Øynduyska – VI (Verb Morphology)

The continuing adventures of Øynduyska!



Øynduyska’s verbs may be divided into a number of distinct classes, which in turn may be grouped into two large categories: strong and weak. There are in addition a small number of irregular verbs, and the modal verbs, which are defective.

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Øynduyska – II (Phonology/Orthography 1)

The continuing adventures of  Øynduyska. As always, feedback welcome!


Fonologi ay Ortografi


  Stops Affricates Fricatives Approximants Taps Nasals
Bilabial /p/ p

/b/ b

        /m/ m
Labiodental     /f/ f fh

/v/ v bh f

Dental     /þ/ th t

/ð/ ð d

Alveolar /t/ t

/d/ d

  /s/ s

/z/ s

/l/ l /ɹ/ r /n/ n
Anterior Post-Alveolar   /tɕ/ tch /ʃ/ sh s
/ʒ/ s
Posterior Post-Alveolar     /ɕ/ kj      
Palatal       /j/ y j    
Velar /k/ c k

/g/ g

  /x/ ch /w/ w    
Glottal     /h/ h      


The consonant inventory is largely unremarkable and self-explanatory, although it is worth noting that the labiodental fricatives often pronounced as labial fricatives when adjacent to rounded vowels. The most unusual phonemes are those listed here as “dental fricatives”, which may vary between interdental fricatives and dental stops – in general, they are fricatives intervocalically, post-nasally and finally, but they are often stops initially or following another consonant. The stop realisation is particularly common for the voiceless phoneme.

Regarding the orthography, there are a number of ambiguities; in particular, the grapheme s may stand for any of four fricatives: while generally indicating an alveolar, it indicates a postalveolar following u, w, eo, io, or sometimes (but not always) following ø, y or a; it indicates a voiced fricative when initial, when intervocalic, or when following a nasal, or when preceding a voiced consonant, but otherwise indicates a voiceless consonant. The voiced and voiceless alveolar fricatives are not otherwise distinguished in writing, though the distinction is only very rarely distinctive. The same is true of the postalveolar, except that the voiceless postalveolar may also be indicated by means of the digraph sh. So:

sitta /zɪtə/ “to sit”
gressa /gresə/ “to eat lightly; to graze”
más /mas/ “moss”
huss /hʊʃ/ “house”
fleos /fleʃ/ “fleece; rind; mould”
yøsa /jøːʒə/ “to vomit”
másh /maʃ/ “clapshot; colcannon”
shanka /ʃæŋkə/ “leg”


The “dental fricatives” may be indicated by th and ð, but may also be indicated simply by t and d when preceding a u, w, y, o or ó, or when morpheme-final following the same letters – or, sometimes but not always, following a, ø or y. Thus:

cweða /kweːðə/ “to declare”
beseod ech /bəzeɞð ex/ “I boil (sth.)”
bątha /bɑːþə/ “to beat”
besleot ech /bəzleɞþ ex/ “I close (sth.)”
duylom /ðʊɪlɞm/ “creator”


The velar stop /k/ may be indicated with either c or k; c is found as the first element of clusters within a root, and, within a morpheme, before any vowels other than i, í, or e; k is found morpheme-finally, as the final element of clusters, and before the vowels i, í and e. So:

cweða /kweːðə/ “to declare”
cnafa /knæːvə/ “child; boy; youth”
cutta /kʊtə/ “bodice; jacket”
kerm /kɛrəm/ “wail; shriek; lament”
yðank /ɪðænk/ “thought”
busk /bʊʃk/ “bush”


Regarding the labiodentals: in initial or final position, or adjacent to a voiceless stop or a fricative, f generally indicates /f/, but in intervocalic position f indicates /v/. Morpheme-final /v/ is typically shown by bh, while initial /v/ is shown by v; v is also found in many loanwords. Intervocalic /f/ may be shown by vh. Thus:

foto /foːtoː/ “photograph”
far? /fær/ “where?”
hröf /hrəf/ “stomach; fortitude”
vilsfin /vɪlsfɪn/ “wild boar”
wǫlf /wʌlf/ “wolf”
wylfer /wylvər/ “wolves”
cnafa /knæːvə/ “child; boy; youth”
cøbh /kev/ “jaw”
cøbhs /køːvz/ “of the jaw”
advocat /ædvɞkət/ “attorney”
sevha /seːfa/ “to see”


