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Author Topic: Gnomish Vocabulary and Grammar Discussion  (Read 37483 times)
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Bard Judith
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« on: 15 September 2007, 20:57:06 »

I'll ask Art to make this a sticky, as we have at least two people interested in taking the Gnomish language, shaking it till it screeches, and giving it a make-over!

--------------------------------------------------

For now, Gaffin and I would like to make some proposals and discussions in this thread - I'll edit it as need be later.

------------------------------------------

Gaffin's ideas:

Here I am with a few suggestions for the Gnomish language that I jotted down. Mind you, I'm no expert in linguistics and it's quite possible that none of this is of any practicality. But, anyway...

- As you said, 's' could be replaced with 'z' to create the tougher sound that people associate with the Gnomes. So, there is no letter 's'.
- Again, I agree with removing 'c' from the language as well. For words such as "chariot", or "champion", we could use 'tz', or something similar. E.g.: "tzampion"
- I think the 'y' sound, as in, "yogurt", should be replaced with 'euh', and used only as a replacement for the 'ih' sound: "introduction", "illness".
-The long 'e' sound, as in, "elope" and "elongate", could be represented by "ii", "ie" and/or "ea", as opposed to merely a single 'e'.



That's all I have on my sheet pertaining to letter use, and of course there's lots more that could be modified. Anyway, onto syntax.

- I was thinking of pretty much completely remodeling the way sentences are structured; not removing the basic principle of particles and word type indicators, but in a way that we can include those but make the language more interesting - give it a more Gnomish feel. - Since the Gnomes like to express their ideas in a scholarly, factual sense, consider this proposal: containing the subject and main verb in the middle of the sentence, contained in double quotation marks, and seperated by an apostrophe. The words describing the noun would be contained on the left side of the "main idea" (adjectives and the like), while words describing the verb would be contained on the right.

For example: The young boy eagerly walked his dog; young "boy'walked" eagerly his dog.

Let's take that and convert it to some very bad made-up Gnomish:

euhng "malbotti'merch" iigor malbottiz-dog

Doesn't that look kind of cool? It does to me!

Now of course, many things would have to be decided if we wanted to integrate this: the order of word types in relation to the main idea - or if they came in their respective order when spoken in Tharian.

Now, for sentences with a main idea, followed by a supportive sentence...

the dog, which was brown, barked loudly

Since the main idea is the dog barking, it would be logical to have the main topic in the middle no matter what; so the supportive sentence comes first.

Let's use a word-type identifier now. Let's say 'lim' is for adjectives. We could write the supportive sentence like this:

lim viitz uuz brun

The 'lim' indicating the sentence fragment is actually an adjective, in a sense, to the main idea. Now, every sentence should ideally have a main idea in its center, right? Well, this fragment doesn't have a subject, so why not just indicate that the subject is the main sentence? The main sentence would be considered the subject, and as such, a noun, which is 'wer', I think. So we could now write it like this:

lim viitz brun "wer'uuz"

Notice, I moved 'uuz', for 'was', into the main idea for the main idea of this adjective-fragment.

Now - onto the main sentence. To keep things identifiable, we should still seperate them with a comma, but now we need to identify which is the main sentence, or the subject of the whole sentence. In this case, it is the adjacent sentence. So we could write:

wer "dog'horznuzz" lotlie

'Wer' indicating that it is the main sentence, or the main idea of the series of sentences.

Now, for some sentences, an additional 'adverb-fragment' would need to be added to the right, but since it is only one word, "loudly" can be included in the main sentence. So, overall, we have:

lim viitz brun "wer'uuz", wer "dog'horznuzz" lotlie

That sounds sort of fun to say - to me, atleast.


Judy's response:

It does look totally cool, and I love the suggested letter replacements!  However, my eyes start glazing over when we get to syntax, dear Gaffin!  Despite being an English teacher, or perhaps because, I have little interest in figuring out the intricacies of different grammatical structures.  Etymology, neology, and the actual words are my fascination - so I will be thrilled if Gaffin wants to take what we have of Gnomish and actually make a consistent Grammarye for it... :)   

  I don't know if it's possible to still contact Rayne and get her take on this, or some further explanation, because what's on the site looks like a cross-section of what she had in her head and is by no means comprehensive.  There isn't even a vocabulary list - all kinds of words are used in her grammatical examples which aren't defined other than in the translated sentence and in the conjugated form.

