The Journey Into Conlanging & The Way Back
Author: Carl Avlund
MS Date: 08-17-2019
FL Date: 01-01-2020
FL Number: FL-000064-00
Citation: Avlund, Carl. 2019. «The Journey Into Conlanging
& The Way Back.» FL-000064-00, Fiat
Copyright: © 2019 Carl Avlund. This work is licensed
under a Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Fiat Lingua is produced and maintained by the Language Creation Society (LCS). For more information
about the LCS, visit http://www.conlang.org/
The Journey Into Conlanging
& The Way Back Home
by Carl Avlund
It happened sometime during the spring of 2001 that my parents decided to move
to the countryside with me and my older sister. Our new home was in the
municipality of Lejre where my mother was born and where my grandmother’s
side of the family is from.
The part of Lejre we lived in was called Kastholm. It was and still is a great
area for children to grow up in. We were sorrounded by fields and forests on all
sides, cars were a rare sight, and there was far between us and our neighbors, the
nearest two being 100 and 150 meters away. It all provided the perfect conditions
for us children to grow and explore our sorroundings without a care in the world
for noise complaints and whatnot.
When I have to think of something Lejre is known for, I always say
history. Growing up in Lejre, it’s impossible not to be reminded of the past in
your everyday life. Everywhere you go, a Stone Age burial mound or dolmen can
be seen somewhere in the distance, and no matter where you are, there’s always a
megalithic tomb within biking distance. It’s not just the prehistoric era either;
the Viking Age was an incredibly important period in the history of Lejre as well,
and it left us with many things that I grew up loving, such as their mythology,
their ships, and, most importantly, their runes.
The thought of a rune stone alone was humbling to me: Many houndreds
of years ago, someone had carved these mysterious-looking symbols into granite,
the hardest rock of all, leaving the message to outlive the author, his children,
their children, and ultimately me as well. Anyone who has sat down for anything
over 10 minutes to study the runic alphabets know that there isn’t anything
inherently “mysterious” about runes. But their mere presence intimidated me in
the most delightful way possible, as did the way they seemed to refuse to tell their
stories to those who hadn’t spent time and effort in order understand them. The
word’s etymology, “secret,” was alive and well. As my love for runes grew, I
expanded my field of interest to other ancient writing systems, and for each of
them, my fascination remained the same: Each script was like a wall, or rather a
gate that held the secrets of long gone people, frozen in time, revealing
themselves to those who could understand it and inspiring awe and wonder in
those who could not.
I started making up alphabets for myself to use. Most of them were ciphers
of the Danish alphabet, of course, but I eventually ended up devising my own
semi-phonetic alphabet for Danish as well as corresponding scripts. In designing
a writing system, my goal remained the same: I wanted to emulate what the
runes did to me. I wanted to create something implying importance and mystery.
Each project, however, fell short. There was something missing. These fancy ways
of writing Danish were void of real meaning. It was as if they had no purpose
other than to merely exist, and that simply wasn’t good enough for me.
What happened next is still unclear to me. It could’ve been my exposure to
the intricate systems of Japanese, which I had begun studying sometime in 2013.
It might’ve been due to the discovery of many great online resources for
linguistics, especially on YouTube. It could’ve easily been the still rising
popularity of HBO’s show Game of Thrones and hearing about D. J. Peterson’s
Dothraki language. It could’ve been a combination of all three factors and
possibly more. Whatever it was, it led to the realization that was to be the
missing piece and the key to understanding why I was left unsatisfied with my
conscripts alone: They were without history and had no need to exist. I realized
that what seperated the real, ancient writing systems from my own scripts was the
presence of an underlying, complex language. And perhaps this was really what I
had been looking for all along – an actual, real language with as much intricacy
as any real one. This sent me on a long journey, one that I hope sees no end.
I kept experimenting and trying out new things. I’ve learned so much from
the people of our community. I went into conlanging, ready to receive criticism
with kyshånd, as we say here, and it has helped me improve greatly. It has even
gotten me to a point where I feel comfortable giving advice to others standing in
the same shoes as I did a few years ago. I’ve abandoned lots of projects over the
past few years after having gotten into conlanging, and although I’m still trying
to approach a state of completion with the few languages I still work on, I know
that I’ll likely never reach that point. I suppose it gives me something to keep
working on if nothing else.
Every day, I take the same train home from Copenhagen after a long day at
Gefion Gymnasium, where I study Latin and Ancient Greek. I enjoy it
tremendously, spending my days translating to and from languages that once
were spoken, not only by some of history’s most prominent individuals, but by
plebeians and commoners as well. After boarding the train, I always hurry to my
preferred spot: The seat at the very back of the car where I can sit by myself, not
having to worry about anyone looking over my shoulder. I sit there, looking out
the window, and I sometimes wonder how I ended up where I am and how
language became such an important part of my life and how I view myself. And
then, somewhere between Roskilde and Lejre, my eye is caught by a burial
mound in the distance, towering over the otherwise flat landscape.