Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

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Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby hashi » 2011-05-12, 10:49

I need to get this off my chest, but it annoys me when:

  • a noob comes along and learns about phonetics and realises there's more sounds than just English ones and they get this omg-i-have-to-have-ALLOFTHEM mentality
  • they think every sound, and every single variation of such needs to be represented by a unique letter (combine this with the first point and you're destined for disastrous creations like čȧûļnó òṽë đðªjŋœªøþĸ$ł€øđ€łjøªþ$£@jœþŋðđµ. Yes, you can have it be totally representative if that was a conscious choice, not if that's the only thing you can do.
  • "My language is like.. what happens if Spanish is raped up the ass by French", cause these are the only languages in existence you can take ideas from. Romlangs are not cool.
  • Ok, now personally I am one for breaking convention, so it really pisses me off when people say "you <x> for /θ/ because no other language does". Is this not the point in conlanging?? Gosh.
  • And then we have the knobs who think that replacing English one letter for letter is conlanging. Someone slap them??

</rant>

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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby Æxylis » 2011-05-12, 11:25

haha I tried the first one kinda for fun with my last conlang attempt... it ended up turning into mostly clicks represented by asterisks and odd tones represented by unused letters :lol: that one didn't even end up getting a name

I actually created a whole new alphabet using the latin alphabet which doesn't aim to represent one sound per letter, but is actually a complex system for modifying sounds
everybody hates it though because they say it's an eyesore (although it's modeled after preexisting scripts such as the ones used in seasia and india) although I feel it goes along more with the whole "you can't represent x as th because nobody else does" except applied to a whole writing system ;)

I agree that romlangs are pretty boring, especially since half the ials out there people attempt to make are already romlangs :ohwell:

as for the last point, that's more of a cipher than a conlang

one thing that pissed me off the other day is that a person told me "oh well if you're basing it off of this language and this language doesn't have this feature or pronounce it in such a way, you can't do it" :?
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby hashi » 2011-05-12, 11:32

邪悪歌 wrote:as for the last point, that's more of a cipher than a conlang


This was the point and case of my last item.

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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby md0 » 2011-05-12, 12:25

Hm... I really like using a single spelling for a single phoneme. I don't like clutter :roll:
I mean, that's even how real alphabets were initially designed, before major sound shifts.

Anyway, I am fan of minimal phonologies right now :whistle:
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby linguoboy » 2011-05-12, 14:54

hashi wrote:
  • Ok, now personally I am one for breaking convention, so it really pisses me off when people say "you <x> for /θ/ because no other language does". Is this not the point in conlanging?? Gosh.

I don't think the point of conlanging is to do something different just to be different. It's to do something different in order to be interesting. And arbitrary substitutions like this simply aren't interesting.

What is interesting is if you have a history to your conlang that describes the emergence of these seemingly incongruous features. A lot of noobs don't seem to think about the fact that all real-world orthographies have a history, and if you explore it, it explains why things are the way they are--even if they "don't make any sense" to you in the present day. The attitude seems to be, "Well, lots of languages have things which don't make any sense so why can't mine, too?"

This is part of a larger problem with conlanging, which is that too many conlangs seem completely historiless. I'm not saying you need to design a protolang and evolve your conlang up from it in order for it to have any depth, but if your goal is to attain any sort of naturalism at all, you need to give some thought to what your conpeople spoke and wrote before they spoke what they speak now.
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby Æxylis » 2011-05-12, 15:57

hashi's nithalos is already on its 4th reform so it does have quite a history... I don't even think he's using "nixalos" any more anyway... though I'm sure he can probably explain it a lot better ;)
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby linguoboy » 2011-05-12, 16:08

邪悪歌 wrote:hashi's nithalos is already on its 4th reform so it does have quite a history... I don't even think he's using "nixalos" any more anyway... though I'm sure he can probably explain it a lot better ;)

I don't know anything about this particular language, so let me just give a quick example of what I'm getting at:

x for /θ/ "cause I think it looks neat" = FAIL
x for /θ/ because the orthography is influenced by that of language that underwent the sound change /ks/ > /ʦ/ (pronounced [t̪θ̯]), thus a symbol originally representing /ks/ came to be used for /θ/ = pretty nifty

