Archive for the ‘news’ Category

3000 listens

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
We just passed 3,000 total listens.  Thanks to everyone who is downloading the podcast or listening on the site.  We may not be one of the big boys in podcasting, but we have a strong, engaged audience.  I’m grateful for that.

3000 listens

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
We just passed 3,000 total listens.  Thanks to everyone who is downloading the podcast or listening on the site.  We may not be one of the big boys in podcasting, but we have a strong, engaged audience.  I’m grateful for that.

Topic Suggestion Form and Voicemail

Monday, June 20th, 2011

I have created a form for people to make suggestions about main topics as well as featured conlangs for the show.  Just click on the “suggestions” tab above.  Make sure you leave a good description of topics and include links for any featured conlangs, so that we know what you are talking about.

Also, I have set up a Google Voice for people to call in with voicemails.  The number is (304) 873-6281 and is a local call in West Union, WV (USA).  Please keep voicemails to one minute or less.  You can send in a recording of yourself to our email:

Happy 2011!

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Happy 2011 to anyone who might be reading this!

So, I’ve been working on a new conlanging project lately – this is a reworking of my first conlang, Trurian, which I first conceived when I was around 12. It’s changed and matured considerably since then, however – I’m planning on posting some interesting tidbits as I go through the process of writing its grammar, so watch this space!

High Eolic postings will continue in 2011, but unfortunately I’ve had to delay the year’s first posts for about a week. Although I’ve been on holiday for the past couple of weeks, there has been loads of stuff to do – spending time with my friends and family as well as academic work – so I haven’t had much time, unfortunately, to work on the website. But the regular Word of the Day and bi-weekly lesson postings will continue soon!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The festive season is almost upon us! Since a blogger needs a break as much as anyone else, there will be a two-week hiatus in my postings of High Eolic Words of the Day and the (in)famous weekly lessons. I’ll resume my postings in 2011, starting with a new Word of the Day on January 5. The last one for 2010 will be posted tomorrow – appropriately enough, tomorrow’s word is callit, which means ‘snow’.

(If Eolians had a word for ‘Christmas’, I would post it – but of course they don’t, living in a completely different world with a completely different belief system. Not that Olerism doesn’t have winter solstice celebrations – but I don’t want to bore you will all the details now.)

Anyway, until next year – happy holidays!

Introducing High Eolic

Monday, October 18th, 2010

I thought it might be useful to write a few words on my currently principal conlang, High Eolic, given that the PDF in which all the information about it is currently gathered is a bit unwieldy.

Basically, High Eolic is a language placed in my conworld Burnath, which is a planet generally similar to Earth (but completely different in details such as plain tectonics, etc.). The timescale is roughly that of the early Renaissance in Europe (if looking at temporal distance from the development of metal manipulation, etc. – the historical details are of course completely different). Burnath is the setting for most of the conlangs I’m working on – spread over 10+ language families, each with their own unique flavor and features (although most of them still have to be elaborated in any detail). High Eolic is a language of the Eolic language family, which is relatively small for Burnathian standards, with 13 or so distinct languages (other neighboring families have 20 or more).

The development of Burnath harks back to 2001, when I was about twelve. As probably any kid obsessed with Tolkien’s opus, I started fiddling with my own created world, which has since gone through several incarnations. In my initial conception, High Eolic was a kind of fake-ish Latin spoken in a powerful mountain kingdom. Although the language has changed and developed considerably since then, the basic sociographic layout hasn’t: Eoleon, the place where High Eolic is spoken, is (still) a kingdom based in a mountain valley and made disproportionately powerful due to its mineral resources.

So what’s High Eolic actually like? It’s basically an agglutinative language, in some respects similar to Finnish or Turkish – it has 14 nominal cases, for instance, including spatial cases: that is, it doesn’t use prepositions (like English), but handles this sort of thing morphologically – so párund-ettár (párun ‘house’ with the illative suffix, -ettár; n > nd is a sandhi change) means ‘into a house’. It has quite a minimalist phonology – I wanted it to sound quite lofty, but at the same time with the potential to develop a whole range of different speech/pronunciation forms.

