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The World of Constructed Languages


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A constructed language is a language that is made for some specific purpose, rather than arising naturally within a group. There are many reasons for making a constructed language, such as international communication, learning about linguistics, or just for fun. Many people have created languages with the goal of making an international auxiliary language, to bridge communication between people. The idea is that if everyone has to learn a language, everyone will be on equal ground in terms of communication. For simplicity reasons, these languages will typically be restricted to sounds most commonly found in languages, and will be isolating languages – which means each word has only a single meaning – rather than other forms of languages which typically will have words that have multiple meanings. The first major constructed language, Volapuk, was created in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer. Its goal was the same as other auxiliary languages, international communication. The most well-known and successful auxiliary language, Esperanto, was also created in the late 1870s and early 1880s. It is based on European language families, specifically Romance and Germanic languages. It’s been criticized for being too Euro-centric.

I’ve created a few constructed languages myself, more than I can remember. It’s usually best to start with phonology, then go to spelling and grammar, and then start making words and translating quotes. My latest language, Skrarvatl, (English pronounciation: skraw-vottle) was co-created by me and a friend. It is generally best to make constructed languages with your friends due to the huge amount of gruntwork required to build a decent vocabulary. You should also be certain that you only use sounds within the scope of what you can pronounce. Here is an example sentence in Skrarvatl: “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in the land of Australia is the law of Australia”

Thaes mathymatiklarrke maet werrdsedh, fais thaes lardon aganalarr vynastraliatsent, geqastralialarr.

Literally, this translates to “Is mathematiclaws very commendable, but is apply only law inaustralialand, australialaw.” This really doesn’t make sense in English, but the underlying structure of it is just as good. Skrarvatl is a VSO language, this means that the first word is the verb (what is being done) the second is the subject (who is doing it) and the third is the object (who it is being to). This is different to English, which is strictly SVO. “I run fast” becomes “Run I fast.” The second issue is the weird mishmashing of words. Skrarvatl is an agglutinating language. This means that, unlike English, Skrarvatl has no issues with fusing entire nouns together to change meanings. In this case, the mishmashing shows a genetive relationship – one noun owns the other. For example, mathymatiklarrke – this can be broken into mathymatik – mathematics – and larr – law. Mathymatiklarr, then, means “the law that is owned by mathematics”, or mathematic’s laws. The same applies to astralialarr, and generally any two nouns that are agglutinated. Skrarvatl also doesn’t have articles, like “the” or “a” in English. Rather it directly marks subjects and objects, as can be seen in the geq- prefix on the last word. Another sentence: “My hovercraft is full of eels”

Thaes detsy havyrkravt ranilke

“Is my hovercraft full of eels.” This one’s a bit easier for English speakers to understand. Is (thaes) My (detsy) Hovercraft (havyrkravt) Full of (ran) Eels (ilke). One final sentence, the lyrics to “Let it Go.”

Nora doyn jhetl founhaikopetl, askon tsa des gedalmake. Omachyvontrai, qoch thaes des gebelin. Teleno doyn jote iknaut vyndes.

This translates to “Glowing snow ontallmountain, see not i footprints. Isolationkingdom, and is i queen. Screaming wind likestorm inme.”

Constructed languages can differ greatly from natural languages, too. While skrarvatl is strange compared to most natural languages, there are some designed to be completely unnatural and strange, combining all the rarest features in one language. These are often called artlangs, because they’re not meant to serve a purpose, they exist moreso for fun. An example of this is the Klingon language, which is – of course – an alien language. It contains q͡χ and /t͡ɬ/, extremely rare sounds, and it is an agglutinative language – not unheard of, but not common either.

Constructed languages are fun to make and good for learning more about languages. Some are practical, but most are just for fun.

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The World of Constructed Languages