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Word list




Here are some basic conlanging and linguistics terms.

If a term could be listed either in adjective or noun form (as inflectional or inflection), prefer whichever feels more natural and provides smoothest coverage. An adjectival entry should list definitions for the various kinds of nouns it can modify; but if the adjectival form has a generic sense and then specifics to be mentioned for some nouns and not others, it may work better to list the noun form and then list specific adjective-noun combinations.

Examples: fusion doesn't cover fusional language, but fusional covers language and implies the sense of fusion; there's nothing to say about derivational affix beyond "an affix that's derivational", but there is more to say about derivational morpheme, and the sense of derivational follows from the process, so it's easier to list derivation and derivational morpheme than to try to fit everything under adjective derivational.

If a term doesn't list any sections of the book where it is discussed, although it could be something that doesn't need coverage in the book proper, or something that is covered but not yet linked from here, it could also signal a topic waiting for coverage.

A word that modifies a noun.   (linguistics; Intermediate)
A word that modifies any part of language except a noun — verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, clauses, sentences.   (linguistics; Intermediate)
A word-part that attaches to words and modifies their meaning. More narrowly concerned with form, and thus carries less conceptual baggage, than related term bound morpheme.   (linguistics; Beginner, Intermediate)
One of the thematic roles: The participant of a situation that carries out an action.   (linguistics)
Of a language, combining morphemes into words without changing their forms. May or may not imply synthetic, depending on who you ask. Contrasts with fusional, but affixation doesn't have to be either agglutination or fusion. The concept of morpheme works more smoothly in agglutinative than in fusional languages.   (linguistics)
Alternative history language. An artlang meant to be what some historical natlang would have evolved into in some alternative history.   (conlanging; Types)
The phenomenon of discovering that a weird, supposedly original feature in your conlang already exists in some natural language. Coined in recognition that natural languages regularly turn out to be even more bizarre than what conlangers can devise. Acronym for (sic) another natlang already dunnit except worse.   (conlanging; FAQ)
Of a language, not inflecting words for their grammatical relationships. Says nothing necessary about morpheme/word ratio, nor about other kinds of inflections; cf. synthetic, isolating.   (linguistics)
a posteriori 
Of a feature, borrowed from natural languages rather than invented. Of a conlang, mostly composed of a posteriori features.   (conlanging; Types)
a priori 
Of a feature, invented rather than borrowed from natural languages. Of a conlang, mostly composed of a priori features.   (conlanging; Types)
Artistic language. A conlang created as art.   (conlanging; Types)
Auxiliary language. A conlang meant as a common second language for people with different native languages.   (conlanging; Types)
bound morpheme 
A morpheme that cannot occur in a word without other morphemes; such as English plural morpheme -s. Similar term affix is more narrowly concerned with form, thus carries less conceptual baggage. Cf. inflectional/derivational morpheme. Contrast free morpheme.   (linguistics)
Of a noun, its syntactic role in the sentence.   (linguistics; Intermediate)
A pair of words that mark the beginning and end of a modifying phrase.   (linguistics)
1. Inflection of a verb.
2. A paradigm for a verb.   (linguistics)
Constructed language. A language deliberately invented by someone.   (conlanging; FAQ)
cranberry morpheme 
A bound morpheme that has no meaning of its own but distinguishes words; such as then cran- in English cranberry. Also called fossilized morpheme.   (linguistics)
1. Inflection of a noun.
2. A paradigm for a noun.   (linguistics)
Changing the form of a word to create another word — altering its meaning or grammatical class. Cf. derivational morpheme. Contrast inflection.   (linguistics)
derivational morpheme 
A bound morpheme that changes the core meaning or class of the word. Contrast inflectional morpheme.   (linguistics)
Of a conlang, having its own internal fictional history. Contrast synchronic.   (conlanging; Types)
Of a consonant, produced by an airstream from the glottis closed and moving rapidly upward.   (linguistics; Advanced)
Engineered language. A conlang designed to meet objective criteria.   (conlanging; Types)
An auxlang whose vocabulary is entirely Indo-European, often entirely Romance.   (conlanging; Types)
Of a verb, how the speaker knows the action happened.   (linguistics; Beginner)
Fictional auxlang. A supposed auxlang created by a character in a fictional setting.   (conlanging; Types)
free morpheme 
A morpheme that can occur alone as a word; contrast bound morpheme.   (linguistics)
Of a language, having the property that a single affix may indicate multiple derivational/inflectional changes; e.g. a Latin noun suffix which may indicate at once gender case and number. Fusional may or may not imply synthetic, depending on who you ask. Contrasts with agglutinative, but affixation doesn't have to be agglutination or fusion. The concept of morpheme is more awkward in fusional languages than agglutinative ones.   (linguistics)
A way of classifying nouns into groups. May be completely unrelated to sexual gender.   (linguistics; Beginner)
The study of the rules governing the use of a given language.   (linguistics; Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
International Auxillary Language. An auxlang intended for use on an international scale. Auxlangs are almost always IALs, to the point where the two terms are often treated as synonyms.   (conlanging; Types)
An affix that attaches to the middle of a word. Contrast prefix, suffix.   (linguistics; Intermediate)
Changing the form of a word to indicate a grammatical category such as number or case, without altering the word's core meaning or grammatical class. Cf. paradigm. Contrast derivation.   (linguistics)
inflectional morpheme 
A bound morpheme that does not alter the core meaning or class of the word. Contrast derivational morpheme.   (linguistics)
1. A natlang that isn't known to be related to any other natlang on Earth.
2. The only living member of a large family of related languages.   (linguistics; sister: Wikipedia)
Of a language, having no inflections and very low morpheme/word ratio. Must be analytic, cannot be synthetic.   (linguistics)
kitchen sink 
Of a conlang, having many exotic features with no apparent reason or overall scheme.   (conlanging; Types)
The identity of a word that does not change under inflection but does change under derivation. Encompasses core meaning and grammatical class, but not grammatical categories such as number, case, etc.   (linguistics)
lexeme-based morphology 
An approach to morphology in which a stem is altered by a (derivational/inflectional) process to produce a word form. Contrast morpheme-based, word-based.   (linguistics)
Logical language. A conlang based on formal logic.   (conlanging; Types)
Of a verb, the possibility and necessity of the verb — whether it happens, might happen, can happen, is commanded to happen, etc.   (linguistics; Beginner, Intermediate)
A word-part that has a meaning of its own. Cf. free/bound. Words are more easily analyzed into morphemes in agglutinative than in fusional languages.   (linguistics; Intermediate)
morpheme-based morphology 
An approach to morphology in which morphemes are combined to produce a word form. Contrast lexeme-based, word-based.   (linguistics)
The study of the internal structure of words.   (linguistics; Beginner)
Natural language. A human language that occurred naturally, as opposed to a conlang.   (conlanging; FAQ)
Of a language, not using word order for organizing the elements of a sentence, so that word order is available for use for other purposes (such as discourse structure). This term comes from the phrase-structure tradition of linguistics.   (linguistics)
A word that denotes a thing (concrete or abstract).   (linguistics; Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced)
Of a noun, how many of the noun there are.   (linguistics; Beginner, Intermediate)
A part of a sentence that specifies a thing secondarily involved in the action of the verb. One of the three main parts of a sentence.   (linguistics)
The correct way of using a specific writing system to write the language.   (linguistics; Beginner, Intermediate)
