Voksigid

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Voksigid was a language project developed by a group headed by Bruce R. Gilson (together with Jim Carter, John Ross and others) in 1991-1992. It first arose out of some discussions on the Lojban mailing list in October 1991, which were carried over to the "conlang" mailing list (see [1] - message dated October 25). It was originally contemplated as an example of a language using a "reversed Japanese" syntax, an experimental syntactical structure. The author felt that this would in fact have some of the attributes of a "predicate" language, such as Loglan or Lojban, with, however, prepositions ("tags" or "case-markers") taking on the function that positions in a specified order have in those two languages.

The grammar of the language was basically completed in 1992, but the vocabulary was never completed because of a decline in the number of people interested in membership in the development group.

Toward the end of the development period, some of the envolved people became aware of the similarity of some of the ideas behind Voksigid grammar and the case grammar theories of Charles Fillmore; if the project had continued further, Fillmore's ideas might have been more thoroughly incorporated.

In 2009 Bruce R. Gilson created Trari, a new conlang that took some ideas from Voksigid.

In brief

Voksigid remained unfinished: only 256 words and affixes. There is the lack of example sentences. The definitions of the case tags aren't always specific enough to give the reader a clear idea of how they're used. The etymology of words mostly comes from European languages.

Prepositions (case tags) mark the position of arguments of the same verb. All content roots are verbs like in Lojban (for example, "katse" means "to be a cat"). Nouns and adjectives are derived from root verbs modified with nominalizing suffixes. E.g. "katselen" would mean "a cat" or "pertaining to (a) cat(s)" (depending on context) where "len" is defined as "subject of a non-quantifiable statal predicate". "tor" is "active subject", so "katsetor" would mean "one who is deliberately being a cat".

External reference

Description of the language

Grammar

(taken from ViewsOfLanguage.host56.com/voksigid/index.html) Voksigid created by an Internet working group led by Bruce R. Gilson, attempts to construct a predicate language of a different type from those which had gone before. Its syntax was somewhat influenced by Japanese, and its vocabulary was based mostly on European language roots. Loglan and Lojban both use word order to mark the various places in the predication, but because remembering which position means which role in the predication might be beyond easy memorization for most people, Voksigid was designed in order to overcome this issue. It uses an extensive set of very semantically specific prepositions to mark the roles of verb arguments, instead of positional order as in Loglan and Lojban.

Voksigid

Voksigid was an attempt to construct a predicate language of a different type from those which had gone before. The first predicate language (Loglan, developed by James Cooke Brown), and its descendant Lojban, developed by Robert LeChevalier, both used word order to mark the various places in the predication. I felt that remembering which position meant which role in the predication might be beyond easy memorization for most people. In October 1991 I made a proposal to the Conlang group putting forward some ideas for a language that I envisioned. I assembled a development committee following that post, and for several months we worked on the language, which we named Voksigid. The language has a syntax which was (as mentioned in the proposal letter) somewhat influenced by Japanese (but reversed; Japanese is verb-last and postpositional, Voksigid is verb-first and prepositional), and a vocabulary based mostly on European language roots. After some time, I became aware that many of the ideas we were using in the construction of Voksigid resembled the theory of case grammar propounded by Charles J. Fillmore (See also this site for more about Fillmore. Note that he was also interested in Japanese!). Had we been working longer on this project, perhaps there would have been more use of Fillmore's ideas; if anyone would like to consider restoring the Voksigid project, I would certainly recommend some study of those ideas.)

The project was formally ended in a message I submitted as a final report to the Conlang group on July 23, 1992. (Please note that all e-mail addresses shown are no longer valid!)

Anyone who might wish to build upon the foundation of this project is welcome to communicate with me, but at my present e-mail address.

This page was originally a part of my site on Geocities, maintained until 1998. The last edit on the Geocities page was made on May 24, 1997. The pages on Geocities could not be edited between 1998 and 2009, and were preserved as they were, until download in preparation for migration to this site took place on May 22, 2009. Please inform me of dead links and any other problems.

