Hello again humans! Welcome to Making a Language: Part two, in which we wrap up this mini-series with a final dose of linguistism!*
If you haven’t yet read part 1, find it here!
Without further ado, let’s jump in from where we left off 🙂 Starting with number five.
*I don’t think that’s a word. Well, I guess it is now.
5. to be
And we’re back with more verbs! Thought you were done with the sticky things, did you? Ha ha harrrr. No. We’re not.
Your language is coming along – you’re learning heaps (hopefully), you know what you want it to sound like – and then you come along the word be.
The word ‘be’ is very important in the English language, in all its forms. Just close your eyes and think of how many times you use it. Not just the word ‘be’ either – was, is, will be, am, are…
You get the picture. (no pun intended.)
You need to decide right now whether or not you want it in your language. Make a conscious decision, and stick to it.
When I was creating Samaan I forgot to enforce my decision, and it was not pretty. I had already decided that I was not going to use the word be, but then I came across is and are and lost my head. I completely forgot that they are forms of be and invented words for them. It was a month later when I realised my mistake, and by then to be had already crept into my language. It was too late. I was overrun.
Unless you want the word ‘be’ in your language, you need to make an effort now and go and look up all of the forms of ‘be’. Do it. Now. Print them out. Keep them near you. Make sure it doesn’t sneak in like it did to me. Keep an eye out for that pesky word and its forms, or you too will be attacked and ambushed and defeated and forced to surrender.
I may sound over-dramatic, but take the precautions now and be aware of the problem before it happens. And it’s perfectly okay not to have it in your language, heaps of languages don’t have it and get along fine.
However, if you do want the verb ‘be’ in your language, look up all of it’s forms and variations and do some research on the thing. There are about a million inconsistencies with this word, and it makes it harder that it’s not even a verb – it’s actually a connecting verb, or some such nonsense. I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense to me – to me it’s just a verb – but apparently it’s not, so we have to take extra measures towards it. *
So look up the forms and variations and do some research, and then make up words for it. Now. Do it. Do it. Do it. You will thank me. It is the most common verb – even though yes, I know it isn’t really a verb – and you will use it the most, so it’s important to know what you want it to look like.
* At this point I may have let out some of my vent up anger towards ‘be’. I’m sorry, just not a big fan. However it will be a lot easier if you put it in your language. Just so you know.
6. Word order
Now, even if you have decided that your language is not going to be dependant on word order waaayyy back in step one, you still need to do something about it.
I can’t tell you how to do this, or give you the rules to do this, or even stress enough how important this is. But this is something that you need to consider when you make up a language. So just… just think about what you are going to do about word order. Experiment with some sentences. Make a decision, and even if you don’t stick with it, at least you have some sort of idea of what you are doing.
Here are some things to think about, to get you started:
- what order will words be in when you describe something?
- if you’re using pronouns, what order are they with the verb?
- say you’ve got more than one different noun – how are you going to write it?
- how are you going to say that ‘this person did something’?
Come up with a loose diagram for word order, and then you’ll be happy, and your language will be happy too 🙂
7. Making up words (finally!)
I don’t know whether you already started making up words – goodness knows it took long enough to get to this step. This step is both the best – and the worst.
It is the best because you get to make up words, you get the excuse to make random sounds and sound like a whale, and you get to use up more time preparing for your story than actually writing the thing (aka procrastination). It is the worst step because there are only so many sound combinations our brains can come up with before it gets tired and begs us to go and watch netflix.
But anyway, you know what sounds you’re going to use, you know what the types of words are, you know what your alphabet is, you know the format – let’s go, right?????
Just wait one second – how are you going to write these amazing words down?
My advice: start out with everything in alphabetical order. Or you have doomed yourself for the start. I cannot stress enough how frustrating it is to have to search through a long list of words simply because you didn’t have the things in alphabetical order.
Everyone has their own system, and their own thing that works for them. I personally have a different Word Document for each type of word (verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc). Then in each doc I have an alphabetically ordered list of English to my language, then my language to English. Ye-es, it does mean I have to write every word I make up twice, but it does prevent me from giving a made up word two meanings in my language. Which you don’t want.
Work out what works for you, and stick with it.
8. One more thing to consider (another thing?!?)
I know, there’s still one more thing, but I’ll be quick. This is possibly the most important thing to consider when making a language.
Now I know that we probably all hate inconsistencies in language. We hate the icky spelling rules that are contradicted 90% of the time. We hate the grammar rules that are always disobeyed. We hate the Microsoft word that tells us “Emmeline, that is not how you spell that word” and you’re just yelling at the screen because, “ahhh, yes it is and I know that my own name is spelled Emmeline not Timeline thank you very much!”*
But. Here’s the but. The inconsistencies are what makes the language realistic.
I went into creating Samaan thinking that I was not going to have any inconsistencies. It was going to be all fine and dandy and I most certainly was not going to create anything that would make it difficult to learn.
This is not how it works.
Because you see, we need inconsistencies in our language. We can create an Esperanto like language, yes, but is it going to be realistic at all? No!! It’s going to be icky and yucky and not real at all. And we want realism, that’s the entire point. We want real, real life (yet fictional) characters to speak this language every day. They’re going to buy things with it, chat to a friend with it, sing songs with it, and use it. And if it’s going to be real, then it needs some inconsistencies and differences and exceptions.
It would be good, as you are writing and creating this amazing language that you are going to create, to keep this in mind and make a few inconsistencies and contradictions to the rules every now and then. Keep your culture in mind and you’ll do great.
And that brings the steps to a close. You have the letters, the alphabet, the knowledge of the different types of words, an idea of the word order ……..
Now all you have to do is write!
I’ve given you the tools, but not the rules. There is only one rule – that there are no rules! As long as you have an idea of how other languages do it, you can work out your own way of doing it.
You’re all set! Just don’t forget my hard and fast motto:
IF IT DOESN’T WORK, THEN MAKE IT WORK.
There is no reason why you can’t create an amazing, Quenya worthy language (if not better – I mean, it’s not like J.R.R. Tolkien even finished his elf languages). All you need is a little bit of patience and a good sense of humour.
So that’s it from me! I hope you enjoy your linguistic journey as much as I have.
* Once again, I may have been letting out some anger. This time at Microsoft word. But seriously, I know how to spell my own name! Honestly! (and it autocorrects to Timeline Every. Single. Time.)
Here are some great resources that I’ve found on the web – useful for extra research.
How to create your own language: Council of Elrond (this one’s really useful) (and it’s a pretty cool Tolkien site too)
The Language Construction Kit (this one is invaluable. Highly recommend. Wish I had found it before I started my colanger journey.)
Fantasy Alphabets: Springhole (an interesting read on alphabet making)