Essay on the Psychology of the Invention
of Artificial Languages


Dr. med. Jaroslav Stuchlík
Professor of Psychiatry
University of Prague, Czechoslovakia

The goal of this essay is to give a certain picture of the psychology of the origin, the formation, and finally of the utilization of the so-called artificial languages, creations in which in their form (verbal, phonic or written) or in their tenor, one can distinguish all or several of the signs characterizing language.

As far as a tongue is concerned, a language, as much as is globally conceivable, the work of which we are speaking must in its simplest forms be capable of naming objects, of explaining their qualities, functions and relations (that is to say, in its grammatical expression, the noun ‑substantive‑, adjective, verb, beside secondary forms of rapports or relations), must be a global expression of thought in all its parts and even in its general form or its relations.

The creation of an agglomeration of sounds, whether the formation was intentional, as for example in the necessity of describing new realities or relations or whether it derived its origin from no matter what mechanism of psychic activity, of which we will speak later, has been, for a long time, called a neoformation, or neologism. If the neoformation does not yet possess the character of a word, at least evident or inferred, it is possible, or rather necessary to speak of a pseudo-word or a quasi-word.

The works of a greater extent and dimension, on the one hand, and on the other coordinated according to rules more or less due to chance, or even well determined, are, according to a not very schematic division, of three categories:

l). The transformations of form of a current language, born on the basis of the regular disfiguration of words (intercalations, enclitics, prefixes, alliteration of sounds, grammatical and orthographical unorthodoxies, artificial defects—intentional faults—etc.) are historically called ideoglosses, for they are, almost without exception, so to speak, created for “personal” needs.

2). Continued productions more or less unconscious and incomprehensible, possessing externally the character of a spoken language and reproduced as a “new language”, with irrepeatable rules, untranslatable; we call them glossolalies, or simply lalies (phonic form, and of course the graphic form also: glossography). They are known in history under the names of “Zungenreden”, or xenoglossy (Saint Paul called them this in the course of the description of the miracle of heaven’s gift of languages), “speaking with tongues,” etc.

3). The complexes constructed according to well determined grammatical rules and with a fixed vocabulary, possessing consequently, in all points, the character of a true language, are called by me neophasies. They are obviously not at all of the same perfection, but still possess the two fundamental characteristics already mentioned.

The artificial languages or tongues are neophasies.

I will speak but briefly of groups one and two,—just enough to cause to stand out their distinction from the phasic neoformations on the one hand, and on the other to render easier the whole understanding of certain forms of the phenomenon (not genesis) of the creation of artificial languages.

Neologisms can be created simply according to an idea, an immediate invention, as is most often the case with the premeditated, thus purely intentional creations. In this case, one cannot, of course, speak of rules, whichever they may be. Besides intentional inventions, neologisms can be born in the course of pathological circumstances, in which they express, for example, “hallucinatory new” realities, that is to say, for the individual realities not yet named. (It is, by the way, thus that all the new expressions in technology, chemistry, the natural sciences, etc., are born.)

The organically conditioned incapacities (defects of arteriosclerotics, epileptics, idiots, persons afflicted with diffused or local cerebral diseases) can lead to the production of neologisms. Sometimes simple sensory defects (hearing especially) lead to a neoformation reproducing poorly the heard word,—thus to a certain “pseudo-neologism” as far as genesis is concerned, but to a true neologism in as far as production is concerned. The psychology of these forms or of their origin represents a psychopathology of thought in the largest sense of the word, but is neither psychology nor psychopathology of the language in the proper sense of the word.

For no other reason than curiosity, I will mention a completely independent group of neologisms, formed of condensations, linkings of fractions of current words. We are speaking of druse words or words joined to one another. They were historically called “portmanteau words”, and still are, from the name which Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice in Wonderland” or rather his mouthpiece, Humpty Dumpty, gave to them. American journalistic parlance makes especially great use of them, and they were designated in several ways. Harold Wentworth found 19 names for these neoformations, among which were several characterizing perfectly their origin. As for example, acrotypes or acronyms for the words which come about from the linking of the initial letters of terms designating a subject (UNESCO), or even from the linking of the first syllables (Komsomol), Russian, youth organization, from Kommunisticheskii Soyuz Molodezhi), etc. It being given that it is a question of the linking of fractions of words, and even of whole words, I consider the term “druse” as precise and more suitable than the traditional “portmanteau words.” Acrotypes are used in all languages, but they are not considered as neologisms, and these neologisms obviously possess no psychology. The same is true of the “words” engendered by the repetition of a single, but constant group of letters before, or among, or after the syllables, as children do in their ideoglossies (allons à la maison = alulonlu alu lalu mailusonlu, etc.) Such neologisms are much more malformations of current words than true neoformations, and are in no manner psychological problems. I should like to mention only that it is always more or less of a question of the love of the game in the largest expression of this term, that is to say of a “ludic” origin (ludus = game).

The lalies are completely different, both from the point of view of form, and from the point of view of genesis, and thus from the psychologic point of view also.

