1. JCAC138
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    JCAC138 Member

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    New languages in a novel?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JCAC138, Jul 11, 2013.

    I was planning my novel, as well as preparing the scheme for the setting and main characters when I entered a dilemma. In the story, the characters make use of a foreign language (lets call it "Mogul" for now) to do "witchcraft"; summon demons, talk with spirits, enchant items, and cast spells for instance.
    Now, the thing is: If I plan to use this language a subsequent amount of times in the novel, since one of the main plots deals with a sort of demonic magic in a small measure, should I completely create relevant words, sentences, and meanings to back them up? Or should I just make up random words to back up what the characters are supposedly saying.. even if it actually has no meaning at all?

    What I am trying to say is: Should I go on, and get "inside" this new language though, and completely create a new one (even if it is not 100%, just about the 30% i will use in the novel)? <-- Like Lord of the Rings Elf language.
    OR, should I just shout out random words with no meaning, but sound cool?
     
  2. du59
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    du59 New Member

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    In my opinion you should try to structure a quick language. Make sure the word structures at least sort of match for similar things, and or your putting words and phrases together to do things that they should. Here's what I mean. Lets say the word "vox" means fire and the word "gantas" means wall. If a character would want a wall of fire, the word should be something like "voxgantas" or "voxgantia", not something like "ginormo". Think along the lines of the magic language in Eragon if you've read it. Do you see what I'm saying?
     
  3. JCAC138
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    JCAC138 Member

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    So, I should use the same structure as the mandarin language, where junctions of words and phrases create others? Alright, sounds like a good idea :) Thanks for the quick response!
    Ill to research a little about how the language in Eragon was made, or ill watch the movie *shrugs*.. maybe that will give me a good hint as well.
     
  4. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    Yes, construct your language - at least in outline. You can take this as far as you want of course (Tolkien created rather complete languages, and there is the Klingon language in the Star Trek universe), or just keep it as an outline.
     
  5. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    Unless you're a full-blown linguist like Tolkien who can pull it off, I'd recommend refraining from actually inventing a new language. Instead, if someone is speaking in this language in the story, have the narrator state that they are speaking in a foreign language, discuss why the language is significant at some point, and explain how the language *sounds* in the ears of the protagonist(s). Making up words just to make it seem like you made up a new language isn't going to impress anyone. Or, if the protagonist speaks the language too, simply indicate that he/she is speaking in that language and then write out what they're saying in English. It's cleaner and more professional. Unless you're Tolkien.
     
  6. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Giving the Mogul the same structure as an existing language is good, but I would really only write those Mogul words for individual evocations. If your mage is casting a fireball spell, have him say "fireball." But for a full conversation with a spirit in Mogul, keep it in English and use something like italics to indicate that it's being spoken in this other language.
    PLEASE don't try to Tolkein out a full language. It really didn't even work for him.
     
  7. Kita
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    Kita Senior Member

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    I wouldn't recommend wasting your time with the movie. It was pure and utter garbage. The books on the other hand are brilliant.
     
  8. Thom
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    Thom Member

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    Keep them relevant. Keep words meaning what they intend rather than mixing them up. This will help you as well as the reader.
    And, if you don't want to create a whole new language, you could simply use a real language. If so, I would suggest using an uncommon language, of which there are thousands to choose from.
     
  9. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    I hated having to learn rabbit speak in Adams's Watership Down. I think best to come up with a few important phrases; if the same word is used in similar phrases, make sure it is the same fictitious word.
     
  10. Harlequin~
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    Harlequin~ Banned

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    I think it would be amazing to create your own language! That's the kind of project that would be fun and really get you into that side of the story, both while you are writing it and reading it. I would suggest researching some basic or dead languages and either using those words or even the roots of those words to construct a language.
     
  11. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    . Same reason I never read more than ten pages of Clockwork Orange. Flipping to the glossary in the back is snorp in the erbleflop. Want to know what that is? Check the glossary.
     
  12. Uberwatch
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    Uberwatch Active Member

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    Was it called NADSAT? I forgot but Clockwork Orange was fun, but a pain to read. It was weird because I kind of understood what was going on while not understanding the made-up language at the same time.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You're so right about that! I loved LOTR, but constantly skipped over the Elven-language bits. If I'm going to learn a foreign language, I would rather it be something I can actually use later on! Tolkien was a linguist and loved this stuff, but I'm afraid, while it added a certain flavour to his story, sometimes it was just too much.
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    What purpose would it serve for the reader to have to read through bits of a make-believe language?

    In my current project, there are a few of times I have snippets of dialogue in Spanish. I do this specifically to put the reader in the shoes of one of my characters who does not speak Spanish, and I make sure the reader catches the general meaning of what is said the same way the character does in the story. The only other Spanish words I use are either place names or common terms at the time, and the meanings are obvious enough to the reader.

    In his novel Shogun, James Clavell had an Englishman alone in Japan. At first, he understood nothing that was said to him, and the reader understood this, but the entire novel uses only a handful of Japanese words and the reader does not need to struggle to know their meanings.

    In the OP, it sounds as if all of the characters speak the same language. If that's the case, I see no reason to burden the reader with a lot of nonsensical phrases and a pretend language. It will add nothing to the story. Even if there are two different groups, each speaking a different language, it would likely add nothing unless the difference in language has a significant impact on the story. And even then, there are far better ways to portray this (see the Clavell example above) than to burden the reader with the languages themselves.

    Good luck with your project.
     
  15. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I loved the languages :) Maybe it depends on your GQ (Geek Quotient) - mine's probably quite high.

    I used to be a member of a forum (Zompist Bulletin Board) predominantly for people interested in constructing languages.
     
  16. VTitus
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    VTitus New Member

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    I faced a similar problem and attempted to create a new language, but rather I found it easier to fall back on a language with ancient roots such as Latin or hebrew and simply distort it a little. Real ancient languages often convey that primitive mysterious feel that you may be looking for. Just a suggestion.
     

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