Ok. As I promised...

LUNATIC SURVEY 2005, by Sally Caves


1. Who are you, and what is the name of your invented language or languages?
Pseudonyms allowed. (Are you using one? asked "Sally Caves")

Official name: Igor Anatolyevich Penzev
Mostly known as: Isaac Penzev
Web nick: Yitzik

As for my conlangs, I've got no project complete enough for even minimal
usability, but my CLP index presently lists 41 ideas or embryoconlangs. The
most developed are Ajami, Lesano, Edhelenglisc, Kuman Tyli.

*2. Are you new to the Lunatic Survey or have you filled out a version of
this survey before?

I don't remember exactly what it was, but I answered several questionnaires
at this mailing list.

3. Do you have a website for you language/world(s)? If so, please list the
URL address.

A totally chaotic - not too much info,

4. What is your email address? name at hostsite dot whatever.

isaacp at ukr dot net

5. What is your age? (vague answers allowed, but it is an important


6. What is your gender?


7. What is your nationality?  Where do you live now?

Nationality (citizenship): Ukraine.
Ethnic origin: mixed Russian/Ukrainian
Present ethnic identity: Jewish
Live in Kyiv/Kiev, Ukraine.

8. What is your native language?


9. What natural languages foreign to you have you studied or do you speak?

Ukrainian, English, Esperanto - more or less fluent. French, Spanish -
mostly passive. Hebrew - enough for religious purposes.
Studied with different success and on different degree about half hundred
other langs or fact about them.
At the present moment I've resumed my attempts to study German - looks like
I'm going to succeed now :)

10. What is your level of education? i.e., your highest degree achieved or

1994, Kiev State University, Department of Foreign Philology - qualified
specialist (appr. equivalent to Master of Arts).

11. What is your profession? Are you a professional linguist? If so, what
also makes you a conlanger?

Officially: philologist, a teacher of English.
Always thought about myself rather as a linguist, not a philologist.

13. If you are a student, what is your major or your area of study?

Unfortunately, my studies are over.

14. How long have you been developing your invented language(s)?

My present conlanging wave started in December, 2001 when I found the list.

15. At what age did you first start inventing a language? Can you briefly
describe your early efforts?

At age of 11. The first atempt was to design an a priori lang simulating
Hungarian. Then there were about 30 embryoconlangs and sketches of various
types, both a priori and a posteriori. All were very naive, and were lost
after I finished the school and left parents' home.

16. What drew you to start inventing a language and/or constructed world?
What was the inspiration?

I got acquainted with Linguistics and various natlangs descriptions. I
wanted more.

17. Did you start inventing before you had heard of the list or after?
Before you had heard of Esperanto or Tolkien? (I name the two most common

Yes, before the list. And even before Esperanto, though it stimulated me
later to great degree.

18. Tolkien calls it a "shy art" and a "secret vice"; but that was before
the Internet. How secret do you keep it from others outside this list for
much the same reasons?

I keep it mostly secret. To better friends I say I'm interested in
Linguistics without sspecifying that it is "creative linguistics".

19. Yaguello has called it "pathological," influenced, unfortunately, by a
lot of psychiatric writings such as _Le Schizo et la langue_. To what extent
have you encountered such reactions by outsiders you had taken into your

Pathological? No. Most people I talked to, think it is stupid waste of time.

*20. Do you consider it nerdy to be doing this? This is a term that gets
tossed around a lot. Or actually sophisticated? Do you need to get a life,
or is this your life? What is a life?

This is a nice hobby that makes harm to nobody. For me, it is an integral
part of my life. But, surely, it is not THE life.

21. There has been a connection noted between linguistic and musical
ability. Are you musically inclined? Do you sing and/or play a musical
instrument? Do you compose music?

I like to sing. But I'm totally ignorant in music, e.g. I could never learn
musical notation.

22. There has been a connection noted between linguistic and mathematical
ability. Are you mathematically inclined or inclined towards computing in
any way?

I was very good at maths both in school and in the Navy Academy. As for
computing, ppl call me "advanced user" - I know much how to use a comp, but
I'm totally ignorant in programming.

23. What other passions do you pursue that give you creative pleasure?
(painting, drawing, sculpting, calligraphy, model-building, novel or
story-writing, role-playing games, map-making, book-making, poetry,
web-designing, star-gazing or other?)

Nothing of the above mentioned.


1. Pick the best term for the invented language you are currently invested
in: auxlang, artlang, engelang, loglang, lostlang, philosophical language,
or "other." etc.

