Author Topic: The Khelish Project  (Read 6626 times)

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April 18, 2013, 07:07:27 AM

Offline Darkovian

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So, I just joined this sweet community but I've been at work for awhile now on a full, learn-able Quarian language. I know that some fans have already come up with an alphabet for use in things due to the lack of a "true" language. I found these lacking (no offence, you guys did more than anyone else until now so props) and so I set out to do this project correctly. So, here are my brain dropping of the language so far with no real rhyme or reason.

I started out by coming up with a group of 28 (no specific reason, just what I ended up with) consonants, some representing sounds simply not present in English (retroflex palatized L's, that sort of thing) and lacking some that are present in English (no voiced "th"s [unvoiced "th"s still exist], no "w" just as examples). I then decided on 6 vowels that use open, mid and closed vowel height with only front "frontness". Khelish allows lax and tense vowel sounds but does not allow dipthongizing closed vowels. Only two vowels are rounded (say "closed" and note how your lips round on the "o". This is a rounded "o" and it will feel and sound completely unnatural for English speakers to attempt an unrounded) and only one of those exist in English. Of course some sounds appear in almost every language and are hard to get away from... a species with a similarly evolved physiology would likely have no reason to not have used these.

I have a skeleton stress system worked out but I'm still testing it with Khelish sentences so consider this part a WIP as of now. I also have phonological constraints laid out and am working to simplify it before it becomes permanent.

The nouns are both gendered using a prefix (animate/alive and inanimate/dead) and classed with a suffix (as is latin and other languages, it just mean the nouns change slightly from subjective, objective, ablative, etc.

I completely eliminated adjectives, instead using verbs. There are a surprising number of languages that do this, so don't fret. It makes sense in the language but makes the English translation look funny-- the wall is red becomes the wall reds, things like that.

Subject pronouns are placed before the verb and object pronouns become part of the verb. Both f these sets of pronouns have gender specific 3rd person singular pronouns. Verbs also have an prefix denoting tense and a suffix denoting aspect (ongoing/currently happening, happened once, happens habitually or happens repetitively). This allows the sentence "I told him to be quiet only once" and the sentence "I told him to be quiet over and over" to be almost completely the same except for that suffix. It's actually rather cool :) These follow the same rules outlined for nouns above. The format ends up being [gender][subject][class] [tense][verb][aspect]'[gender][object][class].

Other pronouns (nowhere, anything, something, etc) are accounted for and follow the same rules as other nouns as well.

I've incorporated nedas and tasi as well, so don't worry! I even have believable meanings and origins for keelah and keelah se'lai! I've tried very hard to build the language around fully supporting the small pieces of language we were given. It also takes into account the very technical nature of the Quarian people. I'm still playing with uses for the seemingly prevalent " ' ", but I think I may have settled on having it modify verbs, aid in conjugation and still have the same use in naming. As for the warbling made by Quarians I decided to go with the "two voice box" explanation. Quarians use the difference in pitch to differentiate between words that are spelled and sound otherwise the same but have separate meanings. In order for us poor single voiced boxed species to learn and speak the language I've implemented a vowel length system with special notation for vowels that are to be held longer than others. The Quarians were nice enough to allow this and have an understanding of which lengths denote different meanings.

Sentences have structure and make sense for reading and writing as of today. I'm still working on negation as well as the form for yes/no questions and the formation of subclauses.

The number system is base 16 and I'm still working on how I want the language to "say" large numbers (five sixteens minus two for 78? Questions like this).

I will of course be making and alphabet to go along with it once I get all of the above issues ironed out, but for now I'm still using mainly English lettering and special characters to represent things that don't have a place in English. These will probably never see the light of day as I will be equating the Quarian alphabets characters to their specific sounds before I release the language. Sounds not made in English will come with an explanation on how they are made.

I just wanted to put all of this out there to (hopefully) give you all something to look forward to! I'm sure I forgot things and that thus post is hard to read to to the ugly stream of thought form I wrote it in. Feel free to throw out questions and I'll do my best to give you answers. Give me a break, I'm tired and have class in the morning :P

Also, I'm too lazy to spellcheck this at the moment... don't shoot me please. I'm trying to be nice :(

And now it's time for me to get some sleep before class.

