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Languages used by mythical creatures...

Discussion in 'World Building' started by FrozenSteam, Mar 5, 2015.

  1. FrozenSteam

    FrozenSteam Dreamer

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    Is there a set guidline for Elven and Orcish languages or can I just freebase it?

    I know that Orcish languages are usually harsh while Elven ones are usually sound like they are based in some form of Latin (I am not a linguist by any means so I can be horribly wrong). However I was wondering if there is anything else I should know or would help me.
     
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Tolkien's main elvish languages, Quenya and Sindarin, are based on Finnish and Welsh respectively (with vowels that tend toward Latinate sounds). Elvish languages usually roll off the tongue easily, with plenty of soft, fluid sounds. while orcish has lots of harsh consonants. Maybe you could find a non-English language that sounds pleasant to your ears, and make use of it in some way for your elvish tongue.
     
  3. FrozenSteam

    FrozenSteam Dreamer

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    I will be mostly using English for the actual dialogue but I was looking for something to use as a basis of creating some names for Orcs and Elves. I especially am in need of help with the Elves since they are by far the majority species so the name of various things in the culture of my world will be named by them.
     
  4. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

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    Tolkien created the Elvish language, then the created the elves. You might consider doing something similar with the things in your world. Why were they named what they were? Build your elves' tenor around how they would have named things a certain way.

    The problem you'll have to struggle with, of course, is sounding Tolkienesque and competing with a language that didn't just sound elvish; it was elvish. But your elves obviously would have a different history. How does this history inform their language? Have, they for instance, lived amongst other races and adopted or, like the French, adapted "foreign" words into their own language?
     
  5. FrozenSteam

    FrozenSteam Dreamer

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    Out of the four Elven ethnic groups that I have two of them that live side by side with multiple races in relative harmony. Out of the other two groups, one is locked in an armed struggle against another race and the other only hears about these other races from songs and poems travelling bards perform.
     
  6. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    When I had orcs and elves, I based the orc language off of Polynesian languages (Ta ka paha ko? He ro-ah te wah ka kita) while the elves language was based on a mixture of French and R'lyeh (Comment'ai wgah'nagl? Ya vais ehe). And the whole reason why I invented these languages was so I know what an orc or elf accent sounds like. The languages themselves didn't appear much.

    So, don't just try to do whatever Tolkien did or whatever you think people would expect. Do what you want to do or whatever feels right to you.

    Also, you don't need to build a fully-realized language from scratch. In fact, unless you're some kind of linguist, this is usually a bad idea.
     
  7. Gabcy

    Gabcy Dreamer

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    Exactly. Creating a language from scratch is such a massive undertaking when you could simply describe how the speech sounds instead of making words.

    You could easily just state that the character is speaking a given language and then detail how it would sound.
     
  8. Mark

    Mark Scribe

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    Using a few words here and there is enough to convey a feeling, and it's possible to do this with a language you like the sound of - preferably not a widely spoken one. Venusian, in my world, is basically Finnish, for example. And I don't need many words for readers to get the feel. Only one or two in a novel was enough for me.
     
  9. Gabcy

    Gabcy Dreamer

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    Using a few words would work well.

    I'm not big on putting that much effort into something I can solve with an easier solution. From a few of the posts I've seem Finnish is a popular choice. Very smooth language.
     
  10. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Maester

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    Another thing to consider is how different do you want the languages to be in appearance. Using non-latin based languages will give a more foreign feel, but could be too extraneous for what you want. Perhaps the use languages that have accents É, ù, ç, etc.
     
  11. Mark

    Mark Scribe

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    I like the sound of Finnish - But I'm curious what Finnish people think of their language being used for fantasy worlds.
     
  12. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    I'd be wary of using any real language [that wasn't my own] in a fantasy world... unless the mythical creatures were geographically Finnish [then it would make sense to speak the local languages - wouldn't it?] and even then only maybe...
    I like the sounds and rhythm of Finnish [Rare Exports is a great film], maybe you can riff off that and get something that feels like Finnish.
     
  13. Mark

    Mark Scribe

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    I was only suggesting a few words here and there, really. And I'd only use those few words for a positive nationality or race. Some of those words were character names to add a different feel. I'd never have orcs speaking any existing language other than English, for example. Not that I have any orcs in my novels.

    I've taken things from Old English too. Apologies to any old English people.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2015
  14. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Wé forgiefee ðu

    Anyways, taking specific words here and there could be ok as long as the reader isn't likely to recognize it.
    Also, I think saying orcs can only speak English because they're a "negative" race is pretty fantasy-racist. Orcs can speak whatever language they want.
     
  15. Mark

    Mark Scribe

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    I hope the comment was intended ironically, but in just in case…

    I don't write about orcs at all - but, yes, in LOTR they are a "negative" race.

    The reason they would speak English is because I write in English and I would not invent, then teach Orcish as a Second Language to my readers. I also wouldn't create a race of orcs who spoke French or English with a New York accent. Apart from upsetting some people, it would just feel silly. With orcs I might invent a few words.

    I'm not suggesting - for example - doing what Raymond Feist did in his Magician series, when he used Japanese names, words and cultural characteristics for a whole race. I like his books, but that part was a bit too much for me to believe sometimes.

    I'm only suggesting ONE or TWO words in a novel - and I don't believe many people would ever know - but it would give a feeling of difference.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  16. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I don't know if "ironic" is the right word but yeah, I was kidding. Or at least, half-kidding.
    And I'm going to continue half-kidding...

    Tolkien orcs aren't the only kind of orcs. I could argue they're not even the most common kind. The fact that you think that all orcs fit into the common, dated and unrealistic stereotype is fantasy-racist. Orcs are a proud people with a rich culture (depending on the writer).
    Next you're going to be telling me that all dwarves are greedy drunks.

    This is completely reasonable. In fact, I think this is the right approach to take with fantasy languages: making it as unobtrusive as possible.
     
  17. Mark

    Mark Scribe

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    Well, you learn something every day. I'm not familiar with Orcish literature apart from Tolkein.

    No, but I think they like their food and drink, which is a different thing. In fact I'd be quite happy if a bunch of dwarves came visiting.
     
  18. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    The couple of times I've ever written elves and orcs, I just gave the elves made-up names that sounded "fancy" or prissy (e.g. Dennigan, Zaryasien, or Galidar) whereas the orcs got grunt-like names (e.g. Ugrok). In both projects, the humans were all black people, so they got names inspired from various African languages.
     
  19. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I have one project that involves ljosalfar and svartalfar (light-elves and black-elves/drow) from Norse mythology. The latter basically fill the function of orcs in the story. I gave them all Norse names. Vidar, Gunnar, Ulfr, Signy, Jarl, etc.
     
  20. Ruth Chris

    Ruth Chris Acolyte

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    I just recently read a book of Welsh Fairy Tales which, along with my recent fascination with the story of Tam Lin ("Young Tambling" song by Anne Briggs, e.g), has really reframed Elves in my head.
    I mean it's pretty limited research and people on here probably know more about it than me, but it just made clear how much of a departure LOTR was for the aesthetics and stature (literally perhaps!) of the elfish people. I was raised on the Tolkien version, so the "vulgar and common" elf and fairy of folktales, versus the regal, noble warriors seemed so stark and interesting.
    Anyway I'm not sure what it means in terms of names besides there is lots of source material for where our idea of elves and goblins came from that could be interesting. Good luck!
     
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