Mostly "what-if" langs. Kuman Tyli may be classified as a lostlang.

2. Is your conlang a priori (devised from scratch) or a posteriori (based on
an existing natural language or drawing from a language class such as

Mostly a posteriori. My latest ideas were to make a "collage" / patchwork
project: to combine grammatic and lexic elements from different natlangs I
like into a conlang without any natlang that could be called basic.

4. Do you have a script for your conlang? What is it called? Could you
provide me at a later date with a sample of it?  Is it on Langmaker's
"neography" site?


5. Briefly describe the outlines of your invented language (syntactical
structure--VO, OV, etc.; class or type--analytic, synthetic, agglutinating,
incorporative, accusative, ergative, active, trigger, other, combinations,
etc.), noting what you have done with it that is innovative in your opinion.

Well, to give a descripion of 40 items is too difficult. I'd rather describe
my preferences:
- SOV, agglutinative with elements of incorporation, ergative, verbal
morphology heavier than nominal one.

7. How extensive would you say your invented language is, now? How big the
vocabulary? Do you provide a vocabulary list or taxonomy on your website if
you have one?

Just a sketch. Ajami and Kuman Tyli have ca. 100 voc. items, Lesano - ca.
50. All of these projects are dormant!

8. How do you build vocabulary? Some people pull words out of the air;
others build up a base of root words and affixes. Many do both.

Inventing vocabulary seems to be the most difficult part of a priori
conlanging for me.

3. Does a constructed world accompany your invention(s)? What is it called?

Mostly no. Kuman Tyli could be a part of LLL. Ajami is designed in a context
of a conworld, but it has no name.

*9. Has your language and conworld ever served in a role-playing game or a
world shared by other conlangers?


*10. Briefly describe your conculture (is it within the bounds of this
world? on another world, etc.?)

For Ajami: planet Earth, alternative timeline. A world where there was no
Reconquista. Presently (15th c. AH) post-Muslim in the developed countries.

*11. Are the beings who speak your invented language human or alien? If
alien, what features have you given the language to make it alien or how
have you restricted or expanded its phonology? vocabulary?

Human. Don't understand going gaga about aliens.

12. What do you write in it? Poems? chants? lullabyes? prayers? history?
stories? recipes? Are any of these exhibited on your website?

Nothing available, but I'd love to use my conlang.

13. Can you speak your conlang? Are you fluent in it? Is this a goal for
you? Have you tried to teach it to an intimate? a companion animal? :)

Not yet, because I'm not satisfied with the quality of the projects. But
yes, this is my goal. In 1993 my girl friend (that is now my wife) and I
invented a private conlang and we used to exchange occasional phrases in it.

14. Have you made any soundbytes of your language? Could you provide me at a
later date with a sample of them?


*15. If you use Roman script, how recognizably "phonetic" is your writing
system? In other words, do you use unconventional letters or letter
combinations to represent sounds? Why or why not? I'm thinking, of course,
of Etabnannery, for those who remember it.

My Roman and Cyrillic orthographies are mostly straightforward. Edhelenglisc
uses ethymological spelling. I think spelling must be (con)historicly

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

Not yet. But I still remember a couple of songs in gibberish I composed when
a child:
"Ay ay ay, velya fun degay,
Ir sanota,
E lameta,
Tuyaketa surinay!"

*17. How many of you, for entertainment or any other reason, resort to
gibberish? (This is in response to Adrian Morgan's question in December).
Does it give you ideas for conlanging? (Have you ever fooled anyone?) How
many of you have sung gibberish?

See above.

*18. What on-line games do you play? (or devise?) Translations, Babel-text,
Relays, etc.

I'll play everything when I have a workable conlang for this purpose.

19. Which do you prefer doing: devising phonology? script? structure?
building vocabulary?

Morphosyntax is the most fascinating part of it.

20. Do you start and stop several different conlangs, or do you tend to
stick with one and develop it over years?

Unfortunately, the former. When I find "the conlang of my dreams", I think
I'll stick with it. Or not... I'm not sure...

21. What do you think makes a "complete" conlang, if a conlang can attain
completion? What are your goals for completion? When do you grow "tired" of
your conlang, or don't you?

To be complete means to have all basic grammar elements settled and
vocabulary big enough to produce simple conversations on various topics plus
the rules for extention the vocabulary. And don't forget the basic
principle: STABILITY!

*22. Which came first: the conlang or the conworld?

