Conlanging, the craft of creating a language, is a very in-depth, but fun, process. It is considered an art form by many. The people who conlang are called conlangers. Conlanging isn't just a hobby, though. You can learn a lot about how real languages work by creating conlangs and improving them.
Why construct a conlang?
- To learn about linguistics. Conlanging is sometimes used as a teaching tool in university-level linguistics.
- To explore how the way we speak affects the way we think. This is related to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which we'll have more to say about later.
- To have private conversations with trusted individuals.
- For a personal diary, or similar personal writing.
- For use as a lingua franca to bridge gaps between people with different languages, on a regional or global scale. The most famous example, amongst many, is Esperanto.
- For use in a work of fiction. This is typically done in works of alternative history, fantasy, and science fiction. Some well-known recent examples are Klingon, Na'vi, and Dothraki.
- For the sheer pleasure of artistic creation. A famous example is Tolkien's Elvish languages — which then inspired him to write works of fiction.
What are the different types of conlangs?
For a more exhaustive list, see the next chapter.
- Engineered Languages (engelangs) — designed to meet objective criteria. These are often experimental.
- Logical Languages (loglangs) — built around the structure of logic.
- Philosophical Languages — constructed to meet some philosophical goal.
- Auxiliary Languages (auxlangs) — designed as common second languages for people with different native languages.
- International Auxiliary Languages (IALs) — designed to aid communication between people who speak different languages.
- Zonal Constructed Languages — designed to aid communication between people who speak similar, but different, languages.
- Artistic Languages (artlangs) — designed as or for works of art.
- Fictional languages — designed to be used by the people in the fictional worlds of books, movies, games, and so on. Some of them may be spoken by aliens (exolangs or xenolangs), using sounds we can't easily make, or using grammatical structure different from the way any of our languages work.
- Alternative Languages (altlangs) — designed as a plausible alternative way a language might have evolved from some real language, based on some alternate history.
Since each kind of conlang has a different goal, each involves a different process of creation.
The most common conlangs are artlangs. Many conlangers create a conworld to go with their conlang. They create a conrace, with a conculture. The process of creating a conworld is outlined in the Conworld wikibook.
The different types of conlangs will be discussed, with examples, in the next chapter.
Where do I start?
This wikibook is designed to help you, the conlanger, create a fairly involved conlang. It will take you step-by-step through the process.
As you work through the steps outlined in this wikibook, you will probably have numerous questions. A good central place to find resources, including community resources like mailing lists and blogs, is the Language Creation Society.