PDA

View Full Version : Fictional languages



PostHuman
06-19-2019, 09:31 PM
Anyone here developed a fictional language for a project before? Working on a story set in a sort of post apocalyptic dark age, several thousand years in the future with small, isolated bands of humans speaking different languages.

AwP_writer
06-20-2019, 02:45 AM
I have not, though some rudimentary basics on a few are on my list. Something that might help you though is the term "conlang" which is short for constructed language. You will have better luck googling with that.

PostHuman
06-20-2019, 03:07 AM
Picked up a fascinating book by David Peterson yesterday, The Art of Language Invention (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24611649-the-art-of-language-invention). Seems like it will be quite helpful.

Kjbartolotta
06-20-2019, 04:21 AM
As someone who bought it twice, I recommend The Language Construction Kit (https://www.zompist.com/kit.html)!

lonestarlibrarian
06-20-2019, 05:07 AM
Just a random anecdote, but it reminded me about a snippet by CS Lewis talking about a period of time he spent teaching English at Magdalen College (Oxford), when he first met Tolkein.


When I began teaching for the English Faculty, I made two other friends, both Christians (these queer people seemed now to pop up on every side) who were later to give me much help in getting over the last stile. They were H. V. V. Dyson (then of Reading) and J. R. R. Tolkien. Friendship with the latter marked the breakdown of two old prejudices. At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a Papist, and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both.

So, philology is the word for the study of language structure/development/relationships to each other. And Tolkein was a very famous philologist-writer, so you might refer to some of the work he did (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_constructed_by_J._R._R._Tolkien), or some of the work he wrote about the work he did, or some of the work others have written (https://books.google.com/books?id=SOF7m2m3AXcC&pg=PA43&lpg=PA43&dq=Khuzdul+Hebrew&source=bl&ots=EfTPPM7ME6&sig=WrL_HLCEkS3mbZDCo6Y4wyLqOUA&hl=en#v=onepage&q=Khuzdul%20Hebrew&f=false) about the work he did. ;)

For example--


The ingredients in Quenya (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quenya)are various, but worked out into a self-consistent character not precisely like any language that I know. Finnish, which I came across when I had first begun to construct a 'mythology' was a dominant influence, but that has been much reduced [now in late Quenya]. It survives in some features: such as the absence of any consonant combinations initially, the absence of the voiced stops b, d, g (except in mb, nd, ng, ld, rd, which are favoured) and the fondness for the ending -inen, -ainen, -oinen, also in some points of grammar, such as the inflexional endings -sse (rest at or in), -nna (movement to, towards), and -llo (movement from); the personal possessives are also expressed by suffixes; there is no gender.

--edit--

But I did read somewhere once, when I was reading up on the subject--- that the languages are constructed to reflect the cultures that use them. So the elvish languages are very light and airy and sibillant--- l's and s's and no harsh sounds. Whereas the dwarvish languages are going to be very solid and hard in contrast, like kh-z-d, b-n-d, z-g-l.

Spy_on_the_Inside
06-22-2019, 10:16 PM
I'm working on creating a language for a book of my. What I have done is start with a Romani-dialect as a base (meaning I bought the only Romani-English dictionary for sale on Amazon), but I used the surrounding languages in the world of a book. For example, I adjust most nouns so they have a masculine or feminine root, like Spanish, and also conjugate all verbs using Spanish conjugation. For more structural rules, I revert to English, such as the adjective going before the noun and all verbs being proceeded by a pronoun.

And the name of the language I'm writing literally means 'mixed language', so incorporating all these sources that would be around the speakers works for me.

AW Admin
06-22-2019, 10:28 PM
]So, philology is the word for the study of language structure/development/relationships to each other.

That's not quite what philology entails; philology is the study of dead languages, or how modern languages came to be. Today it's often called historical linguistics; linguistics is the study of language structure/development/relationships to each other.

Philology or historical linguistics is a sub-set of linguistics.

