Conlanging: Being Jack of all Trades

I haven’t written a blog post for a while now. It’s mostly because I’ve been trying to expand the conlang lexicon, and it’s slow going because I’m having to flesh out the language context a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time on the core framework of the language, the syntax and the more universal parts of the lexicon (e.g. space, time), but there comes a point when you can’t (mostly) ignore culture and environment anymore.

And this is the big problem with conlanging (and also why it’s interesting). You end up thinking about everything. It’s not enough to just know a lot about linguistics. Maybe you want to create some kinship terms, but then you need to know what model of kinship the speakers have. And this in turn is probably going to be related to marriage, inheritance and other practices. And these will be related to more general subsistence and economic circumstances. And to make sensible choices here you need to understand what the options are, which means doing a lot of background reading. A really good conlanger needs to also be a linguist, anthropologist, historian, geographer, economist, etc.

There are shortcuts of course. If you’re really only interested in experimenting with grammar, the simplest solution is just to pick an existing, real-world cultural context. And I sometimes do this, but since I have the vague intention to write some Le Guin style anthropological fantasy at some point (although almost certainly not as good!), I’m trying to do it right and not just do a complete carbon copy of somewhere or somewhen that already exists.

The conlang grammar + dictionary is now 169 pages long, and there’s a long way to go…