Rare language type in which the neutral ordering of the three main sentence elements is object-subject-verb. Most natlangs put the subject before the object. OSV natlangs are mostly native to the Amazon basin.   (linguistics; Beginner)
Rare language type in which the neutral ordering of the three main sentence elements is object-verb-subject. Most natlangs put the subject before the object. Some native languages of the Americas are OVS.   (linguistics; Beginner)
A complete pattern of all the ways a word can vary by inflection. Cf. declension, conjugation.   (linguistics)
One of the thematic roles: The participant of a situation upon whom an action is carried out.   (linguistics)
Of a noun, how it relates to the speaker and the audience.   (linguistics)
A pattern of form in words that naturally pairs with meaning, in violation of Ferdinand de Saussure's principle of arbitrariness of the sign. Phonaesthemes are not limited to a single language, and do not compose to fully define a word form; contrast morpheme. Common examples are "gl-" for words related to light and vision, "sn-" for words related to the mouth or nose.   (linguistics; sister: Wikipedia)
1. The qualitative sound of a language, including its beautiful (euphonic) and harsh (cacophonic) aspects. Term in this sense attributed to J.R.R. Tolkien; cf. cellar door.
2. The relationship between form and meaning of words; cf. phonaestheme.   (linguistics)
The study of the sounds of human speech.   (linguistics)
The study of the sound system of a specific language.   (linguistics)
A word that marks the end of a modifying phrase.   (linguistics)
The study of the ability of natural language speakers to communicate more than what is explicitly stated.   (linguistics; Beginner, Advanced)
An affix that attaches to the beginning of a word.   (linguistics; Intermediate)
A word that marks the start of a modifying phrase.   (linguistics)
A conlang that too closely imitates a pre-existing language. Shortened from relexification.   (conlanging; Types)
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis 
The hypothesis that a person's language affects how they think.   (linguistics; FAQ)
Aspects of meaning, as expressed in language or other systems of signs.   (linguistics)
Common language type in which the neutral ordering of the three main sentence elements is subject-object-verb. About 40% of natlangs are of this type. VOS languages include Latin, Sanskrit, and Japanese.   (linguistics; Beginner)
One of the thematic roles: Only participant of an intransitive clause.   (linguistics)
An affix that attaches to the end of a word.   (linguistics; Intermediate)
Common language type in which the neutral ordering of the three main sentence elements is subject-verb-object. About 40% of natlangs are of this type. VOS languages include English, French, Mandarin, and Russian.   (linguistics; Beginner)
Of a conlang, not diachronic.   (conlanging; Types)
The study of how words are arranged into sentences.   (linguistics)
Of a language, having high morpheme/word ratio. Cf. analytic.   (linguistics)
Of a verb, when the action happens — past, present, future, etc.   (linguistics; Beginner, Intermediate)
1. A word that denotes action performed by or on a thing (sometimes, the trivial action of being).
2. The part of a sentence that specifies the central action of the sentence. One of the three main parts of a sentence.   (linguistics)
Of a verb, which participant in the action is the subject — whether the subject does the action, has the action done to it, or does it to itself.   (linguistics)
Rare language type in which the neutral ordering of the three main sentence elements is verb-object-subject. Most natlangs put the subject before the object. Some Austronesian and Mayan languages are VOS.   (linguistics; Beginner)
Language type in which the neutral ordering of the three main sentence elements is verb-subject-object. About 15% of natlangs are of this type. VOS languages include Welsh and classical Arabic.   (linguistics; Beginner)
word-based morphology 
An approach to morphology in which a word follows a paradigm to produce word forms. Contrast morpheme-based, lexeme-based.   (linguistics)
A standalone unit of language. May be used in either a concrete or abstract sense; generally clear from context, but, for precision, prefer word form or lexeme.   (linguistics)
word form 
An inflected form of a lexeme.   (linguistics)

