I don’t have much to say this week, so I thought I’d share a list of roots I came up with for my old conlang, Cosmopolitan:
This is from the fourth draft, which I deliberately left incomplete, because previous drafts went way over 100 roots. There were also some repeats in my notes, which I omitted here. Question marks were present in my original list. There’s a lot of weird stuff here, most of which I won’t retain for the game, but which still might be interesting to explain.
What I call “left” and “right” are actually two very special roots which are used to distinguish between members of what I call “arbitrary pairs”. Left and right are put forward as sort of the archetypal arbitrary pair, but I would also include anything else which has a counterpart which is not an opposite per se. For example, male and female, or positive and negative in the context of electric charge. For “in/out” and “open/close”, I believe I was thinking that those roots would be combined with the arbitrary pair roots to discern which was which, but Esperanto calls open “un-close”, and the simplest solution is often the best.
Next I have each of the fingers as roots, and these are also extremely important. Imagine a child counting on their fingers. These are where the numbers in Cosmopolitan would come from. Each of the roots for the fingers is combined with “left” and “right” to yield a name for each of the ten fingers, and thus each of the first ten numbers. I also considered using the set of fingers for other things which seemed to come in fives, such as the traditional set of senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. I also considered working the phases of matter into this system (with energy on the thumb), as well as the dimensions (length, width, height, space in general, and time), but I decided against it in this draft for some reason.
“Beginning”, “middle”, and “end” would be very versatile in my model. The arm-beginning is the shoulder, the arm-middle is the elbow, and the arm-end is the wrist. Likewise, the leg-beginning is the hip, the leg-middle is the knee, and the leg-end is the ankle.
“Self”, “counterpart”, and “other” refer to the personal pronouns, first, second, and third respectively. Chinese uses them sometimes in abstract ways such as the names I’ve given these roots might suggest. From the first-person pronoun, 我, we get 自我, which works like the English prefix “self-“, which in turn gives us 自我介绍, self-introduction. 他 means “he”, 人 means “person”, and 他人 are other people.
I won’t comment on this much more because I wrote it many months ago and already forgot a lot of what I was thinking, but one thing that sticks out is “pelvis”. “Pelvis” is sort of a euphemism for a root which could refer either to excretory or sexual functions. Yeah…
Body parts are a glaring omission here, because they generally could have interesting figurative uses. All of the sensory organs can be used to refer to their senses. Bones and skeletons can refer figuratively to underlying structures. The head can (and already does) refer to a leader.
My ideas about pronouns, arbitrary pairs, and beginning/middle/end will probably carry over to the game. They already exist in the current alpha version. But a lot of other stuff probably won’t. And it shouldn’t. It keeps the language within the boundaries of what a player is willing to learn. But moreover, it would expand the scope of the conversation the player can have far beyond what I can account for. My goal for the release version is that every question the player can ask will have an answer. Not an interesting answer necessarily, but some kind of answer. That means that every time I add vocabulary to the game, I need to add more information about the game’s universe as well. If a player can ask anything, I need to program in everything. There’s no reason to take it that far. I only want just enough that I have a satisfying game.