Deconstructing Conlanging

This blog is dedicated to conlanging and providing a resource for newbie and veteran conlangers alike. There will also be posts about linguistics, and interviews with Tumblr linguists and other conlangers.
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It is, of course, impossible to make this series a full and complete list of the different ways to learn a conlang, but even if I go on with this series for years, I will never cover all of the different ways that people can interact with a language in a way that helps them internalize it. Neither can I tell you what the way to go is for you. You just have to experiment and keep working with the conlang (or even natlang) that you want to learn and eventually you’ll improve. It just takes a few steps and a few missteps to get there.

The reason why I first suggested to learn some sort of other language (or even another conlang!) was so that you could get a feel for what would work best for you when you were to teach yourself your conlang. Learning in and of itself is a process, but many language learners get stuck before they even get started because they get so caught up in what kind of process they are using that they don’t actually start to learn the language.

I believe that that problem is even worse with conlangs, because in this case there are so many distractions one can fall prey to. You’re (most likely) creating the language yourself, so you can get caught up in working in the technical aspects of the language rather than experiencing it yourself.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what method you decide to use as long as you work with the language. It’s best to work in many different ways anyways in order to get the best understanding of your language as possible. Once you take the first step to learning your language, it should just roll along steadily. Just keep moving forward and don’t get discouraged by your progress (or plateauing). As long as you keep working seriously with the language it should work out for the best.


Resources and Additional Readings:

Hello all Deconstructed Construction followers!

Instead of a normal post this week, I (Nick) will be holding a week of questions and answers!

Occasionally we get messages in our inbox about certain things related either to linguistics or conlanging, and I wanted to make sure that all of our followers have a chance to ask any questions that they have floating around. Of course, you can obviously send us questions at any time, but this is sort of a special occasion where there will be time set aside specifically to writing more personalized informational posts.

Our askbox can be found here. Don’t be shy!

Best wishes,

Once in a while one might wonder what would the world be like if there was just a slight thing that had changed. This is the reason why thinking about alternate possibilities, even alternate histories is such a fun and entertaining process for people. It’s not just simply imagining that is the fun of it. If that were the case, it is probably easier to create something from whole cloth. I would have to say that the point and the allure of alternate history is that under some circumstance, it could have happened.

Take, for example, the language Brithenig. Brithenig is a conlang created in 1996 by Andrew Smith to experiment with the idea of Latin taking over as the dominant language rather than Celtic in Great Britain. Smith not only created the language of Brithenig, but incorporated into it a complete alternate history and timeline that would make this language possible to exist in a natural setting.

Granted, the alternate timeline (Ill Bethisad) only came about because of a large collaboration with others on it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. One of the most interesting thing about conlanging and conworlding is that it is so easy for people to share their ideas and opinions on material given that they are well-enough informed to understand the material and are allowed to interact with others in a meaningful way that at the same time creates a product, an idea, that is just as meaningful. We have a community here that is more than open to discussion and collaboration. And that is a great thing.

I think the most interesting thing about any project is that people can form something so much more complicated than one mind can create. It gives it a realism that a single-person project can only strive for. It also takes things and brings them to interesting new places that are completely unexpected. Ill Bethisad is a great example of that, as well as other things going on in the community right now.

"There are several means by which the Members of this Project have created the alternate or pseudo history of Ill Bethisad. A project as long-running and with so many contributers (anymore both active and inactive) can’t be managed in a haphazard way. Nor can it really be run by a single person who is at the center of the creative activity. Indeed, in the first years, this was exactly how the project operated: the original deviser of the alternate history was at the center of a cadre of interested individuals."

It is sometimes not possible to use only one person for a project. It is impossible to have a relay without a friend to pass the message along to, just as it is impossible to play glossotechnia without someone else to challenge you to do better. Although that is not the same as creating a world by yourself- which is more than doable by one person -it does go to show how adding more people can add an element of human randomness to a project.

One doesn’t always have to look at the conlang itself to find inspiration for their own projects. Life takes us in many different directions, and you might start a project thinking that you’re going to be talking about alternate histories and the different influences languages have on one another and end up talking about cooperation and collaboration within individual projects and the conlanging community. Nonetheless, as long as something is moving forward, then it is worth the effort.


Resources and Additional Reading:

Stephen D. Rogers. A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Adûnaic to Elvish, Zaum to Klingon- The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons. Adams Media, 2011.

