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Month: November 2015

Languages for Sale – Part 3

Posted in Just for Writers, and Language

This is the third of three posts on how to improve the use of languages in constructed worlds.  Part 1, an introduction of the topic for authors, is here. Part 2, an exploration for conlangers (the folks who invent CONstructed LANGuages) of what authors need is here. This final part is addressed to authors of fantasy and science fiction who might want to work with conlangers.

And if you want to see how this all worked out for my individual project, that report is here.

Why should my world building include language specialists?

A convincing world has history and context. It has artifacts from various cultures, some of the names of which came with the objects. It has transient fashions in names, and rulers or gods may be named differently from peasants. It may have non-human characters who don't use human phonemes to communicate.

Language also has history and context. It changes. It reflects the influence of other cultures. It memorializes conquest and trade. Each culture may have its own dialects and languages, possibly several. Characters from different cultures have different fluency in the default language (the one the book is written in).

Even if set in the future of our own quotidian world, the fashion in names will have changed, cultures will continue to mingle in unpredictable ways, new brands and technologies will come into existence and need names, and alien beings may make an appearance.

All of these things need names and convincing snippits of language to convey the appearance of a well-rounded historically-grounded plausibly realistic world.

Why can't I do it myself?

I can fake expertise (to some degree) in geology, biology, ecology, forensics, combat, medicine, physics, etc. And language. So can you. The question is: can we convince everyone?

Languages for Sale – Part 2

Posted in Just for Writers, and Language

LanguagesForSale-TeleguThis is the second of three posts on how to improve the use of languages in constructed worlds.  Part 1, an introduction of the topic for authors, is here. This part is addressed to folks who invent CONstructed LANGuages: conlangers. The third part of the series, which provides guidance for authors working with conlangers, is here.

IPA-PanicSo, you're a linguist and you like to build languages or even entire language families developing over time. Maybe you'll get lucky, and your language will make it into a hit movie or game or TV series — wouldn't it be nice to turn pro and make a little money at it?

Well, I can't help you with winning the lottery for high-visibility media. On the other hand, just about every movie, game, or TV series that uses a constructed language started life in one or more books. And that's what we're going to talk about here, primarily for the fantasy and science fiction genres.

I'm a writer of fantasy and science fiction, and I happen to have an amateur linguistics background, primarily in the form of dead languages: Egyptian hieroglyph, Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Old Norse, Old Irish, Old English, Middle High German, Middle Welsh — you get the idea. I know a little bit about the subject from the linguistics perspective, and quite a lot from the author perspective.

I'm going to take a stab at describing a potential market for conlangers (inventors of CONstructed LANGuages) and propose some ways of finding work there. The third part of this series takes the authors' perspective on working with conlangers.

I will be defining some basic concepts for conlangers and painting with a broad brush in the interests of keeping the length of this post within some sort of reasonable limit.