The palatal glide /j/ is shown with y when morpheme-initial or following a vowel, but with j when following a consonant within a morpheme. So:

yøsa /jøːʒə/ “to vomit”
bjóding /bjɔːðəŋg/ “social invitation”


A further complication of orthography is the practice of writing orthographic ‘geminates’ to indicate preceding short vowels. Sometimes, the ‘geminate’ is not merely a duplication of the letter or grapheme. In any case, other than across morpheme boundaries in compounds, ‘geminates’ do not indicate a phonetic doubling of the consonant, but merely a change in the preceding vowel.

The fricative geminates ff and ss only ever indicate voiceles consonants; voiced /v/ may be written in geminate form as bhf, but there is no geminate form available for /z/. The geminate form of ð is ðh.

The geminate form of c/k is written as ck, when morpheme-internal, but as kk when the gemination results from the addition of a suffix. The geminate form of kj is kkj.

The geminate forms of th and ch are tth and cch.

The polygraphs sh and tch are regarded as automatically ‘geminate’, in the sense of shortening preceding vowels.

In this way:

máshr /maʃr/ “colcannons”
flycker /flʏkər/ “flocks; groups”
ąka /ɑːkə/ “to make bigger”
akkar /ækar/ “increaser”
mikkjel /mɪɕəl/ “big”
yøbha /yøːvə/ “to give”
yøbhfað wi /yevað wi/ “we give”


Next Up: Phonology and Orthography 2: Vowels!
Nu ta vylga: Fonologi ay Ortografi 2: Vocala

Øynduyska – I (intro/context)

It’s been a while since I’ve put up any conlanging here (I did do a huge tranche of stuff on Rawàng Ata but never got around to posting most of it). So, here, enjoy (if you can!) a brief sketch of a Germanic language from the North Atlantic. I’ll post it in sections to buoy your suspense (and because I haven’t finished it yet – still got a few more syntax sections to wade through). Any questions or comments gratefully received!

I’ll start with a brief explanation of what the language is…



Øynduyska is a minor Germanic language spoken by somewhat under 200,000 people on the Wentharian Islands (located northwest of Ireland and southwest of Iceland and the Faroes), by small numbers of expatriates around the world (with particular concentrations in the UK, US, Canada, Norway, and Argentina; there is a very small multigenerational community surviving in western Canada, while other speakers abroad are mostly first- or second-generation immigrants). There are also several tens of thousands of second-language speakers in the Islands.

Øynduyska belongs to the Northwest Germanic subfamily. Early philologists generally assumed it to be an Ingvaeonic, or even specifically Anglo-Frisian language, as it shares some prominent features with English and Frisian. However, modern linguists believe that these are parallel evolutions, probably suggesting extensive early contact and sprachbund effects; it is not even clear whether Øynduyska can accurately be called a West Germanic language, thanks to its delayed rhotacisation (a feature shared with North Germanic but not with West Germanic). However, as the language is in other regards close to West Germanic, and shares few early developments with North Germanic, the general tendency appears to be to overlook this difference and to consider it a somewhat ‘anomalous’ West Germanic language.

Considerable perplexity surrounds the early history of the language, and in particular how the language could have arrived in such a remote location. It is possible that the ancestors of the modern Øynduyar (English: ‘Onthoyers’ or ‘Wenthers’) may have participated in the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England, crossed the island rapidly, and then spread to the west via the Hebrides. It seems more likely, however, that they reached their current location either following a coastal path along the east coast of Britain, and thence via the Hebrides, or else following a coastal path along the west coast of Norway, prior to Norse settlement there, and then travelling to the west via the Faroes. The latter suggestion has always been more politically popular in the Islands, but the former would seem more probable, given the shorter distances required to be travelled, and the absence of any clear connexion between the Øynduyar and the Faroes.