We have heard some feedback from a few of you regarding the content and organization of the blog, but we’d really love to hear what you all have to say.

We are currently looking for suggestions for new series of posts. What do you guys want to hear? What do you want to learn? Do you want our opinions on something? We are open to anything you have to suggest. Since this blog is first and foremost a resource to the Tumblr conlanging community, we want to provide you with the advice and resources that you need so please don’t hesitate to ask!

-Jordan, creator of Deconstructed Construction

Having started this blog a little under a year ago, I can’t express enough how amazed I am at how well it has been received. Thank you for all your support.

We are now looking to grow a bit and add a few contributors to the blog who would write posts on a semi-regular or regular basis. If you are interested in joining a group of inspired conlang enthusiasts who are striving to help spread the love of conlanging to more and more people, please don’t hesitate to send an application as an ask and we will get back to you promptly. We are looking for 2 or 3 people to contribute so our next member could very well be you! (In your application, please include: name, age, how long you have been conlanging, a link to one of your conlangs if possible, any ideas you may have for a possible series of posts you would be interested in writing).

We are also now accepting submissions from all of you wondrous Tumblr conlangers. If you want your conlang reviewed or featured on our blog, send us a submission with a link to information about your conlang (if possible), the name of your conlang, a description of your language, a description of the con-culture who speaks it (if applicable), and anything else you think people would be interested in! 

Thank you again for all the support you have given us! 

It can be argued that the goal of creating a language is to be able to translate things into it. Granted, most of us conlangers are doing it for the art of it all, but if you’re not able to translate anything into your language, it’s not really much of a success, is it? You need to be able to express whatever you want in your language, and sometimes that might include things that you already know how to say in a natural language.

Translating is one of those things that is unavoidable once you start working with a language. You constantly need to think about how you might want to say X in your language, or “what would Y word be?” and so on and so forth. It’s also much easier to explain how your language works if you can show someone what it looks like when it’s being used. Plus, translating again and again helps you to a) better understand how your language works in an active setting and b) actually be able to understand your language in and of itself better.

Let me explain. One can be creating a language, making up rules and words and such, and might be able to understand everything that happens grammatically, but without using that language in any manner they will probably not be fluent in it. That’s where translation comes in. Obviously there are no native materials in whatever conlang this happens to be, but the cool thing about being a conlanger is that you can actually make yourself some native materials. It may be nigh impossible to really immerse yourself within your language, but you can at least make it so if you do decide to write up a grammar or something, there will be plenty of examples. (Plus you can use the sentences or passages you translate in this sort of learning method!)

Translating, while probably not used as much as it has in the last, has been used for specific language learning for years and years. The goal was to be able to translate Latin and Greek classics by learning rules and word lists and using those to translate from the target language text into their native language. “But how can I do this in conlanging?”, you may ask. Well, there are a lot of things that people translate within our community.

The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) is probably the most translated and most well-known of all texts used by conlangers. In fact, you can even see it depicted upon our flag.

While some may debate its usefulness, it has indeed become a tradition to translate this text at least once in a language’s lifespan. It is probably a popular choice because it talks about the creation of many languages from one, and because it has a nice variety of different sentence structures and words within it.

The passage is as follows (King James Translation):

1 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. 3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. 4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Of course, the Tower of Babel is not the only biblical text translated. The Pater Noster, or Our Father prayer, is also chosen frequently, although it has been being used less than something like the Babel Text.

The North Wind and the Sun, which is one of Aesop’s fables, is becoming more and more a popular choice for translation. It is a relatively simple story, and is also much better for those who would prefer not to translate a biblical passage.

The passage is as follows:

The North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger, when a traveler came along wrapped in a warm cloak.

They agreed that the one who first succeeded in making the traveler take his cloak off should be considered stronger than the other.

Then the North Wind blew as hard as he could, but the more he blew the more closely did the traveler fold his cloak around him;and at last the North Wind gave up the attempt. Then the Sun shined out warmly, and immediately the traveler took off his cloak.

And so the North Wind was obliged to confess that the Sun was the stronger of the two.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is quite short, but it is good if you just need a sample of just a few sentences. If you would like to do more than that, the entire text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is doable if you are interested in a longer translation along the same lines.

