The Wonder of Ithkuil

Ithkuil is a constructed human language created by an American linguist John Quijada.

As with many constructed languages, especially those which emerged in the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century, Ithkuil was not intended to be actually used for any communication, but rather to explore how human languages can function theoretically.

What makes Ithkuil so special among a multitude of conlangs?

While most of people who heard something about Ithkuil will say either ‘extremely complex grammar and crazy phonology’, or ‘high information density that can speed up your thinking’, those are neither unique to Ithkuil nor related to its primary goal.

What makes Ithkuil a truly unprecedented effort in language creation, and the reason why it is certainly worth being called a rare precious gem of human culture, is the exactness and precision of expression which leaves far behind the capabilities of both natural and most other constructed languages.

Let’s take for example a simple thing like jumping. Say, a boy is jumping. That’s as far as we can go in English if we want to stick to simple phrases. If the boy have jumped for a while, then went to rest for a while, and then resumed jumping, it can be either described in a way I just used, or still as ‘the boy is jumping’, which gives us only a vague idea of what the boy actually did. In Ithkuil, you can describe complex actions as easily as simple ones: Mar-rnigwalôk öqulêpʰ.

Anything can be described in Ithkuil with an astonishing degree of precision and conciseness! Feeling of oneness with the universe achieved through meditation? In Ithkuil, it’s just aççaçnalitto. Sudden surreal flashes and periods of neurosis due to fears one experienced in the past that gradually stopped? U’nazjakčilḑomš.

The more I dive into Ithkuil, the more I explore the depth of meanings and details of meanings that can be expressed, the more I pay attention to what I mean when I use other languages too, I ponder over covert meanings that are implicitly present in the words of natural languages, and my thinking gradually becomes more dimensional.

Of course, it is unrealistic to think that Ithkuil lovers all over the world will soon grow into a large community that will communicate in Ithkuil like lovers of Klingon or Tolkien’s languages. Still, I believe strongly that more people should discover the unique capabilities that Ithkuil provides for expression of human (and even more-than-human) thought.

If you are interested, you can read the official Ithkuil grammar and ask your questions at the Ithkuil subreddit where even Quijada himself appears from time to time. And in this blog I will write notes in a haphazard and unsystematic way expressing my feelings and thoughts about the language.


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Introduction to Ithkuil Formative and Functions

In Ithkuil there are only two lexical classes — formatives and adjuncts. Formative is the one functioning instead of a plethora of nouns, verbs, adjectives in other languages. This is quite common in other languages as well for one verb... Continue →