Conlang: An Introduction

One of the longest-lasting and most rewarding friendships of my life began in the sixth grade. I had just transfered to a new school, and being a shy, unathletic kid, I naturally gravitated to the other shy, unathletic kids, which in this case included Brett: a tall, skinny boy with glasses, allergies, and a gloriously nerdy set of interests. We played chess and read books together at recess. He got me to read Tolkien. And he got me into language.

In sixth grade Brett had already studied Latin and Old English, and his enthusiasm for arcane and obscure linguistic trivia infected me. I started studying Hebrew, we both dabbled in Tolkien’s languages, and we both tried to make our own languages. His languages were initially much better than mine, as he had a big head start on linguistics, and having two foreign languages already under his belt was a tremendous advantage for his initial language-construction forays. He taught me the International Phonetic Alphabet and the basics of phonology and historical linguistics. I don’t exaggerate much to say that my friendship with Brett changed my life: the interest in linguistics that he sparked never died out; Linguistics became my major in college, which led indirectly into my current day job; and my linguistic training was part of what motivated and prepared me to go to Romania where I met my wife.

He’s still better than me at linguistics, too, since he is in the last stages of finishing his PhD. in Linguistics, while I have a lowly B.A.

However, I do have one thing over him: I kept up the hobby of language creation (conlanging, as we call it), while he seemed to abandon it in high school. I’ve continued to develop languages for my fictional settings and my private amusement, and just the other day I completed an application for an actual paid conlanging gig. At this point I have at one well-documented language, Yivrian, and a whole slew of sketches, planned languages, and notes.

I’ve also put a lot of work lately into Praseo, the language used in my current WIP. And with the confluence of conlang-y things going on in my life right now, this seems like a good time to write about that aspect of my writing process, talking about how I use and create languages for my fictional settings, with pointers to how you can do the same if you’re interested.

Next week: a naming language.

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4 Comments

  1. Really? You’re married and still barely created a bit over two languages?

    It’s clear now why westerners are so uneducated. You study only inferior savage speak like hebrew. Only spoken in the ottoman empire, by the Jews and Muslims. Who are notoriously unskilled with european languages.

    You do not “create” languages. You create scripts, attribute sounds to them, and pretend like you’re original, and baptise it a “new language”. When in fact it’s just a hybrid of all the languages and expressions you learned.

    I did create over 5 languages. Original, with their own unique scripts and unique sounds. All you did is misscombine some random letters into random patterns and say them with a weird accent.

    Amateurs, you are so poseur-ish.

      1. *decree*

        haraya “to be beautiful.” is stoled from romanian. “har” which means quality or gift or skill, and “aya” is a verb suffix. Which makes “your” word archaic romanian words joined together into an adverb. 100% unoriginal, but I forgive.

        The phonology is nothing more than eccentric accents, and weird ways to pronounce the same old letters and sounds everyone is bored with. Since they don’t constitute actual letters. We’re really just talking in onomatopee’ or whatever the english term for barbaric sounds is. We just join them into words to create an illusion of diversity and originality. Which only the extinct languages are (original).

        thoyya “to fear.” it’s “teama” in romanian, again unoriginal. But loaned.

        daya, “to be in.” i won’t even go “into that” since it’s so obviously romanian.

        Eventive verbs: you should have been original especially with those. I would give you examples, but I feel it would be way over your head to even understand them.

        Lestukandya “to celebrate a feast-day,” Lestek or Lestko is the grandfather of Mieszko, the christian king of mythical poland, “andya” or “kandya” is a chocolate brand since chocolate is included in every fantasy feast for decidedly gluttonous people.

        ba one
        sim two
        né three
        tu four
        kui five
        vé six
        fé seven
        gi eight
        ka nine
        sila ten

        these sound like they’re taken from thailand or madagascar or afrika or polinezia. They’re just random silables from random languages. 100% unoriginal to the french accent on the “e”.
        masc fem masc fem
        First person évon — évona —
        Second person éson ésoné ésona ésono
        Third person animate élon éloné élona élono
        Third person inanimate éton — étona —

        Dative case Singular Plural
        masc fem masc fem
        First person évos — évosa —
        Second person éos éosé éosa éoso
        Third person animate élos élosé élosa éloso
        Third person inanimate étos — étosa —
        this is just french with elvish accents from Tolkien.

        Nominative aileva
        Genitive aaileva
        Ablative ailevona
        Dative ailevosa
        Contradative ruailevosa

        This is either “levant” or “leve” of french, which is to rise, used with Hogwarts magic accents. “Ail” is also french for feather I believe …. osa is spanish suffix, ona is east european or baltic, eva is even more common in european words.

        Is this what you were proud of? The Muses have not been kind to you …

  2. Hey there,
    I’m a conlang enthusiast and I’d love to delve into the world of conlang-for-hire, so I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction and give me any advice you can think of. I have an extensive background in foreign languages and a degree in linguistics, if that helps at all.

    Thank you for your time!
    -Jacques

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