The passage is as follows:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Of course, there are many many more things that one can translate. You are free to fill phrasebooks, come up with your own original text to translate, or even steal some text that you like from someone else (provided that you say where the original text is from). The more you translate, especially combined with other learning methods, will only help you in your quest to learn your language. Translation might seem tedious or boring, but it is helpful in the end, whether you’re translating to learn your conlang or just to show it off to others. 


Resources and Additional Reading:

Previously here at Deconstructed Construction we’ve talked about a more logical outlook on language, but today we will be looking at language logicalized, but simplified. That language would be Toki Pona, created by Sonja Elen Kisa and posted online in 2001.

Toki Pona is intended to express as much as it can using the least amount it has to. It is another language inspired by the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (also known as Linguistic Relativity) in that it intends to shape the speaker’s thoughts in almost  zen-like way in order to simplify their way of life and thinking.

It is simple in all respects. There are very few sounds (only five vowels and nine consonants total), and it is very simple in construction. It is so simple, in fact, that  it requires only ten rules to explain all of its syntactic structure. It uses a 120-root vocabulary as its whole lexicon. Many of these roots come from languages like English, Esperanto, or other languages.

ma tomo Pape (The Tower of Babel story)
Translation by jan Siwen (Stephen Pope)

jan ali li kepeken e toki sama. jan li kama tan nasin pi kama suno li kama tawa ma Sinale li awen lon ni. jan li toki e ni: “o kama! mi mute o pali e kiwen. o seli e ona.” jan mute li toki e ni: “o kama! mi mute o pali e tomo mute e tomo palisa suli. sewi pi tomo palisa li lon sewi kon. nimi pi mi mute o kama suli! mi wile ala e ni: mi mute li lon ma ante mute.” jan sewi Jawe li kama anpa li lukin e ma tomo e tomo palisa. jan sewi Jawe li toki e ni: “jan li lon ma wan li kepeken e toki sama li pali e tomo palisa. tenpo ni la ona li ken pali e ijo ike mute. mi wile tawa anpa li wile pakala e toki pi jan mute ni. mi wile e ni: jan li sona ala e toki pi jan ante.” jan sewi Jawe li kama e ni: jan li lon ma mute li ken ala pali e tomo. nimi pi ma tomo ni li Pape tan ni: jan sewi Jawe li pakala e toki pi jan ali. jan sewi Jawe li tawa e jan tawa ma mute tan ma tomo Pape.

Toki Pona is simple enough that it can be learned faster than even Esperanto. It is said that there are probably 100 people who speak it fluently and hundreds more who have dabbled with it.

Once the base roots and ten grammar rules are learned, the problem does not lie in having a lot to remember, but in expressing oneself clearly. For many things that languages might have multiple words of to distinguish between meanings, Toki Pona has made it necessary to work around the constraints of the small vocabulary in order to express more complicated concepts. Of course, this was not intended since the original point of this language was to make one think more simply and not to try to overcomplicate things.

Nonetheless, as a conlang it is successful enough to be well-known within the community. It is simple, but useful and succeeds in its purpose of forcing one to use simple building blocks in order to express anything in the world around oneself.


Resources and Additional Reading:

If you’re not really up to the whole “flashcard” thing but still want to go old-school, you may want to look into making a sort of text for yourself. Whether you want to call it a formal grammar or just a collection of lessons, writing up some sort of grammatical text that describes how your language works might just help you in learning how everything works. You can then use it to create other things like worksheets if you’re so inclined or other learning activities much like those you would find in a classroom.

But what do you include in these lessons? Well, short answer is everything. The long answer is everything to make it a full usable and complete language. Different people have different ideas about what one should be including in a grammar, but most of the time it boils down to:

Of course, not everyone agrees on this layout, and in fact, Mr. Peterson (creator of Dothraki, Kamakawi, etc.) stated this when questioned about his Kamakawi sections on his website:

"Back when I was starting out, I had the same view of language and linguistics as most ling. undergrads: syntax trees, morphemes, discrete phonemes, etc., and my languages (and their descriptions) reflected that (and suffered for it). Over the years, though, I’ve come to share the opinion that (I think) many in the field are beginning to adopt: that there really is no formal difference between morphology and syntax. Some have taken this to mean that there is no lexicon, and that word-internal rules look pretty much like syntactic trees (see Distributed Morphology). I’ve taken the opposite route to the same conclusion: the lexical machinery that derives words also derives larger units. The goal of both approaches (or one of them, anyway), though, is to eliminate the formal distinction between morphology and syntax. This is why I don’t fret if I don’t see a section describing the “syntax” of a given conlang in someone’s grammar: they’re on the right track. Besides, usually what you see in those sections is just some comments on word order and how to form questions or topicalize a noun… Such things would probably be better discussed elsewhere.”

