1. Glen Snow
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    Glen Snow Member

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    Fantasy Languages

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Glen Snow, Mar 9, 2014.

    I want to get some of your opinions of fictional languages in fantasy books.

    I'm currently writing a book in it there are a race of people who have an old somewhat dead language. The language is no longer spoken en masse, but certain words have survived and persisted through time. I feel as though I might be going overboard in the amount of words I've created. They still use the "old" words for Man,Woman, Children, Sword, City, Sun, Wind, Moon, Rain, Family, Mountain, Nearly every animal/plant. These are just a few. I should note that I don't use this language constantly but rather when the situation feels right, or directly pertains to a custom or ritual dating back to when the "old" language was in use.

    So I'll just ask what's your view on invented languages? Do you prefer none at all? or rather one to be hinted at but only a handful of words actually used (A Song of Fire and Ice). Do you prefer a full glossary of random words that are barely mentioned in the story (The Inheritance Series)?

    Any feedback is appreciated.
     
  2. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    I found the language in the Inheritance books rather pointless (since it was used, what, twice?). Besides, G.R.R translates his language:

    "Something in English" replied Daenerys in High Valyrian.

    Rather then actually using any. In fact, apart from Dracarys, I'm not sure I've seen anything else.
     
  3. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I have a hard enough time with books written in some dialect, like Uncle Tom's Cabin. I wouldn't read a book that needed a glossary for some made-up language, anymore than I would try to read a book wrtitten in Chinese.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What @stevesh and @Dagolas said. Examples of every possible answer can be found in currently published books, but if what you want is my personal opinion on the matter... Say it in English; show me it was in High Ancient Sporkanese.
     
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  5. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    Needs to be a language.
     
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  6. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    It depends on what makes sense in your case specifically. I enjoy character and place names, and even honorifics and names of rituals, to be consistent and realistic, and that can be done either in English or in a constructed language. A convenient rule/norm seems to be to write everything in the language(s) the MC speaks in English, while showing any others, if any, in the fictional language, to represent a language barrier. One example of this is Westron in JRR Tolkien's works, which is written as English in his books, while the various versions of Elvish etc. are written in a Latinised transcription of their actual language, and not translated. Whether you consider the language rendered in English as separate or consider it coincidentally identical to English is up to you. Don't underestimate the power of detail, but also remember that not every reader will be a linguitics fanatic.
     
  7. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    I'm struggling with this as well. My scripts involves races from other worlds who have formed an alliance and they needed an interchange language. However, I know that using it too much will detract because the majority of people who see a movie want to see and hear the story, not read it. However, one way to get around this is for characters that speak the same language without someone else to not understand, they can speak English.

    The other way is a babelfish translator for non-speakers.
     
  8. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    You want to avoid sections of text, crucial to the story, that the reader has to look up in a glossary. This just breaks things up and slows down the pace, as well as being very annoying.

    However, the occasional use (a curse is my favourite, and titles and other honorifics are good examples too) or sections of, say, song, in another language that can be skipped without consequence by some who doesn't care, or read/studied by someone who's more into the finer niches of your world. That said, I'm not sure what the modern publisher's view on this is, so you might want to check that up.
     
  9. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    In my novel, four people of "our world" are pulled into a fantasy world (Yes, like in Narnia.)
    They experience a sort of "bleeding effect", as in the language human speak in said world is "translated" into english to them, though the other languages and un-translateable words are not. Vice versa, the MC's English is translated into their speak.
     
  10. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    My fantasy novel, War Beast, takes place in the future where humans have mutated into human/animal hybrids, gifted with magical powers. Most of their clans speak English while others spoke their own native language based on whatever of their old human culture survived. Other tribes made up their own based on new religion and cultures.

    Sometimes I don't see the point of English in a fantasy world. It's like everybody is medieval British, living on a magical alien planet. It would be interesting if the natives' language isn't English at all. It just sounds like English as an excuse for the readers to understand the characters. All languages in fantasy settings should be different in order to become believable. If a kid magically enters a fantasy world, he should have no clue of what the !@#$ everybody is saying. He will have to learn their tongue in order to understand them.
     
  11. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    As I said, it's not English, the transportation had a bleeding effect in which they can understand the closest thing to similar to them in that world: humans.