The conlang.


1. What aesthetic features do you value in inventing language? Be specific
as to phonology, structure, script, etc.

I do not care much about aesthetics. It must sound natural, whether it is
soft or harsh, it doesn't matter.

2. What commonly applied aesthetics have you ever tried to avoid in your
invention? This has been an oft debated question, especially when it comes
to Tolkien.

Yeah, I'd love to avoid stereotypical "bad guys speak harsh tongues".

3. Is difficulty or obscurity a goal in inventing a language?

Natlangs seem to be rather irregular and more difficult.

4. Is efficiency a goal in inventing a language? This question needn't
cancel out the previous one.

Yes. I want to be able to express everything relevant (taking into account
cultural constraints) in my conlang.

5. How natural do you wish to make it, or is that a concern? Or rather, how
unnatural do you wish to make it?

Yes, very natural. So that it could pass for a natlang.

6. Can conlanging be sexy? sensual? obsessing? how does it heal or harm you?

A conlang must be able to do anything a natlang can.

*7. How many of you have developed a rich vocabulary of obscenities?

It will have enough of them, after I have designed more important things.

8. Can it be mystical? To what extent does conlanging fulfill a spiritual
purpose for you? Or a magical one? Did it ever start out that way?

Thanks, I have Hebrew for that purpose.

9. How many of you have developed a rich vocabulary of magical, religious,
or incantatory terms?

If a natlang has it, why not to have it in a conlang? But magic and
mysticism is definitely NOT the aim of my conlanging.

*10. How many of you have striven to invent words that express novel ideas,
or are not expressed in any natural language that you know?

That's a must for a naturalistic conlang.

11. Name a few of the words in your language(s) that you are most pleased
with and are the most original to you.

My projects are mostly a posteriori, so I don't think I have anything to be
proud of in vocabulary area. In Ajami, my favorite word is "darseriya" - 'a
classroom': a hybrid of Arabic "dars" (lesson) and Spanish "-erķa".

12. How do you sense that a word is "right" for its meaning? How much do you
labor at fitting a sound to its sense? Or don't you care?

Well, it must COME.

*13. Do you ever rely on a software program to build vocabulary? Do those
who don't think that's cheating? :)

I don't use software.

*14. Is conlang a hobby, a craft, or an art in your mind? This has been
hotly debated, so the question is not as weird as it seems. Can conlanging
be considered an art? Why or why not?

Its an art-like hobby.

*15. If it is, who do you think are its consumers?

I do it mostly for my pleasure. It also helps me to study natlangs.

*16. This question is directed as well at any auxlangers on the list. Is it
an art, a political tool, both? And who do you think could be its consumers?

A political tool? Yes, it may be. Ajami is an example of this: when I
started it in 2001, ppl were so much obsessed with anti-Islamism, that I
wanted to make an oblique protest.

*17. There has been some exciting talk recently (and over the years) about
what a conlang is or is not. If you could pick a metaphor or write a
descriptive phrase defining "conlang," what would that be?

Its a laboratory mouse I can feed and care of, if I cannot afford myself a
crocodile pet.

*18. Why or why not would you eschew the metaphors "miniature" or "model"?

"Model"? To some extent. Most of my conlang ideas were inspired or motivated
by my interest in a certain linguistic phenomenon of a language group.

*19. Is a conlang more like a glimpse of something lifesize? (Irina's
suggestion in 2001)

Maybe. But not mine.

*20. There has been some invigorating discussion lately about what a conlang
can do that most natural languages don't (such as produce OSV structure, or
eradicate verbs) What experiments have you made with your artlang(s) along
these lines?

I'm not too radical in my experiments. Natlangs are usually inventive enough
to learn the wat THEY work.

*21  What do you think distinguishes a conlang from a natural language, if
you think so at all?  What would it take for a linguist to be fooled into
thinking a conlang was a natural language?

Its schematicity. To fool a linguist (which would be a good aim), one needs
to make a very good description.

*22. How much do you study other languages in order to discover what is
natural in language? Or to discover how you can stretch the boundaries of
language to make it do things that are unnatural?

I've been studying natlangs since the age of 7. I'm still a linguavore!

*23. Can such a language function?

Why can? A conlang MUST function!

*24. There has been quite a bit of fascinating debate about the relevance of
conlanging to linguistic study. We all know that linguistics can aid
conlangers, but in what ways can conlangers aid linguists? Or does it

I don't care. But it stimulates my linguistic interest. So conlanging helps
ME as a linguist, at least.


1. How did you first hear of this list?

By surfing the web without any particular purpose.

2. How long have you been on this listserv or on other related listservs?
Continuously? Infrequently? Off and on? More off than on and vice versa?

Since December 3, 2001. Occasionally going nomail due to Real Life (TM), but
never unsubscribed.

*3. What is the appeal of being on a listserv and contributing to it? Do you
think you contribute moderately or excessively, or not enough? Do you tend
to lurk ?

I talk not too much, because I don't have much to contribute AFMCL, and I
don't like to go off-topic. But reading the list became a kind of narcotic
for me.

*4. For those of you who remember its inception, how has it changed over the
past decade?

During the last year it became more off-topic.

*5. How helpful has the list been in developing your language? In learning
linguistic information?

I learnt more about modern linguistics from the list, than in 5 years at the

6. What books have you consulted? On your own, or because you heard of them
on the list?

I gather a linguistic library at home: language descriptions, grammar
sketches, vocabularies. I also visit public libraries (it's possible to make
photocopies from most material on this topic here in Ukraine).

*7. Do you peruse the websites of other conlangers?

I bookmark most of them, but visit not too often.

9. Have you ever set out to learn at least a little bit of someone's
conlang, if only a word or two, or a phrase?

I'd love to, if I had had more time. At least there are a couple of conlangs
that are waiting for being learnt at least a bit!

*10. Do you peruse Jeffrey Henning's site?


*11. What on-line techniques do you use to showcase your conlang, such as
Audacity or other sound programs, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Fontography, and
so forth? Did you hear of them on the list?

No. I'm not technology addict.

12. Have you ever tried to introduce a friend to the list?


13. Do you know of anyone who does this kind of thing but who has never
heard of the list?


*14. What other lists do you frequent related to conlanging?

I make reviews, you know...

*15. What do you think will be the future of the list? I see it giving birth
to alternate lists like Conworld, Lostlanguages, Romlang, etc. What improves
the present list and its helpfulness or entertainment value?

Workshops are useful for more technical stuff.
The Main List gives friendly communication and inspiration.

*16. What Internet technology would you most like to see developed that
would aid you in showcasing your language(s)?

Only if I can upgrade my comp that is Pentium I now running under Win98.

*17. What lists like conlang exist in other cultures and languages that you
know of?

Ideolengua, ouglopo, konlang_ru. I attend all of them.

*18. There has been some terrific talk about CONLANG as a community. And yet
so many of us seem to want the world to know of it and respect it. Is the
CONLANG community enough?

Never thought about it. For me, at the present moment, the CONLANG community
is enough.

*19. In my 2000 on-line article
( I suggested that
the Internet "may provide a site that, with the impetus of competition and
showmanship, encourages inutile and obsessive activity"; I was quoting Jeff
Salamon's article "Revenge of the Fanboys." Village Voice 13 Sep., 1994. He
wrote that over ten years ago. Do outsiders still entertain such notions, do
you think, about listservs like this one? Do you? To what extent has the
list increased obsessive development in you? Would you be inventing as
furiously as you are without the list or knowledge of other inventors?

The list has stimulated my coming back to conlanging and still inspires me.
I do not think it is "inutile and obsessive" - I learn much from this hobby.

*21. In Elizabethan times there were the inkhorn neologisms. There were
ciphers and pasigraphies. Today there is conlanging. Do you think the
contemporary world is more open to language innovation or more closed?

The modern world is more open to any stupidity nowadays.

*22. What would Tolkien have done with such a community? He writes in "A
Secret Vice" that language inventors "hardly ever show their works to one
another, so none of them know who are the geniuses at the game, or who are
the splendid 'primitives'." He suggests that perhaps in a later time
language invention will become respectable, and such things can be
exhibited. Have we reached that time?


*23. Is there a danger that over-exposure can make conlanging "banal"? To
what extent is it exciting because it is a) considered disreputable, "corny"
or "mad," or b) largely unknown to the world? Does it have a fizzle-out
date?  In other words, is it just a fad, or is it a natural human
inclination that will stand the test of time?

I think conlanging was, is, and ever stay elitist.

> Finally, may I have your permission to use any of this material of yours
for my academic work on conlanging? First name? last name? pseudonym?

Use anything you want, anonymous if possible (smth like "Mr. Y., a teacher
of English from Ukraine").

> Thanks!

You are welcome. It was fun.

-- Y.