Noodling with an idea for a website

Personally, I like to study languages more than to create them. I like the fake languages because they tend to be smaller. Tolkien said somewhere conlanging is a hobby that requires more than a lifetime, so not surprisingly, most conlangs are either small or incomplete. Either way, the language that didn’t take a lifetime to create takes less than a lifetime to learn.

There are a few main places to shop for a fake language to learn. Wikipedia, CALS, and google.

The conlangs listed on Wikipedia must pass a notability criteria, so there are very few conlangs documented there. Also, the amount of text necessary to describe a language, exceeds the length of an article. And finally, if the language is brand new, articles describing the language will likely be closed.

CALS is a database of language features. These languages often lack a corresponding description anywhere.

And the site whose name I forgot. It was good site until it started serving mysql & php error for all pages. It is sort of available on archive.org.

Google is a reasonably good place to find languages, but the distribution of talent in creating websites and making them google discoverable is spotty. Also, once you find a language, there are several tasks for the potential language learner:

Does the creator welcome users?
Does the creator welcome derivatives? What sort of derivatives?
Does the creator want to interact with fans?
Is this a language stable?
Is this language complete enough to use?
What is the license? The best licenses for a learner are public domain, creative commons and explicit licenses that address the peculiarities of conlangs (as opposed to songs, books, movies, and other well understood intellectual property). The worse licenses for learners are ordinary copyright or informal pit bull licenses, i.e. licenses that say “look but don’t touch”.

So wouldn’t it be great if there was a website that cataloged conlangs with users in mind?

It should allow for search by license.
It should catalog a few key features and calculate “distances” between English and the conlang.
It should catalog measures, such as vocabulary, and a possibly a few more measure such as average number of morphemes per word, number of pronouns, and other proxies for complexity. Since this is only for helping people search and sort a list of conlangs, these measures don’t need to be especially academically rigorous.
It should allow for data entry from random people on the web.
It should allow for upload of redistributable lexicons and reference grammars.
It should be seeded with as many known public domain or redistributable language descriptions as possible.
It should allow search by goal & include the possibility of adding unexpected whimsical goals.

It maybe should have reviews.
It should definately have pointers to where the language’s offline and online community congregates.

This entry was posted in online communties. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.