Some other nifty features include a honorific system based on discourse participant marking (so the use of ‘polite’ forms depends both on who you’re speaking about and who you’re speaking to!) and a verbal system where categories such as passives and reflexives don’t have dedicated constructions. Rather, the same affixes signal different voices for different types of verbs – so, for example, the suffix -ingá makes a monotransitive verb reflexive (ríc-ingá ‘[he] killed himself’), but signals passivity on ditransitive verbs (yars-ingá ‘[he] was told [something]‘ or ‘[it] was told [to him]‘). Add in a plethora of different aspects, with varying forms for (arbitrarily assigned) verbal classes and varying affixes for different honorific configurations of discourse participants – and you get quite a complex verb system that’s probably the hardest thing for any potential learner of the language.

Of course, there’s much more to say about High Eolic – among other things, this blog is meant to introduce it in manageable chunks, such as Word of the Day listings and occasional lessons. My current plan – beginning next week – is to have Word of the Day listings Monday-Thursday; a short High Eolic lesson each Friday; while weekends will be reserved for more general reflections or exploring areas of the language that might need to be elaborated in more detail, as well as other projects I might start working on in the meantime. Hopefully it will all work out!

The beginning

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

This blog is intended to present and deal with my conlanging projects. At the moment, not much is up here, but that should change in the near future.

In the meantime, you’re welcome to look at the grammar of my (currently) most developed constructed language, High Eolic (warning: 100+ page PDF!) here.

I’m planning to set up “Word of the Day” postings for the language, as well as updates about my current conlanging projects. Most recently, I’ve completed a diachronic analysis of some verbal morphology of the language family High Eolic belongs to (the file summarizing this is accessible here). Currently, I’m planning on starting more in-depth work on two languages in this family: Vitrian and Eastern Eolic.

Watch this space for updates!

Conlang Article on the New York Times

Monday, March 15th, 2010

I know this article has been up for a few days already, but it's notable enough that I wanted to link to it here. The article is entitled Questions Answered: Invented Languages, and is a lengthy series of questions and answers on the subject of Constructed Languages. The questions were asked by readers of the New York Times, while the answers were eruditely given by Arika Okrent (author of In the Land of Invented Languages, one of the few to have studied the modern conlanging movement without prejudice) and Paul Frommer (the linguist that was hired by James Cameron to develop Na'vi, the language of the blue aliens in Avatar).

The article is remarkable for quite a few reasons:

  • It's not everyday that a mainstream publication devotes some time and space for conlanging (OK, it's a New York Times blog, but still).
  • It's very long and articulate (and not for the faint of heart. I advise everyone to read it in two or more sittings. For those not familiar with this particular hobby and art form, some of the answers will need a while to digest).
  • It goes further than the usual targets of Esperanto and Klingon (thanks to Arika Okrent who really knows her stuff).
  • It's surprisingly positive! Although a few questions betray a somewhat negative bias against the Secret Vice, they are very few, and Arika handles them neatly.

One thing that jumped to my attention is that the general questions about invented languages were all answered by Arika, while Paul Frommer only handled the questions concerning Na'vi itself. I wonder why that is. I can think of a few explanations:

  • The questions themselves were divided in two groups: generic versus Na'vi, and Paul received only the Na'vi themed questions.
  • Paul felt he was not familiar enough with the conlanging world to answer meaningfully. Fair enough, he's quite the newcomer here.
  • Paul doesn't have any actual interest in conlanging itself, and only does those interviews because he is contractually obliged to do so (he was contracted, i.e. paid, to create Na'vi, after all, and there's no evidence that he has done any conlanging before this). Once again, fair enough. Not everyone needs to be bitten by the conlang bug!

Note that I'm not judging here. Whatever reason Paul fοcussed only on the Na'vi questions is fine by me. It was just an obvious pattern that I can't help wondering about.

