Constructed languages, known as conlangs, are a staple of fantasy and science fiction stories and gaming. Creating a language is one of the most optional subjects in world building. It has a limited positive return, given the difficulty of the task, the learning curve, and the time-consuming nature. And no one will be able to understand it; we need to translate everything anyway. For authors, this relegates the words to a visual display, one that’s generally incomprehensible. For those in film, TV, and gaming, a constructed language can at least be spoken and go a long way to characterizing the speakers, but in those situations, it’s likely that the studio has hired an expert to do it.
If an author has an audiobook made, they will have to speak the language well enough to narrate personally or teach a narrator. Some narrators may be unwilling to do this or charge extra for it.
This chapter will not teach you how to create a language. There are books on the subject, written by experts, and it is recommended that interested readers consider them. What this chapter will do is look at what is involved at a high level, what we might be getting ourselves into, and the cost to world builders of skipping it.
As of 2020, the following books about the art of inventing languages are available and are recommended resources to start your journey. I have read the first two – and they convinced me not to do this.
- The Art of Language Invention, by David J. Petersen, inventor for Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and more.
- The Language Construction Kit, by Mark Rosenfelder
- Advanced Language Construction, by Mark Rosenfelder