Update: This is an article about con-paroles, languages that are used as languages. This caused a bit of confusion. If I missed any communities, just leave a comment, I know that some of the ones in Europe are active, but just don’t show up in the English oriented search engines I’m using.
I’m going to start with a few observations about the following communities, before I get to the more boring part, the listing. Which if you are here, the list is probably not surprising, except solresol.
Groups of users of conlangs are usually disjoint. People rarely join multiple conlang user groups at the same time. In fact this is so true that while in one conlang group you might not realize that the other exist.
The creator is often absent. Volapuk and Loglan didn’t really succeed until the community abandoned the inventors and created Esperanto and Lojban respectively. In Quenya, Loglan, Esperanto, the inventors are dead. In the rest, the inventors are just strangely absent.
Communities of makers of languages often are disjunct from the communities of fake language users. Don’t tend to have conlangers interested in fans or people interested in learning conlangs on them. Both do exist on those forums & mailing lists, they just aren’t the typical ones.
There is a stereotypical real life community behind many of these. E.g. Klingon = Star Trek Fandom, ditto for Na’vi and Quenya. Lojban draws on a disproportionately technical and academic crowd. Esperanto seems to draw disproportionally from the professional polyglot crowd (translators, interpreters, and the like), although I wish I had better data for this notion.
Some languages have been poison pilled. Is is a “get-off-my-damn-lawn” language, where the inventor wants no participation from the world? Is it too frickin hard to learn as a recreational pursuit? Is it wrapped in legal copyright bombs (which may never go off, but do you want to hire a lawyer to preside in a case against Lucas Films when you publish your works in Mandoa?) Is the language hitched to a dead fandom? (Land of the Lost comes to mind) Is the inventor crazy and still alive? Does it have a capital C con-Culture that isn’t appealing to people who may have to mention it to their friends and coworkers someday? I mean, an Esperantist is at worst going to be thought to be politically lefty and maybe eccentric, but a Wardesan fan, well, see below.
What sort of community? A conlang community is one where there are people (more than one) who have invested the time to learn the vocabulary and grammar of a constructed language and use it for communication, be it twitter posts or chat or what ever. This isn’t about the community of language inventors who communicate in natural languages about the means and methods of documenting a new language. For that, I recommend the Facebook group, the Deviant Art group, your own blog and that’s about it.
So on to the list of viable conlang communities. By viable, I mean, there is a language and a community, not that it will take over the world. And by right now, I mean now. I also use google trends to find out what is hot and what is not.
Blockbuster, Famous (which actually means more than 10 people)
Esperanto. Search interest in esperanto on google has been declining since 2005. The long term trends, imho, are not good. That said, Esperanto has an elephant’s worth of forward momentum that will take it a long way into the future. Esperanto will outlive most people’s interest in Esperanto.
Lojban. Google Groups. Search interest in lojban has been level– not growing or shrinking much. The Logfest is happening right now.
Na’vi. Learn Navi. It is very hard to tell if Na’vi is hot or not because you can’t easily distinguish fandom from language learners, without of course visiting a lot of the web & reading.
Klingon. Diplomatic Forums. It seems that Klingon has gotten quiet. The core members of the community appear to be as enthusiastic as ever, but the community doesn’t seem to have the steady stream of newbies necessarily for growth.
Elvish. Quenya101. The massive number of languages that Tolkien created and the lack of a final form of any of them, in my opinion has poison pilled these language for fan use. Yet fans keep trying.
Na’vi, Elvish, Klingon are going to rise and fall based on the corresponding franchises.
Too Soon To Say
Dothraki. It has a forum with posts.
Languages that had all the technical qualifications but were paired with a lousy movie.
Atlantean. Mark Okrands language that went nowhere because the movie sucked.
Barsoomian. Paul Frommer’s language that went no where because the movie sucked.
Smaller Scale Successes
Toki Pona. The language peaked at 2007-2009 or so and is on decline. As a small language with some of the features of an internet meme, I suppose this could have been expected.
Láadan Livejournal is alive. Seems to attract more women then men, which supports my idea that people do respond to the marketing for a language (with respect to the designer’s target audience). The creator “Suzette has been diagnosed with Alzheimers” — so this will be an interesting community to watch to see if and how a community transitions from having the inventor around to not having them around.
Solresol. This historical conlang has activity right now.
Volapuk. Another historical conlang, that imho, is just surprising to have any activity at all.
Interlingua. Has a forum. I think. I honestly can’t tell if this is Portuguese, Italian or Spanish. According to google search trends, there is steady but declining interest and significantly more than lojban. I wouldn’t be surprised if this community overlaps with Esperanto’s.
Other Esperanto Also-Rans (And this would include Interlingua, too) In the comments people mentioned that I left some out. Which then prompted me to start wondering how to define these communities. Are they two like Swedish and Norwegian, where one communication systems with two spellings provides enough reason to have two sections at the book store? Or is it like Chinese, where there is one meta community where people speak mutually unintelligible languages but read a fairly homogeneous version of it? The slavic conlangs are a similar challenge. If the community is made up of people who know three romance languages or three slavic languages and then realize they can read/write the romance and slavic conlangs, are they multiple communities? To answer the question, I’d have to read through the mailing list and forum membership and see how intense the overlap is. A project for another day.
Revival Languages. Depending on how well these were documented, they could be a interesting “forgotten” category of conlang (or thing that falls on a conlang spectrum). Massachusetts and Virginian Algonquian fall in this category.
Mandoa has a forum.
Vulcan Abandoned, but that someone reposted it, I guess is a sort of community activity. No evidence of forums. I kind of wish someone would create Loglan for Vulcan so that this Vulcan can go the way of natural languages once Esperanto takes over.
Conlangs That Could Get Fans
I’ll preface this with a warning tho… I didn’t test any of the languages for learnability or for having suitable governance (and sometimes the best governance is an absent one, as per the experience of many of the above languages).
Delang. The inventor is willing to engage the world in Delang. Old Wiki. New Delang Wiki.
Wardesan. It has a book. But it is poison pilled with a conculture that involves pederasty, isn’t available in English (or Esperanto even), and there isn’t a forum.
Ithkuil. Not sure if this is something that could be used for conversation & how that would affect the possibilities for fandom. As seen in the New Yorker article, this did get fans for a while, can’t find the forum or mailing lists though. Ah, some activity on facebook.
Usik. It’s an auxlang. I think this is the creator and he seems willing to engage the world.
Kah. This is a con-creole. The author is calling it an auxlang, imho a bad idea, makes it sound like he wants to compete with Esperanto. Addresses some of the issues that “small languages” address, but isn’t small. Haven’t really pegged this for what it could be. In any case, it has learning materials, mailing list, etc.