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When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Sun 08 Oct 2017, 04:00
by fruityloops
So I'm gong to be making some conlangs for my world since I really need to stop relying on generators to make my words. I do wonder, when trying to make a conlang, what do I do first?

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Sun 08 Oct 2017, 04:08
by Parlox
My way of starting work on a new conlang is to start with phonetics. I will then give the language a orthography and a name, and will then move on to basic grammar(usually working on nouns and syntax, then verbs, then adjectives and adverbs, and so on). Once i have an outline of the grammar i will start to create a lexicon and test the grammar.

There isn't one right way to start.

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Sun 08 Oct 2017, 12:12
by OTʜᴇB
Here's my process (YMMV):
  • Make a phonology, orthography, phonotactics
  • Pick a base word order and where on the isolating-polysynthetic line you want it
  • Start making basic grammar
  • Pick tenses, aspects, cases, moods etc. that you'd want to use
  • Integrate the above features into the grammar
  • Start covering extra things one at a time. These would be things like questions, quoting others, putting extra information within clauses e.g. I used Steve's hammer and Jeff's saw to build a shed at the end of Dave's garden. That last one can get complicated quickly
  • Once you're happy with your grammar so far, look into lexicon
  • Come up with a list of word roots to use
  • Assign characters or bits of word to each root
  • Start sticking them together somehow to make basic vocabulary. I start with words for everything in a Swadesh list
  • Stare at your grammar and lexicon for 2 weeks with no idea what to do next
  • Discover LaTeX and look into making a little textbook on your language
  • Spend 2 weeks learning LaTeX and start laying out this text book
  • Spend a month going through 20 different script designs for your language
  • Get so caught up on scripts and textbooks that you don't touch the language for 4 months
  • Come back after that and dislike half of what you've done.
  • Repeat from the start, stealing bits you did like from your previous work

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Sun 08 Oct 2017, 13:23
by fruityloops
OTʜᴇB wrote:Here's my process (YMMV):
  • Make a phonology, orthography, phonotactics
  • Pick a base word order and where on the isolating-polysynthetic line you want it
  • Start making basic grammar
  • Pick tenses, aspects, cases, moods etc. that you'd want to use
  • Integrate the above features into the grammar
  • Start covering extra things one at a time. These would be things like questions, quoting others, putting extra information within clauses e.g. I used Steve's hammer and Jeff's saw to build a shed at the end of Dave's garden. That last one can get complicated quickly
  • Once you're happy with your grammar so far, look into lexicon
  • Come up with a list of word roots to use
  • Assign characters or bits of word to each root
  • Start sticking them together somehow to make basic vocabulary. I start with words for everything in a Swadesh list
  • Stare at your grammar and lexicon for 2 weeks with no idea what to do next
  • Discover LaTeX and look into making a little textbook on your language
  • Spend 2 weeks learning LaTeX and start laying out this text book
  • Spend a month going through 20 different script designs for your language
  • Get so caught up on scripts and textbooks that you don't touch the language for 4 months
  • Come back after that and dislike half of what you've done.
  • Repeat from the start, stealing bits you did like from your previous work

Lol. That must kinda suck for you didn't it?

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Sun 08 Oct 2017, 14:08
by Lambuzhao
I haven't started an a priori :con: lang from scratch in at least 20 years (prolly more).

I would just start writing or recording some phrases that would be how it would sound.
Usually it would be as part of a prayer, or a reaction to an image I liked, or part of a song I knew, where I'd just start
singing along 'in tongues'.

Then, I would break down the utterance as best as I could into words/moræ.

I'd analyze it according to the context, figuring out word classes.

After a few trials, I'd start looking at the resultant words. Do they look like they have any affixes (especially ones that repeated in other words).

A little bit further, I start generating plasmodia of related concepts. Aggregations of related terms.

E.g.

In an utterance that included words for "mom" and "dad", what might 'grandparent' look like? What might 'aunt' or 'uncle'?

