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Random Tidbits About Sanila

There's a fair amount of random facts about Sanila that I'd like to share, but which don't really fit well on a grammar document or a dictionary. So, this will be the page where I share such facts.

Is Sanila really a priori?

One of the primary aspects of Sanila is its allegedly "a priori" vocabulary, meaning the words are completely original and not derived from any existing language. But in reality, this is only mostly the case. There are a couple of words in Sanila which are very much derived from external sources, though whether or not they are derived from existing "languages" per se is arguable:

"badoči" (joke) is derived from the onomatopoeic "ba-dum-tsch". I am way more proud of that than I should be.

"guroče" (to thank, and by extention the expression for "thank you") is derived from an in-joke from 2016 between me and my friend at the time, referenced occasionally in my YouTube videos back then. It comes from a GoAnimate Dora the Explorer parody video in which the English text-to-speech voice completely butchers the Spanish "gracias" and ends up sounding more like "grochez", and I thought that was the funniest thing ever apparently. Funnily enough, there was actually a word for "thank" in Sanila before "guroče", but I pretended it never existed and replaced it with this joke word. Although I do remember the previous word being far less phonaesthetically pleasing than "guroče", so I consider it an upgrade.

But even still, there are some Sanila words which one could look at and go "hey, that looks a bit familiar...", which include:

Most of these are what I like to think of as "coincidences"... but also I definitely noticed the similarities to familiar words while I created them. Many Sanila words, particularily in the earlier days of the language, were created by randomly generating words and picking whatever of its output I felt like, so its probable that my thought process was something like: "Okay, I need a word for two, lets generate some single syllable words. Oh, I see 'tu', which I think sounds good and fits pretty well to mean 'two', I sure wonder why!" So to me it feels like a coincidence while simultaneously not being a coincidence at all that my choices happened to be influenced by words I already knew. And also there were words like "mosaja" which were undoubtedly influenced by outside sources.

But of course, this is only a small portion of Sanila's hundreds of words (as of now) we're talking about, so the claim of Sanila being "a priori" still remains mostly true. It is inevitable that a few words in Sanila are somewhat vaguely a posteriori, because creating completely original words all the time is rather tiring, and it is so much easier to just take inspiration from words you already know. But the main reason my conlangs aren't more a posteriori is because I am an English speaker who has only ever really studied conlangs, so I feel I have very little qualification to create anything substantially a posteriori (although I have occasionally tried in the past). But still, here and there I will inevitably feel the urge to sprinkle trace amounts of a-posteriori-ness into Sanila and my conlangs in general.

A few things about Sanila's history

The (not that) long lost letter Ðð

Up until around 2021, Sanila had a 28th (indeed literally at the end of the alphabet) letter and phoneme, Ðð, representing the voiced dental fricative /ð/. When it was removed, all instances of it in Sanila words were converted into the voiceless Þþ /θ/. My main reasons for removing it were as follows:

Even though it's gone, the letter Ðð in Sanila will forever live on through old Sanila text and content, and that one Sanila alphabet chart I made almost 6 years ago and don't feel like updating.

Below is a list of all the words in Sanila which used to contain Ðð:

Why the Sanila alphabet is an alphabet

One might look at Sanila's original writing system and wonder why it's an alphabet and not an abugida or syllabary (but more likely an abugida), given that Sanila has exactly the kind of simple phonotactics that call for such a script. The answer, as far as my recollection goes, is because I struggled to come up with a good abugida. I figured it would be much easier to adapt from a sort of "family" of alphabets I had created for many of my previous conlangs from the time, so that is what I did.

That's right, the Sanila alphabet was actually a family of alphabets all along! Below is a diagram illustrating the "evolution" of the Sanila script (click the image to open it directly):

If you stare long enough you'll probably notice patterns in how the symbols are derived from each other (I couldn't explicitly describe them on the chart without it becoming a cluttered mess of arrows). For example, voiceless sounds turn into voiced sounds by adding a horizontal line to the top or bottom (well, except for /l/ becoming /ɾ/), and /w/ is derived from /f/ with a horizontal line through it, which is then rotated to produce /j/, and putting a small horizontal line through a letter's vertical "stem" turns an alveolar sound into a post-alveolar sound (which just so happens to correspond with the usage of caron diacritics in the Latin orthography).

