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From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Thursday, February 24, 2005, 18:41
LUNATIC SURVEY 2005, by Sally Caves

There are four parts (A through D) of about 22-24 questions each. These surveys have
aided me in my ongoing research on conlanging, but they are also for YOU.

*For the few that have requested it, I've put asterisks by the questions that are
new to this third installment of the "Lunatic Survey," first posted in 1998, in
honor of Marina Yaguello's dismissive title, Fous du langage, translated by
Catherine Slater as "Lunatic Lovers of Language." BEAR IN MIND, though, that
I've started from scratch, and many of my "old" questions are recast in new

You need not answer every question; if you do, please keep most of them fairly
brief, although I don't want to deny you a chance to effuse! I would like all
the questions answered for A, 1-17, though, even if you took the survey in

Please read them over before responding, so you know what lies ahead.

You may respond publically or privately to me at I posted
this publically, though, because I think you all like seeing other people's
responses, and it was requested. However, If you respond to any of the public
responses, PLEASE CHANGE THE HEADER!!! Firrimby. :)



1. Who are you, and what is the name of your invented language or languages?
Pseudonyms allowed. (Are you using one? asked "Sally Caves")

*2. Are you new to the Lunatic Survey or have you filled out a version of this survey before?

3. Do you have a website for you language/world(s)? If so, please list the URL address.

4. What is your email address? name at hostsite dot whatever.

5. What is your age? (vague answers allowed, but it is an important demographic)

6. What is your gender? 

7. What is your nationality?  Where do you live now?

8. What is your native language?

9. What natural languages foreign to you have you studied or do you speak?

10. What is your level of education? i.e., your highest degree achieved or sought?

11. What is your profession? Are you a professional linguist? If so, what also
makes you a conlanger?

13. If you are a student, what is your major or your area of study?

14. How long have you been developing your invented language(s)?

15. At what age did you first start inventing a language? Can you briefly describe
your early efforts?

16. What drew you to start inventing a language and/or constructed world? What was
the inspiration?

17. Did you start inventing before you had heard of the list or after? Before you
had heard of Esperanto or Tolkien? (I name the two most common inspirations)

18. Tolkien calls it a "shy art" and a "secret vice"; but that was before the
Internet. How secret do you keep it from others outside this list for much the
same reasons?

19. Yaguello has called it "pathological," influenced, unfortunately, by a lot of
psychiatric writings such as _Le Schizo et la langue_. To what extent have you
encountered such reactions by outsiders you had taken into your confidence?

*20. Do you consider it nerdy to be doing this? This is a term that gets tossed
around a lot. Or actually sophisticated? Do you need to get a life, or is this
your life? What is a life?

21. There has been a connection noted between linguistic and musical ability. Are
you musically inclined? Do you sing and/or play a musical instrument? Do you
compose music?

22. There has been a connection noted between linguistic and mathematical ability.
Are you mathematically inclined or inclined towards computing in any way?

23. What other passions do you pursue that give you creative pleasure? (painting,
drawing, sculpting, calligraphy, model-building, novel or story-writing,
role-playing games, map-making, book-making, poetry, web-designing, star-gazing
or other?)


1. Pick the best term for the invented language you are currently invested in:
auxlang, artlang, engelang, loglang, lostlang, philosophical language, or
"other." etc.

2. Is your conlang a priori (devised from scratch) or a posteriori (based on an
existing natural language or drawing from a language class such as Semitic)?

4. Do you have a script for your conlang? What is it called? Could you provide me
at a later date with a sample of it? Is it on Langmaker's "neography" site?

5. Briefly describe the outlines of your invented language (syntactical
structure--VO, OV, etc.; class or type--analytic, synthetic, agglutinating,
incorporative, accusative, ergative, active, trigger, other, combinations,
etc.), noting what you have done with it that is innovative in your opinion.

7. How extensive would you say your invented language is, now? How big the
vocabulary? Do you provide a vocabulary list or taxonomy on your website if you
have one?

8. How do you build vocabulary? Some people pull words out of the air; others
build up a base of root words and affixes. Many do both.

3. Does a constructed world accompany your invention(s)? What is it called? 

*9. Has your language and conworld ever served in a role-playing game or a world
shared by other conlangers?

