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Encyclopedia > Conlangs

An artificial or constructed language (known colloquially as a conlang among aficionados), is a language whose vocabulary and grammar were specifically devised by an individual or small group, rather than having naturally evolved as part of a culture as with natural languages. Some are designed for use in human communication (usually to function as international auxiliary languages), but others are created for use in fiction, linguistic experimentation, secrecy (codes), or for the experience of doing so. Conlangers differ on whether linguistic creation of the latter kind is to be considered an art or a hobby. These languages are sometimes associated with constructed worlds.

The synonym planned language is sometimes used when referring to international auxiliary languages, and by those who may object to the more common term "artificial". Speakers of Esperanto, for example, have argued that "Esperanto is an artificial language like an automobile is an artificial horse". However, the term planned language is rarely used outside the Esperanto community.



Constructed languages are often divided into a priori languages, in which much of the grammar and vocabulary is created from scratch (using the author's imagination or automatic computational means), and a posteriori languages, where the grammar and vocabulary are derived from one or more natural languages.

Fictional and experimental languages can also be naturalistic, in the sense that they are meant to sound natural and, if derived a posteriori, they try to follow natural rules of phonological, lexical and grammatical change. Since these languages are not usually intended for easy learning or communication, a naturalistic fictional language tends to be more difficult and complex, not less (because it tries to mimic common behaviours of natural languages such as irregular verbs and nouns, complicated phonological rules, etc.).

In light of the above, most constructed languages can broadly be divided as follows:

A constructed language can have "native" speakers, if children learn it at an early age from parents who have learned the language. Esperanto has a considerable number of native speakers, variously estimated to be between 200 and 2000. A member of the Klingon Language Institute, d'Armond Speers, attempted to raise his son as a native (bilingual with English) Klingon speaker, but found that at that time the Klingon vocabulary was not quite large enough to express the large number of objects normally found in the home, such as "table" or "bottle".

Proponents of particular constructed languages often have many reasons for using them. Among these, the famous but disputed Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is often cited; this claims that the language one speaks influences the way in which one thinks. Thus, a "better" language should allow the speaker to reach some elevated level of intelligence, or to encompass more diverse points of view.

See also

External links


  • The CONLANG Mailing List Archives (http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/conlang.html)
  • LiveJournal Conlangs community (http://www.livejournal.com/community/conlangs)
  • Zompist BBoard (http://www.spinnoff.com/zbb/index.php) - an online forum devoted to conlangs (and conworlds in general)
  • ZBB Wiki (http://melluk.dyndns.org/wiki) - a wiki, running on MediaWiki, managed by the denizens of the Zompist BBoard

How to

  • The Language Construction Kit (http://zompist.com/kit.html)
  • How to Create a Language (http://www.angelfire.com/ego/pdf/ng/lng/how/index.html) by Pablo David Flores, inspired by the Language Construction Kit; covers some overlooked topics
    • Cómo crear un lenguaje (http://www.angelfire.com/ego/pdf/sp/lng/como/index.html) - Spanish language version

Link collections

Collections of constructed language resource links

  • Some Internet resources relating to constructed languages (http://www.sys.uea.ac.uk/~jrk/conlang.html)
  • More Internet resources relating to constructed languages (http://www.langmaker.com/db/rsc_a2z_index.htm)


  Results from FactBites:
A Conlang FAQ (2266 words)
A constructed language, or conlang, is a language created consciously, usually by one person, rather than one evolving over long periods of time in a community of speakers.
J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the more famous conlangers of this century, devising numerous languages; he called conlanging his "secret vice." The medieval nun Hildegard of Bingen supplemented her vocabulary with almost 1000 words of Lingua Ignota, her "unknown language," when she wrote in Latin several hundred years ago.
Some conlangs are languages designed or intended to express meanings which other languages may ignore, neglect, suppress, etc., such as Laadan, created by Suzette Haden Elgin for her novel Native Tongue as a way to talk about women's language.
  More results at FactBites »



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