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Mar 22

Conlanging and Conworlding Are &%$#@ Hard!

Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 in Conlanging, Rant, World-building

The first reaction of most everyone who reads this will most likely be "Duh!" To this, I’d add "I know, but sometimes it just hits you like the proverbial ton of bricks." And by hard I don't simply mean difficult. What I'm specifically referring to is the urge to be original or unique in one's conlanging/conworlding efforts.

Over last weekend, I was out at our local Borders buying some gifts for my son's birthday. I was picking up the Strategy Manual for the new Pokemon Black and White game for him when I noticed the manual for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm on the shelf nearby. I'm not a WoW player, but I can appreciate good artwork and fantasy-type creatures so I picked it up and started looking through it. When I got to the Tauren, I have to admit my heart sank. I’ve been aware of them, but their general resemblance to my Tylnor was suddenly much more disheartening than previously felt. (Oh, and the resemblance between the names Tylnor and Tauren is coincidental. The word Tylnor actually had a voiced stop at the beginning, but I liked the sound of the unvoiced one after all.) You be the judge on looks. Here are some images of Tauren; here is an early version of one of my Tylnor. The Tylnor originally (literally almost thirty years ago) began as my world's gnomes or dwarves and evolved since then into the horned critters you see here. The most recent version came about, originally, when I thought it would be cool to have them with horns, sort of built-in (stereotypical) vikings. Turns out there’s lots of fantasy creatures with horns, so that’s not that original after all. Okay, I thought, no problem. I thought some more and thought maybe I’ll pattern them after my favorite animal: the muskox. So, recently, I’ve added a large, hair-covered boss on their heads from which their horns sweep down on either side. Tylnor arms, legs, and backs also have long, shaggy guard-hairs. I haven’t decided if they’d need to be combed annually. That might set up some interesting cultural features. In any case, the Tylnor are humanoids patterned off a bovine or caprine form (muskoxen are actually related to goats), and that picture of the Tauren just made me think %$#@&! Do I have to entirely revamp the Tylnor? I’ve even gone so far as to investigate Tylnor skeletal structure, and I think I’ve determined they have a characteristic natural hump on their back from something that might be considered kyphosis in humans along with some spines on their thoracic vertebrae to hold up their massive heads and horns. Anyway, that’s all in the planning stages. Plus, of course, the Tauren themselves aren’t even original: Minotaur anyone?

Additionally, a year or so ago, I posted an image of my Drushek on ZBB and someone astutely noted "That looks like a Bothan." And, sure enough, if it didn’t, which led me at the time to say %$#@&! So, I’ve also gone back and redesigned those guys a bit, too. They now have a different hair-style, ears, and long thing tendrils on the corners of their mouths and chin. I haven’t decided whether their hair is more cilia-like or actual hair. They’re still hopping creatures though. I’m keeping that.

And then we come to language. This is a conlanging blog after all. The shorthand for this urge to be unique/original but you’re not, is ANADEW as used on CONLANG-L. For those who don’t know, ANADEW stands for “A natlang’s already dunnit, except worse” (See here.) Even my own Dritok has parallels in reality (whistled languages, sign languages, etc.). My only claim to fame may be that I insisted on including the nasal-ingressive voiceless velar trill as a regular phoneme. Even those who try to create an a priori conlang are often constrained by what their own mouths can produce. Notable exceptions to this are Rikchik and Fith. I’m in the process of formalizing Dritok and Umod (the Tylnor’s language) and eventually Elasin (another race’s language living in the same conworld), but it gets disheartening sometimes. I’m toying with the idea of using a bilabial trill in Umod. This is a stereotypical sound a horse or cow makes, so I felt it would fit the physiology. But, on the other hand, I don’t want to go too overboard on the exotic phonetics. But, on the other hand… Well, you get the idea.

In some ways, I’m hoping my having concerns like this makes me a better conlanger. At least, I’m thinking.

Thanks for listening. Whine-fest over. Back to the notebooks and drawing pad!

