1. Tom13
    Offline

    Tom13 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2015
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    7

    Fantasy Languages

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Tom13, Nov 25, 2015.

    In my current WiP I need a number of languages. The story is obviously told in English, but I have decided that this is not the language the characters are speaking, and at points I give snippets of dialogue in the 'original' language.

    The story starts in a Mediterranean type culture and so the main language here is based on latin, with some piedmontese words thrown in, but altered to fit modern Italian patterns (ie ending in 'o' or 'a' for singular, 'e' or 'i' for plural.)

    There is also a communist state which is cultural celtic, there language is based on Welsh, but again altered.

    The third language they have come across is based on old English.

    My question is, would you as a reader find this off putting? The words and phrases are almost Italian/welsh/old English, but not quite. I know Tolkien took a lot of real words and language componants when he was devising sindarin etc, but he was a linguist and changed them a lot, I haven't.

    Thoughts please.
     
  2. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    http://www.writingforums.org/threads/shall-i-create-a-new-language.142482/#post-1388161

    My post from the aforementioned thread:

    I always think it's better to just give it to the reader in English when in dialogue and explain through narrative that it's in another Language. That's just my opinion on this most jaded of topics. When you make me read High Quarkanese, what I get is this:


    Sarah knew she was in the trouble from the start. Kelemek's bristles were raised and his bochcaboo was opaque. Never a good sign.

    "Xxxxxx xx xxxxx xx xxxxxx," said Sarah, trying to assuage his anger.

    "XXXXX!! XXXX!! XX! XXX!" Kelemek was having none of it.

    Xxxx xx xxxx xx xx, Sarah thought to herself. But what's a girl to do
    ?
    There are plenty who will disagree with me, but I'm not licensed to give their opinions. Just my own. :bigwink:
     
    Simpson17866 and Komposten like this.
  3. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,294
    Likes Received:
    5,164
    Location:
    London, UK
    That would annoy me a lot. I just read a book set in the Louisiana swamp and the dialogue was half English and half another language (Cajun? I can't remember). It was confusing and annoying. Of course there turned out to be a kind of glossary.... right at the end, not signposted at the start. :superconfused:I still would have found it annoying to flip to the end of the book every couple of lines.

    I'm with Wreybies. Just say it in English and make it clear it's in another language, if you must.
     
  4. Tom13
    Offline

    Tom13 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2015
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    7
    I think you misunderstand me, I do not give every piece of dialogue in the original language, in fact there are only a few words here and there peppered in, very occasionally a phrase, and these are translated in the text if the meaning is not clear (sometimes, usually swearing, I think the meaning is obvious.)

    Efutue! Contadini!’ shouted Lorenzo. The peasants couldn’t hear him above the noise of the engines, but they got the gist and threw him the single fingered salute.

    Back then Lorenzo had still been insurable and so the banker’s draft from the Sodalico mutuo had bought his second car

    These are two examples.

    My question was whether the languages them selves would be annoying, being neither made up nor real but somewhere between the two.
     
  5. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,294
    Likes Received:
    5,164
    Location:
    London, UK
    That's the kind of thing the book I referenced did. I found it really irritating.
     
  6. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    A one-off or two-off occurrence isn't going to bug me so long as it's contextually supported. More than that and my answer remains pretty much unchanged because the difference is one of degree, not kind. On another note, unless you give a clear explanation at some point that the foreign words are a linguistic mutation of sorts, the fact that they are close-but-not-quite words in known languages is going to distract anyone who does speak the real language or is familiar enough with it to note that something is off. As soon as you have to backpedal and explain that something is meant to be similar but not the real thing, it's too late, suspension of disbelief has been broken and you've pulled the reader out of the story and that's a no-no.
     
    KhalieLa likes this.
  7. Tom13
    Offline

    Tom13 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2015
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    7
    Hmmm, your second point was what worries me.

    As to the first point, they are infrequent, in the first two chapters I just flicked through there are maybe three or four instances. Most of these are single words.

