Asha'ille is undergoing a spelling reform and this page might not have been updated yet!

If you see many apostrophes, it's pre-reform. If you see î and only a few apostrophes, it's post-reform. — Arthaey

-->

I've gone through the Conlang mailing list's archives (currently at January 1999, week 1) and compiled a subjective FAQ from old posts. Feel free to email me with suggestions for other questions or answers.

FAQ Revised: Thursday 08 October 2009 11:55:15


Table of Contents

1. Computers
2. Conlang Community
3. History
4. Linguistics
5. Orthography
6. Phonology
7. Professional Conlangs
8. Vocabulary

1. Computers

1.1. What software do conlangers use?

Spreadsheets are popular, probably because they are relatively easy to set up and use. For more complex needs, SIL Shoebox (Windows only) and Kura are used.

Many conlangers are also programmers, and thus write many of their own tools. Those whose tools might be useful to others often put their programs online:



1.2. What modifiable language-learning software exists?


1.3. How can I make a font for my conlang?

Freeware

  • FontStruct (web-based)
  • Bitfontmaker (web-based)
  • MetaFont
    • A font-making programming language. MetaFont was made by Donalth Knuth, the same computer scientist responsible for the very powerful but steep-learning-curve typesetting system LaTeX. Not for the faint of heart, but it does offer lots of control.
  • FontForge (Unix, Mac OS X, or Windows with Cygwin)

Trialware

  • Softy (30 days, £15, Win 3.1/95/98/NT)
  • Font Creator (30 days, $65, Win 95/98/NT/XP)
  • ScanFont ($99, OS 9/X; $199, Win 95/98/NT/XP)
  • FontLab ($549, OS 9/X or Win 95/98/NT/XP)

Commercial




2. Conlang Community

2.1. Am I the youngest conlanger? The oldest?

The youngest conlanger that was a member of CONLANG-L seems to be 12. The oldest seems to be Roger Mills, at 70.

2.2. Why can't we talk about auxlangs on CONLANG-L?

Actually, you're welcome to talk about any conlang you want to. The problem associated with auxlangs is that their creators frequently try to "sell" them as the best language in existence. The list is about discussing strengths and weaknesses of conlangs, not about convincing everyone to speak just your one amazing auxlang. If you can keep evangelism out of your posts about your auxlang, then we welcome you. :)

2.3. What do all these acronyms and abbreviations mean? ANADEW, loglang..?

General Terms

AFMCL
as for my conlang
Sally Caves , 1998-11-14
ANADEW
A Natlang's Already Dunnit Except Worse
H. S. Teoh , 2003-03-05
Maggelity
the state of being entirely unpredictable; pronounced /məɡɛːlɪti/
Muke Tever , 2002-07-10
Tristan McLeay , 2002-07-11
Etabnannery
the state of appearing entirely unpredictable, but, upon closer analysis, failing at even being that; pronounced /rəmnænəri/
Muke Tever , 2002-07-10
Tristan McLeay , 2002-07-11

Type of Conlangs

artlang
created for artistic purposes. E.g., Quenya, Klingon.
auxlang
IAL, or internation auxilary language. E.g., Esperanto.
conlang
generic term for any language created by an individual or small group
natlang
naturally occurring language
engelang
engineered?
sketchlang
not fleshed out in any detail, usually not worked on for a long time


2.4. How many different Conlang wikis are there?

There are too many conlang wikis out there, really. The community just isn't large enough to support all the many ones that exist. Here are all the ones I know about:



2.5. How do I pronounce the name of conlang X?

In the table below, if the IPA and CXS contradict one another (though they shouldn't!), prefer the CXS rendition, as these were provided by the conlangers themselves. If you were discussing some conlang in English, you would pronounce X as...

