Category Archives: Language and Rhetoric

Ask Piija, Part 1: How Do You Create Your Own Language?

Hjaeja kaikki! Jämma juugħoiđ? Tää m’Ǯěty öbma țeħdwmąđ m’ķiyli! Vlotahÿppni!

Hello, and if you can understand that, congrats! Chances are you didn’t, so here’s the translation: “Hi, y’all! How are you doing? Today, we’ll learn how to make a language. Good luck!”

This is the first part of the Ask Piija series, in which I answer questions from y’all that you’d like me to hear my thoughts on. And the first question I got, which actually gave me the idea for the series, was how to create a language.

For those who don’t know me personally, some background is in order. I love languages. Like, a lot. Since I was a child. When I was three, I made my first language (something which I know several other Autistic children have done, interestingly enough), Trianese, which was mostly gibberish. I made my second language when I was 11 because I suspected my parents of reading my diaries, and I’m currently working on my third now (the above phrase is in my third language, Čiäǯka.

Beyond there creation, there have been SO many times when I’ve spent literally hours on the computer reading about different linguistic phenomena; if there were ever a linguistic Jeopardy, I’d definitely have a good chance of winning.

Recently, I began sharing some of my translations (example at the bottom of the post, with audio recording), which lead to the question I received a few days ago. So, without further ado, here is how you make a language:

(Note: Yes, the bullets are mixed up–I’ll fix it soon.)

  1. Pick a language family for your language to belong to. Then, pick several other languages/language families from which your language can have contact influences.

Once you become a master language creator, you can make one without any reference to natural language families, but in the meantime, it’s good to choose a language family on which you can base your language. Before you do that, though, you should think about some aspects you want you language to have. For example, do you want your language to be/have:

  • inflecting, or synthetic? fusional, agglutinating, or polysynthetic?
  • signed, or written?
  • written in an alphabet, an abugida, an abjad, a logography, or a syllabary?
  • grammatical or lexical evidentiality?
  • solely pulmonic consonants, or clicks, ejectives, and implosives?
  • small modal index, a large modal index, or sentence-final particles for aspect and/or modality?
  • tonal or non-tonal?

These are some questions you’ll need to think about, and based on your desires, that will narrow down list of language families for you to choose from.

Assuming you are an English speaker, if you are looking for an easier language family to imitate, consider the Germanic and Romantic language groups, as well as Sinitic (Chinese) languages. Germanic and Romantic are most similar to English, and while Chinese is a very difficult language to learn for English speakers, it is highly analytic, which is often the easiest mode for English only-speakers to understand language.

If you’re looking for a moderate challenge, try the Finno-Ugric, Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Turkic, Niger-Congo, and Austroasiatic language families. If you’re looking for a hard challenge, try Austronesian, Semitic, Dravidian, Algic, Japonic, Slavic, and Samoyedic languages.

Once you have picked a language to serve as a main base, choose several for contact influences. For example, my language has a Finno-Samic base, with Celtic, Turkic, Japonic, Samoyedic, and Khoisian influences. Celtic and Turkic influences are limited mostly to vocabulary, Khoisian influence extends to the constant index, while Japonic and Samoyedic affect the grammatical structure in minor ways.

  1. Once you have figured out the basic parameters of your language, it’s time to get communicating! Come up with your mode of communication, and create some words and phrases. Play around with different grammatical structures, too. This should be fun!

If you have access, find a basic kindergarten text, and try to translate that into your language. Come up with the words first, then try and see how different grammatical structures you want to use work in basic situations. There will be some that work great, and others that don’t, some that you love, and others you hate. In this stage, your language isn’t even a language–it’s a fluid, amorphous blob in a state of accelerated evolution. Every time you work on it, it will have changed, words will be different. One day you will have a verb copular verb and the next you won’t. That is what you want.

Eventually, try and define some of these structures. For example, since my language has a Finno-Samic base, it is highly agglutinating, and has 32 cases. It also has no ‘to have’ verb. In the early stages, I played around with this a lot to see how I wanted to execute these aspects of the language. But eventually, I created a list of the cases, and defined their endings, and specific situations in which they’d be used. I also Tried several ways of creating possession and relation structures, and eventually codified them.

  1. Now you need to build up your vocabulary. Find lists of words you want to translate, and translate them. Some can be purely descriptive, animal names, city words, and such. But others should be more grammatical in nature, such as commonly used verbs, pre/postpositions (if using), and such. Try to solidify more complex grammar structures, such as evidentiality, verb modality, tense, and aspect, and clauses and phrases. Explore structures that have no basis in natural language, and incorporate those into your communication.

This is a fun time for you language. It’s the teenage years! You get to try and make it more complex and more well-rounded, but you also get to expand and explore more with it. It’s super fun to create wholly new structures. For example, I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the sole existence of possessive pronouns, which denote ownership, in most languages. This is my wife, my child, my thing. I created relational pronouns and a relational case, which is similar to the possessive pronouns and genitive case in many languages, but denotes relation, not possession. Figure out some linguistic properties that will make this your language.

