The Origin of Gjarrda

(For best results, install the Gjarrda TrueType font, Lhoerr, to read examples written in Gjarrda, and the Zirinka font to read examples in Jaradh and Zharranh. More information on the Gjarrda phonetic alphabet is on the Ljoerr-Teg page.)

Original design goals

Aside from a general creative interest in designing new languages, there are special reasons for designing a language like Gjarrda. One of the original goals for Gjarrda was to build a language that contributes to clarity and precision of thought, without losing the ability to use poetic language as well. Gjarrda was patterned after Jaradh, a Zireen language related to Zharranh (although Gjarrda's vocabulary is unique). Languages of the Jaradh family are characterized by verb-initial ergative/absolutive syntax, an ability to resolve syntactic ambiguity when necessary, and the general replacement of most adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions by verbs. They are also languages associated with both sacred and philosophical writing, which are suited for either poetic or unambiguous language as necessary. The most notable differences between Jaradh (and Gjarrda) syntax and Zharranh syntax are the frequent use of verb pairs in Zharranh to describe qualities or conditions of things and the use of numerical classifiers in Jaradh. Many of the semantic distinctions in the Jaradh family, such as J. njeedh viira / Zh. njeoih virra (to have, to be associated with or related to, as in a friend, sister, etc.) vs. J. njhakh vaywa / Zh. njgnah voja (to have, own, or possess) are also borrowed into Gjarrda (len lein vs. sti sti). This allows for easy translation between these languages. But there were a number of other reasons for designing a personal language like Kayatal Gjarrda, rather than another alien language like Jaradh or Zharranh.

Ambiguous words

The ambiguity of words in the English language can be used to advantage in a debate, to mislead or confuse one's opponent. "Faith" in ordinary language is a redundant synonym for "confidence" or "trust", but in a religious context, it can also mean "belief in the absence of evidence". The ambiguity of the word is the subject of many tedious debates. "Theory" is a technical word for a formal set of scientific rules, such as the "theory of gravitation", or for the technical background behind a subject as opposed to practical applications, such as "music theory", but in popular language it can also refer to a mere guess, giving rise to claims that the "theory of evolution" is "only a theory" and not a "fact". An invented language, on the other hand, can be created to minimize the confusing effects of ambiguity and demand a more rigorous, rational style of argument. When a new word is needed, it can easily be created rather than overloading an existing word with the new meaning. For example, Gjarrda distinguishes the ordinary sort of faith (5ukad sjukad) from religious faith (balad balad), which is distinct from other sorts of belief (za za) such as superstition (lig lig).

Relative measurement

It's hot in Texas in the summer. But there are varying degrees of heat, from merely hot to unbearably hot. Unfortunately, instead of having a word meaning "less hot", English uses the word "cooler". That word always seems inappropriate to me when describing temperatures in the 90's (F), so I decided to give Gjarrda relative words meaning "is at a lower temperature" (plu plu) and "is at a higher temperature" (diG digh). In general, Gjarrda uses verbs of comparison to express measurements that are relative to some arbitrary standard. For example, there is no Gjarrda word for "young" or "tall", only words for "is younger than" or "is taller than". There are a few exceptions, though, particularly those relating to sense perception. For example, Gjarrda has words for colors such as "red" and "green", as do most languages, rather than using comparative verbs such as "is of a lower frequency". And there are four different words for subjectively increasing degrees of discomfort in the Texas heat (s85 seosj, tla5 tlasj, kli5 klisj, zlaga zlaga).

Borderline concepts

English, like most languages, fails to deal elegantly with continuous variation. Arbitrary lines are drawn in places that are often inappropriate, while other concepts that should be distinct are often confused and lumped together. Gjarrda solves this problem by deliberately blurring the boundary between concepts when it is unclear where to draw it. For instance, although Gjarrda has a word for "child", w8d weod (i.e., someone older than an infant and younger than an adolescent, as opposed to "child, offspring, son, daughter" which is prum prrum), the exact upper and lower age boundaries are undefined. A person whose age is in the "gray" boundary zone between "child" and "adolescent" (kuR kur) is referred to as a "child-adolescent" (w8dkuR weodkur), in the same way that a color between "blue" and "green" in English is called "blue-green". Words referring to relative age (gru grru "is younger than", lox loukh "is older than") are used if it is necessary to specify age limits.

Semantic dilution

A number of English words are losing their useful meanings by being associated inappropriately with other meanings. "Steal" formerly meant to deprive someone of something, but now it could merely mean "to write a song that mentions a commercial product without the manufacturer's permission". "Sexual harassment" can mean "having poor taste in one's choice of decoration". "Child pornography" can even mean "an Academy Award winning foreign film" these days. A common thread in this sort of semantic dilution is the expansion of meaning in order to justify the expanding use of government intervention and force, without necessarily bothering to debate, write, and justify new laws. If "abortion" can be wrongly associated in people's minds with "murder", then it becomes easier to convince people that something should be done to prevent abortions. If "criminals" are redefined as "predators", those who practice semantic dilution can take advantage of people's natural fear of being eaten by wild animals. Like the boy in the fable who cried "wolf", inappropriately diluting the meanings of words in non-poetic contexts impairs the force of the words when they are needed in their original meanings.

Words in a personal language such as Gjarrda do not need to suffer from such reassignment. If a new word is needed, it can easily be created. As a created language, the only correct Gjarrda is that which agrees with the meanings in the Gjarrda dictionary. If someone were to use the Gjarrda word for "murder" to refer to abortion, it would be like using the word "blue" in English to refer to the color of apples.

Harmful stereotyping

An opposite, but also harmful, trend is the narrowing and reassigning of vocabulary to focus on hostile stereotypes. A prime example of this kind of stereotyping is the formerly useful word "hacker", which has almost universally been misappropriated to mean "computer criminal". The disparaging use of the word "liberal" (in a political sense) to mean "favoring big government, high taxes, and special rights for people different from us" (rather than the dictionary definition "favoring political reforms tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual") is another such diminution of the language.

Names of animals in English, such as "weasel" and "ass", are often used in an insulting manner. But to compare a weasel with someone who evades responsibility is more of an insult to the weasel, and is unfair considering that words such as "mink", "stoat", or "ferret" are not used in such a degrading manner. Gjarrda reverses the trend of derogatory stereotypes against animals by associating neutral or positive stereotypes with the same animals. (See the InfiniteDifursity feature, Reclaiming the word "weasel".)

Classification

The scientific names of species (and higher groupings of species) often undergo revision, and it isn't always easy to correlate the names used by different authors at different times. This continual revision causes problems for a language such as Eklektu, which uses the scientific genus and species names to define the words for animals and plants. If a family is reclassified, and some genera are split off into a different family, the Eklektu words for many of the species in the original family may need to be modified. In Gjarrda, the concept represented by a word does not have to correspond strictly to a monophyletic taxon in the most recent biological classification. For example, the word for "mouse" (nik nik) can refer to any small, mouse-like animal, such as a pocket mouse of the family Heteromyidae or a jumping mouse of the family Zapodidae, in addition to a mammal of the family Muridae. The word for "worm" (Ryl ruel) can refer to any number of unrelated invertebrate animals with an elongated body. Gjarrda can use phrases of more than one word to name specific biological groups (such as families or species) that don't correspond directly to a Gjarrda word. If a family or species is split, such as the family Formicariidae or the Gray-cheeked Thrush, the phrase can be extended. If two families or species are combined, a new Gjarrda name is created to designate the new unit. In either case, the original Gjarrda word or phrase retains its original meaning, even if it now corresponds to a different scientific name than it did before.