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Comments on Khangaþyagon

I'm always keen to receive feedback about Khangaþyagon, so if you'd like to say anything about it, please add your comments here. To get the ball rolling, I've asked permission from a couple of people who've followed Khangaþyagon in translation relays to post the feedback they gave me.

Sally Caves, who followed Khangaþyagon in The Primordial Soup Relay, wrote

I think ⁅Khangaþyagon⁆ is very interesting; I like the VSO structure --being a Celticist-- but one thing I would drop is the repetition in the adjectives. It makes for a kind of repetitive wordiness, and this is why I don't particularly like agglutinating languages.

I replied: I chose VSO because Khangaþyagon is a magical language - indeed, the name translates as "magic language". I therefore thought that there should be an emphasis on action, so therefore the verb should come first.

Sally said: Hmm. Isn't that funny. Among the Teonim, it's the last thing that has emphasis, the newest sound in the air. So the verb comes last, Teonaht being an active language, with emphasis on volitionality.

I also said: I don't quite know why I chose adjective agreement - although in a VSO language with no accusative marker, it probably makes the sentence structure easier to follow.

Sally replied: Not really. Welsh doesn't have much adjective agreement; only in a few cases. Nor is it an inflected language like Irish.

Later on, Sally asked me a few more questions about Khangaþyagon. Here they are, with my replies

  1. Did Khangaþyagon emerge from a Role-Playing Game?
    • No, it's part of a fantasy novel which I'm in the process of writing.
  2. What are the features of Khangaþyagon such that it is a magical language instead of a regular conlang?
    • In its concultural setting, Khangaþyagon is the original language of the world in which it was spoken. The Creator of the world came into it and walked among the first people for a while, and that was the language He spoke with them. When one of them defied Him, seeking to make himself ruler over the people, and declared that he would rather not be than submit to the Creator, the Creator granted his wish not so be so as to restore peace. However, this created death, which grieved the Creator, so he resolved to withdraw from the world, so that His presence would cause no more harm. However, He left a remnant of His powers in the world for the benefit of mankind. Wizards are those who have the ability to use these powers, have attained the "true knowledge" of magic, and use them for the benefit of others. When other languages began to diverge from the first language, they lost their magical potency. Wizards therefore preserved its use amongst themselves, and named it Khangaþyagon. It is necessary for a wizard to be able to understand and communicate in Khangaþyagon - simply reciting spells by rote doesn't work, and would neither enable the practitioner to attain true knowledge nor to formulate his own spells.
  3. Is your choice of an agglutinating language important to the magical quality of this language?
    • It's influenced by the runic inscription that I used for my first source material. The ring was believed to be a talisman against bleeding, so I gave it an appropriate meaning, and then analysed the words to give that meaning. The length of the words made an agglutinating structure seem likely, so I parsed them accordingly. Since then, I've been largely guided by instinct - certain things seem right for Khangaþyagon, and that's my main design principle. I was also influenced by the large amount of compounding in German.
  4. Is your choice of adjective agreement important? If so, is it because of the repetition?
    • The repetition does give a certain incantatory feel to the language, I find. The poem that I posted on the conlang list illustrates this particularly well. This seems to be aesthetically right for a magical language. I suppose that it's partly a Latin influence (Latin was the language that first made me realise that a language could work in a significantly different way from English, and has a long history of sacred, scholarly and magical use) although in other aspects I've tried to avoid romance influences.
  5. Where did you get the Anglo-Saxon runic inscription on the ring? I'm sure it's not nonsense; just not West Saxon.
    • I was hoping for a Germanic, Saxon feel for Khangaþyagon, but not for a lookalike of any existing language. I was looking for information about Saxon runic inscriptions on the internet when I found the inscription, which I believe is the oldest runic inscription found in England. The fact that it seemed to be for magical purposes fitted what I wanted for Khangaþyagon exactly, so I'd found my starting point. Interesting that you think it's not nonsense. I wonder what it could be? The page where I found it didn't suggest a meaning.
  6. How influenced are you by Anglo-Saxon as a language?
    • I'm interested in the Anglo-Saxons as a culture. They were a significant proportion of my ancestors. They had a prototype democracy, they were a warrior culture but once they came into contact with Christianity they developed a thriving academic tradition practically overnight. I was at Durham University, at the College of St. Hild and St. Bede, named after two particularly important Anglo-Saxon scholars. William the Conqueror's other epithet describes his character as much as his parentage.