The Orthography, Phonology, and Phonotactics of Voksigid.

1. The alphabet consists of all the Roman letters except q and x. The letters l and r will never be used to distinguish two words, so that in a technical sense they will be considered the same phoneme. In fact, however, the official sounds of l and r will be as shown below. Because people whose native languages have only one sound similar to both, as Japanese and Korean, may use that sound for both letters, we will never use them to distinguish minimal pairs. A similar comment holds for s and z; Spanish, for example, has no /z/ while German tends to pronounce initial s as [z] and Italian does the same with intervocalic s.

2. The sounds of the letters are as follows:

a (Eng. art, Fr. la)

b (Eng. boy)

c (Ital. cento = ch in Eng. chief, sh in Eng. shoe)

d (Eng. dog)

e (Eng. bed, Ger. Bett, beten)

f (Eng. find)

g (Eng. girl)

h (Eng. have, Ger. Bach) -- the [x] sound is allowed for the benefit of such as Russian speakers who cannot pronounce [h].

i (Eng. in, machine)

j (Eng. jam, Fr. journal)

k (Eng. key)

l (Eng. love, Ger. Liebe)

m (Eng. man)

n (Eng. sun; before k or g, as in Eng. sung)

o (Brit. Eng. on, aw in Am. Eng. dawn, Ger. so)

p (Eng. pin)

r (Eng. red, Fr. rouge, Span. rojo)

s (Eng. sing)

t (Eng. top)

u (Eng. push, rude)

v (Eng. very)

w (Eng. wash)

y (Eng. yet)

z (Eng. zero)

It should be noted that for the letters c e h i j n o u, sounds are included that are in some languages considered distinct phonemes; this is done to allow for ease in pronouncing by speakers of as many languages as possible.

For items 3-5, the following terminology applies:

Vowel = a e i o u, or any of the diphthongs listed.

Diphthong = ai au oi.

Pure consonant = b c d f g h j k p s t v z.

Liquid = l r.

Nasal = m n.

Glide = w y.

Semivowel = any liquid, nasal, or glide, as defined here.

Consonant = any pure consonant or semivowel, as defined here.

Voiced consonant = b d g j v z.

Unvoiced consonant = c f h k p s t.

3. A syllable consists of one to four phonemes, of the form [P] [S] V [C] where bracketed elements are optional, P is any pure consonant, S any semivowel, V any vowel, and C any consonant, except:

a. The final consonant of a syllable may not be a glide or h.

b. The final consonant of one syllable, combined with the initial consonant(s) of an immediately following syllable in a word, may not make any of the combinations forbidden in 4.

4. The following consonant combinations are forbidden:

a. Voiced + unvoiced consonant or vice versa.

b. Nasal consonant + nonhomoorganic stop. This specifically forbids the combination of m + any of (c d g j k t) and the combination of n with (b p)

5. If a word ends in a pure consonant and the following word does not begin with a pure consonant, or if a word ends in a semivowel and the following word begins in a vowel, a distinct pause must be articulated at the word boundary. In other cases, a pause may be made at a boundary, but need not be. A word boundary is defined as anywhere where a blank space is written.

This page was originally a part of my site on Geocities, maintained until 1998. The last edit on the Geocities page was made on May 24, 1997. The pages on Geocities could not be edited between 1998 and 2009, and were preserved as they were, until download in preparation for migration to this site took place on May 22, 2009. Please inform me of dead links and any other problems.

The Morphology of Voksigid.

(Consult the document entitled "The Syntax of Voksigid" for any terminology needed to understand this document.)

1. Predicates will be constructed as two-syllable or longer words ending in a vowel; tags will be single-syllable words that both begin and end in consonants; other particles will be single-syllable words that either begin or end in a vowel or both.

