Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Exciting Announcement at Long Last!

Hey everyone! I know this blog has been dormant for awhile... but I finally have big news! My story, RoboNomics, is on Reupp!

Reupp is basically a collaborative storytelling platform. I've already written RoboNomics in its entirety on Wattpad, but I see Reupp as a way for the story to take on a different form. So if you loved RoboNomics on +Wattpad, sign up for free and you can add your suggestions to the story. Saw a different main character than me? Let me know!

It's been a long time since I first starting releasing RoboNomics Book I and even Book II on Wattpad. So just to refresh your memory:

My first suggestion is already in: How do you feel about Kate Mara playing Andrea?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Author Vlogs | Camp NaNoWriMo, RoboNomics III, and Automated Cars

So what do you think I should work on for Camp NaNoWriMo, which starts tomorrow? Would you be excited to see a RoboNomics Book III? And what are your thoughts on automated cars? Let me know!!

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Freeditorial Long-Short Story Contest Entry - New Story!

So I've been a bit MIA, I know, and have (temporarily) abandoned my explanation of the Tree Language for work on another project. And now it is done! My big news of late is that I've entered the Freeditorial Long-Short Story Contest, which I heard about through Write to Done.

My story will be judged according to two different metrics: the quality of the writing as well as the downloads it receives. So far, my rank is pretty low: #103 or so out of like 115 entries. But that's because I haven't told you about it yet!

So if you enjoy my sci-fi writing, you can download my new novella here.

It's a very different story than what I've written before: it's set in the distant, rather than the near future, and has a framing device which is another thing I've never tried before. I worked hard on it, but it didn't quite flow so gracefully and easily as Asteroid 433 Eros did. But in the end, I think I wrote an interesting story that will expand your mindhole. Check it out!

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Tree Language - Some Problems

I know I said that we'd get to numbers today, plus perhaps if I hadn't run out of steam some other interesting classes of words such as colours. However, it's getting to the point where in explaining this, my first conlang to you, I can see some of the problems with it.

Cultural Appropriation

The first problem being of course, cultural appropriation. Perhaps it's because I began work on the Tree Language about five years ago, and our younger selves never know as much as our present selves; or maybe it's due to the fact that fantasy, as a literary, is rampant with exoticism and cultural appropriation. Either way, I worried about using Ogham as a model writing system since I didn't want to seem like I was ripping off the grandfather of fantasy, Tolkien, but I had no problem ripping off an entire culture by appropriating a Hopi symbol and modifying it to suit my own needs.

There's also something really hypocritical about whining about how I shouldn't use the Deep Forest symbol, since that musical group also appropriated the art of other people, but then I turn around and essentially do the same myself.

I could say something along the lines of how this is 'homage'; that because Trees, in Omorbia, are the oldest and wisest beings, it's actually a compliment to use a Hopi symbol in constructing their language. But isn't this just another lame excuse? I'm the first person to jump up and say that George R.R. Martin and the Star Trek universe are guilty of stereotyping POC as 'barbarians' through the Dothraki and Klingons respectively, but just because the stereotyping is of a supposed 'good' trait (i.e. wisdom, mysticism, etc) doesn't make it any less harmful. Every human is capable of experiencing the full range of human emotion and human experience. And so we shouldn't limit certain groups to only a set of characteristics, whether good or bad.

It's the problem and the challenge with speculative genres. I want to create a world from the ground up, with its own cultures, creatures, legends and traditions. But my work will always be coloured by my experience here on Earth. However dumb or ignorant those influences are, I cannot avoid them or repress them. All I can do is notice them and try to do better in the future.

So what would you do in my situations? Toss out the Tree writing system? Toss out those letters that were modified from the Hopi symbol? I haven't had time to sit down and think about what I should do next. I've used Japanese, Mandarin, and East Cree as some of the models that I've worked with in terms of syllable structure, tonal structure, and verbal structure respectively. But does the writing system go beyond using models into something more nefarious? What is the ethical thing to do? What do you think?

