This page will define the various terms used throughout the website. Some of these definitions are specific to this website (such as the definitions for “conlang sketch” and “full conlang”), while others hold generally. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us via email: jobs (at) conlang (dot) org.
A conlang (short for constructed language) is a consciously created language system. A conlang can be oral, visual, manual, tactile, or any combination of the above.
A conlang sketch consists of a phonology, a description of the transcription and/or romanization system, and a fixed number of lexical forms (usually no more than fifty). Optionally, a conlang sketch may include information about how to create names, and the shape of different lexical items (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.). A conlang sketch will not include a description of morphosyntax or pragmatics, instructional materials on how to use the language, a separate orthography, or a detailed lexicon. A conlang sketch is intended exclusively to create a phonetic aesthetic, and to be used to create names for characters and places, or come up with a handful of terms in the language of an invented people or culture—or to serve as a starting point for future expansion. Requesting a conlang sketch requires a minimum of $150.
CSL stands for a “con-sign language”, which is itself short for a “constructed sign language”. Sign languages use hands and other parts of the body to convey linguistic content as opposed to sounds produced with the vocal tract. While most natural sign languages use the hands as the primary active articulators, CSLs may use any number of active articulators—including alien physiology.
A full conlang contains all the elements required by the client of their language project excluding orthography, which is separate. A full phonology, morphosyntax, conjugation/declension paradigms and (if desired) instructional materials can be expected of a full conlang. The beginnings of a lexicon should also be required with a negotiable amount of lexical items (between 500-1,000 would be ordinary; any number beyond that would require a significant investment). A minimum of $300 is required to post a request for a full conlang, including a full grammar description and a vocabulary of a maximum of 500 lexical items. For additional materials (instructional materials and translations, for instance) as well as a larger vocabulary, an additional investment will be needed.
A language’s orthography is its writing system. An orthography includes not only the characters used to write the language, but the numbers, the punctuation, the miscellaneous marks and the particular arrangement of these marks. For example, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese all use the roman alphabet, but each of them has a unique orthography. Similarly, Arabic and Farsi both use the Arabic script to write their languages, but their orthographies are separate. A conlang orthography comprises not only the particular script used to transcribe the sounds and/or words of a language, but also the unique correspondence between form and meaning utilized by that conlang. Note that the creation of a non-romanized orthography requires a separate minimum of $300 from the client, which covers a simple orthography and, if required, a simple font covering a single glyph style. For more complicated orthographies (complex ligatures, large number of characters, various glyph styles), an additional investment will be needed.
The sound system of a language. A phonology lists the sounds used in a language, and also describes how they may be combined, and how they’ll change pronunciation in different contexts. A phonology also includes information about stress and/or tone. In a CSL, it will list the handshapes, places and prototypical movements used in the language, and also describe how the three will change in different contexts. A CSL will detail all relevant place, handshape and movement variation given the particular signing space, and the active and passive articulators used in the CSL.
A romanization system is a method of transcribing a language using the roman alphabet. English’s orthography utilizes the roman alphabet, but Japanese’s does not. Japanese, on the other hand, may be written with the roman alphabet by employing one of a number of romanization systems. For example, the word for “university” in Japanese is written as follows: 大学. We may employ a romanization system in order to transliterate it, though, and spell it daigaku. By default, many conlangs will employ a romanization system to write its language if there is no other orthography and phonetic transcription proves cumbersome.
A script is a term which covers the various types of writing systems: alphabets (unique characters for vowels and consonants); abjads (unique characters for consonants; a secondary system for vowels); abugidas (base consonantal characters with obligatory vowel marking utilizing some secondary system); syllabaries (unique glyphs for each possible syllable in a language); and complex logographic systems (cf. Chinese and Egyptian hieroglyphs). The roman alphabet is a script, just as the Arabic script and Japanese’s hiragana are scripts. Many conlangers utilize invented scripts (sometimes called conscripts) to add a visually aesthetic element to their conlangs, or to add to the verisimilitude.