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  1. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Post Apocalyptic Language

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by MilesTro, Apr 14, 2014.

    How would human language change after all civilization falls in the distant future? Would modern slang words still exist or evolve differently. And would the words become old fashion? The setting takes place three thousand years after a comet hits the Earth and sends the survivors back into the stone age.
     
  2. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    I imagine that in three thousand years, we might have cycled through the rise and fall of Rome more than once. "Cool" would probably not be remembered, much less as slang.

    It will probably be more a case of setting a tone for your work, and maybe a different tone for the archaic.
     
  3. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    David Mitchell did an astonishingly good job of forcing the evolution of language in Cloud Atlas. If you're really looking for examples of how language can evolve I'd strongly recommend at least paging through it, especially the "Sloosha's Crossin'" section. It starts in the 1800's and works its way through the present, into a sci-fi future, and then past that into post-apocalyptica. The language is constantly evolving from time period to time period, taking what came before and creating new slang, new dialect, and even new words that flow so well from what came before that you have no trouble understanding their meaning.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Depends on how bad the apocalypse is. If it's really bad: no books, no dictionaries, nothing like that at all, then the important thing to remember is that the only language that will survive directly after the apocalypse is the living language. Words that rarely get used, literary words, technical words, industry specific verbiage, dead words, all of that will disappear. Never mind just dissolution of slang. Whole swaths of non-slang, perfectly standard-use words will disappear easily within a generation, absolutely within two. The language's noun base will shrink drastically.
     
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  5. Jak of Hearts
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    Jak of Hearts Member

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    3000 years after the fall of civilization, I'd assume that language wouldnt even resemble its modern day equivalent even if it was the same language. Id say write it with modern slang and make mention of changes in language. The audience will assume that the concepts are being translated. I think if you tried to write new slang/language for that large of a time gap then it would come out unrealistic or too frustrating and distracting.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    keep in mind that earth's inhabitants are a polyracial, polyethnic, polylingual mix...

    who's going to be alive in 3k years?... where will they be living?... will they all be descended from one race/society, or from some/all of today's?
     
  7. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    There is no sure answer to your questions. The only sure thing is that languages (slang at least) evolve very rapidly. Me and my younger brother have only a five year difference, and still our use of slang was very different as teenagers.

    You have to create your universe.
     
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  8. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    3000 years is, in my mind, probably enough to make the language at least near-unitelligible to today's eyes and ears, especially because of the apocalypse and the stone age time spent after it. If society continued like today for that long it's very possible English wouldn't change too drastically, because the situation would be so much more stable than it has been for the last 1000 or so, but it would still be unpredictable.

    My advice is 1) Consider how important it actually is for the readers to get this information, how much you should tell and how interesting it'll be. 2) Decide how the language(s) is/are yourself, letting yourself work within a the realm of reasonable possibilities (readers won't mind if they all speak the same language or the language is now indeciphrable to us; but if everyone speaks Faroese or if people have started speaking only in guttural sounds, only using vowels or have stopped talking altogether, they will probably find that strange and silly). 3) Consider if, how and why English or any other language may have become the only language at that time, and if not whether or not they will be in contact with people who don't speak their language (because of isolation it's also possible what is now one language may then have diverged enough to be two or more different ones). 4) Take into account that it's likely that none of your characters have sufficient knowledge of other people or of the past to tell the readers this information themselves. 5) Depending on how you write your story, it's possible mentioning anything about their language(s) will diminish the authenticity of your story.

    I love your story idea, BTW. Good luck. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Slang does, but language in general, at least in the modern era, does not change rapidly at all. The purpose, use and genesis of true slang terms guaranty a very short shelf life for these words. As soon as they are picked up by people outside the group that creates them, they lose their purpose and are quickly dropped and replaced. That is the nature of slang: ephemerality. Hence, the difference in the slangy terms between you and your brother.

    It is a common misconception that slang is this great changer, this juggernaut of flux, but it is in fact the weakest force of linguistic change. It's flashy, but has no power. Real change in language happens in other ways and for other reasons. @Bjørnar Munkerud is correct when s/he says that English in the modern world, under modern conditions would change, but not hugely. This is because modern technology, mass media, and other storage/vehicular devices of language have a stabilizing effect on modern languages. We live in a period of time where language change has slowed to nearly a stop compared to past eras where other, much stronger forces for language change were present. Isolationism, linguistic drift, heretofore unknown cultures meeting one another creating pidgins, then creoles, etc. In a post apocalyptic climate with these modern language-stabilizers removed or destroyed, language would revert to its more natural state of evolution driven by the natural selection paradigms that we have artificially muffled.
     
