This article is by Arianna Lemont.
Constructed languages are complicated, especially if you’re just starting out with no guidelines and no direction. Throughout my years of writing and creating fantasy languages, I’ve compiled a list of some of my personal favorite online tools for creating your own language, for whether you’re a newbie with no starting point or an expert who may have missed a few resources. All of these tools are available for free online (just one of the things that makes them great).
This one is the big one, and my favorite. The Language Construction Kit is designed specifically for conlangers, by a conlanger and is perfect for fantasy and science fiction writers. It leads you through all the basics, including sounds, grammar and syntax, the world building surrounding language construction, and writing systems, and is easy to follow and great at explaining concepts. It’s available for free online, but there’s also a print book out now that is four times as long and full of great stuff. The book does cost money, however.
This is still Zompist, but it’s a different tool from the same people. The vocabulary generator lets you take the basics of your language and play around! You can enter your list of sounds, categorized how you want (most like into consonants and vowels), syllable structures, letter substitutions and similar rules, and a number of other settings to let you generate word lists, syllable lists, and even whole paragraphs to get a feel for what your language would read like, and to help you come up with vocabulary. If it seems a little confusing at first, read the “Help me!” which explains it nicely.
Lingvo.info is a site full of information on real world languages. Its three sections are Lingvopedia, which contains linguistic information on 28 European languages, Babylon, which presents information on linguistics in general in a really easy to follow way, and Lingvopolis, which has links to all sorts of info. Though not specific to conlangers and, in my opinion, more helpful for beginners, it’s is a really useful source of information.
This chart is a lifesaver for new and experienced conlangers alike, but especially new ones. The IPA chart maps out practically all sounds in human language, and if you’re unfamiliar with it it can be difficult to follow. As a conlanger, it’s critical to understand and, if you want to go far with your languages, memorize. This chart is a fantastic way to start, because not only does it have all the IPA charts, every single sound is accompanied by a recording of someone pronouncing that sound. All you have to do is click and listen. It’s probably the most useful tool I used in my early days aside from the Zompist tools.
This is a simple one. Your normal keyboard probably doesn’t have IPA symbols on it, and trying to hunt them down can be a pain. The IPA keyboard lets you insert all these symbols really easily. It’s not a revolutionary tool, but it’s an essential for me.
Artifexian is a YouTuber who talks about world building in science fiction and fantasy and has a large focus on conlanging. His videos are fun, engaging, and easy to understand. If you learn better through audio and visuals than through text, or just like watching nerdy videos, this channel is for you.
How could I not talk about David Peterson? This is the man who created the Dothraki and Valyrian languages from the television Game of Thrones series, Shiväisith from Thor: The Dark World, and Nelvayu from Doctor Strange, among many others. He has a long YouTube series on conlanging that goes very in depth, and though I don’t feel he’s as entertaining or as engaging as Artifexian, he has a great wealth of linguistic and conlang knowledge and has had not only a ton of practice, but a ton of success.
And there you have it! There are lots of conlanging resources out there, but this starting toolkit should be enough to get you started on your adventure in language construction.
Do you have any favorite resources for creating languages? If so, share them with us in the comments!
About the Author:
Arianna Lemont is a writer and editor of fantasy, studies linguistics and culture in her free time, and is bilingual in English and Mandarin, having grown up as an American in China. She uses my multicultural childhood to build detailed and unique fantasy worlds.