A Common Conlanging Pitfall

Don't have time for a long post today, so I thought I'd make a quick post about one of the common conlanging pitfalls I've experienced and hear others talking about a lot.

I've been guilty of as this as well: throwing in TOO MUCH. Putting in too many phonemes, morphemes, and basically throwing in everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink! I think this happens because all of us speak a very developed, rich language, whatever it is. We want our conlang to be as full and rich, but this will NOT happen overnight or even in a few years. THINK SIMPLE. ESPECIALLY if you are working on your first conlang.

Think about this for a few minutes. When are we most creative? When we have less to work with, because we have to be. Think of preparing a meal: you are in a huge kitchen with fully stocked cupboards and freezer. You can make ANYTHING. What do you make? You're paralyzed for a few moments as you consider the possibilities. Then maybe you start making something, but start looking through that cupboard at all the other ingredients in there. And that pantry over there. And all through the freezer, wondering just how many different meats and fish they have in there. BUT, what if you were in a small kitchen? What if you only had ten ingredients, but you only want to use five, so that you have something left over for another meal tomorrow? You work more quickly, and you get more creative. The end result may not be a masterpiece, but that doesn't mean that its worthless. Conlangs are, by their nature, works that are continually updated, tweaked, and polished.

Choose fewer building blocks and be more creative with them. Once you've done a conlang or two, even if you get thrown into the huge kitchen, you will know how to make a few things and you can make them again, and start experimenting with other ingredients, or more ingredients.


Mee-ah said...

That's some good advice there. I've been at this conlanging thing for years now, and I still sometimes fall into the pit of "too much, too soon".

Danger is my middle name said...

Yeah, the more I've thought about it, the more I think its pretty much a universal cure-all for conlangers. Just make everything MUCH simpler, even if you feel like you're gutting the conlang, because you'll probably be adding stuff back in later. Make it work well enough on a simple level and understand it more thoroughly, first. Then go to the next level.

J. Menzies said...

Given the problems I've been having with Agrazún, I think that's pretty true. Though in my case it's not really related to the alphabet, I still agree that simplicity should be essential.

Miekko said...

it's not a universal cure-all by far.

the universal problem in conlanging is the superficiality of nearly all descriptions of conlangs - most conlangs basically amount to a list of features, and no description whatsoever of how these things actually interact, whereas in real languages, that interaction is central. E.g., adpositions that mark objects of various verbs in Germanic languages often carry aspectual information in various slightly unpredictable ways, likewise, case usage often carries all kinds of information in languages that have case, and so on and so on.

baalak said...

I'm glad to see more people replying to your posts. It makes your blag feel more interactive, and that's a very good thing.

Like others before me, I've found myself getting into trouble by adding too much too soon. In my current project, I've restricted myself to twelve phonemes and a glottal stop, and I intend to implement a very strict system of phonotactics focusing on the coda of a syllable.

By making things simple, I don't feel as overwhelmed. Removing options can truly help to make sorting through what you have left much easier. I would share this wisdom to anyone interested in undertaking a project, let alone a conlang.

- Baalak Nalzar-aung.

Anonymous said...

No one in my life is interested in linguistics or langauges--especially "fake" languages! I have no one to bounce ideas off of, so I really don't know if mine is ridiculously complicated or not.

I like the way it's coming together, but it is my first one.


Anonymous said...

Although this is some excellent advice, I am simply stuck in place with my first conlang "in an avarege-sized kitchen", not knowing where to start. I have no ideas, and am literally starting from scratch. Please, if you know somebody who is good at this, convince them to make extensive data readily available :)