1. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    Shall I create a new language?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by I.A. By the Barn, Nov 1, 2015.

    One of my characters in the trilogy I'm trying to write speaks all the languages in the world including dragon tongue, when she speaks this shall I put in English and in italics or actually write in the language? Trying to create a language would be really complicated but as she already speaks several languages I'd have to state near every bit of italics what she is speaking. Shall I do half and half or will that be confusing too?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    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:
     
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  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not a fan of reading made-up languages, or even real languages included in English books. (I used to live in Montreal, a very bilingual city, and while I can usually get by with reading French, I'm really not good at understanding oral French. But the news broadcasts in Montreal would generally assume bilingualism - an English-speaking reporter would interview someone who answered in French, and the story would just go on with no translation. Drove me nuts).

    Anyway, back to your question...

    There is probably a small group of people who would prefer that you made up a language, but I think they're probably the same small group who will endlessly examine your made-up language for grammar, syntax, etc. So if you're going to do this, you'll have to do a really good job or else earn the wrath of the very group you're trying to please. Simpler to just use English and say it's a different language, I'd say.
     
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  4. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In the second Myst book (The Book of Ti'ana) the first few lines of dialogue are written in the language of D'ni in order to show the reader that it's not spoken in English. After that, however, all dialogue in the book is written in plain English.
    Personally I love seeing foreign/made-up languages in books, but only when it's not supposed to be understood (i.e. the POV character doesn't understand it) or possibly when it's translated immediately after or the meaning is clear from the context. If actual important dialogue is spoken in an unknown language, it just makes it annoying to read (how can I be immersed in a book if I don't know what's being said?).

    As for your dragon tongue example, if there is a lot of dialogue I'd probably write it in English. But if it's just a short exchange (a couple of lines or so) and the POV character does not know the language, I'd go with dragon tongue. It could also work if the character speaking to the dragon translates what's being said into English (like an interpreter).
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Like Wrey above, I tend to gloss over words I don't know. You try writing in a made-up language and I'll probably just skip right over it onto the English that I actually understand. It's pretty much a lot of effort for nothing - create one if it gives you pleasure, but there's little need I think. Creating a few words for the sake of authenticity might be nice, but not an entire language. I think Tolkien was just being self-indulgent :p

    Also, if your character keeps speaking in different languages and you draw too much attention to it, chances are readers might start glossing over it. You know, she's speaking in English, now Italian, now Swedish, now Dragon, now Italian again, now German, now..... *YAWN*

    Basically, unless the language your character's speaking is important - say, she's the only fluent speaker of the language amongst a group and her language skills are needed for something, even if it's just for reading the menu 'cause someone's starving - unless that's the case, I'd keep the language switching detail as inconspicuous as possible.
     
  6. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    When writing another language as if it was English the standard is to put the text in carrot brackets.
    Like this:
    <It's a good thing that no one can understand what we are saying, or they would know we are out to kill them!>
     
  7. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's standard? I can't recall ever seeing it used... o_O
     
  8. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    It's not used often, but I've seen it in more than one book. Right now the only thing that leaps out at me is Doonsbury cartoons however.

    It is (understandably) difficult to search for.
     
  9. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's more difficult in books than film/TV, as you only have words. You don't have a foreground and background for something to fade into, and you don't have images to rely on when the audience/readers can't understand what is being said.

    It's more common to have occasional words in a language, or short phrases. That can, in my opinion, add colour to a sci fi book (and probably fantasy but I don't read much of it) if the words are introduced skilfully and the vocabulary the reader has to learn isn't too much. Long sections in a foreign language don't work in the written word, and I don't remember seeing an example of that.
     
  10. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    I am familiar with that and I use angle brackets - carrot brackets is a cute word for them.

    My stance? Just use English and mark the usage in some fashion instead of incorporating the text outright. This way you can have several languages and convey the meaning without issue. If you want to do it with italics or "carrot brackets" go for it. The important point is being understood.

    Most usages of "foreign languages" are a bit tired because it is "coolness" factor and not about the construct and formation of the culture as a whole. I do not like that. My characters do not speak English, but it has become a problem because I need to use English to write it down. Duality in speech can be taken to extremes depending on the language and context - Tein in particular are the characters which heavily rely on such matters. It causes me more problems then you know.
     
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  11. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    I think the occasional word is okay, like honorifics or greetings. But I think full sentences are best presented like:
    The two of them exchanged words in the sibilant dragon language. Jon turned to me and said, "Karnak says the next bus isn't due for another hour."
    Or:
    In the tongue of dragons, Jon asked where the luggage claim was.
     
  12. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Angle brackets! Thank you!
     
  13. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Ah, it appears that they are only technically correct in comic books.
    Which explains why I had seen it in Doonesbury.
     
  14. outsider
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    outsider Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, the lesser mentioned 21st century 'dragon tongue' language of Earth, presumably spoken by the similarly lesser mentioned dragons that inhabit the planet.
     
  15. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    I should have made this more clear, its my fault, but the point of view character is her (she's called Luanna) so does this change it Komposten? I mean there is a point in the book where the main character (Arthur, very original I know) tries speaking it because he just likes trying everything and then can't speak for a day, I was planning to use actual words here and it was going to be one of about six cases where it would actually be heard. It is a very guttural, raspy language.
     

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