Sep 19

New Conlanging Book!

Posted on Sunday, September 19, 2010 in Books, Conlangers, Conlanging

Israel Noletto has published a new book examining the world of constructed languages entitled Glossopoese – O Complexo e Desconhecido Mundo das Línguas Artificiais. As you might guess from the title, the book is written in Portuguese, Noletto’s first language. He has graciously supplied The Conlanging Librarian with an English translation of the book’s description:

Many have probably already seen, heard or read something about languages like Esperanto, Quenya and Sindarin. Maybe some have seen films or read pieces of literature full of exemplars of the artificial languages. Yet, when people hear anything related to this, they frequently react out of total surprise, and ask questions like: That language was invented by an individual, how so? Is it a mixture of other languages? Is it a code? In Glossopoesis – The Complex and Unknown World of the Artificial Languages, the author researches the available literature and the various communities throughout the world and the Internet. As a result, the answers to the forementioned questions have been found, and a new scientific perspective on the Glossopoesis has been developed.

When asked if he plans an English translation of Glossopoese, Noletto replied “I definitely plan on translating my book into English, although I don’t see it happening any time soon, since I’m already involved in a number of other conlanging related researches to make our secret vice more well-known and scientifically respected in my own language right now.” An extremely admirable goal! Glossopoese definitely has the potential to spread the word to the Portuguese-speaking world about the art and science of language creation. In the meantime, Noletto’s important new work should spur those English-speakers with an interest in conlanging to brush up on their Portuguese.

Israel Noletto is well-qualified to pen a book on conlanging. On January 26, 2009, he was the first person to host a “conlang event” in the Brazilian state of Piauí. Actually, this was his final essay defense for his degree in “‘Letras/Inglês’, a University course focused on the English Language and Literature.” (Click here for his posting in Portuguese.) It would also appear that conlanging runs in his family. (Click here for a rough English Google translation of that page.)

So, Parabéns! on publishing the book and Obrigado! for the efforts on behalf of conlanging. (Note: I’m hoping those mean “Congratulations!” and “Thank you!” respectively. I had to look them up online.)

Aug 30

Worlds Collide

Posted on Monday, August 30, 2010 in Books, Conlangers, Conlanging

Arika OkrentI had the oddest experience today. I work at a large metropolitan library and was walking down the hall today when a patron saw me and said, “Saluton! I was reading about you in a book today.” This particular patron was vaguely familiar, but I hadn’t really had the opportunity to speak with him for a couple years. Not since I worked in a different department. Well, my brain started spinning, and I finally asked, “Do you mean Arika Okrent’s In the Land of Invented Languages? He said, “Yeah. Can you say hello in your chipmunk language?” Unfortunately, I’ve been away from Drytok for a while, so I couldn’t oblige him…the shock of being asked to speak it out-of-the-blue notwithstanding. We talked for a while; I told him about Arika’s new book I heard she was working on, and I encouraged him to check out the posting at the Language Creation Society page of the actual LCC presentation of Drytok’s first public appearance. All in all, a great way to brighten up a Monday! 🙂

May 4

LCK in Print!

Posted on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 in Books, Conlanging

Mark Rosenfelder, aka Zompist, has provided one of the most helpful and comprehensive introductions to conlanging on his web site for “more than a decade”: The Language Construction Kit (LCK). Now, Mark goes one better and has created a print version of the LCK which is “four times larger” than its online counterpart. The book’s Table of Contents and an FAQ can be viewed here and is available for purchase at (For a previous post on Zompist here at The Conlanging Librarian blog, click here.)

Mar 26

Conlanging Educational Resources

Posted on Friday, March 26, 2010 in Conlanging, Library Additions, Presentations

School of Athens by Rafael

Have you ever wanted to share your love of conlanging with a group in a more-or-less formal classroom setting? Have you ever wanted to give a presentation on the art and science of conlanging? The Conlanger’s Library can now help! The Education page at the Library contains materials you can use to create a PowerPoint presentation, handouts, and also includes inspirational videos. Materials there have been created by Nathan Richardson, Sai Emrys, Sheri Beth Wells-Jensen, and yours truly. If you have any items from formal classes which you have taught or presentations which you have given and you’d like to share them with the community, email lcs (at) conlang (dot) org.

