Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

VB: Sum: Inventing Languages

From:daniel andreasson <daniel.andreasson@...>
Date:Friday, May 12, 2000, 18:30
I was beginning to wonder whether anyone cared when I
sent the original request from Linguist List on to
CONLANG. But now I see that some of you even replied
to her personally. Now we're all outed on LINGUIST.
Wheeeee!!! :)

And lots of credit to Pablo Flores and David Bell
for writing such excellent mails to Dr. Burt.


> 1) > Date: Thu, 11 May 2000 14:49:38 -0500 (CDT) > From: (Susan Meredith Burt) > Subject: Inventing Languages > > -------------------------------- Message 1 ------------------------------- > > Date: Thu, 11 May 2000 14:49:38 -0500 (CDT) > From: (Susan Meredith Burt) > Subject: Inventing Languages > > For Query: Linguist 11.912 > > Hello, All! > > It's a good thing we have students or we would never learn anything! > Prompted by a student's query, a few weeks ago I posted a message to the > list asking about information on the invention of languages for fiction or > for other reasons. I received over twenty replies. It turns out that > Tolkien and Elgin are only the tip of the iceberg: there are a number of > people out there inventing languages for the sheer intellectual fun of > doing so; indeed there is a list, CONLANG, to which my original query was > posted, of these language inventors. I had thought that language invention > was an outgrowth of fiction-writing, but was corrected in this: in some > cases, the fiction follows the invention of the language. > > It was hard for me to know what to do with all the replies I > received--besides pass them on my student, of course (he wrote an excellent > paper and received an A, by the way). Some of the replies expressed > interest in my query and these are not included in the list below. Thanks > to all of the following for information or references to further > information. > > > > > > > > > > >"Peter T. Daniels" <grammatim@...> > >"Harold F. Schiffman" <haroldfs@...> > >Ivan A Derzhanski <iad@...> > > (lc22) > > Mary Shapiro <mshapiro@...> > >Jan Havlis <jdqh@...> > >"David E. Bell" <dbell@...> > >Herman Miller <hmiller@...> > > And Rosta <a.rosta@...> > > FFlores <fflores@...> > >Jill Brody <gajill@...> > > Those replies that included references to literature or to websites are > appended below. Enjoy! And again, thanks to all--Susan Meredith Burt > *** > > Dear Professor Burt: > While I have not personally done any specialized work on the subject > about which you have posted your query, I have in my reference files some > websites that may possibly contain some helpful information: > <== A language > called"qIb HeHDaq." > <== Homepage of the Klingon Language Institute. > <== Homepage of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship. > <== Constructed Human Languages > Homepage: This site contains a wide array of information on various > constructed languages. > > > Richard S. > Kaminski > <Nitti45@...> > *** > Dear colleague, > > If your student reads French, I would direct her to the following excellent > essay on the topic of inventing languages. > > AUTEUR : Yaguello, Marina. > TITRE : Les fous du langage : des langues imaginaires et de leurs > inventeurs / Marina Yaguello > S^DITEUR : Paris : S^ditions du Seuil > DATE : 1984 > DESC.PHYSIQUE : 248, [1] p. > NOTES : Bibliogr. : p. 243-[249]. > ISBN : 2-02-006713-7 > > > Pierre Larrivée > *** > > Two web pages giving guidelines on how to create languages might help. > > They include tips regarding the lexicon, morphology, syntax, writing > > systems, etc. Both authors also talk about their motivation to > > invent languages: > > > > > > > Andreas > > *** > Hi, > > I teach a course called "Language and Popular Culture" in which we > examine representations of lg. such as in sci-fi movies and other media. > > I've got some stuff on my website about this; your student might want to > look at: > > > > Hal S. > *** > > Marina Yaguello has a book out called _Lunatic Lovers of Language: > Imaginary Languages and Their Inventors_. Fairleigh Dickinson University > Press, 1991. > > I have not yet read it, so I do not know if it is what you are looking for. > > Linda Coleman, Director > Freshman Writing Program > Associate Professor > Department of English Language and Literature > University of Maryland > (301)405-3761 > > > *** > > Dr. Burt -- > I taught a course on the Languages of Science Fiction