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Language posted 19 February 2008 in Writing TipsLanguage by carlsefni, Peralogue

Quote: "Kidruhil Lancer":17qwf7i5
So my question is, as a writer whose language skills are seriously lacking in the creative department, should I just wing it and be consistant? Or should I simply make statements such as "they spoke the such-and-such tongue", and let the reader assume?[/quote:17qwf7i5]

There already been good replies to this (somewhat ancient) topic, but I can't resist adding my tuppence ... <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->

I think it's definitely worth paying a certain amount of attention to the issue of language when it comes to names and such. Speaking for myself, it really bugs me when reading a fantasy series in which the author seems to have treated this issue with arbitrary abandon. I may not represent the &quot;average reader&quot;, having too strong a linguistic background not to notice the details, but I think even there's a subtle effect that operates on a reader not paying attention to this stuff.

In our Real World, there are patterns to names and repeated elements, and these patterns and elements are different in different places (where people speak different languages). I think (admittedly, based on little but gut feeling <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->) that there's readers will subconsciously notice when a writer emulates this effect, and they'll have a sense that the world is &quot;deeper&quot;, and the story richer, because the story's names behave in a way that the familiar Real World's names do as well.

As for how to achieve this -- well, you can waste a lot of time conlanging (though it might be a very enjoyable waste of time, so it depends on what you want to do <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->).

To invent your own terminology in a consistent way, you can simplymake a list of common elements used in personal and place names, and assign your own values to them. So, as utterly arbitrary examples, &quot;stronghold&quot; is targ, &quot;wolf&quot; is arku, and &quot;helmet&quot; is thano; you then can invent an ancient war-leader called Arkuthano (&quot;Wolf-helm&quot;) and call his castle Targ Arkuthano. You can go a step further and invent a genitive case (the possesive) -- say, by adding a final -n to things, and tweak it to Targ Arkuthanon (= &quot;Arkuthano's stronghold&quot;).

Then if you have several relatively closely related langauges -- either spoken contemporaneously in different regions, or some ancient forms and their modern descendants -- invent some rules that you could apply consistently to explain the differences. So, arbitrarily, let's say Languages A and B are both descended from Language X. The word for &quot;stronghold&quot; is targ in A, and we decide it was anciently tarkas in X -- so, our rules here are &quot;Lose the final syllable and turn resultant final k to g. Meanwhile we decide that in B, &quot;stronghold&quot; is darrs -- so our rules are &quot;initial t becomes d, lose the vowel of the last syllable (but preserve the s), and rk becomes rr&quot;.

OK, that's all simplistic and random, and things get funkier the more rules you have (or need). But already that's enough that if we decide the word in X for &quot;mountain&quot; is kapakas, we could create it's descendants kapag in A and kapaks in B without any other rules. (Or, potentially more interestingly, different forms if we invented yet further rules for the transformations.)

If that's too much like work, you can always just go raiding dead and/or obscure (to the likely reading audience) languages for ready-made words and relationships. Will your readers know (or care) if you steal ngiri (or something like that, meaning &quot;stronghold&quot;) and kur (&quot;mountain&quot;) from Sumerian? <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) --> You can nick what seems to be the gentitive suffix ak as well, and create the name Ngiri Kurak (&quot;Stronghold of the mountain&quot;). Now that may well be awful Sumerian for all I know, but what the heck? It's probably good enough for our purposes <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) --> and there's certainly enough info about Sumerian or any of a variety of other languages to be found by Googling to do that much in just a few minutes. Even if we're &quot;wrong&quot;, as long as we keep it (pretty much) consistent, we'll be fine. view post


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