The BG Language Creation Guide

Developed for English 2900 at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, these steps will guide you through the creation of an artificial language of your own. In class, we follow these steps in sequence, and I supplement them with information and practice materials, but this set of steps can stand on its own if you have a basic knowledge of linguistics... or are willing to acquire such as you work. This isn't the only set of language creation steps out there, of course. So, if you're not a student in one of my classes, feel free to shop around. Check out the Language Creation Society's Resources" for example.

Where appropriate, I've included a link to an example of each step. These are mainly from Liqupa, a language created by Captain Q.P. Stovepipe, mild-mannered sailor of the South Pacific and sometime linguist. Her examples are reasonably complex and are provided so you can see how to format your work and get an idea what a complete answer might look like. Feel free to use them for guidance and clarification, but you don't want to irritate the good Captain by parroting this work too closely. Nobody likes it when the Captain gets riled.

At some points, I've included a "puzzle" link for those of you who would rather see the data and figure out the rules for yourselves before reading explanations and examples. This, afterall, is at least half the fun.

For those of you who are old hands at language construction, you might find things missing that you wish were around, especially when it comes to historical depth or structural complexity. The steps are designed for pedagogical rather than primarily linguistic or artistic purposes and the products reflect the strictures I've placed on them. Still, these PrenLangs are sufficiently complex to serve nicely as either background for a fictional society or as starting points for more complex ArtLangs.

Why, Oh why?!

Why build a language?

There are other ways of studying linguistics, certainly, but perhaps no better way of getting linguistics under your hands and internalizing the ways in which levels of language structure are related to one another. It's also good fun. Like swimming though, it's only really fun if you jump in there and start paddling madly about: sitting with your metaphorical toes dabbling in the water will mostly just result in cold, wet feet. I've always wanted to quote both Julia Child and Yoda on the same webpage, (linguistically fascinating creatures both) and here's my big chance: to succeed at this "Have the courage of your convictions' (J.C.) ... and then "do, or do not: there is no try." (Y)

Necessary Links

Getting Started: Culture, Phonetics, Phonology, Nouns, Verbs

Make Sure You Know How to Gloss Sentences before Continuing

Moving On: More Morphosyntax, Language Contact

Translation Task: Final Write Up