    The book would be pretty bloody boring if three quarters of it was some made up language and the rest someone struggling to learn it.
     
  12. D.C. Perry
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    D.C. Perry Member

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    My favorite instance of a fantasy language is in Brandon Sanderson's "The Stormlight Archive." In it, there is an ongoing war between the human nation of Alethi and the humanoid tribal race of the Parshendi. When the Parshendi speak, rather than using just normal old words and such, they have a song-like rhythm for the mood in which they are in when they speak. For example, there is a Rhythm of Irritation, a Rhythm of Peace, and so on and so forth. They can also hum, groan, or grunt in these Rythms.

    Fantastically original, if I say so myself.
     
  13. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    Bloody original, I like it. Why should all languages be like Latin?
     
  14. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Kind of like singing while speaking.
     
  15. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    You have a point, but there's something to be said for willing suspension of disbelief. Why are we including magic and such when it doesn't exist in our world anyway? Maybe part of their power is knowing every language, technology does it or it's just left unmentioned. It doesn't necessarily matter.

    Did Star Wars have to explain how AT-ATS work for them to be cool? No. Not everything matters and not everything can be perfect under every circumstance: there have to be some sacrifices sometimes. If the linguistics is part of the point or fun, it should probably stay, but if it's a hindrance it's your choice as a writer whether or not to include it and just skip it.

    Compare it to how many films whose characters spoke a different language than the actors do or even how most literature won't mention characters having sex even if they end up having children, or how TV almost invariably will show the entire chest of man when he's in bed, but always have the duvet cover the woman's breasts. These literary tools are not inherently bad. Most people appreciate them on some level. After all, who'd want to see Clark Kent go grocery shopping in every other comic book or TV episode?
     
  16. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Instead of using the dead language for every day things, which would fill up your text with unreadable words, use them to represent concepts and practices that have no equivalent in English. Since your readers will not have an English word ready to mentally replace the created word you used, they will be more willing to accept it.
     
  17. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I wasn't saying that there should be an explanation about the native language. Sometimes it is mentioned, and sometimes it isn't. The story is good enough if it only focus on the plot.
     
  18. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You could have google translate moments there. :D
     
  19. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    Sels eedsede richloreaj meltm le felai. I think fantasy languages are great. :p What you're doing is similar to what I'm doing and I definitely agree with the others that a full glossary would be too much. The occasional word makes your fantasy world feel authentic in my opinion, it doesn't 'fill up your text with unreadable words' unless you are unaware of the definition of occasional.
     
  20. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    See, that just looks like you smashed your keyboard.

    Soikapso aosip qlpoam opdalps maopso.

    You can't just do that, if you're going to write a language, explain it. Where are the pronouns, nouns, verbs, or is it even composed of those, like our languages?
     
  21. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    dude, I just did that for fun. I don't put anything like that into my writing. OCCASIONAL. like. A word every once in a while that I explain.
     
  22. TheApprentice
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    TheApprentice Contributing Member

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    I would want them to be used minimally, but certainly appreciate when books have them. It shows creativity and effort on the part of the writer.
     
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  23. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    That's my difficulty with fantasy languages. It seems so easy to just bash your keyboard to make "Meha'so, farammar theusha." Though, as others stated, long paragraphs (or pages!) of a fantasy language will make the readers hate your writing. I remember slogging through a few pages of Inheritance because it was written in nothing but the dwarven language. If Eragon knew what they were saying, then the writer should've translated it to English for the reader. If he didn't? The author should've either had another character translate, or have Eragon go do something else until the talking was done.

    Not sure if this is a good example, but in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, there's an ancient dragon who occasionally slips into the Draconic language, then quickly translates it to English for the player. For example, he would say, "Drem soo lak, joor- Greetings, mortal." Again, not sure if it's a good example, and I imagine it would get tiring very fast to have a character repeatedly speak in another language then translate for the non-native speaker.
     
  24. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    Truth.

    Though I have a language built up for one of my characters, the only time he uses it is to secretly compliment a friend, who constantly asks what the word means. Writing anything that your readers won't understand just to show off your language is pointless and frustrating. Which is why I did it above in jest.
     
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  25. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    "Show off your language"

    No one wants to see how "creative" you are. Either don't make a language, or write a whole one (if you're a linguist) with all the proper clauses, syntax, etc...
     

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