Of course, this blog post would be a bit pointless if I didn't add my two (Euro)cents to the article. So here are my own answers to a few of the questions asked in the article:

What is the process for “making up” a language? Do you just go on inspiration, or is there some preconceived structure to your work? In what order do you proceed? Where do you start?

There seem to be two main types of conlangers out there. The first type works on language creation in a very systematic way. They have a kind of shopping list of what needs to be designed in a language, and follow it to the letter. That list contains usually phonology, morphology, syntax and vocabulary, and usually in that order. The other type works on their conlangs in a much more organic way. They design features as they need them and seem to let the language grow, rather than go by consciously designing it. They also tend to have an iterative approach, revising older parts of the language as they invent new features. Both approaches have their merits and pitfalls, and in truth most conlangers will fall somewhere between those two extremes.

Personally, I'm rather systematic in my conlanging efforts, although once I've left a conlang lie for a while I may pick it up again and start revising it, in a sort of iterative process not unlike software design.

Do you create an alphabet first? When languages are invented, how do the creators choose the set of vowels and consonants the language will have? Do you utilize the International Phonetic Alphabet?

I normally define the phonology of a language using the IPA (which is a godsend for anyone creating a spoken language!). Creating a writing system (not necessarily an alphabet) is often one of the first things I do after defining the phonology and morphophonemics of the language, but depending on the type of writing system it can take a long time before I'm finished designing it (in which case I will normally work on it in parallel with designing the language itself). I also often create a transliteration of the language, because sometimes the writing system is just impractical for my tools at hand (no computer fonts available), and because writing everything with the IPA gets old very fast.

Why not revive and disseminate an endangered language rather than make up a new one? There are innumerable beautiful languages around the world that will disappear in a generation, and precious few folks recording them and learning them. The notion of a “better” language seems to ignore that language use follows population growth, transportation, and political and economic power. Why would one choose to invent a new language (aside from the whole “wildest academic dreams” thing) rather than revive a “dead” language or a dying one, like Cornish or Manx?

I'm not a field linguist. Actually, I'm not a linguist at all! I have no professional linguistic training, and all I know of linguistics I've learned in my own time. I have also no interest in becoming a professional linguist: my current job is more than enough, thank you very much (and it probably pays better than whatever I could make as a linguist!). Conlanging is just a hobby for me, and doesn't take time away from my saving endangered languages, because even if I had any interest in it I wouldn't have the ability to do it! Besides, I'm a Frenchman. How would my learning Cornish or Manx in any way help save those languages? I would probably never be able to reach a level of command of the language that would allow me to communicate with it natively anyway (and with whom? Do you really think the only reason the Cornish community isn't speaking its language is because I haven't learned it yet?). Wouldn't it make more sense to investigate the reasons why those languages are endangered in the first place, and help the communities speaking them by solving those issues? That's a socio-political problem, not a linguistic one. In any case, that's not the kind of problem you would even want a French hobbyist to tackle! Anyway, Arika summed it up best when she wrote: There is no general pool of “effort” from which all endeavors are drawn. Even if you somehow managed to make me stop conlanging, what makes you think I would use that extra time to study an endangered language? (notwithstanding the fact that doing so would probably be as useless for that language as my conlanging anyway) I would probably spend it sleeping!

OK, enough rambling from my part, just go and read that article. It contains many more questions masterly answered by Arika and Paul, and you'd make yourself a disservice if you missed it. Even if you're not interested in conlanging yourself, it might help you understand why other are, and why it's not a complete waste of time, or at least no more than any other artistic endeavour!

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6th NYC Downtown Short Film Festival

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
Join us in voting for CONLANG to be screened at the next NYC Downtown Short Film Festival in April 2010. They screen vote...the top vote getters are screened at the Festival. A fun evening out for $ can't go wrong.

Don’t miss CONLANG February 24th at 8pm at the Duo Theater in Downtown NYC!

Conlang Premiere

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
Conlang has been officially selected to premier at the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival this coming February 2010.
Stay tuned for actual dates and times!