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Simpenga

 

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Simpenga   Advanced
The International Language For The 21st Century

[I worked on Simpenga from December, 1995, to March, 1996. This was one of my early attempts at an IAL, when I was overly concerned about phonetic simplification. Simpenga is a dead project, as I now believe a basic phonology has as many disadvantages (loss of recognizability) as advantages (ease of pronunciation). - Jeffrey Henning]

Design Premises

Simpenga is pronounced /sim-PEN-ga/ and is a contraction of Simpela Engelisa, "Simple English." Simpenga is a proposed international auxiliary language (IAL) based on the following premises:

  • Those individuals most likely to learn a world auxiliary language will already have made an effort to learn a second language. They will most likely speak English, since English is spoken by between 300 to 900 million people as a second language, having a greater population of second-language speakers than any other language. Therefore, an IAL should be based on English.
  • Basic English is the most well known IAL based on English, providing an 850-word subset of English. Unfortunately, Basic English presents serious learning difficulties to speakers of other languages, including an arbitrary orthography (system of spelling), a difficult phonology (sound system), a complex grammar, reliance on idioms and a paucity of verbs. An IAL should have a completely regular orthography, a simple phonology, a completely regular grammar, defined idioms and as many verbs as appropriate.

Simpenga is the first IAL that will meet all these objectives:

  • Easy To Read - Simpenga words are easily spelled, with a one-to-one correspondence between each sound and letter.
  • Easy To Say - Simpenga words are easily pronounced, with the language using just the five basic vowels (compared to English's 20 or so vowels) and 15 of the most common consonants (vs. English's 24), and with a very simple syllable structure (English _stretched_ /stretsht/ would be pronounced as /setereteta/ in Simpenga, one syllable becoming five).
  • Easy To Use - Simpenga's grammar is regular, with few rules to remember; Simpenga does without grammatical number, articles, declensions, inflections, and pronouns with gender distinctions.
  • Easy To Learn - Simpenga will have a basic vocabulary of 1000 words, all based on English, with many words being compounds (e.g., "there" is _dati'wera_, literally "that place"). Simpenga permits neologisms but no extensions to the basic vocabulary; all neologisms must be compounds, for easy learning.

Phonology

Simpenga contains five vowels:

/a/ (as in father)

/e/ (as in bear)

/i/ (as in beat)

/o/ (as in boat)

/u/ (as in boost).

The language has 15 consonants:

/p/, /b/ /t/, /d/ /k/, /g/

/f/ /s/

/m/ /n/

/w/ /l/, /r/ /j/ /h/

Where Esperanto has 23 consonants, Simpenga has only 15 of the most-common consonants, a subset of the 20 most-common consonants identified in the UPSID (UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database) survey of 317 languages. Anyone who knows how to speak English will not have to learn any new sounds to speak Simpenga; those who do not speak English may have to learn a handful of new sounds, depending on their linguistic background.

Because Simpenga makes comparatively few distinctions between consonants, most consonants have allophones, of which only the principal ones will be mentioned here. The phoneme /f/ has allophones [f] and [v], and /s/ has allophones [s] and [z] (similar to Old English).

The phoneme /r/ includes any retroflex or any alveolar flap or trill.

As with Esperanto, the accent of a word in Simpenga is always on the penultimate syllable.

Orthography

Every word is spelled phonemically. There is a one-to-one correspondence between letters and phonemes. The alphabet is as follows:

a /a/
b /b/
c /k/
d /d/
e /e/
f /f/
g /g/
h /h/
i /i/
l /l/
m /m/
n /n/
o /o/
p /p/
r /r/
s /s/
t /t/
u /u/
w /w/
y /j/

The following letters are not used: j, k, q, v, x, z.

The letter 'c' always represents the phoneme /k/; 'y' represents the semivowel /j/.

The roots of a compound word are separated by an apostrophe (e.g., _wati'wera_, "what place (where)").

