invented languages

Discussion in 'Writers Forum' started by kitty fabulous, Jan 7, 2005.

  1. kitty fabulous

    kitty fabulous smoked tofu

    has anyone ever invented a fictional language for a story, like star trek's klingon or tolkien's elven? i'm creating a people for a story i'm working on, and the direction they're moving in now, they're going to need their own language. hints or tips? these people teach through story telling and oral tradition, so i probably won't need to mess with an alphabet, but what else should i consider?
  2. honeyhannah

    honeyhannah herbuhslovuh

    if u have a pet or a baby begin talking gibberish to 'em and a pattern will form
  3. kidder

    kidder Member

    I'd spend more time inventing appealling names for the characters. If you're going to make up your own gibberish dictionary, you must know when most readers get to those parts they skip over them.
  4. Sage-Phoenix

    Sage-Phoenix Imagine

    You'd have to make sure the reader can understand it too.

    Could always sort of cheat I suppose, and use a really obscue but legit language (like a Native American one). Or else blend together a few that have the right rythms.

    Good luck :)
  5. kitty fabulous

    kitty fabulous smoked tofu

    to clarify, i am not writing a fictional dictionary or glossary, nor am i planning on writing chapters or dialogue in the fictional language. in fact, the language is no longer in common use by this particular people, (as they were, over the centuries, frequently conquered or enslaved and eventually took the language of their oppressors and kept it now that they are again a free people) although it is preserved in oral tradition in the form of songs and story-telling, which play an important role in their culture and the development of the plot. the songs, etc. will be alluded to, maybe a line or two quoted, but will probably not be reproduced in whole.

    language shapes thought. the particular people i am inventing have a different worldview and set of values than those in the surrounding lands; thus they have certain words and concepts that those people lack, and lack words for ideas that are common elsewhere. the language is not going to be used as a whole in the story, but its words, phrases and ideas will be, and so it would be useful for me to have a working model at least, if not an entire language, to maintain consistency.

    talking to the pets and the baby is a good idea, as these people would probably talk with children, animals, and even plants on a regular basis. my daughter is at the age where she is just beginning to get command of language, and comes up with some interesting words and phrases.

    edited to add that "gibberish" is actually what i hope to avoid by this process. i feel it would be best if there was some consistency of grammar and syntax, although spelling is irrelevent as it will not be a written language.
  6. kidder

    kidder Member

    If it's not going to be a 'written' language, good luck on including it in your book!
  7. kitty fabulous

    kitty fabulous smoked tofu

    well, i do plan i having characters talk! :rolleyes:

    what i mean by not a written language is that i am not going to have to come up with an alphabet or spelling rules, i can just translate phonetically to english, not that there isn't going to be dialogue or anything.
  8. kidder

    kidder Member

    Kitty, I think you're using this language idea as a delaying technique. You're not sure how you're going to handle the story yet so you're content to get caught up in the peripherals. Don't. If your book can't get legs from plot or character development it ain't gonna happen! Move on.
  9. SelfControl

    SelfControl Boned.

    If it's actually important to the plot, do it.

    If it makes your setting seem more real, do it.

    If it's a stalling tactic, try not to do it.

    It's just as easy to say "x character babbled something in y language" and have it translated where necessary. Most readers don't pick up a book with the intention of facing an ordeal. I mean, by all means do it, but don't let the plot and characters become secondary to it. I've spent stupid amounts of time creating scenarios and settings, and then realised I couldn't come up with a plot that felt grand enough to justify it. The reader probably wouldn't give a shit, but that's not the point, really, is it.
  10. kitty fabulous

    kitty fabulous smoked tofu

    i have a plot, and a skeletal timeline. some of the characters have been simmering on the back burners for a year or longer. but it's big enough that it's a little intimidating, so you may be right. what is most important to the plot is that these people have certain words that others don't that are central to their old language, and form the very basis for their thoughts, so deeply held are those values, even though the rest of the language has fallen out of common usage. if syntax develops along the way, i'll let it, but i shouldn't let it keep me from starting.
  11. SelfControl

    SelfControl Boned.

    It's sort of intriguing. I would make a start, and fill in the minutiae later.
  12. I've started one myself. My friend and I are getting rather fluent in it. It's difficult, but fun. I love speaking it and people looking at you as though you are insane. We also have a written form, which is basically based on the english and works with substitute "letters" but we also have substitutes for commons sounds and letter combinations.
  13. kitty fabulous

    kitty fabulous smoked tofu

    ok, here's the deal, i've got a number of different peoples, that all evolved from the same ancestral tribe. i don't want to spend so much time developing the language that i never get any writing done, but it is important that their similarities are alluded to in the story, without coming out and saying it. should i bother developing similarities in language? the story will of course be written in english, as will dialogue, for simplicity's sake, so it's not like there will be very many whole phrases thrown around throughout the book. maybe a line or two from a song or poem or something, to show the similarities between older songs, but that's about it. the root word of the language of my main character's people is very important; it's such an important concept for them that their whole language grew around that word, but there should be hints of an older language too.
  14. SelfControl

    SelfControl Boned.

    In that case, I would really downplay it at the start. Maybe have the odd allusion to it, but introduce it slowly, so the reader makes the connection ever so slightly before the characters. The real danger with a complicated epic is that you lose momentum, so the best way to avoid it is to let the reader do some of the work for you. Keep them guessing about the linguistic similarities, and then they'll get a little fuzzy feeling inside when they find out they were right.
  15. wow, that's some good advice!
    Definitely take it slow at first. Don't let it become a distraction.

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