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Fictional Languages

The goal of the LANGDEV Project is to aid in the generation of fictional languages. This, of course, might lead one to wonder: What is a fictional language? The definition which we use is as follows.

A fictional language is an invented language whose origins exist outside the tangible realm.

It is immediately obvious that not every language which appears in fiction is a fictional language; English appears very often, for example, in fiction, but its origins are quite traceäble through the modern sciënces of linguistics, anthropology, and archæology. But neither would a language which sprung up out of thin air (or an author's imagination) necessarily be fictional; a language must have an origin for that origin to be something other than fact.

Because of this, although fictional languages and constructed languages (conlangs) are both invented languages—both are a product of human invention—the two categories tend towards non-interesecting sets with profoundly differing properties. To better clarify what the definition of a fictional language entails, an discussion of a few important differences follows.1

Conlangs are constructed, fictional languages are generated.

The word constructed implies a number of things. Construction suggests an architect, and furthermore, architecture; a constructed language might be designed by someone to be easy to learn, or to be unambiguous to understand, or to test a philosophical concept, or to have a certain sound. The act of construction is, after all, the manifestation of an ideä into reälity.

Fictional languages have no author, constructor, or creätor in the real world. Their genesis is not a plan which is executed, nor an ideä which is made manifest, for such a situation would place their origin firmly within the confines of the real. Rather, fictional languages are generated, over centuries or millenia of cultural and historical development—the fact that these developments are fictional does not reduce their linguistic impact. It would not be possible to make a fictional language which is grammatically unambiguous or easy to learn, because encoded into each one is thousands of years of cultural difference aliën to any speaker on this planet.

Conlangs are ahistorical, fictional languages are historical.

The purpose of a conlang is to construct a language which history has not otherwise provided, oftentimes because the nature of the language is something which history would not naturally be likely to develop. Consequently, although conlangs are of course historically situated, and doubtlessly grow and develop after their original inception, the project of conlanging is a fundamentally ahistorical project.

The project of a fictional language is quite the opposite: It is to produce a language with a history, culturally, etymologically, and otherwise, which has developed naturally—only according to the nature of a fictional environment. This makes them historical, and we can talk about them historically the same as we could any natural language.

The LANGDEV Project has strict requirements for its fictional languages to be considered canonical. Languages which fall outside of these requirements may still be valid invented languages, but they can not be said to be properly fictional.