Rhapsodaic #

Rhapsodaic is a personal philosophical conlang where the morphemes are few, the analogies are many, and the pronouns are sometimes also adverbs.

It’s a language that prioritizes conceptual content over material content; all its root words refer to emotions, and anything else can only be described in relation to those emotions. It’s a tool I’ve made and used to process hard feelings, find novel ways of conveying hard-to-phrase experiences, gain new perspectives on things I’ve taken for granted, and connect with others over the radically different ways we see ourselves and the world(s) we occupy. It’s a language I used to keep to myself, before teaching and sharing it at length with a small group of friends as part of a presentation for the 10th Language Creation Conference. And now, it’s out on the internet for anyone to learn, use, and explore. I hope you have fun doing so—though more specifically, the S1F-S2W-A3 kind of fun, which you’ll have to read on to learn more about…

-jan Usawi

Presentation at lcc10 #

This video is jan Usawi’s presentation from the 10th Language Creation Conference. They showcase the basics of Rhapsodaic, speak about a translation and language-teaching experiment they conducted with friends of theirs using the language, share their takeaways from the whole experience, and respond to some questions and comments:

Language Reference #

Stems #

Stems are the root words of Rhapsodaic, They fall into 9 groups, the first 8 of which thematically subdivide by 3s.

The following table is a generalized summary of the meanings for all 27 stems. Think of the following word lists less as defining the stem and more as collectively pointing towards the meaning of the stem; if the combinations of stage and subdivision or the word lists give you additional ideas, you may incorporate those as well.

1: Familiar: 2: Dangerous: 3: Wondrous:
Group Core Meaning Mundane, supportive, and/or within a given boundary Threatening, harmful, and/or crossing a given boundary Beautiful, transcendent, and/or beyond a given boundary Symbols
S1 The discovery of something new, the comparison of facts and ideas Curiosity, interest, realization, uncertainty, learning, contemplation Analysis, judgment, suspicion, skepticism, graveness, incisiveness Insight, clarity, understanding, recognition, wisdom, disillusionment
S2 The dissonance between what is and what could be, the stoking of longing and resistance Melancholy, frustration, bitterness, disappointment, loneliness, discontent Defiance, anger, justice, fixation, obsession, resistance Freedom, rebellion, vigor, dynamism, possibility, strangeness
S3 The confrontation of the core of the matter, the facing of one’s fears Fear, anxiety, insecurity, nervousness, deference, shame Discomfort, wrongness, horror, malice, deception, taboo Courage, power, influence, boldness, capacity, chutzpah
SC The recovery from the experience, the releasing of obligation Hope, rest, tenderness, comfort, relaxation, recovery Sorrow, grief, fury, injury, vulnerability, catharsis Compassion, care, welcoming, acceptance, warmth, empathy
C1 The journey out towards the Other, the exploration of one’s desires Connection, intimacy, togetherness, admiration, infatuation, respect Indulgence, fascination, pain, intensity, intoxication, addiction Pride, willpower, magnetism, self-love, creativity, passion
C2 The pursuit of one’s determined goals, the drive for greater things Achievement, anticipation, pursuit, success, competency, effort Exhaustion, exertion, stress, overwhelm, fatigue, pressure Flow, ease, inspiration, confidence, determination, enthusiasm
C3 The testing of what one has learned, the evidence of one’s strengths Calm, perseverance, stillness, patience, persistence, readiness Hostility, defensiveness, stubbornness, demanding, adamance, cessation Faith, peace, resolution, trust, authority, conviction
CS The retrospection on the journey thus far, the finding of value in every step Play, wonder, fantasy, daydreaming, imagination, nostalgia Levity, humor, laughter, surprise, frivolity, mischief Presence, equanimity, fulfillment, gratitude, joy, value
A Attitudinal stems (these generally don’t refer to specific emotions, but rather to “amounts” of or attitudes towards those emotions) Awareness, detachment, existence Aversion, rejection, excess Attraction, desire, lack
For those who are curious, the labels for the first 8 stems are abbreviations based on the alchemical phrase “solve et coagula.”

Connectors #

Any word has at least 2, and sometimes 3, stems with connecting lines between them.

In a 2-stem word, the second stem adds onto or modifies the first.

In a 3-stem word, the first 2 stems are analyzed as a 2-stem word and the third stem modifies the combination of the first two.

There are 3 noun connectors, and 3 verb connectors.

Name Description Symbol
Name Description Symbol

The three noun cases are fairly fluid. They are less about who the subject or object is in the English-language sense than they are about who/what is on the causing end, the receiving end, or somewhere else in the dynamic of the sentence.