  1. Optional: If spoken language is a part of your language you should start practicing basic speech.

Try writing out a few sentences and practice using them. Eventually, try and vary the phrases according to the situation. Try to build some basic fluency and flexibility.

  1. Translate more complex things into your language. Create idioms, sayings, and more abstract language. This is also when you should start to try and figure out a culture for you language, and try to figure out how that culture affects your language.

Try translating songs. This will really push your ability to think in and about your language. Monologues and eventually dialogue are also great to translate.

  1. Practice more!

All you can do at this point is practice. You will still change things about the language. Natural language is always in a state of flux, and so is yours. But you’ll notice hopefully you fluency improving greatly.

Hopefully, that’s helpful to those who want to make their own language!

And now, as promised, here is Jądʀagħaikađ Änsi Kuištässa, that is, For the First Time in Forever, from Frozen. A recording is located at the bottom.

 

Anna:

Aetö nyt avta maalmakoa

Door now open for the world

Kaitingŋi täälä väm tätsut

Everything here comes awake

Čjae pąh usko villai onn usjaplaa

I can’t believe on us are so many plates

Tähmąšäli aina tyskji

This hall always empty

Ju ʀim ǯuonta tansią

It never hosts any party

Vimin, m’poʀti eyfä avtöħ

At last, the gate will soon be opened

 

Hačiga täälä eyfä onn

People here will soon be

Jämma aistae eyfonn

How weird will soon be?

Mjuut čjae aabijuovi kannätalltai!

But I am so ready on top of change!

 

Syl jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

Cause for the first time in eternity

Tähmąķänta ķännarją
These lights will shine

Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

For the first time in eternity

Čjae tansi aekuknuoy änsi

I dance all night for

Onnko krujadoy älä ķaeymynnjä?

Is heartburn or elation?

Čjae ąh van veytat

I don’t really know

Mjuut jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

But for the first time in eternity

Yksni ąh čjae onn

Alone won’t I be

 

Čjae vij cwnöǯ kaikki…čjae fykk cwnöǯ m’Jąksioa

I want to meet everyone…I might meet the One

 

m’Nuoy tʀuǯ tansią taešupʀa

Evening bring dances with men

Čjae paiv aat älkä muosaa jael

I’m sure that they will my dress like

ǯa muosöfyʀšţikiyʀuħoykae

and my sophisticated properness

Ÿtkišti jaa peʀcěde čjaelltai

Suddenly he standing around me

Pytkä, çyfma, ǯa aabikÿmja

Tall, smart, and so handsome

Čjae šjödej syl eghveytat m’ķtow puhuä

I eat cause I don’t know what to say

Mjuut nejyn vi nauʀa ǯa jult aekuknuoy

But then we laugh and chat all evening

Jokä ąđmošti rÿfdą

Which totally strange

Jötingŋi ķuħ amiha čjaellai onn nyt

Nothing like life on me now

Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

For the first time in eternity

Onn mażja, onn hooska

Is magic, is fun

Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

For the first time in eternity

Čjae laejäntaa muożihta

I extend my hand

Čjae veytat aat ąh järķäva

I know that not realistic

Umoyda ķäʀliną

To dream of passionate love

Mjuut jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

But for the first time in eternity

Aikan ʀuuski čjaellai onn

At least a chance on me is

 

Elsa:

Älkä pąh taʀlaeħ älä tvaljaʀ

They can’t come or see

Onnon mitątjuta oykaešti

Be that good girl properly

Lymyħy, ąh çyħy, đuopoiđ scondond

Conceal, don’t feel, your pain hide

Jąksivyʀhi pě kaitingŋiđ tuhta

One mistake can everything destroy

 

E: Onn para tähmą änsi

E: Is just today for

A: Onn para tähmą änsi

 

E: Ottagħiħ tärmysÿs

E: Waiting agony (is)

A: Ottagħiħ täʀmysÿs

 

E: Varti avtaöme m’poʀti

E: Guards, open the gate

A: m’Porti

A: the Gate

 

A: Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

A: For the first time in eternity

E: Älkä pąh taʀlaeħ älä tvaljaʀ

E: They can’t come or see

 

A: Minäumoy sååda vrae

A: My dreams gain color

E: Onn mitątjuta oykaešti

E: Be that good girl properly

 

A: m’Ruuski kannätat muomaalma

A: A chance to change my world

E: Lymyħy

E: Conceal

 

A: m’Ruuski löÿtą ķäʀliđ

A: A chance to find passionate love

E: Đuopoiđ scondond

E: Your pain hide

 

Anna:

Huö kaitingŋi pattuądʒ

Tomorrow, everything finished

Tää muovaiŋʀuuski

Today my only chance

Syl jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

Cause for the first time in eternity

Jądʀagħaikađ änsi kuištässa

For the first time in eternity

Jötingŋi čjaeđ tönskji

Nothing me stop

 

At the moment, I’m struggling to upload the recording in here, so if you’d like it, email me at apoststructuralautistic@gmail.com, and I’ll send it to you. If you know how to embed a recording into WordPress, please let me know! Thanks!

