Conlang Fluency Survey

This survey is focused on the phenomenon of people learning their own conlangs to fluency: thinking in them, writing, reading, speaking, and listening to them spoken in real time. Even if you have not attained any real fluency in your conlang, or if you do not intend to try to become fluent in it, it would help if you could answer the relevant demographic and typological questions in parts A and B; your responses may help reveal interesting correlations (e.g., are men or women more likely to become fluent in their conlangs? makers of engineered languages or artistic languages? makers of VO or OV languages? students, full-time workers or retired people?). The questions in part C pertain to fluency in your primary conlang.

Feel free to skip any questions or answer them vaguely if you think their answers are none of my business.

You may email your responses privately to me, jimhenry at pobox dot com, or post your responses to the CONLANG mailing list, where I will see them. If you post a response to the Zompist Bulletin Board, the LiveJournal Conlangs community, or any other site than the CONLANG mailing list, please also send me a response by email.

This survey's demographic and typological questions partly overlap with those of Sally Caves' "Lunatic Survey", but the purposes of these surveys are distinct; her research focuses on the conlang community and how it influences conlangers' otherwise solitary art, and I am researching more specifically how and to what degree some conlangers are able to attain fluency in their constructed languages.

I first posted the survey to various conlang fora in January 2008; I continue to receive responses at longish intervals. I gave a talk on my analysis of the responses so far at the third Language Creation Conference on 21 March 2009, and am now (slowly) working on an article on the subject, which I promised to Rick Harrison for his zine Invented Languages. Since he's announced that he's ceasing publication of this zine due to health problems (but the first issue was great! go click the link and buy a copy if you haven't already), I'm not sure where I'll submit it when published; probably to the still-tentative Language Creation Society anthology. I'll still accept survey responses up until I finish the article.

I'll make suitably anonymized survey data available later on to others who want to do their own analysis of it.

Jim Henry

Part A: Personal and demographic data.

01. a. What is your name (or online handle)?
b. May I quote you by name or handle in an article or talk about conlang fluency?
c. If not, may I quote you anonymously?

02. a. What is your preferred email address (if not the address you are sending the survey response from)?
b. May I contact you with follow-up questions?

03. Do you have a website relating to your constructed language(s)? If so, what is its URL?

04. a. How old are you?
b. How old were you when you first started creating languages?
c. How old were you when you first attained significant fluency in (one of) your constructed language(s)?

05. Are you male or female?

06. a. What is your nationality?
b. Where do you live now?
c. Where were your ancestors from?

07. What is/are your native language(s)?

08. What natural languages other than your native one(s) have you studied? What degree of fluency have you attained in them?

09. What constructed languages created by other people have you studied? What degree of fluency have you attained in them?

10. What is your level of education? What is/was/will be your major or specialization?

11. What is (was/probably will be) your trade or profession?

12. Do you work part time? full time? Are you a student or retired?

13. a. What is your (approximate) income?
b. What was your family's approximate income when you were a child?

14. Are you single, married, divorced, widowed, remarried...?

15. a. What is your religion, if any?
b. What was your religious upbringing, if any?

16. Are there other facts about yourself that you think might be relevant?

Part B: The nature of your conlang.

If you have devised more than one conlang, please focus in these questions on those you are most (nearly) fluent in.

17. What is the name of your primary conlang (the one you have invested the most effort in or are most fluent in)?

18. a. What are the basic purpose(s) and design goals of your conlang?
b. Is it associated with an imagined world or culture?
c. If so, are the speakers human?

19. Is your conlang a priori (devised from scratch) or a posteriori (based on a specific natural language or language family), or a mix of a priori and a posteriori elements?

20. Describe the typology of your conlang - what is its primary word order (SVO, SOV, VSO...; pre- or postpositional; etc.)? Is it isolating, agglutinating, fusional, polysynthetic? Is its case or word order system primarily accusative, ergative, active, other...?

21. a. How extensive or complete do you consider your conlang to be (in grammar and vocabulary)?
b. If you are not yet fluent in it, do you consider the language complete enough for fluency to be attainable, or would it need considerably more development for that to be possible?

22. Does your conlang have features that might be expected to make it especially difficult for speakers of your native language?

23. Does your conlang have possibly unnatural features that might be expected to make fluency difficult or impossible for humans?

Part C: Fluency in your conlang.

24. a. Do you intend to become fluent in your conlang, or did you when you started creating it?
b. If not, did you find yourself becoming fluent as an unexpected result of developing and using it?

25. If you intend to become fluent in your conlang, what are your goals or purposes for learning it?

26. What do you use (or intend to use) your conlang for?
a. Prayer?
b. Meditation?
c. Thinking?
d. Taking notes in the course of study?
e. Writing notes to yourself (grocery lists, etc.)?
f. Writing a diary?
g. Writing poetry or other literature?
h. Singing?
i. Writing the grammar or lexicon of the conlang itself?
j. Pretending in public that you are a native speaker of your conlang?
k. Anything else?

27. Can you write original text in your conlang, at least on some subjects, without looking up words or grammatical structures?

28. Can you compose well-formed sentences in your conlang about as fast as you can handwrite or type?

29. Can you read text you wrote some time ago in your conlang without looking up words in the lexicon or pausing to consciously parse or translate it?

30. a. Do you find yourself thinking spontaneously in your conlang?
b. Are such thoughts often full sentences rather than single words or short phrases?
c. Are they usually grammatical (as you intend your conlang to work)?

31. a. Can you think in your conlang, without deliberately constructing sentences word by word?
b. Are such thoughts usually grammatical (as you intend your conlang to work)?

32. a. Have you ever dreamed in your conlang?
b. Did the speech or writing in your conlang from the dream turn out, when remembered on waking, to be grammatical and/or meaningful?

33. Can you read aloud at conversational speed from text written in your conlang?

34. Can you speak spontaneously in your conlang at conversational speed? If native speakers of your conlang existed, could they understand your pronunciation?

35. If you have recorded speech in your conlang, have you been able to understand it in real time when played back a considerable time after you spoke and recorded it?

36. If you are fluent in your conlang only when speaking or writing about certain subjects, what are those subjects?

37. Have you found anyone willing to learn your conlang and speak it with you, or correspond with you in it? If so, please describe the experience.

38. a. What methods have you used to study your conlang and improve your fluency in it?
b. Which have you found most effective?

39. How do you do most of the primary work on your conlang? In your head, writing stuff down later if at all, or on paper with pencil/pen, or with a voice recording/playback system, or at a computer, or...?

40. Have you made significant changes in your conlang due to your experience using it? In what way?

41. Has your more or less fluent use of the language changed its phonology, grammar or semantics in ways you did not consciously intend? Have you, for instance, changed the description of the language's grammar based on the way you've noticed that you actually use it, or changed a word's lexicon entry when you realized you were using it in a different sense than the way you originally defined it?

42. Has your developing fluency in your conlang slowed down its rate of change? Have you refrained from making changes in the language that you would otherwise make because they would require re-learning words or structures you already use fluently?

43. Has your handwriting in your conlang changed as you became more fluent in it? In what way?

44. Has your fluency in your conlang influenced the way you speak your native language, or other languages you are fluent in?

45. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Email me: jimhenry at pobox dot com
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Last updated June 2009