Geekdom Come, World Building 101

World Building 101-Languages

MajQa’ Dub. That’s Klingon for “Welcome Back.” I don’t actually speak Klingon, but Google translate does. Which should tell you two things right off the bat. The first is that in this edition of World Building 101 we will be talking about the importance of developing the fictional languages of your world. The second is that you better take your world’s languages seriously because, if you’re fortunate enough to find yourself with hardcore fans of your work, they sure as hell will.
Now I’m not telling you to go full Tolkien, there is no need to invent a full language before you even start writing. But there are a few tips and tricks that will help you maintain an internal consistency. Most world-builders start by inventing a few words that sound cool and serve as catchphrases. Maybe its a line out of a prophecy or a house motto, whatever. There is nothing keeping you from using these made up words. But when you do make sure that you write down what they mean. That way later on down the road if you have a need to expand your languages vocabulary you’ve already got your root words and conjugation in a file or a notebook somewhere.
Speaking of your language’s vocabulary (pun intended) remember who languages come to be. They are merely agreed upon sounds that identify a thing or idea. The more a word might be used the more variations it might have. For instance, in the English language we have a myriad of words that mean big: Huge, gargantuan, large, gigantic, etc. We have these because big is a catch-all word that doesn’t always convey precisely what we mean. In a more fictional setting, if you have a society where a family gains honor depending upon how their ancestors died, there would most likely be a lot of words that meant to die and a word for specific types of death like death from drowning, death in battle, death in bed, etc. Also, keep in mind what words your language may not have. If no one on your world has ever seen snow then why would their language have a word for it?
As you expand your fictional tongue’s vocabulary, try to give yourself some ground rules when it comes to punctuation, verb tenses/conjugation, contractions, masculine or feminine nouns (if you use that sort of thing). Basically, the more complex your language becomes the more you need to establish and consistently use rules of grammar.
Finally, be sure to pepper in some colloquialisms and idioms as well. This gives your language character and separates it from other languages. “You sound like a hen wearing a hat” may not translate well into English put it could be an uproariously funny insult or a deep bit of wisdom depending on the context and the speaker. These are the kinds of little touches that really help to round out your world.
That’s it for this edition of World Building 101. As they say in Elvish ‘Tenna’ lye omenta au’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.