Vabungula - Miscellaneous Discussions

One Conlanger's Opinion of Vabungula

One fellow conlanger shared with me his kind thoughts about Vabungula:

"You know, I don't know if there is any other conlanger on the Internet with as complete a language as yours! It may not be the most sophisticated conlang on the net and not have as many bells and whistles as [my language] but what the heck, you've got an actual functioning language!! Meanwhile guys like ---- ----, with his many languages, probably just throw a few ideas and several hundred words together and forget it, and call it a language. Phooey!! Vabungula actually FUNCTIONS!!! Kinda like the difference between a customized car whose owner never drives it on the street but only carts it around on a trailer from show to show with its hundred of coats of paint, but never drives it and doesn't dare to because it would be unsafe as hell and one little bouncing rock could ruin his whole paint job - and an old beat-up hot rod with numerous dents and scratches that has seen many miles on the road and is a tried and true car and is lots of fun to drive despite its funny quirks - now THAT is Vabungula! No one else has as big a vocabulary as yours or as many writings in his/her language as you have, or as long a history of using his/her conlang - now that is SOMETHING. Congratulations, Bill - I think you've got the best all-around conlang on the web."

Note: He was exaggerating a bit when he says that Vabungula has the biggest vocabulary (it doesn't - but it's close) or the longest history (it doesn't - but it's older even than many of today's conlangers), but I can't help agreeing with the analogy of the "old beat-up hot rod" that's "fun to drive despite its many quirks."

How Vabungula is Created

Here are some excerpts from an email to a fellow conlanger (written in 2000) discussing how I develop Vabungula.

I have adhered to the following basic principles for the past few decades in creating Vabungula:

  1. All new vocabulary is recorded in pencil on sheets of paper divided into four columns, front and back. The columns are coded numerically such that all words in a dictionary can be indexed back to their source.
  2. Once a word is created, it remains unchanged. I have made it a general rule of thumb never to go back and "improve" anything - although this has occurred a few times.
  3. New words are created from a common pool of roots. This root pool is something that has grown gradually through the years without any particular design or planning.
  4. Words for most plants and animals (and also for a few other isolated categories such as planets) are spontaneously pulled out of the air, and are not based on anything other than the sound of the word itself.
  5. Everything created must be original, i.e., not based on any other known language (except itself).
  6. One word for one meaning, and one meaning for one word. I have deliberately avoided synonyms, although through the years I have discovered a few cases which have slipped by unnoticed in which I invented two separate words for nearly the same concept. In those cases I try to stick to the "don't fix it" rule, and try to find a shade of meaning that would make them distinct.
  7. Complementing the rule described above, I try to be very liberal in fine distinctions and shades of meaning for words. If I find a distinct concept or idea that cannot be expressed well in English or any other language I know, I do not hesitate to create this word in Vabungula.

Although I do speak Vabungula fluently, I must admit that there are a lot of words (especially the most recent ones) that I am not able to use spontaneously. I find that I have to consult my dictionary quite frequently. This is something that has been aggravating me recently, and it is probably a combination of the fact that the vocabulary is getting a little "top-heavy", and that I am also getting a little old and my memory isn't as sharp as it used to be. In any case, I try to remedy this by creating example sentences with new vocabulary items which I collect together on sheets and print out for frequent review. What I could also do (but have not yet taken the time to do) is to read these sentences onto a cassette tape and listen to them repeatedly until they become fixed in my memory. (I learn languages much more readily if I have some tapes).

A fun exercise in the use of your own language is to do written translations. Here you can find all kinds of undiscovered problems and/or opportunities, since you're having to put other people's thoughts and words into your own language. As you can see on my website, I have translated the entire Gospel of John, as well as a couple well-known children's stories. (I have several other translations which I have not published, mainly due to space constrictions on my website). (Note from 2005: Many of these translations have since been added to my website.)

Many conlangs are attempts at improving on existing languages, or are designed to be promoted as a universal language. Vabungula is neither. It has no particular features that would in any way make it superior to other languages, and it was never intended to be spoken by anyone other than myself. Whenever anyone expresses an interest in Vabungula, I am of course flattered, but I fully realize that the language has very little to offer to any person other than myself.

If anyone expresses an interest in learning Vabungula (and I can count the number of these people on the fingers of one hand), I am more than willing to offer help. It would of course be interesting to have someone else to converse with, but I have gotten along fine these past 35 years without a "partner" and will probably get along just fine for the next 35 years without one.