But in the end, as long as you get your message across it matters little how you decide to organize it, particularly if you are a beginner. If you are just starting out and have little knowledge yet of how language works within the sphere of academic linguistics- a good sign would be if that previous comment by Mr. Peterson sounded like a bit of gibberish to you -then it is fine to stick with the basics until you can understand how else you might want to organize things.

Before you decide to write something up for yourself, I advise you to take a look at multiple grammars for other conlangs. Don’t only look at ones for well-known conlangs, but also take a look at amateur grammars. Some of the best examples of good conlang grammars (or grammars-in-progress) I have seen thanks to looking at other people’s languages.

A good yet obscure example I personally have run into would be of the conlang Wexamazeovra. If you click the link you can see all of the posts made about the language. If you were to click on any of the sections of the grammar you would see a detailed yet brief explanation of the parts of the language relevant to the section. Although this is far from complete (and the project itself put on an indefinite hiatus), you can gain from seeing how things are organized and set up in a way to be understandable by those not particularly involved with the project.

If you’re not sure where to start at all, perhaps you might be better off starting with something smaller, like an outline of your conlang. There are even templates out there for you if you’re not sure what to include, although they might include terminology you might not know.

Once you have that information down, you can study straight from that text or maybe you might want to make some more fun lessons from it. It’s all up to you. Working from a strict grammar might be a bit more difficult than other methods if you’re not used to working like that, but people have been learning languages through this method for decades before we had things like Rosetta Stone and other programs. So, if you’re not sure where to start, why not try this? It involves doing pretty much what you’d be doing already to share information with the rest of the conlanging community.


Resources and Additional Reading:

Mark Rosenfelder. The Language Construction Kit. Yonagu Books, 2010.


Toki Pona:


Kamakawi or


Can you imagine working on a conlang for fifty years? Sarah Higley, also known within the community as Sally Caves, is the creator of Teonaht and has been doing that exact thing. She created the language in 1962 when she was just nine years old that ended up to be spoken by a group of polydactyl humans called the Teonim.

If you are an experienced conlanger, take just a moment and think back to your first conlang. Do you remember what it was like? Probably a lot like you native language and not really all that good at all. But what if you had kept messing with it? Kept changing and altering and tweaking to get it to resemble something completely different. This is the sort of thing that Ms. Caves languages that I have run into in my time researching conlangs.

Teonaht, while being a tad hard to completely discover due to the state of the webpage it is hosted at (I had to go to in order to get a copy of the grammar and website), does prove itself to have some interesting features and little details that only come about when you’ve had it stewing and simmering for years to get just the right flavor. Of course, I have not the time to go over the complete language, but there are a few things in particular I would like to point out.

Send eldwav ebra: “Mantets! Tesa-ilz lirifel-jo hadhhamata ta mehuen aid kempa ar Erahenahil, send rõ tyr aittearmats, ta vera listsõ hyny il takrem ro ssosyarem.”

And they said: “Come! A city and tower let us build so that its head reaches to Heaven. And ourselves let us name, so that we get not throughout the earth our scattering.”

Teonaht, unlike many Indo-European languages (such as English or Spanish, although there are many more), allows for an Object-Subject-Verb order (OSV for short) in a sentence. Many of you readers here are probably familiar with what we use in English, a Subject-Verb-Object order (SOV for short), unless you have been studying foreign languages or experimenting in your conlang. So where in English we would say “The boy threw the ball.” in an OSV language it would be “The ball the boy threw.” Trying something that your native language doesn’t do is a good thing sometime, and even better is to add some variation to the mix. In English you can say “The ball, the boy threw.”, although it will be a marked word order and it will be apparent that you are using it for poetic or emphatic purposes. It is a stylistic variant, and likewise, Teonaht appears to have SV as a stylistic variant.

