Making a Language – ESP Workshop Notes

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  • How to start? Know or study a second language
    • Studying a second language provides ideas on structure and illustrates the oddities of your native tongue.
    • Use Duolingo for free to learn the major differences between another language and your own.
    • You do not need to speak the second language at a conversational level.
  • Determine your goal
    • Are you creating the second language for the joy of creating a language or for use in a work of literature?
    • If for use in a work of literature, remember this is world building. Acknowledge the world building/writing trade off you are willing to make.
  • Just like writing, language construction can be pantsed or planned.
    • Pantsing languages can lead to inconsistencies.
  • There are different approaches to planning languages.
  • Planning for a story

Learning Arabic with the primary goal of transcribing it influenced the order I created my framework. The basics below provided enough structure to create the words and sentences I needed.

  • The basic structure
    • The alphabet
      • Phonetics
      • Script
        • The script can be tackled closer to publication.
    • Verbs
      • Some guides address verbs after nouns and pronouns
      • root verbs
      • verb tenses
      • verb moods
      • verb forms
    • Noun derivation
    • Possessive
    • Adjective derivation
    • Pronouns
    • Numbering system
    • Sentence structure

Additional comments from the round table

  • Consider the influence of the world the language exists in
    • I.e., a desert planet could have a lot of words for sand
  • Consider relations with others
    • “Second” sister
    • birth order
  • Use your language structure for names, titles and places
    • How are people named?
    • After something
    • Number of names
    • Secret names
  • Add words borrowed from other languages of your world.
    • Think about how languages mix as people do.
    • Who conquered who?
    • Who was a trading nation?
  • Change some words to account for the passage of time.
  • How to embed the language
    • Have a character who translates
    • Follow a block of the language by its translation
    • Slip in word or short phrase in text where the context is obvious
    • Phonetic guide as bonus on website (not in the book/story)
  • Current robust constructed languages
    • Elvish – Tolkien
    • Klingon – Star Trek
    • Dothraki – Game of Thrones
    • Lapine  – Watership Down
    • Na’vi –  Avatar
    • Alienese – Futurama


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