IPA CXS
a-Illyar /a ɪlːˈjaːʀ/ /a Il:'ja:R/
Altaii /alˈtaj.i/ /al'taj.i/
Alzetjan /alˈzetɕan/ /al'zets\an/
Andan /ˈandan/ /'andan/
Anglysc /ˈɑnɡlysk/ /'Anglysk/
Asha'ille /ɑ.ʃɑˈʔil/ /,A.SA'?il/
Ayhan /ajˈhan/ /aj'han/
Bahonga 'ta roa (Taroan)1 /bɑhˈɔnɡɑ tɑ ˈroɑ/ /bAh'OngA tA 'roA/
Bax1 /piˈaçi/ /pi'aCi/
Bez Dis's /bɛz ˈdisəs/ /bEz 'dis@s/
Bhûtsa Sajhîl /ˈbʰʊt.s̪a ˈʂaɲʰ.ɪɭ/ /'b_hUt.s_da 's`aJ\_h.Il`/
Brasaelig /braˈzeːlic/ /bra'ze:lic/
Br'ga /ʙəgɑ/ /B\@gA/
Brithenig /brɪθɛˈnɪg/ /brITE'nIg/
Çakesar (Shaquelingua)1 /çakesar/ /Cakesar/
Calénnawn /kaˈlɛnːawn/ /ka'lEn:awn/
Chispa ʧɪspa/ /'tSIspa/
Cythin /ˈsiθɪn/ /'siTIn/
Da Mätz se Basa /dɐˈmɛt͡səˈbasɐ/ /d6'mEts)@'bas6/
Dyammo /ˈd̡ɐmːo/ or /ˈd̡ɐmo/ /'d_j6m:o/ or /'d_j6mo/
Ebisédian /ˌʔɘbiˈsɘːdjən/ /,?@\bi's@\:dj@n/
Eklektu /ɛˈklɛktʊ/ /E'klEktU/
Elbirin (Old Albic)1 /ˈɛlbɪɾɪn/ /'ElbI4In/
Emíndahken /eˈmi˦ndaxken/ /e'mi_Hndaxken/
Eretas /ˈeː.reː.tas/ /'e:.re:.tas/
Erog /eɾoɣ/ /e4oG/
Eyahwánsi /ˌejaˈʍa.nsi/ /,eja'Wa.nsi/
Franj /frɔː̃nʒ/ /frO:~nZ/
Fuxvi (Fukhian)1 /ˈfʊχvi/ /'fUXvi/
Gáb-we /g̰a̰ːb̰w̰ɛ̰/ /g_ka_k:b_kw_kE_k/
Germanech /ʒɛrˈmanɛç/ /ZEr'manEC/
Ghhyyd (Lizardman)1 /ɣːɨːd̻ɟɤ/ /G:1\:d_m J\7/
Gîe-Nèm /gʲiə˥.nʲẽː↘/ or /ˈgi.nʲɛm/ /g_ji@(55).n_je:_m(51)/ or /'gi.@.,njEm/
gjâ-zym-byn /gjæˈzʊm.bʊn/ /gj&.'zUm.bUn/
жd /ˌɡɶoθˈʈ/ /,g&\o)T't`/
Granvallés /gɾɑ̃ː.vɑːˈʝɛː↘z̺/ /g4A:~.vA:'j\E:_Fz_a/
Gremegr /ˈrˠʌ.mʌrˠ/ /'r_GV.mVr_G/
Gwr /gwɜ˞/ /gw3^/
Hansu /xań.sû/ /xan_H.su_F/
Heleb /hɨˈlɨb̥/ /hi\'li\b_0/
Idrani /IPA/ /i'dr\A.ni/
Igur /iɣuɾ/ /iGu4/
Jaghri /ˈɟaɣɹi/ /'J\aGr\i/
Jarda2 /ˈɟarda/ /'J\arda/
Kalini Sapak /kaˈlini saˈpak/ /ka'lini sa'pak/
