1. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN

    How to create a language?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Alesia, Sep 17, 2013.

    How do you go about creating a fictional language? One of my secondary protag's is from a fictional tribe in post apocalyptic America, and over the centuries they gradually made their own language and speak no English at all by the time my story takes place. However, my character, Kamenna, was exiled and now speaks heavily accented English. But when she gets really frustrated with something, she will drop a word or phrase in her native tongue. The problem is, I don't even know where to begin with creating any of these phrases. I was thinking something based on Gaulish maybe, or possibly a combination of Native American languages since the name Kamenna is from the Sioux I believe.
     
  2. Uberwatch
    Offline

    Uberwatch Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2013
    Messages:
    257
    Likes Received:
    38
    Location:
    Los Angeles, California
    You're going to have to study linguistics on this. But here's a tip. If you're trying to create a convincing language, you're going to have to establish grammar rules so the words in a fictional language would make sense. Don't create random words out of the blue, otherwise the language wouldn't make a lot of sense. Try and create prefixes or honorifics for certain titles of people. It would give you an understanding on how languages work.

    Also, if you heard of the movie Avatar, the language used in that movie was created from scratch by a linguist. You can also research existing languages and make hybrid dialects if you want.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Languages evolve. Since you note this is a language that evolved from English, I Googled, "the evolution of language" and found a wealth of information.

    Wiki: Language Change, not to be confused with, Language Shift. And there is a science, Evolutionary Linguistics.

    Here is another useful site I found with that search string:
    Language change and evolution
    It shows examples of the direction words take as they evolve.

    My son is reading a 2004 Thomas Pynchon book, Mason Dixon and he's particularly impressed by the extensive research Pynchon put into writing like they would have in the 18th century.

    You can throw something together, the readers may not notice, or you can put a little time into researching how languages evolve and create a more realistic language. It's all about the time you want to invest and how important the created language is to your novel.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  4. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    I wouldn't say it's important enough to establish full grammar rules and the such. Kamenna is pretty far from her tribe and only drops a random word or phrase here and there, so it's not like any big conversations are going to happen. On the note of Avatar, I do like the sound of the Na'vi language, but I'm wouldn't want to copy that of course, though her accent is kind of the same as the Na'vi when they speak English. Maybe something close would work.
     
  5. Aled James Taylor
    Offline

    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    784
    Likes Received:
    462
    Location:
    UK
    Cheat. You could use Google Translate to translate the words and phrases into a little used language that the vast majority of people will not recognize in print e.g. Welsh.

    Don't sell the book in Wales or Patagonia and hope no one will notice.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  6. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    The Indian dialect of Marathi looks like a pretty good choice with some tweaking.
    "Mī āvaśyakatā nāhī" means "I don't need this" according to translate and (if I'm reading the pronunciation cues correctly) looks kind of close to the style I want. I guess people figuring it out depends how many people in India read my story :D
     
  7. TLK
    Offline

    TLK Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2013
    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    35
    "Cheating" is a decent option, but it depends what you want out of the book. If you just want a convincing way of showing foreign characters, then using a relatively unknown language and using Google Translate (or better still - a native speaker) to get what you want is a good idea. If you want to create authenticity and background for your world and races, in a similar way to how Tolkein did, then you're going to have to actually create a new language.

    The first thing you need to set down is the grammar. I'd base it on a language (not English though) that you're familiar with. So, for example, say you based a part of it on the French language and the fact that it has feminine nouns that usually end in "e". You may want to change this slightly. So, you'd have masculine nouns that have no special endings, but have feminine nouns that are usually recognisable by their ending in the letter "u". Then, any adjectives agreeing with said noun would end in "u" as well.

    And you'll need to come up with similar patterns for verbs too, though be aware that commonly used verbs such as "to be", "to go", "to be able to", "to come" or "to see" are irregular in the vast majority of languages, so you would probably want to follow suit, to add extra authenticity.

    Other than that, a lot of it is making things up. So, you may decide that you want "moutal" to mean "to sing". However, you'd then use your rules you've set out to create similar words, so (using example rules above) the noun "song" would be "moutu". How you come across these things initially will vary. I thought up "moutal", using the first four letters of "mouth". You may want to, for example, write the English word backwards, and come up with the word. So, as "sing" backwards is "gnis", you might decide that "to sing" is "Gnisal". And here's another good example: to us, that "g" is silent, as it is in other words, like "gnat". So you may want to omit that, or add a vowel in between, or come up with a pronunciation rule (which admittedly is hard to convey in a written form) to make it a little different.

    Hope this helps :)
     
  8. Dean Stride
    Offline

    Dean Stride Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2013
    Messages:
    370
    Likes Received:
    115
    Location:
    University of East Anglia, Norwich
    Creating a language is so difficult, there are entire organizations dedicated to such endeavors.

    You can't just ignore the crucial facets of language, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation and pronunciation, among others. If you don't want to devote your time to contrive one, don't half-ass it, just use some already existing obscure language. Something spoken by about 50 people globally should do the trick.
     
  9. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    Well yeah, like I said, I'm not trying to create a full conversational language, just a few phrases and single words uttered when Kamenna gets so frustrated English slips her mind.
     
  10. RabidChipmunk
    Offline

    RabidChipmunk Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    2
    If your story is set in post-apocalyptic America, then it would seem semi-reasonable to assume that whatever language your character grew up speaking is an "evolved" form of English, correct? So a useful idea might be looking up the most ancient etymology of certain words that you can find, and then just creatively changing the word from its current state that one that could reasonably exist in many years.

