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CONLANG  January 2003, Week 2

CONLANG January 2003, Week 2


Re: New Survey: Celtic Conlangs (and other lunatic pursuits)


"Isaac A. Penzev" <[log in to unmask]>


Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>


Thu, 9 Jan 2003 14:03:00 +0200





text/plain (447 lines)


Replying to Sally Caves (better late than never):

<<Have you based your conlang(s) wholly or partially on a Celtic language?
If so, on which? or combined with which?>>

Not yet. I know too little about Celtic langs. Most of my linguistic
knowledge comes from the local libraries (and the Uni), and Celtic materials
were rare in this part of the world behind the Iron Curtain until recently.
But since I love naturalistic (aposteriori) conlangs, I may start such a
project one day when I have enough material.

<<PART II: INSPIRATION BY TOLKIEN (tangential to the questions on
inspiration by Celtic languages):>>
<<How many of you were inspired to invent a language because of your
to Tolkien?>>

Not me. I am not a Tolkien fan at all.

<<How many of you based your conlang on one of Tolkien's languages, or your
conculture in Middle Earth?>>


<<How many of you have a constructed world, and, if so, does it include some
of the races we associate with Celtic or Scandinavian mythology? (Elves,
Dwarves, medieval societies of humans, Faeries or Fays? Selkies?

No. I don't construct mythic worlds. I prefer to play with alternative
history of humankind. All in all, conculturing is only an auxiliary tool for

<<How many of you were inspired to examine Welsh, Hebrew, or Finnish because
of your examination of Tolkien?>>

Not me.

<<How many of you were inspired to invent a conlang or a conculture because
of some influence OTHER than Tolkien?>>

No. My interest was caused by purely scientific reasons. I'm in love with
linguistics since childhood.

<<How many of you were inspired to invent a language because you engage in
Roll-Playing Games?>>


<<How many of you were inspired to invent a language because you heard of
this listserv?>>

At last, a half-positive answer. The CONLANG List inspired me to resume my
conlanging activity after more than 10 years of silence. I had stopped
inventing languages because I thought it was time-wasting and stupid
occupation, and none of serious linguists would do it. How wrong I was!

<<How many of you are members of the Mythopoeic Society, or the Society for
Creative Anachronism, or other High Fantasy Groups?>>


<<In the discussions I've witnessed on Conlang in almost five years, I've
observed that many conlangers have deliberately avoided "Tolkienesque"
languages, and even Indo-European languages as models for conlangs, and
especially the "Celtic." Why? Boring? Overdone? Trite? Too pretty?
Too Western? Or none of the above--just more interested in something else?
<G> I don't want to give the impression that I think we conlang only
because of Tolkien, and that anything we invent has to be INSPIRED BY or a
DEPARTURE from the "Great One"; but in this question I'm eager to see some
eschewal of or at least indifference towards the Tolkien, the "Celtic,"
and/or even the Indo-European model.>>

Yes, I'm totally indifferent to Tolkien. My "father" in conlanging was
Zamenhof. That's why I don't avoid Western languages as prototypes.

<<What is your name and what do you call your conlang?>>

Isaac (Igor) Penzev. I've got 27 conlang ideas in my catalogue for now. Most
of them are merely ideas or embryosketches. The most developed projects at
the moment are Edhelenglisc and Rumiya.

<<So what is unappealing about the Indo-European model for conlanging?>>

I think most ppl avoid IE models because they are too complex. Richness of
paradygms demands much efforts. It's not a problem for me. I like realistic
modelling. Both Edhelenglisc and Rumiya are IE langs, as well as some other
embryoconlangs of mine.

<<Or Tolkien's Elvish?>>

Cultural difference? For me as a person from Slavic world, Tolkien is an
alien. Medieval Europe doesn't touch deep cords of my soul.

<<How did you start conlanging? What was your initial inspiration?>>

I was enchanted with foreing languages since age of 8 when I started
learning English. A bit later my father bought me a Bulgarian textbook and a
Hungarian dictionary (with grammar appendix). Since then I became a
"linguistic maniac" (as my wife calls it). I started conlanging absolutely
spontaneously, trying to imitate some langs I learned some facts about but
had no opportunity to study those langs. In 1979 I got acquainted with
Esperanto. It provoked me much. My first projects fixed in written form date
from that time.

<<Did you know about Tolkien's inventions? Read the books, the appendices?
etc. Or not?>>


<<What language types have you modeled your language(s) after?>>

Any I liked. I haven't tried active langs, I'm afraid, but that's a question
of time...

<<What features of these languages or language types appeal to you?>>

Diversity of ways of expression of the reality in different languages still
fascinates me...

<<Some of you, and I'm thinking in particular of a conversation I had with
And Rosta, are not interested in producing a language that is
"mellifluous"--that "mellifluousness" is a thing to be avoided in your
conlang and especially as it is associated with Tolkien's Elvish or copiers
of Elvish. Is this so? Why?>>

I don't care about mellifluousness or its absence. I enjoy realism. And some
natlangs that sound harsh at first hearing, become more pleasant when you
learn them more, feel their spirit...