Teonaht is not known for that, though, as many a language allows for variants like that. Teonaht is known for something termed the Law of Detachibility instead. Ms. Caves terms it as such: “wherever there’s a suffix, remove it and make a prefix.” Now, this can be a bit of a confusing concept for one to grasp since it is not represented in any of our natural languages but with the help of some examples, it should be easier to see.

Let’s take the form nelry meuueluo 'I fell silent' or literally “past-I fell silent”. This is the final form created by the Law of Detachability. It comes from the form meuluonel with the -nel being the tense marker in this situation. That suffix detaches from the verb form being used and attaches to the pronoun as a prefix to create the form nelry that then goes in the sentence with the verb form meuueluo. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule (only singular and plural forms, not dual forms are subject to the Law of Detachability; it is only used in the nominative case), but as a feature of language it is a pretty defining one.

Here are a few conjugation tables for three different types of verbs that might be worth taking a look at if you want to see the process for yourself.

teprorem, “touch,” vt:

meueluoned, “fall silent,” ni:
Note: this is a -ned verb, and hence it is an “experiencer”; the “n” at the end of the conjugated verb is a reminder of that.

hejvvandi, “be absent,” avi:

Note: This is a “stative” or -Ndi verb. It can be either agentive or experiential, but the “n” at the end of the word does not necessarily indicate non-agency; it is merely what remains when you remove the infinitive suffix.

All tables are taken from the formal grammar of Teonaht itself.

Interestingly, Teonaht has something a bit similar happen elsewhere. It’s not quite the Law of Detachability, but it is similar. Sometimes when nouns take plural prefixes, it won’t attach to the noun. It decides to attach itself to the article instead. For example, for the noun “the songs” you can get li nihhtindro or lini htindro, the plural prefix in this case being ni-. Of course, this is more of a writing oddity than anything else since it does not prefix itself to the article, but it reflects the phenomenon of attaching things to previous words, whether pronouns or articles.

Teonaht is much much more than that, but in order to fully delve into the fifty years of work put into this singular language it would take many many a post and much too much explaining for our purposes here. Nonetheless, it- and even Ms. Caves herself -is a good example of what can come of a conlang given enough time and enough concentrated effort. You can achieve a complexity, naturalness, and elegance in stating that may even rival a natural language. I exaggerate, of course, as a conlang is never truly completed as long as there is something that can be expanded or changed or altered, but if there is a personal project that one would want to look towards as a conlanger, I would more than suggest Teonaht. Particularly to those like myself who find themself drawn back to the same language project time and time again.


Resources and Additional Reading:

Arika Okrent. In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language. Spiegel & Grau, 2009. 

Stephen D. Rogers. A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Adûnaic to Elvish, Zaum to Klingon- The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons. Adams Media, 2011.

This is not a source used in this post, but rather, an article written by Ms. Caves, creator of Teonaht, about conlangers and the CONLANG-L listserv in particular.

Humor me for a moment and think back to any language classes you might have had in your schooling experience, whether in your native language or a foreign language. Do you remember anything in particular that you did while learning (or expanding) your skills in that language? Perhaps you did worksheets, or translation or speaking activities, but there is one thing that I can almost guarantee almost everyone- and I say almost because I know for a fact that I was too lazy to do so -crammed using notecards before a test. Surprise surprise! That’s what I’m talking about this week.

Before you decide to unfollow the blog and close the tab, just listen. I don’t necessarily mean pounding vocab word after vocab word into your head like you’re studying for the SATs. I’m talking about something that is similar to that, but much much more effective for those who have the patience for it.

Spaced Repetition learning systems (hereafter referred to as SRS) are essentially flashcards. Digital flashcards that you can use to review or learn your material. Of course, in order to use this method you absolutely need to have ‘native’ materials. By native, of course I mean documentation. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, you must have all sorts of documentation to do anything! In this situation, many different kinds of sample translations will be best for you. The sentences shouldn’t be long, but they should use different types of sentence structures so that you can get a well-rounded knowledge of your language and its grammar.

But why would this do anything? You’re just memorizing sentences, right? Well, not quite. You’re learning the grammar and vocabulary in context. There’s no translation on the back of the card for you to memorize. You just have your particular sentence on one side and you judge yourself by how well you think you understood that. The good thing about using SRS rather than traditional flashcards is that it helps you out. The items you score higher on it shows you less frequently and the items you score lower on will come up more frequently. Of course, if you are just a beginner, using SRS might be a bit difficult at first, but once you have something to work off of it goes astonishingly fast.

