This is a condensation of Sai’s article on Conlang Evaluation, minus the geek code stuff. (Update: Sai wrote a later article that express the same thing more clearly) Everything seems to fall roughly into seven categories.
1 How artificial or natural is the language?
2 What are the goals and were they met?
3 What culture is expressed by the language and how much?
4 Does it sound pretty or look pretty when written?
5 Does it hold up well as an information transmission protocol?
6 How difficult is it to learn this language?
7 If one has learned all there is to know, will this language be usable?
Of these, only #4 is easy to evaluate without investing a serious amount of time learning the language. It would be useful to assemble a version of this assessment that would be objective and easy to collect the data for.
I think the glaring omission is a dimension for community, governance and use *in the real world*. It’s my hobby horse to promote the idea that a language is embodied best by the community that uses it and conlang building is thus much the same as community building.
Degree of Artificiality
Naturalness. aka apriori, a posteriori
Personal Innovativeness. Does it break new ground, esp relative to the designer’s history.
Ambition. Is this a large or small project?
Global Innovativness. Does it break new ground, w/respect to all languages?
Family. What langauge family would this fall in?
Language with a tool with a purpose (especially beyond just talking)
Coherence. Do all the parts work together (toward some goal)
Success. Does it achieve it’s goals?
Language as Culture
Cultural Expressiveness. Does the language express a lot about the real or hypothetical people who speak it?
** (not really in the Sai list) Cultural Neturality/Exoticness. How large is the intersection of culture and langauge and whose culture is it interesecting with? (Not on the original list of criteria)
Political Liberalness/Conservativeness (what?) See Culture. Laadan and New Speak are supposed to be on far ends of this spectrum
Saphir-Worph. This is sort of a “goal” criteria, too. Also, this criteria depends on how you feel about S-W effects– are they real, are they imagined, could this language induce such effects, were they intended?
Directness. Is polite language verbose or consise.
Language as Pretty Sound
Melifluousness. Does it sound good?
Modalities. Can you express it in more than one way (writing, singing, farting) This is also an “Language as Information” criteria, since it is useful to be able to have a protocol that can be encoded in a variety of ways.
Language as Information
Density. How much information per unit of time, # of morphemes, etc.
Clarity. What you are required to say is close to what you want to say. (I.e. too many grammaticalizations vs everything ends up being vauge)
Noise Resistance. How well does it suvive noise, mistakes, dropped words or letters, etc. Can a reader recover from errors in reading or writing?
Language as a tool you, a time constrained hobbyist of average intellect, might want to learn
Complexities. The size of a language with respect to grammar, morphology, maybe phonetics. I suppose lexical size would fit here, because a large lexicon isn’t complex, but it sure makes it harder to learn the language.
Ease of Learning. This feature is contengent on who it is easy for (e.g. easy for English speakers)
Fidelity. How transparent the constructions are (e.g. compound words whose meaning is easily inferred from the parts)
- sound symbolism, coocoo-clocks, etc.
Language as a Tool you might want to use
Completeness. Can it be used to express a thought, some thoughts, all thoughts
Finishedness. This is really about stability. Is the language done to the point that it isn’t changing anymore, at least not due to active designing
Documentation. Similar to completeness.
Corpus. What has been written in this language?
Effort. Amount of time, work required to produce (separate from competence?) i.e. it just takes longer to type an idiographic language than it takes to write shorthand language