Starting to get a word list together for Tune. As described, words can be either one or two syllables, starting and ending with a consonant, and with simple vowels in between. Words are then sometimes suffixed to disambiguate their POS. I am introducing the idea of saying a word to distinguish between a "formal" name, and an arbitrary descriptive phrase. The descriptive phrase is casual, doesn't need the prefix term ("gray wolf"), but a formal name is prefixed with a word like "form" ("Gray Wolf", so "form Gray Wolf").

That word list is coming up on 3000 words, I imagine there will be another 1000 necessary foundational words, which are just super abstract and generic words (mostly conceptual words, as opposed to animal names like "rabbit", though I have a few animal names which I need to probably delete). What I was thinking is, allocate some number of words (say 4000 additional words, so the total is <= 10k, so it would be possible to learn them all), and use those words for proper names. Sort of like how "Brian" and "Paul" (in today's world) don't meaning anything, likewise "foo" and "bar" might be "names" which can be applied to say, the gray wolf. So the gray wolf would just be called "foo", let's say. And a rabbit would be called "bar".

Well what I'm wondering is, what if you reused these names, in unrelated contexts. Like calling an oak tree "foo" as well, and calling a granite rock "foo" as well. Well maybe, "foo rock", "foo tree", and "foo animal". As long as you don't reuse the name in too similar a context/scope, then it seems like this might be fine?

The reason I think it might be fine is, usernames. There are millions of usernames just introduced in the past few years since Twitter, Facebook, GitHub, and a hundred other social media sites came out. Usernames might be a person's name like @jack, or full name like @BarackObama, or might be a thing like @DrumPlayer123 or something random like @asdf123. We can even speak these, same with hashtags, #IsItMeOrIsThatWeird, etc.. There are an unlimited set of possibilities here. You might have @Wolf1 and @Wolf2 and @Wolf17, all in your little group. Basically, words are used out of context for a unique identifier. It's not like we get confused that @Wolf1 might be a wolf.

So likewise, I am thinking we can have arbitrary names applied to the millions of species, molecules, etc., even if that name is used in some base context. But instead of arbitrary symbols, just limiting it to a set of a few thousand words. Maybe these words have a base meaning, maybe they don't.

I think this would work because you can create scopes, and within each scope, have a few thousand things with unique names. Maybe there are 2 or 3 levels for the "formal" names. That is 1000x1000x1000 or a billion possibilities at least. So maybe you'd need 4 levels, the "dark gray wolf animal" essentially, for formal names. You can leave out context if it's apparent, "dark gray wolf", or even "dark gray" when talking about wolves.

Would something like this system work? What are the main pros and cons of this approach? Would it create confusion? Do any natlangs or conlangs do anything like this? It seems English does to some degree with people names, which are used to label mathematical things (Schrodinger's equation, Lie groups, etc.).

  • You should know that homophones are very common.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 29, 2022 at 2:12

1 Answer 1


The word you are looking for is homophones, words that sound the same but have different meanings.

It would work.

Pros include that you get a lot of words, that you could get by with fewer roots, and that you get a lot of room for fun word play. As for the latter, the Japanese are fond of this.

Cons include that it might be a little harder for others to learn, and that you as a creator would need to be careful not to introduce confusion.

Would it create confusion? I suppose it depends on how well you build the language, but in natural languages it isn't too bad. Look at English!

English reuses words, as do all languages I know. And not just for names.

A file could be something you store in a computer or actual papers you store in a filing cabinet. You could use a file to remove rough edges from an object, unless it's a file of soldiers. If you go back to Shakespearean times, the verb file was used in a similar meaning to the modern word defile, which is not the opposite of the verb file.

If you don't fixate on spelling, there are other kinds of _file_s as well, such as Francophiles, pedophiles and others.

It's not hard to imagine a plant and a kind of rock both also called "file", without adding more confusion than there already is.

In my native Swedish, the word fil takes almost all of the meanings above, including the ones that English spell with ph-, and is also the word for a kind of sour milk I like to have for breakfast.

English is even sort of extreme in this context, as many words are used as verbs, nouns and adjectives, in what we looking at it from the outside might perceive as a chaotic manner. You can fish for fish and drink a drink made from an orange orange.

If you haven't seen it, search for a poem that starts "Dearest creature in creation". It's main aim, as I see it, is to ridicule English orthography, but it does a pretty good job at demonstrating the abundance of homophones as well.

  • 1
    There are also homographs, words that are spelled the same (but might be pronounced differently) Sep 29, 2022 at 15:31
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    The main issue is that the homophones should not be referring to something such that there's a high likelihood of confusion when you really need to tell them apart. You do not want people to confuse the blargh, the gentle herbivorous fuzzy bunny-like thing with the blargh that is a fast, vicious, known-man-killing superpredator or the blargh which is a type of woody plant with the edible fruit. Oct 12, 2022 at 7:35
  • @KeithMorrison Precisely! In English, the various kinds of files are very different, and are unlikely to be mixed up. This is what I meant by my "it depends" answer for the third question. There are of course categories, which add some ambiguity. If I tell you there's a bird in your car, that means something very different depending on whether it's a hummingbird, a penguin or a roc ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roc_(mythology) )
    – Edvin
    Oct 12, 2022 at 11:45

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