Take the 2-minute tour ×
Writers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

While i have seen at least a few cases if Latin being used in both fantasy and sifi i still wonder how it is perceived and how much is tolerated.

Being primarily a gamer the first that come to mind are kingdoms of amalur and warhammer 40k.

Is it a bad thing to use Latin(or similar things)? What is acceptable to use it for? names, phrases/expressions, objects?

share|improve this question
3  
I do not understand what your problem with Latin is. Some authors invent whole languages for Fantasy/scifi books. What's special to Latin? –  John Smithers Jun 23 '12 at 7:56
    
To large group of people (including publishers, editors and even readers), Latin denotes Middle Ages, particularly atrocities allegedly committed by Roman Catholic Church. I'd be very careful, in some cases. –  Nerevar Jun 23 '12 at 17:51
5  
...I'm reasonably sure Expecto Patronum does not conjure up visions of crusading knights slaughtering helpless pagans in the minds of most Harry Potter readers. –  Lauren Ipsum Jun 23 '12 at 20:12
add comment

2 Answers 2

If I was reading a fantasy or sci fi story in which Latin was the predominant language, I would expect some explanation as to why. Perhaps the Roman Empire had not imploded and instead had gone on to develop space travel and colonized the planets. Or maybe your fantasy is about a kingdom where magic exists and it is in the path of Roman conquest. In either case, as a reader I would expect the author to provide me with a sufficient explanation to allow me to suspend my disbelief. It wouldn't have to be much, but it would have to make sense.

A further complication you would have is that Latin, while arguably a dead language, is still enough alive that some readers would have studied it in school or at least be familiar enough with it that you would have to ensure you used the right vocabulary, verb tenses, etc. Not doing so would definitely affect your credibility as an author.

Using your own created language automatically makes you the linguistic expert and you wouldn't have to contend with the above issues. It is certainly more work, though. Another option is to use an artificial language, such as Esperanto. Harry Harrison took this route in a number of his novels, such as those in his the Stainless Steel Rat and Deathworld trilogy. You might consider reading a few of them to see how he handles using the language. Harrison talked about why he used Esperanto back at the 45th World Science Fiction Convention. Philip José Farmer also used Esperanto in his Riverworld series.

share|improve this answer
    
@Smithers, good suggestion. I linked to the wikis rather than amazon since they contained more detail. I added Farmer's as well. –  Tre Jun 25 '12 at 16:41
add comment

I think there is an issue if you expect people to understand Latin to read it - relatively few do these days, but some will. This means that not only do you have to provide explanations/translations, but these have to be accurate!

I have read some stories where Latin phrases/mottos etc are used, with an expectation that the read will know them - sometimes this is fine if they are well known, but it does provide a barrier to reading. Umberto Eco, IIRC, tends to do this, but then he draws from such a wide range of back-tales, all of which you really need to know, this is just part of my problem.

Using Latin for the names of things or people is not a barrier really - you can recognise the names whatever the actual language is, whether Latin, Vulcan or an Elven language. Using it as the lingua franca of a book raises a whole lot of other issues, not least about language development.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.