Language is the key to culture, real or imagined.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool geek. I mean, totally hardcore. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in the Seventh Grade and did, on and off, through college. I still, to this day, have a significant bookshelf of roleplaying games, including some D&D books. These days, I don’t have time to play, and the books are mostly there for theoretical inspiration, if I can ever get writing again. But, way back in the dark ages, before the internet, I had a subscription to Dragon Magazine, which was the official D&D magazine. It was there that I was first exposed to invented languages. Later, as I read more and after the internet became a thing, I discovered a community of like-minded weirdos who created languages, too. “Conlangs”, we called them, short for “constructed languages”. Some of the most famous are Klingon, Dothraki, and Tolkien’s famous Sindarin, more popularly known as “Elvish”, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them now.
Most of the results of my peculiar hobby, or “secret vice”, as Tolkien called it, are safely tucked away where no one will ever see them. Though, I did setup a page of resources and links over at my fantastic fiction site, Fantasist.net. I had some tools there that got so popular, they were crashing my webhost’s servers, so I had to take them down. I’d always meant to get back to porting them to a new, more stable and less resource-intensive programming language, but I never did. Now, though, there are so many people sharing things like this, and better than the stuff I made, that I don’t really feel bad about it. And, new tools for creating languages from the ether are springing up all the time.
Recently, someone shared a tool on the newsgroup I’m part of for conlanging, CONLANG-L, that raised quite a ruckus. It was originally shared by Boing Boing, and I saw it there, too. It’s a web-based language generation tool called Vulgar. The page I’ve linked to there is the “free demo”, but that will gin up a pretty decent start for a language, especially if, like me, you’re not a linguist. There are a surprising number of options, if you want to take advantage of them, and even more if you’re willing to cough up $19.95 for the downloadable version. That downloadable version still runs in your web browser, by the way, so there’s not any compatibility issues between Windows, Macintosh or Linux. Now, of course, this isn’t going to get you a fantastic artificial language, but, if you’re a starving fantasy author who wants to whip up something that sounds reasonably okay with a very little effort, this isn’t a terrible start. For me, it’s fun, but probably not more than an amusing toy to play with on a quiet Friday morning.
And, based on the frenzied reactions on that conlang email list, my sharing it and saying that it’s not bad, will irritate some folks. Which is a different kind of fun.
Either way, go, try it and have fun. And enjoy your weekend!