Tag Info

Hot answers tagged

16

How much of this language are you going to use? Single words? Phrases? Sentences? Paragraphs? If it's just a few words or phrases, make up a few, be consistent in their usage, and call it a day. If you're carrying on entire dialogues in this tongue, I would first recommend "Don't overdo it." For the purposes of your question (and I Am Not A Linguist, so ...


11

If you're writing for an English audience, your readers are expecting an English novel. From a reader perspective, it is utterly tedious to read a lot of dialogue you cannot understand. Providing translations can help, but that's equally tedious, since the POV character won't have those translations. I would recommend keeping use of foreign language to a ...


9

You're looking for balance, so the answer is double edged: Stay compelling by avoiding drifting off on tangents; don't explain about your world where it isn't relevant to the story at hand and to the readers' interest. Convey your world by choosing a structure and a plot where the elements you want to convey feature heavily. If your setting elements are ...


8

If you want to establish a language with a foreign touch in your story, the "cheapest" way to do it, is using an already existing one as reference. I did something similar. I invented a language for using magic. I took Latin as base and transformed the words, so that they were not directly recognizable as Latin, but still give the reader the touch of an ...


7

Elvish is not written in Latin letters. There is no reason why the / k / sound must be represented by the letter < c >. Think of Russian or Chinese or any other human language not written in Latin letters. When what sounds like a / k / in those languages is transliterated or transcribed into English, usually the letter < k > is used, because ...


6

Your question is based on a faulty connection between "English" letters and Elvish letters and between English sounds and English letters. We use the Latin alphabet to write English words, by a series of approximations where one, two, or more letters represent a single sound. Think of the list of vowels: A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y. Except vowels aren't ...


5

A few ideas: You could have a character who doesn't speak that language ask how the name is pronounced, or mispronounce it and receive a correction. Obviously it would look contrived for this to keep happening, but doing it once or twice would be enough to introduce the general rule. Use Matt Ellen's idea of a diaeresis / umlaut for the first two names ...


5

If you don't want to use an apostrophe, then consider a diaeresis. It used to be common in English to mark vowels that come after vowels, but need to be pronounced separately, with a diaeresis for example: noöne coördinate Zoë Also, this format is used in Lord of The Rings, e.g. in Fëanor, to make sure the e is pronounced separately. (You can read this ...


5

I would refine the advice thus: Translate the viewpoint character's experience into the language of the reader. That is, if the viewpoint character hears gibberish, you translate the experience of hearing gibberish into the reader's language.


5

The resource that most conlangers point to is the venerable Language Construction Kit. It's quite extensive. It mostly concerns the linguistic aspects of making your language, but it does address some of the issues about making your conlang believable.


4

Depends on a few factors: 1) Is the narrative's point of view from the person who doesn't understand, the person who does, or omniscient? CJ Cherryh writes books where the humans are the outsiders in non-human societies. Until the human catches up with the non-human language, the human sounds like Cookie Monster. "Me want food! Me went store, but no has ...


4

I created my own language for a game, and I've come to learn a lot from it. I am no expert on linguistics, and my tips are a bit random/rambling, but maybe they might help. Here's some of what I would suggest: Try to create something with only a few basic rules, so it is easy for you to remember. Readers will not like noticing that your fictional language ...


3

Do people using the constructed language use a Latin-based alphabet similar to English, or do they have an entirely different writing system? Spelling it "oddly" would make sense if the people literally use the symbols A-s-h-e or S-y-a-n to write their name. For example, they could be descendants of Portuguese-speaking people from Brazil whose language has ...


3

Some of the problems with world building is that none of the characters in the story care about it. It's the only world they know, so they don't look at the zebras with antlers pulling sleds any more than we comment on every car that drives by. If we do comment on a car, it's because the car is different in our world view. An alien coming here might shrug at ...


3

Just another quick point to add to the already excellent answers. I've been known to develop really in-depth worlds as well, and it can be hard to step away and only use the parts you need for a particular plot/story. However. The thing that always helps me come to terms with it a bit more, and a way around having done all that research and planning ...


2

The same problem applies to writers who wear their research on their sleeve. Did you ever read a novel and realize that half of it could have been pared away, that half the book was unnecessary scenes were the writer just wanted the reader to know all this cool stuff thei found out? (Cough Neal Stephenson cough) World-building is similar to research in one ...


2

As has been said, it is easiest to adapt an existing language. There are many synthetic languages that you can use, depending on your need and audience. If you were writing a historical romance, for instance, use of the Klingon language from Star Trek would most likely be unknown to your readers, so it would seem to be something new. On the other hand, it ...


2

I think @jm13fire has the right idea: use accents, and give readers a quick pronunciation guide at the beginning. I would go for a caron over a C, which looks like č, as ç (with a cedilla) is used for a soft C. I would definitely read Ačir as "Akir."


2

You could have an appendix (such as appears in the best-selling Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan) that explains pronunciations. However even that is subject to pismronunciation. Of course there already is a way to write these things. It is called IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet. The problem is that most of us don't learn it at school. However, ...


1

Your suggested writing system is very confusing. I think what you need to do is come up with a list of the language's phonemes, and then use whatever is the most common way of writing that phoneme in English (if English indeed does have that phoneme.) Or why don't you just spell words the ways you wrote in the question to explain how they're pronounced? ...


1

You are producing a written work. The look of it matters, as a written document. And a c looks different to a k, and sets off different associations in the mind. Notably, Latin has no k (it has a hard c, as you are proposing), and very few high-register words in English have a k. It is for this reason that Tolkien, master philologist, chose to represent the ...


1

I feel like it's not really the look of the letter k so much as it is the sound. I feel like a good workaround here would be to use the sound produced by K as little as possible. To use your example, I feel that Acir (ah-SEER) is more of a soft and "Elvish"-sounding name. I think that instead of there being no letter k, the sound 'kh' should be essentially ...


1

There is one very specific situation in which it is a good idea to write down the words spoken in the language that is not understood by the point-of-view character, and it occurs when you want the reader to experience vicariously, as closely simulated as possible, whatever the POV character is experiencing when he or she hears the language being spoken.


1

This is a tremendous online resource/tutorial on inventing languages: http://www.zompist.com/kit.html There's also ConLang: http://conlang.wikia.com/wiki/Create_a_Language But the best advice would be to buy a copy of Holly Lisle's 'Create A Language Clinic': http://shop.hollylisle.com/index.php?crn=1&rn=367&action=show_detail I have a copy and ...


1

If the POV character doesn't know the language, then the reader won't be able to understand it either. A fix could be separate chapters in different POVs allowing the reader to 'learn' the language. An advantage in this case is that the readers will know more than the characters in the book. It's always good to let the readers have and edge on things; ...


1

It depends on readers you are targeting. Leaving foreign language fragments fully untranslated could be quite challenging for a reader but then they (fragments) need to be used sparsely and carefully. No matter whether the foreign language is constructed or just unknown (and unfamiliar) among your potential readers. Edit: Content (meaning) of a foreign ...



Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible