Why I build Languages


Why I build Languages

One of my greatest passion is the creation, and advancement of language. Advancement through understanding how other languages expression meaning, and the creation as an artistic means of coming to comprehend the greater levels of meaning found in everyday words. This is a central notion of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which in general states “language shapes how people see the world”. To me however, this is in a way only maybe partially true, note that notion is a simplification of the greater idea of linguistic relativity. Language shapes how we see things, but in many ways how people see the world, and understand meaning.

Much of my linguistic background has been in the study of the Celtic languages (I am Irish :D) along with the Norse (I’m also swedish) languages. Much of this was in part to do with my interest in the mythologies of both. But truth be told as I have a general love of mythology I study whatever language time or day that sparks my fancy. The other day in fact I was reading through an entry on the Ryukyan languages (a group of tongues spoken in what is now called Okinawa). Much of this has been in part with my desire to expand my comprehension of how humans see the world. In many ways it has also led me to listen to wonderful podcasts such as Conlangery.

All that rambling aside, I like creating languages, and studying them. In the past few years this has only grown as the general public interest in conlangs has grown outside of major fandoms for Elvish (mostly Tolkiens Sindarin), and Klingon when it comes to the traditional realms of geekery (this does not include the huge following for Esperanto!). Languages have been created for years for various reasons most in attempts to create unified languages or as studies or thought experiments. Now aspirations of world piece or creating Auxiliary Languages aside, my interests border mostly on artistic languages (their name is kind of self-explanatory).

When I first started writing Arrow Child I truthfully wanted to avoid creating a conlang. But after getting challenged I sat down and started working on a language from scratch. Using a bunch of random web pages, and a Classical Greek Grammar, I created the foundations of Amazo (see the intro Gazetter  Here). Afterward i found myself dwelling more and more on how a group of people think; how they attack understanding the mysteries of life itself. It was a seriously eye opening experience discern the historical linguistic path of the language (which resulted in me studying Avestan, Classical Greek, Tocharian, and various Turkic languages). When a people have a fictional history of a couple thousand years it can be quite interesting to see if any words from the Dacian tribes of Thrace appear in their common use vocabulary hundreds of years later.

The next major language I worked on (still am on both to expand their corpus and fluency) is Elder Tongue. Now, Elder Tongue was created to represent one of the key languages of the Ancient Fae in my worlds related to Altear. In fact in the Land in the Stars uses it as a language of learning, and scholarly debate. Even the words of Houses and Official Writs are written in it (much like Arabic during the time of the Caliphates, and Latin during the Early Middle Ages). The Fae of Agaera use it as one of their primary languages of magic, and discussion among courts of certain regions (Faerie Courts in Agaera being heavily regional in thought and culture).

My usage of created language is heavily influenced by Tolkien in this respect. When I create a world I want the objects, people, places, and stories to reflect that world. In some cases I do just create a random name for something, but honestly the “randomness” of the name even has some meaning behind it. Even if its aesthetic, I still construct a sense of language in my writings. This is in part to do with a slight obsession I have in setting themes. Names have themes, terms have themes. They all match up to little plot puzzles I stick in my writing. Mostly to enhance the underlining tone of the story.

My process for language creation tends to start with a random idea (which is sadly the source of most my projects), and usually from there it steams outward. Generally I use natural languages for influences as do many constructive language artists. I seek out languages with a specific sound, or with a specific age or cultural feel to them. For the creation of Elder Tongue I used a mixture of the Goidelic (Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Manx), and Brythonic (Welsh and Breton) for influences. Much of the systems of sound (phonology) I use for the language, and how it feels when speaking is taken from the Celtic language family. I did this because I wanted it to seem like a mixture of modern, and older words.

Both languages exist primarily for different reasons. Elder Tongue is much more the “Elvish” of my work as it acts as an old language for typonyms (area names), reference names, and terms from the Fae themselves. Amazo represents a language that has been suppressed along with Amazon identity, so its lack of usage is more akin to the people these days who face endangered language status.

Constructed languages are a means of expressing an idea, or constructing a new take on the world using sound, perception, and structure. Its an exhaustive work that can take years, or only a few days pending on what you set out to do. To me its just a passion I love as it encourages me to delve farther into world culture, and understand the variety of voices that make up the human experience.