A comprehensive introduction to conlanging.

Language Construction Handbook

This book is a hands-on introduction to making constructed languages (or conlangs) as a creative pursuit, taught by linguist and experienced conlanger Colin Gorrie.

Since conlanging involves lots of concepts from linguistics, the Language Construction Handbook also serves as a non-traditional introduction to linguistics, where, instead of learning the material in a dry, lecture style, you'll learn it all by doing.

Throughout the book, I pay special attention to linguistic typology, the study of the patterns of variation in the world's languages. This book teaches how to take advantage of these patterns in order to create naturalistic languages.

By the end of this book, you'll not only have created a language of your own, but you'll also have the ability to repeat the process and create whole worlds full of languages.

What's in it?

Altogether, the book is 103 pages long (81 pages of main text, 22 of supplementary material) and is richly interlinked with all technical terms defined in a glossary. It contains the following eight chapters.

Chapter 1. Introduction

What is a language and what does it mean to construct a language? In this chapter you’ll learn enough of the basics of linguistics to figure out what we need to do to make our first constructed language. We’ll use this knowledge to break the task into chunks and set up a logical progression which will guide the rest of the book. Finally I’ll send you away with a mission to find a spark of inspiration for your first language that will guide you throughout the process.

Chapter 2. The sounds of language

What gives a language its unique sound? In this chapter, you’ll learn about the range of sounds made by the languages of the world. You’ll also learn a system of classifying sounds and use that information to create a palette of sounds for your language to draw on.

Chapter 3. From sounds to words

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to combine sounds to make words accord- ing to a blueprint that you’ll develop for your language. This is where your language starts develop its unique flavour.

Chapter 4. From words to sentences

This chapter is about going from your language’s first words to your language’s first sentences. To do this, we’ll learn the different strategies languages use to package meaning into words. Then we’ll learn about the different ways languages express relationships between words. This will give us the tools to start making sentences.

Chapter 5. More complicated sentences

In this chapter we will increase the expressive power of your language by introducing the many things you can do with sentences that are not so simple. Much of this material is foundational for what is to come, so you won’t have as many big decisions to make this time.

Chapter 6. Complex sentences and agreement

By the end of this chapter you’ll learn enough about grammar that your language will be capable of telling a story. And, in the assignment, that's exactly what I'll ask you to do: write your first text in your new language.

Chapter 7. Delightful complications

In this chapter we will take your nicely laid-out rules and start adding complications and exceptions. We’ll look at how irregularity in language is the most regular process of all. We’ll also examine how words change their form and meaning over time and see how we can express aspects of the culture and history of the language’s speakers through the language.

Chapter 8. Conclusion: Where to from here?

In this chapter, we wrap things up by looking at how you can develop your language further, and how to grow as a conlanger.

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