1. DarkusTerror
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    DarkusTerror Member

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    Using real-life languages in non-Earth settings

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by DarkusTerror, Feb 19, 2016.

    So this is something I've been wondering about for a while. In Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and sometimes Horror, and whenever a story is not set in the real world, there tends to be fictional languages of some sort. Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki - the list goes on. But what about the use of languages like Latin, Greek, or Japanese? Whilst you would need to put in some logical reasoning behind the use of those languages in a world that is not Earth or does not involve humans, I'm still not sure whether using them would be 'pretentious' or not.

    For example, I'm using Latin as a language spoken by a 'ancestral' race of sorts, but I'm not sure how a reader, especially one who understands Latin fluently, will react to its use.

    What are your thoughts on this matter?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Makes no sense to me. Writing in English is a sort of accepted genre convention - I think the idea is that we're just translating whatever the 'real' language would be. But adding other languages, ones that are based on Earth languages? Unless you're going to have some link between the alien cultures and the Earth cultures, I can't see how it would make sense.
     
  3. DarkusTerror
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    DarkusTerror Member

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    What I've envisioned is that there is a link of sorts, but it isn't one that will be made explicit early on. The premise is a world created from loose interpretations and translations of human mythology. The use of Latin is, in a way, meant to reflect the language choices of the medieval age human societies that used it. However, without actually clarifying that the world has that design, the language might not actually make sense, as you said above. If need be, I will create or adapt a new language as a replacement, but I'm not really skilled at linguistics, so I might botch the attempt.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Important to note that Latin was not spoken by many people in the medieval age. The only reason it seems that way to us today is because any books that were being written at the time were being written by a microscopically small group of literate people who shared Latin as a lingua franca because they were also connected by the fact that they were clergy. The VAST majority of everyone else alive was speaking something else and they were pretty much all illiterate.
     
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  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen this done, though not frequently. I think the idea the author had was that since the story was told in "English," thereby embracing the fiction that it is being translated from whatever language prevails in the fictional world, the secondary languages from the fictional world were also be translated, but simply into different earth languages to emphasize that they were different (and also the lend a certain flavor to the secondary languages). Wish I could remember where I saw this. It was quite some time ago I think.
     
  6. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eh... no. If you've read All the Light We Cannot See, you'll notice that the use of French and German is minimal even though the whole book takes place in those two countries. The reader just assumes they're speaking their respective languages. If you want to convey something the reader understands, but the character doesn't, sure. If you want to avoid this, just tell the reader that "he didn't understand a thing they were saying ... but they sounded angry." or something like that.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @DarkusTerror anytime you post a "can I" question on a writing forums, you'll get some noes. It's bollocks. You want to find out if you can do it, write it that way and get feedback from beta readers. You can do anything you like if you can make it work for the reader.
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    The actual question asked was "what are your thoughts on this matter?"

    So, are all the responses but yours still "bollocks"?
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The ones that say you can't do it are. Like I said, I've seen this done in a published work, though it was some time ago. It's all a matter of whether the writer can do it well. From a logical perspective, if you have a book ostensibly set in some other world, but where the primary language is represented in English, it is no less logical to represent secondary languages in some other real language.
     
  10. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    My gut instinct is that I'd have a far easier time accepting a Latin (or Latin-ish) inscription on an ancient monument than I would for the hero to venture into the Zardreki swamps to find the six-limbed, four-eyed Zardreki speaking French. Using Latin as 'the old tongue' feels far more like a convention than to use other living languages in the text.
     
  11. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    I'm currently reading a comic with an Orc main character. He has a Russian accent, and his speech is interspersed with Russian words. So far, all the comments I've seen have liked it.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That sounds like an interesting approach. It bugs me that I can't remember the book I saw this in, but it has been a long time. Basically, it was a similar idea to what you describe.

    Now that I think about it, I think I've seen elvish done using Welsh or Gaelic, even in instances where the stories aren't set on our world. But I'd have to do some looking to be sure.
     
  13. Penfist
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    Unless your primary marketing is to post-doctoral students this is a non-issue. I read somewhere that George R.R. Martin made up about 150 Dothraki words for his fake language. Then they expanded it for the HBO special. But that's after the money was in the pot to pay for a linguistics expert, whom I later saw interviewed on a late night talk show. The linguistics guy was wonderfully weird.

    There are so few people on this planet who are fluent in Latin at the moment, that the chances of them a) reading your story and b) taking offense to it aren't worth wasting time on. Just my opinion. To be fair, my opinion is that you should write whatever brings you pleasure and let it find the audience it was meant for.

    If you're halfway talented, and put in a crap ton of effort on marketing, your stories will find homes. No matter what languages you choose to make up or not make up.
     

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