Onmaqish 2020 Changelog (aka a list of my fuck-ups)


  • Baron

    To read more about Onmaqish, see the wiki.

    It has been well over a year since I first posted a guide to the language of the OnKitabie, and several months since the last update. A lot has changed since then, and this post will serve to catalog those updates and override any contradictions or inconsistencies that likely exist, as this language has seen a lot of revision and is almost two years in the making.

    Change 1: The name change from Anmaqish to Onmaqish.

    The first and most obvious change is that the language is now called Onmaqish. This was altered to fit the allophony rules that I will elaborate on next. I have already updated the wiki and previous posts to be consistent. However, most of the rest of the changes here will not be retroactively applied to previous posts, due to the sheer density of them, and the previous posts will simply be marked as “outdated versions”.

    Change 2: Making the “dh” sound allophonic.

    Originally, I had both the voiced and voiceless dental fricatives (“th” and “dh” in my romanization) as phonemes. That never sat right with me, however, because I’ve always wanted the phonology to be very minimalistic, and not only is “dh” a very uncommon sound globally, but it also didn’t really fit into the phonetic aesthetic that I had in mind for Onmaqish. However, I was reticent to remove it entirely, so I thought that an elegant solution would be to make it an allophone of “th”. This is where it most commonly appears in real languages anyways, so that felt like the right decision. This had the added effect of making it one of the rarest sounds in the language (only 4 words in the lexicon currently have it), but I think that’s fine.

    Change 3: Allophony, and a lesson in consistency.

    I created several words for this language before outlining its phonology, or even before deciding to commit to creating a full conlang. These words included OnKitabie, TiOng, Tajani OnMaqibn, and Tiemaqas Shike. When I later went to design the phonology, phonotactics, and much of the language’s morphology, I did not take these previously-designed words into account enough. Despite the fact that 3 of those 4 words contain the letter “o”, for some reason I decided that it would be a cool idea to make a language without the letter “o”, and so I did. When I realized that discrepancy, I simply told myself that those words would be pronounced with an “a” sound, the closest my language had, and was simply just written with an “o” because of that prefix’s derivational origin. This is, of course, nonsense, as the romanization system of any conlang should be consistent, clear, and as similar to English as possible. So I decided to implement an allophonic system to fix this long-standing issue that allowed the “o” sound to exist where it did. The updated allophony rules are as follows:

    • “a” morphs into “o” when adjacent to “n” or “ng” in the initial or any stressed syllable (excepting final syllables).
    • “i” and “e” morph into “u” when adjacent to “kh” and “q” in the initial syllable. Furthermore, “ie” morphs into “uu” when adjacent to “kh” and “q”. (“uu” is phonemically identical to “u”, however it is used to mark “u” vowels that were originally “ie”, because that matters in terms of determining stress.)
    • “Th” morphs into “dh” when found between two vowels. (See previous change)

    Many of these rules were implemented not necessarily to increase the language’s complexity, but in order to correct previous inconsistencies and many of the nonsensical decisions that I made early on in the process. It also felt nice to round out the vowel phonology, as the language was previously missing any backed vowels.

    Change 4: The change of TiOng to Yongit.

    As I mentioned, TiOng, the name of the OnKitabie’s god, was created before the language was, meaning that once I developed the language, TiOng was not only nonsensical linguistically, but it was also breaking almost every phonotactical and morphological rule in the book. This change was a long time coming, because naturally I was very narratively attached to the name, but it had to go. Yongit, which I like pretty much just as much, has a morphological origin, in the root y-ng-t, which means scholar or teacher. Furthermore, it obeys morphological rules as it is derived from a root pattern that fits with the idea of being the name of a god. I will have to update a lot of the wiki and forums in order to change the name (especially since I had already tried changing the name in some places to “Ongmil”), but I think it should be done for consistency.

    Change 5: SVO to VSO.

    In my first draft of grammar, I decided to have the language’s word order be Subject-Verb-Object. SVO is nice and simple, I thought to myself, it makes sense and is like English, I thought to myself, and that way I can worry about other parts of the language that I would rather focus on. That would be fine, I thought to myself. I was a fool and a coward. See, I have since learned much about how grammatical concepts are derived, and many are pretty much exclusively determined by which word order is used. The two main languages I am basing Onmaqish off of, Arabic and Irish, are both VSO languages. Not only that, but they both have a lot of grammatical features that are reliant on that word order. Grammatical features that I wanted to include in Onmaqish. Grammatical features that would make absolutely no sense in a SVO language without serious linguistic finagling that I don’t have the skill for. So I have changed the word order to be Verb-Subject-Object, thereby closer matching my natlangs of inspiration, and saving myself a grammatical headache. I have some vague ideas of implementing a primitive level of free word order, like what Arabic has, but that can come later. Much later. I don’t want to think about word order any more.