 

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia

Critiquing the Language of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and PTSD Allyship

TW: Discussion of PTSD and potential triggers, including, but not limited to, rape, assault, mass shooting and military service.

I’ve seen a few lists and articles circulating the internet about how to be an ally to people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And while most make some salient points, they all fail in several crucial ways, which actually alienate many folks with PTSD.

A young woman sits on a pillow with her legs tucked into her chest and arms wrapped around her legs. Her head is tucked into her chest and knees. She is leaning against a wall, and on the wall we can see the shadow of a gate.
A young woman sits on a pillow with her legs tucked into her chest and arms wrapped around her legs. Her head is tucked into her chest and knees. She is leaning against a wall, and on the wall we can see the shadow of a gate.

First, let’s talk about what PTSD actually is. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that is caused by feeling extreme fear and distress, almost always with a sense of being trapped, in regards to an event, or a series of events. For this definition, there are two very important aspects of PTSD we can glean.

First, there are two general types of PTSD. The first is acute PTSD, the type most people think of when they think of PTSD. Acute PTSD develops when you feel fear, distress, and a sense of being trapped in regards to a major traumatic event. Common examples include being raped, being a soldier in the military, or being present at a mass shooting. Any major event where loss of life or autonomy is imminent could theoretical cause acute PTSD in a person.

The second type of PTSD is called chronic, or complex, PTSD. This develops as a result of feeling fear, distress, and a sense of being trapped in regards to a series of small events that, by themselves, would not qualify as traumatic, but aggregated have an equal, if not worse, effect that a major traumatic event. Victims of domestic violence, school yard bullying, and systematic work place harassment are some examples of those who might develop chronic, or complex, PTSD.

The second aspect of PTSD that this definition highlights is that you do not need to be a victim to develop PTSD. This is a common misconception, and one that is particularly damaging to people with PTSD who would not consider themselves victims.

People who witness traumatic events can still develop PTSD, even if their life or autonomy is not at stake. And people who are perpetrators, or at least think of themselves as perpetrators, can still develop PTSD.

This is something that is often not thought of, but it’s crucial to understanding PTSD. If someone feels forced into doing something that they perceive will threaten the life or autonomy of someone else, they are at risk for developing PTSD. Folks in the military who develop PTSD are often do not consider themselves victims, at least in the traditional sense. Instead, many feel trapped or compelled into doing something they perceive will threaten the life or autonomy of someone else.

And then there are more common instances of non-victim PTSD, like if a school yard bully’s parents are telling them to harass certain kids. In that case, depending on the severity of the bullying, if the bully is fully cognizant of the effect of the bullying, and if the bully feels remorse for their actions, the bully is actually also at risk to developing PTSD.

Not everyone who feels fear, distress, and a sense of being trapped in regards to a traumatic event or series of microtraumatic events is will develop PTSD. The risk for developing PTSD has some genetic and epigenetic basis, that is that high risk for PTSD can be inherited. Speaking personally, I’d bet 90% of my family over the age of 15 has PTSD (though only a few of us have it diagnosed). We have faced a lot of intergenerational trauma over the past five generations, and while I can’t say this with absolute certain, it does seem as if that vulnerability to PTSD has been passed on to each generation.

Understanding PTSD development not simply as the result of isolated events, but at times as a community development due to a shared history of intergenerational trauma, can help contextualize the therapy of PTSD as less of an individual pursuit, and more as a communal pursuit. Again, speaking personally, over the years, some in my family has opened up about our shared experience with PTSD, and that has allowed us to heal together, in some cases in just small ways. We already share the experience of PTSD, and now we can share in the experience of dismantling it, and overcoming it.

Allyship Tip: As an ally to folks with PTSD, it’s important to understand these nuances of PTSD. First, by calling us victims, you can actually be perpetuating trauma, by making those with PTSD who do not feel like victims feel more stigmatized for their actions. Furthermore, situating PTSD as a community and family experience can ultimate help those of us dealing with it by allowing us to reach out to others who are also dealing with PTSD, to heal together with others who understand.

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia

Allistic/Autistic/Other

TW: Photo depiction of extreme ableist language

There are a lot of reasons why I love the terms ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender.’ Quick reminder: a transgender person is someone whose gender does not match that which they were assigned at birth, while a cisgender person is someone whose gender does match that which they were assigned at birth.