In a lyric "good or bad, happy or sad", what might be some adjectives for 'good sounding' i.e. 'mellifluous', 'harmonious', 'good smelling' i.e. 'fragrant', 'aromatic'. What would their opposites look like?
Pretty soon, I'll have whole nest of vipers entire breeding rookeries of nouns, verbs, ADJs, PRPs, CNJs, etc.


The actual phonology and orthography comes from creation-use-redaction-creation-use-redaction…

I don't think I ever started a :con: lang by just beginning with the way sounds are created.
I suppose that's useful, but to me, only in so much as it helps finalize the sound of the language, and help weed out
spurious phonemes or phoneme combinations.

I do not use wheat-paste or cellophane tape in the creation of my conlangs (anymore). [xP]

Still, I guess I'm one of the elder-fashioned :con: langers in the bunch.

I imagine, nowadays, I might put my years of linguistic grad school more to use in the process.
My process might look more like OTʜᴇB's flow-chart, which is impressive, and not the least daunting.
Anymore, I don't think I have the gobs of free time to build that way. But more power to those who do!
[:D]

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Sun 08 Oct 2017, 23:10
by elemtilas
Alternatively, you could just write out a short text and figure out what it means...

tt.weste nmrre ttng.errtte ttng.srrte ttng.errme swe enmerre swe kkere-ett.tt

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Mon 09 Oct 2017, 04:22
by Porphyrogenitos
elemtilas wrote:Alternatively, you could just write out a short text and figure out what it means...

tt.weste nmrre ttng.errtte ttng.srrte ttng.errme swe enmerre swe kkere-ett.tt
Hmm...

tt.weste nmrre ttng.errtte ttng.srrte ttng.errme swe enmerre swe kkere-ett.tt

/tːwɨs.tɨ nm̩.rːɨ tːŋ̩.ɨrː.tːɨ tːŋ̩.sr̩ː.tɨ tːŋ̩.ɨrː.mɨ swɨ ɨn.mɨ.rːɨ swɨ kːɨ.rɨ.ʔɨtː.tː/

[tʰw̥ʊs.tʊ nəm.rːɨ tʰəŋ.ɨrː.tːɨ tʰəŋ.sərː.tɨ tʰəŋ.ɨrː.mɨ swʊ ɨn.mɨ.rːɨ swʊ kʰɨ.rɨ.ʔɨtː.ətː]

Phonology:

There is one phonemic vowel, /ɨ/ <e>. All consonants can be geminate. Word-initial geminate stops are realized as aspirates and devoice subsequent sonorants.

All sonorants, including geminate sonorants, can appear as syllable nuclei. A short epenthetic schwa is inserted before syllabic sonorants. Syllables with syllabic sonorants may not take a coda.

/ɨ/ is realized as [ʊ] after labiovelars and [ɪ] after palatals. A harmony process extends the realization of /ɨ/ rightward across a word, blocked by a consonant triggering the "opposite" environment, either a labiovelar or a palatal.

Certain unstressed clitics with no underlying vowel may be attached to the end of a word, taking an epenthetic schwa.

Morphosyntax:

I'm interpreting <.> as a morpheme boundary. I'm guessing that <tt> and <ttng> are some kind of determiner or classifier and are attached to nouns. The determiner each noun gets probably depends on some feature like number or case, or perhaps it varies by a lexical class of some kind.

<swe> is probably a particle of some sort, perhaps a conjunction?

I'm interpreting <-> as a morpheme boundary in a compound word. (I'm also going to assume that when two vowels are made adjacent due to compounding, a glottal stop is inserted.)

Since <tt.weste>, <ttng.errtte>, <ttng.srrte>, <ttng.errme> are presumed to be nouns, the other words that look like they could be "content words" (and don't have determiners) must be verbs. So <nmrre>, <enmerre>, and <kkere-ett> are verbs, the last being a compound verb. And even though <enmerre> has no marked morpheme boundary, I want to say it's an inflected form of <nmrre>, or at least related to it in some way.