Jörg Rhiemeier, who followed Khangaþyagon in Conlang Relay 15, wrote

It is a nice, well-developed conlang with very rich morphology, which I like. I especially like the segunkar system, which reminds me of the Daghestanian "case construction kits"; I am going to have something similar in some daughter languages of Old Albic. The language seems somewhat pristine and artificial to me, but if I remember correctly, it is meant to be the first language from which all other language evolved in a fantasy world, so the lack of diachronic depth positively makes sense.

Roger Mills, who followed Khangaþyagon in Conlang Relay 16, wrote

gevont: ge- 'true' + v- know + pres.part. "true knowing??" I translated it literally as "true knowledge (of)..." but wonder if it could have meant 'to recognize' or 'to be aware of'

I replied: I generally use it as "understand". ge and v- are two of the first Khangaþyagon roots I created. Actually gevont should mean "One who understands", but I forgot about that little semantic irregularity there when I translated.

sabegrontol: by tolerating? or "with toleration"?; same for mezzalesardlol 'together+feeling+ADJ+by' = with sympathy, sympathetically??? anyhow it led to a comparable compound (feel+with) for 'sympathy' in Gwr.

I replied: Most words for sympathy or compassion in natlangs can be translated as "to feel or suffer with", so I followed the pattern.

paðiltar -- do,act + 3 +IMPER + pl. A 3rd pers. imperative?? "let (them) act...??" I translated as (they) must act

I replied: Strictly speaking, the Khangaþyagon imperative is also an optative or hortative, but grammatically it's all the same form. My smooth English has "Let them..." but "they must..." is perfectly valid.

snaug 'fault' -- now, that's one ugly word ;-)

I replied: Deliberate phonoaesthetic choice there.

and the last phrase: gevir yir yi 'true-know-3-pl they __? is the last yi = it? as I assumed

I replied: Yes

And what about that last sentence: "I am not sure" ????????

I replied: Well, I translate and send on what I get, but I imagine that originally the last two sentences might have been one, along the lines of

"Few people doubt that they understand virtue, but I am not sure."

--PeteBleackley 13:16, 2 February 2010 (UTC)

Sylvia Sotomayor, who translated into Khangaþyagon in Inverse Relay 2, wrote

I enjoyed it. I find it kinda fun and weird at the same time that 'on' is a combination of 'above' and 'in contact with'. That is neat.

--PeteBleackley 16:47, 4 February 2010 (UTC)

David E, who followed Khangaþyagon in Conlang Relay 17 said:

When I first found out I'd be translating Khangaþyagon, I dug into your materials on Frath wiki and thought the premise was really cool. The language certainly seems to fit its role; it was pretty easy to pull apart the various segunakar and construct the meaning of the passage, and I can see how you could string things together to form some cool magical formulas. The relative simplicity of the grammar is a plus as well (the lack of irregularities was a godsend, thanks for that!), since any fans of your novel won't need to be linguistic buffs to dig into the language.

