What is a conlang?
It is short for "Constructed Language" (Esperantists speak of a `planlingvo', i.e, a planned language). As against natural languages (or "natlangs", for
short) like French and English, a conlang is artificially constructed.
Why create a language in the first place? Well, there are various reasons, and as many terms to designate the type of conlang:
- The cohabitation of different language groups forced to communicate for one or other reason (masters and slaves in the colonies, immigrants and natives -- when the latter are not massacred!-).
These languages are called creoles or pidgins (distortion of English `business' in the expression `pidgin English': the business English used in South East Asia). These languages are
confined to contacts between people speaking different languages.
- The need to unite a country where different dialects and sometimes even languages are spoken in different regions. It is an alternative to the imposition of one particular dialect (as with French
in France, and Spanish in Spain). Since these creations are fairly old, it is hardly suspected that they are indeed conlangs. Who would think for example that German and Italian are such conlangs?
Amazing, eh? These languages are usually the creation of an elite leader (except for Indonesian, which was the creation of Dutch linguist -whose name eludes me at the moment- based on the languages of
these islands, and which is now spoken by about 100 million people. Not bad!)
- The desire to foster international communication, with other more or less acceptable subsidiary goals like a sincere desire to contribute to peace and the mutual understanding of people or for the
egoistic desire of furthering one's country in the world (guess what I prefer). These languages are the outcomes of work of one or more people, depending on the case. Often these are called auxlangs (from:
`auxiliary language'). Esperanto is an example.
- Some reasons range widely from quasi-scientific experimentation to pure artistic creation. These divisions are rather blurred and often overlap. The word conlang is usually reserved for languages
created with an artistic goal.
Let's consider the last case, justifiably so. You might well think: "what end does creating a language serve than as a means for international communication?" (it is likely that you doubt even this
is a useful aim). What about personal satisfaction, then? If you are still not convinced, then consider these famous instances:
- Star Trek fans are certainly aquainted with the Klingons, with their bizarre head. Indeed their language exists. It had been commisoned by the producers of the first "Star Trek" film in order to
make the Klingons realistic (in the original series, the Klingon language was limited to some throat-grating sounds and certain complicated syllables in order to create an exotic impression). Klingon is
represented on the Web. It appears some people even speak it.
- The most famous conlanger is surely J. R. R. Tolkien. At first he created languages like Sindarin and Quenya. It was these
creations that inspired him to the story of the Lord of the Rings! It was he who first adviced those wishing to create their language to invent an accompanying conculture (that is to say, a...constructed
culture, even two such should be fine!). He believed that as the only way to create a successful conlang (I fully agree with him, tho I don't often put his advice to practice!). It may be worth noting that
conlangers are fans of the Heroic Fantasy genre, when they aren't using their languages for their own stories!
There are quite a few conlangers (you guessed it, it is the term used to designate those who create languages) to be found, and they are well represented on the Web. Here are a few links
to other sites dedicated to conlangs. I'm now also part of the Scattered Tongues webring, which links other sites dedicated to conlangs.
Just use the links at the end of this page to surf into this "ring"!
I myself am the author of six conlangs created solely with an artistic motive.
This Scattered Tongues
site belongs to Christophe Grandsire.
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Copyright © 2000-2004 Christophe Grandsire / Last update: June 5th 2000.
since June the 6th 2000