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ReConLangMo 6: Lexicon

Previously in this series, we've covered a lot of details about how sentences work, tenses get marked and how words work in general; however this doesn't really make L'ewa a language. Most of the difficulty in making a language like this is the vocabulary. In this post I'll be describing how I am making the vocabulary for L'ewa and I'll include an entire table of the dictionary words. This answers this prompt.

Word Distinctions

L'ewa is intended to be a logical language. One of the side effects of L'ewa being a logical language is that each word should have as minimal and exact of a meaning/function as possible. English has lots of words that cover large semantic spaces (like go, set, run, take, get, turn, good, etc.) without much of a pattern to it. I don't want this in L'ewa.

Let's take the word "good" as an example. Off the top of my head, good can mean any of the following things:

I'm fairly sure there are more "senses" of the word good, but let's break these into their own words:

L'ewa Definition
firgu is beneficial/nice to
n'ixu is aesthetically pleasing to
flawo is tasty/has a pleasant flavor to
spiro is saintly/holy/morally good to
qanro is healthy/fit/well/in good health

Each of these words has a very distinct and fine-grained meaning, even though the range is a bit larger than it would be in English. These words also differ from a lot of the other words in the L'ewa dictionary so far because they can take an object. Most of the words so far are adjective-like because it doesn't make sense for there to be an object attached to the color blue.

By default, if a word that can take an object doesn't have one, it's assumed to be obvious from context. For example, consider the following set of sentences:

mi qa madsa lo spalo. ti flawo!

I am eating an apple. It's delicious!

I am working at creating more words using a Swaedish list.

Family Words

Family words are a huge part of a language because it encodes a lot about the culture behind that language. L'ewa isn't really intended to have much of a culture behind it, but the one place I want to take a cultural stance is here. The major kinship word is kirta, or "is an infinite slice of an even greater infinite". This is one of the few literal words in L'ewa that is defined using a metaphor, as there is really no good analog for this in English.

There are also words for other major family terms in English:

L'ewa Definition
brota is the/a brother of
sistu is the/a sister of
mamta is the/a mother of
patfu is the/a father of
grafa is the/a grandfather of
grama is the/a grandmother of
wanto is the/a aunt of
tunke is the/a uncle of

Cousins are all called brother/sister. None of these words are inherently gendered and brota can refer to a female or nonbinary person. The words are separate because I feel it flows better, for now at least.

Idioms

L'ewa strives to have as few idioms as possible. If something is meant non-literally (or as a conceptual metaphor), the particle ke'a can be used:

ti firgu
This is beneificial

ti ke'a firgu
This is metaphorically/non-literally beneficial

I have been documenting L'ewa and all of its words/grammar in a git repo. The layout of this repo is as follows:

Folder Purpose
book The source files and build scripts for the L'ewa book (this book may end up being published)
nix Nix crud, custom packages for the eBook render and development tools
script Where experiments for the written form of L'ewa live
tools Tools for hacking at L'ewa in Rust/Typescript (none published yet, this is where the dictionary server code will live)
words Where the definitions of each word are defined in Dhall, this will be fed into the dictionary server code

I also have the entire process of building and testing everything (from the eBook to the unit tests of the tools) automated with Drone. You can see the past builds here. After I merge the information from the latest blogpost into this repo, I will put a rendered version of it here. This will allow you to browse through the chapters of the eBook while it is being written. Eventually this will be automatically deployed to my Kubernetes cluster and the book will be a subpath/subdomain of lewa.christine.website.

I have created a system of defining words that allows you to focus on each word at once, but then fit it back into the greater whole of the language. For example here is kirta.dhall:

-- kirta.dhall
let ContentWord = ../types/ContentWord.dhall

in  ContentWord::{
    , word = "kirta"
    , gloss = "Creator"
    , definition =
        "is an infinite slice of an even greater infinite/our Creator/a Creator"
    }

This is put in words/roots because it is a root (or uncombined) word. Then it is added to the dictionary.dhall:

-- dictionary.dhall
let ContentWord = ./types/ContentWord.dhall

let ParticleWord = ./types/ParticleWord.dhall

in  { rootWords =
      [ -- ...
      ./roots/kirta.dhall
      -- ...
      ]
    , particles [ -- ...
    ]

And then the build process will automatically generate the new dictionary from all of these definitions. Downside of this is that each new kind of word needs subtle adjustments to the build process of the dictionary and that removals/changes to lots of words requires a larger-scale refactor of the language, but I feel the tradeoff is worth the effort. I will undoubtedly end up creating a few tools to help with this.

I will keep working on additional vocabulary on my own, but here is the list of vocabulary that has been written up so far.

Be well.


This article was posted on M05 22 2020. Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.

Series: reconlangmo

Tags: conlang lewa

The art for Mara was drawn by Selicre.