Back in October 2019, when Mark Rosenfelder was editing Langmaker: Celebrating Conlangs, he wrote and asked, “For marketing, I think it’d be nice to be able to say that the book includes some never published material.” I offered him Denju, which I’m now publishing here for the first time. Denju started out as the language I used to name cities in Civilization IV and became the language of Hexedland, the campaign setting for a 5e campaign and three Dungeon World campaigns, and the backdrop for my interactive fiction, A New Life in Auspele

Denju, also known as Reg Denju, is the lost language of the Cedreg Empire; the language lives on in names. Denju is close to Proto-Indo-European, which can provide additional vocabulary as needed. Sound changes tend to go in different directions than recorded languages did as they evolved from PIE:

  • bhe -> ze
  • bh > b
  • dh# > d# [word final]
  • dh  > h
  • gh > j /dzh/
  • ki > vi
  • k > c [orthographic change only]
  • kh > c [orthographic change only]
  • kw > qu  [orthographic change only]
  • uV > wV
  • wa/i/o/u > fa/i/o/u
  • skV > xV

Denju was a creole of two sister languages, formed when humans fled into dwarven caverns to escape an invasion. The language formed over the ensuing generation. Denju then became the common second language of the empire, resulting in pidginization as the resurgent humans built a continent-spanning empire.

Most of what remains about Denju comes from copper tablets that had imperial messages imprinted on them.


All Roman letters except for K are used to transcribe Denju; j corresponds to /zh/.

syllabic consonantsn̥ / l̥r̥ / yw

The language does have its own writing system, preserved in copper tables. The copper tablets of the Cedreg Empire were the primary method of record keeping, with runes stamped into the metal. They are typically 5 or 6 inches tall (14 centimeters) and 4 inches wide (11 centimeters) and often paper thin. Some are bent, and most have a patina (green layer). The tablets are usually valueless to anyone not a historian and through the ages most have been melted for creating bronze wares.

Numbers are written in an odd form of base 5 that starts from one, as  there is no rune for zero:

  • 11 11 = 1*5+1 =  6
  • 12 12 = 7
  • 13 13 = 8
  • 14 14 = 9
  • 1515 = 10
  • 21 21 = 11
  • 25 25 = 15
  • 45 45 = 25
  • 555 555 = 5*25+5*5+5 = 155



Nouns, pronouns, and adjectives are declined.

Nominativealbo, an elf (subject)albos, elves (subject)
Vocativealbe, oh elf!albes, oh elves!
Accusativealbm̥, an elf (object)albm̥s, the elves (object)
Instrumentalalbi, using/by/with an elfalbis, using/by/with elves
Dativealba, to/for an elfalbas, to/for an elf
Ablativealbob, from an elfalbobs, from the elves
Genitivealbu, of an elfalbus, of the elves
Locativealboi, in/at/to an elfalbois, in/at/to the elves

The creolization of the imperial language stripped away almost all irregularities, but one that survived is that personal pronouns use different roots for the first- and second-person singular and plural:

  • m-, first person singular
  • n̥m-, first person plural
  • tw-, second person singular
  • w-, second person plural
  • c-, third person 
  • toi-, demonstrative (this/that)
  • he-, demonstrative (the aforementioned)
  • se-, reflexive pronoun 
  • y-, relative pronoun
  • qu-, interrogative pronoun
  • qui-, indefinite pronoun 

An -r- is inserted before the declensional ending to make a noun an adjective: albros, “elven”.

In the copper tablets, verbs and adverbs are conjugated for either the perfect or imperfect tense.



The mediopassive (Medio) was often used in a reflective sense, including providing a benefit (e.g., “I gave two coins”, for my benefit).

Other moods:

  • Subjective infix –fa
  • Optative infix –ye
  • Injunctive infix –vo


The syntax is typically Subject-Object-Verb, with other arrangements used for emphasis. Notes:

  • Noun phrases use postpositions.
  • Time, then manner, then place ordering of postpositional phrases.
  • A genitive noun phrase appears before the possessed noun phrase.
  • Adjectives before the noun they modify.
  • Demonstrative adjectives appear before nouns (this is a weak tendency).
  • A name appears before a title or honorific.
  • Subordinators appear at the end of subordinate clauses.
  • Conjunctions are placed after the joined word (as in Latin).
  • Relative clauses precede the nouns they modify.
  • Auxiliary verbs follow the action verb. 

