English Language Essays

The Secret World of Conlanging – An Overview of Tolkien’s “Secret Vice”

Robin Rowan is a senior undergraduate student studying Spanish at Arizona State University online and previously earned a BA in History from Auburn University. As a life-long science fiction fan, she has always been fascinated by the concept of conlangs. When a general requirement course in linguistics called for a final project there was no question as to what the topic would be. After the course ended, she decided to expand the project to give a greater overview of conlangs from the perspective of a non-conlanger. Robin currently resides in Alabama but has lived in Tennessee, Illinois, and California, and has travelled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. After graduation Robin plans to earn her TOEFL certificate and continue her travels.


This essay provides a brief overview of conlanging from the perspective of a non- conlanger. It clarifies what a conlang is from this same perspective and places conlanging in a historical context, especially as regards what has motivated people to create conlangs and the disdain with which some people have viewed such efforts. The terminology of conlangs is presented with a concise examination of several conlangs and their histories regarding how and why they were created and by whom. These include Esperanto, Klingon, and Láadan. Research included academic sources, internet search, and personal correspondence among others. The usefulness of conlangs as a means to study the nature of language and communication, as well as how conlangs create authenticity and depth in television, movies, and literature, is explored. While there may or may not ever be a true “universal language” constructed language, the value of conlanging and it’s popularity can be expected to continue.

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