It is a question here of agglomerations of sounds created in the course of total trances, that is to say in an altered conscious state, or in a semi-conscious state, or even in a state of delirium. These agglomerations give in general the impression of an allocution, of a conversation. They are, at least when it is a question of manifestations of somnambulism, pronounced as a true conversation, or, one might.say, more like a sermon.

These states are, from the psychic point of view, characterized by an alteration of the conscious. We are speaking of delirium, of mental confusion, of dementia, or of an oniric state, according to the prevailing element. But the single basis of all these states is in the alteration of the conscious, that is, speaking physiologically, the alteration of the function of the cerebral cortex. It is thus that other mechanisms manifest themselves, which we call mechanisms of the subcortical psychism, or the subconscious. There takes place, in the course of these states, a more or less profound or extended alteration of the sensory function (hallucinations, for instance), or of the intellectual function (flight and incoherence of thought) or even of the motor action (states of agitation or prostration). The perception is certainly altered, the preponderance of internal mechanisms complete and unintelligible, and thus the final productions respond to these extraordinary states. But it being given that the psychism cannot be without contents, these productions surely possess a certain tenor, the most often of a religious or moralizing nature. Or they manifest hallucinatory states, as one could observe in the hysterical patient of Dr. Flournoy, for example, who spoke “martian.”

These productions are, from the linguistic point of view, interesting only in the case where one can by the analysis of the pseudo-words and pseudo-phrases, etc., find in them a certain content and certain connections with the subconscious. They haven’t as far as the psychology of language is concerned, any greater importance even from the point of view of form, which is to say that they cannot contribute to the explanation of the form of words, the utilization of letters and their grouping, etc., which would doubtless be useful.

In the case of chronic paranoids, delirious persons particularly who possess a certain character of affectivity, it can happen, principally in those cases where delusions of grandeur prepare a favorable terrain, that there will arise a stabilization of form and a more organized production, that is to say, a linguistic regimentation more or less perfect.

It is thus that there are born creations, which, whatever their primitive character, may have been, can, without any exigency of, course, be considered artificial languages. There are cited in literature few such imperfect “languages”; they always depend more or less on the maternal language of the author or of his general linguistic knowledge. From the point of view of time, they are always ephemeral, of a duration of several months, at most.

They possess importance as far as our theme is concerned, primarily from the fact that they are intentional productions, just as can be the formations of languages which want or can pretend to possess a practical utilization. They are more or less perfect linguistic constructions, of which the goal is fixed or supposed, and of which the form has been constructed in this intention.

As far as the fixed efforts formulated and established a priori in view of creating a language which would be, according to plans determined in advance, an international medium of understanding, are concerned, we cannot speak of the psychology of the linguistic creation, but only of the psychology of the author of this creation. The formation by itself cannot be evaluated except in respect to the intelligence of the creator, but it must not be forgotten that paranoic and paranoid states in general, except for hallucinatory states, do not touch on intelligence.

I cannot, of course, in this study analyze the psychology of the authors of around a hundred artificial languages pretending to the possibility or even the necessity of being spread around and used universally. There is no doubt that among these authors there are a great number of paranoids, and that numerous creations of this category must be considered as the products of a false self-esteem.

On the other hand, one cannot doubt that one or another of these authors has created a language and even used it, from simple show-off-ishness, fanfare, or simply for the love of the game. I suppose that Jespersen, for example, a world renowned linguistic authority, did not seriously intend, with his language called Novial, to make the world the gift of a universal language which everyone should learn and know, and that when he wrote personal letters in this language, he did not do so for propaganda reasons.

The ludic character is in its largest expression, although the practical aim is not clearly evident at first sight, noticeable as much in paranoids as in sane persons, according to all the laws of psychology. By its emotional accent, the ludic character completes, in sick persons, a paranoid constellation already very accentuated. This manifests itself in different ways: a monumental linguistic construction, or even diverse graphic neoformations, complexity, or on the contrary a surprising simplicity in grammatical construction and in syntax, a vocabulary attached to the language best known to cultivated persons, as Latin, etc.

The delusions of grandeur more or less evident, which one can notice even in the most “normal” creators of neophasies, are, among other things, one of the bases of multiform creations, that is to say of a certain neophasic polyglottism. It would take us much too far to try to demonstrate what variations such and such an artificial language has passed through before taking on its so-called or true definitive form. These variations possess differences of structure and are really nothing but abandoned experiments.

One of my patients, very cultivated, has, not by corrections or perfections of already invented neophasies, but purely and simply by new inventions of new neophasies, attained the record figure of 16 “artificial languages”, in part, however, formed in a rudimentary fashion. The love of the game is united with megalomania, just as it is generally for all the other games (that which we call “sporting instinct” or “inspiration, poetic verve”, or even “élan, combative enthusiasm”, etc.)

I could, strictly speaking, end here my essay on the psychological analysis of the genesis of the neophasic formations, and as a result also of artificial languages obviously of a useful and practical nature.

