Seven Conlangs for Writers

A conlang is a constructed language— an invented language. J. R. R. Tolkien famously invented the Elvish language, and thought of language construction as his secret vice.

I’m fond of conlangs, but prefer to use ones constructed by someone else to making one up myself. It’s a lot of work, and for a writer, you will only use your conlang to create a few names and perhaps a stray word or phrase or two. So it’s always an option to use a conlang ‘off the shelf’ if you can find one that suits your purpose.

What conlangs are available for writers to use? Usually it’s the ones that were invented as auxiliary languages for international use. Conlangs like Klingon or Tolkien’s Elvish are the intellectual property of the creators.

Here are 7 known conlangs that are available for writers to use, since they are/were IALs (International Auxiliary Languages) and in most cases, are older IALs.

  • Esperanto. Invented  in 1887 by L. L. Zamenhof. The most successful IAL, there are books published in it, shortwave radio broadcasts given, and annual Esperanto conventions. It is recognizable as a European language and people who speak one of the Latin-derived languages like Spanish, Italian or French can often understand Esperanto sentences without learning the language. In my Destine series, Esperanto is the primary conlang used by the Terran Fleet.
  • Ido. Invented in 1907 by Louis Couturat. This was intended as ‘reforms’ to Esperanto, in part by getting rid of the ‘ugly’ Esperanto words with Germanic or Slavic roots and replacing them with Latin-origin terms. Today Ido is well known mainly to Esperanto speakers. There is still an Ido movement, but it is small. Ido is recognizable as a European language, and an Esperanto speaker can mostly understand Ido. It may be considered an Esperanto dialect. In the Destine series, the main use of Ido is on worlds where two dialects of conlangs are considered desirable, often spoken by differing tribes or social castes. It is also spoken widely by people who resent having to learn Esperanto but must deal with Esperanto-speaking people.
  • Universalglot. Invented in 1868 by Jean Pirro. This language predates Esperanto, but never had clubs or a movement, or even a translation of the Our Father. It looks like a European, Latin-based language. In the Destine universe, Universalglot is the preferred Trade Language of the powerful Konju race. Since Konju people mostly cannot learn languages after childhood, many people learn Universalglot to trade with the Konju.
  • Solresol. Invented in 1866 by Jean Sudre. Solresol is rather famous for being a language based on the musical notes of the scale. You know, do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si…. Each of the seven possible syllables of Solresol has a corresponding musical note, color, number, hand sign (sign language) and glyph. What’s not to love about that? It is a very alien-looking language, but in longer Solresol utterances it might even be recognized by clever readers as Solresol, since the language is still sometimes mentioned in books and other information sources. In the Destine universe, Solresol is used by a few alien races, often in a rudimentary way, and is also used as a secondary Trade Language by musicians and artists. The alien Tsanan race, who have the form of balls of colored light, love Solresol since they can match their body colors to the syllables of Solresol.
  • Amerysk. Invented in 1974 by Paal-Erik Filssunu. Amerysk was invented by an American Odinist, and I got a mimeographed booklet on Amerysk from an Odinist friend. I have not been able to contact the creator of Amerysk and have been in contact with another speaker only fleetingly, many years ago. I put the booklet up online in various places many years ago. I’ve also been adding words to the language for some time and posting it on a blog. Amerysk is a Germanic language, like modern English, old Anglo-Saxon, and German, Swedish, Yiddish and the like. In the Destine universe, Amerysk is commonly spoken in regions on the planet Mayflower, and by small human groups elsewhere. There may be aliens who prefer it, as well. It’s fairly common as a second or third language for the elders of Amish communities in space, since it is related to their German dialect.
  • Slovio. Invented in 1999 by Mark Hucko. Slovio is a pan-Slavic language. The creator says that if you know Slovio, you can communicate with all the world’s Slavic language speakers— Russian, Polish, Croatian…. It may be true, but if you say something to a Russian in Slovio and he understands it, he will answer in Russian, which you won’t understand fully. It is a Slavic-sounding language and can be written in both Roman (like English) and Cyrillic (like Russian) alphabets— which is kind of like Serbian which uses both alphabets. In the Destine universe, Slovio is preferred by Slavic-language speakers. A few minor alien races use it, too.
  • Volapük. Invented in 1879 by Father Johann Martin Schleyer. Volapük was the first IAL to get a following, and clubs, and a movement. It’s a complicated language, though. Many Volapük clubs became Esperanto clubs when Esperanto was published and gained a following, since Esperanto is easier to learn. But maybe the complications of Volapük were necessary to make people believe that a made-up language could really be spoken, and could be used to translate ideas. There was a reform of Volapük in about 1930, but it’s still complex. Though the words are actually based on English words, they are distorted— ‘animal’ becomes ‘nim’— so it can serve as a completely alien tongue in fiction. There are a small number of Volapük speakers today, and a Europe-based Volapük organization. In the Destine universe, Volapük is preferred by the tyrants ruling the Alliterist worlds. A few alien races use it, too.

So, these are some of the actual conlangs which can be used by the modern writer. If you need a few names or magic words or an alien curse word or insult, these are possible sources.