50 Ways to Calque Your Mother Tongue

We all know the ordinary ways to calque your mother tongue– by wholesale import of lexical items, loan words, syntax and morphology.  It is the sign of a clumsy language, something more akin to a cipher than a foreign language. But there are more subtle calques.

Single word definitions.
batl – honor, from Klingon. There are 24 distinct definitions of honor in English. Conlang lexicons with single word definitions are calques.  There is no particular reason for all 24 sense of honor to carried to Klingon in a tidy package.

Borrowed Metaphors
TIME IS MOTION. FUTURE IS FORWARD.  FAMILY IS CORDS OR ROPE.  Unless you deal with all concepts lexically from the start and have a huge dictionary, then phrases will be built.  They will likely calque your mother tongues metaphor system. e.g. toki pona: tempo kama la mi moli.  “In the time (which is moving towards me) I’ll die”

Borrowed “Obsessions” (aka grammaticalizations)
English really cares about how many things are on the stage, when things happened, if actors are male or female, living or dead. These metaphysical obsessions are peculiar to your mother tongue, not to people in general.  I’m calling these obsessions because even if you deem tense, gender, aspect as optional, it is hard to say when time really is salient when you’ve been obsessing about it your entire life.

Advice.
* Each item in your lexicon should be illustrated by a full sentence illustrating one sense of the word.
* Metaphors should be an explicit part of the lexicon, or abstractions should be lexicalized– which has the same effect as a dead metaphor.
* Grammaticalizations are certainly in most specifications for conlang. The obsessions generally are not– obsessions might be morphological (word endings), syntactic (word order), or lexical (eg. pairs of words for all professions to indicate gender), and it might not be *obligatory*, obsessions are those things that occur more often than their salience dictates.

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