And I still want this language to have a technical, slightly Greco-Roman feel so that we can derive 'scientific' terms legitimately for Tharian!  :)
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« Reply #1 on: 15 September 2007, 23:11:29 »

Just a quick thought before I go eat lunch...

With quotation marks being used to indicate the main idea of a sentence, how would we handle quotations in Gnomish speech? How about this -

when I asked him, he said :do not worry:

- surrounding the quote with colons?

Then, how would we handle lists effectively so that they can be easily discerned with a quick read-through? We could do this:

"we'need" :: "cookie dough" ;; three tall "poles" ;; whole wheat "bread" :: for the party

Double colons indicating the start of a list, with each item surrounded by quotation marks, as they are also, in a sense, vital to the statement and main ideas of a sorts, on their own. They are seperated by semicolons, and the list is ended with another double colon.
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« Reply #2 on: 16 September 2007, 02:13:27 »

I know my views about language development are not very welcome on this board, but hopefully you will at least consider what I say. 

First, I want to point out that it is important not to confuse language with writing.  Writing is just a way of representing language. 

Quote
- As you said, 's' could be replaced with 'z' to create the tougher sound that people associate with the Gnomes. So, there is no letter 's'.
For the 'z' sound to exist in a language without the 's' sound is very strange, from what I know.  I asked Anwulf about something similar once.  Apparently, it is very strange to have a voiced sound in a language without its voiceless counterpart (which is the relationship between the 'z' and 's' sounds). 

Quote
- Again, I agree with removing 'c' from the language as well. For words such as "chariot", or "champion", we could use 'tz', or something similar. E.g.: "tzampion"
- I think the 'y' sound, as in, "yogurt", should be replaced with 'euh', and used only as a replacement for the 'ih' sound: "introduction", "illness".
-The long 'e' sound, as in, "elope" and "elongate", could be represented by "ii", "ie" and/or "ea", as opposed to merely a single 'e'.
Well, these are really all about how you are going to represent the sounds of the language.  Ideally, you should first make a list of the sounds you have in the language, then assign letters to them.  I would personally recommend against having more sounds than there are letters in the English alphabet, as finding ways to represent those additional sounds can be quite a headache (one of the reasons English spelling is so complicated, IMO, is that it is trying to represent about 40 sounds with just 26 letters). 

Quote
- I was thinking of pretty much completely remodeling the way sentences are structured; not removing the basic principle of particles and word type indicators, but in a way that we can include those but make the language more interesting - give it a more Gnomish feel. - Since the Gnomes like to express their ideas in a scholarly, factual sense, consider this proposal: containing the subject and main verb in the middle of the sentence, contained in double quotation marks, and seperated by an apostrophe. The words describing the noun would be contained on the left side of the "main idea" (adjectives and the like), while words describing the verb would be contained on the right.

For example: The young boy eagerly walked his dog; young "boy'walked" eagerly his dog.
Again, it is important to not think in terms of writing.  Punctuation is used for writing, but they aren't actually a part of speech, so you shouldn't be using them to distinguish anything in speech.  That could be how Gnomes write though, which would probably be fine, assuming they actually use the same alphabet and punctuation, though I don't think it would be too necessary.  After all, punctuation does not appear in speech, and people can understand each other's speech with no problem.  Also, this would avoid the problem of how to represent a quote in writing.   ;)

Quote
it would be logical to have the main topic in the middle no matter what; so the supportive sentence comes first.
Not really.  There isn't any structure that is inherently more logical than another.  Though it seems that for some reason nearly all Human languages have subjects coming before objects. 