    What other options have people gone with when writing fantasy?

    Personally I don't like it when there are no other languages other than English, part of the appeal to me with fantasy is it is like going to a foreign country, the foreign languages help give it a sense of place. But then I am aware that this needs to be done well.

    Maybe I should replace it with a proper 'made up' language that just has a similar sound to Italian?

    I think I am going to need to put some stuff up in the workshop. I'll have to get critiquing, ready for when my 2 weeks is up.
     
  8. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    Fantasy language done poorly grates on my senses. I actually prefer outright and only English if it cannot be done in a meaningful way. Furthermore, I would prefer special passages with meanings to be footnoted in the "native tongue" as a contextual aside for curious readers. Do not bug the reader unless you need to...
     
  9. Tom13
    Offline

    Tom13 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2015
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    7
    How would you describe a meaningful way?
     
  10. KhalieLa
    Offline

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
    Messages:
    669
    Likes Received:
    390
    Location:
    United States
    I don't find it off putting at all. I enjoy when books are written in other languages and when I don't know the second or third languages I generally search for a literal rather than colloquial translation. (Drives the librarians mad.)

    However, unless you're a linguist don't make up another language. You will have flaws in the organization and execution that actual linguist will pick up on.

    Writing in other languages can be a challenge, even when the other language presently exist. I currently write in 3 languages and am forever reminding myself to be consistent. I may know there are 3 options to choose from for the word "X" but the reader doesn't. If I use X in one instance and Y in another I'll just look like an idiot, even if both are correct.

    AND I always run the story by someone who is fluent in the other languages to make sure the translations make sense, then run them through a person who doesn't know the other languages to make sure they don't get stuck on the foreign passages.

    You might want to think about location and time in reference to language as well. That is more likely to throw your reader than anything. If your communist-type state is located near present day Moscow, Russia in 2500 BCE then you need to be looking at PIE; for 200 BC, you need to be looking at Proto-Germanic.

    Also--I would shy from anything that claimed to mix Celtic Culture with Communism, if only for the current negative connotations toward communism and authoritarian rule. That is something that would cause more problems than language--are you using Hallstatt Culture? La Tene Culture? Neither of these are conducive to a communist state because there was no central government, but a collection of autonomous and independent tribes.

    In addition, old English is nothing like present day English. And if you are using English, I'm not sure what the purpose of Welsh would be since both are British Isle languages, so would be from strikingly similar cultures. If you are near the Mediterranean why not use Itallo-Celtic (commonly spoken in the Po River Valley) or Celtbernian?
     
  11. KhalieLa
    Offline

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
    Messages:
    669
    Likes Received:
    390
    Location:
    United States
    ^^^This.
    If you are going to make-up another language, you'd best have the linguist background to actually make up another language. If you are using an existing language, then you'd better be using it correctly.
     
  12. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    I missed the earlier matter about doing language well... there is a lot that goes into things when I actively think about language. It is not something which I can eloquently explain or really provide a great amount of insight.

    Being a linguist is probably necessary to do it well... though by that point, you will have forgotten about writing entirely. Least I can carry on a conversation with my characters without English... though it does not mean I want to put in my text because most people hate learning esoteric things that they will not retain.
     
  13. Moth
    Offline

    Moth Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2015
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    84
    If you're using the POV of a character that knows the language, all dialogue for that language should be plain English (or whatever language the book is written in). If the POV character comes across a language they don't understand, use that language sparingly.

    That being said, there are many other ways to show language and cultural differences outside dialogue. Place names, family names and such. You said one of your languages is based on Welsh? The family Penddraig (or Pendragon) in Arthurian legend is Welsh, it basically means "Head/Lord of Dragons". If you look at a map of Wales, you'll see a lot of place names beginning with Llan. Llan means "church", so Llanddraig would be "Dragon Church" or "Church of Dragons". Oxford in England presumably started out as a fording point for oxen to cross a river.

    The trick is being creative and consistent without forcing it down the reader's throat. Explain what some things mean, so that your reader can immerse themselves into this alien world, but don't go overboard.
     
