Why you should buy a copy of Frédéric Werst’s “Ward”

I haven’t finished reading the book myself. It is bilingual French-Wardesan. Having put some thought into the matter, I’m currently believe that you can’t properly review a language without acquiring some competency in it. So it could take years before there are any reviews of this language that are not based on superficialities.

Wardesan is a completed language. The grammar guide runs about 28 pages.   My rough count is at least 2800 (although several articles say 3400) words in the glossary.  So this isn’t an underspecified language.  The greatest accomplishment is that there are 350 pages of canonical corpus with side by side French-Wardesan text. This guy did the equivalent of Locowrimo (write a novel in a month in a conlang), except over a few years and finished.

The language is very much a Tolkien language. It has a fake culture, a fake map, and a fake history, so this borders on being an fictional anthropological report. I was hoping the “roman” was a novel with characters that had dialog, but a quick flip through shows very few quotation marks. This is a work of exposition, which is too bad, because that is going to limit the audience somewhat.  I remember reading Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin when I was younger and I kept wondering when the story would start.

The vocabulary so far appears to be apriori. The grammar is based on suffixes on nouns. The pronouns inflect and the verb mostly stays the same. Without being competent in it, I’d say this is no more exotic than a randomly selected language of Indoeuropean descent.

Fan Friendliness
In interviews, the author said he’d respond to letters written in Wardesan. I haven’t found his presence on the web, so it is a bit early to say if he’ll be largely absent like the creators of toki pona or Klingon, or engaged with the community, like Na’vi. At least he is capable of being engaged, unlike Tolkien.

No surprisingly, French fans are deciphering this first. From that page I gleaned that Wardesan is inspired by a mixture of the languages and civilizations of North Africa, the Mediterranean and Middle East.

No fan has posted the vocabulary list online yet. A fan community can’t exist without a public wordlist. I’ll put it on my todo list, but the todo list is long and the day is short.

The Conculture
It’s too early to say how closely tied the language is to the conculture. I get the impression from the newspaper articles that this language has been in the works long before this book was written and long before the conculture was created. If this is the case, they I’d expect that this is a culturally neutral language. In any case, the conculture isn’t all that far from what really happened in and around Europe. I’m guardedly optimistic about how much cultural shock is involved in just learning the language. (FYI, I have pretty strong opinions about culture, conlangs and conlangs-for-fans– namely that I don’t like to learn conlangs that are so tightly woven into a particular culture than you can’t learn them without getting a big dose of someones propaganda, politics and social opinions– which isn’t to say conlangs should be “neutral” but they should be capable of expressing a variety of real world cultural experiences the same way that French can be spoken in wildly different places and express different cultures)

Orthography
The language has 3 vowels with diacritics ā, ē, ō.  On windows 7 (and I assume many other OS’s) you can get these by switching to the Maori keyboard.  Produce ā by hitting ~ + a Unlike some other international keyboards, the Maori layout leaves the punctuation in place (at least for my favorite punctuation). I would have preferred no diacritics, but thanks to the Maori keyboard, this isn’t too bad.

Phonetics and Phonotactics
Appears to be (C)VC(CVC)  with some consonant clusters, no obvious vowel clusters. IPA not provided, but there isn’t much new. The phonetic inventory appears to be a subset of German, English, French and Arabics (at least by looking at the guidance, “* is pronounced like the English #”)

…. Break time.

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