creative languages

Language Building: Starting Out

 

As a linguist, I love language. I think it’s a requirement. I love learning about how language works and learning whatever I can in languages other than my own.

One of my favorite topics in linguistics is fictional or constructed language. Klingon, Na’vi, Atlantean, Elvish— I love it all.

A fictional language gives a story world authenticity and immerses readers and viewers in the characters’ environment. Also, it’s really fun! I mean, imagine baby elves acquiring Sindarin. It’s too cute!

I’ve created a few fictional languages for my own story world, though none of them are fully developed yet, and all have yet to see the outside of my notebooks. In working on them, I’ve found that linguistics offers several useful guidelines for fictional language-making.

What is a language?

My dictionary defines language as “the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.”

This is the definition my linguistic instructors hated. You can communicate without language, and you can use language without communicating, but the definition works for most purposes. Language is a system people use to communicate.

What makes a “good” fictional language?

Can you remember it? Can your characters use it? Then you’re good! Really, though, it depends on how much you want to do with your language. If you only need a few words, you probably don’t need too much detail. But if your characters are going to be carrying on whole conversations, you’ll have a bit of work ahead of you.

For me, consistency is key. As long as there’s a pattern or system, I’m happy.

There are several other aspects to consider in language building, and I’ll go over them in later posts.

For now, though, I think I’ll take another look at my own.

You can find some interesting methods for creating your own constructed languages herehere and here.

What are your favorite fictional languages? Do have any you’ve created for your own story worlds?

2 thoughts on “Language Building: Starting Out”

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