--PeteBleackley 12:52, 5 May 2010 (UTC)

Doug Ball, who followed Khangaþyagon in Relay 19, wrote:

  • The syntax was probably the easiest for me to grok because it was (or at least seemed) pretty similar to that of my own constructed language, Skerre. And that was actually reassuring to have during the relay because it gave me a foundation for translation. All this was basically happenstance (in another relay, for instance, you might very well be before someone with a SOV language and I could be after someone with a free word order language), but it was probably one of the first things that struck me.
  • I found the y-/d- contrast in the 3rd person pronouns interesting. It seems a bit like obviation, made famous by the Algonquian languages. Have you ever heard of this phenomenon? The y-/d- contrast is also a bit reminiscent of the Navajo (and other Athabaskan languages) yi-/bi- distinction, which probably could be viewed as have a similar function to obviation in Algonquian.
    • I replied: I've heard of proximate/obviate now, but I hadn't when I started work on Khangaþyagon. It's something that arose spontaneously in my early experiments, and I didn't have a good description of it for a long time. I think I might start describing it in those terms.
      • Doug replied: By all means. Though for relays, you might explain a little bit more than just y- is the proximate root and d- is the obviative one, since not everyone will be familiar with the terms.
  • I seem to recall reading, I think on your website, that you wanted Germanic feel for Khangaþyagon. Aside from a few of the orthographic choices and (maybe) the phonemic inventory, I didn't really get the feeling that I was dealing with a Germanic language. And maybe that's really what the intent is -- I don't really assume to know here, since I'm just half-recalling this and even if I'm remembering correctly, you might have changed your mind (it seemed like the FrathWiki pages were not written terribly recently). But now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure that I got any feel that I was working with a familiar language or language family -- which is probably to be expected, since I hadn't ever encountered Khangaþyagon before.
    • I replied: That's pretty much it. The phonaesthetics of the language are influenced by German and English, but Khangaþyagon is an a priori language.
  • I'm pretty sure I didn't totally get the affixes in noun slots 2--4. They all obviously have some spatio-locational/directional import but I'm not sure that I understand how they go together (or not). I tried to use my good sense (biased by English in this domain as it is), but I do have a sneaky suspicion that I might have mucked up that part of the translation. But if you wouldn't mind explaining a little more about how these suffixes interact (or not), I hope to be able to either more clearly talk about what is confusing about these affixes.
    • Densegunar describe the closeness of a spatial relationship. Radsekunar describe static orientation, and karvsekunar describe motion. Generally, they combine in fairly transparent ways. talpebgri (mountain-contact-above) means "on the mountain", talporrðenam (mountain-far-behind-destination) means "to beyond the mountain". At least, it's fairly transparent to me, which may be part of the reason other conlangers sometimes find it confusing. It's always hardest to describe the things you find most intuitive. Some combinations are more idiomatic. I'm not quite sure myself why utomb (literally at-around) means "made of", but strangely enough, in the Primordial Soup Relay, Sally Caves (qv) found it easier to understand than ebgriam "onto".
      • So after reading this description, it seems pretty straightforward and at least similar to natural language systems: in languages with a large number of local cases, the more fine-grained meanings come immediately before the general descriptions of the motion. Though I don't know that's it's particularly common to have separate bits for spatial closeness and static orientation (but I've never really studied that sort of thing in depth, so maybe my perceptions are off).
        • The segunak system came from a design goal of using agglutination to produce a noun morphology that was richer than the IE case systems I was familiar with. Jörg Rhiemeier (qv) later compared it to Daghestanian noun systems, which he described as "case construction kits". As far as I know, the distinction between proximity and position affixes is entirely my own, but I don't know very much about Daghestanian languages.
      • Having "at-around" for "made of" seems pretty strange to me, and it totally fooled me in translation. Though I guess the Skerre rendition keeps the original idea fairly intact. But Sally seems to have demonstrated that it is, in some way, sensible.
        • Sally did have context on her side, in that the text was a recipe. "Make a dough out of..." Mind you, "out of" is just as strange for what it means, when you think about it.
          • True. The spatial sense of "out of" might be slightly more transparent if it were "to the out of", but it isn't. The "ablative of material" sense of "out of" is quite a metaphorical extension, though it seems that spatial sources are often extended to some sort of abstract sources. English "from" behaves similarly to "out of" in this regard: "He made the pot from clay"
