Why make a conlang?
There are many reasons. One is to have a language that can be learnt easily by speakers of different languages (these are called auxlangs, short for “auxiliary languages”). Examples of auxlangs are Esperanto, Volapük and Interlingua. Some people make them just to attend specific criteria about linguistics and test it for scientific or experimental reasons; these are normally called engelangs, “engineered languages”, and sometimes loglangs, logical languages.
Another reason is to add depth into fictional worlds, such as the ones present in novels and RPGs. Klingon is a widely known example. Also, some people make a language just for the fun of it or with artistic and aesthetic intention (these are called artlangs). An example would be Quenya, one of the elvish languages made by Tolkien.
Do you need a degree in linguistics to make a conlang?
No. Not every conlanger is a linguist and not every linguist is a conlanger. However, if you want to invent a new language (for whatever purpose) you’ll need to study a bit of linguistics.
I want to make a conlang, how do I do it?
There are some materials available online. A good start is to read the guide wrote by Pablo Flores which has a non-linguistic speech. Also, the Language Construction Kit (usually referred as the LCK) has many things you need to know before start conlanging. In the future, this wiki will contain articles about linguistics and language construction. And visit our Guide Section.
Linguistics is the scientific study of the human languages. It can be broadly broken into three subfields: language form, language meaning and language in context.
The first subfield of linguistics is the study of language structure, or grammar[*]. This focuses on the system of rules followed by the speakers (or hearers) of a language. It encompasses morphology[*] (the formation and composition of words), syntax[*] (the formation and composition of phrases and sentences from these words), and phonology[*] (sound systems). They’re used when defining the main structure of a conlang and to determine how words and phrases are considered valid.
The study of language meaning is concerned with how languages employ logical structures and real-world references to convey, process, and assign meaning, as well as to manage and resolve ambiguity. This subfield encompasses semantics[*] (how meaning is inferred from words and concepts) and pragmatics[*] (how meaning is inferred from context). For conlangs, it is used to create idiomatic expressions and how the rules of morphology and syntax can be broken keeping the sense of construction.
Linguistics in its broader context includes evolutionary linguistics, which considers the origins of language; historical linguistics, which explores language change; sociolinguistics, which looks at the relation between linguistic variation and social structures; psycholinguistics, which explores the representation and function of language in the mind; neurolinguistics, which looks at language processing in the brain; language acquisition, how children or adults acquire language; and discourse analysis, which involves the structure of texts and conversations. These are not exactly needed for conlanging. However, some might be necessary to construct families of languages or derived from natlangs.
Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in languages. On conlanging, it’s used to define the sounds of a language and how they are distinguished (or how they’re perceived as the same). Also, it includes the formation of syllables and its characteristics as stress and tone.
In linguistics, morphology is the identification, analysis and description of the structure of a given language’s morphemes and other linguistic units, such as words, affixes, parts of speech, intonation/stress, or implied context. Morphological typology represents a method for classifying languages according to the ways by which morphemes are used in a language. It is useful to create derived words and also for define how declensions are made.
In linguistics, syntax is the study of the principles and processes by which sentences are constructed in particular languages. When defining the valid word’s order, syntax is taken in account.
Semantics and Pragmatics
Linguistic semantics is the study of meaning that is used to understand human expression through language. Other forms of semantics include the semantics of programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. Pragmatics is a subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. They’re useful to define the concept of the words by themselves or influenced by the context.