In any event, the Islands were subsequently subjugated under Norse (and later variously Danish and Norwegian) rule, from the 9th century through to the 20th, and this contact has had a considerable effect on the superficial appearance of the language, and a more subtle influence upon other aspects of the tongue.


In reality, of course, there is no Øynduyska, nor any Wentharian Islands (or at least, in our world there is only one such island, and it’s very, very small).

I’ve toyed on and off, over the years, with some sort of a sister or cousin to English, retaining a more archaic feel – a common enough conceit. Those ideas never really went anywhere, however, until I saw and borrowed the idea of placing some more dry land on our Rockall Plateau. What would the inhabitants of such islands speak? Well, realistically they’d speak a sister to Icelandic and to Faroese, but that didn’t interest me much, so instead… Øynduyska. Not actually a descendent of Old English, but similarities in vocabulary and (over-enthusiastic!) participation in the Ingvaeonic Nasal Spirant Law hopefully make it feel strangely familiar to English speakers. It retains some features suggestive of Old English – it has not undergone Modern English’s Great Vowel Shift, for instance, and continues to use the distinctive ‘eo’ digraph lost in Modern English – while following Modern English in some other respects (it has eliminated or reduced many of its unstressed vowels, for instance, and dramatically simplified its morphology). At the same time, for both aesthetic and historical reasons, I wanted to give the language a slightly ‘Northern’ feel, a touch of cold crispness that seemed to suit both its windswept locale and its long association with the Nordic nations. This is most obvious in the orthography, with its inclusion of such letters as ø and ð, and in a number of Norse loanwords.

Next Up: Phonology and Orthography!
Nu ta vylga: Fonologi ay Ortografi!

The Skylark of Space, by E.E. (“Doc”) Smith

It’s Vintage Science Fiction Month [well it was, back when I started this review…] And what could be more vintage than The Skylark of Space?

This is it. This is novel Asimov called the first classic of science fiction; that Pohl ranked as the single most influential SF novel not by Wells or Verne. First written – or at least begun – almost exactly a century ago, how does The First Space Opera hold up today?

…well, I’m honestly not entirely sure how to answer that question.

I could probably just leave the review at that picture…

But first things first. What is it?

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Political Idiocies

Although I’m fairly opinionated in terms of politics, and try to keep informed on what’s going on, I have to say it’s not the evil that gets to me most.

No, it’s the sheer stupidity.

Evil – intentional or accidental – is an inevitability in politics. There are a lot of people in the world, many of them with quite odd beliefs and priorities, and we won’t always get our own way. They try to make things one way, we try to make things another. You can account for evil. In some cases, you can even respect it – most of these people are genuinely trying to make the world a better place, even if their views on how to do so are utterly wrongheaded.

But what really, instinctively, viscerally irritates me about politics is idiocy. Ineptitude. The very least we should be able to expect from our enemies – or friends – is basic competency!

Take, for example, Trump’s package of immigration restrictions. Now, I don’t intend to get into an argument about whether these are morally good or bad, or even their strategic value in the long term. Those are contentious questions. But what I think we should all be able to agree on is that whatever the merits of the theory, their implementation has been, politically speaking, monumentally moronic.

