The UNLWS torch in Conlang Relay 19

This page archives the materials for Alex Fink and Sai's entry in Conlang Relay 19 (May 2012) with UNLWS.

The UNLWS text

UNLWS entry in Conlang Relay 19

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Together with the text without markup, we sent to Lars Finsen this sketch of UNLWS grammar.

Smooth translation of the UNLWS text

This smooth rendering is annotated, on the account that we made a relatively great number of alterations to the Ttuan [see below] for UNLWS naturality and other reasons.

The UNLWS has no inherent reading order, so this rendering proceeds in an order paralleling the Ttuan.

  1. The following story takes place a hundred million years ago.
  2. Two small stones were located at an extremely narrow mountain range.
  3. The first stone asked "What's on the other side of our mountain range?"
  4. The other stone said "We'll never perceive what's over there."
  5. This was overheard by a flying creature and a snake with two hands, who joined the conversation.
  6. The flier said "We two would be able to travel to the other side of the mountains, and return and tell you what we observed there.
  7. Would you like that?" The stones said they would.
  8. This induced the flier and snake to do so, separately.
  9. The flier gave its report: "From a distance, I perceived three things there:
  10. a river with a broad, sparkly surface;
  11. a long valley, which is filled with a mass of green vegetation;
  12. and an unusual tree with four trunks."
  13. The first stone said "Hearing that, it's just like we were there."
  14. The second said "If we don't get familiar with this place, we'll be very sad forevermore."
  15. Then the snake gave its report: "I got familiar with the place and experienced the same three things:
  16. a large body of slow-moving water, with the smell of formerly-present food;
  17. a bunch of stiff plants;
  18. and a place with many rodenty critters around."
  19. The first stone said "I don't want to see that."
  20. The second said "You're not like me, then. I'd already be content to the full degree if I saw that."


[0] We dropped the Ttuan title as not adding a lot.

[1] This past setting echoes the Ttuan story being set in the perfect. The hundred million years is on account of the Ttuan 'pterodactyl'; rather than coin a specific word for 'pterodactyl', we decided to use our generic 'flying creature' word and move back the timeline (in rough round-number terms) to a point when pterodactyls will have been a natural reading.

[2] 'Extremely narrow' is apparent Ttuan 'line' + superlative.

[3] The first stone is the one writing in red; the orange stone's text visibly builds on it in places.

[4] Rendering 'we will never know'. 'Know' = 'think something which happens to be true' is not a pragmatically natural bundle of senses in UNLWS. This is going for 'we'll never learn what'.

[5] This sentence marks the first of many places we have thrown out the Ttuan I've rendered 'in front of a time' or 'behind a time', as UNLWS isn't big on stating temporal sequence. As a bonus, that means we didn't have to figure out whether Ttuan used a 'future is ahead' or 'past is ahead' metaphor!

As in [1], 'pterodactyl' lit = just 'flying creature' here. The Ttuan 'sky' (modifier?) wasn't clear enough to convince us it wasn't redundant.

[6] Ttuan had pterodactyl & snake speaking in concert, but UNLWS had to drop this; two actors can't really share the task of drawing a line. We chose the pterodactyl as main speaker just because it was first in the Ttuan.

[7] This offer, explicit in the UNLWS, we felt was pragmatically implicit in the Ttuan. At least 'judge favourable' is a good match of construction.

[8] Ttuan seems to call the place being reported on the 'home in front of the horizon', but we already have a binding for it so don't need another name.

This line also marks the biggest discarding of explicit temporal sequence, namely that the pterodactyl returned quickly and the snake much later. We have completely lost the temporal separation, but it is recoverable that the blue lines preceded the green ones.

[9] We couldn't figure out what 'core #2' is, so dropped it.

[11] In fact the UNLWS quotes the particular color of green being reported. It's something in the fuzzy vicinity of #158045.

[13] The Ttuan was obscure: 'I feel that I can judge the sight of that'? We took it to be '(on account of your description), I feel like I can see that'.

[14] 'Become familiar with', the UNLWS we more usually render 'grok', covers for the Ttuan 'blend seamlessly into'.

[15] The Ttuan has something about the snake carrying something here, also dropped 'cause we couldn't make it fit in.

The explicit one for one identification of the snake's three observations with the pterodactyl's three, which we embraced here, may have been there in the Ttuan. But the Ttuan 'first, second, third' words were glossed with opposite senses as "places" and as "[positions] in sequence", so we wasn't sure if the identification was meant to be reversed from the textual order. But that's all a bit moot, because...

[16] We've mostly completely rewritten the snake's observations, bothered by the fact that in the Ttuan they were highly vision and color-centric, when in actuality most snakes can't see worth beans. Their detection of smell and vibration are quite keen, though. So instead of the (presumable) river being 'the lustrous yellow and blue', it's water, slow-moving because broad rivers are, and with a smell persisting.

[17] This observation parallels the apparent original Ttuan observation about grass which is like bamboo or soft wood.

[18] Yeah, if this wasn't a tree snake (at least, we couldn't match up anything in the Ttuan original of the snake's report to the tree), I guess a extraordinary tree could be a gathering place for a bunch of squirrels or whatnot.

[20] 'You're not like me' represents seeming 'you must not behave like me'.

The text we received

The above was a liberal translation from this text by Chrys Jordan in their conlang Ŧuàn (ASCIIfied as "Ttuan"). Our attempt to interpret the Ŧuàn follows. Lines of morphemic gloss look like this; lines of free translation look like this.