Keelah se'lai!
« Last Edit: April 18, 2013, 08:09:39 AM by Darkovian »

April 18, 2013, 02:10:26 PM
Reply #1

Offline Rear Admiral Kikaimegami

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Have you taken into consideration the work others have already done concerning some of the vocabulary? I know Calinstel has quite a bit of vocabulary in his stories in the To Survive series, if you haven't seen those yet, and people have been working out some of the language using those. You might want to check those out, see if you can incorporate some of that information into what you're doing (if you haven't already). There's also the Khelish font which you may want to make use of when you start working on the actual alphabet, since that will give you a place to start instead of making up the writing system entirely from scratch, considering you see it used in the actual game.

Calinstel's stories:
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6009619/1/To-Survive
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6065449/1/To-Survive-Alliances
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6933885/1/To-Survive-Terminus

Khelish Font:
http://social.bioware.com/project/4230/
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April 18, 2013, 03:21:39 PM
Reply #2

Offline obsolete

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I can't wait to see it!

April 18, 2013, 06:23:34 PM
Reply #3

Offline Darkovian

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And here I thought I had read every Shep/Tali fanfic in existence! I'll give all of these a read through and pull out the language I can. I'd like to keep it as.. standardized as possible you could say. No reason to kill what must have been some hard work. I don't mind changing some grammar or wording around in order to assimilate and give credit to others work, and adjectives can be converted into verbs easily enough should there be any :) A lot of fanfics I've read have had some words or phrases aligned with meanings but depending on how in-depth Calinstel has gone it may make more sense to forego those in favor of assimilation of a well put together subset. I'm actually reading his first work as I'm writing this, heh.

As far as the Khelish font goes I'm going to try to use it but some of it will need inevitable tweaking and additions (right now I'm working with 33 characters total, more than are available from the font itself excluding numbers). The numbers of the font will be much easier to use, however I'm still debating if Quarians would have really stopped using unique characters for numbers at 9.  It makes sense to us, having used base 10 forever but base 16 I think is just more logical for Quarians given their technical nature and prowess, physiological differences, etc. It makes sense to me that they could use the right hand for 1, 2 and 3 and the left hand for 4, 8, and 12 allowing 15 purely on fingers. 16 could be as easy as a learned difference in hand position or something of that nature. Assuming that being technically minded goes hand in hand with trying convey as much information as possible using only six fingers, which it may not I suppose. Not to be hard on BW but the similarity to some human languages, especially English feel a tad lazy to me. Languages vary so much here on Earth alone that I almost feel lazy for not opting for a more extreme approach. I'm open to outside input on all of this of course. This language isn't just for me!

Thanks for the input, everything is welcome here!

And I can't wait for it to be polished and ready for release either, obsolete. :D

April 18, 2013, 07:40:44 PM
Reply #4

Offline Rear Admiral Kikaimegami

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I know there was a "dictionary" of sorts made from Calinstel's work. I'll see if I can find a link for you, but you may just want to search around for that yourself too. And the series is totally worth a read, even though it's amazingly huge. Totally worth it.

I'd say you could use the capitols and lowercase both, instead of keeping them as capitols and lowercase (for example, using the uppercase C for "chee" and lowercase for "choo" or something similar, depending on how you're breaking the alphabet up). If you do it that way, you'd have more than enough letters already designed to use for your alphabet. Of course, making it so any text in the game can be "translated" is probably impossible, but you'd at least be able to use the previously-made assets.

I'd honestly think quarians would have used base 6 or base 12, considering their number of digits, not 16. They wouldn't have completely redone their entire numbering system just because they started to develop technology, just like humans haven't. We don't use binary in day to day life, for example. The only time you use powers of two is in programming (which might become more wide-spread in the future, but our number system would still be base 10, it's not something that would go away until very far into the future, for any developing species).