Feb 20

Cthulhu fhtagn!

Posted on Saturday, February 20, 2010 in Books, Fiction

Cthulhu drawn by the Conlanging Librarian

Cthulhu, as envisioned by the Conlanging Librarian

I don’t know how I did it, but I’ve gone several decades without reading the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Don’t ask me how or why, but I just recently “discovered” his writings and now I’m hooked…especially his stories of the Elder Gods, Great Cthulhu, the Great Race of Yith, Yog-Sothoth and his kids Wilbur and the “horror”, etc. Very cool stuff!

“But why bring him up in a conlanging blog” you may ask. The only “extensive” piece of conlanging (used in the broadest possible sense) by Lovecraft is the invocation of Cthulhu: Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn which Lovecraft translated in “The Call of Cthulhu” as In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. There are also snippets of this language in “The Dunwich Horror” and other stories. I’m not saying that Lovecraft was a conlanger. Far from it. These phrases were purposefully put together to appear as alien and unhuman as possible. Lovecraft also talks about the Great Race of Yith’s language as a “consisting of a kind of clicking and scraping” of their “huge nippers” (“The Shadow out of Time”).

It strikes me that Lovecraft is a huge untapped inspirational field for conlangers. In searching the Internet, I did find one site with a sizable dictionary and some grammar here. Even with this work, who’s to say this is the “right” one. I’ve been toying with the Cthulhu invocation and some other snippets and having an enjoyable time trying to puzzle out some sensible syntax.
Lovecraft’s prose provides tantalizing glimpses and interesting snippets from which to formulate some naming languages or simple dialogue. If you’re a conlanger looking for a fertile field to toil in…jump right in…if you dare. Cthulhu fhtagn!!

Sep 4

Major Announcement

Posted on Friday, September 4, 2009 in Conlanging

LCS is hiring a conlanger to create a new artisitic language for a major TV studio! For all the details go to

Aug 27

A Top Ten List

Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2009 in Conlanging, Library Additions

A new Wired article has been posted to the Magazine section of The Conlanger’s Library (to make up for the one from 1996 posted earlier). This one is entitled “Top Ten Geekiest Constructed Languages.” As with any top ten list, this one has some interesting comments about others’ nominations for geekiest. The consensus (by several) seems to be Lojban. That’s not my opinion…just the posters’ on Wired.

Jul 15

Palantir, but not that palantir?

Posted on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 in Conlanging

Conlanging intersected with “reality” the other day for me. In listening to National Public Radio, I heard about a company called Palantir Technologies. In the program, it was said explicitly that the company was “named for the all-seeing stones in the Lord of the Rings series, sells software that fuses vast amounts of disparate data together and then allows it to be searched for connections.” Curious about this use of one of Tolkien’s constructed words, I checked out Palantir Technologies website. Their legal notice actually contains this section:

PALANTIR, graphics, logos, designs, page headers, button icons, scripts, and other service names are the
trademarks and trade names of Palantir. Palantir’s trademarks and trade names may not be used, including as part of trademarks and/or as part of domain names, in connection with any product or service in any manner that is likely to cause confusion. Palantir Technologies is in no way affiliated with, or endorsed or sponsored by, The Saul Zaentz Company d.b.a. Tolkien Enterprises or the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien.

My question would be “Can they do this?” If PALANTIR is “in no way affiliated with, or endorsed or sponsored by, The Saul Zaentz Company d.b.a. Tolkien Enterprises or the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien,” how can they get away with using one of Tolkien’s words?? Wouldn’t this be like someone naming a company QAPLA’ Technologies and then saying “We are in no way affiliated with, or endorsed or sponsored by Paramount Pictures”??

Just makes the Conlanging Librarian go…hmmmm.