English Language Experiments

Composing Lyrics in the World’s Least Lyrical Language

John Quijada spent more than thirty years creating the philosophical language Ithkuil, whose notoriety has been featured in The New Yorker magazine. He also writes the “Conlang Curiosities” column for the Language Creation Society’s Language Creation Tribune quarterly publication. He has a degree in linguistics, speaks five languages, has co-written a novel exploring the philosophical implications of quantum physics, and composes music, among many other hobbies and interests.


Given the reputation of the philosophical conlang Ithkuil as perhaps the worst language in the world for composing poetry, the language’s author decided to challenge himself by using Ithkuil to write lyrics to progressive-rock songs. The paper describes the challenges involved and the detailed processes by which the author undertook the task. Along the way, he learned just how flexible the language can be for poetic composition, which in turn transformed what first seemed a tedious effort into a voyage of discovery and artistic fulfillment.

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