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Languages?

If Fiction is your forte, this is the forum for you. This is the place to share information and get help on the road to writing the next great novel.

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JasonTJ
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Languages?

Postby JasonTJ » Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:38 am

After replying in Arpy's 'Made-up Countries' topic, I wondered if there are some people who have also delved into the world of made-up linguistics. The main character of my novel (which I have the basic plot for, and hope to write this summer) is a linguist, translating for his king, so I thought it important to include a bit of the secondary language used in the story. I don't have a ton of it, as I began to make it up as I needed it, and haven't written very much, but I think I've got the hang of it. I feel like the best advice I have on creating a language is to create words for simple ideas, not for every single word.

For example, in my language:

'aehr' = fire
'los' = circle

So 'aehrlos' refers to the sun, or the 'circle of fire'. That's not to say that 'los' even necessarily means 'circle', but rather it's point is to get across anything resembling a circle. Any sort of sphere or round shape could be referred to as 'los'. Another example would be the laedron, an amphitheater-esque place in my story, named 'place of peace'. It's where the seven nations in the story convene for any sort of council regarding international matters.

Aside from simple ideas, which are generally nouns, you'll need some other basic words, such as verbs, to make the sentences flow. I chose to make up words for the five senses, the five main question words, several prepositions (am-is-are-was-were-be-being-been all get one word, because they're used in the same way), as well as three words to determine tense.
I didn't think it would happen.
Didn't think it could.
But now I feel foolish.
I feel like a boy thrust into war,
Becoming a man all in the moment of a first battle.
I'm sorry I couldn't see before,
My immaturity.
I promise I'll do my best to grow up.
To put God first in my life.
To not dwell on this hard time.
And that you'll always be my best friend... after God.

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Shann
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Re: Languages?

Postby Shann » Fri Mar 22, 2013 12:05 pm

I think it sounds fascinating and I like the logic behind it. My biggest fear would be if you put too much of it in, then it might be overwhelming for some readers. I'm trying to think of novels that do that and the only ones that come to mind are The Hunger Games and Harry Potter (YA and children's stories are my favorite genre to read and to write) In the Hunger games, since it is sent in the future, there were names for new technology like mocking jays were birds that would imitate anything they heard. In Harry Potter, she would use mythology for some of her things like centuars and other made up things like quiditch, separate and poly juice potion. The words were sprinkled in and explained so the reader understood. I do believe the word muggle actually was added to the dictionary a few years back and quidditch is played on college campus all over, while the players don't fly, the do use broomsticks and search for the snitch, which I believe is someone in a gold robe zooming about campus.

Good luck, your ideas sound fascinating.
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JasonTJ
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Re: Languages?

Postby JasonTJ » Fri Mar 22, 2013 1:11 pm

I've not actually read the Lord of the Rings series, but I've heard that he made up a whole language for his elves. I couldn't tell you how much, but I'd assume he includes them in the books.

Hunger Games and Harry Potter I've read, and I wouldn't say those are languages so much as just terms. I'd be including full sentences, however few, and just translating them in my character's mind, as it's in first person. (I may try reading the Fellowship of the Rings again to see how Tolkien did it)
I didn't think it would happen.
Didn't think it could.
But now I feel foolish.
I feel like a boy thrust into war,
Becoming a man all in the moment of a first battle.
I'm sorry I couldn't see before,
My immaturity.
I promise I'll do my best to grow up.
To put God first in my life.
To not dwell on this hard time.
And that you'll always be my best friend... after God.

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Hoomi
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Re: Languages?

Postby Hoomi » Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:45 pm

Rather than codifying an entire language, which - frankly - would be a lot of work and not that much of an addition to the story, I made up the concept for the language and included a few of the words and terms in the dialogue. Mostly, when the characters are speaking the other language, I switch to italics so that the reader knows the characters are conversing in something besides English.

In my Eridani stories, the Eridani language is set as a melodic form of speech. The various nuances of a given concept are expressed by how the word is sung, as described in this excerpt from the first book in the series, The Eridanus Dream:

It was an exquisite feast, and even Rory suspended his fears long enough to enjoy the delicacies offered to them. Whatever might happen to them in the village, at least they’d enjoy some good meals during their stay. After they’d finished eating (much too soon in the eyes of the villagers, who all seemed determine to coax the visitors into at least one more morsel), Sean shifted over next to Alice and spoke hurriedly.

“I’m going to give you a quick primer on the local language, and I hope you can pass it on to the others. Y’La and I may not always be close by to help out with translation, so the more all of you learn, the easier it will be.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” she said. “I know you had no control over it, but when they led you off earlier, we were all kind of lost as to what we were supposed to do.”

“I was a bit lost too; they had Y’La and I too far separated for me to benefit from her knowledge, so I had no clue what was going on, either. I couldn’t understand most of what was being said without her nearby. Anyway; here’s some insight that should help with your grasp of the language. Their vocabulary is much more compact than English. Where we have numerous words which mean similar things, depending on connotation and usage, they have one word which covers all nuances. The application of the word is conveyed by how it is sung; the notes associated with the word tell the listener not only the application of the word, but such things as time-tense as well. ‘I went’, ‘I am going’, and ‘I will go’ are all the same word, just sung differently.”