There aren't many choices so completely bizarre that they can't be rationalised in some fashion, but the designer has to be willing to think them through.
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby Æxylis » 2011-05-12, 17:23

a simple enough reason for most conlangers, which could very well've been the reasoning here, is that many conlangs probably don't use 'junk letters' like x, q, and c and whatnot because they don't have any default sound associated with them, so if all the other letters are used for something, then whatever's left over can be used for extra sounds if you're not one for using digraphs or accents or whatever... case in point pin-yin used q and x for an extra set of sounds, võro uses q as a glottal stop, many times it's used for the ipa equiv /q/ and in latin based languages it's not even found without a u (so technically the letter would be 'qu') that's either pronounced as k or kw

it's all a matter of what's useful in that language
for example, in my current conlang csara, I started out using y as /y/ along with æ and ø, but I've moved to using ü, ö, and ä and since I'm no longer using y it's become an extra 'junk letter' so I decided to use it for /G/ since it resembles the greek letter gamma... since I'm not using j or w for anything at the moment, I could very well use them for whatever else is needed should I choose to do so
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby linguoboy » 2011-05-12, 17:47

邪悪歌 wrote:a simple enough reason for most conlangers, which could very well've been the reasoning here, is that many conlangs probably don't use 'junk letters' like x, q, and c and whatnot because they don't have any default sound associated with them, so if all the other letters are used for something, then whatever's left over can be used for extra sounds if you're not one for using digraphs or accents or whatever... case in point pin-yin used q and x for an extra set of sounds, võro uses q as a glottal stop, many times it's used for the ipa equiv /q/ and in latin based languages it's not even found without a u (so technically the letter would be 'qu') that's either pronounced as k or kw

But a lot of these creative reuses aren't as odd as they seem as first glance. Q was likely influenced by its use for [c] in the Albanian alphabet, which in turn can be related to the widespread use of q(u) for [k] (particularly before front vowels). X has long been used for [ʃ] in various Romance languages, so extending it to [ɕ] hardly even seems worth noting.

邪悪歌 wrote:it's all a matter of what's useful in that language

Not really, because I regularly see this odd assignments when there's a perfectly good character available, like using w to represent [u:] when u hasn't been used for anything. (Unlike in, say, Welsh, where u is /ɨ/ due to a historical vowel shift parallel to that which took place in Gallo-Romance.)

But this does prompt another important question, which is: Why design a distinctive Latin-based orthography anyway? Except in cases where the conculture is explicitly located on Earth, I tend to assume that what we are really dealing with are transcriptions of whatever the actual writing system would be for the language. So utility should really be of paramount importance. Despite the fact that the letter assignments of Pinyin are only slightly unusual from a pan-European point of view, they cause endless trouble for Chinese abroad--to the degree that many end up using "misspelled" versions of their name that are less liable to be mispronounced.
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby YngNghymru » 2011-05-12, 19:42

  • Kitchen sink langs
  • People making choices because they want to break with convention, rather than for interesting reasons
  • Bogolangs (seriously is there anything more unoriginal than a bogolang?)
  • Thinking a list of phonemes is a phonology. Far from it.
  • Making 'Elvish' langs based on Welsh (but only because it feels annoyingly colonialist)
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby linguoboy » 2011-05-12, 20:01

YngNghymru wrote:Bogolangs (seriously is there anything more unoriginal than a bogolang?)

I at least admire the craft that goes into a bogolang. They require some knowledge of historical linguistics, so they're at least a cut above the average n00blang. No, the ones that bother me are all the half-baked "gedankenlangs". "Hey guys, what about a language with no verbs/only nasals/a different gender for each word/etc.?" Some of them might be interesting if their creators knew enough about linguistics to actually think through the implications of their concept, but IME those with the nous to do this wouldn't try to build a conlang around such a simplistic idea in the first place.
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby YngNghymru » 2011-05-12, 20:18

linguoboy wrote: No, the ones that bother me are all the half-baked "gedankenlangs". "Hey guys, what about a language with no verbs/only nasals/a different gender for each word/etc.?" Some of them might be interesting if their creators knew enough about linguistics to actually think through the implications of their concept, but IME those with the nous to do this wouldn't try to build a conlang around such a simplistic idea in the first place.


Oh, yes, you're right - that's a whole other level.
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby hashi » 2011-05-12, 23:15

linguoboy wrote:
hashi wrote:
  • Ok, now personally I am one for breaking convention, so it really pisses me off when people say "you <x> for /θ/ because no other language does". Is this not the point in conlanging?? Gosh.

I don't think the point of conlanging is to do something different just to be different. It's to do something different in order to be interesting. And arbitrary substitutions like this simply aren't interesting.

What is interesting is if you have a history to your conlang that describes the emergence of these seemingly incongruous features. A lot of noobs don't seem to think about the fact that all real-world orthographies have a history, and if you explore it, it explains why things are the way they are--even if they "don't make any sense" to you in the present day. The attitude seems to be, "Well, lots of languages have things which don't make any sense so why can't mine, too?"


