Analysis English Language

Alternations: An Introduction (and Some Further Explorations) for Conlangers

Doug Ball began conlanging in 1994, primarily working on a language he calls Skerre. His conlanging interest led him to discover the field of linguistics and ultimately to a career as an academic linguist. Holding degrees from the University of Rochester (BA) and Stanford University (PhD), he is currently a member of the Department of English and Linguistics faculty at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. There, he teaches classes on general linguistics, theoretical phonology, theoretical morphology, and theoretical syntax as well as Native American and Polynesian languages.


This essay explores the nature of alternations: variations in form across different contexts. In addition to providing a basic introduction of the phenomena in both English and in other languages, it considers several frameworks for understanding the behavior of alternations in natural languages. This essay also offers some recommendations for the creation of alternations in constructed languages and gives some examples to illustrate these recommendations. It is a revised and expanded version of a talk given at the 7th Language Creation Conference (July, 2017) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

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