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So I have been thinking a lot about trying to make my own conlang. I have attempted before to create one in the past, however, all of them have sadly been abandoned. Looking back at them (since I still have the original pieces of paper for all of them), it seems that I have always had a difficult time with creating the verb conjugations for the conlang for some reason. Are there any general rules for creating verb conjugation for a conlang, or is there not?

Edit: Sorry about the confusion that I caused with my question (as pointed out by @nearsighted), I am asking about creating conjugations.

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You should clarify if you mean creating conjugations, or morphologies. The former refers to entirely different ways that a verb can inflect. For example, a language might have samel-ôŋ "to run" become samel-iz "I run," while vêsa-kh "to cough" becomes vêsa-nu "I cough" ─ two completely different patterns. The latter refers simply to the forms that they take, and how they are used and interact with other morphological units. I'll adress each of these, and for both naturalistic and non-naturalistic languages.

Naturalistic

Conjugations

If you're making a naturalistic language using diachronics, then you should probably be able to make conjugations via sound change. Maybe the old suffix for 1st person was an -n suffix, and sound change nasalized vowels before nasal codas and replaced word-final CC clusters with CCa ─ then you get Conjugation 1 (words ending with vowels): nasalize the vowel, and Conjugation 2 (words ending with consonants): -na. ─ Or maybe the suffix was -gh. Then it disappeared and lengthened the vowel, and the long vowels raised to new short vowels. Now you get a vowel shift for words ending with vowels.

Or you could do something like this: perhaps the proto-language contrasted telic with atelic verbs, or some similar contrast, and different object pronouns were used ─ perhaps, like we sometimes do in English, atelic verbs could use prepositions before the objects (cf. "shot," "shot at"). Then the object pronouns attach to the verb to become agreement, and then the telicity distinction is mostly lost ─ now you have two conjugations.

Morphologies

This is much simpler. Just have an old multiword expression collapse into the verb (do some study on syntax and grammaticalization).

Non-naturalistic

If it's not naturalistic, just make everything up! But if you need inspiration, look up some real-world language's verbal systems, and take some ideas from those.

But non-naturalistic languages don't feel very fun ─ you can just do whatever you want. I would advise you to tread the beautiful path of naturalism, instead of making non-naturalistic languages (unless you're an auxlanger or engelanger).

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  • I am so sorry about not clarifying, I was talking about conjugations, I'll edit my question to include that.
    – CrSb0001
    Apr 27, 2023 at 22:41
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    @CrSb0001 Thanks for that coveted green checkmark; however, it's generally best practice to not award it until after a couple of days have passed, because who knows? A better answer might be out there. Plus, once an answer is accepted, attention is drawn away from the question. Apr 27, 2023 at 23:14
  • Sorry about that, I’ll keep that in mind (it’s also a pretty common mistake that I make on the Mathematics Stack Exchange but I’ll try to keep it in mind)
    – CrSb0001
    Apr 27, 2023 at 23:27
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    It's the headings. You need to put a line break (as in, press the enter or return key) after every HTML bracket, or at least the last one before the italics. To pad out the edit and make it stick, I made a few more hopefully invisible changes to the formatting. Feel free to revert them, but mind the italics
    – No Name
    Apr 29, 2023 at 6:44
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The first you should do is separating two things: What should be expressed in the conjugation, and the concrete design of the conjugation tables.

Note that languages can exist without any verbal conjugation, and all categories expressed by verbal conjugation can be expressed using other means or completely left out when sufficiently clear from context.

When you have verbal conjugation, there is a distinction between finite verb form and non-finite ones. Essentially, in a finite verb form all verbal categories are explicitly specified, but non-finite verb forms are deliberately vague about some or even all of them. The non-finite verb form comprise things like infinitives (a language can have more than one infinitive, Latin, e.g., has 6 of them), participles, verbal nouns, supines, verbal adverbs. The number of non-finite verb form varies greatly between the languages of the world, and there are even languages with (almost) no non-finite verb forms (see this question and its answers https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/q/46570/9781 for interesting examples).

Now to the point of what to put into a conjugation table, there are actually a lot of verbal categories (see The chapters labelled "Verbal Categories" in wals.info: Tense, Aspect, Voice, Mood, Evidentiality, Polarity (i.e. Negation), Person, Number, Gender, ... , and as conlanger you can be creative here and invent new verbal categories fitting to the world you build.

Last to the point of designing the conjugation tables: Take care of some kind of redundancy, when you have person marked in the conjugation, reuse the person markers, e.g., for different tenses (there may be some variation in them). Starting with a fully agglutinative morphology and than blurring it by using sound shifts and elisions of sounds is a good idea to achieve this. And you can have different conjugation classes, as covered in @Nearsighted's answer.

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The thing about an artificial language is that you get to create the rules.

They can resemble any real language or be totally outrageous.

I recommend to you:

  1. Skip over some general rules on how verb conjugation works
  2. Look at some examples (I recommend more than 10 distinct languages)
  3. Try to find a pattern, twist it, flip it, at the end that's how you'll arrive on what conjugation ought to achieve in your language

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