I've got most of Mark Rosenfelder's books on conlanging except The Syntax Construction Kit (which I'm not sure I need).

The conlang I'm currently working on is a 'holy musical magic language' called Fae Spraesh which is developing differently than my other projects - it's Tolkienesque, while my other (mostly undeveloped) conlangs are mostly fictional blends of particular real-world languages and thus not Tolkienesque at all. I have no plans to study university linguistics, and I'm not looking to develop a Fae Spraesh writing system at this time.

Does The Syntax Construction Kit cover any new material that might be useful to my conlanging, or do Mark Rosenfelder's other books (Language Construction Kit, Advanced Language Construction Kit and The Conlanger's Lexipedia) and David J. Peterson‘s The Art of Language Invention suffice?

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    Welcome to worldbuilding, as the name suggests we are dedicated to solve worldbuilding problems, while your question seems a better fit for conlang.SE. Have you considered posting there?
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 5:51
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    @L.Dutch The subject of this question seems fine to me; we have a long established tradition of allowing questions seeking resources useful to worldbuilders on the site, even if those resources technically overlap the subject area of another site in the network.
    – user
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 6:52
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    Hi Brendan. We can move the question over there for you, but I think they're going to want to know what you're looking for in this (or another) book. That is, "should I buy X?" is a matter of opinion, but "I'm trying to accomplish X; would this book help me?" or "I have this goal; would I be helped better by this book or these other ones?" gives people something to base responses on. You can edit to add this information to your question. Thanks! Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 20:12
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    We don't do book recommendations here (though you can ask in chat), but it would be fine to ask if books A & B cover the same material as book C.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 12:53
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    I've edited the question to be less of a "should I buy this book?" and more of a "does this book have anything in it that my other books don't have?", since the latter seems like a better question for the Stack Exchange. I've also tried to clear up some of the bits where your text ran together in ways that made it difficult to read, but please edit the question yourself if you feel my edits don't get to the heart of your question or misrepresent what you were trying to say.
    – Sparksbet
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 18:08

1 Answer 1


I will attempt to answer this question, despite not having read the book, so please take my advice with caution.

Looking at the website of the book, zompist.com/syntax.html, you can see an outline of the contents. Rosenfelder describes the book as "a tour of modern syntax".

Being a linguist myself, it looks like the book I'd loved to have had while at university. It covers (English) syntactic theory in a way that looks interesting and not simply dry and theoretical -- he supplements the book by a set of interactive tools to develop your own grammars based on the theoretical ideas of Chomsky and others. He does follow a particular strand of syntactic theory, which is mainly common in the US, not so much in the UK, but he also covers some alternatives to the Chomskyan approach. Rosenfelder's own view of Chomsky is nuanced and somewhat sceptical: he has an essay on this on his website (which I wholeheartedly agree with). Note, however, that this is about English, and these formalisms have been developed by linguists working mostly with English, so if your conlang is very different, they might not easily apply to it.

Apart from Chomskyan Generative Grammar, he also talks about Markov text generators, which would be useful to generate (random) texts in a given language. This might be a useful tool to practically explore your conlang: generate some text, and try to translate it. Several other tools are also aimed at generating sentences, rather than just analysing them. The meaning is often a bit random (as it is not really controlled), but at least the grammar will be correct.

So this is basically a syntax textbook, which will introduce you to syntactic theories while playing around with the formalisms and actively doing syntax (which to me is the best way of learning about them!) If you are interested in grammar, and the formal properties of different types of grammars, this looks like an ideal book. In fact, I have put it on my wishlist with a well-known on-line book retailer.

However, if all you want to do is build a smallish conlang, which might not even have a very complicated grammar, then this book looks like overkill to me. On the site he mentions that there is "a chapter on how you can apply all this to your conlangs". So conlangs are not really the focus of the book, but more a possible application of the described syntactic apparatus to invented languages. I would assume -- from the description on the webpage -- that this is a fairly advanced book, which is great for linguistics students and for serious conlangers who want to make use of sophisticated formalisms when describing their languages. In that sense it will not cover too much of the same ground as his more 'applied'/'practical' books about language creation. If the previous books have kindled an interest in linguistics, though, and you want to know more about approaches to syntactic description, then this might be the book for you.

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