How To Make A Language Functional Without A Lot Of Work

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by ThousandSwords, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. So essentially, the idea of how I make fictional languages is a bit of a combination of a grammatical construction kit and a bit of wishy washy improvisation.

    What you have to understand in order to make a language is to first understand who is going to be using the language. That is the first and fundamental step that will determine how the language is supposed to sound, look, and feel.

    You will only very rarely find a brutish, savage tribe using a complex, flowing, and flowery language. It simply doesn't work that way. Brutal savage tribes don't need a flowery complex language, they need short, sharp, and to the point conversation that conveys a lot of meaning in not a lot of words.

    However, a culture or a race that is highly developed in cultural or religious aspects has the need to develop their grammatical constructions and how their language feels in order to smooth out the rough spots. You see rough spots a lot in germanic languages, such as the word for speed limit, Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen. That is a result of them not coming up with new internal words for their language, and instead using old descriptive words to build a new word.

    As a result, a highly developed and advanced race will, as a result, have a smoother, more flowing language with more complexities than, say, a barbarian tribe. However, when conveying simple aspects of life, the barbarian language will be much faster and quicker to get to the point than the advanced language.

    These are things you need to think about, because the first step in developing a language is, as I said, understanding who the hell is going to speak it.

    Now that we have that settled, you can build off of who the hell is going to speak it by looking at other languages in the world, and how they work.

    Admittedly, I build my languages off of real world equivalents, because it works very very well.

    For example, a language I have devised, Livoniianoi, is based off of Greek. Fundamental aspects of the Greek language are a heavy reliance on "round" sounds, the tendency of certain word endings (-ion, -kos, -os, etc.), and how the language overall feels.

    For example, look at this snippet of a Greek hymn, Agni Parthene.

    Agní Parthéne Déspina,
    Áhrante Theotóke,
    Hére Nímfi Anímfefte
    Parthéne Mítir Ánassa,
    Panéndrose te póke.
    Comparing this to the Livoniianoi hymn reveals some similarities.

    Ek Pharistosi ouranion,
    Ae philotorus respeion,
    Ek Deiostosi ouranion,
    Ier xalchos turia,
    Ae kalliopos kyrion!
    Iet devotinos harmotosi kefteios,
    Ae indurios kyrion!
    Et vorianos Livonii aetun.
    Yet at the same time, you notice differences.

    That is because the next step is simple: Take the structures and some smiliarities, and find ways to mix it up.

    The reason why those words are always at the front of Livonian language is due to a unique structure of the hymn more than any actual grammatical situation, but looking at the English lyrics for the hymn, here is the Greek translation of the hymn, the English Translation of the hymn, and the Livoniianoi translation of the hymn side by side.

    Agní Parthéne Déspina,
    Áhrante Theotóke,
    Hére Nímfi Anímfefte
    Parthéne Mítir Ánassa,
    Panéndrose te póke.

    O Virgin pure, immaculate/ O Lady Theotokos
    Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!
    O Virgin Mother, Queen of all/ and fleece which is all dewy

    Urfeilos puro desfinos,
    Ai feimos Deiotokos,
    Treiumpha urkalaspinos deifeime!
    Urfeilion Basillia Matera,
    komferte phe kloide.
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  2. Admittedly, I'm not entirely sure if this method is far easier than the normal method of just straight-up building it from scratch, as it has a number of caveats with it. It requires you to have a number of things which are not exactly 100% guaranteed.

    First, you need to have a decent base of grammatical knowledge. Just how to put stuff together, not a full in-depth degree or research mastery into it or anything.

    Second, you need to have a relatively wide exposure field of languages to draw from, such as how they sound and how they are written.

    Third, it requires you to fundamentally be able to pick out of those languages those things that make them sound uniquely "them" and use them effectively.

    You CAN do this with a relatively low understanding of what the language actually means with a fair bit of success. For example, let's take the language of the Khasari (I make up nations/cultures, it's my thing):

    The Khasari are a culture that are heavily based upon the traditional "horse roaming nomad" group. As a result, there are two distinct routes I can take with doing this. I can either base their language upon more of a "slavic" base, which isn't entirely fitting in this circumstance, or I can base it upon more of a "mongolian" base. In this case, the mongolian base is better.

    So, what the hell do I know about the Mongolian language? Admittedly, not a whole lot. I haven't a clue what words mean, I haven't a clue what the language even really looks like, and the only thing that I am vaguely aware of is a bunch of Mongolian folk songs taken from youtube that involve throat singing, because I enjoy my eclectic folk music, dammit.

    This is an example from a technically "Tuvan" source, which fits rather firmly in the middle of the Turko-Altaic language group, so whatever, close enough for our purposes.

    Aldan chetken chylgymnyŋ
    Alazy kajdal, Koŋgurej
    Aldy kozhuun chonumnuŋ
    Aaly kajdal, Koŋgurej

    Of my horseherd that amounts to sixty,
    Where are the dappled ones, Konggurey?
    Of my people of the six banners,
    Where are the villages, Konggurey?

    WOO. What a mess.

    So, taking that and vaguely interspersing what the hell I know about their language (not a whole lot), I make something out of it. The same song as run through the basic idea of their language and how it works comes out like this. Note that Kongurei is a name, so it remains the same.

    Aldur cheyteg chalurhuun,
    Uluzy kaida Kongurei
    Aldu khazah khuruna
    Uul kaida Kongurei

    Due to this being a rather side-lining culture as opposed to various other things that I play, it is not vitally important that this be a perfect "language", so when used in an RP setting, it will have the innate nature of "fuck if i know what it means, make it work".

    This essentially means that each sentence that you do has a varying chance of actually maintaining a consistent vocabulary throughout. If you are trying to make a language for people to RP with and use other than yourself for whatever reason, you don't need to maintain a consistent vocabulary, because you can just kinda sorta fudge it and go with whatever works.

    Because 90% of people are going to take you at your word for it. It might be a bit dishonest, but admittedly, writing up a giant-ass language for a single character that you may or may not ever use again, and that other people are very unlikely to use, just seems like a bit of a waste of time for me.

    As a result, you come about with a system that works like this.

    If it is a language you want to make long-term and factors heavily in an RP or the plot, you codify and keep track of what all of the words mean so you can make sense of it later, usually in a word document.

    If it is a language that is short-term, is unlikely to be understood by anyone else in the RP, or such, you can pretty much make it up as you go as long as it conforms to how you mentally establish that language to be like.

    A good example is this Youtube video: How English sounds to non-english speaker.