Conlang Database FAQ
If you have more questions please send them to us.
- What is the Conlang Database?
It is a publicly viewable and searchable online database that lists as many of the world’s conlangs as possible, in one place, with identifying and classifying information.
- What is the purpose of this project?
- To gather details of as many conlangs as possible in one place
- To make the collection searchable in versatile ways
- To benefit searchers and the conlangs’ creators by providing such information
- To enable copying and use of the data by anyone interested
- How will the project physically manifest?
We have a website, which will house the database and enable the entering of new conlang data onto it and its searching by website visitors. Search results will be displayed onscreen and will be manipulable and exportable.
- Aren’t there already facilities like this?
Similar but not quite the same.
The closest thing to what this database is intended to be is probably CALS, the Conlang Atlas of Language Structures. This is similarly a database of conlangs, but aiming not so much to collect all it can but rather to record features similar to those reviewed by WALS in natural languages.
There are plenty of other websites or pages of various kinds that also amass details of many conlangs, but don’t aim to collect as many as possible in general and especially searchably and with identifying and classifying information. They include wikis, workshop websites, forums and other discussion media, and linklists.
- What inspired this idea?
Several factors inspired this project. For one thing many people simply like collecting complete and accurate records of a hobby or interest, whether in order to use the information or simply for the pleasure of knowledge.
There’s also the fact that there was once a similar website, Langmaker, which aimed to be comprehensive in storing information about conlangs, but unfortunately went down towards the end of the 2000s. It would be good to create a facility that does something of the same job.
For one of the founders there was a desire to have a representative record of conlangs on his conlang website, and/or browser bookmarks. However, confronting the potential scale of the job, and wanting to be consistent and evenhanded, he realised it would be better if there was a single, public collection, in the form of a database rather than a one-dimensional hierarchical list.
Finally, there are questions and ignorance about the scale and range of conlanging in the world, particularly on the part of people not part of the conlang community, including the media. Creating the database would provide an evidence base for addressing this situation.
- Who is running it?
A group of project members led by Matthew McVeagh and Aritra Sarkar. We discuss plans and development of the project in social media locations such as Discord, Facebook and Reddit.
- Where can I find more information on the project’s planning?
Our main public planning document is a Google Doc at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1y5QhCZpn3XcaosbP3wAEtoNGluLHHLzvateNZNAI6Ek/
There are also subsidiary documents to that: an updated proposal for database fields and options: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yrqSWOq1VTcpzvCxHlfl-MjKxLMZC2m6VNAejfmZgH4/
And a ‘Modus Operandi’ document setting out how the database and website will work: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IDhVDNEtXjoFv1W-hnrg6O6UqHVsChSzMVwmSFsC66k/
- Where can I discuss the project with its members?
We are currently gathered in three specific social media locations:
A Discord channel: https://discord.com/channels/748166870787555448/, invite link: https://discord.gg/J55RyKd (this has the most activity)
A Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2757660151170529
And a Reddit subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/ConlangDatabase/
- Who will the database benefit?
- The ‘conlang-interested’ who want to find details of conlangs they might be interested in. Such people may be conlangers themselves or other people who are interested in learning or studying them. The conlangs they’re seeking might be of a type they’d like to look at, or one they encountered once that they don’t have details for.
- Conlangers themselves who would like to spread word of their languages and have more people find them.
- People in the media, or other work that might involve passing information on to the public such as education or academic linguistics, who want to find genuine information about conlangs and get some accurate sense of the scale and range of conlanging.
- What will be the legal status of the data?
It will have a Creative Commons license and will not be owned in any proprietorial or commercial way. It can be used by anyone as long as they attribute the Conlang Database and share the data with the same license. We should not need to include any information in the database that itself is copyright; all data stored and displayed will be either collected from the public domain or the result of categorisation by the database’s compilers.
- What will you aim to include, and what will you exclude?
The database will aim to include as many conlangs as possible, and will exclude anything which is not a conlang.