So what would you be using with this SRS thing? Well, you’ve got a few options (and not all of them are included here, so do your own research before deciding for sure!):

Supermemo -

From what I hear, this is the original SRS client. Unfortunately, you do have to buy a license for this and sometimes it takes a bit of fiddling with, but it is worth mentioning just because most SRS programs are based off of the same algorithms that Supermemo uses.

Mnemosyne -

Mnemosyne is a very lightweight client that can pretty much do anything. I personally used this one more than Anki, but it’s up to you. In order to use images and sound you will have to mess around with some HTML, so if you’re not comfortable with that you might want to either forgo images or sound or try a different client.

Anki -

Anki is the most popular of all the SRS clients. There is a huge community using it and the program is really quite flexible. You are also able to download decks of cards or plugins or even sync your deck with the Anki server so you can study away from home! New versions of Anki are released pretty often too.

Even if you’re not completely comfortable with the idea of studying notecards, I do urge you to at least try it out. Just take a few minutes every day for a week going over your deck. Then you can decide whether or not it is doing something for you. Some people don’t like SRS and some people love it. Learning a language- whether conlang or natlang -is all about being flexible and working how your brain wants to work in order to learn the best you can.


Resources and Additional Reading:

We left off last time at the break between the Loglan Institute and the people who would go on to create Lojban. This was in 1987, mind you, so this was quite a bit after Loglan was created. Nevertheless, the people who chose to break off decided to create a new organization, the Logical Language Group, for their own logical language. They intended to make it freely usable and available to all who wished to learn it so that it can “grow in the wild”, if you prefer to phrase it as such.

Lojban was similar to Loglan in theory, but decided to use a completely different vocabulary. They chose words that would be familiar to speakers of various natlangs suck as Mandarin, English, Hindi, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. Their 1300 root words can be combined to form millions of other words. Lojban was (and is) a sort of intellectual child of Loglan. And while they never recombined when the idea was put forth- all of the activity was in Lojban rather than Loglan anyway -Brown at least admitted that he was happy that Lojban was succeeding.

Lojban is somewhat unusual in that while it aims to remove restrictions on creative ad clear thought, it actually causes quite a few problems itself. In In the Land of Invented Languages, author Arika Okrent writes about a situation she ran into while researching Lojban:

"One day during my weeklong immersion in the Lojban grammar, I was watching an Elmo video with my son when a friendly puppet character popped up to ask, "What are the two numbers that come after the number 6?" I had no idea what this puppet was getting at. "What the hell does that mean?" I wondered. "There are an infinite set of numbers that come after the number 6." I honestly did not know what the answer was supposed to be until the video told me (it’s 7 and 8, by the way)."


Ms. Okrent goes on to explain how this wasn’t really a sort of Whorfian effect, at least not in the way that was intended when Brown published Loglan, but rather, she was just seeing hidden meanings that Lojban was bringing into her view. 

zo'o ta jitfa .i .e'o xu do pendo mi

zo’o ta jitfa .i .e’o xu do pendo mi
[humor] that’s not true. Please [yes/no] you are friends with me?

Lojban is a language that tries to be many many things. It wants to train one’s mind in formal logic. That is probably the most basic of goals one can pick up on regarding Lojban (and even other similar loglangs). But it also wants to stay both culturally neutral and open to all different worldviews. It’s interesting how one conlang can juggle all of these goals and yet still be as successful as Lojban has been. It is doubtful that it will pick up and be used by any kind of large-scale audience, but it wasn’t really intended for that purpose even when it was Loglan that was the big loglang around. The fact that there are enough people still interested in the language to be as big a part of the conlanging community as they are is more than a little cool. And hey, if they want to distinguish between all the meanings of “a pretty little girls school”, that’s their choice.


References and Additional Reading:

Arika Okrent. In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language. Spiegel & Grau, 2009. 

Stephen D. Rogers. A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Adûnaic to Elvish, Zaum to Klingon- The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons. Adams Media, 2011.

So you’re finally ready to learn, you think? Got some experience with language learning under your belt and some impatience with having to wait to start? Well, then, just take a moment to breathe. Because we’re finally talking about something that brings you one step closer to learning your conlang: learning methods.

