So there you are: a nerd. Like most nerds, you are of higher than average intelligence. This is not on account of mere genetics. This is on account of the fact that you read a lot and you engage with other nerds about that reading and about all the films, games, characters – the near-infinite detail – of those worlds you are constantly envisioning in your brain. That’s what makes a person smart: digesting and manipulating information and stories with your brain. (As opposed to, say, throwing/catching round objects.)
But how do you level-up your character (ie, You)? There are lots of ways.
You can go the cosplay route.
You can go the gaming route.
You can go the writing route.
And there is one narrow path that very few tread. It is esoteric as hell.
You can go the conlang route.
A made-up language is called a “conlang” or constructed language. They have their own clubs and everything – as exampled here in this bracingly dull-looking website. (I’m sure the content is top notch, but come on, guys – could you look any more like a commercial insurance consulting firm? Gah.) Conlanging is deep. It is cosplay X 100. You gotta be damn hardcore to sit around inventing verbs and ways to conjugate them in an invented script literally no one else on the planet can read. Homemade Halo armor’s got nuthin’ on that.
But besides being nerd to the core, you gotta also be smart. They say learning a second language increases intelligence, so how much more inventing one? Here’s a hobby that will make your brain grow. And really, your conlang does not have to have anything to do with science fiction or elves or alternate timelines or anything like that. It would just be cooler if it did. To those who would sneer at making up a language for an imaginary race, say Orcs, I’m thinking it makes more sense than making up a language that you actually think the world will learn from scratch, just for the sake of diplomacy or trade. That’s a fantasy. And a very, very lonely path.
To get started on your new hobby, give yourself a solid foundation with a couple books that provide a background of constructed languages: both “real-world” like Esperanto and fictional like Klingon.
From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages by Michael Adams
In the Land of Invented Languages from Arika Okrent
The Dictionary of Made Up Languages by Stephen D Rogers is more of a reference book of invented languages, with a section of language games. Even if you don’t want to make a language, this would be excellent to have around if you fancy yourself some kinda sci-fi/fantasy/gaming expert.
If you want to delve into conlangs but also want to stay far away from all us Klingon-huggin’, Elves-on-the-brain dorks, then you need to read Umberto Eco’s The Search for the Perfect Language. It’s a bit history, a bit philosophy, about why folks keep making up languages.
Then you gotta get to work on your own language. Mark Rosenfelder is your guy. The Language Construction Kit and its sequel Advanced Language Construction are probably all you need to build all your syntax and the Conlanger’s Lexipedia will help you develop your vocabulary. This is legit linguistics here, not “just make some funny sounds – voila!” Like I said, this is not a hobby for knuckle-draggers.
Alright, those titles should get you far down the road. On your new adventure, I wish you Good Luck. Or, as we say in my completely made-up personal conlang for my totally invented, bizarre, alternate world wherein I set all my imaginary adventures about being a blogger at a bookstore: Gud Lukk [clickclick].