Sally Caves wrote:

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

Herman Miller (not a pseudonym)
My current language is Minza. Older languages include Tirelat, Jarda,
Ludireo, Chispa, Olaetian, and many others.

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

I'm sure I must have filled out one of these before.

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

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

hmiller at io dot com

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


> 6. What is your gender?


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

US / Minnesota

> 8. What is your native language?


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

I took classes in French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Chinese; I've
studied Japanese and other languages from books and cassette courses. I
don't remember enough of any of these to speak them.

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

BS (Computer Science)

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

Software engineer (programming video games, currently for Xbox).

> 13. If you are a student, what is your major or your area of study?
> 14. How long have you been developing your invented language(s)?

Minza specifically since December. I've been developing languages for a
little over 25 years.

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

I must have been about 15 or so when I started creating something that
actually had its own grammar. Before that, I was in the habit of making
up words, but I really don't remember much about that. I have a word
list from a long time ago, possibly 1978 or earlier (I rarely dated
things back then) that are supposed to be words of the Olaetian
language. It wasn't until later that I started to put together a
grammar, around 1979 or 1980. The early grammar of Olaetian was greatly
influenced by the Romance languages, which were the only ones other than
English that I knew much of anything about. In those days, everything
was hand printed in pencil, except for a couple of word lists typed on
an old mechanical typewriter. Once I had an idea of what the grammar was
like, I started writing brief texts in Olaetian. Sometimes I would
create words as I needed them, but I also made lists of English words
with their Olaetian equivalents.

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

My best guess is that it was the alien languages in _Star Wars_ that
inspired me to start making languages.

> 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 inspirations)

My old Ballantine paperback copy of _Fellowship of the Ring_ is dated
June 1980, so I'd already started by then. I'm fairly certain that I
hadn't yet heard of Esperanto, but it's so long ago that I can't be

> 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've never felt a need to keep it secret.

> 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 confidence?

I haven't experienced that kind of reaction.

> *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?

I suppose it's a little nerdy, but half the things I do are nerdy
anyway, so it's not like it makes much difference. I don't see "nerdy"
and "sophisticated" as being incompatible. "What is a life?" is a good
question. As near as I can tell, doing creative things is a pretty good
life, and I wish I had more time for those things.

> 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?

Lately I've been more composing new ways of making music than composing
music. See for some
fragments of what might eventually become music if allowed to develop
further. I've played the piano for as long as I can remember, and I
played trombone and violin in high school.

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

I do have an interest in mathematics, which intersects with my current
interest in nonstandard musical tunings and my job as a computer programmer.

> 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?)

Besides the music, I've also had an interest in art; for a time, I spent
more time drawing the non-human people of the Kolagian universe than I
was spending on music, but lately I haven't done much drawing. I used to
write stories (which occasionally featured a sentence or two of one of
my languages), but I haven't done that for a long time.

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


> 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 Semitic)?

Largely a priori; a few words are borrowed from natlangs, but I'm
changing most of those, since they don't fit with the direction the
language is going in. I might keep a few natlang-derived words if
they're mangled enough that the source isn't obvious.

> 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?

Not yet. I do have scripts for lots of other conlangs; some of these are
shown at

> 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.

Minza is basically VSO, adjectives follow nouns, pronouns are generally
dropped, both subject and object pronouns are marked as verb prefixes.
It's agglutinative, but not to a large degree. Morphology is ergative.
Nothing about it is really all that innovative, although some features
are new to my languages (marking possession with the locative case, for

> 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?

Fairly new and undeveloped, but I have around 600 words so far. Many of
these are names of plants and animals that have been inherited from
Jarda and Tirelat, and most of the rest are from an earlier version of
the language, Lindiga. I'm working on a taxonomy, but I don't expect to
have it in a presentable state any time soon.

> 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.

Some Lindiga words were designed to remind me of words from familiar
languages, but they've changed to the point that they're not as
recognizable any more ("green" for instance has gone from something more
like "verdi" to "werdi" and "werji", before I changed it to "zerji" in
order to obscure any remaining resemblance to "verdi" that it might
have). Most of the time I just try sounds at random and pick one that
sounds reasonable for the meaning.

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

The current world is Azir. Previously, the world was known as the
Kolagian universe.

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

I've used my languages for names when I was running an AD&D game back in
my college years. A couple of languages were created especially for that
purpose. My D&D world was modeled after, but distinct from, the world
that my languages are spoken in.

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

I originally thought it was totally separate from this world, but I've
been having second thoughts. After all, if the wizards in J.K. Rowling's
Harry Potter books can keep their world hidden from muggles, perhaps
there's more going on in this world than we know about.

What I do know about Azir is that it consists of a large number of
worlds connected by portals (of a still not understood nature) that open
at regular or irregular intervals. It's entirely possible that one or
more of these portals opens on this world from time to time. That would
explain the stories about dragons, among other things. The speakers of
Minza might reside on a world that acts as a "bridge" between our world
and Azir. They might even be human; I haven't found out yet, but it's an
intriguing possibility.

The cultures I've been giving the most thought to lately are the ones
associated with the Zireen people of the planet Rishai. Zireen are short
furry people (average about 2'6" or 75 cm tall) with big eyes. Their
culture is fragmented into many different factions that don't agree on
much of anything, but in general they love music and visual arts,
travel, and the natural world. They eat the local equivalent of insects,
crustaceans, and numerous kinds of foods derived from plants. Zireen
have complicated family groups; very few are monogamous, but groups of 2
or 3 couples living together are common. Another common family structure
is the chain family, with a range of members of all ages, and new
members joining the family when they reach maturity.

> *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?

They are "alien" in the sense that they're not of this world, but
they're human-like, not the realistic science-fiction kind of aliens.

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

I haven't written much of anything in my recent languages, although I've
used them for relay translations. I have short bits of dialog in some of
my older languages, and whole pages of text in the really old ones.

> 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? :)

I'm not fluent in any of my languages, although I can speak them if I
have a text that I'm reading from. I haven't really had any interest in
becoming fluent. Sarbleski was a language with a few very specific uses:
cursing at traffic, writing grocery lists, and talking to gerbils. Other
than that, I haven't done much speaking of my languages.

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

Most of what I have is here:

> *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.

I use Roman script for transcribing my languages, mostly in a more or
less "phonetic" way (adapted for the particular language). Some of them
use mildly unconventional spellings, but mostly for sounds that don't
fit the Latin alphabet.

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

I do occasionally sing and chant gibberish (but not in public).

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

I've participated in a number of relays (once with Jarda and a few other
times with different versions of Tirelat).

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

Currently vocabulary.

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

I started with Olaetian, which I developed for around 10 years, as my
main language, but I've always had an assortment of other languages that
I was developing. Lately I tend to have one "main" language and a
variety of other secondary languages; Tirelat was my primary language
for quite a while but Lindiga/Minza has become the main one now.

> 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?

If I ever reach a stage where I don't need to create new words or
grammatical structures to express anything I might want to say or
translate, I could call that "complete". I don't have much hope for
making a "complete" language, but I'd like to get it to the stage where
at least I have an adequate grammar and at most I'd be creating new
vocabulary as needed.

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

Well, that's a sort of chicken and egg question. The conworld predates
any of my currently active conlangs; I had a different conworld in the
days of my earliest languages. You can trace the evolution of the worlds
through the years, but there's really no similarity between the
pre-Kolagian and post-Kolagian worlds.

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

I especially like the sound [K] (voiceless lateral fricative). But I
don't know if there's much else that I can be specific about.

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

Only to the extent that realistic languages tend not to be simple. One
of the deficiencies of my languages is that they tend to be too regular
to be realistic.

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

My languages do tend to be brief, but that's not an explicit goal.

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

Initially with Minza I wanted to start with something simple and
regular, avoiding some of the more naturalistic features of Lindiga. I
didn't have the time to worry about figuring out things like the
individual plurals of each noun. But now that I'm thinking of Minza as
an actual spoken language, I might just start putting some of these
irregularities and other details back in.

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

One of these days I'm really going to have to start exploring the sexual
vocabulary of the Zireen languages. I'm sure it must be very extensive,
but I've barely touched the surface of that sort of vocabulary.

> *7. How many of you have developed a rich vocabulary of obscenities?
> 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?
> 9. How many of you have developed a rich vocabulary of magical,
> religious, or incantatory terms?
> *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?

This has been one of the goals of my recent language projects, including
Minza; at least, to divide the semantic space up in different ways.

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

Here are a few from Minza:

đen'ga ['dZENga]: banjo (a word inherited from Jarda)

kelupi [kE'lupi]: a flying dolphin.

łaži (l-slash a z-wedge i) ['KaZi]: a flat piece of something; e.g., a
sheet of paper, a stick of gum, a pane of glass.

muöng ['mu@N]: nose

sevi ['sEvi]: to pass, traverse, go (or come) through or past.

wyrnö ['w1rn@]: knot

> 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?

I wish I knew the answer to the first question! I do have a sense of
what words are "right" and "wrong" for a given meaning, but often if I'm
looking at a word that just "doesn't fit", I have no idea why that's the
case, and can't come up with anything better. I finally settled on
"ketóp" as the Minza word for "computer" after having an unsatisfactory
word for so long. I don't know why "ketóp" sounds like an appropriate
word for "computer" any more than why "nezngi" is the right word for
"camel". That's just the way it turns out.

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

I've done that in the past, most successfully for the Zharranh language,
but more often than not, I end up with results that I don't like.

Actually, I do rely on a software program to build vocabulary, it's
called Microsoft Word. :-) The thesaurus feature comes in handy. I also
used the 20 Questions game ( to give me ideas for
Tirelat vocabulary.

> *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?

Yes, it's one or more of those three. :-) I think there are some pretty
good examples of conlanging as an art; web sites with texts and sound
samples are a good step in that direction. Then again, a lot of what
counts as art these days doesn't seem much like art to me.

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

Mostly Star Trek fans. :-) But most of the conlang pages on the web
would mainly be of interest to other conlangers, or people with unusual
interests in language (the sort of people who read stuff like Douglas
Hofstadter's _Le Ton Beau de Marot_).

> *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?
> *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?
> *18. Why or why not would you eschew the metaphors "miniature" or "model"?
> *19. Is a conlang more like a glimpse of something lifesize? (Irina’s
> suggestion in 2001)
> *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?

Eklektu eliminated the distinction between nouns and verbs; there was
one large class of "main roots" which could be either nouns or verbs,
and an assortment of "auxiliary roots" which indicated the function of
the main roots and established the structure of a phrase. Another thing
I tried to do with Eklektu was to reduce some of the ambiguity of
compounds by adding particles that would indicate which words were
grouped together.

> *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?
> *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 always looked at other languages for ideas; I have a good-sized
collection of "Teach Yourself" books, dictionaries, and things like
that. It helps for avoiding unintentional English bias.

> *23. Can such a language 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 matter?
> 1. How did you first hear of this list?

I believe it was from a post in sci.lang many years ago, back when it
was hosted at

> 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?

Pretty much continuously for about the last 10 years.

> *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 don't often have much time to contribute, but it's interesting to hear
about what other conlangers are up to. I learn about grammatical
features I might not have noticed, like trigger systems. I enjoy looking
over other conlangers' web sites and listening to the audio samples.

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

I wasn't there in the really early years, but when I found out about it,
there was still a lot of discussion of auxlangs and loglangs, and not
much about the other varieties of conlanging. No one had web pages to
show off their languages yet, since the web was so new. The idea of
something like a translation relay wouldn't have occurred to anyone in
those days.

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

Hmm... how to measure that? I guess mostly it's useful for getting
pointers to useful resources and the occasional idea for language
development. Translation exercises are helpful, and it's interesting to
see how others deal with the same text.

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

Thomas E. Payne's _Describing Morphosyntax_ is probably the best
recommendation I've got from this list.

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


> *8. Do you sense that people on this list are interested in your conlang
> and give you feedback on it?
> 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 tried to learn a little bit of Lojban once. But I don't even really
learn my own languages any more these days.

Now it's getting late ... maybe I'll get back to the rest of these tomorrow.

> *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?
> 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?
> *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?
> *16. What Internet technology would you most like to see developed that
> would aid you in showcasing your language(s)?
> *17. What lists like conlang exist in other cultures and languages that
> you know of?
> *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?
> *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?
> 20. If asked whether it is not better to turn your linguistic talents to
> the learning and speaking of natural languages (a common response I’ve
> met with and aimed at criticizing introversion or solipsism), how would
> you answer?
> *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?
> *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?
> 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?
> anonymous?
> Thanks!
> Sally Caves [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>