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Check out the Serpent’s Tongue kickstarter I mentioned at the top of the show!

After teasing Mike a bit about his trip to an Anime convention, we get down to business on how to make your conlang fit into a conworld.  Then we cover an interesting and enigmatically-named Arka language.

Top of Show Greeting: German (translation by Carsten Becker) [NOTE: Yes, we are now accepting natlang greetings from native speakers]

Featured Conlang: Iŋomœ́ (Akana Wiki Page)


The Damin language ( was created by the Lardil as a form of ritual language which seems to be classified as a conlang… But… It was developed by an entire culture over several generations and not by a single person so doesn’t that classify as a natlang? But on the other hand the vocabulary is actually very small with only two pronouns.

Also, the phonology of Lardil and the neighbouring Yangkaal languages don’t really match the phonology of Damin. For example: Damin has a fricative. Not just any fricative but an ingressive voiceless lateral alveolar fricative. There are also clicks present in most places of articulation with a special mention to the prenasal bilabial click contrasting with the oral egressive bilabial click. Keeping in mind that this is spoken in Australia.

Any ideas on what’s happening there guys?

Also, at the top of the show I thought that Mike had replaced George. Then I realised that I was an idiot.

~~~~ Gildoff.

29 Responses to “Conlangery #46: Conlanging for Conworlds”

  1. AlucardNoir

    a) the Indus valley civilization was replaced by proto-indo-europeans
    b) you guys seam to ignore the fact that language is both memetic and a tool; just look at Bianca, when she was on she used to complain about having trouble with tones, this wasn’t because she didn’t’ hear them, it was because her mind actively ignored them, since she had already mastered a language and could communicate, and then we have the problem with language changing all the time indifferent of what some poor ignorant farts with a ph.d. do or want, not because the people want it to change but because they need it to change, just look at the attempts of the french academie at replacing words like e-mail; when designing a conlang for a conworld one has to not only thing of it from a historical perspective but also from the perspective of classification, just look at colors or animal names, the racoon you mentioned at the begging of the show, europeans didn’t have any name for it so they took a name from locals, kangaroo – same thing, probably one of the most interesting things to see in a conlang in this case wound be words that don’t seam to fit the language and whose historical origin would be in another now dead conlang

    • admin

      a) Thanks for the correction. If you didn’t notice, I am not so good at historical linguistics.
      b) First, the bit about Bianca’s psychology as regards tones is another topic entirely — namely a phonetics vs phonology discussion (which you’ll have some of in an upcoming podcast). As to your other points, while we didn’t tackle prescriptivism too much, we did in fact specifically mention loanwords that come from local substrate languages. there was a lot to cover in this topic — so much so that we will probably revisit several of the points raised in this episode as future episode topics.

      • AlucardNoir

        There technically was a theory that stated PIE originated in the indus valley, but the indus valley civ were city builders at the same level as the sumerians or egyptions, they also disappeared at about the same time PIE arose.(and i do mean disappeared – we don’t know what happened to them)
        Sorry about the misplaced fury on lack of loanwords in conlangs, it’s just that most conworlds don’t really make use of them, it’s the wow effect: every race is at the same lavel of dev, has the same tech and seams to have had a surprisingly similar yet diverse history, it just drives me insane.

  2. Ossicone

    Lol. You decided to do this after I left. My main 2/3 conlangs are all on one conworld.

    My most favorite loan word into Amjati is ‘inakal’ to stab. It is take from the name of their neighbors the Inyauk who tend to kill most Amjati they meet.

    EDIT: Some fun Maryland names: Chesapeake, Potomac, Patuxent etc etc.

    • admin

      Sorry about that. I did specifically invite Torco on for this, since he’s said he’s more into conworlding than conlanging, but I didn’t think to invite you.

  3. MBR

    Mike, when you talked about the separation of a liturgical language vs. a common language, the first thing that popped into my head was the way things happen in my conworld Hra. I don’t know whether I’ve published many details about it, but on Hra, the Ipf’akh, the religious matriarch, speaks a variant of the dead language Bosk’e, as opposed to Hra’anh. Bosk’e is the original lingua franca of Hra, but in the dark ages after the Second Pagan War, the ruling pagans struck Bosk’e from existence, replacing it with Hra’anh. Hra’anh has several artifact words from Bosk’e, and most of them are religious terms: Akh (God), atshella (holy; sacred), eshar (flower; flowering vine; marriage), and so on.

    • MikeL (葉明毅)

      Very cool! Is the Liturgical Language understood by most of the citizens not affiliated with the religion?

  4. John Clifford

    In any. Case, the troops who swooped (so to speak) into Inja about the time Mohenjadaro bit the dust were hardly pro to indo Europeans but already clearly at least Indo Iranian if not fully Indic (several distinctive sound shifts away fromPIE).

  5. Matthew

    This topic reminds me of something I was thinking about a few days ago. English and French have an interesting pair of false friends (French “blesser” looks & sounds a lot like English “to bless”, but it actually means “to injure”), and I was trying to come up with a believable conculture scenario where two sister languages have the same disparity of meaning in similar-sounding words, but the words are in fact descended directly from the same root.

    So, the sister languages come from the Proto-Language (PL), and in the dominant religion of PL speakers, ritual bloodletting is a common practice to receive the favor of the gods, so naturally they have a dedicated term for that.

    Over time, the daughter languages split off, their respective cultures deviating as well. One area is invaded and taken over by another culture, which imposes its own religion, demonizing anything related to the original faith, including ritual bloodletting. As a result, the term for that practice takes on a negative connotation and develops into “to injure”.

