How hard is it to make a conlang?

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xBlackHeartx
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How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2017-09-21, 16:52

I've never actually succeeded in making one. Most never go beyond me coming up with a phonology for them. Over the years though, I have noticed features that I keep using over and over again. So I think I may actually be coming close to finally finding what I want.

One thing that's always detered me is how much work it would require to come up with thousands, if not more, vocabulary words. I think I have tried the typical 'just translate a text and make up the words as you need them', but that requires you to like come up with a new word every time you write the next. And besides, coming up with too many words in rapid succession results in a lexicon where all the words look the same (I find that I rarely use any consonants other than t, s, and k for some reason, and I have a very bad habit of making nothing but CVCV words).

And in the past, I've had a problem with running into problems I couldn't fix in the grammar. Though most of that came from me trying to make something highly exotic that didn't share a single feature with English (yes, I have a bad habit of trying too hard to be creative, in everything). Now I'm thinking I'll just go with something simpler, kinda creole-like. Besides, I'm primarily a phonologist. And really the only language whose grammar I know in great detail is German. I've never succeeded in learning any other language, other than saying the phrase 'I can't speak X'.

But maybe I'm just making it out like its harder than it really is? How difficult is this really? I've been trying to do this for nearly a decade now, and still have nothing to show for it other than dozens of pages of phoneme inventories for conlangs that never went anywhere. I actually stopped writing down my ideas for a while because I discarded them so quickly. Now I'm 30 (will be 31 in a few months), and I haven't accomplished crap in my life. I've been wanting to finally change that.

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Re: How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby Naava » 2017-09-21, 19:21

xBlackHeartx wrote: How difficult is this really?

I'd say it's just as difficult as you make it. What's your goal? Why are you making a conlang? When do you want it to be 'ready', that is, how long are you planning to spend with developing your conlang? How 'perfect' does it need to be? If you've got 40 years to create kinda ok language that works even if you're not 100% happy with it, it's quite easy. If you plan to get a perfect language ready before next week, it'll probably be an impossible task. It's up to you, what you want and how much time you're spending, I think.

I've been playing* with one language for idk 7 years now? I don't really remember when I started it but I was somewhere between 16 and 18 and I'm 24 now. The language has changed so much during these years. The first attempts of figuring out the grammar, syntax and everything were just horrible! :lol: It was way too complicated and clumsy to be natural, and I wanted to have a natural sounding language. The point is, I had never done anything like this before, so of course the result was ridiculous - but I did not give up. Bit by bit, I changed the things I didn't like and made new attempts. Then I changed more things, new attempts, changes, changes, attempts... I'm still on that road. I'm not satisfied with what I've got because it's still not perfect and I'm a perfectionist, but it's so. much. better. than what it used to be. I've also created ways to make new words by adding stuff to the words I already have, which means I don't have to come up with a new word for every single thing I could possibly name. That means I don't know how many words I have at the moment, because I don't need to write them all down. For example, I have a suffix that means 'place'. Because I already had a word for 'sleep', I didn't need to make up a word for 'bed' - I just decided to call it 'sleep-place'. :D

I started to create new conlangs two or three years ago and it was so much easier this time. I already knew what kind of things I need to do (and in what order). I've still not given up with the original conlang, though. And I think that's what you need too - practise. How could you be good at making conlangs if you always stop before you get anywhere with them? :wink:

One tip for making new words: I take one word and then change one sound at a time. For example, if I had a 'word', I could also have werd, ward, wird, wurd... I list these as "possible words" and then, when I'm translating something and need to come up with a new word, I choose from the list the one that feels best.

*playing, because it's like a hobby for me: something I do for fun when I feel like it. I've had months of no progression at all and then I've suddenly made lots of new things in a few weeks. It's actually helped because I tend to get 'blind' to my own work so that I don't see what's wrong with it before I take a break.

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Re: How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2017-09-22, 15:26

If I hadn't suffered from indecision, I would've liked to have been done a long time ago. As in my mid twenties. Now I'm 30, and I still have nothing to show for it. Now I'm tempted to get it done quickly, purely because of all the time I've wasted. But even now, I still don't feel inclined to actually write anything down, purely because I'm used to just discarding things so quickly. I have started writing things down again, only to run into the same damned problem. Right now I'm feeling like my conlang is cheap, because of the creole-like svo grammar. It feels like English, except noun phrases are strictly head-first and the semantics of the words don't line up exactly (if nothing else, at least the vocab isn't a word-for-word cipher of English).

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Re: How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby IpseDixit » 2017-09-24, 21:40

I would say that conlanging is a pretty difficult art since you need to have a solid grasp of linguistics (at least if you want to create something which is even remotely worthwhile), but then again, I don't think there's any art which is both easy and valuable.