Kal Pol Ling /ˈkɑl ˈpɔl ˈlɪnɡ/ /'kAl 'pOl 'lIng/
Kaltani /ˈkaltani/ /'kaltani/
Kash /kaʃ/ or /kɑʃ/ /kaS/ or /kAS/
Kazvarad /ˈkazvaɾad/ /'kazva4ad/
Kejeb /kɨˈdʑɨb̥/ /ki\'dz\i\b_0/
Kēlen /ˈkɛ̝ːlɛ̝n/ /'kE_r:lE_rn/
Kètolbor (Tolborese)1 /kʰɛˈtʰolbor/ /k_hE't_holbor/
Khangaþyagon /ˌxæŋæθˈjægon/ /'x&N&T,j&gon/
Kidilib /ki.diˈlib̥/ /ki.di'lib_0/
Kieh /kjə/ /kj@/
Kirezagi2 /kiɾeˈzaɡi/ /ki4e'zagi/
Kisuna /kiˈsuna/ /ki'suna/
Kur /ku/ /ku/
Kyet Kenawme /ˈkjɛt kɛnɑ̃mɛ/ /'kjEt kEnA~mE/
Laafaah Trayis /ˈlɑː.fɑːh ˈʈɑ.jɨs/ /'lA:.fA:h 't`A.j1s/
Ladein /ladɛn/ /ladEn/
Lauranthea /lawˈran.θe.a/ /law'ran.Te.a/
Lindiga2 /ʂiˈliɳɖiŋɑ/ /s`i'lin`d`iNA/
Linjeb /lindʑɨb̥/ /lindz\i\b_0/
Lisanek /liˈʃanɛk/ /li'SanEk/
Lisànre /li.san↘.re/ or /li˨.sa˦.n˨.re˦/ /li.san_F.re/ or /li_L.sa_H.n_L.re_H/
Lokwandaze /lokwɑnˈdɑze/ /lokwAn'dAze/
Ludireo /ludiˈrɛɔ/ /ludi'rEO/
Mærik1 /ˈmæːrikʰ/ /'m&:rik_h/
Meghean /meˈʒan/ /me'Zan/
Miapimoquitch /miˌæpiˈmoʊkwɪʧ/ /mi,&pi'moUkwItS/
Minza2 /'minza/ /ˈminza/
Miskutsvinnakk Ujimavin /mɪsˈkuts.wɪn.nʌhk uˈji.ma.wɪn/ /mIs'kuts.wIn.nVhk u'ji.ma.wIn/
Montreiano /montrejˈano/ /montrej'ano/
Nasqi /ˈnaʃ.q̚ʔi/ /'naS.q_}?i/
Nenshar /ˈnɛn.ʃaɾ/ /'nEn.Sa4/
Niskloz /ˈnisklɔz/ /'nisklOz/
Noth /noθ/ /noT/
Noygwexaal /nɔŋˈɡwɛθ.aːl/ /nON'gwET.a:l/
Olaetian /oˈlaetian/ /o'laetian/
Omurax /omuraks/ /omuraks/
Ool-Nuziiferoi /ʊlnuˈzajfɚɽɔj/ /Ulnu'zajf@`r\`Oj/
O:radiendelsa (Orad)1 /oːrɑdiɛnˈdɛlsɑ/ /o:rAdiEn'dElsA/
Orēlynna /oˈɾeːlinːa/ /o'4e:lin:a/
Palu f'Thule /ˈpa.lu fəˈθuˌle/ /'pa.lu f@'Tu,le/
Pinuyo /piˈnujo/ /pi'nujo/
Qthyn|gai /qθə˦nǀga͡ɪ↘/ /qT@_Hn|\gaI)_F/
Ręčahuja /rẽʧauja/ /re~tSauja/
Rheava Izka (Rhean)1 /ˈrɛavə ˈizka/ /'rEav@ 'izka/
