> Have you based your conlang(s) wholly or partially on a Celtic language?


> PART II:  INSPIRATION BY TOLKIEN (tangential to the questions on
> by Celtic languages):

> How many of you have a constructed world,

I am currently working on a constructed world for Pidanjinu, an imaginary
pidgin language used by three tribes of Austronesian Islanders when engaging
in barter.  (Fleshing out the world is inspired in part by Tepa -- thanks,
Dirk!  I even have a missionary who is documenting the language.)

Most of my other languages barely allude to their worlds.  I have two
language sketches set on the planet of Fithia (Ilish and Fith).

> of the races we associate with Celtic or Scandinavian mythology? (Elves,
> Dwarves, medieval societies of humans, Faeries or Fays?  Selkies?

Sadly, the D&D mythos (the Walmart of mythology) has actually been more of
an influence.

> How many of you were inspired to invent a conlang or a conculture because
> some influence OTHER than Tolkien?
> How many of you were inspired to invent a language because you engage in
> Roll-Playing Games?

While Tolkien was an influence (the runes in The Hobbit, as well as the
languages in LOTR, especially Dwarvish), the impetus for me was a 1982
article in Dragon magazine talking about creating a language for orcs or
dwarves.  It was a step-by-step, here's-how-to-do-it article, which caused
me to sit right down and invent Karklak, a language of gnomes.

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

Jeffrey Henning.  My conlang?  I have about 20.

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

I think IE is a great place to start, but its a wide world.  My current
interest is Austronesian languages.

> Or Tolkien's Elvish?

I love Quenya, and tried to emulate its phonotactics with Old Alvish, but I
think anything to close to Quenya looks derivative.

> Did you know about Tolkien's inventions?  Read the books, the appendices?

Yes, read the books, read the appendices, wrote in runes, wrote letters to
my girlfriend in Elvish characters.

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

IALs-- Basic English, Esperanto, Ro, Vorlin, Lojban
professional conlangs-- Quenya/Sindarin, Nadsat, Dwarvish/Orcish from D&D
other conlangs-- Toki Pona, Katanda, Tepa
programming languages-- Forth

Hmm... apparently real-world languages are never my prototypes!

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

The intentional design.

> Some of you, and I'm thinking in particular of a conversation I had with
> 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
> of Elvish.   Is this so?  Why?

No -- I tried for "mellifluousosity" with Old Alvish.

> For how many of you, though, is beauty and/or efficiency a factor in your
> language?

I'm often attracted to simple phonotactics and phonologies.  I admire
straightforward morphology.

>Or elegance?  How would you define these terms?

I know elegance when I see it.  Elegance to me = minimal parts with maximum

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

For some of my languages, like Ilish and Fith, exoticness to the point of
alienness is the goal.

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

Fith uses a stack-based grammar and was the first conlang to take that
approach.  Humans could not speak the language in realtime, since the way it
is spoken exceeds the human capability of short-term memory.  Its sounds are
not particularly foreign, though hand gestures are integrated into each

Ilish is transmitted through a series of electric shocks and is so alien in
perspective and subject matter that I wonder if any human encountering an il
could ever even recognize a language was being used.

> 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,
> (if that can be done.)

I like both.  Montinoro was an artlang simplification of Latin phonology
with a very regular grammar.  Simpenga and BASE use English.  Dublex and
Novvocu vocabulary comes froms Arabic, Chinese, English, Hindi, Russian and
Spanish.  Folkspraak from all modern Germanic languages.  Sen:esepera from
Esperanto.  Zovakian from English and Croatian.

Inventing from scratch can totally be done and has to for a language on an
alien world, like Ilish or Fith or Tev'Meckian (my conlang inspired by
Galaxy Quest as a parody of Klingon), or for a language of a mythological
species, like Kordron (Orcs) or Karklak (gnomes).

Pidanjinu has computer-generated vocabulary as well, since it is an extinct
Austronesian language with no known cognates.

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

I don't think that way.

> To what degree is difficulty and irregularity of language important to you
> in your conlang?

I tend to prefer strong regularity.

> what natural language eccentricities (or efficiencies) do you like and try
to reproduce?

Karklak had a weird gender-agreement system involving two genders (defensive
gender and offensive gender).  But most of my languages are schematic.

> To what degree is accessibility, efficiency, and regularity important to
> your conlang?

Very, very, very important.  As I think of my artlang Pidanjinu, its a
pidgin, so its very regular as well.

>What natural language "faults" are you correcting?

I like simple grammars and simple morphologies.  Sorry.

> How many of you invent logical languages?

I consider Dublex and Novvocu to be candidates for logical languages, though
"engineered language" is probably the better term, if by logical languages
you mean using predicate logic.

> How many of you invent IALs?