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  10. Robert_S
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    One book I have on language construction posits languages undergo majors shifts or changes every 2ooo years. English has two major transformations in less than 2000 years of its history.

    I think in your story world, truth be told, we wouldn't see anything like the English we use today.
     
  11. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    The survivors also mutated into animal hybrids while others died in the impact. Right now they still speak English while some invented their own language. They also live in separate tribes with their own laws and cultures. I'm not sure if they are too unbelievably modern. Plus one critic thinks they should talk with old fashion words.
     
  12. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    If this is up in the workshop, I request a link.
     
  13. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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  14. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    I read, and I still stand by my opinion... You should set a tone for one group that speaks in archaic, and a different tone for the slangy-tribal guys.
     
  15. Patra Felino
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    Patra Felino Active Member

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    "For Halley’s sake, stop being such a crater. I know it’s difficult to find food nowadays, but I’ll go on my own next time if you’re going to be a total comet about it."
     
  16. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    What is archaic? Vegetarian is the only tribal slang I found. It means a person who can't hunt or fish. Basically he is useless.
     
  17. Smoke Z
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    Pretty much make it sound old-timey or stilted.

    Maybe one group speaks like high-class European while the other group talks like cowboys.

    I'm working with characters that are supposed to sound like refugees from Hamlet, but their dialogue is still understandable.

    Compare a Chinese immigrant who is fluent in English. The stereotype is that they speak very precisely.
     
  18. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I remember seeing a movie called Wizards, directed by Ralph Bakshi. If you haven't seen it, it takes place in a distant future after a nuclear war where humans changed into fairies, elves, and mutants. Although cartoony, they speak a little old fashion.
     
  19. Tiradentes
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    For comparison, 3,000 years is greater than the space between Proto-Germanic and modern English. Assuming that the pace of language change doesn't slow radically for some reason, the languages spoken at that time would be wholly unrecognizable to us. Unless you want a lot of verisimilitude in your story there's no need to give what is spoken much thought.
     
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  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Interesting question. Though what a task! It's hard to balance something futuristic yet still understandable not only for nowadays readers but future readers. A clockwork Orange manages this I think better than Riddley Walker - though it could be my personal taste. Riddley Walker's spelling stumps me - and on average I'm not good with pronouncing things. I always thought Proust was Pr-owe-st.

    You could research some books discussing the evolution of language. I've looked at some. Words - especially spoken ones seem to stem from necessity - they'll be dropped from conversation when they're no longer needed. If it wasn't for Dial soap would the word dial have any meaning for anyone anymore? I'd look to the world you created and discover what they'd be talking about most of all. Their new religion, new objects, new concepts - seeing as how their physical state has changed maybe things that belonged to human feelings and emotions now get new twisted - animal tweaked terms.
     
  21. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    One reader also commented that the word, bitch, isn't old fashion enough. And wench is too old fashion. My characters still speak some modern words although they are born in a primitive future.
     
  22. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    "Bitch" did take me out of it a bit, but I'm not used to reading ultra-mature stuff that would include swearing. I don't think it's too modern. Try "whore" maybe?
     
  23. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    "I know you have it, whore! Bring it to me and I shall spare your pathetic life!"

    I don't know about that. If the female character never slept with a lot of males, whore wouldn't sound accurate.

    What about how the characters speak in the Mad Max series?
     
  24. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    I could argue against "bitch" because she's a cat and not a dog. :D

    Keep defending bitch as the right word until someone gives you a better one.
     
  25. HelloThere
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    HelloThere Contributing Member

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    Consider what the English language was like three thousand years in the past - it didn't exist. If you're dead set on this taking place three thousand years in the future then I'd just use artistic liberty and develop a language and tone that you think sounds right. Also, do you reckon people would keep track of how many millennia had passed since the disaster if society had descended to such a primitive level?

    Anyway, your real focus should be consistency. If you remain consistent then the reader shouldn't feel inclined to start questioning.
     

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