However, if after ten years of trials you haven't really accomplished anything, honestly, this makes me think that maybe you haven't really tried much, either that or conlanging isn't really your thing and maybe you should consider changing hobby. I mean, there's a point in life when you need to come to terms with your own limits.

And I don't get why you're making it sound like you have some sort of obligation to make a conlang.

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Re: How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby xBlackHeartx » 2017-09-25, 1:55

You really should be able to block moderators on this site... I'm so sick of getting trolled by them.

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Re: How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-09-25, 6:23

Ipse isn't trolling, xBlackHeartx. He's saying basically the same thing I told you in a very similar thread a few months ago. I think it's reasonable for Ipse to wonder why you place so much importance on conlanging. For most of us, it is just a hobby, and as a result we're having difficulty understanding why making a conlang, as opposed to anything else, has so much value for you.

To address your posts, you're listing a lot of problems, but many of them have readily accessible solutions. Need help with word forms? Use a word generator, like Awkwords or Gen. Also remember the importance of derivation.

For inspiration on grammar and other topics, there's the Conlangery podcast. Each of the co-hosts has their own pet natlang(s) they draw examples from (e.g., Chinese languages, NAIL), and they generally make a point of looking well beyond Europe for the features they cover. Something else you can do to broaden your horizons is read language grammars. You don't have to speak a language with any fluency to understand its grammar well enough for conlanging. Knowing German might be an asset on this front. I have access to some linguistic resources I wouldn't otherwise because I speak French.

You might also think about reframing your goals. This sentence stands out to me:
xBlackHeartx wrote:Now I'm tempted to get it done quickly, purely because of all the time I've wasted.
Most conlangs aren't ever "done". They're constant works in progress, and I pointed out in my post on your other thread that the popularizer of the secret vice died with his languages – his life's work – still unfinished. Conlanging doesn't lend itself to an end. If what you're looking for is a definitive finished product, you'll have to describe for yourself what that means. You might have to set clear, objective goals for your conlang, or set a time limit for the project after which you aren't allowed to change anything.

I also get the sense a certain amount of coming to terms with your own style is in order. Some people, like you and I, go through conlangs or conlang iterations lightning-fast. Nothing's inherently wrong with that. I don't write too much about my conlangs down either, also because I change things all the time, but I'm fine with that. My memory is good enough most of the time, and I can save writing for working out the more stubborn kinks. Are your conlangs very much like English? I wouldn't worry about it. Make the conlang that comes naturally. Who cares if it's English-y if you've accomplished what you came to do, which is make a conlang. And since there's no lifetime quota, you can always make another conlang and another and another, each one improving on the last.

Oh, to respond to this:
xBlackHeartx wrote:Right now I'm feeling like my conlang is cheap, because of the creole-like svo grammar.
Creoles are by definition fully fledged languages. They also happen to throw a wrench in the tree model of language evolution and are difficult to emulate. No creole-like conlang is cheap, and a true creole conlang would be a great accomplishment for any language creator.
N'hésite pas à corriger mes erreurs.

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Re: How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby IpseDixit » 2017-09-25, 12:10

Dormouse559 wrote:Ipse isn't trolling, xBlackHeartx. He's saying basically the same thing I told you in a very similar thread a few months ago. I think it's reasonable for Ipse to wonder why you place so much importance on conlanging. For most of us, it is just a hobby, and as a result we're having difficulty understanding why making a conlang, as opposed to anything else, has so much value for you.


Exactly. Thanks Dormouse. It's extremely weird to read someone describing conlanging as if it's some sort of duty (and what's more, a frustrating one) instead of a hobby.

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Re: How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby Naava » 2017-09-27, 13:39

After reading your answer, xBlackHeartx, I'd really like to ask two things:

1) Why are you creating (or attempting to create) a conlang? What made you start? What keeps you going?
2) What do you want your conlang to be like? I can see you prefer a conlang that's not 'English-like', whatever it means to you (because it can mean a lot of different things for different people), but do you have any other goals?

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Re: How hard is it to make a conlang?

Postby AlexandreMsx » 2017-09-28, 23:14

As for me I would like a highly schematic language with some easy to remember roots. But this is just impossible because my backgrounds on languages are different from everyone else. Maybe some corrupt english words can work as it worked for *smile* volapuk. My wish is not to be widelly spoken but it would be nice to be at least "kompreneble" as it can be. As IAL, basic english or sort of is already a good nice starting point. Everybody speaks some english.

The true wish of every conlanger is to be like Tolkien, not the writting part, but to have some thoughts put on papel in a way other people can think together. Share true knoledge not just information. The mental process to think is more importante to us (for us?) than to other people who just learns some natlang to have a travel. Maybe I should think more about what I want for me (conlanging speaking).


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