Rokbeigalmki /rokbejˈgalm̩ki/ /rokbej'galm=ki/
Romaencz /romɛnʧ/ /romEntS/
Rubaga /ɽʊˈväːɱ.ʀɜ/ /r`U'va_":_F.R\3/
Rynnan /ˈrinnan/ /'rinnan/
Searixina /ˈsəa.rɨ̈.xɨ̈.nɐ/ /'s@a.rI\.xI\.n6/
Seduk /seduk/ /seduk/
Senyecas /senˈjekas/ /sen'jekas/
Śə̃ət̲ona /s̺̙pə̃pʼəθoˈna/ /s_a_qp\@~p_>@To'na/
Siaara' siélhakia /ʃaːrʔaʔ ʃe˦.ɬa.kjʌ/ /Sa:r?a? Se_H.Ka.kjV/
Silindion /sɪlɪˈndjon/ /sIlI'ndjon/
Simik2 /si˩↗mik˥↘/ /si_L_Rmik_H_F/
Sohlob /sɒˈɬɒb̥/ /sQ'KQb_0/
Slvanjec /ˈsl̩.va.ɲɛts/ /'sl=.va.JEts/
Steienzh /ˈstɛɪ.n̩ʒ/ /'stEI.n=Z/
Sturnan /ˈstur.nan/ /'stur.nan/
Suvile /suˈvɪle/ or /suˈvɪlej/ /su'vIle/ or /su'vilej/
Tacsóy /tɑkˈsɔj/ /tAk'sOj/
Tamahí /tamaˈhi/ /tama'hi/
Tāruven /ˈtɑːrʉven/ /'tA:ru\ven/
Tatari Faran /taˈtaɾi faˌɾan/ /ta'ta4i fa,4an/
Telendlest /ˈtɛlɛndlɛst/ /'tElEndlEst/
Tepa /ˈtɨβa/ /'t1Ba/
Térnaru /teːrˈnaː.ru/ /te:r'na:.ru/
Thagnarvi /θɑɡˈnɑrvi/ /TAg'nArvi/
Thagozhup (Thagojian)1 /θɑgoʒup/ /TAgoZup/
Tilya2 /ˈtilja/ /'tilja/
Tirelat2 /ˈtirəɬat/ /'tir@Kat/
Tutèlya /tuˈtɛʎa/ /tu'tELa/
Tyl Sjok /tɨl̩ʃʌk̩/ /t1l=SVk=/
Vallés /vɑːˈʝɛː↘z̺/ /vA:'j\E:_Fz_a/
Veldaneeas Lingwas (Veldan)1 /vɛldɑnˈeːɑs ˈlinɡwɑs/ /vEldAn'e:As 'lingwAs/
Vizaki /viˈzaki/ /vi'zaki/
Volapük /volaˈpyk/ /vola'pyk/
Vuozgaišchai (Vozgian)1 /ˈβɔzgəʃçəj/ /'BOzg@SC@j/
Wenedyk /vɛˈnɛdɪk/ /vE'nEdIk/
Xinkùtlan /ʧɪnˈkʊt.ɬan/ /tSIn'kUt.Kan/
Yæyæ Vÿrmïs /ˌjæ.jæ ˈvyr.mis/ /,j&.j& 'vyr.mis/
Yasaro2 /ʝaˈsa↗ʐɔ/ /j\a'sa_Rz`O/
'Yemls /ˈɲɛi.mʊ.lɪs/ /'JEi.mU.lIs/
Yinik Utaan /jiˈnik uˈtaːn/ /ji'nik u'ta:n/
Yirurra Wukalri /ˈjiˌruˌɽa ˈʍɯ.ka.ɭi/ /'ji,ru,r`a 'WM.ka.l`i/
Zariva /ˈzariva/ /'zariva/
Zharranh /ˈʒaraɲ/ /'ZaraJ/
Zhyler /ʒʏˈler/ /ZY'ler/