several years ago, > when I was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, and > discovered a thriving language-building culture, only some of which was > directly related to science fiction per se. In addition to the examples > you cited, there's also Tenctonese (the language from the television > series Alien Nation), Draak (the language from the film Enemy Mine), and > a host of Star Trek related languages developed by the fans. Every race > ever encountered in the Star Trek universe now has a language of its > own, thanks to fans, who would take the one or two words or phrases > given on the show and on that flimsy evidence, build a whole grammar and > lexicon. I can't tell you what their motivations were, though! > > One invaluable reference for your student would be ALIENS AND LINGUISTS > by Walter E. Meyers (University of Georgia Press, 1980). It's 20 years > out of date, obviously, but it's got great older examples that your > student might not stumble across nowadays, and it's very good on > linguistic theory. > > Dr. Mary Shapiro > Asst. Professor of Linguistics > Truman State University > Kirksville, MO 63501 > > *** > Susan, > > I saw your post on the Linguist list and as an active conlanger (constructed > language creator) thought you might be interested in a reply. In fact, you > might be interested to know that there is a large and active community of > language inventors on the internet. I have a website at >>with a large number of pages devoted to language creation > ( and in particular an extensive > reference grammar for my main constructed language amman iar(see > You will also find a number of hyperlinks > to other constructed language resources available on the internet. > > Conlangers come from a number of different backgrounds, although a few are > professional linguists, most like myself are not, but we all share an > intense avocational interest in linguistics. Our creations vary from small > language sketches (see to full blown and > fairly detailed language descriptions like amman iar . The community also > divides along an axis of interest. Some, like me, create languages purely > for the challenge and aesthetics of the activity. These languages are > typically called art languages (artlangs for short). Some create them with > the goal of becoming an international auxiliary (ala Esperanto, Ido et al), > these are typically called auxiliary languages (auxlangs for short.) Still > others create languages that are meant to model predicate or other formal > logic systems (ala Loglan, Lojban et al), these are typically called logical > languages (loglangs for short). > > I could probably babble on and on about this past-time, but it might be more > productive if I responded to specific questions your student might have, > which I would be quite willing to do. > > > David > > David E. Bell > The Gray Wizard > > > > Yes, I think I shall express the accusative case by a prefix! > A memorable remark! Just consider the splendour of the words! I shall > express the accusative case. Magnificent! Not it is expressed nor even > the more shambling it is sometimes expressed, nor the grim you must learn > how it is expressed. What a pondering of alternatives within ones choice > before the final decision in favour of the daring and unusual prefix, so > personal, so attractive; the final solution of some element in a design that > had hitherto proved refractory. Here were no base considerations of the > practical, the easiest for the ëmodern mindí, or for the million only a > question of taste, a satisfaction of a personal pleasure, a private sense of > fitness. > > from The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays - A Secret Vice, > by J.R.R. Tolkien [Houghton Mifflin Company 1984]) > > *** > From: FFlores <fflores@...