In Translation

Another problem that crops up has to do with the sounds of Tree Language. So far, I've explained that the Tree Language has 22 different sounds, many of which are vowels. It marks differences between vowels that a speaker (and reader) of English never would. And then there's the problem of tones. So far, in this explanation of the language, I've used a certain symbology to denote the five tones. For instance:

Extra Low: ˩fy
Low: ˨yɔ
Mid: ˧ʝa
High: ˦ʃɑ
Extra High: ˥θo

But that's a bit too linguist for the everyday reader. Then I found it, the alternate way to denote the tones, above the vowel of the syllable in question (font enlarged so you can see the differences):

Extra Low: fy̏
Low: yɔ̀
Mid: ʝā
High: ʃɑ́
Extra High: θő

So far, so good. Much more elegant, and it'll make my text more readable. But then there's the problem of the numerous similar vowels. Here they are:


There's also θ and ð, which both sound to native English speakers like "th". But that's easy. The Tree Language doesn't have a 'd' sound, nor an 'h' sound, and so θ can be denoted in my story, a primarily English text, as 'th', and ð can be denoted as 'dh'.

'f' and 'v' are both easy, as their sounds and English letters both correspond to the IPA notation. ʃ is and will be continued to be denoted in the Mage's Apprentice as 'sh' corresponding to its sound. 'ʒ' sounds like English 'g' as in 'age', and since there are no 'g' letters in Tree, that's what 'ʒ' will be in the stories.

'ʝ' is a 'y' sound, and so we come to another set of problems. It sounds very similar to 'j' as well as 'ʎ'. But these are (c/v) sounds, and so will never end a syllable and so never have a tonal marker on them. So they are free for other marks..

To make it easy for English readers, I'll mark them all as 'y' instead of the sound confusion that would come along with 'j'. 'ʝ' will be 'y', 'j' will be 'ÿ' and 'ʎ' will be 'y᷉ '. This won't interfere with the vowels since those marked 'y' and 'Y' are actually closer to an 'e' or 'i' sound.

'w' is straightforward and will not change. Same goes for 'l'. Small mercies. 'ɹ' will be 'r'.


Now we come to the difficult bit. Here are the groups of sounds that are similar (in IPA with corresponding English vowel sound):





'u' is easy. It'll be 'u'. But each of the other three have three similar sounds each. In this case, I'll use the same method to differentiate as I did with the consonant/vowel 'y'. So this is how it will look:

y = e
Y = ë
ɞ = e᷉

æ = ä
a = a
ɑ = a᷉

ʊ = ö
o = o
ɔ = o᷉

There. That solves it. And it will keep me from constantly changing my symbols to capture the differentiated vowel sounds.

Now all I have to do is change all of the Tree Language in the Mage's Apprentice to better capture this system!

The Tree Language So Far:

Writing System
Word Building
Grammar 1
Grammar 2

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Tree Language: Grammar 2 - Pronouns, Nouns, etc.

Grammatical Decisions

As you can see from yesterday, the Tree Language contains quite a lot of syllable markers to indicate things such as verb tense. And so it is what Mark Rosenfelder refers to as an agglutinative language, with all the inflections being suffixes.

Yesterday, I mentioned pronouns, and then I listed them:


I-female: ˧fY˧ʒʊ
I-male: ˧fY˧ɹʊ
I-male-female: ˧fY˧yʊ
I-female-male: ˧fY˧lʊ
We (family, set, grove): ˧fY˧væ
We (All, forest): ˧fY˧ʃæ
That-one-female: ˧ʃY˧ʒʊ
That-one-male: ˧ʃY˧ɹʊ
That-one-female-male: ˧ʃY˧lʊ
That-one-male-female: ˧ʃY˧yʊ
You-female: ˧vY˧ʒʊ
You-male: ˧vY˧ɹʊ
You-female-male: ˧vY˧lʊ
You-male-female: ˧vY˧yʊ
Those-ones-female: ˧ʃY˧ʃæ˧yʊ
Those-ones-male: ˧ʃY˧ʃæ˧ɹʊ
Those-ones-female-male: ˧ʃY˧ʃæ˧lʊ
Those-ones-male-female: ˧ʃY˧ʃæ˧yʊ

What I didn't mention was that unlike other verb-related syllable markers, these are words on their own. This is due to their length, and the fact that they produce multiple syllables (i.e. whole words) on their own.

