Humble Beginnings of Conlangery

 Gwŷnedh mbedhdir lo! This is a greeting in one of my most recent constructed languages, Ædhŷwlië. The language, like many of my constructed languages is not near complete, in fact, it is barely even started! I’ve decided that with the creation of “Serpent’s Tongue”, I’d probably get a bit more attention from those in the conlanging world asking who the heck I am. The point of this post is to introduce myself as a conlanger and give background to my conlanging experience. I’m pretty sure when Paul Frommer came onto the conlanging scene, many people were like, who is that guy? In fact, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be creating a language commercially; it almost makes me feel bad that I haven’t been a hardcore conlanger in such a long time, but in all reality I’m so stoked to have this opportunity I’m not going to let it slip through my fingertips. So, without further ado, I will tell you how I arrived to this very moment in my conlanging life.

Back when I was around 12 years old, my town had just received the newest and latest thing, INTERNET! Of course it was the obnoxious and slow dial-up but I was an adolescent and like everyone else I was totally stoked to have this latest technology. Looking back at the time today, I wonder how we even did anything on the internet speeds at the time. I mean come on, 28kb/s?

I had a friend that I had met back in 6th grade who introduced me to the world of MUD. I wish I could remember exactly which MUD it was, but  It was NC MUD and it took place in a medieval period and you could choose to be whatever the hell you wanted to be. I of course chose to be an Elf Mage and you basically moved up in rank by gaining experience, either by dueling others in the game or doing practice spell casting sessions. All the spells were usually commands you had to memorize in English and type out. It was easy to write down the spells with a piece of paper and pencil and have it next to you as you played. Up to this point in my life, I had only owned an Atari, Nintendo, and a GameBoy. I wasn’t much of a game player and as a child I had such a wild imagination that you would most likely find me out side playing by myself, reenacting things I had seen on tv or events that had happened recently in my life.

Around this time (I was in 8th grade), a friend of mine at church had started writing down her German lessons that she was learning at school (she was in 9th grade) because I was so fascinated by her learning another language I wanted to try my hand at it too. I come from a pretty small town and we never got out much so it had never occurred to me before this that I could learn another language. After I started learning German, which was written on little pieces of note paper that I kept in order, I began to become curious about other languages. Enter Microsoft Encarta 95. I started reading about different cultures and languages and listening to different national anthems. I was obsessed and tried to learn all the phrases I could in all the languages that had it available.

As I continued to play MUD, I got bored. It got boring casting the same spells and guessing at new spells. There was nothing that truly drew me into the game and that is when I decided that the MUD needed a language. Now, I never vocalized this to anyone but I decided that I was going to create a language for the world that I had created for myself in the MUD. Being 13 years old I did not have the first clue as to how to create a language nor did I know where to go for resources on how one created their own language. Hell, I didn’t even know if anyone else DID create their own language. At that time, I thought it was such a ridiculous idea that I didn’t even consider doing a search at the local library, which I found out a couple of years later did indeed have some literature on Esperanto.

So at the ripe age of 13 years old, I began my first conlang. I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I think I even called it “MUD Speak”. I’m not even sure what it even looked like or really any details about it except that I hid the fact that I was creating a language from anyone who asked me what I was doing when I was actually working the on language. Basically, the language failed. I’m sure many first conlangs fail, especially when I hadn’t been exposed to many languages and had no concept of how to create a language or about linguistics.

My 9th grade year was a blossoming year for me as far as the development of a conlanger goes. By this time, I was no longer playing MUD and the first conlang had long been trashed and never thought of again. I actually didn’t think about constructing another language until I read “1984”. After reading “1984” I went on and on about Newspeak to my classmates and friends. Lucky enough, one of my friends told me about “Lord of the Rings”. Now, I loved to read as a child and read many many books, including “The Hobbit” when I was in 6th grade, but the little bit of conlanging in “The Hobbit” must have completely went over my head because it didn’t have any impact on me at that point in my young life. I did, however, read “Lord of the Rings”. I became obsessed with J. R. R. Tolkien and of his languages and other creations. He truly was my inspiration for my most complete conlang ever made to this day, “Shæuaylia”.

Shæuaylia didn’t come into existence until the middle of my sophomore year in high school. By this time, I had read “Lord of the Rings” twice and had studied the languages from the appendices as well as finding the website of Helge Fauskanger. The idea for the world for the language was actually inspired by a song that we were playing in concert band. The song was called “Highland Legends” and you can listen to it by clicking the image below. Tom Smiley, my best friend in high school, and I both played euphonium and since we were really strong players, our director never focused on us and so we rarely got to play during practice. We would sit in the back and chat.