*10. Briefly describe your conculture (is it within the bounds of this world? on
another world, etc.?)

*11. Are the beings who speak your invented language human or alien? If alien, what
features have you given the language to make it alien or how have you
restricted or expanded its phonology? vocabulary?

12. What do you write in it? Poems? chants? lullabyes? prayers? history? stories?
recipes? Are any of these exhibited on your website?

13. Can you speak your conlang? Are you fluent in it? Is this a goal for you? Have
you tried to teach it to an intimate? a companion animal? :)

14. Have you made any soundbytes of your language? Could you provide me at a later
date with a sample of them?

*15. If you use Roman script, how recognizably "phonetic" is your writing system?
In other words, do you use unconventional letters or letter combinations to
represent sounds? Why or why not? I'm thinking, of course, of Etabnannery, for
those who remember it.

16. How many of you sing in your language and have invented songs for that purpose?

*17. How many of you, for entertainment or any other reason, resort to gibberish?
(This is in response to Adrian Morgan's question in December). Does it give you
ideas for conlanging? (Have you ever fooled anyone?) How many of you have sung

*18. What on-line games do you play? (or devise?) Translations, Babel-text, Relays, etc.

19. Which do you prefer doing: devising phonology? script? structure? building vocabulary?

20. Do you start and stop several different conlangs, or do you tend to stick with
one and develop it over years?

21. What do you think makes a "complete" conlang, if a conlang can attain
completion? What are your goals for completion? When do you grow "tired" of
your conlang, or don't you?

*22. Which came first: the conlang or the conworld?


1. What aesthetic features do you value in inventing language? Be specific as to
phonology, structure, script, etc.

2. What commonly applied aesthetics have you ever tried to avoid in your
invention? This has been an oft debated question, especially when it comes to

3. Is difficulty or obscurity a goal in inventing a language?

4. Is efficiency a goal in inventing a language? This question needn't cancel out the previous one.

5. How natural do you wish to make it, or is that a concern? Or rather, how
unnatural do you wish to make it?

6. Can conlanging be sexy? sensual? obsessing? how does it heal or harm you?

*7. How many of you have developed a rich vocabulary of obscenities? 

8. Can it be mystical? To what extent does conlanging fulfill a spiritual purpose
for you? Or a magical one? Did it ever start out that way?

9. How many of you have developed a rich vocabulary of magical, religious, or incantatory terms?

*10. How many of you have striven to invent words that express novel ideas, or are
not expressed in any natural language that you know?

11. Name a few of the words in your language(s) that you are most pleased with and
are the most original to you.

12. How do you sense that a word is "right" for its meaning? How much do you labor
at fitting a sound to its sense? Or don't you care?

*13. Do you ever rely on a software program to build vocabulary? Do those who don't
think that's cheating? :)

*14. Is conlang a hobby, a craft, or an art in your mind? This has been hotly
debated, so the question is not as weird as it seems. Can conlanging be
considered an art? Why or why not?

*15. If it is, who do you think are its consumers? 

*16. This question is directed as well at any auxlangers on the list. Is it an art,
a political tool, both? And who do you think could be its consumers?

*17. There has been some exciting talk recently (and over the years) about what a
conlang is or is not. If you could pick a metaphor or write a descriptive
phrase defining "conlang," what would that be?

*18. Why or why not would you eschew the metaphors "miniature" or "model"? 

*19. Is a conlang more like a glimpse of something lifesize? (Irina's suggestion in 2001)

*20. There has been some invigorating discussion lately about what a conlang can do
that most natural languages don't (such as produce OSV structure, or eradicate
verbs) What experiments have you made with your artlang(s) along these lines?

*21 What do you think distinguishes a conlang from a natural language, if you
think so at all? What would it take for a linguist to be fooled into thinking a
conlang was a natural language?

*22. How much do you study other languages in order to discover what is natural in
language? Or to discover how you can stretch the boundaries of language to make
it do things that are unnatural?

*23. Can such a language function?

*24. There has been quite a bit of fascinating debate about the relevance of
conlanging to linguistic study. We all know that linguistics can aid
conlangers, but in what ways can conlangers aid linguists? Or does it matter?


