Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.

This page comes to us courtesy of Dirk Elzinga, our guest for episode 12.52, “Constructed Languages”


Mark Rosenfelder’s language creation guides are excellent resources—not only for good advice in creating languages, but also for basic information about the structure of language. If you don’t feel like shelling out $45, you can also look at his website on language creation:

This is another great introduction to language creation. It’s shorter and less detailed than Rosenfelder’s Language Creation Kit, but the added value of Peterson’s book is the anecdotes about his experiences in film and TV production and how that influenced his language designs. (Peterson designed Dothraki for the HBO series “Game of Thrones” as well as the elvish language in the Thor movies. He’s also done language design work for several TV series — Defiant, The 100, and most recently, Emerald City.)

Many conlangers swear by Payne’s book. It was originally intended as a kind of checklist for field linguists engaged in documentation work, but conlangers have adopted it as a recipe book for weird ways to do grammar. This book, as much as anything, inspired the conlanger’s acronym ANADEW—A Natural Language Already Did it Except Worse.

I use this book in my own introductory phonetics and phonology courses. It’s a hands-on guide to the vocal tract that gets the student to explore the possible range of speech sounds in the world’s languages—sort of the phonetic counterpart of “Describing Morphosyntax”.

I usually don’t give writing systems much thought in my own projects, but for those who are designing scripts, these two websites are invaluable sources of information on how scripts work together with examples of their use. Omniglot also has a large section devoted to invented scripts.

—Dirk Elszinga, Feb 2017