A year ago, I became fascinated by conlanging. So I set out to create one for my soon-to-be-completed world, but no matter what I came up with, the words sounded like English. It feels like I am just copying an existing language. After a bit of reading and watching videos on Atriflexian, I developed a little idea about phonotactics but never got around to my original problem.

Italian, Spanish, French, German, English... each of these dominant languages have common roots, but one will not confuse one language with another. Is there some concept that I might be missing?

  • 2
    One thing you should definitely try as well is changing stress. French, e.g., stresses the last syllable most of the time, which makes a lot of difference.
    – Cecilia
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 16:04
  • Maybe it is just an English accent in your pronunciation or imagination of the conlang? Despite being your own creation it is a foreign language to you.
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 9:24

1 Answer 1


Look at the vowel system of each language, and you will see striking differences between them:

  • Italian: Seven pure vowels
  • Spanish: Five pure vowels
  • French: Seven vowels plus rounded front vowels plus nasal vowels
  • German: A lot of different vowels (actually nine basic vowels plus rounded front vowels plus shwa)
  • English: A lot of very strange vowels: Back unrounded vowels and shwa even in stressed and long syllables, lots of diphthongs, relative rareness of pure, non-diphthongised vowels

So, doing something with the vowel system will make your conlang acoustically different from the major European languages. Not only the set of chosen vowels but also their relative frequencies play a role, making /i/ or /u/ the most frequent vowel in your conlang will make its sound very exotic.

  • ‘shwa even in stressed and long syllables’ — are you sure? I’m not aware of any English dialect with [ə] in stressed syllables. I myself have [əː], but I wouldn’t call a long vowel ‘schwa’. Also, it may be worth emphasising the huge differences in consonant inventories and phonotactics between these languages: English has complex syllable structure, vowel reduction and /θ/, French has stress-timing and resyllabification into predominantly CV syllables, and so on.
    – bradrn
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 8:26
  • Well, in this case it is just a terminology difference, I mean [əː] (or a similar sound) when I talk about a long schwa.
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Commented Sep 27, 2021 at 9:21
  • @jk-ReinstateMonica the basic problem that I have— which you have also mentioned in your answer— is I am not so good with stress and tones, that's why I have a problem with Hindi (my regional language). Is there anything or tips that could help me better understand this?
    – Momobear
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 2:13
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    I guess some practice in foreign languages is a method that helps a lot but it is tedious and time consuming. Choose a language whose sound you like and start learning it, at best with a native speaker as a teacher.
    – Sir Cornflakes
    Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 8:17
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    The selection of allowed consonants (and their frequency of occurrence) can also affect the sound of the language; a language with a high percentage of sibilants and fricatives will have a different sound from one that has a high percentage of stops and gutturals. Commented Sep 28, 2021 at 11:03

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