Most people wouldn't put much effort into constructed languages just because it is a ton of effort and at its core, Bioware is a game developer, and likely doesn't even employ anyone with conlang skills. If anyone working there does have those skills, it's a hobby, not something they do for a living. (Can you even do conlang for a living? I'm pretty sure even the more famous people who have dabbled in it, such as Tolkien, did it as a hobby that they incorporated into something they did for a living, not as a means of earning money in itself).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructed_language
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This world is what we can give
Scarred from the way we lived
All those dreams we shared for you
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 :legionsnipe: :kikai:

We dreamed of a world in peace
But killed for a life of ease
Now we leave the wounds for you
What else can the dying do?


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April 18, 2013, 08:34:55 PM
Reply #5

Offline Octo

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Have you taken into consideration the work others have already done concerning some of the vocabulary? I know Calinstel has quite a bit of vocabulary in his stories in the To Survive series, if you haven't seen those yet, and people have been working out some of the language using those.

IMO, the words Calinstel invents don't really fit to the Khellish words we know from canon, though. They just sound like coming from a completely different language. Also, Calinstel's quarian culture is, bluntly spoken, a bit screwed up. Calinstel's apparent social conservatism shines through a bit a whole lot too much, and that stands in contradiction to many canon aspects.

Quote
Khelish Font:
http://social.bioware.com/project/4230/

With 26 letters and 10 numbers...

So given my criticisms, I'd certainly like to see a new attempt, especially as:

As far as the Khelish font goes I'm going to try to use it but some of it will need inevitable tweaking and additions (right now I'm working with 33 characters total, more than are available from the font itself excluding numbers). The numbers of the font will be much easier to use, however I'm still debating if Quarians would have really stopped using unique characters for numbers at 9.  It makes sense to us, having used base 10 forever but base 16 I think is just more logical for Quarians given their technical nature and prowess, physiological differences, etc. It makes sense to me that they could use the right hand for 1, 2 and 3 and the left hand for 4, 8, and 12 allowing 15 purely on fingers. 16 could be as easy as a learned difference in hand position or something of that nature.

Holy hell, I had the exact same idea, even if I haven't executed it in my fanfic yet! My idea was to have it be a sort of combined base 4 / base 16 system... for example the numbers would be the four times the same four numbers, just with different markings each time. And multiples of 4 would be considered "round" just as multiples of 16 would be.

I'd honestly think quarians would have used base 6 or base 12, considering their number of digits, not 16. They wouldn't have completely redone their entire numbering system just because they started to develop technology, just like humans haven't. We don't use binary in day to day life, for example. The only time you use powers of two is in programming (which might become more wide-spread in the future, but our number system would still be base 10, it's not something that would go away until very far into the future, for any developing species).

But the point is, you can use six fingers to represent a base 16 system, as Darkovian has explained, just as you could use ten fingers for a base 36 system.
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April 18, 2013, 08:50:35 PM
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Offline Rear Admiral Kikaimegami

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IMO, the words Calinstel invents don't really fit to the Khellish words we know from canon, though. They just sound like coming from a completely different language. Also, Calinstel's quarian culture is, bluntly spoken, a bit screwed up. Calinstel's apparent social conservatism shines through a bit a whole lot too much, and that stands in contradiction to many canon aspects.
I just mentioned it because it's some other fan-created stuff concerning Khelish. If he wanted to use community-generated content, it's just a place to start and the biggest vocabulary cache I know of *shrug*

But the point is, you can use six fingers to represent a base 16 system, as Darkovian has explained, just as you could use ten fingers for a base 36 system.
And what would have ancient, huddled around campfires quarians have done? They'd have counted on their fingers, one finger for one object, like ancient humans did. Or maybe they wouldn't have. Who knows. That's all I meant by what I said about the number system.
<Kikaimegami> technically every post I make is about Legion's ass!


This world is what we can give
Scarred from the way we lived
All those dreams we shared for you
How I wish they could come true
 :legionsnipe: :kikai:

We dreamed of a world in peace
But killed for a life of ease
Now we leave the wounds for you
What else can the dying do?


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April 18, 2013, 09:02:11 PM
Reply #7

Offline Octo

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I just mentioned it because it's some other fan-created stuff concerning Khelish. If he wanted to use community-generated content, it's just a place to start and the biggest vocabulary cache I know of *shrug*
Well, true of course, the To Survive series is very well known, and so is hence its glossary. What I wanted to say is, it's no reason not to try an own Khellish language project, because as everything else said glossary is not exactly perfect.

