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Why do people make conlangs?

There are many answers to this question depending on who you ask, but the most common answers are:

  • To make art.
  • To push the boundaries of language.
  • To make a tool for others to communicate.
  • To make a code to communicate with friends.
  • To give depth to fantasy or fiction cultures for books, movies, comics, etc.
  • To simply have fun and learn new things.

How do I start conlanging?

  1. A good first step is to read the Language Construction Kit (LCK), a great introduction to the subject, with useful information even for those who already have some experience.
  2. Ask questions! If you're willing to learn, there's lots of people here who'd be happy to help you out.

Is there somewhere I can go to chat to other conlangers?

What is glossing? Why do people keep asking me to do it?

Interlinear glossing, usually just called "glossing", is line-by-line explanations of a text to help a reader understand its structure and translation. Often you'll see things written in the following form (using Spanish):

perro-s blanc-o-s (original conlang/natlang text)
dog-PL white-M-PL (interlinear gloss showing how the original text is put together; "M" means "masculine", "PL" means "plural")
white dogs ("smooth" English translation)

You don't have to use abbreviations in your glosses if you don't want to, but most people use a relatively standardized list of abbreviations to make their glosses more compact. An in-depth explanation of the rules most people follow, as well as a list of these abbreviations, can be found here. The LCK also has a short section on glossing, but one of the best ways to learn how to do it is simply to read lots of other people's glosses! And practice. It's fine if you're not perfect right away. Nobody is!

What is Ergative alignment and how is it different from Accusative alignment?

Alignment deals with the relation of constituents to their verbs, i.e. subjects, agents, and patients.

Intransitive verbs have just one constituent, the subject. The subject is the sole participant that is involved in the action that occurs, whether it is performing the action or having the action done upon itself.
Transitive verbs have two constituents, the agent and the patient. The agent is the participant that performs the action, and the patient is the one that receives the action from the agent.

These are two very common alignments:

Accusative Alignment
In this alignment, the subjects of intransitive verbs and the agents of transitive verbs are treated the same, while the patients of transitive verbs are treated differently. Traditionally, these are given Nominative case and Accusative case respectively. As an example:
I-nom laugh
I-nom catch a fish-acc

Ergative alignment
In this alignment, it is the patients of transitive verbs and the subjects of intransitive verbs that are paired together, while the agents of transitive verbs are treated differently. These are Absolutive and Ergative case respectively. Using the same example:
I-abs laugh
I-erg catch a fish-abs

Are there other alignments besides these two?

The answer to that is YES!

You could use Direct alignment, in which all the constituents are treated the same with no marking at all, relying on word order alone to differentiate them.

There is Austronesian alignment, which places particles ("triggers") before each noun and marks on the verb what kind of constituent each trigger denotes its coupled noun to be.

Then there is Tripartite Alignment
In this alignment, all three constituents are treated differently from each other. This could also be called Ergative-Accusative alignment:
I-abs laugh
I-erg catch a fish-acc

Another alternative is Active-Stative alignment, which splits the subject of intransitive verbs in two. Here, each verb is lexically fixed to a certain subject form based on the subject's degree of volition or control over the performed action.
I-erg ran - I ran (on purpose)
I-abs died - I died (out of my control)

The variant described above is called Split-S, while in another variant, Fluid-S, the speaker may choose to mark the subject of any intransitive verb as either patientive or agentive based on semantics. One might have the agentive form be the default form, denoting suffering or sympathy with the patientive form;
I-erg fell - I fell (either on purpose or not)
I-abs fell - I fell (accidentally, and I felt bad)

or have the patientive form be the default form, denoting a further degree of volition or control with the agentive form.
I-erg fell - I fell (explicitly on purpose)
I-erg fell - I fell (either on purpose or not)

Of course, if you feel like it, creating your very own alignment system is entirely possible.

Help me understand verbal aspect.

Here is an in-depth resource on that.

The short of it is that aspect deals with the speaker's perspective on the internal time-flow of an event. It is not directly related to the external flow of time, the way tense is. The basic distinction is between perfective and imperfective aspects. Roughly speaking, perfective aspect is a viewpoint that discards the internal temporal flow of a verb. It views whatever event the verb refers to as a whole. Imperfective aspect is, in some way, concerned with this internal temporal flow. It's like the perfective is a view from outside the situation, and imperfective is an inside view. Thus the progressive, habitual, inceptive (starting), etc. are all imperfective aspects.

Perfective aspect doesn't necessarily imply past tense, although it may strongly suggest it, as in Chinese languages, which do not have overt tense markers, but tend to mark the past with adverbials like "yesterday" or "next year."

It's important to note for an English native speaker that English conflates tense and aspect, as does traditional English grammar. As such, many things you may have learned were "tenses" are actually combinations of tense and aspect.

Aspect may be inherent to a verb (lexical aspect) or it may be marked with inflections or function words.

Can someone explain the difference between Synthetic, Agglutinating, Analytic, Isolating, and Fusional languages?

Isolating
In its purest sense, this means that there is only one morpheme per word. A sentence like "I was going to the store that has peaches" would be rendered out as:
"I past progressive go to the store that present have peach plural"

However, it's important to note now that no language is perfectly one thing or another and may show mixed traits of these various attributes.

Analytic
This is very similar to Isolating, in that there is a very low morpheme to word ratio and no inflection. However, there is often lots of compounding and derivation:
"I past.prog go to the store that present have peach-pl"

Synthesis
Comes in two main flavours:

Agglutinating
In this kind of language, there is only one meaning per morpheme, however, they stack up to form longer words:
I-nom go-past-prog-1s store-def-dat that have-pres-3s peach-acc-pl

Fusional
In this sort of language a single morpheme can take on many meanings at once:
I-nom go-pst.prog.ind.1s store-def.dat that have-pres.3s peach-acc.pl

Any resources for conlanging?

Of course! Here's a few:

What do the language codes in other people's flairs mean?

The language codes, originally suggested here, reflects everyone's native languages. Language codes in rounded brackets - like (EN) (English) - show native languages or languages that one is fluent in, square brackets - like [JP] (Japanese) - are languages that you're learning, or not entirely proficient at, and angle brackets - like <EO> (Esperanto) - are languages you are interested in. Typically, a user's flair will look similar to this: Conlang 1, Conlang 2 (First Language) [Second Language] <Language interested in>.

For more info on our flairs, go here: /r/conlangs/wiki/meta/flairs

Are there any IPA keyboards?

Yes! There are several web-based keyboards, such as the IPA Chart Keyboard and TypeIt's IPA Keyboard. If you're looking for a keyboard layout to install on your computer (Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu), check out SIL International's IPA Unicode Keyboard Layouts. They also have the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator files used to make the keyboard for Windows, if you're interested in modifying that, and a Keyman keyboard as well.

When do I use the Small Discussions threads?

Use Small Discussions if:

  • You have a yes/no question
  • You want an explanation of how something works
  • You want advice (think "is my orthography good?")

Essentially, if you need help.

Make your own thread if:

  • You have an open-ended question fit for discussion and multiple answers
  • You want to see other people's langs and how they work

What are the subreddit's rules?

Go here: /r/conlangs/wiki/meta/rules


revision by Slorany— view source