Anyway, perhaps a rigid sentence structure might be going against the original idea.  From the entry:
Quote
The language is also fairly loose. Things can be switched and turned around, but as long as the proper particles are put in where they’re supposed to be, there is no trouble.
This seems to suggest a fairly free word order, with the roles of each word being marked by particles and/or inflections, like in Latin or Japanese.  The main exception seems to be this:
Quote
Unlike Styrásh, the verb is almost always found on the end, though sometimes informal speak can change this rule.

Which was probably taken from Japanese, which was the language Rayne based Gnomish on. 

And finally, if you don't mind a bit of work, this site is great for those who are looking into creating languages. 
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« Reply #3 on: 16 September 2007, 03:50:42 »

First, I want to point out that it is important not to confuse language with writing.  Writing is just a way of representing language.

I am aware of this, and the reason I am discussing the writing aspect is because that is what is contained in the entry on the Gnomish language, mainly.


For the 'z' sound to exist in a language without the 's' sound is very strange, from what I know.  I asked Anwulf about something similar once.  Apparently, it is very strange to have a voiced sound in a language without its voiceless counterpart (which is the relationship between the 'z' and 's' sounds).

The Gnomes can be a very strange race, too - I don't see what the problem is.

Well, these are really all about how you are going to represent the sounds of the language.  Ideally, you should first make a list of the sounds you have in the language, then assign letters to them.  I would personally recommend against having more sounds than there are letters in the English alphabet, as finding ways to represent those additional sounds can be quite a headache (one of the reasons English spelling is so complicated, IMO, is that it is trying to represent about 40 sounds with just 26 letters).

I don't know about that - let's see Judith's opinion.

Again, it is important to not think in terms of writing.  Punctuation is used for writing, but they aren't actually a part of speech, so you shouldn't be using them to distinguish anything in speech.  That could be how Gnomes write though, which would probably be fine, assuming they actually use the same alphabet and punctuation, though I don't think it would be too necessary.  After all, punctuation does not appear in speech, and people can understand each other's speech with no problem.  Also, this would avoid the problem of how to represent a quote in writing.   ;)

I'm sure we wouldn't have to much trouble simultaneously developing their speech and writing... right now I'm just throwing in ideas to get feedback.

Which was probably taken from Japanese, which was the language Rayne based Gnomish on.

You see, that is the problem; we're trying to develop a language based on Latin (because they are the main scholars and inventors in Santharia) and Slavic languages (for the rigid sounds). As far as I know, Gnomes do not really have anything to do with the Japanese, so I think the system that is set up now does not really do a proper job in portraying their culture.

Mina - everyone's opinions are welcome here, and I appreciate your comments. We will have to take these problems into consideration when we actually begin to devise the language, as right now, as I mentioned above, we're just brainstorming and throwing ideas out into the open for feedback. Developing the speech-side of the language will be no sweat, really, once we revise their alphabet and the like. Anyway, let's see what Judith has to say. In the meantime, I will definitely check out that link. Thanks!  grin thumbup
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« Reply #4 on: 16 September 2007, 08:05:36 »

In terms of writing:  I really think that we have enough different fonts/alphabets on the site, and no real reason to invent yet another one.  Gnomes, like Hobbits, have been living and working in close interaction with Humans (unlike Elves in their forest enclaves and Dwarves in underground seclusion) for thousands of years of recorded Santharian history.   Hobbits speak and write Tharian, with, of course, their own dialectal variations, as do almost all of the Human tribes.   I propose that Gnomes should also, by this point in history, be speaking and writing in Tharian - (as well as their own cultural language) thus making them our main fully bi-lingual tribe/race.

However, since they adopted our alphabet (er, I mean the Tharian/human alphabet) fairly early on, some peculiarities have crept into it - such as using 'z' for 's'.   This is actually not as strange as it might seem, for two reasons.

First:  transliterating between alphabets can only ever be an approximation.  In Hangul, the Korean script, the 'kiut' can be represented by either a 'k' or a 'g' - the actual sound is somewhere in between.  Which means that you can encounter either 'Gyeongido' or 'Kyonggido' on road signs and must be aware that they are the same place (well, the same province, technically...)   Thus, there's no reason why the gnomish pronunciation of the most common sibilant can't be somewhere between an 's' and a 'z' and be represented by a 'z' in written Gnomic.