  14. DefinitelyMaybe
    Offline

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Messages:
    866
    Likes Received:
    227
    Location:
    Leicester, UK
    Sorry everyone, I've been reading a how-to book that recommends writing first lines, so I'm putting them everywhere.

    I think that occasional bits in other languages work well in context. E.g.

    Given that they hadn't yet said what their race is called, Jonah thought of them as the 'Giant Space Chickens.' Which, translated literally into all languages, was now their common name throughout the world.

    Ftnaarg placed his wing on Jonah's shoulder. "As one of our great sages said: Btnargh ala gnurd ptang feng. Which in your language means He who smelt it, dealt it."

    Like everyone who had billeted one of the visitors in his or her house, Jonah was starting to wonder about their supposed super-human intelligence. A doubt which was doubled when an acrid metallic smell tore at his nostrils, demonstrating that Ftnaarg was a Giant Space Chicken of his word.
     
  15. Lew
    Offline

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    407
    My WIP has snippets of Latin, Bactrian (ancestor to Tajik/Dari/Pashto/Urdu) and Chinese, and I use these snippets to help ground the reader in the scenario. I use them sparingly, italicize them, and translate them immediately the first few times I use them.

    For example, when the Roman officer explains to the centurion that he had about as much choice in going on this trip as he is giving the centurion, he says "So in finest army tradition, profluit ex satione , it all flows downhill. Who are you going to pick for your relief?" Without the Latin, some might think "it all flows downhill" to be an anachronism, whereas by using the Latin, literally it flows from fullness, it implies that the Roman army probably had a similar expression, and every military reader will identify with that. And I suspect they did!

    Chinese was pretty much limited to court titles of the period and immediately associated with the person's name, i.e., tingwei Feng Chuo, the minister of justice. After a few times, I could use tingwei or Feng Chuo interchangeably.

    I also used Chinese names for unusual things, or things which had no Latin equivalent: luan-yu, continuous crossbow, an automatic weapon of Chinese invention. When the Romans first come by some Chinese horses, they are puzzled by the stirrups, which are ma-deng, which the translator says is horse something or other. Europeans did not use stirrups at the time, and had no word for them. The hot baths were heated by burning black rocks called mei, untranslated but obviously coal, though the Romans did have coal (carbo), but not in common use. Trying to have the reader feel what the characters feel when they encounter something unlike anything in their experience.

    Bactrian is known to only a handful of people in the entire world, and I was fortunately to have someone advising me who has spent his lifetime translating it and writing about the era. I used exactly two phrases. One is when the group is first learning the language, but using Chinese as the lingua franca with Bactrian-speaking caravaneers. The girl joins up with her guards partner and greets him "llour pid tao, peace be to you." Which he answers likewise, followed by rapid-fire Bactrian, of which she only picks out the word horse. She reverts back to Chinese, apologizes that that is about all she can really speak yet, and goes on talk about her stallion. (Everyone learning a new language has done this!) The other time is when they are being prepared to meet the Bactrian king, and ask how to address him, the answer is "Sao an Sao, in Greek Basileus Basileon, King of Kings. After that, Your Excellency will suffice." And at that point they are speaking Greek, which was the Bactrian court language at the time.

    The point is to have a good reason for introducing each foreign (or made up) phrase, to help establish the reader in the scenario. Don't try to impress him/her with how much you the author know.

    Bear in mind I am unpublished, so I may not have clue what I am talking about.
     
    DefinitelyMaybe and KhalieLa like this.
  16. matwoolf
    Offline

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,333
    Likes Received:
    2,263
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    STICK TO YOUR GUNS, OP, see my wip excerpt: Astrologist and his Dancing Star, chapter 61 for your guidance only:

    'Bella, tutti fruiti la nocti com si?' said Angus.

    Elsa's silence remained the most shocking of revelations.

