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Need guidance for conlang

Discussion in 'Research' started by ChasingSuns, Jul 29, 2020.

  1. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    Hello, so I've posted about my conlang in progress in the past, but I still find myself stuck. Right now I am trying to figure out which sounds I want to focus on in the language. I am hoping to find a language that I can use as a reference point, but considering that I am not a linguist, this has proven to be difficult.

    First of all, a few sample words (nothing is totally set in stone yet, just been playing around with sounds).

    djalgu
    majani
    duun
    khoru
    taikhu
    olg
    akha

    I really like the idea of using the digraphs kh and dj, and really like the look of the uu. Based on these sample words, do any particular languages come to mind? Also, are there any that seem like they don't fit with the others? Like I said, I'm SUPER new to the whole linguistics/conlang thing, so I know very little of this. But if anyone has an idea of a language I can use for reference based off of these, then that would be stellar. Thanks ahead of time! If you have questions about the language, like the background of the people or whatnot, let me know.

    Speaking of that, there is another nation that uses a similar language, and their culture has history with the one I'm developing the conlang for, so maybe that is a factor as well (they use more harsh sounds). I've also been lightweight figuring out how to structure sentences and whatnot, so if you have questions about that as well, let me know.
     
  2. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    So. First thing. I have no idea how to pronounce any of these words. I don't know what the vowels represent, I don't know whether I'm meant to read "dj" as in Django or if the j is acting as a semi-vowel like it would in Dutch (or the "y" in Japanese "kya~"). I have no idea if the double "u" is meant to be read as two u sounds together as in Latin (e.g., duus) or like a single long "u" sound like in Japanese (e.g., tenkuu, also romanised tenkū). Is the kh a throaty sound like in Greek (e.g., kherson) or Persian (khub)? Or is it an aspirated k like in the Indian languages (e.g., Jharkhand), also literally any k sound at the beginning of a word in English? All these things will change the way the language sounds.

    Also, what do you mean by "harsh sounds"?
     
  3. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    Thanks for the reply! I'll try to answer as best as I can. As I said I'm still pretty new to this aspect of writing, but I'll see what I can do.

    The "dj" is mean to be the same sound as Django. I'm thinking the "uu" is meant to be a longer u sound (like the tenkuu example). The "kh" is more Persian in sound. In fact I've been kinda playing with pieces of both Persian and Japanese while developing this.

    As far as the harsh sounds, I don't really know how to describe it. Maybe a more guttural version of German? I'm not sure how to really describe it to be honest. Basically the people I'm developing the conlang for came from another continent many years before the story takes place. They came into contact with another civilization that was local to the continent. The indigenous culture is a pretty rugged, warlike collective of smaller tribes. I feel like, given how much time has passed since they initially came to the continent, that there would be some blending between the two, at least in terms of language.
     
  4. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Okay, I'm getting a clearer picture, but I still have a question that I should've thought about earlier -- what's the difference between /dj/ and /j/?

    I really dislike the guttural description for a language. It technically means that it has lots of sounds that are made near the back of the mouth and throat. You know, like French or Spanish -- oh wait. Even English has loads of common back consonants (by my count, I've just strung three in a row and added three more in this digression).

    Putting my soapbox away, if you want something that sounds Germanish but with more back consonants, do you mean you want a high number of vowels as well? Because if you do, you'll want to start thinking about romanisation strategies.
     
  5. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    The Difference between the /dj/ and /j/ as I hear them in my head, is that the /j/ sounds more like it would in Jacques.

    Yeah I see what you mean about using the term guttural. I guess I would describe the indigenous group as such- their culture revolves around combat. Everything in their culture is meant to reflect this, including language. Therefore I picture them utilizing sounds that sound, more fearsome I suppose you could say? Like they want to sound as intimidating as they physically look. They also use a type of linguistic shorthand (or I guess you could call it that). The words that they borrow from the other society get heavily shortened, and any smoother sounds would likely be replaced by ones that sounded more fierce. The other culture (the one I'm developing the language for) would not sound as intimidating as all that.
     
