1. Vaalthurion
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    Vaalthurion Member

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    Do invented languages bother yøü?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Vaalthurion, Nov 20, 2011.

    There are a myriad of cultures in my Trilogy, spread out over a world which equal about 2x the size of Earth. As such, I think it would seem out of place if they all spoke a common language. So I've begun work on creating approximately 12 languages given to the most prominent and relevant races in the world. However, I'm afraid the reader would be bothered with being faced by so many invented foreign words. A few words and phrases from a fantasy language here and there can be intriguing, but I feel I owe each region its own language so I don't have to sacrifice realism. Is it too much?

    Second question on the subject of foreign words: What is your opinion on accents over names of characters and places. Some examples I can make up on the spot are: Vørkünd, Áethulwulf, Dråsnar. You get the ïdéå. So would an abundance of the exotic characters distract from the story or does it enhance it?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Ixloriana
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    Ixloriana Member

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    Some writers can get away with lots of made-up words, and others can't. If you're going to use them, try to stay away from words that are going to trip the reader up or make him think for too long about how to pronounce them. Coming up with languages for names is a good idea, though, I think.

    On the subject of diacriticals and the like, I personally can't talk; I opted to use French names for a good chunk of my characters, so accent marks abound! (I'm hoping to work on my own languages, eventually, though, since the cultural differences of the characters are a big part of the focus of my novel... but now I'm rambling.) If you're worried about how your readers will feel, though, I would advise you to avoid them if you can. After all... why do those alternate letters exist in the first place? It's usually to show that a letter is pronounced in a specific way, so your readers are bound to be going, "Wait, how do I pronounce these?" If you're going to use funky letters, I would limit them to only one or two languages, personally. If they all have them, they start to feel less distinctive.
     
  3. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Well they don't bother me and indeed they make the work seem better fleshed out, but I would question whether you're up to fully creating 12 languages. Even Tolkien didn't do that and he was a linguist. Generally just a few important words and phrases are enough. You shouldn't really have too much conversation outside of the reader's language anyway so just doing that (with consistent word roots ect.) will give the appearance of a proper language. As for accents their fine to give a little cultural flare so long as you don't put them on every other letter.

    Edit: P.S: I would say that having multiple languages is much less annoying than having everyone speak one common tongue. It bugged me in WoT for example that everyone spoke the same language including the reclusive Ogier, the Aiel who at the time of the books were going into the westlands for only the second time in hundreds of years and most egregiously the Seanchan who lived on another continent separated from the main one for at least a thousand years.
     
  4. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I do not mind at all the only thing that would propably distract is the way the dots/signs/scribbles are put over the words that bothers me because it would make think I am not reading right.
    so yeah you can put any names/language as long as they are in the same alphabet that I am reading.
     
  5. Prophetsnake
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    Prophetsnake Contributing Member

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    Amadán

    Like that?
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need to actually invent the languages to have them in the book. You can just mention that someone spoke in another language. If the PoV character knows the language, you just write:

    "Jump in the boat, quick!" he shouted in Sindarin.

    If the PoV character doesn't know the language, you just write:

    He pulled the oar with one hand and waved frantically to them with the other, shouting something that sounded like Sindarin.

    Follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Don't burden the reader with unnecessary details. Just include what you need to carry the story forward and give depth to the characters and setting. If you feel you need to describe a language, a few well-chosen examples should be enough to give the reader a feel for it.

    Don't include words with accents just because it looks cool. The novelty value will soon wear off, and it'll take more effort to read.
     
  7. muscle979
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    muscle979 Member

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    I agree with this completely. Don't get into any language specifics if you don't need to. If you start using a lot of made up language then you start having to think about the grammar of it, about being consistent with those rules of grammar and usage, etc.
     
  8. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    ScreamsfromtheCrematory Member

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    You don't really have to describe each and every language in a very technical amount of detail. A few phrases, terms, and snippets of dialogue here and there are fine. However it might just be a better idea to describe how the language sounds - the inflections, how the words flow, the general tone, that sort of thing. It might make it seem more alien and exotic, which will probably be a plus anyways.


    I don't mind these - there's nothing inherently wrong about using them but the problem is that a lot of people probably won't know how to actually pronounce these particular accents and sometimes, they seem like unnecessary ornamentation upon names that might just sound really bland, awkward, or just really silly at the end of the day. An abundance would get tiresome after a while - stick with just a moderate amount.
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some depends on the scope of the story, and if all 12 cultures, languages are equally encountered.

    A few hints of foreign words can improve the quality of the story when presented in context. Going overboard can detract. As the author, you'd need to find the right balance.

    Beyond that, I'm pretty much in agreement with what Islander suggested.
     
  10. SnappyUK
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    SnappyUK Member

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    The tricky bit would be getting the meaning across to the reader. In films, the characters can speak any old gibberish because the audience has the benefit of subtitles in their own language. The suggestions made above about referring indirectly to the characters speaking different languages will help keep the audience up to speed and save you the job of constructing a wide variety of languages.

