“How do native speakers of a conlang learn their mother tongue?” 2/5

2015/5/5 seren arbazard

March 8th, 2007

My girlfriend Ridia gave a birth to our twins, Yult and Luxia.
On the day, I worked for a publishing company called ASK which published books on English, Chinese and Japanese.
I majored in linguistics in Gakushuin graduate school. I was interested in linguistics so I decided to work for a company which published books using foreign languages. I was an editor at the company.

I lived in Japan and Ridia lived in Turkey at that time. It was a lunch time that I knew the twins were born.
It was more surprising that one of my friend’s son was born on the same day. When I called my friend to notice my children’s birth, he also told me his wife gave a birth to their son.
On that day, I was sitting on a step out of my apartment and telling him how I was happy to have our children, on the phone. The weather was fine, I remember.

With TV-phone like skype on my PC (I’ll call any TV-phone skype from now on in this book), I saw them for the first time. They were lying on a bed. They were very tiny because they were twins. Yult, our son had a blue ribbon on his ankle while Luxia, our daughter had a pink one. In Arka, red means women while blue does men.
When I saw them for the first time, I was very surprised at their — especially her — face because they seemed to be an alien.
“How would she become a cute girl with this face?” thought I.
I thought I had the right to name them, but actually Ridia named them without asking me.
My first son, Arxe was named by my ex-wife Esta without asking me. If I could name them, I’d never name them Yult and Luxia.
The name Yult comes from a god’s name Yulg. Yulg is a god in Arka world (Kaldia). He is the master of wisdom. Ridia wanted him to be very bright.
The name Luxia comes from a supreme condition in lvan (a kind of meditation). It’s Arka name, too. Ridia wanted her to be calm and relaxed.

I was OK with the name Yult but Luxia. Somehow it reminded me of the color purple, and purple reminded me of an old woman. So I called her just Xia [ʃɪa].
I felt sound “lu” reminded me of purple. I didn’t know why anyhow.
Anyway Luxia’s name in Japan is 紫亞 [ʃɪa] and the character “紫” means purple, so even if I call her Xia, I remember the color purple. Haizen (“Oh my god” in Arka).

Baby Talk

Yult and Luxia started crying after their birth. One day I saw they began to babble. I felt they said the sound “Ah” the most frequently. There are many vowels in the world’s languages but every language has the vowel “a”. “A” is the easiest and most cardinal vowel for human language.

First Word

Around 6 months after their birth, Luxia started baby talk. The sounds were like “a a a” or “ba ba ba” or “ma ma ma”. Bilabial sounds are easy to pronounce for babies because they can imitate the sounds by looking at their parents’ lips.

Most languages have words with the consonant “p” or “m” to mean a father or a mother like English, French, Japanese and Chinese do. Arka has words like them; papa means a father while mama does a mother.

Luxia’s first word was “pa” which meant “papa”. Ridia and my ex-girlfriend Mel Keetoia [mɛl keːtɔɪa] (an Ukrainian) were taking care of them, but her first word meant me. Arte! (“Oh my God” in Arka for a good meaning)
At that time, she was around 6 months old.

Baby Words

By 8 months, Luxia learned some words. We read children’s books in Arka to them. When we asked them “ket xa am? (Where is the cat?)”, they could point the cat though their pronouce was bad. Luxia kept saying “ke ke”.
They understood more than 50 words. Most of them were noun. The nouns were very usual in their daily life.
In Arka, “an” “non” and so on are the pronouns which mean “I”. There are many “Is” in Arka. But we thought it was hard for them to understand pronouns, so we called ourselves with nouns like papa (Seren), maal (Ridia) and mama (Mel).
They lived with their two mothers, grandfather, grandmother, aunt, acupuncture doctor and a male cat. The members of their family were the most important to their life. So they could easily come to remember how to call them like edan (grandma, Liiza).

The Cat

The cat was also important to their life, Luxia liked to play with the cat but he thought she was annoying, and he often slept on the belly of Yult who was very quiet and mild. Yult was so gentle that he let the cat sleep on the belly though the cat was as half size as him.
The cat’s name was Koseren. Ridia kept him as a pet in 2002. Luxia called him “Koxen” [kɔʃɛn]. She seemed to be able to distinguish animals from men. But she called a bird flying in the sky “Koxen”. For her, all animals were supposed to be called “koxen”. Of course Ridia corrected her mistake every time saying “tee, la et kuto e” (No, it’s a bird).

Adjectives and Verbs

Babies learn nouns at first. Then they learn adjectives and verbs. In our family, Luxia learned verbs before adjectives, contrary to my expectation.
The first verb she learned was “tak”. It means an arm, but it also means “to hold somebody in one’s arms”. When she wanted to be picked up, all she had to do was to say “tak!”
Many Arka nouns can be a verb, so I couldn’t judge she said a word as a verb or not, but I was sure the “tak” was a verb because she wanted to be picked up.

The first adjective she learned was “hart” (hot). When she was trying to touch something hot, grown-ups told her to stay away from it saying “tee, tu et hart!” (No, it’s hot!). So they could easily remember the word “hart”, though they were saying “ha ha!” instead of saying “hart”.


They learned “kai” (big) before learned words for colors. “Why don’t they remember words for colors? They are easy adjectives…” thought I.
One day, I asked “wel et fir?” (Which is white?) looking at their book. They couldn’t answer. Mel asked “wel et ket fir?” (Which is the white cat?). And they pointed a white cat. I recognized they responded only to the word “ket” (cat) and they didn’t understand its color.
So I drew 2 cats, white one & black one and taught “tu et ket fir, yan tu et ket ver” (It’s a white cat. And it’s a black cat) to them. They understood what “fir” and “ver” meant and the next time I asked “oma ver xa am?” (Where’s the black dog?), they came to be able to point a black dog.

I was curious about how far they can distinguish colors.
Arka has basic 10 colors, but at 8 months old, they couldn’t distinguish brown from the others. Purple, gray and brown were difficult to point out and they couldn’t draw a clear line between pink and red.


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