Judging by what I have found on the Internet, it would appear to me that many conlangs and conlangers are very short-lived. Many conlang websites vanish without a trace, and many of the so-called conlangers out there will never respond to your emails, which seems to suggest that their creators have moved on to other things. My guess is that some of these linguistic projects just get too complex and unwieldy for their inventors and they just end up being abandoned. In that sense Vabungula is and remains a survivor, since it is relatively easy to learn and is not trying to prove anything.

Creating Vocabulary

Here are some more email excerpts written to a fellow conlanger.

I agree with you about the [---] word list. I have been using it to try to fill in gaps in Vabungula vocabulary, and have been a little aggravated about some of the words they chose to put in it. But it's the best list I've seen so far. There is another one I found a while back on the Internet, which was, in my opinion, less satisfactory. If you want to use the Vabungula dictionary [to create vocabulary], go ahead; but again I think you're going to find a lot of gaps in it, as well as some meager English translations that could stand some expansion. My long term goal is to create an expanded Vabungula dictionary that includes not only more detailed definitions of words, but also example sentences for each word and an etymology of each word (i.e., breaking it down into its component roots). I started on this in 2000 but never finished.

I agree about the "worst insult" for a conlang being that it's a word-for-word copy of English. That's why I feel a little embarrassed about some of Vabungula's features today, since it was developed back when I didn't understand a whole lot about languages and had no knowledge of non-Indo-European tongues. Hence there are a lot of suspiciously familiar-looking European features to it. The native Vabungula numbering system was admittedly loosely based on Spanish: ono/uno, dono/dos, tono/tres, etc. That's why I decided to replace it by introducing the number system I had started in another conlang called Lorêm, and then sprucing it up a bit. (The Lorêm numbers from 1-10 were the original 1960's core; 11-99 were invented in the mid-1980's, and the numbers 100+ are relatively new creations). The word for "hand" somehow came out as "armon", which looks suspiciously like "arm on", that thing with fingers stuck on the end of your arm. I have no explanation for that one, but I could almost swear that I wasn't thinking of the English word "arm" when I invented it. But, by golly, it sure came out looking that way, didn't it? Another big embarrassment is "akag", which means "mean" in the sense of "What did you mean by that?" This of course has the sense of "intend", but instead of creating a brand-new word for it I just modified the word "kag" which means "mean" (= "definition") by sticking an "a" in front of it. The result of course is two words that look alike only because they happen to be identical in English. Another similar case is the obsolete word "isa". You won't find this in the Vabungula dictionary. It was the original word for "kral" which means "but" (German: "sondern") as opposed to the other "but" (German: "aber"). I recognized the difference in the two words when I invented them and so just did the same thing as with kag/akag: taking "is" (aber) and appending an "a" to get "isa" (sondern). Several years ago I decided that that was so ugly that I went against my own principle of not discarding words once invented, and replaced "isa" with "kral" (which has the root "kra" = yes). This, incidentally, is the only time I can remember that I actually "killed" an existing word. The only other times were simply cleaning up outright mistakes, when I found that I had invented a word for something that had already been invented, and had just missed it when scanning the dictionary. In these cases I always go back to the earlier word and kill the "usurper".

Inventing words is fun, and in retrospect I think it would have been more fun had I started out with a broad, comprehensive, and well thought out pool of basic roots. I get the impression that you have that already in [your language], and so words in many cases tend to invent themselves. But, as you say, [your language] seems to be extremely precise, much more so than English, which consequently requires a little extra effort to be put into the creation of a base vocabulary. But perhaps you could just make a first pass through a basic vocabulary by creating words with broad meanings, and then go back and pick up on the finer meanings.

I enjoyed your comparison of Vabungula with Chinese Resultative Compound verbs. In fact, this happens a lot in Vabungula. A good example that comes to mind is "manausa malaso", which is the standard way of saying "go home," or more properly "go back home." (But if you're going home, you're usually going BACK home, because home is where you started out from.) "Manausa" is an intransitive verb meaning "return" and "malaso" another verb meaning "go home." So if they ever dub the E.T. movie into Vabungula, you will hear the little critter crooning "ma-nau-sa ma-la-so!"

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Page last modified on January 1, 2005
Vabungula is an artificial language invented by Bill Price in 1965.
Vabungula co nûsk mugola famêlêtke onudž Bill Price larla alara idekuzorekol.
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Price
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