‘Conlangs’ includes sketchlangs, jokelangs, conpidgins, abandoned conlangs, versions of other people’s conlangs, and anything else that conlangers recognise as conlangs.
‘Things which are not conlangs’ includes language reform projects, spelling reforms, ciphers, conscripts out of the context of conlangs, ‘pseudo-conlangs’ (the constructed physical form of languages without assigned meaning or internal grammatical structure).
For something to qualify as a conlang, it must be:
- linguistic, which means it has to have a relationship between a set of physical forms of expression and a set of meanings, with grammatical relations within the form matching relations between meanings. This excludes symbolic systems which are semiotic but not linguistic, for instance in lacking grammar.
- created anew by choice and deliberation. This excludes things that are only morphs or interpretations of existing linguistic forms, e.g. ‘language reform projects’, new spelling systems, language games/toy languages, pure relexes, codes and ciphers.
- standing alone as a medium of communication. This excludes things like jargons, cants and argots which are specialised forms of existing languages and which only arise and function within those macro languages.
- How will you go about finding and adding conlangs?
We will partly invite people to enter data on the website, and partly seek it out ourselves.
The website will have a conlang input form for members of the public to submit information about conlangs they know of. They could be the languages’ creators, or someone else who wants to add some.
Some members of the project will also work through various conlang information locations to find conlangs and info about them that can be added. Sources will include wikis, forums, linklists, CALS, books, and others. The information sought may be all data points about a conlang, or in some cases just missing data.
- What information about conlangs will be stored?
Currently we have a plan for a conlang’s record to have 13 fields. These can be divided into two main groups:
- ‘identifying’ information establishes the facts of the conlang’s creation. This includes its name, the name of its creator, its start date, any Conlang Code Registry code, and links to pages about it. A couple of more specific fields cover what scripts the language uses and any language groups it’s in.
- ‘classifying’ information applies assessments of the conlang’s nature according to various factors, using limited menus of options. These factors include its basic type (purpose, context etc.), the source of its vocabulary, physical modes it’s expressed in, and extent of its development.The last field will store a general and more detailed set of notes than any of the other fields. This will provide an opportunity to express what the contributor, possibly its creator, thinks is distinctive and notable about the language.
- Are all the data fields of equal priority?
Not necessarily. The bottom line is the name of the conlang, and a link or other reference information that enables the viewer to go and find out more about that conlang for themselves. The database website is not supposed to contain all information about each conlang that a searcher might want to know; rather it contains enough to draw them in and then hands them over (via a link) to the creator’s own information about them.
Having said that, although it would be a good start and better than nothing to get the minimal information, we would aim to add as much data as we can to each conlang entry.
- How can I get my conlang(s) added to it?
You will be able to add them yourself in the input form on the website.
Before that is available there is a publicly editable spreadsheet at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uulyGvrhxHxqiY9LnQ8e5hGbENzmEqTwEr0qeyWtsSo/ to which you can add your conlang info – just go to the bottom and start a new line. If you don’t understand what a field is for please consult the Planning Document.
- What if I don’t want my conlang(s) on there?
If a conlanger really insists, we will remove their conlang(s) from the database.
However this would be a last resort, as we would only be including public domain data, not anything copyright, and we are only aiming to add conlangs of which there is already evidence in the world.
If someone wants to claim they have made a language for which they have lost the notes we will most likely take their word for it; but if they claim someone else they know has made one but there is no public evidence we would probably refuse it, as the creator may not have wanted it to be made public.
But if the creator has already publicised their language, for instance on a wiki or forum, we are entitled to say it is now in the public domain and is fair game to be included in a database.
- Is it OK to add someone else’s conlang?
Yes. In some cases, such as historical conlangs, it is impossible for the creator to do it!
It is possible that the creator may not want their language in the database, in which case the previous question will apply. What is more likely is that the creator may not agree with the data that’s been added, and may want to correct it. Mostly however it’s unlikely there will be a major problem.
- Do entered conlangs go onto the database unchecked?
No, we have to have a reviewing process. Reviewers are project members who check the submitted data, primarily by following links provided and comparing information there to what has been submitted. If no link has been given they will do general internet searches to try and find the information.
