An Essay on Naturalism in Conlangs

Jeffrey R. Brown created his first language at the age of 21, and was surprised, upon the birth of the Internet, that there were others who did this. He has lived most of his life in Minnesota, but now calls San Diego home. Jeffrey speaks English, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, and Hawaiian, with various degrees of incompetency. He has been long retired from a peripatetic career of accounting, engineering, adjunct faculty, technical training, business management, and consulting. He still is creating languages, though.

Abstract

There are four facets of an artistic conlang that influence the degree of its naturalism: the three linguistic aspects: the phonology, the lexicon, and the grammar; and the cultural aspect, that is, the conworld. Of these, the elaboration of the conworld, and its integration with the conlang, is the most important. This essay presents the views of the author about how best to strive towards that goal.

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Every Word is a Portal: Conlanging at the Crossroads of Art, Mystery and Science

James E. Hopkins received a BA in French from Hofstra University in 1974 and an MS in Metaphysics from the American Institute of Holistic Theology in 1998. He is a published poet, Eden’s Day (2008), and has a novel which features five of his conlangs, Circle of the Lantern, with the publisher as of this writing. He has been involved in language construction since 1995 with the birth of his first conlang, Itlani (then known as Druni). Although Itlani is his first and foremost love, since that time he has been developing Semerian (Pomolito), Djiran (Ijira), Djanari (Nordsh) and Lastulani (Lastig Klendum), the other languages spoken on the planet Itlán. One further language project, Kreshem (Losi e Kreshem), is also under development. His primary interest in language construction is from an aesthetic and artistic perspective.

Abstract

The roles played by art and metaphysics may sometimes go unnoticed and underappreciated in today’s growing, busy and scientifically oriented conlanging world. This article explores these roles and the essential balance of art, mystery and science that informs and inspires so many involved in the constructed language scene.

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A Naming Language

Jeffrey Henning is a language creator who is probably most famous for creating and maintaining the website Langmaker.com. Before it shut down, Langmaker was the undisputed number one destination for all things related to language creation. Langmaker was an outgrowth of Jeffrey Henning’s Model Languages newsletter, which was one of the first communities (in the broadest sense of the term) for language creation enthusiasts.

Abstract

In this essay, Jeffrey Henning describes how to create a naming language. Unlike a full conlang, which has its own grammar and syntax, a naming language is a phonology coupled with rules for compounding that can, among other things, allow a novelist to generate realistic, language-like names for characters, towns, regions, and geographical elements. Since its first publication in 1995 it’s continued to serve as a useful tool for world builders and game makers—and has also served as a jumping off point for many conlangers.

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The Birth of Xiis — A Guide to Font Creation

George Marques is a Brazilian software developer and aspiring writer. He has been creating fictional worlds since childhood, and, inspired mostly by Tolkien’s works, also developed languages for these fantastic civilizations. He studies linguistics in his spare time mostly to work on the bridge between languages and computers, but also to create believable languages for his literary works.

Abstract

This paper shows general instructions to create a computer font for Xiis (a conscript made by George Marques). It uses the free (libre) font-making application FontForge to overview the basic knowledge of OpenType features needed to make fonts for more complex writing systems and how they were applied to Xiis.

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The Romanization of Middle Pahran

George Corley is currently a PhD student in Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with research interests in phonology, Chinese, and minority languages. He also has a strong personal interest in invented languages (conlangs), which has led him to host and produce Conlangery, a monthly podcast on the subject, and to become Vice-President of the Language Creation Society.

Abstract

In this essay George Corley expands on his “Design Parameters for Romanization” (Corley 2011), defining five parameters for designing and discussing conlang romanizations: elegance, accessibility, aesthetics, internal history, and technical factors. He applies this framework in a detailed discussion of his own process designing the romanization for his current conlang, Middle Pahran. He pays special attention to overspecifying the phonology for accessibility, and to the compromises he made due to the technical limitations of the software he uses.