<<For how many of you, though, is beauty and/or efficiency a factor in your
language? Or elegance? How would you define these terms?>>

I make parallels between conlanging and visual arts (my father was a
painter). I enjoy realism. The pattern for my creativity is set by "Little
Dutchmen" (Hals, Vermeer, van Reusdal [sorry for possible mistakes in
spelling, I know their names only in Cyrillics]) and Russian "peredvizhniki"
(late 19th century).

<<For how many of you is the "exotic" a desired feature of your invented

Desired but not obligatory.

<<How many of you invent a non-human language? And if so, how alien are its
sounds and constructions?>>

By goodness, no!

<<Do you prefer inventing an a posteriori language or an a priori language?
In other words, how many of you invent a language wherein you base it
closely on a natural language (Arabic, Tagalog) or a combination of
languages, and how many others of you invent a language from, well, scratch?
(if that can be done.)>>

Definitely I favour a posteriori. Even if I think of an a priori project, I
always want to make it "styled" to be perceived, e.g. as an Indochina or
Native American or else...

<<How many of you invent a language based on a particular type (Ergative,
Accusative, Trigger, etc.)?>>

I learnt about trigger langs only at this listserv!
I want to play with these different types one day.
An embryoproject Lweng Chet is planned to be ergative.

<<To what degree is difficulty and irregularity of language important to you
in your conlang? what natural language eccentricities (or efficiencies) do
you like and try to reproduce?>>

The more the better. All natlangs show different degree of irregularity and
exoticity. I like naturalism. I try everything: different word order,
typology, odd categories...

<<To what degree is accessibility, efficiency, and regularity important to
your conlang? What natural language "faults" are you correcting?>>

Not for me. I wish to design one day a conlang that could be mistaken for a

<<How many of you invent logical languages?>>


<<How many of you invent IALs?>>

Only weak attempts when a child.

<<How many of you have invented non-Tolkienesque or non European concultures
and what are they like?>>

Conculture is a tool for creating proper semantic background for the
conlang. They are mostly schematic. E.g. I think about Rumean cultural
background as "modern Islamic". Kumanzha project operates in post-Soviet
East-european space. Lweng Chet speakers are "enlighted pagans" like Thai or
Japan. Etc.

<<How many of you started out by pulling words out of the air, originally?
How many of you have chosen a more methodic form of vocabulary building?
I.e., how have you gone about setting up the framework for your words and
your grammar? (I started out pulling words out of the air.)>>

Since I'm a naturalist, for most projects I scientificly reconstruct the
vocabulary. In case of a priori langs, I toy with sounds till it starts
sounding "properly". That's all for short.

<<PART IV: THE LUNATIC SURVEY REVISITED (because we are all "fous du
langage," according to Yaguello and other French critics.>>
<<Why do you conlang?>>

To learn more linguistics. To express my creativity. To escape from pressure
of the Real Life (TM). And just for fun.

<<Who will speak it? Read it?>>

I don't care.

<<What's the point? What's
the beauty? what's the intellectual draw?>>

It's a nice kind of art, and a powerful tool for learning.

<<To what would you compare a conlang? Is it a miniature? Is it a model?
Is it a tapestry? Is it an act of obsession and madness? <G> Or is it a
communicable language?>>

For now they are all just incomplete models. I want to have at least one
conlang that could be use as a communicable language.

<<If it is a communicable language, to whom do you speak it?>>

To anybody who would listen...

<<To what extent is the opacity or "alterity" of your language something
pleases you? In other words, the sounds and the script have, even for you,
a quality of being foreign, and this delights.>>

Some of my ideas are quite foreign, and some are more familiar. I like

<<This is a difficult question: how is it that a word sounds "right" to
We recently discussed this. To what extent are you finding righter, better
words for the world in your conlang? (Perhaps unanswerable).>>

I don't know. It just "sounds right". Sometimes I come back and change it
after a week or two, when I see it used, and it doesn't fit the picture...

<<How many of you are fictive map-makers, designers of fictive floor plans,
fictive yachts, fictive star-ships, world-builders, calligraphers,
cartoonists, etc.? (These pursuits have been associated with conlanging. I
've done most of them.)>>


<<How many of you have a special script in your conlang?>>

Lweng Chet may have a special script, but I'm not yet sure. All other
projects use real world scripts. Rumiya - Arabic, Kumanzha - Cyrillic,
Edhelenglisc - Roman. I plan to play with kanji one day (japanese still
fascinates me).

<<If you use Roman script, how recognizably "phonetic" is your writing
In other words, do you use unconventional letters to represent sounds?

Most of my projects use transparent phonematic scripts, with different level
of historicly motivated ethymological or coventional spellings, esp. rich in
Eđelenglisc and Rumiya. The latter spells Arabic loans according to their
traditional Arabic spelling, though many sounds have merged, e.g. there are
four ways to spell /t/. And words of Roman origin use slighty different

<<This is a question Heather asked, but I also asked it four years ago: how
many of you write in your language? What do you write?>>

Not yet ready to do it.