    So for example, say Kamenna gets frustrated with a something and calls it "trash." The word "trash" has a number of possible sources, most likely Scandinavian (Old Norse tros "rubbish, fallen leaves and twigs," Norwegian dialectal trask "lumber, trash, baggage," Swedish trasa "rags, tatters", according to etymonline.com). From there, just get creative; you can either choose one of the original words and recycle them (I doubt many people will be after your head, and some may even admire your research), or change the word as you see fit. Maybe call it "troska"?

    Just an idea though.
     
  11. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    That was one of the possible reasons I was looking at tweaked Gaulish or a combined form of Gaulish/Latin/Gaelic. It's an ancient language derived from Latin which is also a root of English. And, Alesia, my MC gets her name from the Gaul city of Alesia so it would fit in a way.
     
  12. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Their language evolves from English? You mean it goes a full circle? From Latin/German/Old Norse/Gaelic to English back to Gaelic/Gaulish/Latin?

    Hmm.... Maybe do some research about development of languages, see if they tend to go a full circle. Will the grammar change fundamentally? Will they drop prepositions or articles? Does the language become inflective? I've only studied North and West Germanic languages, Romance languages, and my mother-tongue which is Finnic, so I don't really know much how e.g. Gaelic and Latin would "creep back" to English.

    The way my mother-tongue has changed, well, it's gotten more and more meshed with English, it being lingua franca nowadays. English words are agglutinated, "embedded", into our grammar and some idioms are translated, but on the grammar level, a change is yet to be seen. However, your proposed time is centuries, and English has been effecting Finnish only for a couple of decades, so I can't really draw comparisons there...

    I like the idea of Native American and English mixing. I don't know much about Native American languages, but it'd be interesting to see how you make the grammars mesh. I mean, not all curses are random words that in no way reflect the grammar. Think about this:
    Go to Hell.
    Mene helvetti
    in
    Two different languages, same meaning, but one employs prepositions, one suffixes (typical to agglutinative languages, note that Siouan languages spoken by Native American tribes belong to this group).

    How have you thought about showing the accent? It'll help if you know other languages than English, then you can pinpoint the phonemes/stress you struggle with while learning a new language. Despite what Hollywood wants us to believe, it's quite difficult to shed an accent or change it. I've studied English since I was 7, speak it every day, and still the open vowels and the lack of voiced consonants of my native tongue sometimes creep to my speech.

    But I think you can also get away with random words. Most of your readers aren't linguists or haven't studied linguistics, so they wouldn't probably notice anything. Though, to be honest, I wouldn't go down that road myself.
     
  13. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    I was just going to show the accent #1 by the MC narrator noting it, and #2 write it out in dialogue, though I'm trying to figure out how to convey the right spellings. It's close to that accent the Na'Vi had in Avatar when they speak English, at least that's how my brain keeps interpreting it when I hear her voice in my head.

    What I've got so far to base an accent off:
    Most "A" sounds seem to come out as "ah" as in laws, except in the case of "wei" in the one phrase that popped into my mind "Adeh wey" (pronounced ah-day way) which means "go away" and is literally derived from the English "away."
    Some words have a throaty "H" sound to them like the Gaulish "daga" (dagh-ha) Almost like you're gonna hock a loogie, but not. It feels hard to explain.
    "Ou" sounds are pronounced with a "w" sound just like the Gaulish Iouintutos (eh-win-tu-tos)
    In English, she can't seem to pronounce the TH sound. It comes out D, so there could be written as "der." or "deare."
    I'll figure it out, eventually :) There's still about 8 chapters tow write before Kamenna's planned entrance anyway.
     
  14. idle
    Offline

    idle Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2012
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    one of the hearts of Europe
    Hey, "troska" is Czech for "ruin". Now you've made me wonder about its etymology. :)
     
  15. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    And 'roska' means trash in Finnish... Fancy that.
     
    idle likes this.
  16. archerfenris
    Offline

    archerfenris Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2013
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    67
    Location:
    Savannah, GA
    I'm in the middle of my first novel right now, which is fantasy. With only a basic understanding of foreign languages (what I've learned from studying them in school and my study abroad) I've kept my language making very simple. Only a few words, like what you're aiming for. I've used the basics and created enough to represent the Sorbian language in my books. The first sentence one of my characters says is "Nikita do nomi Sorbian?" which is asking the main character if she speaks Sorbian. Once the characters responds in "common" they switch back to English and not a word of Sorbian is spoken for chapters down the line.

    In my creation I borrowed from Japanese in that each word ends in a vowel with the exception of N. In essence, the woman really asked "Speakyou (the verb and pronoun are combined such as in latin) the language Sorbian?" Very simple. Also to note, It would be "nikita" (speak you) for a question but "taniki" for a statement. Perhaps down the line I may build more, but with my limited knowledge of how the languages work I don't want to bite off more than I can chew. Perhaps this method will work for you as well? Keep it simple is my theory, anyhow.
     
  17. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    See other threads on this same question.

    Seems nearly everyone wants to create their own language. Yet so few are successful. There is a reason.
     
  18. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @archerfernis I hope you do realize Sorbian is an actual real life language? :)
     
  19. archerfenris
    Offline

    archerfenris Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2013
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    67
    Location:
    Savannah, GA
    Serbian? Yes I had a Serbian roommate in Germany, lol.
     
  20. Morgan Willows
    Offline

    Morgan Willows Member

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2013
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Arizona
    There's this handy guide, which makes a good starting point, gives you a sort of inventory of what you need to look for/consider/research and it has links at the end to other tips/tutorials.
     

Share This Page