1 Some conlangs are discussed in English by their anglicized name. In that case, you should pronounce the name as you would suspect based on normal English orthography rules for your own dialect. Conlangs with anglicizations different from their native names' orthography (and the native names in parentheses) include:

  • Bax (Bax)
  • Fukhian (Fuxvi)
  • Larethian
  • Lizardman (Ghhyyd)
  • Mærik
  • Old Albic (Elbirin)
  • Orad (O:radiendelsa)
  • Rhean (Rheava Izka)
  • Shaquelingua (Çakesar)
  • Taroan (Bahonga 'ta roa)
  • Thagojian (Thagozhup)
  • Tolborese (Kètolbor)
  • Veldan (Veldaneeas Lingwas)
  • Vozgian (Vuozgaišchai
  • Yargish

2 In the table above, these conlangs' names may also be anglicized as is "natural" to your English dialect when talking about them in English.




3. History

3.1. Who is Hildegard von Bingen?

glossalalia, speaking in tongues; Lingua Ignota (article)




4. Linguistics

4.1. Where can I learn about linguistics or linguistic terminology?

Online, there is SIL's Glossary of Linguistic Terms . Good reference books include Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists by Thomas E. Payne and A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics by R. L. Trask.

4.2. What is middle voice?

When used by Classical grammarians, it means that the subject does the action on their own behalf. When used in generative syntax, (see examples). Same as mediopassive or a reflective voice?



4.3. What is fourth person?

This term is often used for "obviate," that is, referring to another third-person. For example, in "John told bill that his dog died," if the his refers to Bill, it's obviate or fourth person. More generally, "fourth person" can refer to any level of personal distance considered farther away than third person, the way that some languages have multiple levels of physical distance: this, that, yonder, etc.



4.4. What is deixis?

At the most general, deixis just means a degreed series of relationships. As to its pronunciation, people have attested to [di'IksIs], ['dajksIs] (Britist?), ['diksIs] and ['dejksIs] (American?).



4.5. What are agglutinating, isolating, and inflecting languages?

Agglutinating languages tend to form utterances by stringing many affixes together to build up meaning. Isolating languages are the opposite, using separate particles to show meaning relationships. Inflecting or fusional languages are like agglutinating languages in that they use affixes, but they differ in that the affixes tend to conflate meanings into combination-affixes, instead of having a string of separate affixes.



4.6. What is an ergative language?



4.7. What is a tripartite languages?

A language that makes a three-way distinction between agent (subject of transitive verbs), patient (object of transitive verbs), and "subject" (subject of intransitive verbs).



4.8. What kind of aspect is..?
..."about to"
inchoative aspect (also inceptive)
..."stopped X"
cessative aspect


4.9. What are phones, phonemes, and allophones?

A phone is a speech sound (fully specified for every feature possible in human language). A properly-trained phonetician can trasncribe phones without knowing anything of the langauge in question, but will usually represent far more detail than actaully matters for understanding the language, hence the notion of the phoneme.

A phoneme represents a speech sound that is distinctive in a particular language. For instance, the English phoneme k/ is not specified for apiration, and can cover a variety of places of articulation from the back of the velum to the back of the palate, depending on adjacent sounds. A phoneme represents a class of phones whose distinctions are not significant in the language (though their occurence and selection may be regular).

People often have trouble hearing phonetic distinctions (between phones) that are not phonemic (distinctive) in their native langauge.

Allophones are the different phones that may occur for a phoneme. In Japanese, for instance, /l/ and / are allophones of the same phoneme. This meaningful distinctions is hard for Japanese learners of English, just as the aspirated vs. unaspirated distinction is hard for English learners of many Indian languages.

Sometimes allophones may be shared among several phonemes, creating a potential ambiguity for some phones.

When transcribing sounds into IPA, slashes (//) are used for phonemes and brackets ([]) are used for phones.



4.10. What is morphology? Morphemes?

A morpheme is a minimal distinctive sequence of phonemes. That is to say, it's meaningful and can't be made any shorter and retain any meaning. Context matters. For instance, the sequence ŋ/ (–ing) and bird are morphemes in English.

The ending -s in english is an example of morphonemic variation. It's a morpheme that can be realized three ways (/s/ /z/ /ɪz/). The form chosen depends on the phonological context, and thus what stem it's attached to. Sometimes "morphophonemes" (morphemes that vary in this way) are conditioned by specific roots, and not phonology.

Morphology is the rules for word change in a language, or the rules you need to describe how words change in a language. Sometimes processes like stress-shift, vowel length changes, or vowel quality changes are involved. These get tricky to analyze; some speak of "process morphemes."




5. Orthography

5.1. What is orthography?

Orthography is the way you write a language. Spelling rules. Often conlangs have con-scripts, and they are the orthography. Frequently we also have to devise a roman orthography four our languages (using the Latin-1 character set commonly used on the web, for instance). Sometimes this is a transliteration (with a 1-1 correspondence to the letters of the con-script), sometimes it's more precise.