Postpositions and Other Particles

cebtowards, into, atpostposition
cedto, by, atpostposition
cenon, uponpostposition
centiagainst, at the end, in front of, beforepostposition
cetifrom, back, againpostposition
cm̥tiby, alongpostposition
cuoff, away, too much, verypostposition
deand [sentence connector]conjunction
henterwithin, insidepostposition
hetibeyond, over (about quantity), besidespostposition
hopinear, at, upon, bypostposition
manegator for commandsparticle
mehiin the middlepostposition
privative prefixparticle
nesentence negatorparticle
nidown, underpostposition
nuand, sentence connectorconjunction
ointerjection ohinterjection
pewith, togetherpostposition
periaround, throughpostposition
probefore, forth, in front of, ahead ofpostposition
queand, word or phrase connector†conjunction
for (enclitic), for the purpose ofpostposition
upounder, belowpostposition
waiexpression of woe or agonyinterjection
weor, word or phrase disjunctor†conjunction

†Placed after the second word (the joined word).


As the language is primarily used for role playing, its vocabulary skews towards that common to fantasy RPGs.

Denju has over 2600 words; for brevity and general interest, I’ve listed some RPG-related terms.


alura [alu + -ra.] sorcerer
barbara [bar-bar- + -a.] barbarian
blajmen [bhlagh-men-.] cleric, priest
carera [kare- + -ra.] bard
cladra [< kladhra, “alder”.] ranger, forester, logger
corosra [coros + -ra.] warrior, fighter
derufid [deru- + fid.] druid
diacorosra [dia + corosra.] paladin, holy warrior
fid [uid-.] seer
grigra [grig + -ra.] rogue, brigand
gwerera [gwr̥ə-dh(ə)-o‑, “he who makes praises”.] troubadour
legiaz [lēgjaz, “one who speaks magic words”.] enchanter, spellcaster
lujleuj [luj + leuj.] oathbreaker, warlock, traitor
monwo [monwo-, “one who worships alone”.] monk, hermit, guru
wegyo [wegyo, “one who wakes the dead”.] wizard, witch; necromancer


albo [albho-.] white, albino, elf
anejomon [ane + jomon.] djinn
boliyo [bol-iyo‑.] giant
caulra [caul– “to make a hole” + –ra, “one who”.] halfling
druj [dhuergh-, drugh-.] dwarf
gignosco [gi-gnō-sko.] gnome
mon [mon-, man-.] human; person
netr̥jomon [netr̥ + jomon.] reptilian (lizard humanoid)
n̥sujomon [ṇsu- + jomon.] devilman


antr̥jomon [antr̥ + jomon.] troglodyte
caprocer [capro, “he-goat” + cer, “horned head”.] satyr
comer [co- + mer.] hobgoblin
cuzhoz [kuzdho-zd‑, “sitting (over) a treasure”.] dragon
cuzhozdu [cuzhoz + dura, “dragon worshipper”.] kobold
dedialbo [< de-dia, “without sun” + albo, “elves”.] sunless elves
derc [derk-.] monster; to look with an evil eye
eduno [ed-un-o‑.] man-eating giant, man-eater
epero [epero-.] boar, wild boar
fai [uai.] woe; wolf
gul̥turos [gul̥turos.] vulture
gwoucer [gwou, “ox” + cer, “horned head”.] minotaur
jomon [(dh)ghom-on‑, “earthling”.] humanoid, creature
lewontosderc [lewontos, “lion” + derc, “monster”.] sphinx
mer [mer-, mere-.] goblin; to rub away, wipe; harm; pack, rob
netr̥derc [netr̥ + derc.] lizardman
n̥su [ansu-, ṇsu-.] ghost, spirit, demon
n̥suquon [n̥su + quon.] hellhound
osthr̥g [osthr̥g-.] animated skeleton
pento [< pent-.] tree-giant, walking tree
pesdemel [pes + demel.] sandworm
piont [pī-ont‑.] foe, fiend
prica [ par-ikā‑.] fate, the Fates
sfardquon [sfard- + quon, “laughing dog”.] hyena
spenwo [spen-wo-, “spinner”.] spider
tex [teks-, “to weave; to construct”.] weaver, web, spider, textile
ul̥quos [ul̥kuos.] wolf
wegmer [weg- + mer.] orc

Update 2023-12-17: Mark reminds me that he has also done a PIE language, which he contrasts with Denju.