Truncated Words

Why are Globasa's truncated words irregularly formed?

The following article answers this question.

Irregularity and Inconsistency in Auxlangs: Truncated Words in Globasa

In this article, I would like to posit that there are different types of regularity in auxlangs. In the strictest, most practical sense (from the point of view of the learner), irregularity is when we say, "Here's a rule, and here are the exceptions to that rule." For example, in Lidepla stress is said to be on the vowel before the last consonant, but then there is a series of exceptions to that rule. In Pandunia, adjectives end in -i and nouns end in -e, but then there are exceptions for both nouns and adjectives. Another feature in auxlangs that can arguably be regarded as irregular is when there are multiple rules where one rule would be possible. For example, in Esperanto there is one and only one accent rule: Stress always falls on the next-to-the-last vowel. In Globasa, there are two rules: (1) If the word ends in a consonant, the stress is on the last vowel, and (2) if the word ends in a vowel, the stress is on the next-to-the-last vowel. It can therefore be said that Globasa is slightly less regular than Esperanto on this point. On the other hand, would we be able to actually say that Globasa is irregular with regards to stress? Hardly. Why? Because there is no rule that is being broken.

With this in mind, I would like to offer some clarifications and justifications regarding the so-called truncated words in Globasa, which include some function words and most affixes. In Globasa, we have a set of single-syllable morphemes that appear to be shortened, or truncated, out of nouns and adjectives. The inspiration for this feature in Globasa came from the book The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention. Pandunia's creator, Risto, criticizes this system of truncation, believing it to be irregular since the truncations do not follow a specific pattern. For example: eger (if) and ger (would); lile (small) and lil- (diminutive).

My answer is that there is no irregularity in this system because there is no rule to break. Similarly, in Esperanto, one would not say that -eg- is irregular in relation to granda, or mis- irregular in relation to mal─Łusta. Such affixes are simply independent morphemes. Likewise in Globasa. The difference is, however, that in Globasa these function words and affixes are easier to learn than in Esperanto because they are in fact similar in form to certain Globasa words that have a related, but not necessarily identical, meaning. In Esperanto, -et- or eta don't mean exactly the same as malgranda. Similarly, lil- doesn't exactly mean lile. The prefix lil- is a completely independent morpheme from lile.

At most, one could say that there is no consistent pattern to these truncations, but this is rather different than saying it is an irregular system whereby rules are broken. I suppose that whether one describes this as "irregular" or "inconsistent" is perhaps a question of semantics, and yet the crux of the matter, the whole point, is that even if this is referred to as an "irregularity", it is not the type that poses a real problem for the learner, which is all that really matters according to Globasa's principles. In that sense, the only type of irregularity that Globasa deems objectionable is, as stated above, the type which breaks rules.

It is worth noting that in the first developmental stages of Globasa, these root/truncated morpheme pairs were formed in a consistent way: bili and -bil, lili and lil-, colo and col-, etc. Some still follow this pattern. However, early on, the disadvantages of such a system became clear to me.

  • First, a few words would end up being more artificial. For example, bili instead of abil (can/ability), kana instead of dukan (store).

  • Second, as I mentioned, the meaning between the pair is most often not the same, so using the same pattern would then prompt the criticism that the truncated morphemes bear a semantically irregular derivation from their parent root words. There's no way around it; these truncated words would be inconsistent either in form or semantically. So wouldn't it be better to avoid this truncation system altogether then? No, because the advantages of the system outweigh the disadvantages: They are easier to learn without creating a true irregularity.

  • And third, such a system would probably give the impression, because of its consistent pattern, that one can freely create compound words by dropping the last vowel of any word (as in the Esperanto system), and in this way invite confusion and chaos into the language. Why? Because this would be a categorically incorrect way of producing compounds. The way to create compound words in Globasa is through adjective-and-noun phrases, for example: rukeli bao (back-pack). The suffix -li is added to ruke to turn it into an adjective. One cannot say rukbao, or even rukebao. Globasa cannot afford to simply join two nouns together to create compounds due to the fact that nouns and verbs have identical form, so trying to form compounds in such a way would potentially create semantic/syntactical confusion for the listener. Luckily, the system of adjective-noun phrases is quite simple as well, in fact probably easier to process than true compounds, since it isolates the two parts, and in so doing prevents the formation of lengthy compounds.

This shows that, contrary to all conventional wisdom, the system whereby affixes appear to have been randomly truncated from nouns and adjectives is actually or at least arguably preferable to a consistent pattern. And it also shows that, strictly speaking, these morphemes were truncated not from Globasa words, but from the words in the original languages themselves! "Lil-" is not really truncated from "lile", even if we say so as a way to teach the affixes; instead, both "lil-" and "lile" came from the same source (from English, Danish and Hawaiian).

I think that those who like Globasa intuitively understand the explanation above (or part of it), and therefore do not really feel any such "irregularity" with regards to truncated affixes and function words.