<<How many of you sing in your language and have invented songs for that


<<How many of you started conlanging when you were a teenager and have stuck
to the same language over many years? Why?>>

I started conlanging in 1979, stopped in 1989 and resumed in 2001, with
occasioanl outburst in meantime. I'm still seeking for my "zest".

<<How many of you change conlangs regularly, developing structures for many
languages but not sticking with any one for very long? Why?>>

I have couple of dozens of embryonal projects, and still cannot concentrate
myself on one for serious work. The reasons:
1. I'm still seeking for my "zest".
2. I'm learning.

<<For how many of you does your language function as a spiritual instrument?
This is a deeply personal question--let me give you an example. When I
first started inventing "Tayonian" in my early teens, what I wrote were
spells and prayers. They had a talismanic quality. Does that ring a bell
for anybody?>>

Since I'm practicing religion, I don't need conlangs for this purpose.
Sooner, conlangs are "hiding place" for me.

<<For how many of you was your language at least at one stage of its making
meant to fool others, or to write secret diaries? (Me, waving my hand).>>

I envy you!

<<How many of you can speak your language, at least to yourself and your
child? spouse? <G> To what extent?>>

Not yet. Will definitely be one day.

<<How many of you have put up websites where your language can be showcased?
If so, what is the website address?>>

Web design is new for me. I'm still learning. As soon as I have smth to
show, y'all will see it for sure. Presently you can seen just a sample page
from Rumiya project at (you may need to switch to West European
encoding manually).

<<How many of you have made soundbytes of your language so the rest of us
can hear it? If so, give the site.>>

No. I wish I could...

<<How many of you are comfortable talking to your boss, your professors,
family members about this pursuit? How many of you have received
condescending or other negative responses to your disclosure? (I have.) Or
even been called "pathological"?>>

Only my best friends know about my "secret vice". And even my wife, a
philologist, sometimes makes fun of my hobby :-( although we tried to design
a private lang about 7 or 8 years ago.

<<If this attitude is changing, to what do you attribute the change? (On
Year's Eve, a delightful, elderly gentleman could not understand why I would
be interested in this pursuit. What purpose could it serve?)>>

I'm not sure it will change. Ppl are too pragmatic here now.

<<For how many of you is the damning statement "better to learn real
than invent private ones" a criticism you have encountered? What would be
your response to such a remark?>>

I have heard it thousand times. I reply: I learn natlangs by designing

<<What is your age (optional--and can be general: 30-40, for instance).>>


<<What is your profession or your station in life (i.e., if you are a
what is your MAJOR; if a middle or high-school student, what is your
intended major)?>>

As it's written in my diploma (still Soviet formules) "Philologist,
professor of the English language and literature and the French language".
My diploma research paper topic was "Development of Complex Verb Forms in
English in the 11th-18th centuries". To interpret it into Western terms, I
can say: Profession - philologist, Major - History of English. Although I
feel myself more a linguist...

<<What is your gender?>>


<<What is your nationality and your native language?>>

A difficult question. (I hope Steg won't see it!)
My ethnic origin is a Russian-Ukrainian mix. I started practicing Judaism
(in its Messianic version) in 1998. I haven't yet undergone formal
conversion to Jewry, but identify myself primarily with the Jewish people.
My L1 is Russian.

<<What natural languages do you speak or have studied?>>

In addition to Russian, I speak freely Ukrainian and English.
I speak some Esperanto, French and Spanish, and understand written text in
these languages almost without using a dictionary.
I studied to different extent Latin, Old English, Japanese, Italian, Basque,
Bulgarian and Hebrew (its knowledge is mostly liturgic, but yes, I teach
Biblical Hebrew at a Baptist college! -- that's more than enough for them!).
I got acquainted with dozens of other natlangs, such as Ancient and Modern
Greek, Polish, Hungarian, German, Portuguese, Georgian, Armenian, Mandarin
Chinese, Farsi, Swahili etc.

<<How many of you have chosen a profession in linguistics because of your
interest in inventing languages? Or plan a profession in linguistics?>>

That's inseparable!

<<What have you learned from conlanging?>>

Tons of things!

<<What texts on language and linguistics have you consulted to help invent
your language?>>

Dozens of different reference sources! I devour any grammar book or
dictionary I find!

<<Do you know of anyone who has not connected with the Internet or the List
who has invented a language? (I'm firmly convinced that "conlanging" has
been a private pursuit for many people long before the list started, but
that the list has increased its visibility as an art).>>

Unfortunately, no.

<<Can you give me a short sample of your language with interlinear
and translation?>>

In Rumean (Rumiya):
[Arabic loans marked with *]
- Ké sa'a es aghora? Zha es lázem ke entremos ala darseriyya!
what hour* is now? already is necessary* that enter-1pl.pres.subj. classroom (=lesson*+loc.suff.)
What time is it now? We already need to go to the classroom!

<<Would you object to my mentioning your conlang/and or your name in my
I will be discreet about some of the more personal questions you answered.>>

Feel free to mention me any way you want. And let me know!

> Sally Caves


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