Let’s look at it this way: imagine you want to swing public opinion against a particular government policy. What ought you to do? Here’s a few suggestions…

  • make the debate about real, specific people, with real faces and life stories. Far away people about whom we know little are hard to empathise and easy to ignore. Names, faces, stories, individuals are what you need the argument to be about if you want to get people on your side. And what has Trump done? He’s put specific individuals into detention on American soil, while not isolating them from journalists and lawyers, creating a ready-made cast of characters for the public to feel sorry for;
  • make the debate about cruelty and unfairness. People might sigh over policies that are harsh or inhumane, but cruelty and unfairness are what get them pissed off. You can sell “tough but fair”, but it’s really hard to sell “tough and unfair”. And what does Trump do? He detains men who have risked their lives collaborating with the US armed forces. Everyone knows that that’s unfair. He detains elderly grandmothers, and he detains five-year-old children, separating them from their parents. Everyone knows that that’s unnecessarily cruel. And he has people asked about whether they personally support Trump as a precondition for entry into the country, and nobody can deny that that’s ridiculously unfair;
  • make people confused and afraid by stressing any vagueness or confusion. When it’s clearcut and simple, people are glad they weren’t affected personally and move on – but when nobody really knows what’s going on exactly, they get worried and distressed. And what does Trump do? He rolls out his policy without any guidance to people on the ground and contradictory statements by senior officials, so that nobody really knows what’s going on. Why is one person let free, while another is detained, and a third is detained without access to lawyers? Are dual-nationality travellers affected, for instance? Yes and no, appears to be the answer;
  • create specific times and places that can act as focuses for protest; when discontent, like sparks from a fire, is spread out and abstract, it’s easy to overlook it, easy to let it die away in the cold and the wet; but when discontent is focused in a particular place, at a particular time, each person’s anger can sustain that of others, and the fire can rage on for weeks, or even months in some cases. And what has Trump done? He has created the perfect protest sites: concentrated enough to bring large crowds together, and bring the journalists to monitor the crowds, but numerous enough to allow every protestor in America a potentially accessible site;
  • find cracks in the policy that allow fruitful lawsuits to be brought and other potentially successful small-scale campaigns. You don’t have to overturn the policy itself that way, that’s not the point. The point is that if you can mount a plausible case against an element of it, it spreads doubt about the legitimacy of the entire edifice. People feel uneasy about things when they see courts taking challenges seriously, or when they see authorities backing down. And if nothing else, these challenges create a steady stream of news stories to stop people forgetting about the issues. And what has Trump done? He brought out his policies without, in essence, having court-proofed them first. His policies raise strikingly obvious legal concerns – by issuing Visas and Green Cards with one hand, promises and rights attached, and ignoring them with the other – and they do so without any of the due diligence, consultation and legal i-dotting and t-crossing that scares courts away from challenging things like this. His detain-first-and-maybe-release-shamefacedly-later-when-journalists-notice approach also maintains the story by offering a drip of releases, a trickle of new stories, new victims, rather than clearing things out of the way one way or another and drawing a line under it; and he even tried to do this when the person responsible for enforcing it, ultimately, was still an Obama appointee. When you end up having to sack someone within a week of appointing them to their caretaker position, there’s no way to come out of that looking good.

Long story short: everything that Trump enemies should have been trying to do to rally opposition to these measures… was already done for them by Trump himself. It’s like he went down a checklist of ways to screw up. And I don’t approve of these policies, but still… as a reasonably intelligent person, it’s just plain irritating to see people in power be so calamitously bad even at doing bad things. It’s reassuring in a way – the hyperbolic fears about Trump’s new fascist dystopia are plainly exaggerated, if for no other reason than that Trump’s regime clearly don’t have the elementary competence required to dictate anything to anybody. But it’s also sort of scary. There ought to be a dozen different people around Trump with the foreward-thinking (or basic political awareness) to spot these problems and steer him away from them. It wouldn’t have been hard. No self-respecting political operative should have allowed that executive order to apply to people currently in transit – that’s just so fundamental. Anonymous people not allowed on planes in Iran? That’s controversial. Specific five-year-old children in solitary detention at US airports, on US soil, within marching distance of major US population centres, and all with the awareness of US journalists? That’s a crisis. More of the fire could have been taken out of the affair by some relatively minor adjustments to automatically exempt the most contentious victims – exempt special visas, green card holders, maybe post-graduate scientists, etc. That might not make a lot of moral difference, but it would make a huge difference to public opinion. And it goes without saying that they should have lined everything up before firing – an ironclad order with clearly defined terms, guidance issued to staff simultaneously, legal loopholes addressed before signing.

