1. terrwyn
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    terrwyn Member

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    How do your races understand each other?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by terrwyn, Feb 2, 2012.

    I'm still doing quite a bit of world building and it has proved to be something I enjoy more than actually writing my story. :/ Anyway, for the fantasy writers: how do you handle language in your novel? Do your races all know one language? If so, how is this? And how would you explain it to the reader for it to make sense? Or do you have separate languages for each race? And if so, how do your adventurous characters go about traveling and communicating?

    All of my races speak the same language and I want to keep it that way so it is less complicated, but how could I explain why? In better words, what kind of history could I put behind this one language? Also, I decided to use a pantheon method to the religion, where each race holds a separate god or goddess higher than the others, yet still believes in all the same gods as everyone else. Maybe I could tie that together with the languages? The gods and goddesses created the world and all the races, and gave all of them one native language to communicate easier amongst each other.
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    My two main races speak the same language because, after almost 400 years living together, they have absorbed each other's culture and traditions. Of course, my 'human' race have a perscribed religion of noble gods and goddesses. However, that doesn't stop my other races from worshiping their traditional gods. (Think Ireland at the time of Patrick. Some still held onto old tradition despite Christianity flowing in.)

    However, if they spoke another language, I'll include a character who will act as a translator for both sides. It also adds for fun times when said translator gets seperated from the group and the others have to rely on body cues and hand motions to communicate.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Look at Europe. Nearly everyone speaks two or more languages. One is the local language, but the other is chosen as a common medium for commerce, political and social interaction with people from neighboring countries.

    Language evolved so people could communicate. Communication is a necessary component of other interactions that must take place. For communication to take place, there must be at least one language in common.

    The logic is inescapable. When there is no common language, simplified languages (pidgins) and sign languages evolve to fill the void.
     
  4. Monosmith
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    Monosmith Member

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    For the simplification of my story, I made English a fairly common trade language within my interdimensional economic system (IDES). Yet there's the nuadine language that has affected scientific terms, along with Kitilik, the language of the intellectuals, and people bother learning those because many untranslated things are written in those two languages.

    Overall, though, there are many languages, just like in modern day Earth. Some places are far apart and don't communicate much, so there's not much a problem there, but otherwise where there is a lot of interaction between nations, I suppose bilinguals are not uncommon.

    The way I deal with the problem within my narrative, asides from making a couple of languages far more common than others, varies between books. In the first book, the language of the nuadine is downloaded into the minds of a few of their slaves so that they could translate the orders of their masters. When there next book comes around, there's a Kitilik who learns a new language every day who translates for everyone's convenience. Then there's the third book, where there's a race of people who can speak in all tongues. So by the time Kitilik and English become fairly common in trade, communications is still an element within my story but not a major problem that slows down the plot.

    It's also wise to have your main character learn a foreign language so that they have some area of competency. As Cogito said, that's the way it is in Europe.

    Monosmith
     
  5. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    Its science fiction not fantasy but its applicable hear with different cultures. In all honesty they have had less then stellar relationships. there are some nasty wars and some genocide in the back story. There are a lot of distinct languages but there is a major one used for diplomacy, besides killing each other. It also serves as common language people from most cultures know, or have members that know.
    I also have characters that are highly educated and do know multiple useful languages.
     
  6. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    I'm not writing about different races, just different (human) cultures. I've worked on developing languages for my fictional cultures for a long time, and I plan to study linguistcs in the not so distant future. Linguists has always interested me.
    I seriously don't have that problem because all of my human cultures can communicate through a common tongue that they all learn. It's pretty much like English in The British Isles. The Welsh, Scottish, Irish and Cornish are all able to speak English.
    I'm thinking about including a non-human race. I don't know yet if they will speak the same language as the human races. They will probably have their own culture and language, but some wise ones/elders will probably understand the main human language.

