A singleton, is a conlang that may have been created for whatever purpose, but happens to be suitable for someone else, maybe for the intended purpose, maybe for something else and it hasn’t been discovered by anyone yet. Hence the name “singleton”– the language didn’t go beyond it’s first creator, either for lack of motivation or for lack of successful marketing. But it’s a bad name because it doesn’t really cover all the parts of the idea I have in mind. Sigh.
What I imagine could happen with a singleton is that a random person could discover the language and independent of what the original creator had in mind, they might think, hey, this is a good language for machine communication, communicating for the disabled, communication with alien life forms, for writing a fictional story, or who knows what– I’m skeptical that conlang creators really know the strengths and weaknesses of their languages.
Some features of a singleton:
You can say most anything.
They are reasonably complete (i.e. have 2000-4000 words, a reasonably comprehensive grammar, maybe 20-100 pages long, they have a corpus of exemplary texts)
You can become competent
It’s reasonably easy or has learning materials that make it reasonably easy to learn.
The language needs to be pretty darn stable. In the real world, communication systems are incredibly conservative. A conlang that is continually changing on a fundamental level is going to really discourage use.
The language’s fate isn’t tied to a fad, a political opinion, or other unstable situation
The culture is superficial– by this I mean, you don’t get culture shock from trying to implement the system.
The culture is in the corpus– by this I mean, you could write about Elves, but you could just as easily write an autobiography or a calculus text book.
The corpus covers both real and fictional scenarios. This is a strong version of what I just said. A language that proves that it can communicate things as disparate as Shakespeare, the Bible and Star Trek is a good test for expressivness in different cultural contexts. That said, Klingon texts, if I understand correctly, do their Shakespeare translations by pretending that the events took place on Qu’nos, which isn’t as impressive a feat of cultural flexibility.
The language has no significant competition
I think the huge rafts of Elvish and Esperanto look-a-likes are failing to get adoption because if you like Elvish style languages (half completed drafts of a communication system that has a several versions with plausible but fictional diachronic relationship) then you are going to study Sindarin/Quenya. If you like languages that are an average of European languages, then you already can use Esperanto.
The better communication system doesn’t win, the one that is already established wins, unless! Unless the communication system is so different that it doesn’t really compete on the same grounds.
The languages fate isn’t tied up with the original creator
They are extendable. By this I mean extendable in the way that English speakers extend English, by being able to derive new words and more rarely, new wrinkles in the existing grammar, when necessary.
There are no legal barriers to use in any form.
Conlang that are based on a book or movie where a single author or movie studio has a lot of rights to the various elements are big question mark. Klingon and Na’vi don’t appear to be extendable and there are significant legal questions about what legally can be done with these languages. But at least there is some law to guide us. Typically for singleton, there might not be any specific licensing information from the conlang writer.
GZB, Kelen. I’d list more, but it takes so much time to determine if a posted conlang fits the above criteria. Someday.
Famous Conlangs. Famous conlangs are singletons only in the sense that I suppose they are complete and could be adopted for some radically different purpose, sort of the way the Esperanto was used an an interlanguage for a multilanguage dictionary project.