A conlang, or constructed language, is the name given to languages that have been made up artificially. There may be many reasons to invent a language:
- As an effort to promote communication between the different peoples of the Earth. There are more than 6000 languages, such as English, Spanish, Urdu, Greek or Xhosa. These languages generated in a natural way after many centuries are called natlangs or natural languages. In order to reduce misunderstandings and to foster the brotherhood among nations, several culture-independent conlangs, the so-called international auxiliary languages or auxlangs, have been proposed, such as Esperanto, Volapük, Ido or Interlingua.
- Many conlangs have been published as part of novels, comic books, films, TV series, videogames, etc. These are fictional conlangs. The most famous ones are Tolkien’s languages, such as Quenya and Sindarin, but also Star Trek’s Klingon, Game of Thrones’ Dothraki and High Valyrian, Avatar’s Na’vi, etc. Others have been created for the very reason of how they sound or how the look like and aren’t intended to be learnt by other people, at least in the same way as auxlangs are. They’re personal conlangs. Example of these are the alternative history-based Brithenig and Wenedyk, among others. In both cases, these languages are artistic conlangs or artlangs, as their main motivation is artistic or they are simply developed as a personal hobby.
- Some conlangs have been created with great careful in order to prevent the total ambiguity found in natlangs. They do so by following logical laws or under philosophical assumptions. Examples of these are: John Wilkins’ conlang, Loglan, Lojban, Ithkuil or Toki Pona. These conlangs are called engelangs or engineered languages.
A further division of conlangs can be understood in terms of how their vocabulary has been derived:
- If the conlang has an inspiration in one or several existing languages, it’s called an a posteriori conlang, which means “after”. Examples: Esperanto, Volapük, Interlingua, etc.
- If the conlang is completely new and has no relationship to any existing language, it’s called an a priori conlang, which means “before”. Examples: Klingon, Na’vi, Ithkuil, Solresol, etc.
The international symbol of the conlanging community is the Tower of Babel. This refers to the Bible passage (Genesis 11, 1-9) where the humans build the so-called tower with the intention to reach the sky. Then God answers back by confounding their languages and scattering them all over the Earth.
Some conlangers got together to found the Language Creation Society in 2007. Their logo is a stylized version of the Tower of Babel, which was designed by Paul Schleitwiler and Greg Shuflin. The motto of this organization is “Fiat Lingua”, which can be roughly translated from Latin into English as “Let a language be made”.