Saturday, January 2, 2010

Dorela solsifasi

The Frenchness of Solresol. This is a topic I’ve wanted to bring up for a while, but I never got around to forming it properly, so I’m just going to go ahead and throw out my thoughts on this blog wall to get them out.

There was a point when I thought Solresol's grammar was really French, and this somewhat bothered me because I thought a language based on a unique concept (musical notes) should have a unique grammar as well. I was influenced by Cherpillod's work, where he says that the correct translation for the phrase "the man you think about" is "la domifado fa mire domi redore," which would follow the French construction of "penser + à" or literally "think to." However, because of other inconsistencies found in Dore domilado solresol, I'm not sure whether this was Sudre's intention or not. I haven't finished scouring Langue universelle musicale to find a definitive answer, but I already know that Sudre's word for "to think" is "solsimisol" and not "redore." Another point that I got from Cherpillod was that in order to form questions in Solresol, one has to use inversion as in French…so "fasifa-domi?" (Do you want to?) or "Veux-tu?" in French. Some languages, such as Polish (czy) or Esperanto (ĉu), use specific words at the beginning of a sentence to signal a question, while others, like Japanese, use a particle at the end (ka,no) to indicate a question. My point with this is that there are many different ways to ask a question across languages, and in creating a language, Sudre didn't necessarily have to just follow the French language model.

But these grammar points may not have even been part of Sudre's if I disregard them, there's still the presence presence of “la” (the) or a definite article which is present in French and other Romance languages as well as some other languages (Germanic languages and Arabic off the top of my head), but doesn't exist in several other languages (many Slavic languages, Japanese, etc.), so "la" is not needed for a functioning language and represents the influence of Sudre's mother tongue on the creation of his conlang. Also, to create the genitive (Think: to show possesion), Solresol uses “lasi” as in French (de) and other Romance languages...and which is familiar to Germanic languages like English as well (of), but other languages express this concept via the use of a case system for nouns.

Then there's the number system! There’s no word in Solresol for “70” or “90” since presumably these numbers are formed in the French manner, thus soixante-dix (lit. 60-10) and quatre-vingts-dix (80-10 or actually lit. 4 20s + 10).

Where exactly does Solresol diverge from French? First, there’s no partitive, so while in French one would say “Je veux de l’eau” (I want some water, or lit. I want of the water), in Solresol, one would simply say “Dore fasifa dolamire”. Second, although the ideas of a definite article and gender exist in Solresol, their use is nowhere near as stringent as in French. An added quirk of Solresol is that gender can be marked either by elongating the final vowel of a word when it's in isolation so "sisol" (Mr.) and "sisool" (Mrs.), but when the feminine word is preceded by la/lasi/fa, then the final vowel of these words is elongated instead. For example, "la sisol" would be "the sir" and "laa sisol" would be "the madame." Next, unlike French, Solresol has no indefinite article (un/une; a/an). Although the verb tenses and moods in Solresol are very similar to their French counterparts, they are simpler and fewer in number, and verbs don't conjugate for person and number. Lastly, one has to acknowledge the unique compactness of Solresol words, in that, for example, "domifare" can mean "to live," "life," "one who lives," "live," or "lively" depending on where the accent/emphasis is placed in the word. This makes me think of Solresol as a tree and its words are bunches of grapes.

The Conclusion: I guess I'm really glad I did this exercise of comparing the two grammars and trying to be fair about the whole matter, because looking back, Solresol is more of its own language than I initially gave it credit for. The moving gender, the word clusters, and the focus on simplicity and ease of communication (along with its musical nature - of course!) keep Solresol from being a clone of French grammatically. Although I don’t know for sure, as there’s still a lot for me to learn about Sudre, I’m still left with the impression that Jean-Francois wasn’t really familiar with other languages (and definitely not the polyglot Zamenhof was) and that his mother tongue heavily influenced his conlang...but I definitely have a hankering for some grapes now :)

Happy Learning ! :)

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