  6. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Okay, so there's the consonants. What about the vowels?

    So I think what that means is they have a short words and staccato cadence to speech, which means by influence your conlang will also have a fair few of them.
     
  7. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    As far as vowels go, the pronunciation of them is very similar to Japanese vowel pronunciation. As far as which ones I tend to gravitate towards when thinking of words, I notice that I tend to gravitate toward a, i, and u (o as well, but not as much). I noticed I don't utilize the e a lot. Not sure if that makes a difference.

    I totally agree that the conlang does tend to lean toward longer words. This is because the bulk of the words I've thought of so far to potentially use are basically other words combined. This means some words are smaller, but they get longer the more complex the idea. A basic version of this would be "a", which means "of", and "ni", which is means "me". So, the word for "children" or "child" is "ani", or literally, "of me". The word "majani" mentioned in the original post means "mage", but it is a compound of "maj" (magic) and "ani". So "majani" becomes "magic children" (or if you REALLY wanted to break it down, "magic of me").
     
  8. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    You could drop the "e", which is also the vowel that most English speakers will mispronounce. There's nothing wrong with a four-vowel system, and Japanese-inspired /a/,/i/,/o/,/u/ has some pleasingly naturalistic messy symmetry (though not one that is particularly common in natural languages).

    Interesting. I was actually saying that you might want to increase the number of shorter words, though :p
     
  9. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    For sure. Yeah I think I'll end up dropping the "e" altogether. Also, on a side note, I have noticed that I want to use "L" quite a bit. Whenever I play around with new word ideas, I always like the idea of the "L" coming after a vowel (the example from the list would be "djalgu"). Also ah, I see what you were saying lol. Yeah they do have some shorter words, but I am just working on creating consistency of sound first, that way it won't cause me any problems later when I move on to more of the larger words. Also as mentioned before, the indigenous people would accept some of the language, but shorten it up. Some of their own words will end up assimilated into the conlang, which should give it some shorter words that the original language might not have had. Idk, early stages and whatnot lol. I just want to make sure that it sounds like an actual consistent language first and foremost. Once I get that down I can pump out some more words and work on more sentence structure.
     
  10. I'm going to chime in and say, as a reader, I'm usually not concerned with knowing the "proper" way to pronounce fantasy language/words, only that I don't enjoy finding myself stumbling over them time and again and having to stop to sound them out. If there's a lexicon or pronunciation key in the beginning, I'll give it a once over but Im not reading a novel to learn another language. I'm reading to be told a good story. So yes, I'm a reader for whom the long, multiple consonant runs in names and words never work. They're not clever or interesting to me and they stall me every time I come across them, which disrupts the flow of the story. I won't finish a book that's inundated with them. Besides, it seems far easier to make long unpronounceable words and names than it does to logistically think out an actual, speakable language, I think a lot of readers appreciate that extra effort.

    That said, ALL of your sample words presented above are easy to move through. I did pronounce the double uu as a long oo sound and the dj like a softened j, like in the french Je. So, that is to say, I had no problem with them at all at first glance. :)

    In one book I read a few years back, the author used As, for the word, To in her character's language. I know people who read it to sound like our english, As (azz) and others, like me, read it to sound like (ahs) maybe that's because I have a few years of several foreign languages studied under my belt? It worked fine either way though to readers is what I'm trying to say.

    Your words above all read well and that, to me, IF they are to be used with any regularity in your story/book, is important. You can help your reader too by implying the tone, harsh, syncopated, melodic, lilting, etc in the narration to show how the words sound to someone else who is hearing them spoken in the story or for the first time.

    Best of luck!
     
