The highlight of my work yesterday was sifting through my Conlang work so I could put it on my new site.
(NB. If You are wondering, after discovering how much work I had to do yet, I pushed back the launch until Monday, May 4th.)
I grew up reading a lot of Fantasy: Tolkien, Pierce, and Duane were some of my favorite authors, and I read a good number of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance books as well. I was very influenced by my new-found love of Fantasy, and one area which sticks out to me to this day is my fascination with fictitious cultures.
I know, I know… No big surprise given my work and this blog.
But anyway, one thing I have noticed and appreciated in fiction is how much legitimacy a Constructed Language can lend to a group of characters. I don’t know what it is about a few odd looking words, but knowing that they don’t speak American English always made them seem more real to me, as I read.
Tengwar and Tradertalk stick out very vividly in my mind. As does The Speech, which to this day is still my favorite Magic System in fiction or in games. Even when I book didn’t have specific words from the language printed, and merely referenced the fact that the words were in a different language, it was still so vivid in my young (and still in my current) mind.
So, naturally, as I began to try to tell my own stories, I wanted to try my hand at it as well.
And, I must admit, I have not gotten too far with it yet… I don’t really know anyone who is into this, and while I don’t consider myself stupid, I don’t really know much about making a language yet. Aside from a few very specific concepts, I haven’t really defined any of my languages to the point where I might call them even usable in a book.
I find the task daunting, but exhilarating… and monumental in scope, like a towering pillar of stairs that I need to climb. I don’t have the aptitude for it, yet, but I am slowly learning and honing the skills that I’ll need to create full and complex languages, maybe even on the same level as Hymmnos, or Klingon, one day. For now, I still sit in quiet admiration of those that have come before me.
What I have discovered I have a liking and aptitude for is Constructing Scripts. Writing systems, or the way of recording, visually, a language, have in many ways resonated with me more than spoken language… or even language as a whole. I’ve toyed with many systems over the years, and putting them together (usually just as a cipher for American English or similar) is always an interesting process for me.
The way a culture of people record information says a lot about them. Ancient Irish/Celtic people carved their words into stone, and only needed to commit the inarguable- who owned which plot of land, how big it was, etc.- leaving the rest to be preserved through word of mouth and the Oral Tradition. Their writing system, thus, was made to suit short, terse messages and come easily to a chisel. Contrast that with another well known ancient system, Elder and Younger Futhark, which was used by Germanic peoples up until c. 1200 CE: Individual Glyphs which could easily be painted or written without losing the rigidity of form that carving provides, because of the Nordic people’s fascination with laws and written records.
And then, compare that to Anglo-Fresian futhorc, which was eventually expanded up to 33 characters because of their use of many different phonemes (a result of their mingling of many separate different cultures and in general their conquest/conquer history) before it was succeeded by Latin… except for the characters which represented those phonemes, which were used up until the 13th century, and some (notably ß and Þ) still survive in some form to this day.
Sorry, that was a big digression there. (NB. All my own speculation, by the way… YMMV) But that kind of thing (how and why a language is created and used) has so many implications on the history and culture of a people. It is something that really draws me into a story, and indeed, into a world. I noticed that feeling, going through my old scripts today, and I wanted to share it with You.Categories: writing
Tags: world building  fantasy  conlangs  conscripts