I am basically finished with the first draft of the conlang, having figured out how to handle nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, gerunds, participles, particles, and other features from English and Chinese and a few others. Mostly stuck with what feels to be SVO structure, but generics are stacked before the main specific noun/verb, so instead of "crea-tion", it is more like "result create". But similarly it follows "big tree" (generic first).

However, now I'm wondering how to make the language "feel good", like poetry. How does that even work?! Not how to make complex Shakespeare-like sentences, but how to just do regular sentences and make sure they don't feel "clunky" or, like in English, ungrammatical. What does that even mean to "feel ungrammatical". Is it a statistics-based thing, where we get a bunch of sentence templates in our brains, and if it doesn't fit the template it feels "out of place"? I wonder how languages with highly flexible word orders work then, like Latin (I guess). It seems people say even those languages have "preferred" word orders, so maybe it is also a statistical thing as to what feels good.

Is there any research on this topic? I am wondering what the next steps to take are to make sure things "sound good" (I know that is subjective, but at the same time, it's kind of not, many in English agree that certain phrases "feel weird"). After browsing through examples in a variety of languages from around the world, it appears that things can be said in almost any way imaginable, with word orders covering every permutation pretty much, some with more detail, some with less, etc.. So I'm not sure how to tell if it feels good.

How does it even work in natural languages? Does it just take a lot of speaking and refining it so we create statistical patterns basically? How much work would it take for a conlang to have that natural feel?

1 Answer 1


This is the field called "syntax": the study of how words are put together into sentences. The simplest explanation would be that every language has rules for this, but what those rules are, and how flexible the results are, varies from language to language.

If you're interested in the theory, I recommend Adger's Core Syntax: A Minimalist Approach, which you can find online. There are a lot of different theories of syntax out there, but I've found Adger's explanation of his version of minimalism compelling and also understandable.

  • I'm aware of syntax, but does the book go into what "sounds good" and how it works?
    – Lance
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 5:31
  • 1
    Based on your question, it sounds like by "sounds good" you mean "is considered grammatical", and in that case yes the book does go over it. Much of the book is dedicated to building a theory of English syntax that explains why some sentences are grammatical and others are not.
    – Draconis
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 5:50
  • 350 pages, wha'! It looks like a great read tho!
    – Lance
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 10:02
  • @Lance Be warned, syntax is in my opinion the most theoretically complicated area of linguistics. If you find yourself bouncing off Adger, there are other introductory texts out there. But Adger attempts to explain all of English syntax in his book, which most don't. (He doesn't necessarily succeed, but the goal is there.) He also claims a lot of aspects of his theory are true for all languages in the world, which I somewhat doubt, but they're still good for conlanging.
    – Draconis
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 19:02

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