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Language, runes and other such things.

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Hëradïn, Sep 9, 2011.

  1. Do the people in your worlds have a language? in your story does anyone speak it, or do you allude to there being a language that isn't English/Swahili/Nihongo/etc? Have you made up runes? an alphabet? an abjad? perhaps a syllibary kanji thing the Japanese and ancient Greeks (linear B) had? perhaps a strict Hanzi type system like Chinese (good luck with that one :p)? perhaps something I don't know about?

    in any case, I have a proto-language working in my mind, though I only use it for naming places and such. I do have an full alphabet that has 25 consonants and 10 vowels. with commas and periods for punctuation. it is modest, but I have memorized most of the letters and frequently write my notes using my alphabet :cool:

    what about you guys?
  2. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

    Heh. "Yes," to nearly all of the above, in various combinations, permutations and number of discrete attempts. I will say it's not for the meek. On the other hand, neither was majoring in linguistics.... ;) :D
  3. Misusscarlet

    Misusscarlet Minstrel

    My story alludes to it. I was thinking of toying with creating a language or 3 but alas i would have to study about it real hard. Either that or make up my own.
  4. Shadoe

    Shadoe Sage

    Right now, I'm going with everyone speaking a common language, but if I expand my world further, I'll be coming up with people who speak a different language. I do insert world-specific words, though. I'm going with the concept that the people are all actually speaking a different language, but I'm translating, except for those words that don't have an English equivalent. For instance, there is an Emperor who is called an "Emperor," but there are "Siars," also.
  5. Digital_Fey

    Digital_Fey Troubadour

    I went through a phase when I thought it would be great to develop a language for my fantasy world - a sort of 'old tongue' that would only be used by the higher classes or those learned in magic. Somewhere along the line I realized that I was no philologist, and gave it up. These days I can't be bothered, although I still use a botched runic alphabet/code for personal notes. Invented languages are awesome if done skillfully, but I also get annoyed with books that have lengthy glossaries in the back. Too often, less experienced fantasy writers just use it as a means of showing off (I'm looking at you, Christopher Paolini).
  6. Misusscarlet

    Misusscarlet Minstrel

    That's a good point, when I read a book I don't want to keep flipping to the glossary if I find a word in the book that I don't understand.
  7. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

    I do have plans to create a language for world that is what most would call a language of magic. I envisioned it as a sort of magical legalese (lawyer speak) as contracts written in the language are binding. I suppose mages could use it for incantations but mages are few and far between, that gift is the rarest of them all, everyone though has a "knack" as Pat Rothfuss put it in The Name of the Wind.
  8. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

    I used to like the idea of creating a language, but I don't think I'd get very far with it. Plus, I agree that Digital Fey and missusscarlet.
  9. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

    Believe me, it's more trouble than it's worth, unless you're doing it mainly because you enjoy creating languages, and you just happen to think it might be good for your story, too. (And if you're that sort of person, you're sick, probably in need of professional help, and you and I will get along just fine. ;) )

    A few months ago, when a version of this question first came up, I posted a lengthy (as usual :rolleyes: ) two-part mini-introduction to the aspects of linguistics that most writers would find useful, in terms of creating something systematic that would sound like a single language... most of which involves making some up-front choices in what sounds and sound combinations are allowed, and then sticking to them. This is more than sufficient for people who only want to generate names (and perhaps the occasional exclamation or swear word). It consists of the last post on the first page and the first one on the second page of this thread:


    For more ambitious souls, the same procedures can be used to "cheat" your way through short (sentence-long) utterances: take an existing language that isn't particularly familiar to most English readers, make a few systematic changes in phonology, and see what comes out. Or go a step farther and alter the language's normal word order, add or eliminate a few "function" words (prepositions, determiners, and such), change some of the basic morphology by adding, subtracting or simplifying prefixes and suffixes. (I do this all the time, by the way... so I'm allowed to call it "cheating" if I want to. :D )

    The key word in both cases is "systematic." As long as you do the same thing every time, it will hold together as a language--will actually hold together, as a real language, not just "seem" like one: anybody who knew the input language and the new rules you made would be able to communicate in it--and has the advantage that it can always be expanded whenever you want, without your needing to "invent" anything new for it. Probably the trickiest part is finding an input language you're happy with... and have access to reference materials on. (And I most emphatically do not mean an online translation program--though you'll certainly be able to produce a language no one understands by using one....)

    Note that the original pair of posts deals only with phonology and a brief bit of morphology, since it was targeted for those who were mainly interested in a "naming" language. If anyone wants additional information regarding morphology and syntax (how words go together in sentences, what we normally think of as "grammar"), I'm always happy to provide the extra detail.
  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    That is exactly why creating a language was only a passing thought. I couldn't learn Spanish(4 yrs grade school/HS) German(living there for 2 years), Greek (lived there one year.) And worst of all, when trying to think of the words I wanted to say...
    My mind set english and all other languages. If I wanted to say dog in german, Perro was the only thing I could think of.
    When trying to form a sentence I would catch myself trying to throw in a spanish verb in a german sentence.

