Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice is a novel in the form of a multiple choice exam. (Highly recommended—it’s a reading experience unlike any other.)
Given this precedent, I format my thoughts below as questions from an as of yet unwritten exam-novel. I don’t know the answers, you might.
Each language has a number of phonemes (distinct sounds).
Define a phonetic complement of a language to be all the sounds not used by that language.
- Are there languages living in the phonetic complements of each other?
- If not, is it possible to construct a meaningful language in the phonetic complement of any given existing language?
- If so, given a sufficiently well-defined framework of phonemes achievable by the human vocal apparatus, can we construct a set of pairwise disjoint languages that completely exhaust all possible phonemes?
Rider: Each language has a number of morphemes (smallest meaningful units of language). If the morpheme complement at a given time t (we have to freeze time as languages evolve) is defined to be the collection of unused morphemes of that language, how would you go about constructing a new language using the same phonemes but contained in the morpheme complement?
This is part of a series of short holiday posts that are mostly excerpts and thoughts from my literary diary. Here is what a “usual” post on Quiver Quotes looks like: Life Without Parenthesis …