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Artistic language

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An artistic language, or artlang,[1][2][3] is a constructed language designed for aesthetic and phonetic pleasure. Constructed languages can be artistic to the extent that artists use it as a source of creativity in art, poetry, calligraphy or as a metaphor to address themes such as cultural diversity and the vulnerability of the individual in a globalizing world.[4] They can also be used to test linguistical theories, such as Linguistic relativity.

Unlike engineered languages or auxiliary languages, artistic languages often have irregular grammar systems, much like natural languages. Many are designed within the context of fictional worlds, such as J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Others can represent fictional languages in a world not patently different from the real world, or have no particular fictional background attached.


Several different genres of constructed languages are classified as 'artistic'. An artistic language may fall into any one of the following groups, depending on the aim of its use. Similarly to philosophical languages, artlangs are created in accordance with an initially defined principle in mind.

Fictional languages[edit]

By far the largest group of artlangs are fictional languages (sometimes also referred to as "professional artlangs"). Fictional languages are intended to be the languages of a fictional world, and are often designed with the intent of giving more depth and an appearance of plausibility to the fictional worlds with which they are associated, and to have their characters communicate in a fashion which is both alien and dislocated. By analogy with the word "conlang", the term conworld is used to describe these worlds, inhabited by fictional constructed cultures.

There are two major categories of fictional languages.

Professional fictional languages are those languages created for use in books, movies, television shows, video games, comics, toys, and songs. Prominent examples of works featuring fictional languages include the Middle-earth and Star Trek universes, the game Ico and the songs of the French band Magma, singing in Kobaïan.

Internet-based fictional languages are hosted along with their "conworlds" on the Internet, and based at these sites, becoming known to the world through the sites' visitors. An example is Verdurian, the language of Mark Rosenfelder's Verduria on the planet of Almea.

Alternative languages[edit]

Alternative languages, or altlangs, speculate on an alternate history and try to reconstruct how a family of natural languages would have evolved if things had been different, e.g.: What if Greek civilization had gone on to thrive without a Roman Empire, leaving Greek and not Latin to develop several modern descendants? The language that would have evolved is then traced step by step in its evolution, to reach its modern form. An altlang will typically base itself on the core vocabulary of one language and the phonology of another.

The best-known language of this category is Brithenig, which initiated the interest among Internet conlangers in devising such alternate-historical languages, like Wenedyk. Brithenig attempts to determine how Romance languages would have evolved had Roman influence in Britain been sufficient to replace Celtic languages with Vulgar Latin, and bases its phonology on that of Welsh. An earlier instance is Philip José Farmer's Winkie language, a relative of the Germanic languages spoken by the Winkies of Oz in A Barnstormer in Oz. Another example is Anglish, which tries to reconstruct how English could have looked without Latin influence.

Although technically a professional fictional language, Wenja, used in the video game Far Cry Primal is an attempt an reconstructing an earlier stage of Proto-Indo-European, before the appearance of characteristics such as gender, ablaut or the s-mobile, to name a few.[5]

Micronational languages[edit]

Micronational languages are the languages created for use in micronations. Having the citizens learn the language is as much a part of participating in the micronation as minting coins and stamps or participating in government. The members of these micronations meet up and speak the language they have learned when they are participating in these meets. They coin new words and grammatical constructions when needed. Talossan, from R. Ben Madison's Kingdom of Talossa, is an archetypal example of a micronational language.[6]

Personal languages[edit]

Personal languages are ultimately created for one's own edification. The creator does not expect anyone to speak it; the language exists as a work of art. A personal language may be invented for the purpose of having a beautiful language, for self-expression, as an exercise in understanding linguistic principles, or perhaps as an attempt to create a language with an extreme phonemic inventory or system of verbs. Personal languages tend to have short lifespans, and are often displayed on the Internet and discussed on message boards much like Internet-based fictional languages. They are often invented in large numbers by the people who design these languages. However, a few personal languages are used extensively and long-term by their creators (e.g., for writing diaries). Javant Biarujia, the creator of Taneraic, described his personal language (which he terms a hermetic language) thus: "a private pact negotiated between the world at large and the world within me; public words simply could not guarantee me the private expression I sought."[7] The author Robert Dessaix describes the origins of his personal language K: "I wanted words that described reality. So I made them up."[8]

Languages with small vocabulary[edit]

The aim of such languages is to express deep meaning with very few parts. For instance, Toki Pona is generally said to have around 120,[9] 123,[10] or 125[11] root words[12] and 14 phonemes. It was created by Canadian linguist and translator Sonja Lang[13] for the purpose of simplifying thoughts and communication.[14]


The term jokelang is sometimes applied to conlangs created as jokes. These may be languages intended primarily to sound funny, such as DiLingo, or for some type of satire, often as satire on some aspect of constructed languages.