    So how could I create a language?
    I drop a Tolken word or two in a few books, one book I wrote in alot of Quenderin, then I realized it wasn't a real language thus using it in a book would mean conflict if I were to be published. The few words I use now, I can alter spelling and no one would tie it to tolken. I did give learning Quenderin a try too, but no one understands German-spanish-elvish, so I didn't get to far.

    Eem Eshai'du - or was anyway.:rolleyes:
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2011
  11. I look 2 semesters of Japanese about a year and a half ago and I can still sort of speak it ok. I have a goal of becoming fluent in Japanese.
  12. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

    @Ravana - I also studied linguistics! Just as an undergrad, and have yet to do much with it, but I seriously love it.

    Anyway, I haven't tried to create a language for any of my stuff because so far it's all set in 'this' world. If I were to attempt a language of my own, though, I'd steal some starting material--most likely Indo-European roots--and make up some rules to apply to the roots themselves (change /v/ to /b/ or /f/ to /s/ for example), stick them together to form words, and pick a grammar system I like.

    But really, that's a lot of work. Even though I have thought of coming up with a few complex runes for my story about dragons. The problem there is that I like to draw, and I'm ok, but not good enough for what I have in mind. What I really need is to make friends with an artist. :)
  13. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

    Yep, that's exactly how the mind works. If you don't learn the language growing up, it actually gets stored in a different part of your brain than your native language(s). So whenever you try "translating," it accesses the "non-English" data, no matter what its from. Only with considerable practice will you see that interference disappear. (I had the same two languages going, by the way. What was even funnier was the German teachers telling me I spoke with a Spanish--not an American!--accent... and then, after I'd switched back, the Spanish teachers telling me I spoke with a German one.)

    @mythique890: Cool. Can be a lot of fun, though most people never seem to get into it. Thinking about how language works isn't the most intuitive of exercises, I suppose.
  14. Bass_Thunder37

    Bass_Thunder37 Scribe

    Well, one of my stories is taking place in an Italy-Clone Country for the first half. At that point, I use complete english, though it's implied he's speaking another language. But at one point, the main character travels to a Wales-esque country. And there, he speaks in an altered version of Italian I created. Swapping all s with f(except for plurals), placing the words in reverse order, and removing all prepositions. Nobody has any idea what's going on, until somebody finds a translator that teaches him to speak the common language for the rest of the world. He then uses basic language(english) with an occasional Italian word thrown in for effect.

    So I kinda use another language.
  15. Argentum

    Argentum Troubadour

    Oh my! That's just like me! My father is fluent in spanish, so we learned a bit from him. Then I tried to learn french and it didn't work out. Whenever someone asks "how are you?" in spanish, I'm always trying to say "Oui, bien gracias, avou?" Or however you spell it. And then I know a little bit of Japanese and Korean and how awful is it to try and remind yourself just what language to respond in!

    @ Ravana, thank you for directing me to those posts of yours about language creations! I've been trying for years to create 3 separate languages (just the basics). I will study those posts of yours and see how I do.
  16. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

    Quite welcome. And that is just the basics: getting the sound system down, which, as mentioned, meets the extent of most authors' needs. If you want advice on other things (or more on that, for that matter), feel free to PM me. (Anyone else can, too. :D ) Always happy to talk linguistics. :)
  17. *Nerd alert* I've created a language. Just as much for my own use as for my story. Though I'm not sure if I didn't go a little overboard translating the dictionary... I agree that excessive use of foreign language can become tedious to people reading stories that contain such. But, with the correct amount of language applied to a story can also enhance the believability of your world. Alternate languages are certainly a beautiful aspect to any story.
  18. ShortHair

    ShortHair Sage

    My current world has its own language. I haven't done anything about fleshing it out because I believe that that only confuses the reader. If the project takes off, I'd like to make a graphic novel out of it too, and then there'd have to be a language.
  19. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    I haven't gotten far because I've decided I want to know which languages descend from a common proto-language, which influenced each other, and which aren't related at all. Because of that, I'm quite a ways away from making alphabets.

    I originally created AG to host my own versions of myths but it quickly degenerated into a mess of languages. The languages are my favorite thing, but the only real influence they'll have in my stories is to provide consistent naming in different cultures. It will also make it easier to distinguish foreigners by having their grammar and pronunciation affect their speech. (Am I the only one tired of authors mimicking awful "Scottish" accents for everyone from dwarves to orcs?) I like that I can pull loanwords out of my languages.

    There isn't a really good reason to do all that work unless you enjoy it. Those linguistic quirks could be easily faked. As a writer, having that level of detail is helpful, but as a reader, it doesn't matter if someone developed a language or faked it. As long as it's consistent and it's not thrown into the book at every opportunity, I'm okay with it.
  20. UnionJane

    UnionJane Scribe

    One of the fun things about language is that it's not just about vocabulary and making up your own--there are lots of little squirrelly details like dialects, syntax, and conjugation. In my stories, I try and develop a unique dialect for the area, something to give the reader a sense of the character's background, level of education, regional base when I can. It's difficult, but coming up with slang can be fun too--as long as it's done well and without being overzealous, which is the hard part.

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