December is an exciting time of year for me, as it’s time for Lexember. I think there is some other important event that happens during December, but I can’t quite remember what it is.
Anyway, Lexember is a social-media conlanging-based challenge which started on Twitter in 2012 and was created by Peter Bleackley and Mia Soderquist (source). The rules are simple: participants must create a new word for their conlang for each day in December.
In this post, I will share some things I’ve learnt from last year’s Lexember. Hopefully, it will give you some ideas for this year.
1. It may not be too Late to Catch up!
If you’re reading this after December the 1st and have only just heard of Lexember, don’t worry! I only heard about Lexember last year on the 3rd, but I really wanted to do it so I made three posts that day to catch up. So if you’re reading this in early December and you still want to do it, I would like to remind you that it is not too late to start. But remember, the later into December you start, the harder it’s going to be to catch up.
2. Have a Theme
Last year I just made some random words for my conlang Nìmpyèshiu. Which is fine since it was my first Lexember. But to mix it up a bit this year, I’ll think I’ll have a theme for my entries.
A good way to think of a theme is to look at the vocabulary of your conlang and think about what kinds of words are missing. I’ve noticed that Nìmpyèshìu lacks a lot of vocabulary for substances, food, and diseases.
Also, think about things you would like to work on. Someone told me on Twitter that they want to do a fox-themed Lexember. This may sound a bit too specific, but it got me thinking about the large variety of words we have in English for specific species of animals (particularly domesticated ones). So I thought that doing a theme centred around the main domesticated animals in my world would be quite interesting.
As I’m a bit indecisive about what theme to choose, so I put a poll on Twitter so you can decide which theme I will do.
I also feel that need to make some idioms for my conlang, but I don’t want to commit an entire Lexember to it. So I’m planning of creating an Idiom every Monday which I’ll call Idiomonday (and yes, the only reason it’s going to be on a Monday is that I wanted to make that stupid pun), and I hope others will do the same and join in.
3. Have a Template
One thing that annoys me about my 2019 Lexember was how inconsistent I was with the format. Even at one point, I decided to redo my first Lexember post because I felt it looked so out of place amongst the others. This happened partly because it was my first time, and partly because of the fact that I decided to start it at last minute. But this year I have the luxury of planning ahead a bit, so I decided to make a template.
Last year on Twitter, I tweeted links to my Tumblr account, but I had a problem with some of the links being broken. So to avoid that problem this year, I’m going to include the text within the image so it is more compatible with Twitter.
As you can see, I’m not planning to include the ‘related words’ section in the image, as I feel that may make the post look too cluttered. But I will still add that section in the description on Tumblr and may put them in the comments on Twitter.
I have also made a template for Idiomonday:
4. Use r/conlangs for a Prompt
Last year, there were some days where I would stare at my lexicon for half an hour, unsure of what kind of word to create. If you get this writer’s block (or should I say ‘conlanger’s block’) as I did, don’t worry there are plenty of resources out there to help you. I found the prompts post on r/conlangs subreddit very useful. I assume they will do them this year too, but if they don’t then I will tweet some alternatives if I find any.
Another good source I recommend is Mark Rosenfelder’s ‘The Conlanger’s Lexipedia’, which is a useful book for conlanging in general. It lists words thematically and provides etymologies for them in various languages. A brilliant source of inspiration.
Also, following my previous advice of having a theme will reduce the chances of ‘conlanger’s block’ from occurring since it would provide some creative constraints.
5. Hint at Aspects of Worldbuilding and Culture
Lexember is a good opportunity to showcase your conlang, but it is also a good opportunity to showcase your worldbuilding. The first post where I began to do this last year was Lexember the 10th:
sàntsa̤a [ˈsɐ̂ːnt͡sá̤ː] – verb. to cause someone to reincarnate, to perform the ritual of transferring the mind to a newborn child [repeat-life]
After this, I started to make some more posts related to my magic system, creating words for ‘telepathy’ and ‘telekinesis’. This kind of content got more attention and was more satisfying to create because it was more unique to my worldbuilding.
Also In my final Lexember post of 2019, I unintentionally made an implication about Nìmpyèràn culture
bókṳn [ˈbǒːkṳ́n̤] – verb. to stare at, to make eye-contact with [both-look]
In which @conlangery commented:
I’m curious, with “stare” and “make eye-contact” being connected, if @StephenEscher is telling us something about how this culture views eye contact. For many cultures, it is not polite to make eye contact in all circumstances.
To be honest, I didn’t really think it through and I just thought it would be some interesting polysemy. Despite being unintentional, I do like this cultural implication as it seems very fitting for my idea of Nìmpyèràn culture. So I think I’ll keep it that way instead of fixing it, and keep that idea in mind when doing further worldbuilding.