I'm with Dirk and his Shemspreg -- I want a category of "art IALs".  That's
where mine fall.  I'll never champion any of my languages as a world

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

I usually don't invent cultures in much detail.  I finally am with

> How many of you started out by pulling words out of the air, originally?

Karklak was like that, to dubious results (like, er, "karklak").

> How many of you have chosen a more methodic form of vocabulary building?

Almost always -- either regular transformations of other languages'
vocabulary or completely autogenerated by custom scripts or that truly awful
Windows 3.1 language generator out there.

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

I like creating complex systems.  Most of my languages are thought
experiments or humorous (to me) sketches.

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

I compared it to model railroads, once.  (I'm now thinking of repainting the
cars and buildings on my HO layout with Zovakian words and phrases -- then
I'd come full circle.)

Any creative act is an act of obsession.  I see these women knitting while
waiting for their sons in karate class -- I can't imagine the hours and
hours they spend to create items you can buy for less than $10.  But then
they can't imagine spending hours and hours agonizing over lexical design

> 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,
> words for the world in your conlang?  (Perhaps unanswerable).

I had one language where I agonized over finding the "proper" word.  I'd
spend an hour and come up with five words.  This was quite the obsession my
sophomore year of college but the language is now lost to me (can anyone
read a disk from the original Mac on the Leo database?!).  I can't even
remember the name of it.

Since then I prefer computer generated forms.  But... Dublex started out
totally computer generated and became completely hand selected.

> 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.
> 've done most of them.)

I used to do fictive tunnel systems (not dungeons -- some weird military
bunkers when I was a teenager).  A few bad maps; nothing really since the

> If you use Roman script, how recognizably "phonetic" is your writing

Almost totally.

> In other words, do you use unconventional letters to represent sounds?
> Why?

Almost never.  The letter 'x' is pesky.

> 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?

The Babel Text.  Sermon on the Mount.  Pentecost.

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

I started as a teen but didn't stick with Karklak because it is shallow and

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

Me.  Don't know why.  I have maybe 20 language sketches.  Again, I'm a
different type of conlanger than anyone else I know, given my emphasis on
schematicism and artificial languages as sources.  Great! I'm a misfit even
here on the Island of Misfit Toys! :-)

> For how many of you does your language function as a spiritual instrument?

They are not talismanic, but I find in them some spiritual connection.  As a
practicing-far-from-perfect Christian, I often remythologize my faith:
creation -- In The Beginning Was The Word (John 1)
the fall -- at the The Tower of Babel
the gift of the Spirit -- at Pentecost.

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

One of my sons and I briefly studied Dublex together.

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

> How many of you are comfortable talking to your boss, your professors,
> family members about this pursuit?

Me!  Here's an actual e-mail I sent to all my employees last month:

In 1997, I started the tradition of taking co-workers to see a movie during
the workday.  The only catch was that it had to be a movie which included an
imaginary language.  The first movie that we went to was the special edition
of Star Wars: A New Hope (the language was Huttese).

In a sure sign that imaginary languages are the Next Big Thing, this year
you have two choices:
  a.. Quenya -- Elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo.
  b.. Romulan -- Eneh hwau' kllhwnia na imirrhlhhse.
So that I can purchase sufficient tickets, please fill out the attached
form.  Don't worry -- it's in English.

If I was going to take you to see a movie in 1951, which movie would it be?

(Three of my coworkers guessed correctly and one even submitted the language
to my site since I had left it out!)

> 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?

My wife's comment.  Linguists are different than polyglots.  I'm more
interested in studying language than speaking another language.

The more damning criticism I've encountered (from a co-worker) is:  "Real
languages are going extinct, and you're making new ones. Why not put that
energy into saving other languages?"

> 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)?

co-owner of software company

> What is your gender?


> What is your nationality and your native language?

American (a quarter each of Welsh, German, Hessian, Croat)


> What natural languages do you speak or have studied?

I speak no languages other than English.  I studied Spanish in high school.
I've read about probably three dozen natlangs.

> What have you learned from conlanging?

I learnt HTML so I could post my languages.  I've learnt tons about
linguistics.  I've learnt about web marketing.

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

Dozens of books.  I like the Cambridge Encyclopedia on Language.

> 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).


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

From Fith, here is an example of the destructive stack conjunction _frong_
("drop top item from the mental stack"): the phrase _shi vum vai e_ ("you
were an egg", lit. "you egg be") is the direst insult, equivalent to "f--
you" in English (and is a reference to the pestilent monotreme rodents that
plague the planet Fithia). However, the phrase _shi vum vai frong_ is the
equivalent of "shucks" or "you goof"; it is the mildest of oaths, said by
parents to their children and lovers to one another. (Imagine saying "f--
you never mind" to your child!)

> Would you object to my mentioning your conlang/and or your name in my

No, I've been out of the closet a long time.

Best regards,