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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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".)
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.