The idea behind <x> for /θ/ was done for two reasons:
  • <x> is kind of a transitional character which has many uses. The other options for /θ/ didn't really fit the aesthetic look of the language, ie. <þ>, <ŧ> or <th> (as there is no <h>, the last would not be logical). Yes, it is just because it looks the best, but is not half the point in designing an orthography to design it to how you want the language to feel/look? Granted in recent years I have reformed the language to use other graphemes for things, but it just pisses me off when other people use out there representations, and they get nothing but scrutiny without first asking about it, or giving it a chance without judging.
  • Secondly, the Nithalosian language (v 1.0) was designed to be used with (a rather crude) conscript I had created and the letter representing /θ/ had a somewhat-<x>-like figure to it. Version 1.0B used Cyrillic script (though I lost the notes for it), so versions 2.0 and 3.0 used the Armenian script alongside the latin, and now 4.0 mostly just uses latin. If you were interested in our conworlds, we usually make a reason why these changes come be, so don't be so quick to judge them.

linguoboy wrote:But this does prompt another important question, which is: Why design a distinctive Latin-based orthography anyway? Except in cases where the conculture is explicitly located on Earth, I tend to assume that what we are really dealing with are transcriptions of whatever the actual writing system would be for the language. So utility should really be of paramount importance. Despite the fact that the letter assignments of Pinyin are only slightly unusual from a pan-European point of view, they cause endless trouble for Chinese abroad--to the degree that many end up using "misspelled" versions of their name that are less liable to be mispronounced.


This doesn't really bother me to be honest. Nithalosian has a conscript I use with it when I write it in real life, the difficulty is in digitising it, and that I can't really be bothered doing it.

YngNghymru wrote:
  • Kitchen sink langs
  • Bogolangs (seriously is there anything more unoriginal than a bogolang?)
  • Thinking a list of phonemes is a phonology. Far from it.


You might have to explain the first and second ones for me. The third I agree with, there's a little more to it than just listing phonemes :/

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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby linguoboy » 2011-05-13, 4:30

hashi wrote:Granted in recent years I have reformed the language to use other graphemes for things, but it just pisses me off when other people use out there representations, and they get nothing but scrutiny without first asking about it, or giving it a chance without judging.

I'm not sure what your complaint is here, given that asking is a form of scrutiny. Moreover, if "scrutiny" is not what you want, then why post something and solicit comments on it?

Honestly, this is the only "common mistake of conlangers" that actually "pisses me off". Everything else basically comes down to aesthetic choices, and I'm very up front about what my aesthetic is and how it may differ from what others prefer. But I'm constantly surprised by the amount of attitude I get from a lot of beginning conlangers. Obviously they have no clue how difficult it is even for accomplished conlangers to get useful feedback on their work.

hashi wrote:If you were interested in our conworlds, we usually make a reason why these changes come be, so don't be so quick to judge them.

I'm not sure why you're so quick to read negative judgments into simple inquiries. FWIW, more often than not, when I ask about such features, I don't get interesting explanations like the one you just gave. I'm basing my remarks on literally years and years of commenting on conlangs.
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby hashi » 2011-05-13, 5:10

linguoboy wrote:
hashi wrote:Granted in recent years I have reformed the language to use other graphemes for things, but it just pisses me off when other people use out there representations, and they get nothing but scrutiny without first asking about it, or giving it a chance without judging.

I'm not sure what your complaint is here, given that asking is a form of scrutiny. Moreover, if "scrutiny" is not what you want, then why post something and solicit comments on it?


The bigger point was the narrow-mindedness of the scrutiny and the ease people can judge others' work without further knowledge.

Honestly, this is the only "common mistake of conlangers" that actually "pisses me off". Everything else basically comes down to aesthetic choices, and I'm very up front about what my aesthetic is and how it may differ from what others prefer. But I'm constantly surprised by the amount of attitude I get from a lot of beginning conlangers. Obviously they have no clue how difficult it is even for accomplished conlangers to get useful feedback on their work.


Understandable. I see the orthography more as the presentation as part of the overall art piece, which is really down to the individual person. Personally, the orthography and phonology aren't as interesting to me, so I pick what looks good and spend more time focusing on my morphology and syntax. This is probably why I get so annoyed when the only critiques I get are nit-picking my choice of representation of some phonemes.

hashi wrote:If you were interested in our conworlds, we usually make a reason why these changes come be, so don't be so quick to judge them.

I'm not sure why you're so quick to read negative judgments into simple inquiries. FWIW, more often than not, when I ask about such features, I don't get interesting explanations like the one you just gave. I'm basing my remarks on literally years and years of commenting on conlangs.