But there are other markers in Tree that have to do with nouns. I listed some other yesterday:

Subject Marker: ˧ʝæ
Direct Object Marker: ˧ʝʊ
Indirect Object Marker: ˧ʝɞ 

And here's some others which can be added as suffixes to modify nouns:

Pluralization: ˧wæ
Repetition: ˧wɞ

And here are the conjuctions, which like English, are standalone words:

Additive (and): ˦ʃo
Exclusive (or): ˧vo
Inclusive (and/or): ˨ʃo

And here are the translations of those 'functional' words I mentioned before, the ones that make up 80% of every sentence, but have very little meaning:

of: ˧fo
at: ˧ðo
under: ˧ðɑ
over/above: ˩ðɑ 
it: ˧ðy
on: ˨ðʊ
beside: ˧ðyʊ
toward: ˧ðyɑ
from: ˧ðyɞ
to: ˦θo
away: ˦θɑ
near: ˦θy
far: ˦θʊ
between: ˨ðɑ
up: ˨jɑ
down: ˨jy
in: ˧vɑ
out: ˧vo
into: ˨va 
like: ˧læ
with: ˧vy


the: ˧lo
a: ˧lɑ

Other Pronouns: (you can see below that classes of pronouns related to "things" are absent. This is due to the fact that Trees in Omorbia are sentient plants, and to them, everything is alive, so everything is a 'one' rather than a 'thing': someone for something, etc.)

who: ˧ʒʊ
how: ˧ɹʊ
why: ˧lʊ
where: ˧yʊ
when: ˧vʊ
here: ˧fY
now: ˧ʝyɞ
there: ˧vY
then: ˥fʊ
thus: ˥vY
somewhere: ˧ʃY
sometime: ˥ʒæ
somehow: ˨fɑ
someone: ˥ʃʊ
nowhere: ˧fæ
no one: ˩vu
never: ˦ʝY
everyone: ˩ʝʊ
everywhere: ˧væ
always: ˧ʃæ
tomorrow (that is unknowable): ˩ʎyʊ
tomorrow+ (that is knowable): ˥ʎyɑ
yesterday (that cannot change): ˨jyʊ
yesterday+ (that can change): ˦jyɑ
today: ˧ʝyʊ

Sentence Order:

In the Tree Language, the order of sentences is SOV. This contrasts to English, in which the order is SVO. So instead of saying "the bird flew over the house", in Tree it would be "the bird the house flew over." A bit more poetic, a bit more like Yoda-speak. Perhaps I made this decision so that the Tree Language would avoid the pitfall that most first conlangs fall into: that is, as Mark points out, becoming a 'cipher for English'. Is it avoidable?

Of course, there is one other important set of concepts that must be dealt with before I more onto the lexicon. And that is numbers, something I have yet to figure out since I was super impatient to start translating texts and then writing my Omorbian stories. So tomorrow, let's figure them out together!

The Tree Language So Far

Writing System
Word Building
Grammar 1 - Verbs

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Tree Language: Grammar Part 1 - Verbs

So far, I've described the Tree Language in terms of sounds and writing. I've told you that the Tree Language comprises a set of 22 sounds, each of which have a written counterpart, and many of which are vowels that sound extremely similar to native English speakers. I've also described the way that syllables are put together: there are only four ways and much like Japanese, these are mainly of the form (consonant)(vowel), and a couple variations thereof.

But now we come to describing the grammar of the Tree Language, and the first thing that I thought of when I starting mapping out the grammar: a tricky thing called Verbs.

How does a Tree produce an action?

When creating conlangs, most of the time verbs are fairly straightforward. You have to figure out how to grammatically represent actions and states of being in a human sense, and then you have to figure out how to represent how those actions are taken: by you or me, by a group, in the past or the future, etc. And different natural languages represent these things in different ways, and you can consult for models and examples.

However, the problem for me came when I realized that the Tree Language was just that: a Language communicated by Trees. And Trees don't walk. They don't locomote in the same way that humans do. In fact, if I were a sentient Tree I wouldn't do or experience anything in the same way that a human does. Human 'actions', for me, would be altogether alien.

So I made up some new verb classes. Instead of Verbs of Experience and Verbs of Action (as humans would have), I have four classes of verb:
  1. Verbs of Body-Intention (Replacing those 'whole body' human actions such as 'walk')
  2. Verbs of Experience (A plant rooted to the ground would experience things)
  3. Verbs of Action (These verbs are limited to parts of the Tree, rather than the whole plant)
  4. Verbs of Mind-Intention (Something only an Omorbian Tree can do)
So far, so good. But having in mind the characteristics of a tree on Earth and a Tree on Omorbia, there were other verbal problems I had to deal with.

How does a Tree have a gender?

Trees, both on Earth and on Omorbia, have many 'genders'. After doing some research, I decided on four genders for Trees. Male, Female, (dioecious) Male-Female (monoecious with male and female on the same flower), and Female-Male (monoecious with male and female parts on different branches). However, rather than using pronouns like we do in English (i.e. he, she, ze); gender is marked by a syllable on the subject markers (in Tree grammar, information is mainly conveyed through the use of syllable markers, as you'll see).

