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ReConLangMo 7: Discourse

Previously on ReConLangMo, we covered a lot of new words for the lexicon of L’ewa. This helps to flesh out a lot of what can be said, but conversations themselves can be entirely different from formal sentences. Conversations flow and ebb based on the needs/wants of the interlocutors. This post will start to cover a lot of the softer skills behind L’ewa as well as cover some other changes I’m making under the hood. This is a response to this prompt.

Information Structure

L’ewa doesn’t have any particular structure for marking previously known information, as normal sentences should suffice in most cases. Consider this paragraph:

I saw you eat an apple. Was it tasty?

Since an apple was the last thing mentioned in the paragraph, the vague “it” pronoun in the second sentence can be interpreted as “the apple”.

L’ewa doesn’t have a way to mark the topic of a sentence, that should be obvious from context (additional clauses to describe things will help here). In most cases the subject should be equivalent to the topic of a sentence.

L’ewa doesn’t directly offer ways to emphasize parts of sentences with phonemic stress like English does (eg: “I THOUGHT you ate an apple” vs “I thought you ATE an apple”), but emotion words can be used to help indicate feelings about things, which should suffice as far as emphasis goes.

Discourse Structure

Conversationally, a lot of things in L’ewa grammar get dropped unless it’s ambiguous. The I/yous that get tacked on in English are completely unneeded. A completely valid conversation could look something like this:

<Mai> xoi
<Cadey> xoi
<Mai> xoi madsa?
<Cadey> lo spalo

And it would roughly equate to:

<Mai> Hi
<Cadey> Hi, you doing okay?
<Mai> Yes, have you eaten?
<Cadey> Yes, I ate an apple

People know when they can speak after a sufficient pause between utterances. Interrupting is not common but not a social faux-pas, and can be used to stop a false assumption from being said.

Utterances

An utterance in L’ewa is anything from a single content word all the way up to an entire paragraph of sentences. An emotion particle can be a complete utterance. A question particle can be a complete utterance, anything can be an utterance. A speaker may want to choose more succinct options when the other detail is already contextually known or simply not relevant to the listener.

L’ewa has a few discourse particles, here are a few of the more significant ones:

L’ewa Function
xi signals that the verb of the sentence is coming next
ko ends a noun phrase
ka marks something as the subject of the sentence
ke marks something as the verb of the sentence
ku marks something as the object of the sentence

Formality

The informal dialect of L’ewa drops everything it can. The formal dialect retains everything it can, to the point where it includes noun phrase endings, the verb signaler, ka/ke/ku and every single optional particle in the language. The formal dialect will end up sounding rather wordy compared to informal slangy speech. Consider the differences between informal and formal versions of “I eat an apple”:

mi madsa lo spalo.
ka mi ko xi ke madsa ku lo spalo ko.

Nearly all of those particles are not required in informal speech (you could even get away with madsa lo spalo depending on context), but are required in formal speech to ensure there is as little contextual confusion as possible. Things like laws or legal rulings would be written out in the formal register.

Greetings and Farewell

“Hello” in L’ewa is said using xoi. It can also be used as a reply to hello similar to «ça va» in French. It is possible to have an entire conversation with just xoi:

<Mai> xoi
<Cadey> xoi
<Mai> xoi

The other implications of xoi are “how are you?” “I am good, you?”, “I am good”, etc. If more detail is needed beyond this, then it can be supplied instead of replying with xoi.

“Goodbye” is said using xei. Like xoi it can be used as a reply to another goodbye and can form a mini-conversation:

<Cadey> xei
<Mai> xei
<Cadey> xei

Emotion Words

Feelings in L’ewa are marked with a family of particles called “UI”. These can also be modified with other particles. Here are the emotional markers:

L’ewa English
a'a attentive
a'e alertness
ai intent
a'i effort
a'o hope
au desire
a'u interest
e'a permission
e'e competence
ei obligation
e'i constraint
e'o request
e'u suggestion
ia belief
i'a acceptance
ie agreement
i'e approval
ii fear
i'i togetherness
io respect
i'o appreciation
iu love
i'u familiarity
o'a pride
o'e closeness
oi complaint/pain
o'i caution
o'o patience
o'u relaxation
ua discovery
u'a gain
ue surprise
u'e wonder
ui happiness
u'i amusement
uo completion
u'o courage
uu pity
u'u repentant

If an emotion is unknown in a conversation, you can ask with kei:

<Mai> xoi, so kei?
      hi,  what-verb what-feeling?

<Cadey> madsa ui
        eating :D

This system is wholesale stolen from Lojban.

Connectives

Connectives exist to link noun phrases and verbs together into larger noun phrases and verbs. They can also be used to link together sentences. There are four simple connectives: fa (OR), fe (AND), fi (connective question), fo (if-and-only-if) and fu (whether-or-not).

OR

ro au madsa lo spalo fa lo hafto?
Do you want to eat an apple or an egg?

AND

ro au madsa lo spalo fe lo hafto?
Do you want to eat an apple and an egg?

If and Only If

ro 'amwo mi fo mi madsa hafto?
Do you love me if I eat eggs?

Whether or Not

mi 'amwo ro. fu ro madsa hafto.
I love you, whether or not you eat eggs.

Connective Question

ro au madsa lo spalo fi lo hafto?
Do you want to eat apples and/or eggs?

Changes Being Made to L’ewa

Early on, I mentioned that family terms were gendered. This also ended up with me making some gendered terms for people. I have since refactored out all of the gendered terms in favor of more universal terms. Here is a table of some of the terms that have been replaced:

English L’ewa term L’ewa word
brother/sister sibling xinga
mother/father parent pa’ma
grandfather/grandmother grandparent gra’u
aunt/uncle parent pa’ma
cousin sibling xinga
man/woman Creator kirta
man/woman human renma

In some senses, gender exists. In other senses, gender does not. With L’ewa I want to explore what is possible with language. It would be interesting to create a language where gender can be discussed as it is, not as the categories that it has historically fit into. Consider colors. There are millions of colors, all sightly different but many follow general patterns. No one or two colors can be thought of as the “default” color, yet we can have long and meaningful conversations about what color is and what separates colors from eachother.

I aim to have the same kind of granularity in L’ewa. As a goal of the language, I should be able to point to any content word in the dictionary and be able to say “that’s my gender” in the same way I can describe color or music with that tree. These will implicitly be metaphors (which does detract a bit from the logical stance L’ewa normally takes) because gender is almost always a metaphor in practice. L’ewa will not have binary gender.

Issue number two on the L’ewa repo will help track the creation and implementation of a truly non-binary “gender” system for L’ewa.


I’ve been chugging through the Swaedish list more and more to build up more of L’ewa’s vocabulary in preparation for starting to translate sentences more complicated than simple “I eat an apple” or “Do you like eating plants?”. One of the first things I want to translate is the classic tower of babel story.

Be well.


This article was posted on 2020 M5 25. 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