My experiences in building a fantasy language.

Okay, the long awaited for (I hope) post on the language I created for my world, or more precisely, one of the countries in it.

I will warn you, as much as I’ll try to keep it interesting and un-technical, this may be a little dry.

It evolved from a single phrase which came to me at work while I was sweeping the floor at the end of the day, se emilse e asru, which translates to ‘like a phoenix from the ashes’ which sort of applied to a story element in one of my works. From there, I created a list of basic words; nouns, determiners and unconjugated verbs. These were based on what the people a) needed and used in everyday life and b) also reflected the history of the people. For example, nenn means horse and while most of the population is urbanised at the time my tales occur, the Fariliens were originally nomadic people who relied upon horses for their survival. From there, I devised a system to conjugate verbs in a few tenses; present, past and simple future. These are the simplest and most commonly used tenses in most languages. After this step, I expanded the types of tenses and noted the differences between regular and irregular verbs. I also realised that the pronouns weren’t used in spoken situations but were in written or formal circumstances. For example, fi orenai  means ‘I love’ but because the endings of each conjugation and tense vary, one can say orenai and convey the same meaning. Overall, the grammar is based on French with a few Italian and English influences. After that I let it sit for a while but this semester, while studying world phonology for uni I wrote up a phonological chart and when I have more time on my hands, I’m planning to do a full phonological analysis to make sure that my randomly made up words make logical sense. Yep, that’s what I do for fun.

In hindsight, and after having studied linguistics further, I’m aware that the language I have created is lacking complexity and follows a very basic English syntax. I plan to authenticate it a bit further over the summer (or winter for those of you in the northern hemisphere).

To give you an example of how long the above process took me, I’ve been working on it for about a year, more off than on. It takes a lot of time and research and if you’re planning to create your own language seriously then I would recommend reading up on linguistics and the differences between the languages of the world, how they change and evolve and why they are what they are. Hopefully this has been interesting an enlightening on some level. 🙂

On another note, NaNoWriMo is only a few days ago and I’d love as many writing buddies as possible. My user name is Amelia Browne. 🙂

And as they say in Fariel, saama sare saafel, May all your days be summer days! 🙂

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10 thoughts on “My experiences in building a fantasy language.

  1. kathils says:

    Wow! You really take it to the extreme. I tend to just throw in a phrase or a word with no regard for anything other than what it might mean in my head. 😀

  2. Jae says:

    I tend to cheap out and say crap like: they said in the demon tongue. But maybe I’ll hire you for consulting if in the distant future any book of mine that has languages I didn’t make up gets made into a movie and I need a linguist. 😀 That’s sooo cool that you’re doing that! Thanks for the post!

  3. Emily Witt says:

    I remember trying to devise my own fantasy language when I was 12 or something, before I’d ever studied languages and had no idea about tenses, conjugations, etc (I knew there was such a thing as past, present and future but knew nothing of the mechanics of it). I think I ended up with two different words for exactly the same form of “to be” simply because I created phrases rather than a grammar system or anything, lol.

    It was the early 2000s and the Lord of the Rings movies were all coming out and I was 12 as I said, and all, “Well, if Tolkien can do it, so can I!” Which is not true at all, as I now realise.

    • Ink and Papyrus says:

      I dabbled in language creation from an early age but it was mostly just spoken forms of simple codes rather than a properly devised thing or totally made up words. In the end though It depends why you’re creating a language; if it’s just to use for phrases here and there rather than for the sake of creating the language itself it doesn’t really matter if it’s basic or inaccurate. 🙂

  4. rachelloon says:

    I wish I’d put as much organisation into my conlangs; I normally just typed out some words and then forgot to write down which part of the sentence corresponded to what in English. Apart from a few words or phrases the most organised I got was writing out a list of the characters names and explaining exactly where their meaning came from.
    Somewhat easier was imagining for ‘Rooks’ what English would look/sound like eight or nine hundred years into the future when Britain had been cut off from the rest of the world for so long that they literally could not understand English as it was spoken by other nations.
    And there was a special cheat for 518, where the aliens were so alien they didn’t even have human voices, so learning their language was impossible. That character got stuck with a translator that replaced his original voice box and one of his eyes…

  5. Eden says:

    Totally not dry reading at all. I mean, I’m in a bit of the “using too much English syntax” issue myself at the moment, but that was good to read… It means that it’s more just a part of the process as opposed to a personal flaw. Learning by doing….

    Keep at it, Amelia, and please keep us updated in how it goes.

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