We are aware that trolling or vandalism could happen; also that people could simply be mistaken in their entries. There will also likely be a lot of missing data that needs to be filled in.
Once the reviewer is satisfied the entered conlang will be flagged as accepted and from then on will appear in search results. In tricky cases the reviewer may consult other reviewers or the project organisers.
- It is possible to edit my already added conlang(s)?
In general, yes. Conlangers may want to change the data for their conlangs on the database if they feel some of it is inaccurate, if the facts have changed, or if the earlier data is incomplete.
As long as we are still using the spreadsheet to gather conlangs, you can just go there and change the entries for your conlangs.
Once we are using the website database only, you can send us a message via the contact form with your requested edits. We may have to check that the contacter has the knowledge and authority to request the change (we have to avoid possible vandalism, malicious or trolling attempts) and that the information is correct.
In the case of classifying fields, there can be disagreement about what categories are appropriate. Part of the purpose of the database is to get all conlangs under one system of classification, when it is a fact that different conlangers disagree about what terms mean, and many use unique or idiosyncratic terms for their own languages. These discrepancies will need to be the subject of negotiation; we will aim to accommodate creators but at the same time maintain consistency within the total set of languages.
- How will it be possible to search the database?
Searching the database is the major purpose of the whole project. A large part of the basis on which the success of the project can be judged is how versatile and useful the search feature is, and how satisfied searchers are with it.
There will be a main search form, either on its own page or on the homepage, which will enable users to search according to all the different database fields, in any combination.
Each field will have its own typing box. Where appropriate there will be wildcard options, for if the searchers don’t know a full search term or want to catch a range of results. Besides the field-specific boxes there will also be a general keyword search box which will range across all fields.
With regard to what is displayed in results, it will be possible to choose any range of fields, whether they are being searched for or not. Upon the results being displayed it will be possible to search again if the user wants.
- Will it be possible to list the whole database?
Probably, yes. If not all of it on one page, then in large chunks on multiple pages.
- What can searchers do with search results?
We intend to enable searchers to download, copy or print out search results. Ideally they will also be able to reorder the display so as to get a more convenient list.
- How can I contribute to the project?
The two main roles, which will involve the bulk of the work, are reviewers who check submitted conlang data before accepting it and compilers who go out and search for new conlangs to add in specific places.
Besides those there is also the work of the organisers who oversee the whole project. They co-ordinate the reviewing and compiling work, set policy and direction, manage the website and database, and represent the project to the world via publicity and other factors.
We will need some specialist abilities/knowledge. For instance we could do with several members who know how to use WordPress, PHP and MySQL, and people familiar with particular conlang sites, such as forums or wikis, who are prepared to do compiling work there would also be really useful. One notable ability that will come in handy is knowledge of specific languages used in some non-English forums, such as French, Spanish or Polish. In all cases come to our discussion spaces, send us a message or sign up with the volunteer form.
- Will the website contain any other features?
It is likely that we will have supplementary pages for various purposes. For example:
- To explain conlang or linguistics related terms, or factors involved in the database, website or searching.
- To discuss conlang issues like the definition of terms, disagreements about classification, the history of conlanging, etc.
- To provide links or reference information to other conlang resources that may be relevant, such as other our information sources, databases, linklists, wikis, forums, creators’ pages, books, etc.
- When will the database be finished?
Logically as long as people are making new conlangs there will be more to add to the database. Therefore the project will just continue indefinitely as long as people are interested in maintaining it.
Besides this it seems likely that there will always be some older conlangs that are rediscovered or mentioned to the project members over time even if the main process of going out and seeking conlangs from all available data comes to an end at some point. There may be personal websites, forums or books that have been previously overlooked, or someone may come forward with details of their languages that have not previously been publicised anywhere.
Consequently rather than imagining there will be some future time when all conlangs have been gathered and the database is ‘complete’, we should imagine that addition will be continuous but perhaps structured in an earlier period of larger scale activity and a later one of smaller scale maintenance.