    Another area is left relatively untouched by the invaders and continues practicing the PL-culture religion, perhaps toning down the bloodletting (maybe a plague struck and they noticed that those who didn’t engage in bleeding were surviving). However, the idea associated with the practice is still widely favored so the PL term comes to mean “to bless”.

    • Wm Annis

      There’s at least one historical precedent for something a bit like this. In the show we mention Old Iranian/Avestan. It is very closely related to Sanskrit. In Sanskrit, deva means a god. In Avestan, daeva is a demon, or at least a not very nice being — they become less nice over time. The words are cognate.

        • admin

          I never suggested that it was discredited. Listen to the Radiolab segment I linked to in my previous comment. It explains how the conclusion about the experiment that floats around in the general public is not really the same as the conclusions drawn from the actual experiment (it was actually quite nuanced in how it measured reactions to different types of authority and prompting).

  6. Han-Dashi-Faza

    Speaking as a Zoroastrian, I’m pretty flattered that you even mentioned Avestan and Middle Persian. Most people ignore us nowadays… 🙁
    But I noticed Will’s comment on the deva/daeva thing. The same thing happened with the word asura/ahura, only in reverse. This is because Zoroaster rejected the caste-based old ways of the Aryans and preached his religion, which all of Iran came to follow. Naturally, quite a bit of protest must have come from the proto-Hindu Indians, although I like to think that the REAL dividing issue was over whether food should be mild (Iranian) or spicy (Indian). It’s kind of like if the Protestants switched the definitions of devil and angel around, just to spite the Church.

  7. Cedh

    Some of the apparent oddities in Iŋomœ́ can be explained by looking at how it fits into the conworld Akana. This information is not easy to find though, because it’s not mentioned in the Iŋomœ́ grammar sketch but can be discovered through comparison with articles about related topics, most importantly of course the grammar of Proto-Western (PW).
    For example, the unusual zero-marked speculative evidential originates in the fact that evidentiality marking was optional in PW, but became obligatory in most contexts in the development to Iŋomœ́, and at one point the few situations where evidentiality was not marked (mostly questions and hypothetical statements) got reanalysed as part of the paradigm. Semantically it went something like this: “evidential status of this event is not indicated” > “I don’t have evidence for this event” > “I’m only speculating about this event”.
    Two other typologically odd things you talked about in the podcast are simply the result of phonetic mergers: First, the semantically non-coherent noun class 2 “solid inedible objects, mushy edible objects” (marker /-ɟ/) continues two different PW noun classes, which were marked with */-tsa/ and */-tʃe/ respectively in the protolanguage. Second, the strange behaviour that objects of postpositions appear in the ergative case results naturally from a merger of the PW ergative and oblique cases (*/-ʔi/ and */-ʔu/ in PW, both reflected as a stress shift to the stem-final vowel in Iŋomœ́).

  8. Cedh

    Another thing: It occurs to me, in case you plan to review yet another Akana conlang at some point in the future, it might be a good idea to contact not just the creator of that specific language, but also (in addition or as a replacement if you can’t schedule an appointment with the creator himself) one of the long-term members of the project. It’s probably a fairly rare thing that you can find several people knowledgeable enough to say something substantial about a conlang besides the creator himself, but that’s probably the case for most languages in this collaborative conworld. Much of the insights into Iŋomœ́ which I can offer, for example, result from the fact that I have created a sister language to it (Tmaśareʔ, which you discussed in episode 15). I’m sure the situation is similar for some other long-term participants in many areas of the conworld. I for one would definitely offer my assistance in contributing first or second hand details for almost any Akana-related topic in the foreseeable future.

  9. Estonian Learner

    Hi William, I’m writing an essay on contact-induced language change with a focus on grammaticalization and I would love if you could write me the reference for the creation of a past-tense in Navaho under influence from neighboring languages with a well developed tense system. Thanks!

  10. Daeiribu

    I wanted to make a little note about languages taking over one another. I feel like you touched upon this but maybe didn’t really make it as clear as I would’ve liked:
    When two languages come into contact like in an invasion scenario, there is a period of bilingualism, after which the more prestigious of the two becomes the sole language. This is at least the case in the Roman empire which didn’t really have a language policy and didn’t really enforce Latin upon anyone. It was just more prestigious than the local substrate languages so won over them. This is why Latin never became a Lingua Franca in the Eastern empire which already had a more prestigious language – Greek.
    In this case prestige is largely dependent on things like litterary tradition. So it’s not all military and wars.

    • admin

      This is absolutely true, though I will say that language prestige is often related to the people who speak it: the language of the elites get more prestige, and also gives people more economic opportunities (and economic opportunities are a major if not the major factor in langauge shift). Wars and military strength can be a way of installing that elite, but don’t guarantee that the language will gain prestige (Greek in the eastern Roman empire being an example — or China, where the new ruling elite had to adopt whatever Chinese variety was used at the time for official business because of the existing bureaucracy was robust and not going anywhere). And of course, you can have a situation where a minority language is pretty stable to be used in a smaller area for cultural solidarity while the dominant variety is used for communication with the outside world.

      This might be something we revisit in the future, if I can find a good spin on it for conlangers. I’ve been deep into the literature on language endangerment and minority languages recently, and teasing out all the factors involved here is very interesting.



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