Review: “The Art of Language Invention” by David J. Peterson

The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building by David J. Peterson.

I know the author, so I can’t review this. That said, if you write fantasy or science fiction, please do all your readers a favor and get a copy before you name your main characters X’in’ia and John.

When I get an email from someone who’s eager to create their own language and wants to know where to begin, I have a tough time explaining what it is they should do. I think my conlang education was good, for what it was, but what exactly did it entail? I joined the Conlang Listserv and spent a decade there sharing my work, learning from others, and learning more about language. Should everyone have to do the same? Where is the collected wisdom of the early conlang community? Why is it not written down somewhere that if you’re creating a naturalistic ergative language, it will most likely be split ergative, and that those splits will happen in one of a small number of likely places in the grammar? This is something that every conlanger knows or eventually learns, but the information is only passed via word of mouth—it’s like we’re living in the 1300s, but we also have the internet and indoor plumbing!


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