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Nomilang is a mixture of Nomic, a game in which the moves consist of making rules, and conlanging, the art and craft of making a language. It is, in other words, a game for serious hardcore process and language geeks.

How to Play

Gameplay Overview

The idea is to create a new language by bootstrapping off a very small previously agreed upon minilanguage, consisting of just a few dozen words. Each participant will run a weblog, wiki site, or post to an email list, using the bootstrap language, contributing their own new words, grammar, and idioms. Meanwhile they'll be reading what each other has to say, and will in the next round try to answer them, communicate with them, and generally evolve the new language by a process of rough consensus.


To prepare, you will need to do the following things:


Once a bootstrap language is created and agreed upon, the game can begin. It may be difficult to gauge how big the bootstrap language must be before the game can proceed. It will probably not have to be particularly large in its vocabulary: Toki Pona has 118 words, and NSM has 61 semantic primitives. Somewhere around 50 or less may be enough. The trick is to selecting a good set of terms and grammar for bootstrapping. This is an art in itself, so the initial preparation phase of the game may be substantial. Once this game has been played a few times, it might be possible to reuse boostrapping languages; or it might be a good idea to use some subset of English or Toki Pona etc. as a method of bootstrapping for the impatient (no Lojban though).

Turns in the game then proceed as follows:

The game ends when all the participants are bored. It may be picked up again at any time, perhaps even by a different set of players.


This game is based on the corpus driven collaborative language Kalusa. There, each new sentence was voted on democratically: this led to a great deal of competition rather than collaboration. On the other hand, the anonymity of the project ensured that each idea was treated neutrally unless the texture of the input could be discerned (people who entered lines solely in lower case, for example).


Such a game might turn out to be complete chaos, but the idea is to try to mimic, albeit in extremely accelerated fashion, the manner by which langauges actually grow, for example in the form of pidgins. By emulating the kind of conditions that give rise to pidgins, just a few commonly understood words and a cultural need to communicate, the aim is to create a new language which is fun because it's infused with the jokes and humour and general day to day business of the group. With pidgins this might come about, for example, due to trading. Online it can be amongst groups of people who are already friends.

The game is extremely flexible, and more of a gedankenexperiment at this stage than anything else. If you want to try using a modified version of this game, please do. If you play this game modified or otherwise, please let me know how you got on!

The flexibility of the game really is a feature. Whilst the rules say that people shouldn't communicate about the constructed language in private in their native language, there's nothing really to stop people from colluding, and it may even be beneficial for certain jokes or pranks. Who knows? The main idea is to do as you see fit, and the aim of the game is to have fun. Cheesy, but it's true.

Technical Ideas

On publishing the list of players: if you're running a weblog based version of Nomilang, the convenor might want to publish an OPML feed of all the participants. Then if someone leaves, the central OPML feed can have their entry deleted. If people do want to come and go, it's really up to the convenor to massage that process along, but remember that if there are more than ten people it's probably no longer going to be fun, or people will start to become ignored.

There is nothing in the rules about what forfeit one must undergo if one transgresses the rules. Indeed, the rules sorta just consider that nobody will break the rules because we're all good players (right?). Again, this is where the game's flexibility comes into play: perhaps breaking the rules all the time will turn out to be the only way that the game is fun. In that case, make it a rule to break the rules. It's called "Nomilang" for a reason: not only are the rules of how the language works made up as you go along, but even the game itself can be melded and transmogrified as you go along.

Players may want to fork off and start their own projects about the language, perhaps making poetry or introducing their own fantasy framework or something like that. In this case, they should indicate that their content is non-canonical, and realise the burden of having to watch too many sources; but aside from that caveat, it's probably a good idea to encourage people to practice using the language outside the core setting of the game.


I'm planning to pitch this idea to some friends of mine who may be interested, and if I can interest enough people (thankfully it might only need to be a few) and we get to playing it, I plan to update this document and revise it accordingly. Wanna find me some guinea pigs!

Sean B. Palmer, 2006-12-21