As it comes out from all this perspective and these short deductions, it is, from the psychological point of view, necessary to distinguish the states of consciousness and intentional aim from the states without this aim, always understanding the word “aim” in its utilitarian sense. Let us not forget, however, that even a simple demonstration of “that which I know how to do”, for example, is equally utilitarian in a certain sense of the word; but neither a long explanation, nor a minute research into the expression are necessary in order to make perfectly clear what I mean by “a state of conscious and intentional aim.”

The psychology of the creators of languages which could or should pretend to a large and practical utilization is the same as no matter what other faculty of the imagination, of invention. There is always a little “game” in all inventions, and, psychologically, the construction of some original or singular “cerf-volant” in the course of a child’s games is no different than the construction of the sputnik.

The very essence of the game—always from the psychological point of view—is a flight from the monotony of everyday life, from material and intellectual life. The dream is at the bottom of every extraordinary human creation, from poetry, passing through the fine arts, and of music, up to the “new realities” brought to life on the theatre stage, and particularly that of the opera, or even in the writing of scenarios for film or television.

The scenic drama is, psychologically, on the same level, from the point of view of the genesis, as the intentional or simply “ludic” neophasies and the teaching which one can draw from plays is, psychologically, of the same essence as the enrichment which one can draw from the practical utilization of neophasies.


The creation of new artificial languages possesses, taking into account intentional aim, two psychological bases: either it is a question of a simple ludic manifestation with an unsought mixture of profit, one not expected, but always possible, or it is a question of a language whose role was fixed in advance, regardless of what the theoretic or practical motive for the creation may have been. And even in the second case, one cannot leave out entirely the ludic character.

Every neoformation is a manifestation of an evasion of everyday reality. It is thus, at any rate, with the formation of artificial languages. And even in the “most practical” authors and works, the flight from a reality considered unfavorable, annoying, or bad is perfectly evident. [someone inbked in: “all new inventions, then.”]

The creation of glossolalic or idioglossic neoformations which have only a certain resemblance to languages is equally in its essence, it is true, a manifestation of evasion of the reality of current everyday life, but the idioglossies of children fall into the broadest category of infantile reveries, evasion in the world of stories, and the glossolalies of ecstatics in the supra-rational category of the sentiment of the prodigious, of the extraordinary, of the miracle, of the world of the elect.

The simple verbal neologisms also represent a flight from reality, either concretely, and in this case this flight is modified by profound  internal psychic situations, or by simple volition.

In sum, the activity leading to neophasies has the same character as no matter what invention, no matter what art.

*Especially written for the International Language Review by Dr. Stuchlík and translated from the French manuscript by Terry T. Tilford, Translation Editor.

Selected Publications of Dr. med. Jaroslav Stuchlík
on Neoformations of Languages

On the Psychological Classification of Neoformations of Languages. Proceedings of the International Congress of Psychology, Brussels, 1957.

On the Psychopathology of Neoformations of Language and Writing. Lecture at the International Congress of Psychiatry in Zürich, 1957.

On the Two Principal Forms of Linguistic Neoformations ‑ Neophasias. Sovremenna medicina 8, no. 11, p.19, 1957. Editit 1958. In the Bulgarian Language with a Summary in English.

On the Neoformations of Language and Writing. Vesmir, 37. No.1, p. 19, 1957. In the Czech language.

Contribution to the Psychopathology of Verbal Expressions: Neophasia and Neographia. Acta Neurologica et Psychiatrica Belgica, 57. 1004, 1957. Issued February 1958. In the French Language.

On the Genesis and Formation of Neophasias. The Japanese Journal of Psychiatry. 60, 208. No. 2, 1957. In the Japanese Language.

Zur Genesis und Gestaltung der Neophasien. Psychiatrie et Neurologie Japonica, 60, No. 2, p.14. 1957. In the German Language.

Prolegomena to a Study in Neophasia. ‑ I. Introductory Notes in General and to a Case of Polyglot Neophasia with Multiform Neographia. Československa Psychiatrie, 52, 204, 1956. In the Czech language with an English Summary.

Prolegomena to the Study of Neophasias. ‑ II. The Psychology of Neologisms. With V.A. Giljarovskij: Parts concerning the Neologisms. Československa Psychiatrie 1958. Summary in English.

Prolegomena to a Study in Neophasia. ‑ III. Glossolalies and Glossographies. Československa Psychiatrie, 54, 94, 1958. In the Czech language with Resumé in English.

On the Psychological Classification of the Neoformations of Language. Neuropsihijatrija, 6, 1. 1958. In Croate Language with a Resumé in English.

Neoglossias and Neophasias. Investigation on the Neoformations of Language. Moscou, 1958.

Note: The author of the article above may be addressed as follows:

Dr. med. Jaroslav Stuchlík, Professor of Psychiatry, Medical Faculty, University of Prague, Prague 2, Legerova 8, Czechoslovakia

SOURCE: Stuchlík, Jaroslav. “Psychology of the Invention of Artificial Languages,” International Language Review, Vol. V, April-June 1959, no. 15, pp. [3-8].

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