Shikin haramitsu daikomyo.

Dai kipt ese psh daes esh e dai lun byst te kA dayo d’ft.

Know what they mean?

The first is a real Japanese phrase meaning, very roughly, “every encounter holds the possibility for enlightenment.” The second is Kalash, a language I’m designing to be the common tongue of dozens of sentient races on Lavana. It means, very roughly, “I would be well but for the circumstances around me.”

I mentioned conlangs, or constructed languages, in my last post about worldbuilding. I am most assuredly a fan of language in general, and I can’t resist the concept of creating my own language – with vocabulary influenced by the speaker’s culture and a range of sounds determined by the shape of the speaker’s usually-inhuman mouth. I’m also a great fan of privacy and have made a few cyphers (or conalphs – constructed alphabets, consistently trading one letter for another) for use when I don’t want anyone but the recipient to read what I’m writing.

Singing a cypher-encrypted song is also rather fun. Especially when the cypher in question changes the syllable pattern.

My first cypher was Khraenian, a one-way cypher made as the primary language of Khraen, a planet I co-designed with my sister. A one-way cypher is a little more difficult to manage than a two-way, at least as far as memorization is concerned – for example, going from English to Khraenian, B becomes D, but D becomes K, and K becomes T, and T becomes R. In other words, B = D, but D =/= B. Slightly bogged down by this bulkier method of cyphering, I created Kommu (aka Dannu) as the epitome of simplicity. It’s a two-way cypher: D = T and T = D. It has a prettier sound in general, doesn’t change the syllable count as often, and sounds good when spoken or sung aloud. Besides, you can make language translators with two-way cyphers very easily.

Conlangs, however, are not cyphers. Conlangs have syntax, grammar, punctuation, a written script/alphabet, vocabulary, and often a set of sounds that the human mouth may not be able to pronounce correctly or at all. You can develop a conlang in relatively little time if all you need are a handful of words with a consistent look and sound for judicious use by your story’s non-humans, or you can spend a lifetime creating a real-size language with history, dialects, a writing system, and a mathematic system that isn’t base 10.

Myself, I tend to dabble in both extremes. Kalash currently consists of a handful of phrases and words, very little sense of alien syntax, and the growing idea that it’s a pidgin tongue drawing from three or four main roots of other, as-of-yet undesigned, fictional languages spoken by a few Lavanian species. On the other hand, Uhjayi is the native tongue of the inlanlu tahori with a syllabic root system, a written phonetic script, and a syntax considerably different from that of English. Uhjayi is undergoing major revamping currently, but I’ll happily showcase it more thoroughly in the future, when it’s ready for prying eyes other than my own to ogle it.

What about you? Have you ever messed with strange alphabets, cyphers, or even conlangs – either for pleasure or for storytelling?