Is Gallifreyan a Conlang, an Artlang, or Neither?

Is Gallifreyan a Conlang?

We’d ordered our coffee then stepped into the adjacent room in the coffee shop in Crown Point when my grandson pointed and asked, “Is that a Gallifreyan?”

When I turned to look where he was offering his appreciative stare, I saw a wall of paintings, prints, graphics, and abstracts. But wait, he called that a Gallifreyan?

Jeremiah is 22 years old and knows ALL about these, what I thought remote bits of trivia, and it wasn’t until I approached the painting and he began to explain the intricacies of the canvas that I began to grasp that he was discussing a language, not an abstract technique. A language? Who would know that?! Well, he would, of course.

Ah, tis the beginning of another odyssey into what, even at this age, I still didn’t know.

Conlang? Sorta, but not.

The Gallifreyan language stemmed from the popular British TV show Doctor Who. It was spoken by the Time Lords of Gallifrey. The funny part is that the language wasn’t created by the originators of Dr. Who but a fan, Loren Sherman. In fact, it is not a real language and is not used by the show. But I was fascinated.

Gallifreyan vowels

It is an artistic way of writing English words based on a clock. The Circular Gallifreyan alphabet even follows MOST of the rules of written English but using characters rather than letters. Phrases are joined via circles. A simple word is contained within one circle, such as my name (painstakingly created over five hours–yeah–five hours! Hope you LIKE it!). Well, then, I wonder if it would be called Artlang. No? Can you “read” it?

My name in Gallifreyan--hint--starts with a "V".

There are blogs, pins on Pinterest, long lists of YouTube videos a minute to more than two hours, and countless alphabet charts and, unfortunately, more than one translation cipher on the subject. But that I could find, not one stat for popularity numbers. Granted, it’s a mesmerizing study and researching discovered that conlang (constructed languages) exist owing their creation from novel authors such as J. R. R. Tolken, well-rated TV series, and movies. Anyone speak Klingon?

Klingon is actually classified an artistic conlang, as is Dothraki (Games of Thrones), and Mangani from the Tarzan novels. A number of conlangs have been developed recently for such specialized films as Star Wars (Huttese) and Avatar (Na’vi). There are four categories of constructed languages, which is a language that has been “consciously devised,” not naturally developed, and these include auxiliary, ritual, engineered, and artistic.

Of course, probably the most well known constructed language is Esperanto, which was intended to be the second language of the whole world, originally published by ophthalmologist Ludwik L. Zamenhof in 1887. Repopularized largely in part by the internet and refined for today, Esperanto II is enjoying a fan base of more than two million people worldwide.

Are these constructed languages gaining interest? Enjoying a narrow margin according to media popularity. Certainly a millennial will recognize a Gallifreyan faster than I, but I’m sure you can remember many words or phrases of a conlang. If so–what is your favorite? Attribution for Gallifreyan in title: Clinton & Leslie Mason ©2018 V Williams V Williams

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