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Sen:esepera   Advanced

Model Languages

The newsletter discussing newly imagined words for newly imagined worlds


Volume I, Issue 5 -- September 1, 1995


Sen:esepera -- A Reform Of Esperanto


This month's issue looks at an actual model language that I have been developing, Sen:esepera. This issue is more technical than most issues of Model Languages but it is hopefully not too difficult to follow.


Design goals

I designed Sen:esepera as a dramatic reform of Esperanto, which I felt was difficult for speakers of non-European languages (especially Asian languages such as Japanese and Chinese) to pronounce.

  • The primary design goal was to reduce the complexity of Esperanto's phonology, which -- due to a plethora of consonants and consonant clusters -- is difficult for many native speakers of non- European languages to master.
  • Secondary design goals were to further simplify Esperanto's grammar and vocabulary. When words were phonetically simplified to meet the primary design goal, it became harder to recognize them from their roots, necessitating changes to keep the vocabulary easily learnable.

Note that I explicitly am not interested in proposing that Sen:esepera should be adopted as an international language; the creation of this language is purely an intellectual pursuit. It is also not yet complete, with the vocabulary still being simplified.


Phonology

Sen:esepera contains five vowels: /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/. The language has 14 consonants: /p/ /t/ /k/ /b/ /d/ /g/ /f/ /s/ /h/ /m/ /n/ /l/ /r/ /j/.

Where Esperanto has 23 consonants, Sen:esepera has only the 14 most- common consonants, based on Rick Morneau's analysis of a sample of 25 world languages (for further details, refer to ftp.eskimo.com/u/r/ram/conlang). Of the languages he surveyed, 76% contain every sound in Sen:esepera; their speakers will not need to master any new sounds, while speakers of the other 24% of the languages will have to master a few new sounds.

Because Sen:esepera makes comparatively few distinctions between consonants, most consonants have allophones, of which only the principal ones will be mentioned here. An allophone is one of at least two alternate pronunciations for a phoneme. 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. The phoneme /h/ has allophones [h] and [x].

As with Esperanto, the accent is always on the penultimate syllable.


Orthography

Every word is spelled phonemically.

The letter 'c' represents the phoneme /k/. The letter 'i' represents either the vowel /i/ or the semivowel /j/; if 'i' follows a vowel, then it represents /j/, otherwise it represents /i/. Thus, 'amica' ("friend") represents /amika/ and 'caim' ("where") represents /kajm/.

Separate morphemes used in a word (aside from the grammatical marker, covered below) are delimited by use of the colon (e.g., im:amica, "opposite-friend, enemy").


Morphology

Every syllable in the language follows this pattern:

[C] V [S] [N]

Where:

  • [C] - is an optional ordinary consonant: /p/ /t/ /k/ /b/ /d/ /g/ /f/ /s/ /h/ /l/ /r/
  • V - is a mandatory vowel: /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/
  • [S] - is an optional semivowel 'i' /j/
  • [N] - is an optional nasal /n/ or /m/

This provides for a comparatively small range of syllables, with just 360 (12 x 5 x 2 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 morphology has not been explicitly defined.)

Sen:esepera'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. See Rick Morneau's essay on morphology (at ftp.eskimo.com/u/r/ram/conlang) for a full description of optimizing morphology for maximum ease of pronunciation.

Every word ends in a class suffix, indicating part of speech (see GRAMMAR below).


Borrowings

When a word is borrowed into Sen:esepera, it should conform to its phonology, morphology and class suffixes. Thus Esperanto is borrowed as Eseperanta.

Sample borrowings:

Sen:esepera

Esperanto

 
pasinatan pasinta "past"
linegefa lingvo "language"
secienca scienco "science"
  (note that Esperanto 'c' /ts/ is borrowed as /k/)
seterata strato "street"
Esperanto words are nativized according to standard rules, which are too involved to detail here.

Grammar

For simplicity, the grammar has been designed to eliminate most features that are not universal to fusional (synthetic) languages and even a few features that are not always used in analytic languages. Sen:esepera lacks number, articles, declensions, inflections, and pronouns with gender distinctions.

Every word ends in a class suffix, indicating its part of speech:

Nouns

-a

Pronouns

-u, -un

Adjectives

-an, -en, -in, -m

Verbs

-i

Adverbs

-e

Prepositions

-o

Numerals

-in

Correlatives

-o, -on

Nouns: -a

1. The language has neither a definite article (the, Esperanto la) or an indefinite article (a, an). 2. Nouns end in -a. They are not inflected for plural, gender or case. The relationship of case is expressed by prepositions. What Esperanto would express with the accusative case, Sen:esepera expresses with the preposition ano.

Pronouns: -u, -un

5. Personal pronouns end in /u/ and are not inflected for number, gender or case. The first person pronoun ("I, me, we, us") is imu; second person ("you") is tu; and third person ("he, him, she, her, they, them, it") is hu. All possessive pronouns (e.g., mine, yours, his) are formed by appending /n/; possessive pronouns are treated as adjectives.

Adjectives: -an, -en, -in or -m

3. Adjectives typically end in /-an/ and typically precede the noun they describe. The comparative is made by using the word pelo, the superlative by supelo. With the comparative, the conjunction olo is used.