5.2. How can I create my own script?

Doodle. Doodle the same glyph or text repeatedly, to see where it would be naturally worn down by use. Try using whatever materials your language's writers would have used, so that your glyphs' shapes are realistic. Study the letter forms of scripts you like the look of, and imitate them. Don't worry about having an unoriginal script when you're still researching — you need to get a feel for how real writing systems work before you can design your own.

Or you can read Peter Clark's post to the latex-for-conlangers Yahoo Group.


6. Phonology

6.1. What is an emphatic consonant?



6.2. What sounds tend to get lost over time?

Schwa. Poor, forgotten schwa.

6.3. What are believable sound changes?

Over time or in the face of external pressure (like contact with another language, for example), the sounds of a langugae can shift. Language-wide sound changes are not haphazard, but rather affect the language consistently. This isn't to say that all instances of a phoneme must shift — but all instances of that phoneme in the same phonetic environment must change. This environment can be very specific: say, voiced plosives become voiceless when occurring between back vowels in word-final syllables.

If you consider phonemes as sounds with a set of phonological features, then natlang-like sound changes occur when some of theme features are dropped or changed. Sounds usually do not randomly change all of their features (at once, any way). If you want a very radically different sound, then you may want to take your language through intermediate stages to get there in a believable fashion.

There's a saying on this list that goes something like, "if [ni] can change into ], then anything is possible." For example:

[ni] > [nji] > [ji] > i] > ̩] > ɹ] > ɹ] > ]

Or something like that; it's completely plausible.

If you want to see examples of historical sound changes in natlangs, check out the Correspondence Library on the Zompist Board forum.



6.4. What are some phonological "universals"?

With the usual caveats that language universals often have exceptions somewhere in the world, below are some guidelines.

  • All languages have consonants and vowels.
  • All languages have plosives.
  • Almost all languages have /p, t, k/; those that don't, have 2 of /p, t, k/.
  • Almost all languages have nasals; if one, usually /n/, if two, usually /m, n/.
  • If language has /J/ or /N/, it will have both /m, n/.
  • 95% languages have fricatives; 90% have a sibilant; 64% have /h/; rarest fricatives are pharyngeals (about 7% have these).
  • 95% languages have a liquid; 80% have an L-sound, 77% have an R-sound.
  • 19% languages have ejectives, 10% have implosives, clicks are very rare.
  • If language has ejective(s), /k'/ will be one of 'em.
  • If language has ejective fricative, it will have ejective stops.
  • Plosives tend to be symmetrical, or very nearly symmetrical (e.g. English p-b t-d k-g), whilst fricative systems tend to be a lot more assymetrical.
  • The stop system can become quite large, commonly, but large fricative systems are less common.
  • All languages with front rounded vowel(s) will have front unrounded vowel(s).
  • Plosive systems tend to be front/labial~denti-alveolar~velar/back. N.B. Hawai'ian with /p k ?/, but where /k/ has the allophones [k] and [t]
  • Plosive systems tend to spread out evenly-ish across all space.
Bryan Parry , 2006-02-07

The above list comes from the following sources:

  • Greenberg, J. Universals of Human Language. Vol 2: Phonology. 1978. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. 1999. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Ladefoged, P. Vowels and Consonants. 2005, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Ladefoged, P. and Maddieson, I. Sounds of the World's Languages. 1996. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Lass, R. Phonology: An Introduction to Basic Concepts. 1984. Cambridge: CUP.
  • Maddieson, I. Patterns of Sound. 1984. Cambridge: CUP.



7. Professional Conlangs

7.1. What conlang is used in Stargate?

The conlang was created by Stuart Tyson Smith, Ph.D., a research associate at the Institute of Archaeology at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History. It is meant to be Egyptian as it might have developed over a few thousand years.




8. Vocabulary

8.1. How can I make synonyms?

Try re-coining words you know already exist but that you can't remember when you need them. You can decide later what the subtle distinction or connotative difference is between your new synonyms.