Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


A Vulgar Tongue

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Language is the key to culture, real or imagined.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool geek. I mean, totally hardcore. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in the Seventh Grade and did, on and off, through college. I still, to this day, have a significant bookshelf of roleplaying games, including some D&D books. These days, I don’t have time to play, and the books are mostly there for theoretical inspiration, if I can ever get writing again. But, way back in the dark ages, before the internet, I had a subscription to Dragon Magazine, which was the official D&D magazine. It was there that I was first exposed to invented languages. Later, as I read more and after the internet became a thing, I discovered a community of like-minded weirdos who created languages, too. “Conlangs”, we called them, short for “constructed languages”. Some of the most famous are Klingon, Dothraki, and Tolkien’s famous Sindarin, more popularly known as “Elvish”, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them now.
Most of the results of my peculiar hobby, or “secret vice”, as Tolkien called it, are safely tucked away where no one will ever see them. Though, I did setup a page of resources and links over at my fantastic fiction site, I had some tools there that got so popular, they were crashing my webhost’s servers, so I had to take them down. I’d always meant to get back to porting them to a new, more stable and less resource-intensive programming language, but I never did. Now, though, there are so many people sharing things like this, and better than the stuff I made, that I don’t really feel bad about it. And, new tools for creating languages from the ether are springing up all the time.

Recently, someone shared a tool on the newsgroup I’m part of for conlanging, CONLANG-L, that raised quite a ruckus. It was originally shared by Boing Boing, and I saw it there, too. It’s a web-based language generation tool called Vulgar. The page I’ve linked to there is the “free demo”, but that will gin up a pretty decent start for a language, especially if, like me, you’re not a linguist. There are a surprising number of options, if you want to take advantage of them, and even more if you’re willing to cough up $19.95 for the downloadable version. That downloadable version still runs in your web browser, by the way, so there’s not any compatibility issues between Windows, Macintosh or Linux. Now, of course, this isn’t going to get you a fantastic artificial language, but, if you’re a starving fantasy author who wants to whip up something that sounds reasonably okay with a very little effort, this isn’t a terrible start. For me, it’s fun, but probably not more than an amusing toy to play with on a quiet Friday morning.
And, based on the frenzied reactions on that conlang email list, my sharing it and saying that it’s not bad, will irritate some folks. Which is a different kind of fun.

Either way, go, try it and have fun. And enjoy your weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words


No Free Lunch

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

You know, when I first started using the Internet, pretty much everything was free.  Once you got used to searching, you could find just about anything on the ‘net, all the way up to and including source code for all kinds of things.  So, in that spirit, I took some basic source code for some Perl language generation and manipulation scripts and modified them to run on the web.  Then I offered them for free, just for the simple fun of having them and letting people use them.  But, things have changed.  Now, times are tough and hosting a website costs money.   That in and of itself isn’t a problem, except the use and abuse of those simple, fun, free scripts have caused so many server usage issues that my webhost is insisting that I either disable them or pay for a higher grade of service that’s more than three times what I’m paying now.  So, guess what?  Yep, the scripts are going away.  Maybe I’ll figure out how to do them with PHP instead of Perl one day, but until then, I have to disable them.  Either that, or come up with over $200 a month for a dedicated server.

So, I’m afraid that it comes down to dollars and sense.  I don’t have the dollars, so I have to exercise a little sense and take the freebies off-line.

I wish I had a better solution, but I just don’t.  I hope you all enjoyed them while they were here, but, now, due to forces beyond my control, I have to shut them down.

UPDATE: For people looking for other free language generation software, you can check out the programs that I either adapted for the web, or that inspired me.  Chris Pound’s Language Machines pages held the first Perl code I worked with for many of the scripts and Jeffrey Henning’s amazing LangMaker was instrumental in much of my design.  (LangMaker is also available for free at Softpedia.)  So, please, don’t give up on your languages!  Check out what these guys offer and keep working on your fantasy!


How To AutoCreate A ConLang

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening.
The moon is a Full Moon

I’m writing this in response to the person who e-mailed me asking for instructions on how to use my Conlang Word Maker.

