How to Make an A Posteriori Language

The following is a partial transcript of the video How to Make an A Posteriori Language - Part 1: Introduction created by Shmili Langs.

The transcript covers only the English part of the video, as the intro already has subtitles in the original video.

Note: I highlighted some of the key terms mentioned in the video, and added some section headings which were not part of the original video, to make the transcript easier to read.


Intro and Examples

So you want to make a language.

There are a ton of great conlang tutorial series out there, but they all focus on a specific type of conlang: a priori.

And while this type accounts for most conlangs in the present media – Dothraki, Sindarin, Klingon etc. – there is also a huge market for a posteriori conlangs – Trigadesleng, Azr├ín Brithenig Chakobsa, and many more.


You wanna make one of those. But what actually is the difference between a priori and a posteriori conlangs?

Well, the generally accepted definition is that a priori conlangs are made from scratch, whereas a posteriori conlangs are evolved from a pre-existing language.

Na'vi is an a priori conlang because it evolves from a proto-lang that was completely made up, whereas Trigadesleng is an a posteriori conlang because it evolves from English.

Existing Tutorials

There are some awesome conlang tutorials out there but they really only teach people how to make a priori conlangs not, a posteriori conlangs.

I love a priori conlangs. Most of my conlangs as seen on my channel are a priori, but I've made a few a posteriori conlangs and run into a problem, which is that the skills required to make a posteriori conlangs are actually pretty different than those required to make a priori conlangs. I learned this the hard way.

So this series will be a tutorial series specifically for naturalistic a posteriori conlangs.

Series Overview

We'll learn how to build a historical context for our conlang – where, when, how, and why it's spoken, how to research the pre-existing language or languages we want our conlang to evolve from, and then finally how to evolve that conlang from those languages and make it our own.

In each episode we'll learn tips and tricks specifically geared for a posteriori conlanging and we'll use as an example language my most developed a posteriori conlang – Paresi – that you witnessed in the introduction, so that the series will be partly a showcase of that language as well.

I'll talk more about this in the next video, but Paresi is a polypersonal Romance-Semitic creole, spoken in the Eastern Mediterranean, with heavy Coptic and Greek influences.

Major Differences

So to illustrate a few of the major differences between a priori and a posteriori conlanging, let's look at Biblaridion's great "How to Make a Language" tutorial series, geared for a priori conlanging. Incredible series I would highly recommend you go watch if you haven't somehow already!

There are eight parts:

  • an introduction
  • four episodes on building the proto-lang
  • two episodes on evolving the proto-lang into the modern language, and
  • a final episode about writing systems.

When you're making an a posteriori conlang though, you can just trash these first four. You don't need to build a proto-lang because you already have one.

This makes the process much easier. No time spent building a language that you don't even like and won't even use, or that you end up liking too much and working on instead of what you had originally planned for.

For an a posteriori conlang, you just have to do evolution and of course a script is always optional, but fun. That's a huge difference, and it makes it easier, but there is a trade-off: Although you don't have to make a proto-lang from scratch, you do still have to research the proto-lang or proto-langs you're using in order to later evolve them.

Which way is easier I don't know. It really depends on which proto-lang you're using and how much documentation it has.

So you replace proto-lang building with proto-lang researching and then the other difference, less major, is how you actually do the evolving.

In a priori conlanging the lexicon and grammar of the proto-lang is limited by you and only you. You can add more words and create more grammar whenever you want, and change things to be whatever you need them to be. You can't do that with a posteriori conlanging: Your proto-lang is limited by how much documentation it has.

But conversely, you can draw from real-world evolution of related or neighboring languages for inspiration while a posteriori conlanging, which is not necessarily something you do while a priori conlanging, at least while keeping naturalism.

It's not necessarily an easier or harder process, but it is different.


So here's the basic plan of the series in six episodes and I'll see you next time, as we'll build the historical context for our conlang.

Copyright © 2021 by Thomas Heller [ˈtoːmas ˈhɛlɐ]