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Remembering Defiance

David J. Peterson received a BA in English and Linguistics from UC Berkeley in 2003 and an MA in Linguistics from UC San Diego in 2005. He created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Castithan, Irathient and Indojisnen languages for Syfy’s Defiance, the Sondiv language for the CW’s Star-Crossed, the Lishepus language for Syfy’s Dominion, the Trigedasleng language for the CW’s The 100, and the Shiväisith language for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. He’s been creating languages since 2000.

Abstract

The show Defiance aired on the Syfy network for three seasons from 2013 to 2015. It featured four full conlangs each with its own writing system. This paper details some of what went into making that a reality.

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Ma’alahi: Use of a Simplified Language to Test a Linguistic Hypothesis

Jeffrey R. Brown received a BS in Mathematics from Yale University and an MS from University of St. Thomas. He has held jobs too diverse for his professional life to be reasonably called a career—unless “unpublished novelist” can be considered a job title—though when making small talk he usually says he works as an engineer. He speaks about a half-dozen natural languages with varying degrees of incompetence, and has created Temenia, Sim-Arabic and Maʻalahi. He has been a member of the Language Construction Society since 2009. The work in the current article follows from his belief that conlanging is more than art; it is also a science.

Abstract

Ma’alahi is a constructed language derived from a single source language, Hawaiian, with a ruthlessly simplified Polynesian grammar. This makes it an appropriate candidate for investigating hypotheses about the ease of L2 language acquisition. An exploratory study was performed to determine whether grammatical features or external factors (social or personal) are more significantly correlated with perceived ease of learning and correct performance on translation tasks. Only external factors were shown to be significantly correlated.

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Dscript 2D Notation

Mattthew M. DeBlock received a BA in Chinese from Beijing Language and Culture University as an adult student. Before university, he worked as a Unix software developer, and afterwards as a business consultant in mainland China. He is obsessed with devising codes, data formats, and constructed scripts. A a jack-of-all-trades and “Mad Scientist” at heart, he loves inventing commercially worthless devices to challenge standards and seek strange synergies.

Abstract

Dscript 2D Notation extends the Dscript 2D Alphabetical Writing System. While Dscript Alphabetical only allows “strings of letters” degrees of freedom in 2D, there is no “2D meaning”. Dscript Notation attempts to employ the 2D value as meaning. Using these flexible “strings of of letters”, current notation systems are assimilated. The main goal is to find possible alternative 2D notation methods and potential 2D linguistic applications.

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Down with Morphemes: The Pitfalls of Concatenative Morphology

David J. Peterson received a BA in English and Linguistics from UC Berkeley in 2003 and an MA in Linguistics from UC San Diego in 2005. He created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones, the Castithan, Irathient and Indojisnen languages for Syfy’s Defiance, the Sondiv language for the CW’s Star-Crossed, the Lishepus language for Syfy’s Dominion, and the Shiväisith language for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. He’s been creating languages since 2000.

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between an adherence to the main tenets of concatenative theories of morphology and the creation of less than realistic languages. The paper was written in 2009 and is based in part on the LCC1 talk “Down with Morphemes! What Word and Paradigm Morphology Can Teach Us about Language Creation”.

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Conlanging: An Introduction to the Art of Language Creation

Don Boozer has been interested in invented languages ever since discovering Dr. Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra in his elementary school library in the 1970s.  A librarian by trade, Boozer created the exhibit Esperanto, Elvish, and Beyond: The World of Constructed Languages which appeared at the Cleveland Public Library in 2008 and the 3rd Language Creation Conference in 2009. Boozer currently serves as Secretary/Librarian of the Language Creation Society and maintains The Conlanger’s Library online, and tweets from the official LCS Twitter account: @fiatlingua.

Abstract

Based loosely on the exhibit Esperanto, Elvish, and Beyond: The World of Constructed Languages, “Conlanging: An Introduction to the Art of Language Creation” provides an accessible primer to the history and practice of language creation for the non-conlanger. Conlangers should be able to refer to the article when asked “What is conlanging?”, “Where did it come from?” or “Why do you people do that?” For the conlanger, some points of the history of conlanging may also prove interesting.

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