Quote
And what would have ancient, huddled around campfires quarians have done? They'd have counted on their fingers, one finger for one object, like ancient humans did. Or maybe they wouldn't have. Who knows. That's all I meant by what I said about the number system.
Eh maybe. But on Earth, too, there have been different bases than just 10 (the Maya used 20, and the Babylonians at least officially used a sorta-kinda base 60 system... hence the use of 60 in our time system still). Plus, not using the amount of your fingers as the mathematical base you use would set the quarians nicely apart from humans, and also other species (the salarians and turians could still use base 6). It would make them more unique, IMO.
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April 18, 2013, 09:13:09 PM
Reply #8

Offline Rear Admiral Kikaimegami

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Well, true of course, the To Survive series is very well known, and so is hence its glossary. What I wanted to say is, it's no reason not to try an own Khellish language project, because as everything else said glossary is not exactly perfect.
Some people are already using it in other stories, though. If he wants to make something that can mesh easily with what people are already using, he'd have to incorporate some of that vocabulary, or at the very least not invalidate it. I suppose it might be tricky, or you could say some of that terminology is from a Khelish dialect, or something of that nature.

Quote
Eh maybe. But on Earth, too, there have been different bases than just 10 (the Maya used 20, and the Babylonians at least officially used a sorta-kinda base 60 system... hence the use of 60 in our time system still). Plus, not using the amount of your fingers as the mathematical base you use would set the quarians nicely apart from humans, and also other species (the salarians and turians could still use base 6). It would make them more unique, IMO.
That's true, but they're still divisible by 5, which I don't think is a coincidence. Honestly, I don't know enough about the history of other cultures numbering systems to know for sure where they actually originated from (in that, did they originate from just people counting on their fingers, or was it something else). Since all we have to go on is how other humans came up with things, that's not really a lot to go on, honestly.

Though, it looks like even humans used different systems for all sorts of shit, so I suppose it really doesn't matter at all what you use and it's honestly up to him to use whatever he wants with any kind of justification he wants. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_numeral_systems
<Kikaimegami> technically every post I make is about Legion's ass!


This world is what we can give
Scarred from the way we lived
All those dreams we shared for you
How I wish they could come true
 :legionsnipe: :kikai:

We dreamed of a world in peace
But killed for a life of ease
Now we leave the wounds for you
What else can the dying do?


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April 18, 2013, 09:49:00 PM
Reply #9

Offline Octo

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Some people are already using it in other stories, though. If he wants to make something that can mesh easily with what people are already using, he'd have to incorporate some of that vocabulary, or at the very least not invalidate it. I suppose it might be tricky, or you could say some of that terminology is from a Khelish dialect, or something of that nature.
If that is an aim. Considering how specific he seems to already have gotten in some aspects, that does not seem to be much of an aim - but that is something Darkovian would have to tell us, heh. In any case I'd agree with that approach. One can't please everybody, so it would IMO make few sense to align one's attempt of the Khellish langiage with this or that pre-existing attempt. Creating a halfway coherent language (or at least parts of a language, anyway) should IMO take priority. I mean, in the end, every piece of fanwork represents an own fanon anyway; there is absolutely no need to follow somebody else's fanon.

Besides, if To Survive has such a "cultural impact", then that only needs it needs to be driven back  :P But then I'm biased.

Quote
Though, it looks like even humans used different systems for all sorts of shit, so I suppose it really doesn't matter at all what you use and it's honestly up to him to use whatever he wants with any kind of justification he wants. :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_numeral_systems
Hm, that's very interesting. There are base 4 systems out there? That seems... complicated to me.
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August 23, 2013, 08:46:51 AM
Reply #10

Offline Rayya

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wow! great job, will you take into consideration the written quarian language that we can see in ME2? (I don't know about the other games but when you help Tali, on the windows I believe is the name of the ship you are on, I may be wrong). are you going to create a side by side English/quarian alphabet? because from what I know from the games quarian is similar to many languages in that it uses symbols to dictate what the letters/words are