    Man's rage mounted towards terrible crescendo. How could she, his woman spend her entire evening in the passionate embrace of a ...a mere shepherd lad? Surely not thought Angus. Again he pursued his point vigorously, his cheeks flushed in this a raw, a jealous agony:

    'Et tu, de nile zito! du demos fellatio contra eelside, ayi?

    Elsa licked her lips.

    Yo makka mi siko...' he said.

    'Nie bambinio,' replied Elsa.

    She ruffled the fair head of Angus, downcast Angus.

    'Mea culpa duos bootello du vino, Ig lovo yow,' she said, 'only experimento shepardo, yu isto mae muttoni, forevero,' she said.
     
  17. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    Little too much Aqua Teen Hunger Force? Though if you are going for comedy, then yes. That works. And matwoolf...better erotica lines then what actually exist in most books I guess. Just one step before mangled beyond recognition, but it grates on me for some reason. Do as you want, but my head wants to hit the desk.
     
    DefinitelyMaybe likes this.
  18. Tom13
    Offline

    Tom13 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2015
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    7
    Hmmm. I'm not more clear on what to do now than I was before.

    I will have to post some work in the workshop so people can give thoughts in context.

    I am not sure that most people have understood my question.

    I definitely want to include some 'foreign' words, for me it would seem strange to have a book set in France and yet not include any words of French. Having said this they will be odd words here and there, maybe a phrase at most, I am fully aware how annoying it is to have your flow broken by unfamiliar words, however I think this has to be balanced with giving a sense of place.

    My question actually was, would my languages work. My story is set in a secondary world, but I have based the languages on their equivalents from this world. So in a Mediterranean based setting I am basing the language on Italian, in an area reminiscent of northern Europe, I am using old English, and so on. Who ever the point is that I am not taking the languages whole sale and the book is not set in the real world.

    Oh and Old English and Welsh are not very similar at all, the former is Germanic, the latter celtic.

    I also don't get the point about not having a language based on Welsh associated with a communist regime? I really can not see how anyone would be offended by this.
     
  19. Lew
    Offline

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    407
    However you derive your languages, they can certainly add color to your story, but use them sparingly. You want to ensnare your readers with local flavor, not confuse them.
     
  20. KhalieLa
    Offline

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
    Messages:
    669
    Likes Received:
    390
    Location:
    United States
    It's not offensive, it's wrong.
    Celtic Culture never had a period where it had organized religion or a central government. The Romans eventually did. North Korea, China, Russia, all do, but not the Celts. Celtic culture was based on the ability of tribes to autonomously rule themselves and through veneration of ancestors many tribes worshiped a variety of different gods/goddesses.

    Both are derivatives of PIE, with the differences between proto-Germanic and proto-Celtic being evident about 500 BCE.
    Culturally they are very similar, though there are some linguist differences. Neither the Goths nor the Romans saw any difference between the Germans and the Celts. The religions are quit similar as were the housing styles, community structures, and tenancy for self governance and autonomy of tribes. Celtic culture actually originated in the Swiss-Bavarian basin. The major sites are Hallstatt, Austria, then later La Tene, Switzerland, both of which lend their names to periods of development in Celtic Culture.
     
  21. Tom13
    Offline

    Tom13 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2015
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    7
    Yes, but my story is set in a secondary world, technologically equivalent to the 30s/40s.

    Old English and Welsh both stem from PIE, but so does Sanskrit, Latin and Persian.

    There are obviously similarities between celtic and Germanic culture, but to me there are very different feels between the languages, and that is what I am after.
     
  22. KhalieLa
    Offline

    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2015
    Messages:
    669
    Likes Received:
    390
    Location:
    United States
    It took me a while to do some digging because I'm not as familiar with the Germanic languages. Old English runs about 5th to 9th century CE. Corresponding languages that are Proto-Celtic derivatives would be Goildelic (not Ogam, that's a bit early for you and I expect most readers don't want to fiddle with the characters) and Brittonic (Old Welsh from 7th to 10th century).

    The advantage of using an existing language would be that you can easily be consistent in your usage and you won't throw readers off by "misspelling" words.
     

Share This Page