Second:  While Gnomes and Humans have lived and worked together for many years, they are still different races.  Far too frequently it is common for developers to simply assume human physiology and psychology applies (eg. Dwarves are just short bearded humans, elves are tall slim artsy humans, etc. etc.) consistently to other completely different races!   One reason I liked Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Galadriel was that I felt she conveyed some of that otherworldliness and non-human quality of the elves, in a way that merely-pretty Liv as Arwen did not. 

Thus, it would be logical to give the Gnomes a different sound, based on their alternative physical stature (shorter vocal cords, wider voice boxes, fuller but shorter chests, smaller heads and resonating cavities, etc.)  Perhaps they simply cannot produce certain sounds, but have others which are not 'human'!

The Xhosa of Africa incorporate clicks into their language which are very difficult for non-native speakers; Dutch has an 'eu' sound which most North Americans can't manage; Korean has no theta or 'th' sound and usually substitutes 'd' at the beginning of a word or 's' at the end;  the Parisian French 'gargle' their 'r's in a charming manner unreproducible and indescribable... and these variations exist among the mere homo sapiens...


Mina, you are right about the sounds / letters correspondence - it was very tricky to do for ThergerimTaal and I only added a 'th' rune and eliminated 'c'...   

I'd definitely suggest that we spend a lot of time brainstorming about how we see the Gnomish culture as distinct in Caelereth and 'backstory' the language based on that, because 'philology recapitulates philosophy', one of my maxims!    As Gaffin points out, there doesn't seem to be any reason to use Japanese as an inspiration, other than that Rayne, the original creator, was studying it and found it a fascinating language.   Let us instead try to get inside the Gnomish head and see how they would think it 'logical' to arrange a sentence - whether we should have a strictly composed grammar or a more flexible one, a rigid spelling or a variable one, a system of conjugations or particles or prefixes... and so on!

Oh, I hope we can get Anwulf in here for a few comments!
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« Reply #5 on: 16 September 2007, 10:58:45 »

Right now I'm developing a list of possible phonemes for the language, as Mina suggested, which include a number of exclusively (I think) Gnomish sounds. I've also created a few different letters in case they are welcome. I will post this up once it's finished.  thumbup
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« Reply #6 on: 16 September 2007, 15:08:52 »

Quote
The Gnomes can be a very strange race, too - I don't see what the problem is.
Well, yes, with alien races, it's possible, perhaps even realistic, to break some of the rules.  But it pays to be aware of them all the same. 

Quote
First:  transliterating between alphabets can only ever be an approximation.  In Hangul, the Korean script, the 'kiut' can be represented by either a 'k' or a 'g' - the actual sound is somewhere in between.  Which means that you can encounter either 'Gyeongido' or 'Kyonggido' on road signs and must be aware that they are the same place (well, the same province, technically...)   Thus, there's no reason why the gnomish pronunciation of the most common sibilant can't be somewhere between an 's' and a 'z' and be represented by a 'z' in written Gnomic.
I'm not sure, but I think that Korean might not have any voicing distinction, and that the sound is realised as voiced or unvoiced depending on the situation.  But anyway, I don't think that there is a sound that is somewhere between English 's' and 'z'.  In English, the difference between 'k' and 'g' is normally not just in voicing, but aspiration as well, so there is a sound that would seem to be in between those two: unaspirated 'k' (in English this can normally be found after 's'; consider the difference between how 'k' is pronounced in 'skit' and 'kit'). 

But, I think it's not too hard to have 's' become 'z' in most situations.  For example, you could have a rule saying that 's' becomes voiced whenever it occurs between vowels (and possibly the same might happen to other sounds too; that should be more realistic than it occuring only to one sound).  That they simply spell the 's' sound with the letter 'z', as you suggest, could work too I guess, though it would be a bit confusing. 

