vocabulary, conlangs, created languages, fictional languages

Language Building: Vocabulary

I’ll be honest: creating vocabulary is my least favorite part of language building. I love the phonetics, phonology, syntax, orthography, symbols, even verb conjugations, but coming up with vocabulary words is always a chore.

I tend to rely too heavily on my own native language (English) and the languages I speak a bit or know a little of (French, Spanish, Korean). So often the words I come up with are too similar to those I’ve used in other languages.

One way that I try to avoid this problem is by using vocabulary from languages that are similar in style and sound to the one I’m trying to create. For this language, I want to pull from Swedish and German. I’ll show examples of how I do this below.

We have several categories of words to work with. Some of them are closed classes— you can’t add to them— and others are open — add away!

The closed word categories are typically: prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions and articles

The typical open categories are: nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs

Today, I’m working on nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives. I’ll worry about the rest later (I wasn’t joking. I really don’t like coming up with vocabulary).

For this language, I borrowed and combined from Swedish and German for some of the nouns and pronouns. I’ll usually combine an onset from one with a coda from the other, but I might also just adjust one word to fit my purposes.

For example:

  • woman = frau (German) + kvinna (Swedish) = freinna
  • child = kind (German) + barn (Swedish) = birnd
  • we = wir (German) + vi (Swedish) = vir
  • fear = angst (German) = anst

For the verbs and adjectives, I wanted to try something different, so I tried this random word generator, which takes your input and creates new words based on the vocabulary you’ve given it. I plugged in some of my place and character names as well as my previously created nouns and pronouns and tweaked the output to fit the patterns I wanted for verbs and adjectives.

My Vocabulary

NounsPronounsVerbsAdjectives
manmenI/Meyato beiannagoodtheude
womanfreinnaYounieto havevardabadharde
childbirndHe/Himanto dokausabigfrell
mothermarShe/Hersieto gorotalittlesaegner
fatherparItthato saycardahappyvulfe
familyhemeinnaThey/Themdessto makefreinerasadande
placestaleWe/Usvirto feelandsaangryliulfe
lifewelivoldandik
loveamlaknewansch
hatetath
fearanst
worldaird
yeartar
weekcheka
daydagt

This is good for creating a few simple sentences and working on sentence order and conjugations, which is what I’ll work on in the next post!

What do you think? Do you enjoy coming up with vocabulary? What is your favorite part of the language creation process?

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