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After a couple of weeks of playing the piece that inspired my world, I shared with him my vision of what the song reminded me of. It reminded me of little wood nymphs, faeries, and leprechauns deep in a green forest dancing around with a human that had discovered them and visited them everyday.  After adding to the story everyday, I decided the little people needed a language.

By this time, I was in my second year of French and probably the most enthusiastic French student my teacher had ever seen. I was obsessed with languages and couldn’t get enough of them. Using what little knowledge I had about the languages I did know and had been exposed to, including Quenya and Sindarin, I began creating Shæuaylia. At first it was just a few scribbles here and there on a sheet during band practice. My best friend Tom wasn’t my best friend for nothing, he didn’t judge my level of geekiness as I sat and wrote made up words while our fellow bandmates had to repeat lines after lines of music. In fact, I think Tom was the only person in high school that actually knew about my conlanging tendencies besides my French teacher who I had told in passing one time.

He may not even know that Shæuaylia was the closest I’ve ever come to creating a complete language. Even though I was getting into learning HTML and building my own websites with all the tacky animated gifs that geocities offered back then, I still didn’t publish my work. From the websites I had found about people creating their own language, I knew there were people out there like me but for some reason I still felt like it would have been social suicide if anyone knew that I created my own languages. I didn’t even let my parents know as it isn’t something they would really understand. I worked on Shæuaylia all through the rest of high school. It filled up many notebooks and loose sheets of paper. I even tried typing it up one time but quickly got tired and bored of that.

I had survived high school without anyone finding out that I was a … gulp … conlanger. I think about it now and think how ridiculous it was, but you know how teenagers are, they are ruthless. Anyway, as I said, I had survived without anyone knowing until a week before I graduated. Every year my high school held an awards ceremony for the graduating seniors where they announced every scholarship, grant, and award that everyone won that year. I wasn’t really expecting to get anything as in high school I wasn’t an outstanding student by any means. This all changed when my French teacher approached the podium. She began talking about a student who went beyond any student she had ever known to learn languages. She listed all the language classes I had taken during my career in high school, and talked about my passion and love for language. The thing that she did next was completely unexpected and came from out of nowhere. She continued to say that “this student has even gone so far as to create his OWN languages”. I was mortified. At this point people started to snicker and out right laugh. I felt people staring at me before she even said my name and when she finally did, I was in a complete state of shock. I was mortified. If I had known back then that I would be creating a language commercially that had the potential of 100s of speakers, I would have flipped everyone off and said “in your face suckers!” Luckily for me, no one really rubbed it in my face or made too much fun of me, but it didn’t go unnoticed as there was some teasing.

I attempted and never finished many other conlangs during the development of Shæuaylia but none of them had ever come close except for the language that I created while I was an exchange student in Belgium the year after I graduated from high school. The language was a cross breed of French and Flemish called “Belg” (as is pronounced in Flemish/Dutch).  Obviously the feminine form of someone who spoke “Belg” was “Belge” (pronounced as in French). It was a pretty clever language and I tried not to make it resemble a language that mixed French and Flemish words together but to create new words borrowing from both flavors and borrowing the syntax of both languages. I wish I had had enough room in my suitcase to bring back the 5 binders of that language with me, but alas, they had to stay behind (because at the time, bringing artisan beer glasses was more important than a piece of art that I created). Every little ounce counted.  I had hoped to get them back one day. When I was last in Belgium, I asked my host family about them but they had no clue where any of the stuff I had left behind went because they had moved since I lived there and it is most likely that they are either gone in the trash or stowed away somewhere, never to be found. I like to think that someday someone will find them and propose it as the new language of Belgium, unifying Flanders and Walloonia!

Since then, I’ve started and not finished about half a dozen or so languages. When I got back to the US, I began school and got extremely busy. During my junior year at The Ohio State University, I got back into conlanging for a little bit but actually became more interested in the conlanging community than anything else. I had proposed a book idea to one of my professors and she actually seemed interested in co-authoring it with me. That got pushed to the way-side because of other more pressing matters like my undergraduate honors thesis go in the way. The notes and ideas for it still sit in a folder on my computer. The only problem now is that there are a few books out that discuss conlangs, so I’m not sure there is much of a market for another one.

Since being in university, I haven’t had much time to create anymore languages but I’ve definitely followed the Language Creation Society, though I didn’t join until recently. I thought that my hobby for creating languages was on an indefinite hiatus until I got the e-mail from the Gabrielson brothers. The fire of creativity has been sparked within me and I’ve completely rediscovered my passion for language creation and look forward to the future and much success!