Quote
Thus, it would be logical to give the Gnomes a different sound, based on their alternative physical stature (shorter vocal cords, wider voice boxes, fuller but shorter chests, smaller heads and resonating cavities, etc.)  Perhaps they simply cannot produce certain sounds, but have others which are not 'human'!
Yes, that is true.  One of the advantages of creating non-Human languages is that you don't have to follow the rules of Human language.  But like I said, it's still good to know what they are, so you are know when you're breaking the rules. 

Quote
You see, that is the problem; we're trying to develop a language based on Latin (because they are the main scholars and inventors in Santharia) and Slavic languages (for the rigid sounds). As far as I know, Gnomes do not really have anything to do with the Japanese, so I think the system that is set up now does not really do a proper job in portraying their culture.
Quote
As Gaffin points out, there doesn't seem to be any reason to use Japanese as an inspiration, other than that Rayne, the original creator, was studying it and found it a fascinating language.   

Well, I was thinking that the aim was to flesh out Rayne's original concept, not to change it completely. 
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« Reply #7 on: 16 September 2007, 22:06:45 »

Except that without more to work with from the original concept, we can't really go anywhere.  As you may have observed, I am a large respecter of precedent - I believe it's actually far more a test of one's creativity and innovativeness to work within established boundaries or to come up with 'backstory' rationales to make disparate elements from different creators mesh into the unity that is the Dream.

However, while I certainly intend to carry on the established concept of Gnomes as the alchemists, inventors, and manufacturing mainstay of Santharia, I think that currently the language is NOT an effective representation of that and hasn't been adequately developed.  No disrespect to Rayne's work is intended; had she remained long enough to flesh it out with all her concepts and the vocabulary lists she doubtless had in her head, we would not need to have this discussion at all.  At the level which Gnomic currently exists, I'd argue that we are better off to start afresh, or at least merely incorporate the words (and similar syllables) which she has designed into our Language Generator but use our own consistent new grammar structure.

BTW, thanks for your input and suggestions, Mina - they certainly ARE welcome at any time.   This sort of discussion is what enriches ideas and creates a truly 'team' final result.    (hugs to both Mina and Gaffin)
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« Reply #8 on: 16 September 2007, 23:59:34 »

Perhaps you are right.  Though hopefully we'll be able to get some input from Rayne too. 

*hugs back*
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« Reply #9 on: 17 September 2007, 00:01:32 »

Hugs to you, too! Here I have a list of phonemes that I could come up with for Gnomish. Of course, a lot of work can be done with it, but again - just a concept.

Gnomish Phonemes

Consonants
New sounds are underlined, possible new letters bolded. * indicates appendix explanation.

Phoneme                                Sample Words                        Letter Representation

/b/                                       baby, build, crab                                letter 'b'
/cr/*                                    none                                                invented(?)
/d/                                      doom, ladder, bad                              letter 'd'
/f/                                       fruit, hefty, craft                                 letter 'f'
/G/                                      giraffe, gym, gem                              letter 'j'
/g/                                    gate, grain, haggard                            letter 'g'
/h/                                    happy, history, hard                             letter 'h'
/k/                                        crack, ink, kink                                letter 'k'
/L/*                                     none                                             invented(?)
/l/                                     loan, help, hall                                     letter 'l'
/M/*                                    none                                            invented(?)
/m/                                   mate, calm, ram                                  letter 'm'
/n/                                    new, can, cranberry                             letter 'n'
/p/                                   pale, pane, overlap                              letter 'p'
/rr/*                                    none                                            invented(?)
/r/                                   roll, tribute, eerie                                 letter 'r'
/thd/*                                 none                                             invented(?)
/v/                                  very, having, travel                               letter 'v'
/w/*                                 where, how, new                              letter 'w'
/x/                                  hexagon, exit, hoax                             letters 'kz'
/y/                                  yogurt, hay, yellow                             letters 'euh'
/z/                                     zoo, zany, hazy                                  letter 'x'
/zh/                                        measure                                       letter 'z'



Vowels in a seperate post...
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« Reply #10 on: 17 September 2007, 00:13:39 »

Gnomish Phonemes

Vowels
New sounds are underlined, possible new letters bolded. * indicates appendix explanation.

