Is there a conlang that tries to minimize interpersonal conflict based on a theory of how miscommunication can lead to strife?

What theory would it draw from?

For example, sometimes ambiguity of tone on social media can lead to misunderstanding and conflict, based on a misinterpretation of intention or tone.

Also, ambiguity plays a part - needing to provide context; acknowledge the other persons side, or have complete info before making judgments, not making assumptions; the need to be open, straightforward and transparent, without the ability to be sarcastic, condescending or patronizing; with a vocabulary of highly empathetically-twinged counterparts to some common words?

2 Answers 2


I've put some thought into this topic for some of the political elements of my world-building.

Let's take Non-Violent Communication for our theory.

In short, the idea is that if people can more comfortably and efficiently hear shared terms of the shared emotions and needs they experience, then they will more often be in a mood to voluntarily respond to the same. The goal is explicitly not to get people to do what you want, but to build understanding in shared terms.

This framework expects conflict in things like habitually interpreting others and telling them (directly or indirectly) how they feel or how they "make" you feel, in things like lacking a shared language for shared emotions and needs, and in things like spiking your "requests" with coercive responses or external rewards (which condition people to care about that reward, not to care about each other).

It recommends communicating via a cyclical process of 1) value-neutral observation of events, 2) statement of your own subsequent emotion where you are the cause of your own reactions (words like "mad" not words like "unimportant," which is a passive voice interpretation of the other party), 3) connecting your own experience to a shared human need (companionship, say), and 4) making a request (no coercion upon "no") for how you could meet your needs better and make life better. If your listener says no, listen for how they feel and what they need. Repeat this process to both refine your requests and make it easier to care about each other's internal and external well-being.

That's the theory.

A language could structure this with different grammatical structures for the four steps:

  1. observation
  2. emotion
  3. need
  4. request

Observation For example, these could correspond to grammatical moods. In the observation phase, you might grammatically need to do things like to encode evidentiality more carefully, and you can conjugate for all persons.

Emotion When using the grammatical moods for expressing emotion, suppose verbs only have conjugation for first person subjects, and you have to use quotation in the observation mood or something to reflect someone else's emotion. Moods can be limited in person in some languages: imperative and jussive (or was it hortative...) come to mind. The "prompts" of emotions might take the dative case to center the subject and predicate of emotion in the self (my conlang does this): "I anger toward it" instead of "It makes me angry." Perhaps phonological constraints somehow limit the verbs available to this part of the language, or else have some other way to prevent passive-voice pseudo-feelings like "I feel abandoned" (more an accusation or a metaphor than an emotion) here.

Need Suppose there were noun classes for categories of needs, thereby fixing their number...

... Nah, I hope you might enjoy to continue brainstorming for yourself.

Some speculated limitations You can't stop people from innovating your grammatical structures to go against your intention, and language does change anyway. You'd want to know more than I do about pragmatics and why some usage rules stick over time. You'd need the conception of needs, in particular, to make sense with the wider culture's notions of human nature and what's expected. You'd perhaps need some built-in nuances to play with or these formulaic constraints are going to get stale, because maybe every generation/social group will not cotton to speak exactly as people outside their set do forever.

Granting I do not currently believe language can minimize conflict in an absolute sense, I think a conlang could build some or other general theory of "conflict-reducing politeness" into its grammar.

  • 1
    I like that, thanks. Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 5:56

The genre of "logical languages", such as lojban, are designed to eliminate ambiguity as much as possible in every way (structural ambiguity, semantic ambiguity, tonal ambiguity, etc). But ambiguity still exists nonetheless. It's simply impossible to provide so much context and specify the meanings of your words so thoroughly that there's no possible alternate interpretation.

It is, as far as we know, impossible for a language to eliminate sarcasm and condescension. If the language is expressive enough to usefully explain concepts, then that explanation can be given in a condescending way. You can, of course, simply forbid this from on high: "if you're using this language to condescend, then it's not this language any more, it's some corrupted dialect". But that's probably not a useful way of minimizing conflict.

  • "designed to eliminate ambiguity as much as possible in every way" is not a fair characterization of Lojban at all. It really only attempts to eliminate structural ambiguity, and offers options to mark metaphor, sarcasm, tone, emotion etc. explicitly. And even then, that probably has more to do with the design goal that the spoken and written forms of the language should be able to reflect each other exactly. As for semantics: just no. The example from the linked answer shows a semantic ambiguity that was explicitly allowed for in the design of the language - it even says so in that answer! Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 15:44
  • @KarlKnechtel My point being that eliminating semantic ambiguity "as much as possible" is not very much at all! But Lojban did specifically try to have lexemes be vague rather than ambiguous, to use their terminology, so it was considered when defining the semantics.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 16:21

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