2. Words which can be used as nouns or adjectives (the specific usage being governed by paragraph 4 of the syntaxdocument) will be derived from verbs by nominalizing suffixes which are identical in form to the tag/preposition words. These can be resolved into predicate + suffix, because in all cases the last three letters (consonant + vowel + consonant) will be a nominalizing suffix. As nouns, their meaning will be "noun with the relationship defined by the tag to the predication implied by the verb meaning of the word," e. g. a tag meaning "indirect object" attached to the word for "give" means "recipient." As adjectives, their meaning will be "having the relationship defined by the tag to the predication implied by the verb meaning of the word," so that the same word means "receiving."

3. Suffixes used to create predicates from tags, from other particles, or from strings of particles, will be of the form consonant + diphthong. No simple predicate will end in a diphthong, so that any predicate ending in a diphthong consists of a particle or string of particles followed by a predicatizing suffix.

4. Gender will be expressed by the use of the prefix mas- (for masculine) or fem- (for feminine). No assumption is to be made as to the sex of the referent in the absence of these prefixes. The prefix mas- is altered to maz- before voiced sounds and fem- to fen- before nonlabial stop consonants to avoid prohibited clusters.

The Syntax of Voksigid.

1. The parts of speech are predicates (verbs), tags (prepositions), and other particles. (the terms "predicate" and "verb" will be used interchangeably, as also "tag" and "preposition." The term "other particle" will include conjunctions, modal/aspectual particles, ending markers, and such others as become necessary to define the syntax. All content words will be understood as verbs. Those which represent primarily constructs that English uses nouns or adjectives for will officially mean "to be X." Predicates can be used as nouns or adjectives by the use of nominalizers as described tn the morphology document.

2. All sentences begin with a verb, possibly preceded by aspectual or modal particles. All other elements of the predication are expressed by the use of prepositional phrases. These include the elements that would in English be expressed by subject and direct and indirect object, as well as adverbial phrases. No distinction is made between these phrases, and if more than one phrase is used, they may be placed in any order, depending on the speaker/ writer's desire to emphasize one or another.

3. Clauses consist of a conjunction followed by the elements that compose a sentence according to the previous paragraph. No distinction between coordinate and subordinate clauses will be made in structure.

4. The same form defined in 1 as a noun can be used as an adjective by being placed after the noun which it modifies. Thus a nominalized verb which immediately follows a preposition is a noun; one that follows another such is an adjective modifying the noun that precedes it.

5. Neither definite nor indefinite articles will be necessary. Each preposition will delimit a noun phrase, since all prepositional phrases can be analyzed as a preposition, an object-of-preposition noun, and zero or more nouns-used-as- adjectives.

6. Ending markers will comprise end-of-phrase, end-of-clause, and end-of- adjective/adverb markers. The end-of-phrase marker is treated as a right parenthesis with the nearest tag prior to it as the corresponding left parenthesis. It is only necessary if another modifier (nominalized-verb-used- as-adjective, clause, or tag/preposition + noun phrase) follows it. The end-of- clause marker is treated as a right parenthesis with the nearest conjunction prior to it as the corresponding left parenthesis. It is only necessary if another modifier (nominalized-verb-used-as-adjective, clause, or tag/preposition + noun phrase) follows it. The end-of-adjective/adverb marker signifies that the word before it is an unmodified adjective or adverb, and is needed only to indicate that a following modifier is to be attached, not to the adjective/ adverb in question, but to the word it modifies. The end of a sentence terminates all unclosed phrases and clauses.

7. A relative clause is introduced by a special subordinating conjunction (su) and is constructed as in paragraph 3. It is inserted in the sentence after the word it modifies. The place in the relative clause where the relative relates to the clause is filled by the relative pronoun (lau).

8. Another equivalent of a relative clause in other languages is a phrase constructed with a special case tag governing a nominalization of the verb which was the clause main verb. The nominalization indicates which case the restricted phrase is supposed to fit. When necessary (in the rare instances where the restricted phrase is not going to be an argument of the clause verb) or desired for stylistic reasons, nominalize with cen (abstraction) and use lau as a pronoun to represent the restricted phrase, with its proper case tag. This will be designated a quasi-relative phrase.