That is your own opinion though, what is interesting to you - a (self-proclaimed) seasoned conlanger is probably what you've seen a million time and grown bored of. What would constitute an "interesting" explanation for you , your highness?

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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby YngNghymru » 2011-05-13, 10:06

hashi wrote:That is your own opinion though, what is interesting to you - a (self-proclaimed) seasoned conlanger is probably what you've seen a million time and grown bored of. What would constitute an "interesting" explanation for you , your highness?


In a thread made for people's opinions, why do you find this one so incongruous?

A bogolang is where somebody takes a language (most typically Latin or Vulgar Latin if they feel like doing some work) and then applies the sound changes from another language, on the pretext that this will produce a realistic romlang for the area that language b is currently spoken in. Examples are Brithenig and Wenedyk.

Kitchen sink langs are where somebody includes every 'interesting' feature they've heard about. The trademark of these languages is polysynthetic agglutinativity, usually with no allomorphy whatsoever, with huge lists of cases, aspects and moods (often taken straight from wikipedia or similar sources, usually with no explanation or a one-word paraphrase of Wikipedia's summary of what they actually do) each with one function and huge lists of modal inflections each with one function. They also tend to have huge, alien phonologies, etc - basically they usually stem from people's first readings about typological linguistics and their transformation of huge lists into conlangs.
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby hashi » 2011-05-13, 10:09

YngNghymru wrote:
hashi wrote:That is your own opinion though, what is interesting to you - a (self-proclaimed) seasoned conlanger is probably what you've seen a million time and grown bored of. What would constitute an "interesting" explanation for you , your highness?


In a thread made for people's opinions, why do you find this one so incongruous?


I don't. I'm asking him to clarify his point with further specific details so I understand where he is coming from.

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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby hashi » 2011-05-13, 10:12

YngNghymru wrote:Kitchen sink langs are where somebody includes every 'interesting' feature they've heard about. The trademark of these languages is polysynthetic agglutinativity, usually with no allomorphy whatsoever, with huge lists of cases, aspects and moods (often taken straight from wikipedia or similar sources, usually with no explanation or a one-word paraphrase of Wikipedia's summary of what they actually do) each with one function and huge lists of modal inflections each with one function. They also tend to have huge, alien phonologies, etc - basically they usually stem from people's first readings about typological linguistics and their transformation of huge lists into conlangs.


I haven't much come across these bogolangs, but the kitchen sink ones I agree with. I tend to keep my phonology realistic, some allophony and I tend to assign multiple uses to each of my morphemes. I hope mine doesn't count anything like that :P

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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby linguoboy » 2011-05-13, 15:21

hashi wrote:
YngNghymru wrote:
hashi wrote:That is your own opinion though, what is interesting to you - a (self-proclaimed) seasoned conlanger is probably what you've seen a million time and grown bored of. What would constitute an "interesting" explanation for you, your highness?

In a thread made for people's opinions, why do you find this one so incongruous?

I don't. I'm asking him to clarify his point with further specific details so I understand where he is coming from.

Maybe so, but that last added fillip of superciliousness shows that I've touched a nerve somewhere.

I thought I gave a pretty clear example of the kind of explanation I consider "interesting". Basically, demonstrate you've thought the matter through beyond "'X' shore is purty!" Everything in natural languages is arbitrary, but at the same time it's all motivated; there are reasons why the system ended up one way and not another. If a conlanger doesn't take this into consideration, they can end up with a grab-bag aesthetic that--at its worst--leads to the kind of kitchen-sink conlangs YngNghymru is complaining about.
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Re: Common mistakes of conlangers that piss you off

Postby hashi » 2011-05-13, 20:59

linguoboy wrote:
hashi wrote:
YngNghymru wrote:
hashi wrote:That is your own opinion though, what is interesting to you - a (self-proclaimed) seasoned conlanger is probably what you've seen a million time and grown bored of. What would constitute an "interesting" explanation for you, your highness?

In a thread made for people's opinions, why do you find this one so incongruous?

I don't. I'm asking him to clarify his point with further specific details so I understand where he is coming from.

Maybe so, but that last added fillip of superciliousness shows that I've touched a nerve somewhere.

I thought I gave a pretty clear example of the kind of explanation I consider "interesting". Basically, demonstrate you've thought the matter through beyond "'X' shore is purty!" Everything in natural languages is arbitrary, but at the same time it's all motivated; there are reasons why the system ended up one way and not another. If a conlanger doesn't take this into consideration, they can end up with a grab-bag aesthetic that--at its worst--leads to the kind of kitchen-sink conlangs YngNghymru is complaining about.


I did give you an explanation outside of "its purty" which is why I still fail to see why you think its uninteresting despite you saying anything other than that is. Make up your mind?


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