Diomedes
07-14-2019, 02:33 PM
That's not quite what philology entails; philology is the study of dead languages, or how modern languages came to be. Today it's often called historical linguistics; linguistics is the study of language structure/development/relationships to each other.

Philology or historical linguistics is a sub-set of linguistics.

I am a philologist.

Philology is simply the study of languages and literatures - i.e. literature through language. Any good philologist will have the classical languages, but philology can be done on any language. It is not historical linguistics or reducible to linguistics - see the work of Rene Wellek for example.

English as practiced in the Anglophone world is largely just literary criticism and literary theory - a peculiar mix of philology and philosophy. Language disciplines in the Anglophone world are largely just language classes, or in better universities comparative literature studies.

The reason why philologists are so capable at creating languages is because they have a strong scientific understanding of the structure of language.

PostHuman
08-05-2019, 05:02 PM
As someone who bought it twice, I recommend The Language Construction Kit (https://www.zompist.com/kit.html)!

Thank you, this looks amazing!



I'm working on creating a language for a book of my. What I have done is start with a Romani-dialect as a base (meaning I bought the only Romani-English dictionary for sale on Amazon), but I used the surrounding languages in the world of a book. For example, I adjust most nouns so they have a masculine or feminine root, like Spanish, and also conjugate all verbs using Spanish conjugation. For more structural rules, I revert to English, such as the adjective going before the noun and all verbs being proceeded by a pronoun.

And the name of the language I'm writing literally means 'mixed language', so incorporating all these sources that would be around the speakers works for me.

Sounds like fun - does this represent an alternate history world where the Romani have conquered these other countries?

And for anyone else interested in this kind of thing, found a couple more books recently that have been not only very helpful, but fascinating reads:

The Unfolding of Language https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/262579.The_Unfolding_of_Language

The History of Languages https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12032313-the-history-of-languages

Starlite
08-05-2019, 06:26 PM
I've made several conlangs for my WIP! Not nearly to the degree Tolkein did (I'm not a philologist lol, I'm a linguist with a focus on the anthropological aspects), but it was a decent part of the work I did before I started. I'm also a programmer, so I came up with a basic sketch of the languages and a little of their history, and then wrote programs that can generate words in them based on phoneme frequencies, etc.

In addition to the above (I've been meaning to read those but I haven't gotten my hands on them yet, so I cant vouch or disclaim), I'd recommend you pay attention to language universals. There are some few things that really are true universals that apply to every language, and there are more that apply to most, so of you want to go against those, it should be with intent.

Intent to show culture, that is. Someone already said that language and culture are intertwined. I think that should always be your guiding principle when conlanging for a story. That's not really as much about what sounds there are (soft sibilants for pretty elves vs hard consonants for rough dwarfs is a little bullcrap, sorry), but the ways the language interprets the world. Do they navigate by NESW, or by upstream, downstream, uphill, downhill? If the latter, they might be one of the Native American tribes in the western USA (for the life of me I can't remember their name--I'll edit it in once I'm not on my phone), who live in a dry, hilly area, so the river and the mountains are central to their culture. [EDIT: I think it's the Hupa language, but I can't find the specific passage right now, so don't take that as certain without outside confirmation.] Culture and environment will influence the kinds of things people pay attention to, and a language should reflect that.

And of course you should question all your basic assumptions about language. I dont know your background or what languages you speak, but you should definitely research the other ways to do things. Your conlang doesn't have to be completely different from, say, English, but again, I think that should be deliberate. For example, I kept my main two languages somewhat close to English because that's what I expect my audience to speak, and I don't want them to put the book down immediately because of unfamiliar sounds. But not all languages do word boundaries, tenses, truth-statements, place-names, new words, or really anything the same way we do. Make sure you're making these decisions, not just letting them happen based on how you think things "should" be. And related to that--languages are messy when they get used in real life. No rules are without exceptions, even this one.

I may have gotten a little carried away, but I really like talking about languages and conlanging. I hope this helps, and best of luck!

P.S.
I know someone who did her Bachelor's thesis on making a conlang for a fictional society. It's a really good read, and I think I still have the pdf around if you're interested.