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Making up Words

TheKillerBs

Inkling
A language is not a dialect with armed forces. Thats junk. Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are all comprehensible to someone who speaks one of the languages - in fact, you can only speak one of the languages because they are so similar. But as my mother points out, they aren't dialects of one language, they are different languages and thats in part because they originate in different variants of Old Norse.

Tell that to Plattdeutsch then.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Tell that to Plattdeutsch then.
Not to mention an extremely large percentage of the languages spoken and written in the New World for thousands of years before the arrival of the 'conquistadors.'
But we're not talking about dialectal differences here. Anglo-Saxon (or Old EngIlish) is so different from modern English as to be incomprehensible to a modern English speaker. That isn't the case for Old Norse, Old Swedish and Modern Swedish - I can read and understand Old Swedish and most Old Norse, despite the differences between them and modern Swedish. As a linguist, my mother (who has an MA in Fornnordiska, Old Norse) takes the view that Anglo-Saxon (or Old English) is a different language from modern English, but that modern English is descended from Anglo-Saxon.

A language is not a dialect with armed forces. Thats junk. Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are all comprehensible to someone who speaks one of the languages - in fact, you can only speak one of the languages because they are so similar. But as my mother points out, they aren't dialects of one language, they are different languages and thats in part because they originate in different variants of Old Norse.

When it comes to languages and politics, you might want to reflect on the fact that Welsh is the closest to the Common Brythonic language spoken in the British Isles before the Romans, Angles, Saxons and Jutes invaded. The later wars between the English and the Welsh weren't just about who was in charge, they also involved some very significant linguistic, cultural and legal differences. My mother would also add that dialects can be equally as political as different languages - and she often gives the main north and south Welsh dialects as an example, coupled to the history of the English conquest of Wales.

In that sense, having linguistic differences in your story settings can be a way of developing and deepening the setting, its politics and cultures - which in turn gives many ways of starting and then developing the plot. It isn't just about making up words, you can do so much more...
Good for your mom. My wife's also a trained linguist, but perhaps more importantly for my academic upbringing my college mentor has three PhD's from Berkely in Lang and Lit. And she's the one who set me on the path of studying languages within their historical context, and that context is one of conquest and rising nationalism, which we know happened because of language usage. Old English is actually largely intelligible to a Modern English speaker if you sound out the words. Even more so with Middle English, which is why Chaucer is taught in high school. KillerBs is absolutely correct. Language is determined by those who write histories, and those writers are the winners of conflict. Middle French becomes dominant in England - due to conquest - until war with France drove the English elite to rediscover their own language, and by then it had been rendered virtually unrecognizable. Anyone who chooses to deny the conquering power of language is either one of the winners (might I mention Belgium in the Congo?) or indulging in denial.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
Not to mention an extremely large percentage of the languages spoken and written in the New World for thousands of years before the arrival of the 'conquistadors.'

Good for your mom. My wife's also a trained linguist, but perhaps more importantly for my academic upbringing my college mentor has three PhD's from Berkely in Lang and Lit. And she's the one who set me on the path of studying languages within their historical context, and that context is one of conquest and rising nationalism, which we know happened because of language usage. Old English is actually largely intelligible to a Modern English speaker if you sound out the words. Even more so with Middle English, which is why Chaucer is taught in high school. KillerBs is absolutely correct. Language is determined by those who write histories, and those writers are the winners of conflict. Middle French becomes dominant in England - due to conquest - until war with France drove the English elite to rediscover their own language, and by then it had been rendered virtually unrecognizable. Anyone who chooses to deny the conquering power of language is either one of the winners (might I mention Belgium in the Congo?) or indulging in denial.
You know, if there's one thing I don't appreciate after serving on several UN peacekeeping missions it's this suggestion that I don't understand the power of language. Having tried to help pick up the pieces after some extremely unpleasant civil wars I'm well aware of the connection between language and (group) identity. I'm also aware that languages, like religion, can cross group boundaries and that this can lead to conflicts - as is anyone familiar with modern European history (or indeed the various conflicts in Africa).

Max Weinreich may have attributed the remark that language is a dialect with armed forces to one of this students, but it was and is a facetious remark to illustrate the sometimes arbitrary differences between language and dialect. Sadly, many modern politicians use what is sometimes called language secessionism as a way of creating and/or strengthening group or even national identities - and as events in the former Yugoslavia show all too clearly this is a socio-political action which can have some very unpleasant consequences.

Yes, some conqering powers have deliberately set out to eradicate languages and cultures. But this is a very modern concept. It certainly wasn't true when the Anglo-Saxons arrived in Britain. Like the Romans before them and like the Normans after them, they did NOT systematically set out to eradicate Common Brythonic as a language. The idea that the conquering power should do that didn't even exist then, and even if it had the conquerors certainly didn't have the means to do it. There's a huge difference between the new ruling classes speaking their own language (as was the case in England after the Romans arrived or after Norman Conquest) and the ruling power deliberately setting out to eradicate a complete culture and language (as was done in what is now Rwanda).

The fact that many medieval records in England are written in Norman-French and later Anglo-French (or even Latin) simply tells us who was literate enough (and had the time and resources) to be doing the writing - it is NOT proof that Anglo-Saxon as a language had been supressed. In fact, the survival of things like place names, names of geographical features and many modern language features show that Anglo-Saxon and before that Common Brythonic continued to be spoken long after the new rulers took power.

That last paragraph is important for those of us who write what might be called classic fantasy (read medieval type settings). Who does the writing in the world we've created? For those who can't write or who don't have access to things like paper, ink, etc, how do they spread news, or distribute things like new songs or stories? How do the rulers stay abreast of what the common people say or think? It's not like they can read posts on Facebook or letters to the editor in a newspaper. Do they listen to rumours, do they have spies out on the streets or what? And finally, how many in the society we've created are literate and how did they learn to read and write? Sure, we can make up words. But before we do that, maybe we need to think a bit more about languages and writing in our setting.
 

disasterpending

New Member
So, we all know that many words in our language today were just made up by earlier writers as they became needed. And the beloved Shakespeare has added quite a few words to our lexicon, but...well...he was Shakespeare. The question is to you... Have you made up any words for any of your stories, and if so, what word and what was it to mean?

Do you think it will ever catch on?
I have a few words from the language of the “Ancient Ones” but theyre incredibly specific so i doubt theyll catch on. Drinthea is the word for nonhumans but it literally means “close to (the) heavens”
 
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