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I'm working on a conlang that requires a LOT of work, particularly in the sound changes from proto-lang to the current version.

Instead of creating a whole set of words from nothing, I am considering using lexicon from an existing language and just putting it through sound changes to break it up and save time.

Factors to consider:

-Meaning simplicity- few to no double-meanings or idioms.

-Rare- Relatively few speakers, perhaps under 5 million to greatly decrease the chances of someone picking up on it (that may be too high or low, I'm not sure myself)

-Phonology- Complex enough to do some interesting sound changes but simple enough to easily transcribe (15 to 25 maybe?)

-Phonotactics- CVC ? This should be easy to copy but also to evolve.

-Availability- Online dictionaries readily available.

Note: I do not want to use a random word generator, as I am terrible at asigning meanings to words just from looking at them.

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  • I think this is too broad - any "rare" language could qualify. You'd really need to explain what you mean by "easy to copy/alter". – curiousdannii Jan 16 '20 at 12:45
  • Concur with curiousdannii about clarifying what you mean by "easy to copy/alter". I read it as easy to find an online source, copy it from source, paste it to word processor and easy to alter by stripping it of unnecessaries. – elemtilas Jan 16 '20 at 16:16
  • I went ahead and cut that part out. I was kind of looking for simple, short, and easily pronounced words, but even that definition can be vague. – Aezyc Jan 16 '20 at 19:14
  • It's still super broad, there are over 7000 languages, and I'd guess that at least 1000 have dictionaries. – curiousdannii Jan 16 '20 at 23:34
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One suggestion I'd give: use Proto-Indo-European lexicon for the words you want in your own proto-language, then use a word generator to create the actual roots of your language. That way you're not going to run into the problem of a having a word list that accidentally includes terms your proto-speakers would be unlikely to have.

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I would probably go for a fairly homogeneous language, ie one that hasn't had too much contact with other languages.

English, for example, contains words originating from many other languages (German, Norse, Latin, French,...), so your resulting language will probably also appear mixed wrt to word roots. Other languages (eg maybe Icelandic) will have had less external influences (especially if they are politically controlled), and so the vocabulary will generally be more homogeneous, and might be a better source for you. Unless, of course, your conlang is meant for a trading/colonial society.

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Try Khmer, (Cambodian) it has about 17 million speakers, a fun alphabet (abugida) where the two different series of consonants changes the vowel marker's sound. There's no inflection, it's very analytical, and it has a ridiculous number of glottal stops.

For the most part the phonotactics are CVC, but you don't say most of the consonants at the end of a word and instead do a glottal stop. It's an asian language, but it's not tonal.

As a bonus it also has a completely different vocabulary depending on whether you are talking about the king or not.

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Well, you could use any language that has a lexicon...

If someone working out your source language by following the sound change bread crumb trail is problematic or undesirable, what is preventing you from simply using a word generator? Good ones allow you to define phonology and syllable shapes.

I used Awkwords for a recent project (creating a long text of gibberish) and found it quite suitable. I think it would work for your needs as well.

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A lot of good suggestions are already in here, here are some more

  • Use another conlang as a base for your vocabulary, for an unusual feel I suggest Volapük or Lojban
  • Independent of the base you choose, apply some unnatural transformation to the roots to make them look unfamiliar. Potential unnatural transformations include reverting the roots (spelling them backwards), syllable swapping like in Verlan, or a cyclic permutation of the letters (putting the first letter at the end or the last letter at the start)

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