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English Language Essays

Names Aren’t Neutral: David J. Peterson on Creating a Fantasy Language

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

This essay, written originally for the defunct publication Unbound Worlds, is aimed at fantasy authors who aim to invest their fantasy worlds with linguistic verisimilitude. Peterson discusses best practices and pitfalls to avoid in this essay intended as an introduction to the art of language invention.

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English Language Essays

Designing an Artificial Language: Universals: Recommended Reading

Rick Morneau is a long time language creator who lives in rural Idaho. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of essays on language design that proved to be quite influential in the early language creation community. Their quality has endured since their original publication, and continue to be read and enjoyed by language creators the world over.

Abstract

This article provides a brief description of linguistic universals, and then recommends some books that discuss universals in much more detail.

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English Language Essays

Designing an Artificial Language: Arabic Morphology

Rick Morneau is a long time language creator who lives in rural Idaho. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of essays on language design that proved to be quite influential in the early language creation community. Their quality has endured since their original publication, and continue to be read and enjoyed by language creators the world over.

Abstract

This essay discusses how to design a language with a morphology similar to Arabic and other semitic languages.

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Designing an Artificial Language: Morphology

Rick Morneau is a long time language creator who lives in rural Idaho. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of essays on language design that proved to be quite influential in the early language creation community. Their quality has endured since their original publication, and continue to be read and enjoyed by language creators the world over.

Abstract

This essay discusses how to design the surface morphology of a language (i.e. the “shapes” of words) such that the words are easy to pronounce as well as computer-tractable.

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English Language Essays

Designing an Artificial Language: Phonology

Rick Morneau is a long time language creator who lives in rural Idaho. In the early 1990s, he wrote a series of essays on language design that proved to be quite influential in the early language creation community. Their quality has endured since their original publication, and continue to be read and enjoyed by language creators the world over.

Abstract

This essay discusses how to select the phonemes of a language based on what the language is intended to accomplish, and on how much pronunciation difficulty is acceptable.

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English Language Essays

Tone for Conlangers: A Basic Introduction

Aidan Aannestad is one more name on the long list of people who discovered linguistics through Tolkien, and he’s been conlanging ever since that seventh grade discovery. He’s learned a lot about linguistics since then, though, and now holds a BA in it from the University of Texas and is partway through a graduate degree. He holds himself (and sometimes others) to a very high standard of realism in his work, and he’s always striving to get a more complete perspective on the enormous variety found in the world’s natlangs. His creative output is so far mostly limited to the minimally-documented, though fairly well fleshed-out Emihtazuu language and its ancestors, but he hopes to someday increase his productivity and make a full linguistic area with multiple interacting families. He also speaks Japanese, and will happily discuss its history and mechanics for hours with anyone interested. He’s been on-and-off a member of a number of conlanging communities, and these days is most likely to be found on one of the relevant Facebook groups or lurking in the conlang mailing list.

Abstract

Despite being present in a huge number of the world’s languages, phonemic tone is perhaps the most misunderstood linguistic system there is. Probably because of this, conlangs with phonemic tone are next to unheard of. This paper aims to solve those problems, by providing a basic description of how to think about tone through the framework of autosegmental phonology. It also gives an overview of variation among tone systems and how tones arise and change over time, and discusses some problems unique to conlanging with tones. The author hopes that readers will be encouraged to try creating tone systems themselves, and expand their palette of conlanging tools with one more system to play with.

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How to create a language

Pablo David Flores is a long time language creator from Argentina. His essay “How to create a language”, hosted on his old website, was influential to many conlangers in the early days of the internet.

Abstract

Originally, this essay took the form of a webpage, but it was turned into a .pdf by Gulliver Metheun-Campbell some years ago. The information contained in the essay is as useful now as it was when it was first written, and the work lives up to its title: “How to create a language.”

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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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