    One thing that did occur to me, as a European, is that many of our languages have similar words with the same meanings because of migration, trade and a shared history, so your character might be able to understand bits of language B because he knows language A, with which it shares some features. The so-called Romance languages are like that in real life. For example, take the English sentence, "She always closes the window before dining." This is how it translates (according to Wikipedia), look especially at the words for 'she', 'window' and 'dining' for their similarities:

    French: Elle ferme toujours la fenêtre avant de dîner/souper.
    Catalan: (Ella) tanca sempre la finestra abans de sopar.
    Italian: (Ella/Lei) chiude sempre la finestra prima di cenare.
    Portuguese: Ela fecha sempre a janela antes de cear/jantar.
    Romanian: (Ea) închide totdeauna fereastra înainte de a cina.
     
  11. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    I agree with this. I'm working on a story that involves many alien names for people as well as for places and things. I'm also concerned about distracting the reader with too many strange words. I do think it's important that they have obvious pronunciations. I also recommend putting any made up words into Google to see what turns up. You really don't want to find out later that the name you chose for your MC is actually, for example, the name of some obscure species of monkey. Almost all the reasonable sounding "artificial" words I came up with are words that are really used by someone, somewhere. I found it rather disconcerting.
     
  12. shangrila
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    shangrila Member

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    I think a few phrases here and there are fine, but full blown languages that require pages on appendices to decipher can be annoying.

    If you have to do it, I would use english as much as possible, only throwing the other languages in when your current character doesn't know them. Otherwise, I'd just convert them to english and say '"blah, blah" he said in this language". Makes it easier, at least in my opinion.
     
  13. FoxPaw
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    FoxPaw Senior Member

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    I don't mind invented languages, but going out and putting their letters could get a bit confusing. I admit I'd probably just skip over that part and hope what they said is explained later. You could approach it two other ways: Either italicize the words and write them in English to show it's in another language (plus maybe putting a "he said in his own language" after), or simply put something like, "He started mumbling words in his own language so the others wouldn't understand."

    Something else you could try: perhaps one language has an idiom or saying another language doesn't, something that would have to be explained because the humor or meaning wouldn't translate very well on its own. Maybe one language has twelve different words for something, like "tree" because they live in a tree-centered society so they're use to having many types of trees in their daily life, thus gave each of them a word instead of having to go, "The tall, thin tree with star-shaped leaves" each time.
     
  14. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    No they don't bother me, they actually make the universe more interesting. Although, 12 full languages might be too much. I have 27+ languages in the works, but almost all of them are just a few mentioned or hinted words. My fantasy world is extremely huge, it's bigger than 2X Earth. Maybe i would say about 14x-16x size of the planet Earth. It's huge. Enough bragging, let's continue. And by story enhancing, don't you mean a bigger story? Exotic characters enhances the story but how you enhance it is key.
     
  15. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hope that was any help. :)
     
  16. astrostu
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    astrostu Member

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    I view this the same way I view an elaborate backstory/framework for your world: YOU should know it, but the reader should only know what's important. For example, I have an elaborate framework of "gods" in my story that never interact with people. Took me several hours to write a basic framework for it. But, the only time it was ever mentioned in a 32,000-word prequel story was towards the end when a more powerful being pulled a human out of time but made a passing reference when returning him, "Ananke does not like inevitability to be delayed, and even pulling you out of normal time is bending the rules."

    I've also been getting into the <em>Stargate</em> series and movies. They have lots of different cultures and languages and even symbols for those languages. But they only use them when actually appropriate (though yeah, everyone on an Earth-like planet speaking good if stereotyped English is somewhat unbelievable, I'll give you that ...). Just terms and phrases, or using it as codes (think Navajo during WWII). Same with <em>Star Trek</em> and the Klingon or other languages.

    Otherwise, my only advice is to not simply change the letters of English to correspond with the letters of your language and have that be the language. This was a pet peeve of mine in 6th grade when we, in groups, made up an ancient civilization and drew pictures and made a language and then buried it behind the school and another group had to figure it out. But the language was just English, but with like A=B, C=J, D=V and so on. My thought was that if we were actually doing a different language, it should be an actual language, not just a code for English. It should be as different as English, Spanish, Gujerati, or Japanese. Otherwise it's just a cop-out.
     
  17. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    In fairness though, you and your class mates must have been about 10 (unless you're going by some weird American system) so making a new language probably wouldn't be feasible. But yeah I agree, it should be authentic. One thing to make it easier is to base the language on a real one, that perhaps reflects the culture of these people.
     
  18. astrostu
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    astrostu Member

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    Yeah, we were a mixture of 10 and 11, which shows I was kinda a snotty kid to have had this issue with the assignment. But yeah, the point remains: If you're going to make a language, make a language. Don't just make a code for English.
     
  19. Devrokon
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    Devrokon Senior Member

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    I'm not up for that Lord of the Rings stuff. Not my thing. :mad:
     

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