As I mentioned before, the reason why I did a whole spiel (and miniseries) on learning a more mainstream conlang was because you need to experiment with different methods of learning and find what works best for you. It’s not really all that good to trust what has worked for you with a natural language because there is just so much more available native materials for natlangs. If you had just relied on the sorts of things that you used when learning, say, Spanish or something, then it will be a surprise to see that you can’t really use all of the same input methods because of the sheer lack of things to choose from. Especially if you are learning your own conlang. Unless you have made hours and hours of “native” material to study off of, an input-based method is not going to work all that well. Even if you are fond of that sort of thing (as I am myself).

That being said, documentation is on your side here. Make sure to document everything you can about your language before you start to learn it. As mentioned in previously, if you do not have a well-enough-developed conlang then you are sinking yourself from the beginning. You need to have something to learn, and if you are planning on making it up as you go then you may not be as well-prepared to learn your conlang fully and efficiently as if you decided to complete as much as you can to get a full overview of how the language works as a system. This doesn’t only include things like basic phonology, vocabulary, or general syntax and word ordering. This also includes things such as stress pattern and other oft-overlooked items for a newbie conlanger.

But if you’re confident that you have all that down, that you’ve learned enough about how you want to personally learn your language and you know how it works enough so that it is not only usable in a real-life context but you don’t have to wing it every time, then it’s time to start discussing how you’re going to choose to learn this language. There are many different ways to decide how to go about this, so let’s take a look at just a few of the methods you can learn to help you in your conlang learning.


References and Additional Reading:

This is more of an article of interest rather than a specifically related post.


Is there anything you’ve been dying to hear about on Deconstructed Construction? You are in luck! I decided that I should celebrate with an extra post with a topic suggested by one of our readers!

★ Post must not overlap with any ongoing series that I (Nick) am not writing. So Historical Conlanging and Learning Your Conlang is up for grabs, but something like Conlanging with Constraints isn’t. You can also pick something completely different if you want me to, say, email and/or interview someone in the community or something non-series-related like that.
★ Topic must be researchable and have readily-available materials online or in print. Or it must be something that I can get information about in some conceivable not-all-that-crazy way.

Feel free to leave your suggestions here! Is there any topic that you want to see discussed?

If there were to be a subgroup of conlangs or artificial languages that are most interesting from a technical standpoint, it would have to be logical languages. But how many logical languages do you know of off the top of your head? Do you even realize what a logical language is? Why can’t all language be logical? Well, those are good questions. And to answer them, I think we have to go over the most well-known of the logical languages: Loglan and Lojban.

Before we get onto the connection and story between these two languages, we’d might as well start with the original. That would be Loglan, which is short for Logical Language. It was created by Dr. James Cooke Brown i 1955 in order to create a completely unambiguous language that could act as an interface between people and computers. Brown was such a believer in the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (also called Linguistic Relativity) that he believed that if he were to create a language different enough from natural languages that people learning this language might learn how to think differently because of it. At least, Loglan was a test to see if that would be the case or not.

"Professor Brown, someone is here who wants the proof of the Whorf Hypothesis."

Loglan is designed so that you have to say exactly what you mean. Its lack of ambiguity means that there is no way to say something that might mean two things. Each statement is like a mathematical formula in that it can’t tell you whether something or not is true, but it does a pretty good job of telling you what conditions you must meet in order for it to become true. If that doesn’t make sense to you, I did run into a joke once that demonstrates the concept pretty well.

How many Lojbanists does it take to change a broken light bulb? Two: one to decide what to change it into and one to decide what kind of bulb emits broken light.

Obviously this joke refers to those who are for Lojban and not Loglan, but you get the point. And it’s not like the languages are unrelated anyway, as you shall see in the Lojban post.

While Brown created Loglan in 1955, he didn’t publish it until 1960 when he published a sketch of his language in Scientific AmericanHe had a much different opinion on his language than many other language creators of the time did. This was because it was not meant to be an auxiliary language, but a language meant only to test out the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. His approach to the language was much less enthusiastic and much more rational. This made Loglan different from the various other invented languages like Interlingua or Esperanto which claimed many things from being the easiest language to learn to becoming a world language that will be used by all.

Na le mutce pasko nadzo gu, teba pa cmalo sorme, Hue la Mioksun, ja satcycue go mutce kukcea gu, E nu namci lau la Elsis, la Leisis, la Tilis. I teba ji sei pa sitlii le dampai je le cuthou.