Now, without any intended smarmy-ness, I really thought it was self-explanatory, but, then again, when I wrote this webapp, I was steeped in conlanging. Also, it was based on another program called LangMaker by Jeffrey Henning, which a lot of people had been using at the time. And, duh, I wrote the app, so of course it seemed obvious to me how to use it!
So, in an effort to make things clearer, here are some more detailed instructions.

First, let’s define a few terms. Please note that these may not be how things are defined in a good, clear, linguistics sense, but, rather, how I thought of them when I wrote this program. Also, keep in mind that this was all inspired by an article in the now defunct Dragon Magazine about how to create a simple language for your Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign by Clyde Heaton titled Even Orcish Is Logical. Yes, that means it’s far older than even the third edition. And, yes, many conlangers my age deride this article as being linguistically inaccurate. But, I say “Phooey” on all that. That article is what got me interested in conlanging, so it did its job.
Now, keeping that in mind, go look at the page, then come back. (If you click the link, it will open the Conlang Word Maker in a new tab or window.) Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Okay, so the first column you saw was labeled Word Patterns/Formulas. Underneath that was a series of apparently nonsensical strings of capital letters, like “CV” and “CVCC” and so on. The next two columns are labeled Vowels (V) and Consonants(C) respectively. Those are what will fill in on the formulas, replacing the “V” with a randomly chosen letter from the Vowels(V) column and replacing the “C” with a randomly chosen letter from the Consonants(C) column. So far, so good, right? At this point, you actually have just about enough to generate the words for you language. All you need to do is choose which vowels and consonants you want to use in making your words and how you want those to be arranged. In fact, if you want to keep it simple, just use those three columns and leave everything else blank. Then, when you hit the generate word list button, the app will use those simple settings to generate a list of words.
If you look closely at the default data in those columns, though, you’ll see that you can also use multiple letters, like “sh” and “ch”, for consonants. You can do the same, like I’ve done with the “ee” and “oo” for vowels.
Please note that it’s important to keep the formulas in upper case and the letters you want to use in your language in lower case.

Now, you’ll notice several other columns, one of which I’ve also filled in. The column labeled “T” variable has both more complicated syllables, made up of consonants and vowels, and some formulas. In the default formulas that I started the web app with, you’ll notice that several of the formulas include a variable T, as in TVC and CVT and so on. In those formulas, the T variable is replaced by the syllables listed in the “T” variable column.
Okay, so far, so good, right? Well, the columns starting with T all have what I think of as an “advanced” feature. If you put a simple formula into them, it will treat the results of that formula as a syllable. So, you’ll notice that I have several CV and VC formulas in there. When the web app hits those, it will treat them first as standard formulas, making a word or syllable from the consonants (C) and vowels(V) randomly, before using it like a “T” variable in the formulas found in the first column, labeled Word Patterns/Formulas. It sounds more complicated than it is.
Again, though, this only works for columns starting T and beyond.

So, the trick is to choose letters and syllables that combine in ways which sound like you want your language to sound. Also, you’ll need to create all the other rules for your language, like sentence structure and verb conjugation and the like. So, I guess I lied a little in the title since you do have to do most of the heavy lifting yourself.
In any case, I hopefully have answered the e-mailed question. The real thing to do though is just play with it and see what happens!


Bit Rot

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

By all rights, this blog should be dead.

Frankly, the entire website is so old and out of date and willfully not maintained that I’m surprised there’s any traffic to it.  But, there is.  And with any large volume of people, there are always those who take advantage and push free resources beyond their intended use.  Well, that’s just what happened here.

One of the many things I originally did with this site was dabble in conlangs, or CONstructed LANGuages.  Toward that end, I created or modified several Perl scripts to help me generate words that sounded authentic and consistent according to some linguistic rules.  When I was doing this, very few people were yet.  Now, there are many, many more people who offer language generation programs and scripts, but I think I was one of the first people to have free, interactive web pages that would let the neophyte conlanger generate or manipulate their language.  In fact, I’m not sure how many there are even today.  Hopefully, there are a lot more who can take the burden of people ramming quite literally gigabytes worth of data through their free resource.  I hope they have their own server, though, since when people did that here, it crashed the server I was on.  Yeah, that’s right, people ran so much data through my little programs that it crashed the server.  In spite of me asking them not to do it, then building in some fairly significant limitations on how much data could be sent to the script at once, a small percentage of the users, who I have come to think of as abusers, still managed to crash my webhost’s server.