So either everyone around the President is an imbecile, or else they can see how terribly managed this is but don’t have the influence to do anything about it. And frankly those thoughts are both worrying, because next time it might be something really critical that they’re bollocksing up.


Of course, it’s not just the Republicans who have problems in the simple-mindedness department. Take the Supreme Court fight, for instance. Democrats in the Senate apparently want to fillibuster any nomination Trump makes. This is understandable, given that the Republicans started it. But “but mummy, he started it!” is very rarely an effective rhetorical approach when it comes to persuading unaffiliated observers. So there are two ways that this can go:

  •  Say “we’ll be looking very closely at the nomination, and we hope the President will nominate somebody we can all quickly move to confirm.” This makes you look reasonable and fair, while not actually committing you to anything. Then when he nominates someone you can say “we deeply regret that the President has chosen to make this a partisan issue with this appalling nomination. As you know, we were willing to work with the President in the interests of the nation, and we were reluctantly willing to confirm even a conservative nominee, because unlike our Republican colleagues we put our constitutional duty ahead of our party – but unfortunately the President spurned that offer of bipartisanship by nominating somebody who is so extreme that we plainly cannot support their confirmation in good conscience.” And people say “hey, the nominee must be bad if they’re putting up this fight over them!” – and when the Republicans say the fillibuster is a break with tradition and imperils the functioning of government, just say “hey, nominate someone moderate next time and you’ll have no problem!”…
  • Or, come out ahead of the nomination and say “we’re going to fillibuster the nomination, whoever it is”. And people say “clearly this isn’t about the appropriateness of the nominee, it’s about party politics”, and they think you’re the one being unreasonable. And then Trump has absolutely zero reason to nominate anyone even vaguely moderate, since you’ve already told him it’ll be the same level of fight no matter whom he names. And then he and the Republicans can turn around and say “look, the Democrats are misusing the fillibuster as pure obstructionism, and we’ll clearly never get a justice confirmed so long as the fillibuster remains”, and then they’ll abolish the fillibuster and the Democrats will be more screwed than they were to begin with.

But needless to say, a number of Senate Democrats have gone for the bullet-to-own-foot Option B!

This is an easy one, people. The ‘reasonableness’ gambit gives you a chance of pressuring Trump into a more moderate pick, and makes your protest when he doesn’t look more legitimate. The obstructionist approach lands you with a more extremist Justice and probably the loss of the fillibuster, while also alienating swing voters. The only upside is that this development is probably close enough to Trump’s announcement that it’ll get overshadowed and people might not notice it – but the fact it’s happening at all is a head-slapping moment.


Honestly, there’s a fight going on for the soul of the world right now, and both sides appear to be staffed with buffoons who either don’t know or don’t care how to actually win…


…Still, at least the Labour Party is still here to make even Republicans and Democrats look like they know what they’re doing…


Reduplication in Rawàng Ata

Apologies for the seemingly random formatting that WordPress insists on adding and subtracting…

Rawàng Ata is a language that employs several forms of reduplication, and for several purposes. Several parts of speech can feature reduplications. Continue reading

Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett

The 29th installment of my ongoing complete Discworld re-read.

Permit me a slightly fanciful new classification of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. There are novels that, it feels, he wrote because he needed to write a new book: books like The Last Continent, for example. There are novels that, it feels, he wrote because he had what he thought was a cool idea for a book, like Feet of Clay or Maskerade. There are novels that it feels as though he wrote because there was something he wanted to write about – Soul Music, for example, or Jingo. And then there are a small number of novels that, I can’t help but feel, he wrote because he was born to write them. The Colour of Magic, oddly, is one of those books – it may not be one of his best novels, but it’s one I can’t possibly imagine anybody else (or even the same author at any other time in his life) writing. Another is Small Gods, his widely-acknowledged magnum opus.

And a third is Night Watch. Continue reading