      • But that does bring a question to mind: how much should one provide information on idiomatic items contained in their text? Have you read/heard anything that better shed light on how that should work? I'm suspicious that I'm a little too helpful in how I do up my grammar notes and glossary.
        • Somebody translating an ancient document in a natlang might well find themselves having to work out from context what something like "mihi anima in naso erat" meant. So generally, I take the attitude that figuring out idioms is all part of the fun. Obviously, you have to leave some clues, but I'd only explain an idiom if the translator wouldn't have anything else to work with.
          • This seems like a good way of framing a general relay rule of thumb: pretend that your rendition of the text is an ancient document and provide a minimal "Rosetta Stone" for decoding.
  • The gloss of 'topic' that you gave for the -ku-affix in noun slot 5 I found a bit confusing. I did ultimately take -ku to mean something like "about" or "concerning", which intuitively seems to be the topic (after all, don't we define "topic" roughly as "what something is about "?) However, the confusion arises (for me) anyway, because topic has an established use as a grammatical term: it refers to what a sentence (or a collection of them) is about. These are almost never marked with "about" or its translational equivalent. Yet there are some languages that do mark topics: the most famous of them is probably Japanese. So, it took me a little while to figure out exactly what was going on. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there's a good semantic role or case name for this kind of category, so I can't really recommend a different term ("general indirect case" seems to be about as good as the terms get, which isn't that good). But perhaps a more extended description might make for greater clarity.
    • I replied: Khangaþyagon is a subject-prominent language, but it does use a topic-comment structure as a way of marking reported speech. In this form, -ku is used as a topic marker. It has a more general meaning of "about" in other contexts, which is a fairly intuitive meaning for a topic marker. I did Japanese for a couple of years just after I started Khangaþyagon, but not really in enough depth to get a feel for the difference between topics and subjects. I suppose what's happening is that -ku acquires the more specialised meaning of topic marker when used with reported speech.
      • Doug replied:The other thing I was reminded of with Khangaþyagon's system of reported speech is the accusative-cum-infinitive in Latin and Greek indirect discourse, where the understood subject of the reported proposition is in the accusative and the rest of the reported proposition is encoded as a infinitival clause. I was looking at examples of these in my Latin grammar, and I managed to convince myself that it was at least plausible to analyze the accusatives as syntactic objects of the verb that were just construed as the subjects of the infinitival clause. So, instead of "Julia said she is a good student", we have "Julia said herself to be a good student". Applying that sort of thinking to Khangaþyagon, you'd get something like "Julia said about herself to be a good student." The Greco-Latin way seems more "natural" to my ear, though Khangaþyagon seems plausible. For future write-ups of Khangaþyagon, however, you might want to mention the connection with the accusative-cum-infinitive construction. Though I don't know how many conlangers would be familiar with it.
        • I think I was inspired by Latin's accusative-infinitive structure, but Khangaþyagon doesn't have an accusative. As I was studying Japanese at the time, I got the idea that a topic-comment structure could do a similar job.
    • I also said: In a more topic-prominent descendent, -ku might become a pure topic marker, with other segunakar taking over the meaning "about".
      • Doug replied: This seems plausible.

--PeteBleackley 01:23, 9 August 2012 (PDT)

Khangaþyagon has been featured on the Conlangery Podcast. I replied on The Fantastical Devices of Pete The Mad Scientist.

Jim Henry, who followed Khangaþyagon in Relay 21, wrote

The agglutinativity with relatively little sandhi (none that I noticed in this particular text) makes it one of the easier languages I've translated from. I liked the system of segunakar of different ranks marking deixis, proximity, relative position, direction and so forth -- it's similar in some ways to gjâ-zym-byn's postposition system, but different enough in the specific ways it marks those categories to make translating certain expressions a challenge. In particular, the segunagar you glossed as "beside" and "aligned with" don't have obvious equivalents in gzb's system, and the phrase "grennaig grennaam" which seemed to express position rather than motion required some improvising.

taliessin the storyteller [ reviewed Khangaþyagon] on the Conlang mailing list.

Logan Kearsley reviewed Khangaþyagon on his blog.


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