Maybe one day I'll come up with a good design for an abugida and make it co-offical along with the original alphabet, but now is probably not that time.

The grammar used to be a bit more Eisenlangy

Much of Sanila, primarily the grammar and semantics, are inspired by the constructed languages of Jack Eisenmann. I can only imagine what goes through the average conlanger's mind upon hearing that: "Oh god, this language is just an incomprehensible mess of all-caps same-length words and square brackets, isn't it?!". But of course in actuality this is far from the case for Sanila.

I have been fascinated by JE's conlangs for years and have come to adore many aspects of their general grammar, but I still found a lot to be desired from them. For one, I wasn't a huge fan of all the quotation marks and brackets for situation nouns, and felt that they should be actual spoken particles instead (this is indeed something which BreadSpeak does, but keep in mind Sanila started months before the publication of BreadSpeak).

Another thing was that aesthetics were never a consideration for JE's languages and their highly synthetic nature, which is completely understandable. But I couldn't help but wish they felt just a tad bit more like real languages in terms of aesthetics. Now, by absolutely no means do I claim to be good at producing conlangs with pleasing phonaesthetics (I find doing this incredibly difficult), but I figure at the very least using a more natural phoneme inventory, having words of varying length, and not having grammatical brackets can help a lot. This, I think, is one of the key things that Sanila is: a means of exploring a JE-inspired grammar with just slightly more pleasing aesthetics. Nothing Tolkien-level by any means, but at least tolerable.

The original version of Sanila copied a lot of aspects from Eisenlangs that may seem a little unnatural, including "udi" (but, however) being not a conjunction placed between two sentences, but a modifier that you place onto the verb of a sentence (this is more a Zese-ish thing; Vötgil's word for "but" is a preposition). For example:

*La bana so lebiru ba ni emeri, la degu va udi.
I think 'so' cat be in house, I know not but.
I think the cat is in the house, but I don't know. (I know not "howeverly")

Additionally, some other things which are typically conjunctions such as "e" (and), "o" (or), "a" (if), "ðegi" (because) were originally prepositions in Sanila, another clear Eisenlang influence. Therefore if you wanted to say "X if Y" where X and Y are both whole clauses, you could not just say "X a Y", you'd have to nominalize the second clause and say "X a so Y", for example:

*La ba dičope a so ru tuke.
I be staying if 'so' you want.
I will stay if you want.

Eventually I started feeling this to be a little too unnatural for my liking, so I introduced the "conjunction" part of speech into Sanila and basically just said "Conjunctions can join words together, yeah that's literally it." Perhaps this just made Sanila a little more boring and Englishy than it already was, but "not being boring" was never a goal for Sanila!

Another thing I added to Sanila at that time was "verb grouping", so that to say "I want to help" you can now just put the two verbs next to each other and say "La tuke deni" instead of having to use nominalization to say "La tuke so deni". This was actually mainly inspired by Kah, an a priori auxlang I had some interest in for a little while; though this is obviously not to imply such a feature is unique to Kah or anything, it's just what happened to inspire me for some reason.

One syllable words becoming two

At some point, various single syllable words had an extra syllable added to them. These include (but are not necessarily limited to; I probably forgot some):

You might be wondering, "Why did you just make the language take longer to speak for no reason???". The answer has to do with aesthetics. I think that longer words with few interspersed short words looks much better than having a bunch of short words all clumping together, so to make the latter happen less often I reduced the amount of single syllable words in the language. Plus, I think it makes sense to reserve single syllables for more basic grammatical words such as particles, conjunctions, some basic prepositions, etc. and try to keep words with more semantic value away from that territory.