So, sadly, my conlang scripts are starting to go off-line.  One bye one, like fading stars, they’re being pummeled off the internet by people who never appreciated them, apparently.
But, what really makes me sad is that so many people who did NOT abuse them, but used my little scripts to enhance and improve their writing or leasure time won’t be able to use them all any more.  Those innocent bystanders will simply have to do without because of the greed of a few pushy, obnoxious people who had to test the limits of the system.

So, to those of you who played nice and were friendly and enjoyed my little conlang scripts, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry, but now when they start to cause problems for my provider, I’ll have to take them off-line, one by one.
I hope you enjoyed them half as much as I did while they were here.


Conlang film, comments requested

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I don’t want to give away the ending, but lets just say that the greedy Esperantists with their evil plans for world domination and the abolishment of true artistic conlanging get their just deserts.

Okay, seriously, I doubt that the creator of Conlang: The Movie is still looking for comments as this is pretty old. Like this post, which sat languishing in my queue on this blog, it’s more than a year old now. Still, if you’re a conlang enthusiast, it’s worth seeing the little movie.

Oh, and you may be wondering why I’m posting a year old movie on this blog. Well, because it’s slowly grinding to a halt. I’m just not that focused on writing fantasy any more and, frankly, my time is being spent elsewhere. I may eventually redo or update this entire site, but not until after I have cleared my own personal creative queue of projects and that is probably going to take some time. However, there are a few old posts here that I always intended to clean up and share, so that’s what I’ll be doing. After I run out of those posts, however, I’m going to just pop up a note letting anyone who stumbles across this site that it’s gone dormant. In case it’s not obvious.

So, until then, enjoy!


Happy Birthday, My Droogie Lad.

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Today is the birthday of novelist and critic Anthony Burgess

He was born John Anthony Burgess Wilson in Manchester, England on this day in 1917. Though he had written several novels early in his career, none of them were particularly successful. His career took a different turn, however, when, in 1959, he began to suffer from severe headaches and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctor told him he only had one year to live. The diagnosis turned out to be incorrect. However, Burgess wrote five novels in that following year, the year he believed to be his last.

Though he wrote and edited a large body of work, including a fair selection of non-fiction, he’s best known for his novel A Clockwork Orange, which is perhaps most famous for the slang language he invented specifically for that work, called Nadsat.


Dialect Maker Down for Good

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Well, it seems my antiquated Perl code is just a little too much for my new webhost’s servers to handle.

My web implementation of the Zompist Sound Change Applier almost killed their server this past weekend.  It uses a CPAN library that someone created, based on the Zompist code, and it’s getting a little “long in the tooth”, as Perl libraries go, so I suspect that has something to do with it.  So, in any case, the end result is that I had to take it off-line.  And, I don’t think it will ever be back.  I suppose, if I can find a way to port it to PHP, which is doubtful, it might make a return.  But, honestly, I wouldn’t count on it.

What I will do, in the next week or so, is post my code here, slightly cleaned, for you all to use and enjoy.  I won’t have time to support it, but I will make it available to anyone who wants to use it.  Also, if I can find it, I’ll make available the original Perl code that is NOT designed to run on the web, but on a local machine.  That way, if there’s some brave soul who’s willing to take that code and make it available to run from their website, they won’t have to do too much work to get a minimally functional system.
So, watch this space for forthcoming code!


Dialect Generator Down

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Well, just weeks after announcing that all my conlang language machines are back on-line, I’ve had to take one down.  My Dialect Maker seems to be a CPU hog on the server.  Also, in spite of coding it so that it should only run one instance at a time, it somehow got two loaded on my ISP’s server.

So, I’ve tweaked the code an I’m waiting for my ISP to approve it before I load it up.  But, I have to tell you, if the sound changer is the only thing that has problems, I may just let it go.  It uses an old library for Perl that’s probably out of date.  Then, I hope, it would be easier to convert everything else to a PHP script/page/whatever and not have to rely on Perl.  I love using Perl, but it can be a resource hog.

Anyway, stay tuned for more news.

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