“That’s going to be confusing.”

“It’d be more confusing if you didn’t already know that was how it worked. You’ll need to pay attention to that as you listen, but coming from how we speak, we’d not think that was important. I think you’ll pick it up quickly anyway, but it’s going to take some getting used to for all of you to think of singing your sentences.”

“I certainly hope they’re not music critics.”

“I don’t think you’ll need to worry about that. Now, verbs; personal pronouns are part of the verb conjugation. You’ve heard Y’La say ‘Be’tra’ for ‘thank you’. Using that as an example, the first vowel sound is the object of the action, while the vowel sound at the end indicates who or what is performing the action. The ‘ah’ sound is the first person singular. The ‘ay’ sound is second person singular; ‘you’. ‘Be’tra’ is ‘I thank you’; ‘Ba’tre’ would be ‘you thank me’. The third person singular is the ‘oo’ sound. ‘Bu’tra’ would be ‘I thank him or her or it’. If you add the ‘ee’ sound to the other vowel sound, you make it plural. ‘Be’trai’ would be “We thank you’; ‘Bui’tra’ would be “I thank them’. Are you with me so far?”

“I think so, though this is a lot to try and absorb at once. I should be taking notes.”

“I’ll write this down for you a little later, but I think hearing it first will help. Now, leaving the first vowel sound off makes it a little different concept. For instance, Y’La’s father was thought to be sterile. When Y’La was born, he felt vindicated, and hence her name, which means essentially ‘my proof’ or ‘my vindication’.”

“Okay, I think I’ve got that.”

“However, you have to make sure you sing it correctly. Depending on how you sing her name, it could mean that, or it could mean ‘my acquittal’, or ‘my confirmation’, or ‘my approval’ or even ‘my exoneration’. They’ve embraced an economy of words in favor of a much more expressive system of inflection.”

“I guess our work is cut out for us, then.”


Additionally, in writing out the words, I went with the basics of written Spanish for the phonetics, so that the vowel sounds remain constant in the written Eridani in the story. When writing out translated Eridani in the dialogue, one of the rules was that there would never be a contraction in the Eridani speech. In doing this, I think I was able to create a feel for an alien language, without having to devote countless hours to a lexicon that most readers would simply gloss over if I used it too much. We want to make sure that our stories continue to flow, and if the reader cannot understand too many of the words, we're going to bog them down.
“It is the artist who realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works gladly away as a small apprentice under God's heaven.” ~ Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

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Sparrow
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Re: Languages?

Postby Sparrow » Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:01 pm

I started creating a language and culture when I was 12. I've taken some linguistics classes in college since then and have refined it a little, but haven't done a lot with it yet. I was working on creating a grammar system. I may change it so it's quite a bit different than English... maybe even borrow some things from my second language. In American Sign Language, there isn't a word change for tenses. Instead, you set up the time-frame at the beginning of the sentence and then everything is assumed to be that tense until it's changed. It's rather handy.

I figure I'll know way more of the language than I'll ever use in the book. But it will help me make it more accurate.
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Re: Languages?

Postby jaybird » Tue Jun 11, 2013 2:51 pm

I too am having a made up language in my sci-fi novel. I like that idea to put the character who is speaking the other language in italics (the reader sees it as English).
"How does the reader know these italics represents the other language being translated?"
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Re: Languages?

Postby Hoomi » Sat Jun 15, 2013 3:15 am

Early in the interaction with the other language, you cue the reader in to what is happening. Context also helps in that regard.

I.E.

Bob searched under the bed, and then formulated a sentence to sing to the innkeeper.

The woman laughed, trying to hide the reaction behind her hands.

"He is looking for his shoes," Sean said to the innkeeper, singing the phrase in Eridani.

Bob shot Sean a confused look, and reverted back to English. "What's so funny?"

"What you actually said was, 'I cannot encounter my feet,' Bob."

"Well, I was trying to say I cannot find my shoes."

"My son took the shoes outside to air out overnight," the innkeeper said. "I will have him bring them in promptly."

"Be'tra," Sean replied. "Our apologies for bringing an unpleasant odor into your inn." He turned back to Bob. "Your shoes were stinking up the room last night, so they were taken outside. THe innkeeper's son will bring them to you in a couple of minutes."
“It is the artist who realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works gladly away as a small apprentice under God's heaven.” ~ Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

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Re: Languages?

Postby pheeweed » Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:44 pm

Hoomi wrote:Additionally, in writing out the words, I went with the basics of written Spanish for the phonetics, so that the vowel sounds remain constant in the written Eridani in the story.


It makes so much sense to follow the rules of an existing language. If you know the other language you can really give the sense that these words are not English. Hemingway did that in "A Farewell to Arms." Even though the dialogue was all in English, I knew when the the characters were speaking Spanish by the sentence structures. As a Spanish speaker, it was very enjoyable. In a book I wrote that had Spanish speakers, I wrote their dialogue in Spanish and then translated into English, more or less literally to keep the structure.
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