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Advice on Creating a Fictional Language

By May 29, 2019 June 22nd, 2019 No Comments

Hello, Writers and Readers, and  welcome to this weeks article on the basics of what you’ll need to create a fictional language for your writing projects. Creating a language can be a hard and grueling process that you really have to grind for, but once you get through the rough stuff it can be pretty fun to come up with words or sentences in your dialect. Fictional languages are most often used in Fantasy and Sci-fi books, because of the increased amount of world building and complexity that goes into these genres. We should mention that we are drawing off of a source to create this article and that will be linked here, and at the bottom of the page, but we will strive to add additional info to what Amber Massey has written. Now, as we have said so many times, on with the article!

With todays fandom culture it would be difficult to just put blabber down on a piece of paper and call that a language, the only way that works would be in a comedy or spoof, but even those should have some sort of structure. Also creating a believable language that ebbs and flows much like our own language, is a great way of getting your reader immersed into your wonderful world that you have been delicately crafting for your reader. But for this effect to work your language has to sound like it could be real, which the rest of this article will be helping you with.

When creating a language you want to draw upon the age old advice of, “Write what you know.” But you also have to know a little bit about different languages for this advice to work, because if you only speak English, then your language is just going to be a rework of the English language. We can suggest that you research and study languages from all around the world, especially ones with different grammar styles to yours. We know that sometimes researching can be a hard process, but you will have to do it at some point so why put it off. By doing this you will be able to draw inspiration from them and combine them into one whole unique language.

In the article it talks about modifying the sounds of different letters when put together or left alone. You want to be able to keep things fun, and this, to us, is one of the funner parts of language. Just sitting in your room or at your writing station and just combining different letters then trying to sound them out. Of course if anyone were to see you doing this they would think you mad, just imagine someone coming into your room and seeing you just making sounds as if you were possessed.

While writing you need to keep note of what/who is speaking, and find out if that would effect the language in anyway. If you have a character with normal human features, just their mouth was broken at a young age, then find out how that would both limit and possibly extend their ability to communicate. But if you would like to look out at nature and see the wide variety of jaws and tongues, then you would possibly have to imagine how an animal would speak with such strange features, how would it sound and how would it be able to make sounds different than us. Like how a pig can make squeals and oinks, and when we try to copy it doesn’t come out just like how they do it, so find ways to work that into your language. Also if you happened to be creating your own race that was capable of language, then we suggest you create a detailed anatomy of it, it doesn’t have to be a drawing it could be a description, but create something to help you understand the inner workings of a creature so that you can determine the best possible way to have them talk.

Also you need to find out the culture of your group that you’re creating a language for. If your people happen to worship trees or nature, perhaps you could work that in. Or is your culture very early on in development and haven’t developed the complexities of our modern day speech, then show that in a way that the reader will understand. And if your in the future perhaps you need to combine words because we have united words that are often split apart, much like goodbye or awesome. So something like sit down, would combine to create something like ‘sidown’ but the words ‘sit’ and ‘down’ would still be separate.

By taking into account the cultural and physical aspects of creating a language you manage to make a language that is even more believable than before, getting your reader even deeper into the world by adding depth and reason behind the language.

The article calls this step ‘Add a Second Language.’ Meaning that you should have more than one language in your world. You may be groaning wherever you are, going, “I have to make two languages?” and the simple answer is yes. Mostly because you need to be realistic, because if you haven’t noticed the world has a little bit more than one language. According to Infoplease there are about 6,500 languages worldwide, but we won’t be asking you to create that many because that would take far to long. But if you have multiple continents, countries, or just regions within a continent than you should try and create some different languages between them. Languages do not always have to be completely different, especially when they are neighboring countries or regions. You can create a base language that used to be shared between multiple areas and then eventually over time differences occurred, creating an entirely new language, that could split up into as many regions as it covered. You could even have multiple base languages, that your peoples could take and combine in different assortments that form new languages, in fact that is almost exactly how English was formed, and also why it makes so little sense.

Lets make an example of three base languages, Oneian, Twonian, and Threenian. Over the years the people who held these languages began to meet and intermingle, causing a united state of all three languages, and thus creating a new one. But lets also say that only Oneian and Twonian combined, this would create a different language, this could be repeated with any combination of the three. But they can also divide the language unequally drawing more from one language than the other, thus allowing a near infinite amount of variation (or how many variations there are, we’re writers, not mathematicians).

Also add slang into your world, as this will add yet another level. Slang can be stuff like what we discussed with creating a futuristic language, where you simply combine frequently used words. Or they could be swear words, like crap and (*shivers*) heck, where you take something from the language and add a negative connotation to it. For example if your culture disliked lamps, then you could have an insult that somehow references lamps. This could also work in reverse, where it means something good, like groovy or swag, where your drawing upon the language to add positive connotations to the word. But there is also the option of making it absolutely nonsensical, like YEET!!! (*computer smashes against wall*). By adding slang you add a little bit of life and pizazz into your world, and it’s also fun to use your made up slang in real life. And we would consider it an accomplishment if you get your readers to use your slang.

The article gave some good advice on creating what is essentially a dictionary but for your made up language. Don’t go telling yourself that you’ll do it later, because you know full well you won’t until it’s necessary. And if you don’t do it soon after you create the language, then death awaits, but not really, what awaits is actually more like confusion and jumbling up the meanings of different words. After you have a list of larger than about 30, you should start organizing the lists alphabetically, or whatever works best for you. Also add your inventions to a word processor so that spell check will tell you when you have messed up on your language, and keep stuff consistent.

It’s also important to create a compilation of symbols for your language. Even though these symbols will not often show up in the novel, rather it will be the phonetic version of the word, it will be good to still have this system for reference if you ever need to give descriptions. Decide if your language will have such a system as English, with different letters for different sounds, or something more hieroglyphic. Also symbols can represent entire words, and if you do that for the entire language, where each word is something new, then we would like to prepare you for some long hours dependent on how much you need. Also creating the symbols can be fun, and if there isn’t at least a little fun in your writing, then your doing something wrong.

We will finish off by telling you to seek out more than just the all knowing All The Writing HQ, and instead find your local writing community, or successful authors who managed to create a language. And if you happen to not have a community in your area, then there’s the whole entire internet out there, with tons of writing groups just waiting for what you have to say. And, if you want to, you can create your own community at school or in your neighborhood, by gathering all of your friends who happen to like writing. Brainstorming through issues with people and getting to hear different perspectives is one of the best ways to grow as an author, and as a functioning member of society.

We hope you have enjoyed this article, it was a blast to write and hopefully you’ll have a blast writing using the new information you have gathered, see you next week Writers and Readers.

If you would like to view the article that we based ours off of click here.

If you would like to visit the website of the article listed above click here.