<tt> might be a clitic of some kind modifying <kkere-ett>, or it might be modifying the sentence as a whole.

So the structure appears to be:

tt.weste nmrre ttng.errtte ttng.srrte ttng.errme swe enmerre swe kkere-ett.tt

det1.noun1 verb1 det2.noun2 det2.noun3 det2.noun4 conj verb2 conj verb3.verb4.clitic

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Mon 09 Oct 2017, 12:45
by Iyionaku
I have a quite standardized process I used for all of Caelian, Bath'aso and Paatherye:

1. State some overall goals
2. State general processes that occur altogether
3. Define a phonology
4. Define phonotactics and allophony
5. Nouns
6. Adjectives
7. Adpositions
8. Pronouns
9. Verbs
10. Define basic word order and some conjunctions
11. Start creating sentences
12. Go back to 5, revise everything in more detail (but always keeping up the general logic)
13. Start creating texts
14. Go back to 5, focus on peculiarities I have encountered
15. Go back to 5, add exceptions to make the language more salty

Language creation always feels a lot like making a sculpture - in the beginning the clay is very smooth and I can do whatever I want, but the deeper I have created it, the harder it becomes to change something.

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Fri 15 Dec 2017, 15:00
by fruityloops
the main goal is the help me name things without relying on a generator.

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Fri 15 Dec 2017, 18:18
by Thrice Xandvii
By "name things" do you mean create a lexicon for your language?

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Fri 15 Dec 2017, 19:32
by fruityloops
Thrice Xandvii wrote:
Fri 15 Dec 2017, 18:18
By "name things" do you mean create a lexicon for your language?
pretty much. the old one felt didn't roll of the tongue or felt consistent.

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Fri 15 Dec 2017, 22:27
by gestaltist
fruityloops wrote:
Fri 15 Dec 2017, 15:00
the main goal is the help me name things without relying on a generator.
You might want to start by reading this.

Re: When beginning to make a clongo, where do you start?

Posted: Thu 04 Jan 2018, 05:07
by Fluffy8x
  1. Collect nice features to put into said clongo.
  2. Come up with the phoneme inventory – I'll usually put in sounds I like, and try to keep it fairly sane. But then, I've done things like Jbl's inventory...
  3. Come up with the phonotactics.
  4. Ask myself whether there will be nouns and verbs.
    1. If yes, then devote a chapter for each major part of speech.
    2. If not, then explain what parts of speech said clongo has instead, then go from there.
  5. Also go over the major features I've collected.
  6. Then cover minor stuff I've forgotten to cover.

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Thu 04 Jan 2018, 07:32
by Thrice Xandvii
What's a clongo?

Re: When beginning to make a clongo, where do you start?

Posted: Thu 04 Jan 2018, 11:17
by Fluffy8x
Thrice Xandvii wrote:
Thu 04 Jan 2018, 07:32
What's a clongo?
I have a browser extension set up to replace "conlang" with "clongo", and it doesn't yet know how to not touch input fields...

Re: When beginning to make a clongo, where do you start?

Posted: Thu 04 Jan 2018, 13:25
by gestaltist
Fluffy8x wrote:
Thu 04 Jan 2018, 11:17
Thrice Xandvii wrote:
Thu 04 Jan 2018, 07:32
What's a clongo?
I have a browser extension set up to replace "conlang" with "clongo", and it doesn't yet know how to not touch input fields...
But... why though?

Re: When beginning to make a clongo, where do you start?

Posted: Thu 04 Jan 2018, 13:43
by Iyionaku
Fluffy8x wrote:
Thu 04 Jan 2018, 11:17
Thrice Xandvii wrote:
Thu 04 Jan 2018, 07:32
What's a clongo?
I have a browser extension set up to replace "conlang" with "clongo", and it doesn't yet know how to not touch input fields...
At least it does now... oh I see you put a dummy BB code in between to make it work.