1. How did you first hear of this list?

2. How long have you been on this listserv or on other related listservs?
Continuously? Infrequently? Off and on? More off than on and vice versa?

*3. What is the appeal of being on a listserv and contributing to it? Do you think
you contribute moderately or excessively, or not enough? Do you tend to lurk ?

*4. For those of you who remember its inception, how has it changed over the past decade?

*5. How helpful has the list been in developing your language? In learning linguistic information?

6. What books have you consulted? On your own, or because you heard of them on the list?

*7. Do you peruse the websites of other conlangers? 

*8. Do you sense that people on this list are interested in your conlang and give
you feedback on it?

9. Have you ever set out to learn at least a little bit of someone's conlang, if
only a word or two, or a phrase?

*10. Do you peruse Jeffrey Henning's site?

*11. What on-line techniques do you use to showcase your conlang, such as Audacity
or other sound programs, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Fontography, and so forth?
Did you hear of them on the list?

12. Have you ever tried to introduce a friend to the list? 

13. Do you know of anyone who does this kind of thing but who has never heard of the list?

*14. What other lists do you frequent related to conlanging?

*15. What do you think will be the future of the list? I see it giving birth to
alternate lists like Conworld, Lostlanguages, Romlang, etc. What improves the
present list and its helpfulness or entertainment value?

*16. What Internet technology would you most like to see developed that would aid
you in showcasing your language(s)?

*17. What lists like conlang exist in other cultures and languages that you know of?

*18. There has been some terrific talk about CONLANG as a community. And yet so
many of us seem to want the world to know of it and respect it. Is the CONLANG
community enough?

*19. In my 2000 on-line article
( I suggested that the
Internet "may provide a site that, with the impetus of competition and
showmanship, encourages inutile and obsessive activity"; I was quoting Jeff
Salamon's article "Revenge of the Fanboys." Village Voice 13 Sep., 1994. He
wrote that over ten years ago. Do outsiders still entertain such notions, do
you think, about listservs like this one? Do you? To what extent has the list
increased obsessive development in you? Would you be inventing as furiously as
you are without the list or knowledge of other inventors?

20. If asked whether it is not better to turn your linguistic talents to the
learning and speaking of natural languages (a common response I've met with and
aimed at criticizing introversion or solipsism), how would you answer?

*21. In Elizabethan times there were the inkhorn neologisms. There were ciphers and
pasigraphies. Today there is conlanging. Do you think the contemporary world is
more open to language innovation or more closed?

*22. What would Tolkien have done with such a community? He writes in "A Secret
Vice" that language inventors "hardly ever show their works to one another, so
none of them know who are the geniuses at the game, or who are the splendid
'primitives'." He suggests that perhaps in a later time language invention will
become respectable, and such things can be exhibited. Have we reached that

*23. Is there a danger that over-exposure can make conlanging "banal"? To what
extent is it exciting because it is a) considered disreputable, "corny" or
"mad," or b) largely unknown to the world? Does it have a fizzle-out date? In
other words, is it just a fad, or is it a natural human inclination that will
stand the test of time?

Finally, may I have your permission to use any of this material of yours for my
academic work on conlanging? First name? last name? pseudonym? anonymous?


Sally Caves


Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Rik Roots <rik@...>
JC <jcolrich-dreams@...>
Sai Emrys <saizai@...>
bob thornton <arcanesock@...>
Michael Potter <mhpotter@...>
Sanghyeon Seo <sanxiyn@...>
Shaul Vardi <vardi@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Peter Kolb <peterwlkolb@...>
Cian Ross <cian@...>
David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
James W <emindahken@...>
Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
Sylvia Sotomayor <kelen@...>
Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
Kevin Athey <kevindeanathey@...>
H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Remi Villatel <maxilys@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Keith Gaughan <kmgaughan@...>
Dirk Elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Sean <unvexis@...>
Isaac Penzev <isaacp@...>
Damian Yerrick <tepples@...>
scott <sjcaldwell@...>
Phil Bordelon <phil@...>
R.M. Whelton <rmwhelton@...>
Ivan Baines <kinetic_wab@...>
Tim Smith <tim.langsmith@...>