Some typical jokelangs are:

  • Europanto – an unstructured mixture of European languages
  • Transpiranto – constructed from international words inflected to sound like Swedish jargon, in order to improve malplacedness and ambiguity
  • Oou – a deliberately ambiguous and polysemous language whose writing system is made up entirely of punctuation marks and whose phoneme inventory is made up entirely of vowels
  • DiLingo – a rhyming language[15]
  • Gulevache – a fictional joke romance language created by the Argentinian comedy-musical group Les Luthiers for its opera Cardoso en Gulevandia
  • Unwinese – the nonsensical but structured alternative English, also known as gobbledygook but named by its creator Basic Engly Twentyfimode, used by comedian Stanley Unwin
  • Inflationary Language – invented by comedian Victor Borge, incrementing numbers embedded in words, e.g., crenine ("create") and elevennis ("tennis")

Experimental languages[edit]

An experimental language is a constructed language designed for the purpose of exploring some theory of linguistics. Most such languages are concerned with the relation between language and thought; however, languages have been constructed to explore other aspects of language as well. In science fiction, much work has been done on the assumption popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis. Artlangs of this type overlap with engineered languages.

Examples of artistic languages[edit]

See list of constructed languages for a list.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Durst, Jack (1997-11-18). "Proposal: new language-type name (fwd)". alt.language.artificial.ngl. Retrieved 2015-05-13. The idea was for "functionlang" to be a useful term to describe a certain group of conlangs that weren't fitting into the pattern. Those being the (relatively rare) conlangs that were not artlangs, logiclangs, or auxlangs, but instead designed around some *other* specified purpose(s).
  2. ^ Roser, Paul (1998-01-08). "Help with phonological transcription". list.sci.lang.constructed. Usenet. Retrieved 2015-05-13. It is my artlang, spoken on an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic, somewhat south of the Azores and northwest of Madeira. The liturgical language has a number of _very_ exotic sounds, partly to indicate that it is not the normal language of the street (these sounds include several velaric egressive sounds, ie reverse clicks; one or two apicovelars; nareal fricatives; and a few others).
  3. ^ May, Rex F. (2000-03-15). "Question about LSD". soc.culture.esperanto. Usenet. Retrieved 2015-05-13. I'm opposed to an artlang with tones, in much the same way I'm opposed to an artlang with the many vowel sounds of English, or the consonant clusters of Russian and English.
  4. ^ (nl) Lies Daenen, De (on)macht van taal. Over Patrick Keulemans, kunstenaar (the '(un)power' of language. About artist Patrick Keulemans), text for the art exhibition 'unwritten & written', Kunst, Beeldende kunst, 20 August 2014.
  5. ^ Zorine Te (January 26, 2016). "Far Cry Primal Developers Talk About Uncovering History". GameSpot. Retrieved February 8, 2016.
  6. ^ WIRED Staff. "It's Good to Be King". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2022-11-22.
  7. ^ Taneraic on the Web Archived July 31, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "The Language of K", Lingua Franca, 19 December 1998 Archived May 27, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Bramley, Ellie Violet (2015-01-08). "What happened when I tried to learn Toki Pona in 48 hours using memes". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  10. ^ Griffin, Sarah (2018-08-18). "Podcast of the week: The smallest language in the world". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  11. ^ Zorrilla, Natalia C. (2018). "Still Hoping: The Relation of International Auxiliary Languages to Worldview and Perception". doi:10.31235/osf.io/sj24a. S2CID 240167472 – via SocArXiv. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Originally 118 roots, with several roots added later.
  13. ^ Roberts, Siobhan (2007-07-09). "Canadian has people talking about lingo she created". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2017-03-10.
  14. ^ Morin, Roc (2015-07-15). "How to Say Everything in a Hundred-Word Language". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2022-08-10.
  15. ^ DiLingo - official website

External links[edit]

Wikis on or about constructed languages and artistic languages[edit]