• Charles Centaur

Conlangs: The Art of Invented Language


If you have ever seen the movie Avatar, you will probably remember the Na'vi. In the movie, the Na'vi are a species of humanoids native to the planet Pandora, and they have a very deep culture that is frequently referenced throughout the film. Part of their heritage and history is their language, which seems simple on the outside. Only the Na'vi language is anything but simple; it is a living, breathing tongue. The Na'vi language is actually a piece of art, and it is much more complex than random sounds thrown together: it's a conlang.


Conlangs are created languages, all devised for different reasons. The word conlang is actually an abbreviated way of saying constructed language, the original term. These works contain a fully functioning language, complete with fleshed-out grammar rules, exotic writing systems, and a large suite of words and sounds. Some conlangs, called Auxiliary Languages, or Auxlangs, are created with the intent of entire communities (or sometimes the world) speaking them, therefore solving the language barrier problem. Others are created for artistic expression or for the making of films and TV shows.


Dothraki, featured in the popular TV show Game of Thrones, is one of the most famous conlangs, created by linguistic legend David J. Peterson. Peterson also created a second language for the series called High Valyrian, which you can learn on the language-learning platform Duolingo. Other works of his include Nelvayu (shown in Dr. Strange), Shiväisith (spoken in Thor: The Dark World), and several more. Another popular conlang, created by Marc Okrand, is known as Klingon, created for the Star Trek saga. Klingon has taken off in years since, also offered on Duolingo. Plays and operas have been performed in the conlang, and both the search engine Google as well as the video game Minecraft have Klingon in their language settings.


However, creating a language is not as easy as it sounds. It's a long process and it requires extensive knowledge of how grammar, phonology, and linguistics works. A conlanger needs to do a significant amount of research and spend time working on their language. Luckily, several books have been written on the subject, helping average people (who aren't necessarily linguistics majors) navigate the confusing and beautiful world of conlangs.


The conlang community is full of wonderful things, and it's a place worth checking out. If you want to invent a language, there are loads of resources online to help you. Keep your eyes out for works like these, because constructed language may just become a part of the future of art.

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