling around with, but haven’t used in practice yet. This brought up the issue of the declension itself. I don’t want Gothic Romance to go too heavy on the inflections, but I thought it would at least be funny to steal back the genitive plural suffix from Old Valthungian which stole it from Latin to begin with. Latin ‑ārum and ‑ōrum became  Old Valthungian ‑aaru and ‑ouru,  giving way to Italian Gothic ‑aro and eventually Gothic Romance ‑ro. So **cron‑ro, but n and r are mortal enemies in Gothic Romance, and a persistent rule instantly separates them with a buffer d, which is how we end up with crondro for ‘of the horns’.

If that’s not enough excitement for one day, there’s also the unusual choice of Latin solitus  for the base of ‘usual’, which, with an unstressed vowel deletion, becomes soltus, which is when I decided to make good on my ruminating over causing a shift of VlC → VuC. An intermediate **soutu in Early Gothic Romance easily gave way to sûtu, plus our new ‑cre ending and we have a nice word for ‘usually’ as well. 

And with that, I might still make it in by midnight!

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Lexember, Day 05: pêstra

I almost didn’t make it today, because there are Great Things Afoot, but I’ve been wanting to blather on about this for a bit now. 

There are two interesting sound changes going on here, as described, but there’s also the pronoun eu, which is roughly equivalent to Italian ci or French y, derived from earlier iu, ultimately from Latin ibī. (The sentence in the example translates literally to French j’y penserai or Italian ci penserò.)

Monday, December 4, 2023

Lexember, Day 04: meôdjiris

Also a cognate with Valthungian mœ̄ǧin ‘to remind’. This was not exclusively reflexive before Late Italian Gothic, but it is rarely ever used in a non-reflexive state in modern Gothic Romance. 

Since I’m making these blog blurbs, which should probably be a bit longer and more interesting than the usual posts on FriendFace and TickTack and Strings, here are some other fun facts: Verbs that have this kind of umlaut in the infinitive and present tense lose it in the past and imperfect. In the third person singular, the present tense is (se) meôdjith (or meôdjis), but the imperfect is se môdivath, while the preterit is se môdith. The umlauted form is retained in the future, conditional, and present participle (se meôdjira, se meôdjirae, and se meôdjintu, respectively).

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Lexember, Day 03: neocta

Not a “new” word today, but I chose this one to highlight a particular sound change in Gothic Romance where Latin 〈ct〉 causes some umlaut and palatalization: neocta ‘night’

Umlaut in Gothic Romance:

  • a → e (/e/)
  • â → ê (/eː/) 
  • e → ei (/i/)
  • ê → î (/iː/)
  • i, î → no change
  • o → eo (/ɛʊ̯/)
  • ô → eô (/eːʊ̯/)
  • u → eu (/iʊ̯/; becomes /ɛʊ̯/ after a liquid)
  • û → eû (/iːʊ̯/

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Lexember, Day 02: cembra

Part of the problem with jumping into these kinds of things at the last minute is that I’ve already changed my mind about yesterday’s word. I think it should be voqua instead of vaqua. But that gives me something to ruminate over. In the meantime, for day 2: 

cembra ‘to change’

Friday, December 1, 2023

Lexember, Day 01: vaqua

I didn’t even think about Lexember this year until today, so I haven’t really thought out my plan. My “main” language for a few years now has been Valthungian, but I’d like to focus on something else for this month. For a few years now, I’ve been playing around with another a posteriori language, Gothic Romance, which is kind of what I wanted Valthungian to be before it became what it is. I haven’t spent much time on it, though, partly because there are some very complex sound changes operating on both Romance and Germanic languages in tandem, so please take all of this month’s words with a large grain of diachronically-fortified salt.

For Lexember this month, I’m mostly just going to work my way through the Swadesh and other word lists to try to build up a good “base” vocabulary where I can ponder the diachronics for another year or so… Maybe next year I’ll do a reprisal!

Just to give a little background before I start: Valthungian was originally supposed to be, “What if the Goths who sacked Rome in 410ᴀᴅ kept speaking Gothic instead of switching to Latin?” Valthungian isn’t really that, though, and became something much more Germanic and less Romancey than I intended. I love where it’s gone, though; I have no intention of trying to undo any of that. 

Gothic Romance tries to answer the same question, but in a very specific way in a very specific setting: Picture a small town somewhere in northern Italy where two 13th-century descendants of Gothic (or, rather, Griutungi) and Vulgar Latin (whatever that means) coexisted among a bilingual population for a few hundred years. The two languages (Italian Gothic and Bad Romance, respectively) develop a sort of common, synchronized phonology, and word games pop up spawning slang terms by applying affixes or inflections of one language to roots of the other, and after another five centuries or so, Gothic Romance is the result. I wouldn’t quite call it a creole, but perhaps a mixed language of sorts. A spicy mélange.

For illustrative purposes, here are a couple of examples from the vocabulary I’ve already established:

Latin decem /dekem/ → VL dece deh → BR dê   

Gothic taíhun /tɛhun/ → OV tehun → IG têju    →     GR têio /teːjo/

(For a while, têio probably coexisted with a Latinate dêio, but eventually the Germanic unvoiced version prevailed. The same kind of thing happens with a number of words with similar structures.)

Other words were merged or altered by word games that eventually became permanent, e.g.:

Latin aqua → BR aqua

Gothic watō ~ Griutungi watōr → OV watour → IG vatur

…but from aqua and vatur came vaqua and vaqur and aquor and vatua and atuor, and eventually vaqua becomes the accepted term, while vatuor remains as a term of art in plumbing and aqua- continues to be found in many derivations. (This may sound silly to some, but take a long look at variants in Middle English and tell me with a straight face that this is unreasonable!

So for Lexember Day 1, I’m going to start with the example above, most of which I invented as I was drafting this post:

[Lexember 2023, Day 01 - Gothic Romance


n.neu. - /ˈva.kwa/


In Bad Romance and Italian Gothic, there were any number of commonly accepted terms for ‘water’, including aqua, aquor, atuor, vaqua, vatua, vatuor, and vatur. They ultimately derive from Latin aqua and Gothic watō (or, more likely, Griutungi watōr).

‘I would like some water with ice, please.’ 
Ulirèu vaqua ambith glîs, mercjes.

A language by Jamin -]