LangTime Chat, Episode 36: Conlang Relays

In this episode, we discuss conlang relays, providing an introduction to what they are and what participants can expect from them. We use some past conlang relays to give examples of how texts shift as relays progress.

One of the relays we discuss specifically is the LCC5 Relay. If you want to check out the full relay texts, you can find them here:

You’ll find the PDF of the slides we used for the episode attached to this post.


What I’m about to type below gives away some details of the LCC5 Relay, so if you want to be surprised by how the text shifted during the relay, do NOT keep reading! Listen to the episode first and then come back to check out this super cool information.


Three animals are included in the LCC5 Relay text. In the original, the animals are, in this order:

  • turtle(s)
  • horse
  • goat

I traced the evolution of these animals in the translations across the texts, and I was shocked to find out the turtle is what became the great lion!!! It started in Leg 4 (John Clifford’s text), where “turtle” became “reptile.” Then Zach Wellstood translated that as “dragon.” It stayed a dragon until Jan Strasser’s text, where it was translated as yuksa, a word specific to Jan’s conlang, which is glossed as “a legendary creature that eats people.” He goes on to describe it as an animal that looks similar to a panther with a long dinosaur-ish tail. Alex Fink translates that as “big people-eating cat,” and then Tony Harris turns that into “lion.” Jeff Jones calls it a “large cat,” and David translates it into Dothraki for the final text as “great lion.”

The horse stayed a horse AAAALLLLLLL the way to Jeff Jones, the 12th (and final) leg before the text was returned to David. That’s where the horse became a unicorn.

The same thing happened with “goat,” where Jeff translated that as “antelopes,” and then David translated as “deer” into Dothraki.

As for the plums and carrots… I translated these as “purple fruit” and “edible orange root” because Hiutsath did not have words for either (and wouldn’t because my speakers didn’t eat human food and had no interest in naming them). They stayed “purple fruit” and “orange root” for a few legs until Zach translated the “orange root” as an “orange fruit.” When that got to John Quijada, it turned into “red fruit.” (The “purple fruit” was still there at this stage.) But then it took a super interesting turn when Jim Henry conflated the two as apples, where the “real apples” are purple (assuming here that the red ones are not real!). That trend continued, where there were real/true apples versus bad/evil apples. When it got to Alex, the apples became “fruits” or “sweet fruits.”

It’s so much fun to trace these twists and turns that relay texts take!! I encourage you to read through all the English translations of the texts because there are delightful surprises in each one!

By LangTime Studio

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