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Tue 13 Feb 2018, 02:57
by Nachtuil
1) Write down a set of goals of features I want to play around in the language. Usually a few key grammatical and phonological features.
2) Create a phonology and orthography.
3) Determine grammatical rules such as word order, noun and verb phrase structure and key grammatical features in accordance with my goals in step 1.
4) Create an awkwords setup to generate words and segments.
5) Usually I will pick pronouns and articles here usually.
6) Go through a swadesh list with randomly generated words, typically pairing things off.
7) Chaotic general vocabulary generation and grammatical systems and generating test sentences.

It's not perfect but gets it going. I have been trying to rely more on word generators ironically. I will still reject selections if they match wrong, which contradicts the point but I am pretty open to what it spits out at me. I still have those biases where "tikek" might be a hard pointy object and "bomo" a round soft thing. I often extreme trouble staying happy with initial phonologies and so far have avoided phonologies that would lead to "Demanding orthographies" (read: diacritics) though I now readily accept digraphs so I am improving.

Vocabulary generation is one of my favourite parts just because I enjoy exploring different semantic ranges for words and creating interesting compound words. I dislike having too much morphology tying down my vocabulary options which I know if you look at how much syncretism there is in natural languages. I actually may generate vocabulary at any stage.

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Sat 17 Feb 2018, 13:25
by pbastronaut
I'm far from an expert as I've only started three conlangs (and gave up on one), but the process I take is as follows:

1) Figure out what you want to achieve with your language and set out a design philosophy.
2) Draw up a rough phonology and phonotactics.
3) Work on orthography. Don't get too invested in your first draft.
4) Outline the most basic, fundamental grammar rules you can.
5) Figure out how nouns work first. Sort out articles, determiners, etc.
6) Review the words you already have and match them up against your phonotactics and orthography.
7) Realise your orthography is horribly insufficient, or that your phonetics make everything sound awful.
8) Rewrite everything.
9) Crack on with verbs.
10) Scrap everything and start again, keeping whatever still works.

I feel like you can probably start working on anything in any order, but I think scrapping everything a few times is necessary. My first and most developed conlang has had three false starts, and it's so much better for it.

Re: When beginning to make a conlang, where do you start?

Posted: Sat 10 Mar 2018, 01:35
by Scytheria
Several things can be worked on independently, but the order I do things is:

1. sounds --> spelling --> script
2. basic vocabulary --> grammar --> sentence structures --> detailed vocabulary

You can follow path 1 whilst also following path 2. You can get by with a tiny word list, as long as you choose those words carefully and permute them to make every possible sentence you can think of and test your grammar on those to see that things work. My minimal word-list is something like this:

Nouns: boy, girl, dog, stick, water, lake, bush, cup, table, bravery, strength, beauty
Adjectives: brave, strong, beautiful
Adverbs: bravely, quickly, always, often, sometimes, seldom, never
Prepositions: in(to), on(to), to(wards), at, under, over, above, below, near, through
Conjunctions: and then, and thus, and yet
Intransitive Verbs: weep, sleep, think, say, go, jump, come, agree, decide, refuse
Transitive Verbs: see, hear, hit, kiss, throw
Ditransitive Verbs: give, put, pour
Numbers: one, two, three, many, few, all, none, most
Determiners: this/these, that/those, whose, which, a/an, the (more or less of these as you see fit)
Pronouns: I, we, you, he, she, it, they, who, my, our, his, her, its, their (more or less of these as you see fit)
Questions: how, why, when, what, how many, in what way, with what

This is nothing like a Swadesh list, but it covers a lot of grammatical ground. Starting with rudimentary sentences "the boy hits the dog", build upwards until you can say "in what manner did those three boys hit the dog with sticks, causing it to jump into the bushes and the beautiful girl to weep and refuse to kiss them?"

When you've got that covered (with minimal ambiguity - did the girl refuse to kiss the boys, the sticks or the bushes?), your only remaining job is to flesh out your vocabulary.

EDIT: I should add, the above applies to naturalistic languages with alphabetic scripts. If you're pursuing a philosophical language or one with an ideographic script, I've no idea where you'd begin.