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A New Language

I enjoy writing science fiction and fantasy, and I enjoy reading it too. Different people like different levels of immersion. Some reader like a world very close to our own, steeped in familiar legends. I lean toward liking a lot of immersion with full worlds built from scratch. Of course, that is not actually possible. The use of the word possible, for example has a source. It’s from the Old French possible and directly from Latin possibilis "that can be done," from posse "be able."

Words have history. But in a fantasy world I like to pretend otherwise.

For example, if in the same story a person has the name Jane, and another character the name Jarhur, and another the name Sarissa, I will assume different origins because these characters names are very different. Now each of these names are fairly familiar, modern or semi-modern names with points of origin. The problem for me lies there. We can know where these names come from.

That is where my recommendation finds its source. When you make up new languages, new words, or phrases, or you need a stack of names for your characters, look to dead or rare languages. First, they sound rare. They SOUND new.

Sas-Banar. This is a word I grabbed translated to modern sounds from a Sanskrit web site. Imagine a whole world of people populating your book with such beautiful extravagant names. The names even have meanings, which you can look up, to match the character profile you want to build. Instead of someone cursing and saying damn, imagine they say “I wish it had been otherwise,” but in the language you have chosen as your new world language.

We can never escape the reality of the words we write with. We will use the language we grew up in with fluency and take along with us the history of our words. But with a little effort to find the things which are important in a world to talk about, we can make new curses and new words about the world linger.

Is wood rare? Maybe some variant of more precious than gold is replaced by wood, but you then write it in a new language. Living in a dessert? Maybe “Splash water on him,” has a special meaning. Now imagine it even more colorful in another language.

Give thought not only to the actual words that your characters will use but the origins. What kind of phrase has meaning in the world? How does the history, magic, legends and lore fit to make a spoken language different? Consider grabbing an old language as your starting point to grant you consistency, and flavor.

As always, go write.

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