> > > Well, first of all, I must say I'm not in Linguist, but in Conlang, > where your message was forwarded to harvest some responses. You may > be receiving some more answers from Conlang members; I hope you won't > matter my answering directly to you. > > I have invented several languages, to different extents. Some of them > were, as you said, outgrowths of fictional settings or short stories, > but most of them developed together with the setting, and often preceded > it (in time, or in my mind's causal chain, so to speak). > > My motivations? You can read about them in my site, > > where I've also placed links to my conlangs' pages. In short, I find > beauty in the structure of languages, in the way sounds combine, and > concepts relate to each other and 'fall into place' with relative > simplicity even if the whole is overwhelmingly complex. I also like > to play and see what I find. The fact that everything I do is, as > some detractors of this task pejoratively claim, to re-arrange > preexisting things, does not bother me the least bit. I simply > try to find not-so-common outcomes. I must confess I feel a bit > guilty when I create a language with some extremely non-exotic > feature, like SVO order with no case marking or suffixed tense- > person-number inflection on verbs; this (the guilt) is AFAIK quite > common in the conlanging business. :) > > My methods? > ('How to Create a Language') is a tutorial-like thing I've written > to explain them, though full of little and not so little mistakes > due to my linguistic amateurishness. My personal routine is to work > on the language when I want to. I begin by creating a phonology, > which is usually symmetrical, sometimes too simple and sometimes too > complicated, which is then in flux for days or weeks (rarely longer). > Sometimes the phonology is just a excuse to start creating words > illustrating some morphological or syntactic feature that was the > real cause of the language starting. I then focus usually on nouns, > then on verbs; other parts of speech appear later. When the language > has reached some stability, I begin to toy with semantics, creating > untranslatable words (meaning, unstranslatable with a single word > in English or my native Spanish) and synonyms and antonyms for the > ones I have. > > I keep everything well-documented in text files, with a database for > words and eventually for each morpheme. > > Few langs reach this stage. My current most developed project, Draseléq > ( ), was started more > than two years ago and it only has circa 1860 words, composed of 1000+ > morphemes. Far before this point, I felt the need to go deeper into > the language and I set up (after a painfully detailed task of revision > a set of ancient roots and affixes, from which the modern words were to > be derived. This is what I do always, now; I create the ancient word, > then derive it; it lets me play some interesting games like double > derivation (a word derived as usual vs. a reborrowed cognate). Some of > my languages share a common setting, and have borrowed words from each > other. > > > --Pablo Flores > > ... I cannot combine any characters that the divine Library > has not foreseen, which in some of its secret tongues do not > bear some terrible meaning. No-one can articulate a syllable > not filled of caresses and fears; which is not, in some one > of those languages, the powerful name of a god... > Jorge Luis Borges, _The Library of Babel_ > > *** > From: Humphrey Tonkin <tonkin@...> > > You are, I am sure, aware of Paolo Albani and Berlinghiero Buonarroti's > Aga Magera Difura: dizionario delle lingue immaginarie (Bologna: > Zanichelli, 1994). Also Marina Yaguello, "Lunatic Lovers of Language: > Imaginary Languages and Their Inventors" (London: Athlone Press, 1991). > See also Michel Pierssens, "The Power of Babel: A Study of Logophilia" > (London: Routledge, 1980). P.Cornelius, "Languages in 17th and Early > 18th-Century Imaginary Voyages" (Geneva: Droz, 1965) is helpful on this > aspect of the subject. > > A section of the Modern Language Association's Annual Bibliography, > entitled "Invented Languages," contains numbers of references to current > scholarship, e.g. about Klingon. > > HT > > Humphrey Tonkin > University Professor of the Humanities, University of Hartford > West Hartford, CT 06117, USA > tel (office) +1 860-768-4448 fax (office) +1 860-768-4411 > (home) 279 Ridgewood Road, West Hartford, CT 06107 > tel (home) +1 860-561-2669 fax (home) +1 860-561-5219 > > "The unexamined college is not worth loving." --Mabel Lang > > Susan Meredith Burt > > until May 15: > > Department of English > University of Wisconsin Oshkosh > 800 Algoma Blvd. > Oshkosh WI 54901 USA > internet: > > Thereafter: > > 602 Normal Avenue > Normal, IL 61761 > phone: 309-888-2704 > > After August 16, 2000: > > Department of English > Illinois State University > Campus Box 4240 > Normal, IL 61790-4240 > > my best guess at an email address: > > > --------------------------------------------------------------------------- > LINGUIST List: Vol-11-1085