First, neither centers the others. What I mean is that just by looking at those terms, one is not “typical” or “expected” or “normal.” They represent two different realities, that is all. And while one is significantly more prevalent and expected than the other, the terms themselves do not address that prevalence or expectation. And while one identity is largely considered more “normal” than the other, they terms themselves do not perpetuate that false and dangerous notion.

Secondly, though the identities seem to function in a dichotomy, in reality, they do not. Gender is very complex, and there are so many more identities out there than the two most prevalent and well known. The terms ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ allow for that diversity of gender experiences. You can be genderqueer, you can be non-gender, biqueer, triqueer, agender, genderfucking and so much more, potentially as well as cisgender or transgender, and the terms cisgender and transgender do not preclude that, in large part because they do not function as normal/not-normal dichotomy, as described above.

This brings me to my main point–my extreme discomfort with the word ‘neurotypical.’ From the moment I heard it, I hated it. It fails in the ways that cisgender/transgender exceed. ‘Neurotypical’ creates an expectation and image of normalcy of neurology, and it creates an unrealistic dichotomy, where Autistic and Neurotypical are the only neurologies that exist. I’d like to examine those ideas, and propose better than to use when describes those are not Autistic.

What is normal, anyway? I realize that’s probably the most annoying questions ever, but we so often take normal for granted we forget what it means. Normal is average. Normal is expected. Normal is not weird. Normal is known. Normal is tolerated. Normal is, well, normal. And we live in a world were being not Autistic is considered normal.

But what if we lived in a world where everyone, save a select few, was Autistic? Where those who are not Autistic were considered weird. Unexpected. Abnormal. Autistic would be normal, and neurotypical would become neuro-atypical. Or, more likely, Autism would become neurotypical, and neurotypical would become something else, something disease or disorder that most Autistics believed needed to be eradicated.

What I’m getting at is that what is normal and what is not is a social construct. We create our social norms, and we have the power to break them. Yet if you listen to prominent “autism advocates” and autism scientists, the rhetoric employed suggests that we are broken, lost, damaged, defected, deficient and just generally not how we are supposed to be. That is, we are not normal. Neurotypical reinforces those ideas. If neurotypical is typical, or normal, then Autistic is not typical, not normal.

Sure, being Autistic is less likely statistically speaking than being neurotypical, but that doesn’t mean we have to be less expected, less usual, less well known. That doesn’t have to mean that we are any less typical than those who are not Autistic.

Another big problem I have with neurotypical is how it creates a false dichotomy with Autistic. The reality is, there might be multiple different, at times overlapping, neurologies out there. Some neurodiversity advocates believe that ADD or ADHD individuals might have a different neurotype. And there might be more neurotypes out there that have yet to be formally articulated. In that way, it’s inaccurate to use neurotypical as a descriptor of neurology, when there is the potential for such a rich diversity of neurotypes.

Finally, what on Earth does neurotypical mean? Yes, it means that you’re neurology is considered socially and culturally typical, but that doesn’t actually mean anything about neurotypical specifically. The best definition for neurotypical is not Autistic. And that doesn’t offer much insight, either.

Google Australia search page with "Allistic people should" typed in the search bar. Suggested searches are: Autistic people should be killed; Autistic people should die; Autistic people should be exterminated; why Autistic people shouldn't have children; should autistic people have children; should autistic people drive, should we kill autistic people.
Google Australia search page with “Allistic people should” typed in the search bar. Suggested searches are: Autistic people should be killed; Autistic people should die; Autistic people should be exterminated; why Autistic people shouldn’t have children; should autistic people have children; should autistic people drive, should we kill autistic people.

When we uses words like neurotypical that rely on dichotomies of normalcy and expectation to be meaningful and relevant, they actually lose all of their meaning. In the same way that by only discussing race in the context of people of color in mainstream dialogue, hence making whiteness seem like a undefined, unracialized, default, neurotypical, but being best defined as not Autistic, is this undefined, unneurologized, meaningless default.

From now on, to refer to folks who are not Autistics, I plan on using the word ‘Allistic.’ Autistic is derived from the Greek word for self, while Allistic is derived from the Greek word for other.

Allistic perpetuates no expectation of normalcy, typicality, or usualness. It exists, just like Autistic does. And while the identities might seem to form a dichotomy, the terms themselves do not.

Now, it is still difficult to define Allistic, but using the word Allistic as opposed to neurotypical might actually help with that. By treating Allistic the same way we treat Autistic, Allistics might be able to see themselves as sharing a neurotypical, which could potentially help advance conversation about what Allistic actually means.

Allyship Tip: If you are not Autistic, explore calling yourself and others who are not Autistic Allistics. That’s not to say you must call yourself or think about yourself that way, but think about the personal and political ramifications of using the identity neurotypical, and how Allistic creates a more positive image of those with different neurologies.

 

❤ Piija Suoynna Riistia