How does a Tree have a number?

Verbal number is a lot easier. This does not have a syllable marker, and is deduced from context and from the pronouns. Of which, because of number and gender, there are many, many.

How does a Tree experience time?

Here's another quirk of the language. Because Trees on Omorbia are all-knowing and infinitely wise, they experience time differently than humans. So instead of verb cases including the present, the conditional, the past perfected, etc., there are five special cases:
  1. The Present
  2. The Future (the unknowable future)
  3. The Future+ (the knowable future)
  4. The Past (that cannot be changed)
  5. The Past+ (that can be changed)
Beyond those, there are other cases that are more mundane such as imperfect, progressive, and all of these are marked with specific syllables. So if something was a habitual action that happened in the past that cannot be changed (for example, that farmer harvested his crops before he lost the farm, and we can't change that fact), there would be two different syllable markers on harvest. The sentence would be shorter than the English equivalent, but the word would be longer.

Let me map out what I mean by syllable markers:


Imperfect: ˧ʎæ
Progressive: ˧ʎɞ
Single Action: ˦ja
Repeated Action: ˧jæ
Habitual Action: ˧jɞ
Indicative: ˧fʊ
Subjunctive: ˧ʃʊ
Negative: ˨vʊ

Present: ˧ʝɑ
Future: ˧ʎy
Future+: ˧ʎY
Past: ˩jy
Past+: ˩jY


I-female: ˧fY˧ʒʊ
I-male: ˧fY˧ɹʊ
I-male-female: ˧fY˧yʊ
I-female-male: ˧fY˧lʊ
We (family, set, grove): ˧fY˧væ
We (All, forest): ˧fY˧ʃæ
That-one-female: ˧ʃY˧ʒʊ
That-one-male: ˧ʃY˧ɹʊ
That-one-female-male: ˧ʃY˧lʊ
That-one-male-female: ˧ʃY˧yʊ
You-female: ˧vY˧ʒʊ
You-male: ˧vY˧ɹʊ
You-female-male: ˧vY˧lʊ
You-male-female: ˧vY˧yʊ
Those-ones-female: ˧ʃY˧ʃæ˧yʊ
Those-ones-male: ˧ʃY˧ʃæ˧ɹʊ
Those-ones-female-male: ˧ʃY˧ʃæ˧lʊ
Those-ones-male-female: ˧ʃY˧ʃæ˧yʊ

Some other syllable markers related to verbs:

Subject Marker: ˧ʝæ
Direct Object Marker: ˧ʝʊ
Indirect Object Marker: ˧ʝɞ 

Subject did something expected: ˨ʝæ
Subject did something unexpected: ˦ʝæ
Perfected action or intention within time frame: ˧ʝa
Change from untrue to true: ˨ʝa
Still untrue: ˦ʝa

Mind-Intention (i.e. Stop-Intention): ˧wʊ
Body-Intention (i.e. Stop-Intention): ˧wY
Experience (i.e. experience-sun-nourishment rather than feed): ˧wy
Action (i.e. derive-minerals-from-soil; feed): ˧wɞ

Before: ˧ja
After: ˧ʎa
During: ˩ʝa
At the same time as: ˥ʝa
Formerly: ˨ja

Personal Experience: ˧fɑ
Hearsay: ˧vɑ
Probable: ˧ʃɑ
Reflexive: ˧fwæ
Static: ˩ʝæ
Dynamic: ˩ʎʊ

A few more noun-related grammar markers to show you and explain tomorrow, and then I can show you how this works in practice.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Tree Language: Word Building

The Language Construction Kit goes into great detail when it comes to word building. Now that you have a working knowledge of the sounds and written letters or symbols of your made up language, the temptation is to go ahead and make up a bunch of words.

Unfortunately, doing so will result in at best a messy artificial language that does not resemble any natural language (which is a worry if you, like me, are making up a language not just for your own amusement but for use in a fictional world) or at worst, an incomprehensible 'language'.

The problem, as Mark Rosenfelder points out, is that most of the words in a sentence are 'function' or grammatical words that have very little meaning, with content words making up only 20% of every utterance.

What this means for me is that before I can go about the perhaps fun activity of making up words and writing them down in my Tree Dictionary, I have to worry about grammar.

And so today's post will be short. Because grammar is a massive undertaking, and one that needs to be introduced on its own. Until tomorrow, then!

The Tree Language So Far

Writing System