    Change 6: Verbs.

    This isn’t so much of a change as it is just finally figuring out the hardest parts of any language: verbs. I waffled on verbs for the longest time, mostly because I was scared. They are intimidating, not just to create in a conlanging sense but even just to understand conceptually. I originally set out to make a verb system kind of like how I thought French worked, because that was pretty much my only basis to work from at the time (my Arabic professor put off teaching verbs for an entire semester.) However, I didn’t understand how French verbs worked, and deep down, I knew that. I knew that I was already uncomfortable standing in five inches of water while the entire dark ocean lay before me.

    But eventually I just had to do it, which I did early this year. I had learned a lot more by then, and so I spent an afternoon with a dry erase marker, a white board, and a billion tabs open on my computer, and I made a basic verb system.

    The system as it stands I think resembles Irish the most out of any language that I’ve taken inspiration from, though plenty of credit can go to Arabic as well. There isn’t really any French influence left, except a dedicated future tense, because fuck French. Goddddddd, fuck French. This system is also still very much in the works, but I already feel like it’s held together with chewing gum, so I am scared to try to touch it.

    Well after that sterling introduction, here it is:

    Verbs in Onmaqish mark for the tense (past, present, future), person (singular, plural), and noun class (idyllic, animate, inanimate) of the object. There are also two marked aspects, the perfective and imperfective. The perfective aspect is not marked, while the imperfective is marked with an -eng suffix. The perfective marks verbs that have actions that have a definite time and have been completed, while the imperfective marks verbs that have ongoing or habitual actions. They can be thought of like this: perfective in the past tense would be like “I ran” compared to imperfective, which would be like “I was running”, or, in the future tense: “I will run” versus “I will be running”.

    However, this does not translate into the present tense, because Onmaqish would not distinguish between “I run” and “I am running”. Instead, both of those translations are represented with the imperfective marking. Meanwhile the perfective form has taken the “perfect” meaning. (Which is completely different from “perfective” because somehow linguists aren’t good at coming up for names for things.) The perfect form of the verb acts sort of like a super-past tense, translating to “I had run”. This implies that it was not only a completed action, but that that action also occurred before the topic of the sentence itself.

    This method of verb marking can get kind of wild pretty quickly. If you have the verb for praying (jalma), and conjugate it in the present tense for a group of people (3rd person idyllic plural), you get tijalmiem. However, since that is the perfective present tense, it is interpreted as a perfect, meaning it doesn’t mean “they are praying” but “they had prayed”. In order to keep it in the present tense, it has to be in the imperfective, meaning it needs the -eng suffix. So “They are praying” translates to “tijalmiemeng”, which is a great word, I love saying it out loud. It may seem unwieldy, but an Onmaqish speaker would respond saying that using three words in English to say what Onmaqish can do in one is unwieldy, so who are we to judge?

    The final note about verbs is that they can also be marked for object. This is done with a possessive affix, exactly the same as how possession is marked between nouns with pronouns (a process outlined elsewhere). Each pronoun has a corresponding suffix that, provided that the listener knows which thing the pronoun is referring to, can be attached to the end of the verb in order to mark it as an object. However, often the verb can’t take an object pronoun directly (as in the case of “tijalmiemeng”, unfortunately, I wanted to see how long we could make that word). In that case, an appropriate preposition is used in conjunction with the verb, and the object is marked there. For example, if I wanted to say “They are praying for me.” I would say “they are praying” (tijalmiemeng) and then use the “for” preposition (fim) with the 1st person singular possessive pronoun suffix (-bin). Tijalmiemeng fim-bin. They are praying for me.

    And with that, those are the major updates that I have. Obviously I still have a long way to go, but I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, considering that this is my first conlang. I don’t know if there’s anything like a lesson or moral to this, other than that conlanging is hard and I don’t understand why anyone would do it. I guess I can take the moment to say that it is important to be self-critical, and while it is often hard to undo the work you’ve done, it may be necessary to move forward. Even if you’ve made so many mistakes in the past that you have to scrap stuff and start all over, it was still a worthwhile experience because you learned stuff. I don’t know. That sounds good. Bye I guess.


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