The essay Uncleftish Beholding by Poul Andersen is written in a special kind of English without borrowings from Latin, French, and Greek. The gaps in the lexicon are filled with German style compounds (in fact, a lot of them, like waterstuff "hydrogen" or sourstuff "oxygen" are real calques from Dutch or German).

Is this piece of art written in a conlang? Or is it just a funny form the natlang English?

4 Answers 4


I wouldn’t personally call Anglish (that is, English without non-Germanic (or sometimes even non-Anglosaxon) vocabulary) a conlang. Taken at face value, it replaces English vocabulary 1:1 with coined words, which is basically the definition of a relex. Whether you want to consider relexes a subset of conlangs or an entirely different category (perhaps a subset of ciphers and codes) altogether is subjective.

As a note, Anglish can also just be stylistic in nature — favouring germanic word stems over loaned ones where possible, but in the context of the essay you posted this is clearly not the case.

  • Isn't the definition of a conlang a language consciously constructed by a single or a group of humans? Like me, Wikipedia's editors consider it a conlang. Also, as Sparksbet says, that morphology doesn't appear in English.
    – Duncan
    Mar 3, 2018 at 16:07
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    As far as I can tell, Anglish doesn’t use any inflectional (“grammatical”) morphology different from english. It does use derivational morphology differently to derive new words, but these words stand in a 1:1 correspondence in meaning (but not internal structure) to established English ones(as far as I can tell at least). As such one can still do word-by-word translations between the two, by simply exchanging each anglish word with the corresponding english one. As such I would consider Anglish to be a relex, and I’ve mentioned whether that means it’s a conlang in the body of my answer. Mar 3, 2018 at 16:14
  • Anglish has made some unproductive affixes productive, thus in some cases, English requires another word where Anglish can produce these.
    – Duncan
    Mar 3, 2018 at 16:21

I'm going to disagree with Adarain and say that Anglish might be a conlang in instances where it is used to as full an extent as in Uncleftish Beholding, though I think it pretty much straddles the line between relex and full conlang. In something where the preference for Germanic word stems is more of a preference than a hard-and-fast rule, it's definitely not a conlang, so those are disregarded for this discussion.

While it is true that Anglish is pretty damn relex-y and to my knowledge doesn't change any Modern English syntactic rules (although if it did, it would undeniably be a conlang), but I do think it does some things differently than more transparent relexes. The word "uncleftish" certainly breaks the rules of Modern English morphology, and extensions of sense, as in using "motes" to refer to particles, give opportunities for the semantic space to change quite a bit (I don't know to what extent the author took advantage of this, however). It depends a lot on an individual's use of the language whether it leans closer to being a conlang or a relex.


This has been called "Anglish", a type of constrained writing. As compounding is a productive force in English (ie, it happens frequently and is not limited to an existing set of words), I wouldn't say that this should be considered relexification. A relexification would have a strict set of German style compounds to use, but something that is just constrained writing would allow you to generate alternate synonymous compounds.

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    While compounding and derivation may be productive in English, the word uncleftish is definitely not a word that would be considered to be part of English already. Nor are any of the lexicalized compounds used for e.g. the different elements. No English speaker unfamiliar with Anglish could guess that Ymirstuff is Uranium. As such I disagree that constrained writing manages to capture what Anglish is. Feb 18, 2018 at 14:20
  • @Adarain that sounds fair, I haven't actually read the essay myself. Though some Anglish would just be constrained writing, this one isn't as it brings non English roots in.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 18, 2018 at 14:44

Anglish is neither invented language nor relex nor just a casual / funny "style".

It is, more than anything else, a register. The Cambridge Dictionary says of register: We use the term ‘register’ to refer to particular varieties or styles of speaking and writing. Registers vary because the language is used for different purposes, in different contexts and for different audiences. For example, there is a legal register, a register of advertising, registers of banking and a register of weather forecasting. We commonly recognise registers because of their specialised vocabulary but also because of particular uses of grammar.

Much like how we have registers for differing social contexts ("street talk" or "formal gatherings" or "liturgical worship"), Anglish is simply another register. In this case, I'd argue that the social context is one of distinct national identity vs worldwide loss of identity. Anglish is clearly a distinct variety or style of English --- it is English pure and simple! --- and it is used for the particular purpose of distinguishing English English (Our English) from World English (Everyone's English).

The Anglish Moot goes into some detail here. The Anglish/New English project is intended as a means of recovering the Englishness of English and of restoring ownership of the language to the English people.

In linguistics, a register is simply a "variety of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting." In the case of Anglish, the purpose is as stated: to communicate using a restored & nativising form of English.

As an artifact, it can't really be called an invented language, because it isn't really a thing "invented". And certainly not in the usually understood sense of the concept of an invented language. For it is already English.

It's not a relex in the conlinguistic sense because it is not a matter of "making up new words" and replacing the English words one for one. (In the linguistic sense, perhaps.) Anglish is a matter, simply, of bringing actual English words, older words, dialect words, disused words to the forefront along with some loan borrowing and calquing from other Germanic languages.

My vote is still for Anglish to be classified a Register of English.

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    I wouldn't call it a register because there's no social context in which this type of language is productively used.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 18, 2018 at 0:46
  • There doesn't have to be a social context for it to be a register of English.
    – elemtilas
    Feb 18, 2018 at 2:09
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    Anglish lacks literally everything necessary to be considered a register and literally does consist of making up new words, not just using older ones - "Ymirstuff" and "uncleftish" aren't actual old English words and they violate modern English morphology.
    – Sparksbet
    Feb 18, 2018 at 15:54
  • Okay, what does it lack? I also don't think that the words not being actual Old English really much matters in a modern context.
    – elemtilas
    Feb 18, 2018 at 16:24
  • I wouldn't really consider Anglish to be English in the first place, so it's hard to argue that it's a register of it. But really it's just a matter of perception and drawing lines so I wouldn't say any interpretation is wrong per se.
    – salp
    Feb 19, 2018 at 8:32

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