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I'm working on a concept for a constructed language for a story I'm writing. The people/culture that it's for have no vocal cords and communicate with a combination of body language, tapping/percussion, and pharamones among themselves, but have developed a separate language for use when trading with other peoples/cultures. This trade language involves plucking strings of various tensions, much like music.

My question is: Is it viable as a "spoken" language?

I've seen this question, which asked if music could be considered a language (which it can't, not on it's own), but I don't feel it addressed the idea of using sounds produced by strings/stringed instruments to create a "spoken" language.

(If it matters, the other peoples/cultures that interact with this one all have verbal languages. Please note, I know very little about the technicalities of music or music writing and that I'm more than fine with the language having very little in common with music.)

  • Hey @z2a, I have a conscript which is unused till now, I can share if you want it :) – WiccanKarnak May 12 '17 at 8:51
  • @WiccanKarnak, That would be awesome! Did you create it for fun or did you have a purpose in mind for it? I love conlangs and conscripts! – z2a May 12 '17 at 20:47
  • a mix of both I was just intrigued by all the variegated scripts linguistics had to offer, thus did it, do they have a P.M. thing over here and what all consonant and vowel sounds do you require? I will send it right away. :) – WiccanKarnak May 13 '17 at 1:51
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There is an older conlang that can be "spoken" via music, Solresol (http://www.sidosi.org/faq). So, yes, people have used music to make conlangs. I'm unsure of how it would arise, but, then, there are whistled languages that aren't conlangs. I don't think it would go away or anything, but why did it exist in the first place?

  • The music-trade-language? The people that this language is for is based on large spiders, so no vocal cords and they have their own language for communicating among themselves, but the other peoples they interacted with weren't able to pick up on it. Beyond this, I don't have the details worked out so well. As spiders, they do use webbing, and the other cultures had string based instruments, therefore it seems viable to me that, with some trial and error, a string-music-language might've been developed. – z2a May 9 '17 at 22:06
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I don't see why not, but as for interspecies communication, the string-music language makes the assumption that the auditory perception of the different species is similar enough that the sounds can be perceived in a comparable way. Perhaps the acoustic vibrations are perceived haptically by one species and auditorily by another. That would certainly be interesting.

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There are whistled languages, e.g., El Silbo whistled on Gomera. I see no problems in general, to extend that concept to languages created by some musical instruments.

Perception is of course a problem, specially when different species are involved (with different frequency ranges they can hear, with different features they can identify (consider Absolute pitch, an ability that is rare among adult humans)), so any design of such a language needs to be "tuned" towards the specific abilities of the involved species.

  • So a different range for each species they trade with, as needed, maybe? – z2a May 11 '17 at 4:43
  • @z2a: Yes, indeed. – jk - Reinstate Monica May 11 '17 at 8:59

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