Here are a few example sentences:

  • I (witness) am a student.
  • I (agent) punch the punching bag (recipient).
  • I (agent) give the box (witness) to my friend (recipient).
  • I (agent) walk through the foyer (witness).
  • I (agent) reach out to feel the wind (witness or recipient).
  • I (witness, potentially even recipient) feel the wind (witness or agent) around me.
  • I (recipient) hear you (agent).

Questions and commands use the same verb tenses as statements — a command may use the straight present or future tense as if it were an imperative, or be rephrased as a statement (i.e. “I want this from you.”)

Both nouns and verbs can function as modifiers (adjectives, adverbs, etc.) to either nouns or verbs; this is denoted by a hyphen between the noun/verb and its modifier. As is the case within single words, modifiers always follow their modifieds.

Other than this rule about modifiers always coming after what they modify, word order is relatively free. As an English speaker, subject-verb-object is likely most familiar to you, but rearrangements of this structure are permitted if they make sense to you, and encouraged if you feel like they add useful nuance.

The attitudinal stems, in a way the others don’t, generally have different meanings when places as the first or second stem in a word.

As a reminder, here are the A1, A2, and A3 stems respectively:

A1 - Existance #

  1. Explicit awareness or existence of ⠀⠀
    • “I’m aware that I am angry.”
    • “Angry is definitely how I’m feeling.”
  2. ⠀⠀, which is regarded neutrally/which just exists
    • “I’m angry, but I’m not attached one way or another to the experience.”
    • “I’m just plain angry.”

A2 - Excess #

  1. An excess of ⠀⠀ compared to what is desired or expected
    • “I’m feeling too angry.”
    • “I’m more angry at this than I thought I’d be.”
  2. ⠀⠀, which does exist and which the referent or author does not approve of and/or wishes to end or decrease
    • “I’m angry, but I don’t like it.”
    • “I shouldn’t be feeling angry, but I am.”

A3 - Lacking #

  1. A lack of ⠀⠀ compared to what is desired or expected
    • “I’m not feeling angry enough.”
    • “I want to be angry.”
  2. ⠀⠀, which does exist and which the referent or author approves of and/or wishes to maintain or increase
    • “I’m angry, and I think this is a good thing.”
    • “I want to keep feeling angry.”

These, too, can combine.

How might you convey the idea at the core of the sentence “I do feel right in being angry about this, but this much anger is overkill” in a three-stem word?

Diacritics #

By default, all words refer to emotions. To refer to things that aren’t emotions, a diacritic can be added above or below the connector. This shifts the word from meaning “the given emotion” to meaning “a ⠀⠀ that feels, elicits, or otherwise is associated with the given emotion,” with the blank filled in as follows:

Name Description Symbol
Place Physical or metaphorical locations
Time Stretches of time, situations, or events
Action Actions, things one can do
Experiance Sensations, experiences, and their causes
Animate 3rd Person People, animate or sentient entities
Inanimate 3rd Person Objects, things
1st Person Writer or quoted speaker
2nd Person Reader or addressee

The animate and inanimate 3rd person diacritics are fairly flexible in their usage. If you want to ascribe something agency or personhood, you can use the animate diacritic to describe something that may more literally be considered inanimate, and vice versa.

Nouns do not carry any information about number, and can be treated as either singular or plural.

Verbs can take all the same diacritics that nouns can. Meanings can include copulas (she is a friend), existentials (it is morning), verbs of action (I laughed at it) or of state (are you feeling cold?), to causatives (I made him tired “I tired-ed him”).

3-stem words can also take diacritics. If a diacritic is placed above or below the entire word, the meaning is taken to apply to the full combination of stems (as detailed in the Connectors section). Diacritics can also be placed on individual connectors within a 3-stem word; in this case, the diacritic (or lack thereof) above/below the first connector applies to the combination of the first two stems, and the diacritic (or lack thereof) above/below the second connector applies to the third stem.

With all these rules set aside, there’s still plenty of room for nuance and variability. At this point, the difference between one potential way of phrasing or another is all about subtler implications in meaning than it is about grammar. This is a language to play around with; if there’s something you want to do with it that this reference doesn’t clearly explain, see if you can make the existing building blocks work in your favor to do it. It’s what I do.

Example Sentences #

Original Text: “I’m a shooting star leaping through the sky like a tiger, defying the laws of gravity”

Alt: I, the freshman who everyone thinks looks like a bully for some reason, am giving a speech on following your dreams in the school auditorium, and it’s jostling everyone’s sense of defensiveness and commitment to this idea that they have to respect the authority they feel their peers have over them

Lit. “I, of enthusiastic joy, and related to a being of furious strength, act in a determined but playful way in a place characterized by curious possibilities, and act in a way that evokes a sense of mischievous rebellion, towards the source of a sensation of calm and wise firmness that evokes a similarly acted-upon experience of trust in connections.”

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