Home > Clement's Game, Fermi Problems, Your Turn > Your Turn, Round 2-5: Conlanging

Your Turn, Round 2-5: Conlanging


Continuing my series of posts of posts describing my Fermi Problems setting and encouraging you to find as many problems with it as possible:

Can You Tell Me What This Means?

Text handed to you by a neari mathematician.  You think they may be using base-12.  What does it mean? Note: the white blob in the outermost ring is a typo.

Text handed to you by a neari mathematician. You think they may be using base-12. What does it mean?
Note: the white blob in the outermost ring is a typo.

The context for this puzzle:

Some time ago, I came across Mark Rosenfelder’s Language Construction Kit. (now available in an expanded print edition).  As it says on the tin, it’s a guide to the process of conlanging: inventing, constructing, and using artificial languages for different purposes – specifically, for human or human-like communication rather than the more restricted languages used for sending instructions to and for communication between computer systems.  There is a fairly large community of conlangers, with its own internet fora, groups, and conferences.  And there are a lot of constructed languages.

Humans have deliberately constructed languages for many reasons: attempts (successful and not) to aid communication between each other either in specific circumstances or in general; to illustrate the different ways that languages can be structured; as works of art; as a language game; and as a way of adding to the world-building for science fiction and fantasy settings.  For fantasy settings, Tolkien was one of the first and one of the most thorough in his use of constructed languages in his world-building.  Appropriately for a scholar of languages and mythology, he designed the languages first, and then the mythology of Middle-Earth, and only then did he write the books.  Of constructed languages made for science fiction settings, Klingon is probably the most popular – to the point of having Shakespearean plays printed in the ‘original’ Klingon and having entire operas composed in it.

I’ve been playing around a bit with languages for various groups of people in the Fermi Problems setting, be they neari, ursian, human, or something else.  I showed a small sample of what I’m calling Clade-neari script in my concept art post a while back.  I’ve now added a bit more to the defined vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of Clade-neari (and also simplified a number of previously-defined glyphs).  I’ve been inspired by Rosenfelder’s kit, but also by learning a very little about how human sign languages work and by considering the different constraints imposed by neari anatomy and by the environments the neari live in.   Nearly all conlanging is done for speaking humans or at least for characters who are voiced by human actors.  Neari langauges, and the scripts that represent them, should differ from human languages (spoken or signed) in many different ways – although there will still be some similarities.

To judge how well I’m doing that, I’m going to be posting some script samples here.  Please tell me what you think of them!  This is both a language game and a world-building exercise.

An important note: in contrast to some previous language construction I’ve done, Clade-neari is supposed to be a naturalistic language and is not being designed to be easy to translate.  That said, this particular sample should be possible to translate without more formal discussion of the language here.  So, what does it mean?

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