Phoneme                                Sample Words                        Letter Representation

/A/                                        ace, able, late                                  letter 'a'
/a/                                       act, argue, hang                                letter 'a'
/E/                                    electric, eager, elope                         letters 'ii', 'ie'
/e/                                     enemy, enter, etch                             letter 'e'
/I/                                         I, iodine, light                                  letter 'i'
/i/                                       inner, bin, delight                               letter 'i'
/O/                                     open, ore, stroke                               letter 'o'
/o/                                     octopus, long, doll                              letter 'o'
/oe/*                                      [french] oeuf                                letter 'œ'
/ou/                                       out, loud, cow                              invented(?)
/U/                                       you, blue, glue                                letter 'ü'
/u/                                      under, bulge, null                              letter 'u'
« Last Edit: 17 September 2007, 00:28:40 by Gaffin » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: 17 September 2007, 00:22:03 »

Gnomish Phonemes

Appendix (Pronunciations)

/cr/ is formed by lightly touching the tongue to the roof of one's mouth, and exhaling, creating sort of a soft 'k' sound.

/L/ is formed by touching the tongue firmly to the roof of one's mouth, then exhaling and flicking the tongue off of it. Like a normal 'l', only more pronounced.

/M/ is formed by overlapping one's bottom lip with one's top to as far as it can go, then exhaling and moving the lips apart.

/rr/ is formed by very lightly touching the tip of one's tongue to the roof of one's mouth, then vibrating one's vocal cords, creating a "rolled" 'r' sound. (FOR CANADIANS: RRRRRRRRRRRROLL UP THE RIM TO WIN!)

/thd/ is formed by touching one's top front teeth with one's tongue, making a 't' sound, and then, from that position, touching off the roof of one's mouth to create a dull 'duh' sort of noise. (PARODY, BUT SORT OF TRUE: A RUSSIAN ASKING FOR A "DRINK")

/oe/ is formed by making a circle with one's lips, and exhaling. (?)
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« Reply #12 on: 17 September 2007, 00:27:10 »

I was going to comment, but it looks like Anwulf is here, so let's see what he has to say first. 

*wonders if Anwulf uses email notification*
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« Reply #13 on: 17 September 2007, 00:45:36 »

Blimey! I can see that people have been busy with Gnomish. :)

There's a lot here to comment on, but I think at this stage you need to be considering the broad picture rather than get utterly bogged down on details.

1. What sounds are going to be in the language and how are they going to be represented in writing? (Be consistent!)
2. What types of syllables are permissible? (Think of general structure, not specific combinations of sounds.)
3. What sort of stress system is it going to have? Where will primary stress be assigned? Is there any secondary stress?
4. What sort of inflectional morphology is the language going to have? Lots like Finnish, Russian or Chukchi? Some, like Italian or Spanish? Or not much at all, like English or Chinese?
5. (For later.) What are the derivational morphemes of the language?
6. What is the syntax of the major clause constituents of the language? SVO like English; SOV like Japanese or Vedic Sanskrit; VSO like the Afro-Asiatic languages or the Celtic languages?
7. What's the structure of the phrase? Do modifiers follow their heads (so most VO languages, including VSO languages)? Or do modifiers precede their heads (so most OV languages)?

Languages with free word order such as Warlpiri or, apparently, Hungarian are rare. The idea of free word order is usually completely misleading. Even in highly inflected languages there's really no such thing.

For the most part, if a language has voiced sounds such as /b, d, g/, then it probably also has /p, t, k/. But it's possibly for languages to have the marked member of such a pair while the unmarked sound is absent. It's called an accidental gap. (This is an observation about the whole s ~ z thing that was mentioned somewhere far above. :) )
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« Reply #14 on: 17 September 2007, 00:49:39 »

I was going to comment, but it looks like Anwulf is here, so let's see what he has to say first. 

*wonders if Anwulf uses email notification*

Oh don't let me stop you from commenting. :)

Besides, I'm trying to stick with general comments rather than detailed ones on the specifics.
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