Riley Neither - Conlangs

I'm a linguist by training, so naturally, I love making conlangs. A conlang (if you didn't know) is a constructed language, like Esperanto or Klingon. Some of mine are pretty fleshed out, but I won't bore anyone with all those gritty linguistic details; instead I've just put some of my naming languages on this page. Naming languages are conlangs that are just developed enough to create consistent-sounding character and place names, and I've even made little random name generators for mine!

Intro to Conlangs

Curious, but don't know what you're looking at? Let me try to give you a crash course. Experienced conlangers & linguists, move along!

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a drawing of a red-wing blackbird

Ziakien - Dust & Lightning

This is the naming language for most of the characters in a Haudenosaunee-coded fantasy setting, so I took some inspiration from the Iroquoian languages. If we're being completely honest, though, I built this language a little backwards. I knew what I wanted some of the characters' names to be (like Chael and Sal) from the very beginning, so then I had to build the conlang around those names, to be able to come up with more that would look and sound like they matched.

Consonants

The absence of labial consonants (/p b f v m/) is a distinctive trait of Iroquoian languages.

alveolarpalatal(ish)velarglottal
occlusives t ‹t›, d ‹d›tʃ ‹ch›, dʒ ‹j› k ‹k› ʔ ‹'›
fricatives s ‹s›, z ‹z› h ‹h›
nasals n ‹n›
approximants ɹ ‹r›, l ‹l› w ‹w›

Vowels

The vowel inventory resembles Kanien'kéha (Mohawk) and Onʌyota'a:ka (Oneida). The vowels with tildes on them, /ʌ̃ ũ/, are nasalized; these are vowels made with air flowing through the nose, and can be found in languages like French and Burmese as well as many Native American languages.

i~ij ‹i› ũ~õ ‹on›
e~ej ‹ae› ə ‹a›, ʌ̃~n̩ ‹en› o~ow ‹o›
a~æ ‹a›
diphthongs: aj ‹y›

Oral monophthongs often become diphthongs (gaining off-glides) when stressed. /a/ sometimes has a fronted pronunciation before /l/ (which is always light); this is mostly because I wanted to have a character named Sal, not Saul.

Phonotactics & Stress

codas: yes: liquids and /h/, only after non-high oral monophthongs /e o a/
clusters: no
hiatus: yes
restrictions: no geminates; /ʔ/ only occurs intervocalically; in hiatus, nasal vowels can follow oral ones, but not vice versa
stress: irregular, weight-sensitive

Names

Some character names: Chael, Salziah, Tonalen, Zahaniol, Jyza

a drawing of a raptor with tan and pink feathers

Etliruset & Veiksa - Gods of Bloodied Earth

For this world, I wanted two naming languages to make very different-sounding names. So Etliruset and Veiksa are opposed in many ways. Overall, Etliruset has a crisper sound to it, with short vowels and lots of codas. The voiced obstruents and open vowels of Veiksa make it a little doughier—until you hit some of the clusters. Those give it a nice edge, I think.

I combined the two conlangs in the tables below, so it's easy to compare them. Etliruset is in black (upper rows of consonants and phonotactics, left set of vowels) and Veiksa is in outlined purple (lower rows, right set of vowels).

Consonants

Etliruset lacks voiced obstruents (/b d g v z/ etc.), and includes a few voiceless ones that we don't have in English, /ts ɬ tɬ x/. /ts/ is similar to English "ch." /ɬ/ and /tɬ/ are lateral obstruents, similar to /l/ but with noisier, more turbulent airflow; sounds like these can be found in a number of Native American languages, like Nahuatl and Navajo. And /x/ is a velar fricative; you might be familiar with it as that throaty "h" sound in a lot of German, Hebrew, or Scots words, where it's often spelled ‹ch›, and it's also common in Mayan languages.

By contrast, Veiksa contains no sounds that aren't found in English, and has voiced counterparts to all of its voiceless oral obstruents. What it's missing (because I often make naming languages that are missing something from English; what's missing can be as distinctive as what's there) is the post-alveolars: /tʃ dʒ ʃ ʒ/.

labialalveolarlateralpalatal(ish)velarglottal
stops p ‹p› t ‹t› k ‹c/k› ʔ ‹'›
p ‹p›, b ‹b› t ‹t›, d ‹d› k ‹k›, g ‹g›
affricates ts ‹tz›tɬ ‹tl›
[none]
fricatives s ‹s› ɬ ‹lh› ʃ ‹sh› x ‹j› h ‹h›
f ‹f›, v ‹v› s ‹s›, z ‹z› h ‹h›
nasals m ‹m› n ‹n› ŋ ‹ng›
m ‹m› n ‹n›
approximants ɾ ‹r›l ‹l›j ‹y› w ‹w›
ɹ ‹r›j ‹y›

/k/ in Etliruset is usually spelled with ‹c›, but uses ‹k› instead when it's followed by ‹i› or ‹e›.

The spellings ‹tz› for /ts/ and ‹j› for /x/ (or /χ/) are common in Mayan languages. (It's also common to spell /ʃ/ with ‹x›, but I didn't want readers mispronouncing my characters' names that badly.)

