1. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    Dialogue Using Classical Languages in a story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ChaosReigns, Oct 15, 2013.

    Is it possible to use something such as Latin or ancient Greek in modern writing? i have an idea for something that i feel, would be better suited to a classical language rather than a creation of a new language.

    things such as City names will also be in this language and possibly the title.

    *edit*
    and would it be best advised to know a bit about these languages, ie grammar and structure before writing any of it?
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2013
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You may want to use any Latin or Ancient Greek sparingly because if readers see huge chunks of either of those languages, I'm not sure they'll be too happy. Consider sticking to short phrases and sentences so that the meaning can be determined from the context.
     
  3. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    It's possible, it's even been done well in Joyce. You need to know how to do it though.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Absolutely! However, I would suggest learning more than just "a bit" about these languages. Trying to include languages you're unfamiliar with is a very bad idea IMO.
     
  5. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    This was what i was intending to do, only short snippets of the languages...
     
  6. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    i completely get that, i wish id stayed out in france long enough to take Latin now, that would have served a good purpose now
     
  7. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds cool! I especially like the idea of using Ancient Greek.

    But like thirdwind said, don't go overboard with it. And if you are unsure whether you got it right, just run your Latin or Greek phrases by someone (or several) who speaks them well.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Why would you want to use a language you do not properly understand? I don't get that at all.
     
  9. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    in my case, its because the second language i speak (french) would not fit in with how im setting this story up, whereas either of those languages would. i have seen what both look like and can at least, once ive knuckled down and learnt some of each, be comfortable using them...

    so learning the languages isnt an issue, as i already speak another
     
  10. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just don't use google translate for this :)

    Classical Latin is relatively easy to learn, Old Greek a bit less so,but you DO need to know a lot more than just "be comfortable" with a dead language to actually speak it... Double check with someone, preferably a language schoolar.

    Good luck anyways ;)
     
  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you’ll just have to put some effort into learning that language, but if you’re willing to go the distance, it’d be quite interesting to see, say, ancient Greek in fiction that’s primarily in English.

    Or you can learn the basics, then consult someone. You’d just have to put a lot of trust in someone else’s skills in that case.


    I so wish having learned one foreign language guaranteed one can pick up any language…
    French (and English) are quite different from Latin and Greek, after all.
     
  12. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    I took a look at Latin, and because i speak near fluent French, and some Spanish, it really isn't going to be all that difficult to work out, because, Italian is probably closer to Latin than Spanish or French, but if you use both at the same time, it almost (with a few exceptions) works in a similar manner...

    its a little complicated i know, but im a complicated person... so its no surprise there
     
  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Many French words have roots in Greek and Latin, yes, but e.g. where French is moderately inflected, Latin is highly so. I do admit it, it does help to know another, somewhat similar language. My first language (Finnish) has a gazillion different ways to inflect verbs, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and prepositions, so it didn’t come as a shock to start memorizing French cases, it was more like, “oh, this is it? N00bs!” :D I think there’re a few people here on the boards who know Latin, so if you are unsure of something, you could ask them…

    I also like to utilize other languages than English in my (and my writing partner’s) writing. Granted, only those we can more or less speak -- and just to give some flavor. We have steered clear of Finnish, though, ironically enough.

    Anyway, good luck! :)
     
  14. Tara
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    Tara Contributing Member

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    As someone who has had French and Latin class I can say I think Latin is an awful lot harder than French, but I guess that's just my personal opinion.
    Latin is kind of like that too. How words are inflected doesn't only depend on whether it's a noun or an adjective or a pronoun etc. but also on the word itself, so good luck with that.

    If you want to use ancient Greek you should keep in mind that the Greeks used (and still use?) an entirely different alphabet. Learning to read the Greek alphabet won't take longer than a week, but you will have to let go of the Greek alphabet and write the words in the "normal" alphabet if you want people to be able to read what you've written.

    I have to admit that's all I remember about it; foreign languages (other than English and French) have never been something I'm good at.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i can see using some latin, but greek, to be authentic, must be written with the greek alphabet, which will just be chicken scratches to readers who aren't fluent in written greek...and writing a transliteration in roman letters will not be 'real' greek...

    in either case, what would be your purpose?... and would you be providing english translations?... if so, where/how?
     
  16. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I actually took it for granted she'd transliterate. I've read a bunch of novels in English with e.g. Russian and Japanese phrases in them, all written with the Latin alphabet (like Clavell's The Shogun, or those Russian SF/F novels I've recently read). It won't be "real-real," but for someone who doesn't understand Greek it'll look real enough.
     
  17. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are actually several systems of romanization, or latinic transliteration, of Greek, but to use them, I believe one has to know the language quite well... I do believe Latin is going to be far easier to implement in an English text...

    @KaTrian I think Japanese learn to write in latin letters in schools, but kana is, of course, a prefered method of writing :)
     
  18. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    The Purpose: its a place where new meets old, Latin is still used by scholars and upper folk, who appear quite frequently in this piece of mine. its seen as a "class" kind of thing

    Take a look at Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle (first one that came to mind here) he had a glossary of terms used at the end of the book, this was the fashion i was intending to go for

    believe me when i say, that, the only reason i know french as well as i do was because i lived there, and i expected to know, and id only had 2 years of very basic french classes before id moved out there... that was a tough challenge considering i was 12 at the time... it has given me the can-do attitude that i have today
     
  19. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think I've seen Russian romanized in different ways too, actually, so I wouldn't be surprised there're different ways to romanize Greek too.

    That's cool :)
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In my current project, I occasionally use words or phrases of another language (Spanish). I do not speak Spanish, so I only use what I have seen used elsewhere, and then I check in with a friend who is a translator and a native Spanish speaker to check my syntax. However, I have thus far restricted my usage to place names, terms that were used at the time but no longer are, or in dialogue where my narrator does not understand and I want to put the reader in his place. However, in those instances, I have used subsequent dialogue in English to get the idea across to the reader.

    My advice, as @mammamaia's, is that if you are going to do it, have a specific purpose and do so very sparingly.
     
  21. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    my intention was never to flood the entire book with it, place names yeah, they are going to be frequent, but the odd shout here, the odd passing comment there, that was what it was going to be and that only... i will have a glossary of terms at the back so that there wont be any confusion
     
  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A glossary? I'd think that would be a major turnoff for a lot of readers.
     
  23. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    hmm, ive spoke to people whove read the Inheritance Cycle, (im not the only one, and it does have a glossary) and a lot of people ive spoke to dont seem to be phased by it at all
     
  24. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't like the idea of a glossary, either. Flipping back and forth would get annoying after a while.
     
  25. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I've read books with a glossary, and unless I really care about what's going on, and the book as a work of art I don't bother with it personally. I'll consult the Glossary when I need to to check pronunciation or something (actually the Fagles translations of Homer are always great for this) but if it's something like those Eragon books I don't bother. To be honest, I find them really self-important.

    Also, this isn't exactly using a classical language in a story, it's just using words from a classical language. Writers do this sort of thing all the time.
     

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