A constructed language, or a conlang for short, is any language that has been created not by natural processes of evolution, but deliberately by an individual or group. The reasons for creating a language are many, and conlangs are often classified according to their purpose. There are three main types of conlangs. International Auxiliary Languages, sometimes referred to as auxlangs, are the most famous and probably most useful type of conlangs. These languages are created to ease communication between people of different nationalities. Probably the most famous conlang of all is Esperanto, a language constructed from Romance, Germanic and Slavic roots which was invented in the 19th century to facilitate communication in the international community, especially in Europe and the Americas. Auxlangs are useful in and of themselves because they are easy to learn by people from a wide range of backgrounds. Moreover, it’s been observed that students with experience in Esperanto have an easier time learning natural foreign languages. Auxlangs often feature highly regular and predictable grammar, which is supposed to make the languages easier both to learn and to understand.
Artistic languages, or simply artlangs, are languages created not to ease communication but to explore language as an art form. Fictional languages are a type of artlang used in works of fiction, including novels, television shows and film, to give more depth to fantastical characters. Some famous languages of this type include the Klingon and Vulcan languages of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek and the languages of the elves in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series.
Engineered languages have been created not to flesh out a fictional society but to explore the limits of language itself. Some engineered languages are designed to condense the largest possible amount of information into the fewest possible syllables. An example of this type of language is Ithkuil, the name of which translates roughly to “an ideal of a complete and useful system of words.” However, some engineered languages are created with the exact opposite purpose. Toki Pona is a language which is intended to explore the Daoist philosophy of minimalism – to that end, the language contains only 123 words.
- 1 Reasons for Constructing a Language
- 2 How not to Construct a Language
- 3 Constructing a Language
Reasons for Constructing a Language
There are actually quite a few reasons why one might want to create one's own constructed language. These reasons follow.
Creating a conlang is actually very fun to most people, as it is their own work. Most people believe having a small project to work on in free time is a good thing to do when bored, or just for the plain fun of creating your own language.
Conlangs can also factor into larger creative projects such as worldbuilding, or can add extra flavour to a book, television series, movie, video game, etc.
Creating a language gives one insight on how languages work and it can give one knowledge on how one’s own language is structured, as well as other languages that are similar to your own. In can often make it easier to learn a second language as you will known most of the linguistic terms used in describing and teaching languages.
With your own conlang, you can earn privacy between close friends who may want to learn your language. It may take some work but no one who doesn't know the language will be able to eavesdrop on your conversations.
How not to Construct a Language
There are plenty of misconceptions when ordinary people think about constructed languages, a few of them are listed below.
Constructed languages are not codes of each other--with this, you haven't created a conlang but just an encryption as it is just a matter of finding the meanings of words and changing them to English. The grammar also varies greatly in languages.
Constructed languages are actually not very easy to construct contrary to some beliefs, although a language similar to your native tongue can be simpler to learn and create for you, it may not be so for others. It takes time and patience to create a conlang that works correctly and sounds like a language. However, the end product is often a wonder.
Technically speaking, it is true, though most humans have some basic apparent sets on how a language shouldn't be like. Linguistic Universals are important and should be followed, unless you are creating a completely unique language.
Constructing a Language
A Few Preliminary Considerations
The first step to creating your very own language is to decide what it’s for, how it will work, and how you would like it to sound.
It may be useful to consider the grammars and phonologies of a wide range of languages and then zero in on the features that seem most appropriate for your purpose. This approach will ensure that your language doesn’t end up being nothing more than a word-for-word translation of English (or whatever your native language might be) and that its phonology isn’t too similar to that of English.
Natural languages may be categorized according to their grammar in many different ways – in fact, categorizing languages is its own field of study, referred to as typology or typological linguistics. It will be useful to determine exactly where you want your language to fit into the puzzle before you begin your work.
Also referred to as word order, the constituent order is the arrangement of the various elements of a sentence or phrase. The first arrangement to consider is that of the subject, object and verb.
SOV – the most common constituent order, SOV is used in languages all over the world, including Japanese, Korean and Latin. Consider the following examples of the phrase “I eat meat” in Japanese and Latin.
Watashi wa niku o taberu.
Ego carnem edō
SVO – the second most common order. SVO is the word order of most European languages, including English, Spanish and French.
For some more information, see the following:
- Sounds: A crash course on sounds and the International Phonetic Alphabet. It is strongly recommended to read this guide first.
- Phonotactics: Useful information about phonotactics and consonant clusters. Recommended to be read second.
- Orthography: Information on the orthography representing sounds or words in a language.
- Grammar guides. Recommended to be read after the above guides.