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Inventing a non-canon English dialect based on one of your world's conlangs.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by BloodyHellSausage, Aug 26, 2017.

  1. BloodyHellSausage

    BloodyHellSausage Troubadour

    Many authors create conlangs for their works, but unless it's a film or show with subtitles, they obviously can't have a work entirely in that conlang if they want the audience to understand it, it has to be in a language actually spoken in real life. But maybe not completely.

    My idea is that you could invent a fictional English dialect, even if English doesn't actually exist in the fictional world, to try to asthetically represent a conlang. You could come up with invented English words based on actual words in the conlang, use somewhat different grammar, use a sprinkling of pure conlang words, the choice is yours. It doesn't necessarily mean the dialect actually exists in the conworld.

    To give a real life example, many creole languages spoken by people descending from Africa are primarly based on European languages, but with African words in them.

    If you speak a language besides English, I'm curious as to what it would be like if you made some slight attempt to create a "English creole" version of that language. Speaking of which, you might want to read about Anglish, a form of English with purely Germanic words.
  2. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    What would be the point? It would be a lot of trouble that would only serve to confuse the audience. I speak Spanish fluently (and Portuguese and learning French) and there's already an English/Spanish mix spoken by Mexican-Americans that has almost reached pidgin status, which Spanish speakers call Spanglish. It's really confusing even for biliterate English and Spanish speakers, let alone people who don't understand either language very well.
  3. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    In my earlier days of writing, I attempted to construct languages, but I think I wised up. Its a lot of work, and somewhat unnecessary, I think. Now I just tend to add a tag saying the language was in a different tongue, or that it was just not understood at all. Enough to give the impression, but not filling up the page with conversations in strange unknowable words.

    Writing in dialect, which the above seems similar too, is something I would tend to avoid as well. While I have enjoyed many things that did have dialect written out phonetically, in part I kind of feel that to the speakers of dialect, the words are not actually mispronounced. The way an American might say "what? vs someone from the UK is very different, but if I spelled out phonetically how it sounds to me and someone from the UK says that word, or they spelled out phonetically what is sounds like when I say that word, neither one of us would be spelling it right.

    What you describe above, I would never attempt. One, because it would most likely annoy the readers having to decipher it, and two, I probably don't know either language well enough to invent a hybrid language out of them. I would try to stay away from insulting Spanish speaking people with my attempt to mash it all together with English.

    If someone was willing to go this route, then I am sure it can be done well. But I would want the effort to be one of immersing me into the story in a greater way. So, I would keep that in mind as I was undertaking it.
  4. HiddenVale

    HiddenVale Dreamer

    Fascinating that languages could be considered "somewhat unnecessary" in a fantastical context. Not only is it fun (I've done it) if you wish your mythology to have more possible semantic dimensions, which other languages (i.e. a second language, and on) per se always bring to a human mind - but language is the single fundamental way that Tolkien's Middle-earth seems as real as it does to readers who have any majority of his canon under their belt, and his background in philology was what predominantly allowed him to create a realm that introduced the traditional fantasy genre we're familiar with.

    To never have characters whose native language isn't the English-equivalent speak in their vernacular here and there in some frequency, and/or to not have an underlying nomenclature or language when developing the place-names of your world, makes the distinguishing of your cultures weaker than it could be, and the formulation of naming locations (unless they were all English terms) lazy.
    Readers would only be "likely annoyed" if an alternative language was spoken in a book as regularly or in the same long circumstances as English was. No reader of Harry Potter is annoyed at having to "decipher" Parseltongue when it appears, nor readers of Lord of the Rings Sindarin or Quenya or Rohirric, nor Valyrian in SOIAF (even though it was not fully constructed). ....Maybe you only meant getting annoyed at invented English dialects - but even there, that would ideally draw the enthusiastic reader in more, because the world that all readers live in (has English dialects).

    However the making of non-canon English dialects alone would, I guess, be more cumbersome than with original conlangs.
  5. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    Was that even English?

    I'm kidding, I'm kidding...

    Not that I have much at issue with what you said above, certainly if one wants to put in the effort they can produce or more fleshed out world for it, but I feel I must defend my comments a little... I did not say mostly unnecessary, or totally unnecessary, just said somewhat unnecessary. I had also said, I had put in the effort to create these in the past. But for me, I find I only have so much energy to spend. And there are many ways to write a story. Languages are not my strength (perhaps as yet...), but I am hoping I can bring other things to the front that are.

    I suppose I also want to say, I think you are selling my comments a little short. I would be very clued in to the cultures that create places and things. English names for all the places of the world just would not do. I do, and would suggest (and I am pretty sure I have) that others attempt to make different cultures show when present in the tale.

    And then in fairness, as I have not posted any of my story so how would I expect anyone to know, but the current tale I am working on has seven prominent languages (Five lands and two ancient tongues) mingled through it, and no characters who can speak all of them. I've wrestled with many ways to best bring these to the page. For this work, and my own style, it seems to work best with tags. So I just give the benefit of my experience, such as it is.

    I would suggest to any asking that unless developing the world is a forever task, it would be best to take some shortcuts with language creation.

    But the question above is not about just creating language, is about taking a known language and altering it so as to create the appearance of a new fictional language. I think that wont work out as well as one might hope (though, you know, there's always someone who can pull it off.). IMO, I would prefer to have a new conlang, than an altered real language. I think the altered real language will get more people saying "What? is this word different on purpose?"

    I see you have a somewhat important role in preserving Tolkien's work. I am sure that must be fascinating on its own. Tolkien himself had a fairly solid set of qualifications when he began creating languages, his background exceeds mine. But if he ever wants to know why he cant get SMIME to work on his IPhone, I am sure I can teach him a thing or two ;)

    Given your background with Tolkien, I would be interested to here your perspective on how best to go about creating languages for our stories.

    As an aside piece of trivia, to some people, more than a few star wars alien characters were speaking a language they knew. Which must have been an odd experience while watching the film.
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  6. Holman

    Holman Minstrel

    Check out Feersum Endjinn by Iain M Banks - written in a 'dyslexic' style which supports the character building of the narrator.

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