How I craft a language Part 1


Note: This will be the first in a series. I apologize for how late this is coming out. I had a health issue that was paramount, and now that has cleared up, I will be returning to writing in this blog once a week. Thank you for your patience!

Whenever I create a language, I never fully finish it, simply because such a task isn’t possible in my lifetime. No matter how many hours I may spend, how many excel spreadsheets I make, or dictionaries I try to create, there is always more words to create for a language, and the best part? Languages also evolve over time as they are used and generations pass it down to other generations, so to create the evolved forms of words for future generations? I have barely touched that aspect of language building, and I doubt I could ever do it as well as J.R.R. Tolkien, but it won’t be for lack of trying. This post will be the first in a series, where I’ll show you how I go about crafting a language.

The first aspect to language creation is if the person speaking it is human or alien.  A human is a lot easier to create a language for since we know the biology of a human being, and have a template for construction sounds for that biology already on our earth. IPA is very useful for it has a set of figures one can use to represent the variety of sounds humans can make that tends to be used throughout the world, so it’s the closest we can come to a universal template for human language.

For an alien, it’s a bit more challenging for we must consider how their mouth is constructed, how their head is constructed, if they have nasal and sinus cavities and how large or small they are, the construction of their throat, vocal chords, how much their lungs can hold — how their lungs work — and the reverberation within their mouth and nasal cavities.  This is a lot to consider when construction an alien race and their language, but if you want a fairly representative language for them, it’s important.

However, knowing the biology of your species isn’t enough when it comes to language. You also have to take into account their cultural and environmental heritage. What is the environment they inhabit?  How hard is it to communicate in such an environment?  What are some of their cultural ideologies?  All of this can influence the types of sounds a group of people will focus upon, and as cultures change over time, those same set of sounds may evolve into slightly different sets of sounds to accommodate the new sets of cultural mores as well. Language definitely isn’t static, but is very dynamic. Always changing to some degree.  Keeping all of this in mind as one creates a language will be helpful, especially the further one goes into language creation.

For my example, I’ll focus on my Dragios species, which is an alien race. To do this, first let’s devise into steps:

  1. Examine how Dragios communicate in depth, especially how they vocalize sounds.
  2. Start with sound patterns
  3. Word construction and what is and is not allowed for sound combinations.
  4. Syntax in depth.
  5. Semantics.

In the above list, I split syntax into two steps. To better understand what I mean, let’s look at the basic building blocks of a language:

Phonology Sound patterns
Syntax Arrangement of words and word construction
Semantics Meaning

The above table simplifies the process a bit, but this basic structure seems to be universal in nearly all the studied languages on earth. Now when we examine each in depth, you’ll notice that this becomes quite a bit more complex. For example, in syntax alone, there is the classes of words such as nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, ect. ect. There is also the types of verbs, aspects, and other parts of a sentence construction, which is really just the arrangement of words into a specific pattern. Semantics deals with meaning and how meaning is ascribed to words and various sentences, and what arrangement of words in sentences actually hold meaning for a culture and what may not; this also explores how words relate to physical reality and how one culture could have numerous words for say a camel, while another culture may only have one word for a camel, depending on how important the camel is to that culture.

I’ll go over each as I chronicle how I created the beginnings of the Dragios Language. I’ll save that for the next post, which will include diagrams of my species vocalization organs as well as charts to begin our exploration into the phonology of the Dragios people. So stay tuned readers!

Categories: Aliens, Elivera, Linguistics, World Building, WritingTags: , , , , ,

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