Introduction to Oltilip

wafe ‘olin. olsunkwelwel wel min es piasaki puket um oltilip on.

Now, you’re probably wondering, “What does ‘oltilip’ mean?” “What language even is this?” “Jeezum crow, not another one of these?”

Oltilip (/oʊ̯lˈtɪləp/; Oltilip: [olˈtilip]) is the auxiliary language that I’ve been constructing for the last year. Its limited phonology, free word order, and oligosynthetic tendencies make it, in my opinion, a far superior potential international language than Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, or any of the other major auxlangs. Let me show you why.

First of all, the phonology. Oltilip uses only the seventeen phonemes that, collectively, are present in the majority of languages. These are

  • e [ej~ɛ] as in “fake”,
  • a [a~ɑ] as in “mars”,
  • o [ow~ɔ] as in “door”,
  • i [i~ɪ] as in “‘zine”,
  • u [u~ʊ] as in “fruit”,
  • y [j~i] as in “yeet”,
  • l [l~ɾ] as in “language”,
  • w [w~u] as in “warner”,
  • n [n] as in “ninja”,
  • m [m] as in “mills”,
  • h [h~x] as in “hottub”,
  • c [t͡ʃ~ʂ] as in “chart”,
  • s [s] as in “suite”,
  • f [f~ɸ] as in “flat”,
  • k [kʰ~ɡ] as in “LaTeX”,
  • t [tʰ~d] as in “time”, and
  • p [pʰ~b] as in “plain”.

You’ll notice that all of these letters are pronounced pretty much how you’d expect with the exception of c, which is pronounced in the Malay fashion. Stress falls on the penultimate vowel. It should go without saying that each letter is only ever pronounced one way.

There are some punctuation markers, as well. precedes loanwords; . ends sentences; , indicates pauses; 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are shorthands for nul, kan, tos, san, fol, lim, cah, pit, hat, and mes; and a few other less important things.

And that’s all you need to know to start speaking! Let’s try some examples. kwe (“quay”) means “yes”. nyo (“nyo”) means “no”. wafe (“waffay”) means “hello”, “goodbye”, or “yay!”, and waso (“wassoe”) means “fuck!”. kon yot pulanelon on means “where is the bathroom?”.

The morphology is where things start to get interesting. Oltilip words are composed of CGVGC syllables, with the only restrictions being the disallowance of yi, iy, ey, wu, uw, and ow. Nouns end with consonants, verbs end with vowels, and grammar tokens can end with anything (there are no adjectives and adverbs, as concepts like “blue” and “quickly” are treated as verbs: nila, “be blue” and yala ip, “while being fast”.

The only mechanism in Oltilip resembling inflection is the derivation of antonyms: a root’s antonym is obtained by replacing each letter in it with that letter’s opposite. e goes to o, i to u, y to w, l to t, n to k, m to p, h to c, and s to f. Thus, the antonym of fe, meaning “want”, “like”, or “good”, is so, meaning “dislike” or “bad”.

This may seem overly complicated for a language that strives to be easy to learn. However, this system is not meant as a productive derivation route, but as more of a mnemonic. Learners will not memorise the letter pairs right away, but as they learn words conventionally—memorising each antonym separately—they will gradually become familiar with it, to the point where they can use so as a clue should they forget the word for “want”.

Next is the vocabulary. By making use of extensive derivation, Oltilip gets by with only 368 basic roots. Naturally, these are sourced from languages all around the world (19, to be precise), with more weight placed on commonly-spoken ones. 19% of the words are derived from Mandarin, such as ci, “try”, from “试”. 9% are derived from English, such as mo, “be more”. 1% are derived from Xhosa, such as ti, “say”, from “thi”.

The main way Oltilip derives these is through compound words. There are two kinds. The first is quite straightforward: two or more words are combined to form a word that is related to both of its constituents, with the part of speech of the latter. sun (“sun”) plus kwelwel (“time”) makes sunlwel: “day”. Adding ol (“this”) makes olsunkwelwel: “today”.

The second is more precise. A series of words that have a meaning when used together can be codified into a single compound, whose meaning may be broader or carry more connotations. For example, the sentence particle wa, which makes a sentence exclamatory, plus the word fe forms the sentence wa fe, “How good it is!”. The compound word wafe is thus an interjection meaning “How good it is!”, “yay!” or, in the right context, “hello” or “goodbye”.

