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CONLANG  January 2003, Week 2

CONLANG January 2003, Week 2


Re: The Survey ^_^


Sarah Marie Parker-Allen <[log in to unmask]>


Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>


Fri, 10 Jan 2003 15:00:35 -0800





text/plain (623 lines)

Okay, I admit it, I'm a purist and aesthetics freak.  I *hate* unnecessary
carats.  Blame the people I "grew up with" online; I was allowed free reign
on local BBSs as a grade schooler (think 1986; I was 5-6 years old the first
time I logged onto an online service on my own), moved onto Prodigy around
1988, graduated to AOL when I was 11, abandoned AOL when I was 12, and there
are people who remember me with this same username from more than 10 years
ago.  ^_^  When you're 9 and people five times your age yell at you about
carats and too much quoted text, you learn quickly.  ^_^  Anyway, I answered


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

No, not yet.  I keep meaning to sit down and actually LEARN Irish Gaelic; if
I'm ever to become a licensed Irish Dance teacher it'd be a good idea
(though you only have to pass the language exam if you want to teach in the
Republic itself).

What is your name and what do you call your conlang(s)?

My name: Sarah Marie Parker-Allen.  Online I'm known as Lloannna, or oldbies
might know me as the Evil Lady Lloannna (it was a PHASE).  So far my
conlangs are "Sarah1," "Unnamed Language," and "Constructed Language C."  I
grew up using computers, and it shows.  I've also had a history of older
experimentations in made-up languages, but they never had names.

When did you start it/them?

My first conlangs were made when I was very young, they were usually 'rainy
afternoon' things and I certainly never thought they were a legitimate
artistic exercise.  I made some attempts at a "secret language" for myself
and my sisters around 1992, but they were decidedly uninterested, and I
found it easier to encrypt my diaries with simple letter-to-letter
conversions and using computer passwords.  These more recent conlangs were
started a few months ago, though serious work didn't begin until December.

Are you still working with it/them or have you abandoned it or them?

I'm still working with "Sarah1" and "Unnamed Language," I don't know how
long "Constructed Language C" is going to last, I only came up with it last
night and it's only two paragraphs of descriptive text so far.

What Celtic features have you borrowed?  What is the structure of your
language?  Be specific.

Not so much on the features-borrowing, I'm afraid.  And my structure is
pretty boring, unless you count experimentation with plurals and tenses and

What innovations did you introduce?  (new constructions, perhaps a new
script, etc.)

Ummm... well, I'm fond of my fourth-person deal (sort of a global plural,
"all").  And you can't get me away from the idea of a past/future
conditional type tense (that is, one that solves the problem EVERY time
traveler faces when they realize they've got to change something, or they
already have -- expressing the concept of things that would have happened,
if it weren't for unspecified other circumstances; it's tiring to have to
reexplain the whole situation, and I wanted to make it so you didn't have to
reexplain every time).

What features of Celtic languages (or a particular Celtic language)
initially inspired or intrigued you?  For example, Tolkien, as he described
it in "Welsh and English" was impressed by the beauty of a Welsh inscription
he saw on a building: Adeiladwyd 1887 ('built 1887').  He loved words like
wybren, so much more "mellifluous" than our borrowed word "sky."  He was
likewise enthralled by Finnish and Hebrew.  So he deliberately set out to
make his Elvish languages beautiful.   Was this a draw for you as well in
choosing Celtic as a model? (I understand that T's Elvish languages are not
exclusively "Celtic."  He has described them, however, as being

Sorry, not applicable at this time.  Though LangMaker, in its infinite
wisdom (hah!) gave me words like: "zhousleiklos" for "wave (oceanic)"  Yeah.
I'm still editing.

On the other hand, perhaps the Celtic structures, their VSO, their
paraphrastics, their initial mutations, their spelling conventions, their
general strangeness caught your fancy, not necessarily their "beauty" or
"romance."  Comment?

How many of you are also scholars of Celtic languages?   Scholars of other

Not a scholar, but I took a lot of Russian in school.

How were you introduced to them?

School, mostly.  Though I remember being seriously fascinated by the table
of alphabets in an unabridged dictionary.

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 exposure
to Tolkien?

Not necessarily inspired to "invent" a language, as inspired to be serious
about it.  He's like a serious grown-up with a real education who did this
and people liked it.  I didn't read FOTR until the day after the movie
opened (sorry, it was complicated -- home situation, I mean), but after I
did it was like -- wow.  Made-up languages could be more than just something
to tinker around with; they really could have a place in a fictional
environment.  I admit I was also inspired by Clancy being able to get away
with Romanized Russian in his Jack Ryan books (no translations!) and how you
could tell what those words meant by the context.  And, though it was
accidental, a project in 6th grade helped -- we created a mythical
civilization, developed representative artifacts, destroyed them to various
degrees, and buried them for the OTHER 6th grade class to dig up.  It was a
huge unit on archaelogy.  I was in charge of the educational artifacts, so
when our languages person was done (she had to come up with the language AND
the "Rosetta Stone") she handed off her translation guide and I wrote out a
couple of textbooks.  Ours was a bit pathetic, just different characters
substituted.  The other class was a bit better -- they created their own
version of pig Latin.