Vowels

Etliruset and Veiksa both have fairly simple vowel inventories. (I usually avoid large or complex vowel systems for naming languages, because there's only so much you can do with English orthography.) Nevertheless, the presence of diphthongs and digraphs in Veiksa makes its vowels feel longer and more flowing, while monographs and codas make Etliruset's vowels read as short and lax.

i~ɪ ‹i› u~ʊ ‹u› i ‹i› u ‹u›
ɛ ‹e› o ‹o› e ‹ei› ʌ~ə ‹a›
ɑ ‹a› a ‹a›
no diphthongs aj ‹ai›, aw ‹au›

Phonotactics & Stress

Opposites again, Etliruset makes frequent use of obstruent codas while Veiksa lacks codas entirely. Etliruset also allows geminates word-internally. (A geminate is an extra-long consonant, or two of the same consonant right next to each other.) Veiksa instead allows a variety of consonant clusters at the beginning of a syllable, including some that English doesn't even like, like /ks/ and /bz/. Finally, they differ in stress patterns, with Etliruset being iambic and Veiksa trochaic.

codas: yes: any consonant except glides
no
clusters: no
yes: stop+sonorant, stop+fricative, nonsibilant fricative+approximant
hiatus: no
no
restrictions: none
/ji tj dj/ sequences are disallowed
stress: final in disyllables, varies in trisyllables
initial/trochaic

Names

Some Etliruset character names: Yeshet, Rokesh, Uretlec, Sherutzar

Some Veiksa character names: Ksaizu, Ibzu, Damabai, Prauva

a drawing of a fancy rat

Portside Creole - Sync

This conlang is unlike the others in a couple big respects. For one, it's not for a secondary world (a world that has no connection to real Earth); Sync is just set in the future. For another, I normally favor simplicity in naming languages and make a point of leaving out something that's common in English, rather than just adding new things in, but with this one I was very much just combining bits and pieces of everything. Portside Creole is what it sounds like: an eclectic creole spoken as a lingua franca among diverse traders and travelers, mainly drawing on Hindi, Arabic, Burmese, and English.

Consonants

You can see Hindi in the retroflexes /ʈh ʈ ɖ ɽ/, Burmese in the voiceless/aspirated nasals /hm hn hŋ/, and Arabic in the pharyngealized consonants /tʕ dʕ sʕ zʕ/.

labialdentalalveolarretroflexpalatal(ish)velaruvularglottal
occlusives th ‹ht› ʈh ‹htt› h ‹ch› kh ‹hk›
p ‹p› t ‹t›, tʕ ‹t'› ʈ ‹tt› tʃ ‹ch› k ‹k› q ‹q› (ʔ)
b ‹b› d ‹d›, dʕ ‹d'› ɖ ‹dd› dʒ ‹j›
fricatives f ‹f› θ~ð ‹th› s ‹s›, sʕ ‹s'› ʃ ‹sh› x~χ ‹x› h ‹h›
z ‹z›, zʕ ‹z'› ʒ ‹zh›
nasals hm ‹hm› hn ‹hn› hŋ ‹hng›
m ‹m› n ‹n› ŋ ‹ng›
approximants ʋ~w ‹v› ɹ ‹r›, l ‹l› ɻ ‹rr›j ‹y›

Aspirated nasals only occur word-initially. Similarly, the three-way stop contrast is only preserved word-initially; word-internally, it reduces to a two-way contrast. /θ/ is voiced intervocalically.

/ph/ got overtaken by /f/. Coda /ɽ/ is written ‹r›. In clusters, /ʋ/ is always realized as [w] and is spelled ‹w› rather than ‹v›.

Vowels

There's a lot of variation in the vowels of Portside Creole, and to write them, I resorted to something I normally avoid in conlangs: the digraphs ‹ee› and ‹oo›. I figured it made sense this time because, after all, this language is actually related to English with all its ridiculous orthography, and because these spellings are commonly used in Romanizing Hindi words already.

i:~i ‹ee› u:~u ‹oo›
i~ɪ ‹i› u~ʊ ‹u›
e~ɛ ‹e› ʌ~a ‹a› o~ɔ ‹o›
æ ‹a› a:~ɑ ‹aa›
diphthongs: ʌj ‹ai›

Portside Creole shares English's constraint against word-final short/lax vowels, so word-final /i: u:/ are just spelled ‹i u› rather than with the digraphs.

Phonotactics & Stress

codas: yes: any consonant except /tʃh tʃ dʒ f ʋ r j h ʔ/; voicing distinctions are neutralized
clusters: yes: in onset, /s ʃ/+stop/nasal+/ʋ ɹ/; in codas, stop+/s ʃ/ and /n/+/t k θ s/; except retroflex stops and voiceless nasals
hiatus: no
restrictions: /wu wʊ ji jɪ/ sequences are disallowed, as well as /pʋ bʋ/ clusters and word-final /ɪ ʊ/
stress: irregular, weight-sensitive

Names

The character names in Sync are a mixed bag. Most characters have real names (from a number of different languages/cultures), but a fair few have invented names, because hey, it's the future, why shouldn't there be cool new names? Place names are similarly varied: some are English (Greengod), some are named after places on Earth (New Chennai), and some are invented.

Some invented character & place names: Jaksa, Kamaaksh, Hmokri, Ivaathnas, Sanadan (/sʌnʌdʌn/, not /sænʌdæn/)

Take care with the random name generator on this one. The sheer number of different sounds and the complexity of syllables in this conlang mean you're bound generate some laughably bad names. (A favorite from when I was testing it: Spamrat.) But you'll also get some nice ones mixed in.

© Riley Neither