Words with regional or cultural significance and highly technical words do not count as roots, and are taken from the language with the strongest ties to that concept (with the restrictions on iy, etc. lifted and a prepended to mark it as a loan). Thus, the word for “German people” is ‘toyc, and the word for “liter” is ‘lithe.

Finally, we reach the grammar. An Oltilip sentence broadly comprises postpositional phrases. Each of these comprises a noun and a postposition, the postposition specifying the role the noun plays in the sentence. There are eleven postpositions, most of which are pretty straightforward. wel marks the time of the action, yot marks the place, uat marks the tool, ip marks the manner or method, etcetera.

Then, there are es, on, and um. These mark the arguments of the action. In English, the arguments of a sentence are usually the subject, direct object, and indirect object, which are distinguished by word order. Every sentence must have a subject, and a direct object is a prerequisite for an indirect object. Because of this, English is called a nominative-accusative language.

Oltilip, on the other hand, is an active-stative language. This means that arguments don’t cleanly fall into the categories of subject, direct object, and indirect object. Instead, Oltilip uses the categories of agent (the entity that initiates the action), patient (the entity affected by the action), and theme (the entity the action references or targets). Furthermore, rather than using word order to mark them, Oltilip uses postpositions. The agent is followed by es, the patient by on, and the theme by um.

This system reduces the number of verbs needed, because concepts that seem independent in English, such as”obtain”, “give”, and “receive”, can be reduced into a single verb, tueki. If Papyrus simply obtains some spaghetti, then ‘papaywas on tueki ‘espaketi um. If Undyne gives it to him, then ‘antayn es ‘papaywas on tueki ‘espaketi um. If you want to emphasise that he receives it from her, then you might say ‘papaywas on ‘antayn es tueki ‘espaketi um. The order of the postpositional phrases is completely free.

Many verbs, like ki (“start” or “become”), tend to take subordinate clauses as arguments. Luckily, subordinate clauses are extremely simple in Oltilip; just drop a sentence inside another sentence, using it as a noun.

For example, if I cause you to become familiar with Oltilip, then we can take the sentence puket on piasa oltilip um (puket means “ye” and piasa means “be familiar”, so this means “ye are familiar with Oltilip”), and plop it into the sentence min es ki _ on (min means “me”, so this means “I cause _ to start”): min es ki puket on piasa oltilip um on. It works because the postposition chain um on (or a verb followed by a postposition) clues the listener into the fact that there is a subordinate clause ending there. It can be ambiguous where the subordinate clause begins; if this is the case, the particle ke can be inserted before the puket for clarity.

There is a significant shortcut here in that verbs that take subordinate clauses as patients can be inserted into said clause immediately following the subordinate verb. This structure is called an auxiliary verb, and is analogous to the English concept, but backwards. For example, the above sentence can be written somewhat more succinctly as min es puket on piasa ki oltilip um. The two verbs can even be compounded into a single verb, piasaki, which means “familiarise” or “introduce”.

The final critical piece of grammar is the relative clauses. Relative clauses in Oltilip are simply formed by taking a clause and, optionally, inserting the relative pronoun l. For example, the sentence et on lyotkwenu, “it gets away”, can be rearranged into the noun phrase l on lyotkwenu, “the one that gets away”.

Here, too, is an important derivation technique: l on is pronounced as a single word and, for many intents and purposes, is a single word, lon, meaning “one that”. This also holds true for the other postpositions: les and lum are corresponding relative pronouns for the other arguments, lwel is “the time when”, luat is “the tool with which”, and lip is “the way that”.

These pronouns can also be compounded to their verbs to form nouns. lyotkwenulon (“one that gets away”) means “escapee”, tilip (“way that one says”) means “language”, and piasakiluat (“tool with which one introduces”) means “introductory guide”.

These play nicely with noun phrases in Oltilip, which are also quite simple. Multiple noun-like phrases can be placed adjacent to each other to represent the intersection of their meanings. As a simple example, myawf means “cat”, while nila means “be blue”. Therefore, nilalon means “blue thing”, and nilalon myawf or nila myawf means “blue cat”. We can specify even further by tacking on et, meaning “it”, “she”, “he”, “them”, or “that”, to make it et nila myawf: “the blue cat”.

And that’s all there is to it! I hope you can see that Oltilip’s powerful derivation systems and simple grammar would make it an excellent international auxiliary language. na site calu, kunelon.

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