    If you are writing about fictional races/people who can't understand each other through the use of language, you could attempt describing their communication through the use of body language, at least until they get a translator. :p
    It would be fun to read about two members of two different races/cultures who shout/yell at each others in their own languages, because of prejudices or old hatred, without really understanding what the other person is saying.
    It could turn out to be quite a fun scene.
     
  7. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    If you enjoy fantasy I'll make another reference to David Eddings this time in his Tamuli and Elenium series. (He does characterize the Nyissans by adding embellished lisps to their speech to remind the reader they are a snake like race and speak differently as well and yes I am a dork and love eddings.) He has an entire section in one of the series where the Elene nation spends the book with the Atan nation which is not only culturally different but speaks an altogether different language. He start describing it through translators and a few scenes where they do not understand each other briefly touching upon what the language sounds like. He then proceeds to introduce the intelligence of their king who is bi-lingual and speaks many languages. Solution one. Then he implements magic where his characters are taught the language in a much quicker pace then learning it regularly and then they converse throughout the rest of the book in normal fashion. Solution two. He does however, even after the characters learn the language, alter the context of the Atan's speech a bit to identify when an Atan speaks creating a universal cultural personality so the reader still gets the feel their speech is different. Very well done in my opinion. I think his stories are splendid and well written. Especially the Elenium and Tamuli series. Hope this helps.

    -Ghost
     
  8. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cogito's point is extremely important.

    In a sci-fi project I worked on with a friend, humans came to a planet with a primitive species that only communicated with complex whistle-sounds. They would never be able to mimic human speech and humans could never mimic the complex whistles they have. So study is done between the two species and humans create a synthetic voice box to match the native species which can be played kind of like a clarinet with the hands matching the way the muscles should move.
    Then they learn through a mix of sign language and stuff. They just learn language gradually.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can always use Earth as an example - even though there are so many different languages, we have a long tradition of trying to come up with "lingua franca". It used to be latin, then French, now it's English, and English is likely to stay because of it's relative simplicity. It is a lot easier to learn it well enough to communicate, than probably any other language. Plus, world culture has been saturated with it so most people find it familiar.

    I envisage Earth to have one global official language in the future, and regional languages to remain more as a historical curiosity.
    Maybe that's how you can explain it.
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    100 years ago, where I live, there were Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Sunni Muslim, as well as other smaller minoities, all in the same city of about 2,000 people. There were 4 main scripts that businessmen had to read and write, and everyone, including the poorest, knew at least one language apart from their mother tongue, and a smattering of about 3 more. It's still common to be bilingual. Despite what some people have (many years later) led others to believe, or been paid to testify, there was a general respect for all the different communities and very little civic trouble (although intermarriage was relatively rare).
     
  11. jeffbarker
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    jeffbarker Member

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    Well in what I'm writing, everyone talks in a single language, although I have ideas for a high language floating around because there are some words that are the proper names but for the most part never used. I think I would end up settling that issue with a translator.

    For the most part though they all appear to speak the same language. I think that it's sort of accepted that all the races will generally speak the same language. Perhaps revert back to their native tongue when they want to talk easier to someone else who knows it as well.
     
  12. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Some of my races communicate with the common language, the overall western speak. But it's not all just one language, in my fantasy world theres all kinds of different, exotic languages. Each with two or more languages per race. What Cogito said is very true, which in fact one element i borrow is cultural diversity. It doesn't seem realistic to just have one language. It would be kind of boring if all 7 billion in this world spoke one language.
     
  13. RusticOnion
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    RusticOnion Contributing Member

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    In my world there's 7 races, a few communicate via translators and a few share the same language.

    As to history, I guess they simply did to encourage trade? Resolve a conflict? adopt a culture?
     
  14. Pink-Angel-1992
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    Pink-Angel-1992 Active Member

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    For different races to be able to communicate and understand each other would be the same as how different cultures can. Being different races they should pobably have their own culture, language and stuff, but they will or should develop a common tongue to help them understand each other... Of course that would be saying they are not an isolated race that no-one or very little have come across, that would be different; body language would be best there, kinda like sharades (which I've mostlikely spelt wrong, sorry!).
     

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