People and things[edit]

List conlang-related people, organizations, discussion fora, and books (or other works) here. Languages belong in a separate section, below. Most people of interest are likely to be conlangers of note; presumably if a conlang is suitable to list below, so is its creator here. Books about conlanging are especially likely to be relevant; we probably don't want to try to list every work that uses a conlang, as the list could get unmanageably long. If you think you or your work/forum/whatever should be listed, it's probably best to ask on the talk page for someone else to make that call and, if yes, write the entry.

A Secret Vice 
An essay by J.R.R. Tolkien, first delivered as a talk around 1931 and later revised and redelivered, presenting what is now called artlanging. A major milestone in the history of conlanging. Tolkien "outs" himself as an artlanger, distinguishes between auxlangs and artlangs, discusses the relation of mythology to language, and discusses phonaesthetics.   (sister: Wikipedia)
cellar door 
This phrase has been cited as an exemplar of a euphonious (beautiful-sounding) English phrase. J.R.R. Tolkien, describing his attitude toward Welsh in 1955, wrote, "in Welsh for me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent".   (sister: Wikipedia)
David J. Peterson 
Co-founder the Language Creation Society, and its president for several years. Has created a number of conlangs for television and movies, including Dothraki for Game of Thrones.   (sister: Wikipedia;  external: page)
J.R.R. Tolkien 
Creator of Quenya and Sindarin. 1892–1973. Philologist, professor, and lifelong artlanger. A major influence on conlanging as a whole; see The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, A Secret Vice.   (sister: Wikipedia)
Language Creation Conference 
A university-hosted conference on conlanging. Recently, a two-day conference held in odd-numbered years at a university in North America or Europe, except the first one-day in 2006. So far, hosted by universities in North America and Europe.   (external: page)
Language Creation Society 
A non-profit corporation dedicated to promoting conlanging, founded in 2007. Runs the Language Creation Conference.   (external: page)
L.L. Zamenhof 
Creator of Esperanto. 1859–1917. Medical doctor, born of Polish-Lithuanian Jewish parents in an area of partitioned Poland with many ethnic groups at odds with each other; believed a common language could promote peace. His idealism earned him the Esperanto nickname Doktoro Esperanto, meaning Doctor Hopeful, from which the language got its name.   (sister: Wikipedia)
Marc Okrand 
Creator of the Klingon language in the 1980s for the Star Trek franchise, and later the Atlantean language for 2001 Disney movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire. US linguist; has studied native American languages.   (sister: Wikipedia)
Paul Frommer 
Creator of the Na'vi language for 2009 film Avatar. US communications professor with a PhD in linguistics.   (sister: Wikipedia)
Secret Vice
See A Secret Vice.
Smiley Award 
An annual award by David J. Peterson to a noteworthy conlang, given since 2006.   (external: page)


Languages of interest for conlangers, with explanations of why they are of interest. Many are conlangs, but some natlangs are also listed too.

These should be languages that have gotten some attention in the conlanging community; don't list your own conlangs here (unless it's gained some fame/notoriety in the conlanging community). Any conlang that has a Smiley Award or an ISO code presumably qualifies.

This list is an opportunity to explain how each language fits into the big-picture perspective of conlanging; this high-level view is often difficult to deduce by studying detailed resources about each language (to which this list will usually provide an outgoing link).

A natlang commonly studied by conlangers as a particularly pure example of ergativity. Language isolate spoken in the Basque Country of Spain and France. Agglutinative; most verbs only occur in non-finite form with auxilliary verbs showing polypersonal agreement.   (wikibook; sister: Wikipedia)
An artlang created for the 2011 HBO television series Game of Thrones by David J. Peterson.   (sister: Wikipedia)
A significant genre of fictional conlangs are languages for elves. J.R.R. Tolkien's most extensive diachronic family of languages were elvish, especially Quenya and Sindarin. The adjectival form elvish, rather than elfin, was an aesthetic preference of Tolkien's.   (sister: Wikipedia)
An auxlang created in the late 1800s by L. L. Zamenhof. The most widely spoken conlang; spoken by possibly as many as two million people, spoken natively by about 1000–2000 people. Intended to promote peace through communication. Indo-European; Slavic phonemes, largely Slavic semantics, Roman alphabet, primarily Romance vocabulary.   (wikibook)
An artlang created in the 1980s for the Star Trek franchise by Marc Okrand. Possibly a few dozen fluent speakers; reportedly a couple once taught their son to speak it natively. OSV, agglutinative, sound inventory very guttural-heavy, deliberately skewed toward a war-like mentality. No verb to be, a contrarian choice that later presented a challenge when translating "To be or not to be".   (wikibook)
An artlang created for the 2009 movie Avatar by Paul Frommer. Ejective consonants, providing an exotic sound manageable by the movie actors. Conjugation by infixes; nonconfigurational.   (wikibook)
An artlang created by J.R.R. Tolkien. One of the most developed of Tolkien's elvish languages. Strongly influenced by Finnish. Cf. Sindarin.   (wikibook)
An artlang created by J.R.R. Tolkien. One of the most developed of Tolkien's elvish languages. Strongly influenced by Welsh. Cf. Quenya.   (sister: Wikipedia)