  11. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    Thanks! I definitely appreciate it :) yeah I am the same when it comes to reading. I think the think that makes Tolkien so darn good is his ability to make things sound like they work. Like I can see a name like Emyn Muil and know (at least generally) how to say it. I don't stumble over it. And that's what I really wanna accomplish with the conlang. There will be some other names not related to the conlang that will be harder to pronounce, but that's because I'm dropping some eldritch entities in there, and how can it be a proper eldritch horror without having a difficult to pronounce name? :p

    But idk, I think part of it is my OCD. If I decide that I want a bunch of names and such to be the same language, then I need it to function as one. Although I do admit, I am having fun with it. Even if it means I'm banging my head against the wall sometimes.
     
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >his ability to make things sound like they work.
    He didn't make them sound like they work. He took existing languages and modified them in linguistically consistent ways.

    I don't care about how words are pronounced, either as a reader or an author. I know as a practical fact that a French reader is going to pronounce a word differently from a Dutch reader, an Australian reader, a Japanese reader. Even if I gave a pronounciation guide, they would interpret it differently. Heck, even if I gave them sound files, some readers would simply not be able to reproduce every nuance. So why try? What I would really be doing is trying to impose my cultural linguistics on my readers. The one place where pronounciation matters is with the person who records the audio book. Since I can't afford such a person, I haven't had to burn that bridge yet.

    I do, otoh, pay attention to spelling. Because even if they get pronounced differently, the letters are the same for every reader. That's where a knowledge of linguistics can come in handy, though it's not strictly necessary.

    As for the OP, I know you said you were just getting started, so maybe one thing you can think about is how much of this language you want to appear in the actual story. If it's just a word (usually a noun) here and there, then making a list will work fine. If you're thinking of producing entire sentences, then you will need to think not only about words but also about grammar.
     
  13. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    Yeah that's what I meant by making his languages sound like they work in a real world context :p

    I'm not too concerned with how the reader pronounces them. I'm totally fine with the fact that readers that speak other languages are inevitably going to pronounce them separately. But as far as the story goes, I do want it to function cohesively, because I want names of people and places to at least somewhat reflect through the migration of language, as it does in our world. It will also help me not spend so much time trying to think of a name for characters or places, because I'll have something to reference for consistent ideas. I might include a sentence or two, but I'm not sure if I want to go that far with it. I have already started playing with grammar though, although only slightly.
     
  14. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Oh, ok. When I read "conlang" I read it as a constructed language--complete with grammar and a full vocabulary. If we're just creating a set of culturally-consistent names, that is *much* easier.

    The original question asked if any particular language came to mind from the list of words. For me, no.
     
    Malik likes this.
  15. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    I'm with Skip on this one. I, too, misread the initial question. A few made-up words is not a conlang.

    A conlang is a functioning language--phonology, morphology, orthography, syntax, semantics, pragmatics.

    Conlanging is literally a science, rooted in the science of linguistics, whereas choosing fantasy words is an art. There's nothing wrong with choosing words for your fantasy world, and please, for the love of God, make sure that when you do, they make sense, as you appear to be asking above. Just please understand that making up fantasy words is not conlanging.

    There are a few conlanging threads on here, and plenty of web resources, as well, if it's something you want to get into. You can DM me, as well, or hit me through my site; I built a full conlang for my current series, and spoke on a conlanging panel at WorldCon in Dublin in 2019.

    Give 'em hell.

    Making Fictional Languages
     
  16. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

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    Yeah I know naming and conlanging aren't the same, but to be honest it might turn into a full on conlang. Knowing how my brain works, it'll probably end up being closer to a full conlang than just a naming system. But I'm not sure yet. But due to the methods that I'm using to name places and people, I definitely am going to need it to at least partially function as a full on language. So idk, like I said it's all too early to tell, but I'm wanting to kinda set a foundation for the likely event of it becoming a full conlang. It's definitely been daunting thus far, but I'm sure I'll get it eventually. I'm definitely down to check out your website! I can always use more info/resources for my process.
     
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