6. Use Interesting Forms of Derivation
Worldbuilding isn’t the only way to make a Lexember post interesting. You can use interesting derivation patterns to construct words.
My favourite deviation that I did last year would be my entry for Lexember the 9th, which is an example of a ‘double dvandva’:
bàishilindá [’bɐ̂ɪshɪlɪndɐ̌ː] – noun. density, a unit of density [heavy-small-light-big]
If you didn’t know, a dvandva is a compound where the components are either examples or properties of the word. As opposed to other kinds of compounds which consist of a head and a modifier, neither component is considered to be the head. The example above is a dvandva of dvandvas: Bàishi meaning ‘dense’ is literally ‘heavy-small’; and lindá ‘airy’ (the antonym of dense) is literally ‘light-big’.
7. Use Narrow IPA Transcriptions as well as Romanisation
I recommend adding IPA transcriptions next to your romanisation. As you should assume that people seeing your Lexember post are not familiar with your conlang and won’t necessarily understand your romanisation system. Furthermore, I recommend using Narrow transcription over broad transcription, so that your audience can get a glimpse of some subtleties of your conlang such as allophones.
8. Show Native Writing System
As my conlang’s writing system is a logography, I have always struggled to find ways to show it to the world. Creating an image file for every word for the dictionary on this website would be a hassle. I enjoyed Lexember so much last year because it was a perfect opportunity to create and present some characters from my conlang. If you have a native writing system for your conlang then I highly recommend using it in your Lexember posts.
9. Show Related Words and Derivations
Words don’t exist in isolation, so you may want to show some related words derived from the featured word. Usually, when I create a word I go through a list of common derivations in my conlang and then add them if they make sense. Don’t get carried away and try to force each possible derivation, as this process shouldn’t be 100% regular.
It’s also a good idea to think of metaphorical uses of your words. A great example of this is my Lexember the 21st post:
bàa [ˈbâː] – noun. garden, memory [borrowed from the Mateshiyu word /baf/ ‘wall’]
Here I set up ‘garden’ as a metaphor for memory, which is preserved in some of its derivations:
nambàa [nɐmˈbâː] – verb. to garden, to remember [manipulate-garden] kinambàa [kɪnɐmˈbâː] – verb. to remind [cause-manipulate-garden] nanhombàa [nɐnhomˈbâː] – noun. a gardening tool, mnemonic [manipulate-thing-garden] kibàa [kɪˈbâː] – verb. to build a garden, to memorise [cause-garden]
Although I think I got a little carried away with the ‘related words’ section last year. For example in Lexember the 21st, I included nanhon ‘tool’, but I also had nanhombàa ‘gardening tool’. Looking back at this I feel that it was unnecessary to include the former.
10. Give Examples
It is useful to give at least one example sentence containing the featured word. This has several purposes:
- It allows you to test your conlang’s grammar
- It shows others how your conlang’s grammar works
- It helps you to understand a word functions in the context of a sentence
You can even add some grammatical words if you realise that something is missing. In my Lexember the 27th post, I realised there wasn’t a way to make reflexives in Nìmpyèshiu. So I decided to make a couple of postpositions that indicate that the subject was reflexive.
11. Keep It Simple
It’s important to remember that you are creating a post every day, so don’t overdo it. If your busy and a single word with a basic definition is all you have time for, then it’s ok. This may seem obvious, but you must have fun creating these posts. If you’re finding Lexember stressful, then you may need to simplify your format.
This year I considered doing audio files to complement my posts. However, I looked into it and it seems that it would very time consuming and complicated, so I decided to drop that idea.
I am also dropping some aspects of last year’s format for the sake of simplicity. For example, I will not be explaining the composition of the characters this year, as I felt it made the posts feel cluttered and most of the time it was uninteresting. Also, I now have a page on Nìmpyèwèn, so people can go there if they want to know more. If there is anything noteworthy to say about the characters, then I will include it in the etymology section.
12. Remember to Use Hashtags
This may also seem obvious, but I am mentioning it anyway since it’s something that some people might easily forget. The main hashtag you should use is #Lexember, as this will help people that are looking for Lexember posts. Some people will retweet or share Lexember posts, so it’s worth putting in that hashtag.
As a side note, I would like to thank @conlangery (The Conlangery Podcast) for retweeting some of my Lexember posts last year. I’ve gained many Twitter followers from those retweets and helped my blog to grow, so many thanks.
Other hashtags of importance are #Lexember2020, which will help people find posts from this year. Also, using the basic #conlang and #conlanging will help promote Lexember to any conlangers that may not have heard about it yet.
This year I will also be using #idiomonday for the idiom posts every Monday. I hope that others participating in Idiomonday will use this hashtag too.
What do you agree with my advice? Do you have any advice of your own? If so, feel free to leave a comment below.