The Voksigid final report

Originally posted on the Conlang mailing list, July 23, 1992. Date: 23 Jul 92 09:09:00 EDTFrom: "61510::GILSON" Subject: Final (I think) status report to Conlang group on the Voksigid project

This functions both as the apparent final progress report on the Voksigid project to the conlang group and the apparent final communication to the Voksigid development group, a. k. a. the newlang group. If anyone, either by sending to the Voksigid group as a whole at newlang@buphy.bu.edu, or by emailing to me at brgilson@highlite.gotham.com, evinces an interest in reviving the Voksigid project, the possibility of continuing the effort still exists, but I am pessimistic about the chances. My observations are that the demise of the effort was not due to any impracticality of implementing the concept that Voksigid represented. I still feel that we might have, if a few non-linguistic happenings had been different, come out with something better than Lojban at the things Lojban is best at, while being easier to learn. Voksigid went through three phases: 1. In a preliminary organization phase, we eliminated two people whose ideas were so far removed from what the rest oif us had in mind that compromise was clearly impossible. One of them, I feel, could well have contributed a lot of useful ideas, but was so firmly wedded to an a priori vocabulary that we could not hold him. His loss was unfortunate because I think he knew a lot about some aspects of grammar that most of us did not know. The second of those would at least have given us some input from a person whose native language was not English, but it was very clear from early on that there was no compromise that could embrace both him and myself; on one occasion I went so far toward his proposal that it was making me ill to conceive of what was being done, and yet he was accusing me of being unwilling to compromise. With the departure of those two from the group, we were able to come up with some documents to define the language, and at that point it looked as if we were making progress. 2. At that point, we began filling in the details. We developed a vocabulary, fleshed out a few grammatical details, and I thought we'd soon have a language created. Then disaster struck. One of us, who had been the most prolific source of ideas in the first phase (and who, more than I, was the person whose structure as first proposed turned out to be theone that the final Voksigid resembled most closely) had to leave to devote full time to his dissertation. Another changed schools. I myself, for a while, was incommunicado because I lost the ability to receive e-mail at my work computer and needed to establish a new location. That led to phase 3: 3. We got to a point where a proposal would be made, and nobody would respond. It was clear that nothing more was going to happen. This is where we are now. I think we have to give Voksigid a decent burial. The defining documents are still, I assume, to remain on the PLS, and if someone sends a copy of Dave West's final version of the lexicon to the PLS archives, they will have a basis on which to proceed if anyone wants to take the role that Ashby and Clark took to Hogben's Interglossa. Observations: Apparently, for an experimental language, the only organization scheme that works is something like what happened in Lojban. One person (in that case, JCB) developed a language, and a group was set up only much later, but the group was much larger than we had, so that dropping out by 1 or 2 or 3 did not leave them so shorthanded that paralysis started whenever two people disagreed. The voting mechanisms I devised worked when we had 5 or 6 people; when we got down to 3 we were lost. They would have worked better if we had the 9 or 10 I'd originally envisioned. Lojban hadone unfortunate experience, the split between JCB and lojbab that required them to construct a totally new vocabulary from scratch -- they'd be a year or two further along, I think, if that hadn't happened. But (even though I can't read the language well enough to follow everything that goes on) I think the group works well. I'd hoped that we could do that kind of thing eventually. The only problem is getting to that point. A committee such as we had doesn't seem to work. I'm sorry it doesn't. John Ross and Jim Carter, at least, had useful ideas without which the language, if it had depended on me alone, would never have been as good as the one we were on the threshold of developing. Jim, in particular, even though he has his own creation (guaspi) and is also an active participant in the Lojban group as well, was able to grasp the spirit of Voksigid well enough that his suggestions were frequently right to the point, even though they had to be different from the way guaspi or Lojban would handle the same problem. I wish we had been able to get the same from the one person I mentioned earlier who was the first to get off the boat.

Bruce