Developing Vocabulary

Like many conlangers, when confronted with the task of building vocabulary, I turned to the idea of a generator. However, I did not like any of the extant choices, and so I built my own.

It was not such a difficult task--I built the whole thing in Excel. I have a fairly simple syllable structure in Shabkiuza, with a limited number of syllables per word. I made a list of which sounds could fit into each place, then assigned each a percent chance of occurring. Some of the results were not sounds at all, but rather zero values, duplication of a following consonant or preceding vowel, or assimilation of N to the following consonant.

Each letter gets its own random seed, and the results are concatenated in one of several combinations. For each generation, I get a variety of word lengths and syllable structures. A VLOOKUP formula compares each to by existing word list to avoid duplicates. I then copy the ones I like into a "candidate" list--words that are legal for inclusion in my language, but have not yet been assigned a meaning.

The assignment phase is the most fun. I have another formula that picks out a random value from my candidate list. If a meaning "feels right" I will use it; otherwise, I scan through a list of English words that still need meanings. When I make the connection, it goes in the list.

Finally, I do derivations. My language has a large number of means of word formation. Some are "productive," meaning they change one part of speech to another through use of a suffix. I also have a few non-productive methods. These are rules that alter a word into another part of speech, but without that mechanism being available to speakers of the language for new word formation.

As a result, I was able to add 100 new words to my language just over my lunch hour. I'm hoping to have a simple vocabulary in only a few more weeks.

Once the simple vocabulary is finished, I will add another mechanism into my process--compound words. Unlike most words in this language, compounds are accented on the second syllable. Moreover, the process can only form nouns; verbs are compounded on the fly with a conjunction, much like Japanese.

As always, I'm learning as I go! One of the most fun things about conlanging is learning about natural language has solved the problems I encounter.

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