Phonotactics

Phonotactics is the sequential arrangements of phonemes that are possible in a language. Every syllable in Simpenga follows this pattern:

[C] V [N]

Where:

[C] - is an optional non-nasal consonant:

/p/, /b/ /t/, /d/ /k/, /g/

/f/ /s/

/w/ /l/, /r/ /j/ /h/

V - is a mandatory vowel: /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/

[N] - is an optional nasal: /n/ /m/

Syllables in Simpenga may not begin with a nasal; thus, English man becomes Simpenga eman. This is necessary to eliminate ambiguity. If /n/ or /m/ could begin a syllable, a rule would have to be created to define the syllabification of words in ambiguous circumstances, like *mama (/MAM-a/ or /MA-ma/) or animala (/an-im-A-la/, /a-ni-MA-la/, or /a-nim-A-la/).

Simpenga has a comparatively small range of syllables, with just 210 (15 x 5 x 3) possible syllables, where Esperanto theoretically has over ten thousand possible syllables. (The exact number is impossible to determine, since Esperanto's vocabulary is not closed and its phonotactics has not been explicitly defined.)

Simpenga's morphology is designed to eliminate complex consonant clusters (e.g., /str/, /bl/, /pr/, /sp/), which are difficult for many speakers of Asian and African languages to pronounce.

Borrowings

When a word is borrowed into Simpenga, it must conform to its phonology and morphology. Thus _English_ is borrowed as _Engelisa_.

Grammar

For simplicity, the grammar has been designed to eliminate most features that are not universal to analytic languages. Simpenga lacks number, articles, declensions, inflections, and pronouns with gender distinctions.

Nouns

The language has neither a definite article (_the_, Esperanto _la_) or an indefinite article (_a_, _an_). Nouns are not inflected for plural, gender or case. The relationship of case is expressed by prepositions.

Pronouns

Personal pronouns are not inflected for number, gender or case. The first person pronoun ("I, me, we, us") is _emi_ (EHM-ee), second person ("you") is _yu_, and third person ("he, him, she, her, they, them, it") is _di_. All possessive pronouns (e.g., _mine_, _yours_, _his_) are formed by appending /n/ (e.g., _emin_, _yun_, _din_); possessive pronouns are treated as adjectives. The reflexive pronouns (e.g., _myself_, _yourself_, _himself_) are formed by appending _selifa_, "self", to the possessive pronoun: _emin'selifa_, "myself"; _yun'selifa_, "yourself, yourselves"; _din'selifa_, "himself, herself, itself, themselves".

Adjectives

Adjectives precede the noun they describe. The comparative is always made by using the word _emore_, the superlative by _emosete_. There are no irregular comparatives (English _good_, _better_, _best_ become Simpenga _guda_, _emore guda_, _emosete guda_). With the comparative, the conjunction _dan_ is used (e.g., _emore dan_, "more than").

Verbs

The verb undergoes no change with regard to person or number or tense, which are instead conveyed as necessary through context. The verb in each clause is preceded by the word _do_. The passive is rendered by preceding a verb with _be_. The verb _be_ is also used for "am, is, are, was, were, to be".

Adverbs

Adverbs follow the verbs they modify.

Correlatives

Esperanto's correlatives are concise but hard to remember. Simpenga instead uses compound words, which provide greater clues for remembering. Thus Esperanto _kiu_ [< _ki-_, "which" + _u_, "one"] becomes Simpenga's _wati'won_. Sample correlatives are _dise:dinga_, "this thing"; _dati:cinda_, "that kind of"; _som:wera_,

"somewhere"; _ano:waya_, "no way"; and _ala:caza_, "for every reason".

A correlative consists of a modifier followed by a context. The six possible modifiers are:

_wati_ "what, which"

_dise_ "this"

_dati_ "that"

_som_ "some"

_ano_ "no"

_ala_ "each, every, all"

The 9 possible contexts are:

_won_ "one"

_dinga_ "thing"

_cinda_ "kind"

_wera_ "where, place"

_waya_ "way"

_caza_ "reason, cause"

_tim_ "time"

_amonta_ "quantity, amounta"

_wonin_ "one's"

Correlatives total 54 different words.

Grammar Notes

Constructs with an unreferenced subject pronoun ("It was", "There are") are not acceptable and such sentences have to be rephrased. "It is raining" becomes "See the rain", _Do si rin_.

Other Documents

Sample text: A translation of the Babel Text is available.

The Basic English lexicon would need to be modified to fit Simpenga's phonology.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Conlang Profiles at Langmaker.com © 1996-2005 Jeffrey Henning.

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