WTF is a Conlang?

What is Conlanging?

Conlang is short for constructed language. Conlangers make up languages, whether that’s basically an English cypher or something as involved as Tolkien’s Quenya and Sindarin or Klingon created by Marc Okrend, which has taken on a life of its own. Generally, it’s done by people who love language for their own pleasure. It may or may not end up being used in stories (it seems most conlangs made up for as background are fairly skeletal). Some might be little more than a phoneme inventory, how to build words (morphology), and a bit of grammar. Some are as involved as any real language. There’s way too many different ways to do it for me to explain it, but the wikipedia page and the links at the end are a good start.

Why do you do it?

I like language. I unfortunately don’t have the knowledge necessary to be good at conlanging (I only learned IPA1 last year, for instance). It works my brain in different ways. I tend to work in spurts, which makes going back to things a challenge, but I have fun anyway. Pretty much all of my languages started as background for writing. My first (really bad one) was for a bunch of stories I started writing in junior high, I think, and was basically an English cypher. Several of them I came up with a phonetic inventory during class when I was supposed to be paying attention and did pretty much nothing else with it. I have a tendency to use mostly affixes and to create a writing system for each one.

When the Thundercats fandom was a lot more active in the 90s and early 00s, I started several Thunderian languages. Most of my languages started from that. They’re mostly going to get applied to other things (specifically the world of the White Knight, because creating a language is obviously easier than translating something into a real language /sarcasm). Some of my newer ones I take more inspiration from other, real languages, as you’ll see.

Some of my languages, in no particular order:

  • Herlanian: My first conlang. Objectively terrible. It was supposed to be the result of mixing a ton of real languages together, but it’s basically an English cypher. It just wasn’t very good at all and we shall never speak of it again.
  • Tusir: something I’m going to go back to at some point. A proto-language2, to then evolve into at least four other languages (theoretically). I was going to take inspiration from Arabic and Sanskrit. Currently just a phonetic inventory.
  • Nyazchyn: The name is probably going to get modified a little. Previously called Ochyn. One of my Thunderian languages, and probably the language I have the most done on right now. Previously SOV3 and isolating4, now highly synthetic, edging into polysynthetic. It takes some inspiration from Iroquois and other Native American polysynthetic languages, but only a tiny bit. Verb heavy and pretty much anything can be turned into a verb. This is the one I was working on most recently. I’m kind of lost on it right now (I stopped in the middle of things) so it’ll take some floundering to get going on it again. I need to do a ton of translations for it.
  • Lepadi: Playing with gender and another Thunderian language. The gender of a word determines the placement of the accent and the pronunciation. Phonemes have different sounds based upon gender. Noun-heavy with few verbs. I actually have a few passages translated, which is rather remarkable for me.
  • Okelen: Another Thunderian language, this one I was mostly dealing with the writing. It’s logographic like Chinese, but I was trying to avoid having any pronunciation info in the characters. VOS and supposedly agglutinating5.
  • Tynthna: Another Thunderian language that I did a fair bit with. Inspired by Japanese, with a syllabulary writing system and honorifics. That one was fun.

1 International Phonetic Alphabet

2 A language that will evolve into other languages. Latin is the proto-language for Romance languages, for example.

3 The word order of a language. English is subject, verb, object. There are six possibilities (I leave figuring them out as an exercise for the reader, or you could look at the link at the beginning of this).

4 A language is isolating, like Chinese, when the majority of words can’t be broken into smaller meaningful parts (aka morphemes). Synthetic is the opposite of that.

5 A form of synthesis, where you just keep adding bits (as opposed to fusional, aka inflectional, where the bits added mean multiple things)

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