Internal History

6 parsecs from Earth, in the southern hemisphere of our sky, is the G class star Δ Pavonis. Orbiting it in its habitable zone is a planet known as lijin kovt. Its inhabitants, who humans call the Leyen, are crepuscular bipeds with vibrissae all over their bodies. These vibrissae make them very sensitive to air movements, and they perceive themselves as immersed in an active world. To the Leyen, everything is doing something, and the structure of their language reflects this. Every word is a noun and a verb at the same time.

iljena (which means "Leyen-speak") isn't the only language spoken on lijin kovt (Leyen-dwell world-hold), but it has the status of a de facto international language, so it's the most useful one for a visitor to the planet to learn.

As well as humans, the Leyen are also in contact with the Kēleñi people from the planet Terjemar.

External history

iljena was inspired Sylvia Sotomayor's language Kēlen, which is my favourite alien language. Kēlen has no verbs, and I wanted to create a language that was as different from a human language as Kēlen is, while being equally different from Kēlen. The idea I came up with was to create a language where every word was a noun and a verb at the same time. While simple, this system proved to be very expressive and I was soon able to participate in conlang translation relays with iljena.

To make this (to humans) somewhat artificial language seem real, I have worked on the setting, including details of the astronomy, biology, psychology, daily life and mythology of lijin kovt and the Leyen.

Because it was inspired by Kēlen, I asked and received permission from Sylvia Sotomayor to consider iljena part of the same fictional universe.

Key features

An iljena word consists of a triconsonantal root (as found in Semitic languages) which represents the noun. This is known as the kps (body) of the word. Before, between and after these consonants is arranged a pattern of 1 to 4 vowels, known as the brt (spirit) of the word. The name of the language iljena, consists of the noun root ljn (Leyen) and the verb pattern i12e3a (speak).

There are no objects in the sense that we are used to. Each word represnts the role played by one participant in the action of the sentence. Word order is used to group together related participants and indicate the flow of the action.

Leyen say that human words are like corpses and ghosts, because the bodies and spirits of the words are separate.

When some pairs consonants occur together, they can alter each others sounds or merge.


The Boats of the Dead is an original story I wrote directly in iljena, depicting a Leyen legend.



Language Creation Tribune Issue 5 containing a review of iljena by John Quijada, entitled Layin' Back with the Leyen.

6 Strange "Alien" Languages Created by Linguists from Mental Floss. Discusses iljena along with a number of other exolangs.