Verbs: -i

6. The verb undergoes no change with regard to person or number or tense, which is instead conveyed as necessary through context. The passive is rendered by preceding a verb with esete.

Adverbs: -e

7. Adverbs end in -e; comparison is as for adjectives.

Prepositions: -o

All prepositions end in -o. Each preposition has a definite and constant meaning, but if the direct sense does not indicate what it should be (e.g., if the preposition is used idiomatically), the preposition lo (corresponding to Esperanto je), is used instead.

Numerals:

4. The first 10 ordinal numerals are, when used as adjectives, unin, duin, tirin, forin, fifin, sesin, sepin, ocin, enin, decin. Tens and hundreds are formed by joining the numerals. The suffix -en indicates fractional numbers.

Correlatives: -o, -on

Correlatives end in /-o/ or /-on/. Esperanto's correlatives are concise but hard to remember. Sen:esepera instead uses compound words, which provide greater clues for remembering. Thus Esperanto kiu [< ki-, "which" + u, "one"] equals Sen:esepera's caim:uno. Sample correlatives are tin:obico, "this thing"; dem:sepeco, "that kind of"; sum:loco, "somewhere"; an:emodo, "nohow"; and omin:cuso, "for every reason".

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

caim "which, what"
tin "this"
dem "that"
sum "some"
an "no"
omin "each, every, all"

The 9 possible contexts are:

uno "one"
obico "thing"
sepeco "kind"
loco "place"
emodo "way"
cuso "reason"
tempo "time"
enumo "quantity"
unon "one's"

Correlatives total 54 different words.

The contexts can be inflected like other words in most instances.

Word Order:

Like Esperanto, Sen:esepera has no fixed word order.


Sample text

 

Basic english

Sen:esepera

1

And all the earth had one language and one tongue. O tutan tera eseti codo unin lingifa, o codo unin parola.

2

And it came about that in their wandering from the east, they came to a stretch of flat country in the land of Shinar, and there they made their living-place. O tina ocasi, caim:tempo hu foiagi delo orienta, demo hu terofi pelatan loca eno loca codo Sinara [Shinar]; o hu domi dem:loca.

3

And they said one to another, Come, let us make bricks, burning them well. And they had bricks for stone, putting them together with sticky earth. O hu paroli unin alo omin:una, "Feni, imu posete cusi berica, o pele beruli hu." O hu hafi berica contero setona, o cota hafi hu contero unigi berica.

4

And they said, Come, let us make a town, and a tower whose top will go up as high as heaven; and let us make a great name for ourselves, so that we may not be wanderers over the face of the earth. O hu paroli, "Feni, imu posete conseteri imu ureba, o tura, caim:unon supera ebele atingi alo paradisa; o imu posete cusi imu enoma, ro imu ebele pere:emeti foran supero:eno fisaga codo tutan tera."

5

And the Lord came down to see the town and the tower which the children of men were building. O Dia feni im:supere o fidi ureba o tura, caimo dimin:homa codo homa conseteri.

6

And the Lord said, See, they are all one people and have all one language; and this is only the start of what they may do; and now it will not be possible to keep them from any purpose of theirs. O Dia paroli, "Fidi, homa eseti unin, o hu hafi tutan unin lingifa; o tino hu comenci o fari: o ene hu ebele inhibici delo an:obica, caimo hu ebele emagi o fari.

7

Come, let us go down and take away the sense of their language, so that they will not be able to make themselves clear to one another. Feni, imu posete iri im:supere, o dem:loca sangi hun lingifa, demo hu im:ebele compereni unin omin:unan parola."

8

So the Lord God sent them away into every part of the earth; and they gave up building their town. Dia posete pere:emeti hu foron pano fisaga codo tutan tera: o hu cesige conseteri ureba.

9

So it was named Babel, because there the Lord took away the sense of all languages; and from there the Lord sent them away over all the face of the earth. Hun enoma eseti Babela [Babel]; cuso Dia dem:loca sangi lingifa codo tutan tera: o delo dem:loca Dia pere:emeti hu foran supero:eno fisaga codo tutan tera.
 

From "The Bible In Basic English", first published by the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press (London and New York) in 1949

Translated by Jeffrey Henning, Sep 24th, 1995, author of Sen:esepera

(see also: The Babel Text)


Vocabulary

Sen:esepera is almost entirely derived from Esperanto and has approximately 1700 words, derived from around 1200 basic morphemes. The final version of the vocabulary will attempt to reduce the number of basic morphemes to 600. As part of this effort, all homonyms will be removed from the vocabulary: e.g., aga [from Esp. ag^o.], "age", and aga [Esp. ago.], "act".

Sen:esepera words are typically longer than Esperanto words, due both to Sen:esepera's strict morphology and to its use of mnemonic affixes in place of Esperanto's esoteric affixes. As the vocabulary is reformed, Sen:esepera words will grow even longer.

(This is a subtle contribution towards Esperanto's goal of encouraging world peace by offering an easy-to-learn language. Sen:esepera, by offering a long- winded language, hopes to discourage people from talking too much, which will increase the likelihood of world peace...)

Go to Sen:esepera dictionary



Contents copyright 1995 Jeffrey Henning. All rights reserved.
Last updated: March 1996
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