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

I have to admit that elves and to a lesser extent other ME type creatures
are trying to invade.  I'm hoping that over time my mages, scholars, and
sages will become rather LESS like Gandalf and Saruman.

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?  Wizards?)

Yes, and yes.  See above.  Sigh.  I really get zinged on the "medieval
societies of humans" bit.  Though on a regular basis, they turn out to be on
a different planet!

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

I'm inspired to study Hebrew thanks to my Jewish background.  I didn't know
Tolkien was into Welsh, and I'm more interested in Lithuanian or Latvian
than Finnish (not into the Ural-Mongolian thing; I have little interest in
visiting Ulaan Batur or Pyongyang, as it's cold and unfriendly and Communist
there.  ^_^  Okay, so the Mongolians aren't Communists (to be perfectly
accurate, neither are the North Koreans), but you have to admit, that
sentence has a ring to it.  This is what happens when you major in Political

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

Now that I think about it, Star Trek probably helped, too.  I was definitely
awed by the idea that people were translating the Bible into Klingon, and I
still crack up over the "you have to read Hamlet in the original Klingon"
line in ST:VI.  Marc Okrand rocks.  ^_^

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

Not really.  The only RPG I've done is EverQuest.  I keep trying to convince
people in the Star Wars line to teach me D&D...

How many of you were inspired to invent a language because you heard of this

Sorry, no.  I found the idea of secret diaries, enrolled in Ms. Glassford's
class, memorized every episode of Star Trek: TNG, read FOTR, found the
Language Construction Kit and LangMaker, AND came up with Sarah1 and Unnamed
Language all before joining this listserv.

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

I want to be in SCA, but I worry that it'll take over my life.  Plus, I
already have to come up with a cool costume for the LOTR Oscar Party here in
LA in March.


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.

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

Again, see above.  I didn't read carefully (it's FRIDAY, LOL).

So what is unappealing about the Indo-European model for conlanging?  Or
Tolkien's Elvish?

Nothing is unappealing.  I just want to do my own thing, and I want to
include features I really understand and already use in a natural language,
or that I came up with on my own because I was frustrated with a "lack" in
the natural languages I use.

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

See above...

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

Yes, eventually.  ^_^

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

Ummm... Russian to a large extent, though I borrowed a lot of the sounds
from Latin as well.

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

I like Russian because of some of the sounds it includes.  I love how it
legitimizes the sound "sh" with its own letter (actually, it gets TWO,
though one is supposedly more like "shch").  I'm getting very familiar with
tables for declensions and conjugations, and I admire the way that you can
move words around.  Nice thing about Russian as opposed to Latin is that
word order DOES mean something (I'm pretty sure I saw a quote somewhere that
said that Latin poetry was written the way it was to sound good, because
word order was effectively irrelevant).  I like the middle ground between
"there's only one way to write it and make it sound good" (English) and "it
sounds good no matter how you write it!" (which is how I perceive Latin).
Oh, and a completely random thing -- this is the first language I saw a
double-dotted letter outside of German, and the "yo" in Russian doesn't seem
to have any relationship to the letters with the double dots in German.

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 love beautiful words and such, but I don't care for beauty for its own
sake, or when it sacrifices something else.  Also, Tolkien's literary
conceit (the elves made the language efficient and beautiful because that's
how they liked it) made the language less believable.  There should be a few
discordant words, I think -- for the same reason that I've got a basic list
of words that should always be grammatically irregular -- to give it more

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 like beauty, and I'm pleased when it's there.  But I'm a user of English,
which is in many ways inefficient and not always beautiful, yet I still find
it aesthetically pleasing.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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

Only in languages that need to sound foreign.  If I ever bother to come up
with an alien language, then sure.

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

Not yet.  I'm not that brave.  ^_^  I have a mild conceit -- I hope someday
to have my fiction translated into other languages; I certainly hope that
people with other native languages than English (even if they also speak
English) will read it.  It's pretty hard to write a speakable language
that's just as alien to a speaker of Mongolian, a speaker of Portuguese, a
speaker of Swahilli, AND the original author, a speaker of English.  ^_^

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.)

Umm, I guess it's mostly from scratch.  I mean, I come up with who speaks
it, how it was created, the environmental and cultural factors, etc., along
with the words and grammar -- every language on Earth is different, in part
because of those circumstances.  Why would German pop up anywhere else than
in Germany?

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

... I have no idea what those terms mean.

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?

Irregularity is important, but only insofar as it makes sense.  I've noticed
that the "most important" words are often irregular (we used to joke about
that in Russian class, because EVERY "family member" term -- mother,
daughter, father, brother, etc. -- was grammatically irregular).  I also
like to create "borrowed" words, and "recently coined" terms.

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

Just that one with the past/future conditional thing.  It really irks me to
see someone try and explain a paradox in English.