“Once upon a time there were three little sisters,” the Dormouse began in a great hurry; “and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well—”
In the much former now, three somethings x were small sisters, Said the Dormouse, who began to speak very hurriedly [quick-becoming-ly], and were named (list) Elsie, Lacie, Tillie. And the same three somethings x who will now be refered to as s(orme) inhabited the bottom [down-part] of one well [water-hole].

Unfortunately, even though Brown did receive a small grant for his project in the beginning he didn’t have much luck getting support for it later on. Nonetheless, he did have a group of followers that he surrounded himself with. He made the Loglan Institute for his language and with the lack of success with funding, he turned it into a membership-funded organization. Unfortunately, by allowing his followers to become members of the institute they expected to have a bit more control over the language. However, Brown refused to accept that other people could have control over his language, eventually landing him into some trouble and driving away the people who liked the language in the first place. (Sound familiar?) It got to the point where Brown refused to allow materials about the language be released without one first signing a statement acknowledging that the institute controls the language completely and that royalties must be paid.

This, of course, did not please people and the supporters of Loglan decided that it was worth splitting their small community in order to have a bit more freedom in working with their logical language. Those who broke off instead created Lojban.

To be continued.


References and Additional Reading:

Arika Okrent. In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language. Spiegel & Grau, 2009. 

Stephen D. Rogers. A Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Adûnaic to Elvish, Zaum to Klingon- The Anwa (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons. Adams Media, 2011.

Comic and translation example taken from this site.

Now, it would be wrong to discount the two more recent conlangs that have gained not only notoriety within non-conlanging circles and communities behind them. That is why in the last post of the Learning Mainstream Conlangs miniseries I will be going over them at once. Just please note that I myself have not tried to learn Na’vi or Dothraki, so do your own research if you are interested in learning either language. Now that that is dealt with, on with the post!

The first conlang we are looking at would be Na’vi, a conlang which came into view in 2009 with the release of the film Avatar. It was created by linguist Paul Frommer  and the base wordlist that Frommer used to create the language had a sort of “Polynesian flavor” to it. It contains unusual features such as ejective consonants and a lack of voiced plosives (like b, d, g) since it was intended to be an alien language.

Learn Na’vi Forums -

No matter the language r subject matter, looking at or joining in on conversation on forums are usually a good bet. There are many subforums, both about Na’vi and other subjects. If you are interested in joining more a community around the language, this might be a good idea.

Na’vi in a Nutshell -

While in my first read-over I noticed a few statements that were a bit… problematic for those who fall on the more descriptivist side of the language debate, but it is a good enough overview of the basic grammar. I would advise that if you want to use this as a resource to look over linguistic terms first. There are some concepts beginners may be unfamiliar with.

Definitive Na’vi Dictionary -

This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a dictionary. Good for looking up vocabulary. Some knowledge of IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) recommended.

Na’vi might be an alien language, but there are plenty of people lining up to learn it. Granted, there probably is not as much interest in the language as there was in 2010, but there still is a community around the language. Paul Frommer himself even keeps a blog about the language for those who want to learn it or learn about it.

Of course, just because Na’vi has gotten out of the conlanging spotlight does not mean that there hasn’t been another language to take its place. In fact, there is a newcomer who is getting a lot of attention by those who want to learn. The language in question is Dothraki, created by well-known conlanger David J. Peterson. We’ve discussed one of Mr. Peterson’s conlangs, Kamakawi, last week. Dothraki was commissioned through the Language Creation Society for the television series Game of Thrones.

At this point I am finding very few resources for learning Dothraki, even fewer than Na’vi, but that may be because there has been less time for it to really get out there and get well-written learning materials (other than those that Mr. Peterson have made for the show itself)

Learning Dothrakion the Dothraki Wiki -

This wiki seems to have all of the information currently publicly known on the language. Since Game of Thrones is still airing, there is still much Dothraki that we have not seen. This wiki page has pages on the different things you would need to know about the language.

It’s a bit difficult when the languages have not been around for as long as something like Klingon (which also was a language used in television/movies), but i you really want to you could learn something like the above if any other mainstream conlangs don’t interest you. Just have fun with it and choose what you are most interested in. Whether its one of the languages I have suggested or something else, if you put a little work into it soon enough you’ll be playing scrabble in Sindarin or writing to your Lojban penpal!


References and Additional Reading: