Monday, 28 March 2011

Why Conlang?

The subject of Conlanging is an important one to me; it got me originally interested in my main field of study – Linguistics, it got me further entrenched in fantasy world design – ever a good thing, and it attached me to some of the greatest authors of all time – thus flourishing and inspiring my writing. In many ways, my life as it is today is because of Conlanging (for I would not have the same connections with the people in my life without my love of language which stemmed from this hobby).

As such, when I was thinking on what to write to you all about today, I came upon the topic “Why Conlang?” – or to put it more thoroughly, “What is Conlanging, and why is it worthwhile?”

What is Conlanging?
Conlanging is the art of making a Conlang, and a Conlang is at its most basic a Constructed Language. What this means is that it is a full language invented from the ordinary set of rules that govern and exist in all of the worlds languages. In this way, you make a unique brainchild, a language that possibly only you will ever see, read, speak or hear that you can use for no other purpose than to exercise your brain and to explore fun and fiddly functions of language not native in your own language.

Have a nominative-accusative native language? Try making a ergative-absolutive language. Have an isolating language? Try polysynthetic. This experimentation is in my opinion the best way to learn about other languages and Linguistics as a whole.

For a more in depth look of what a Conlang is and how to go about beginning the long and rewarding journey to make one, go here.

So why should I do it?
Well why not? At its most basic, there is nothing stopping you from making a Conlang. Anyone can do it, given enough time. And it doesn’t even need to be an exhaustive amount of time. Most Conlangs are created by people who spend maybe an hour a week on it. Maybe less. That language moves forward at the pace you want it to until it reaches the level you want it to reach. A language is never complete until you say it is.

Freedom is not the only reason behind the “why” of making a Conlang. Conlangs can give you a plethora of material to work from when it comes to writing fiction (as nothing speaks more to the emotions, motivations and mindsets of character more than their native tongue, not to mention conflict when other languages are encountered). Consider this: a language without gender in their nouns, and therefore likely gender equality, coming across a highly categorical language which has a noun gender which encompasses both “female” and “dishonourable” traits. Imagine the conflict that will cause when the female diplomat of the group attempts to speak with the foreigners!

Any writer out there should be salivating with the potential for conflict that language evokes, and if you’re not, then you just might need to watch a bit more Star Trek.

I hope to talk to you again soon,

Ben Scerri