How many of you invent logical languages?

Ummmm... ???

How many of you invent IALs?

What's an IAL?

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

Not yet, no.

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.)

I tried pulling words out of the air, but they're inconsistent.  Then I
tried LangMaker, and I got mixed results.  I think it's going to be a
combination -- LangMaker, altering my basic sound list a bit, more
LangMaker, altering the sound list again, LangMaker a third time, editing
the list to the words I actually like, coming up with new words that make
sense based on the list.  Later on oddities like borrowed words can be
thrown in.

PART IV:  THE LUNATIC SURVEY REVISITED (because we are all "fous du
langage," according to Yaguello and other French critics.

Why do you conlang?  Who will speak it?  Read it?  What's the point?  What's
the beauty?  what's the intellectual draw?

I conlang for my fiction, and also because it's a bit cool to create your
own language.  Like being a pioneer.  I'll speak it, as will my characters.
Anyone who reads my fiction will see bits of it, though I have to wonder if,
like with Tolkien, for the most part my audience will skip over that stuff.
^_^  The point is that it's fun, that it adds atmosphere and authenticity,
and that it doesn't make sense for everyone in the universe to speak English
(or walk on two legs, but that's another discussion).

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?

My conlangs are communicable languages, but they're threads within a larger

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

My characters speak it.  Perhaps it would help if I said that my fictional
characters don't just exist as binary data... they may not have physical
bodies, but they're real, and they need some way of talking about the
weather, the kids, life, the universe, and everything.  And as I said, it
doesn't make sense to me that they'd speak English.

To what extent is the opacity or "alterity" of your language something that
pleases you?  In other words, the sounds and the script have, even for you,
a quality of being foreign, and this delights.
Comment?  (I know that when I make maps of cities, and imagine myself in
them, they delight me because they are both familiar and foreign at the same

Ummm... I like it to sound foreign, I guess, but it's the familiarity -- the
sense that this language, this place, was shaped and used and experienced by
people like me -- that really delights me.

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

That's the part that worries me the most.  I don't like to delete words that
LangMaker came up with (unless it's a five-syllable word for "to run") BUT
some things just don't sound right.  I don't want my conlangs to come off as
personal languages, but why make them if they sound "off" to me?

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.)

Some of it.  I'm not very good at drawing, so it's mostly map making, floor
plans, etc.  I want to create a script for my languages; perhaps after I do
Hat Writer training at Disneyland I'll feel qualified (side note: this is
also a good reason to learn Quenya; I want to get a Mickey Mouse hat with
the word "princess" on it in Elvish).  I build worlds, of course, that's
another part of the fiction thing.

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

I will... some day.  For now it's flat-out phonetic.

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

No, because I'll forget.

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?

These are baby languages, so not yet.

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

Well, *I* won't be singing, but my characters might.

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

Nope.  I'm flighty.

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

I haven't been doing this very long, so I don't know.

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?

There are two levels to this question -- first, I like inventing religions
for my characters, so yes, they get prayers and such (actually, Constructed
Language C is primarily used in its little world for prayers and things).
Second, I'm deeply committed to my own religion.  I might translate
scriptures or something, but more as a sense of including the language in a
life I already have, rather than using the language itself to shape my life.

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).

Yeah.  In the end it seemed like too much work for something I didn't care
that much about (I'm good at hiding my secrets in other ways)

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

Not yet.  ^_^

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

I will, someday.  It'll be at, most
likely.  Maybe (I have two, because I
had a GeoCities site before Yahoo bought them)

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

Not yet.

How many of you are comfortable talking to your boss, your professors, your
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"?

Never.  They make fun of me for learning Russian, for heaven's sake.

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

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

Not yet, though it's one I've leveled at myself.  My only response is, "I'm
doing that too; who says you have to do either/or?"  It's like studying
political science versus "doing something practical with your life"  I did
both when I interned at the State Department.  Of course the other good
answer (one which I level at myself as well as others) is "Bite me."


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 student,
what is your MAJOR; if a middle or high-school student, what is your
intended major)?

Student, majoring in political science.

What is your gender?


What is your nationality and your native language?

I'm a Lithuanian-Irish-American (I've got a hyphen in my name, too), and my
native language is English.

What natural languages do you speak or have studied?

Speak fluently: English
Speak at an intermediate level: Russian
Can understand quite a lot of, but can't really speak at all: Spanish
Have studied quite a lot of, but need dictionaries and grammars and
assistance: Latin
Have studied a bit of: French
Have studied a LITTLE TINY bit of, and can't remember anything to speak of:
German, Irish Gaelic

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

No, sorry.  Languages, both natural and invented, are a tool.  They're part
of the journey and all that.

What have you learned from conlanging?

That there's a reason why it takes a long time for languages to develop, and
there's a reason why babies end out speaking the same languages as their
parents -- it's HARD WORK.

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

Mostly textbooks in Russian.

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).

I know *of* JRR Tolkien, who died before the internet came about.  That's
not the answer yo