Somewhere in my Internet journeys while compiling or waiting for tests to complete, I came across The Language Construction Kit, which is actually more of a how-to overview of creating a language. This has got me thinking that maybe I should have my own languages for my untitled fantasy story which I’ve been working on off and on (mostly off) over the last few years. As I’m pretty much following a lot of recent fantasy and treating Early 21st Century American English as the common tongue.
Aside: I am convinced that, for all intents and purposes, George R. R. Martin is using that form of that English as the “Common Tongue” of Westros – with the exception of it lacking a couple of words that come from the French, requiring his characters to use the less polite, germanic, forms instead.
But, I have Dwarves as main characters, and there is some action near where I stopped that will take place in the courts of the Dwarven Deep King. So, having a Dwarven language would be of use.
Looking over the steps in the construction kit, I’ve come up with ideas in a copule of places. But, I also have a lot of holes that have to be filled in
I’m not entirely sure what all of the sounds (phones and phonemes) would be. But they would need to support having characters named Bochs (pretty much sounds like “box,” but perhaps with a bit softer c/k sound like you would refer to the members of the Bach family as a group), Parshatch (par-shatch, not pars-hatch) and Gornatch. Clearly the “sh” and “ch” sounds from English would be fairly common. Beyond that, I think I’d go for a somewhat germanic, or perhaps Scots, sound.
To be complete, I’d need to come up with two systems of writing: one for use in actual written communications, and one for use when sending messages by heliograph which requires a morse code like system.
But I do have some ideas when it comes to the nature of the language.
I’m thinking it would be interesting, and not entirely out of character, for the dwarf’s language to have thee genders, but not male, female and neuter. Instead the genders would be for inanimate, wild and domestic, with some exceptions. The word for distant people would be wild, but alies would be domestic. Similarly, I’m thinking that money, but not gold and gems themselves, would be domestic. Ore and rocks would be wild, but refined metals would be inanimate.
I’ve also had some wild thoughts about numbers. I’m thinking of having two different sets of number words, a base 8 set for inanimate and wild gendered things and a base 4 set for domestic things. I see this as being behind the stereotype that dwarves are greedy and stingy. If a contract was badly translated, a non-dwarf could think that they were agreeing to sell 32 bags of grain for 32 pieces of gold, when the dwarf was expecting what would be considered 26 bags of grain and only paying what would be considered 14 pieces of gold.
For the sentence structure, I’m thinking of having the order be verb, object, subject: “John drank beer” would come from a literal translation of “drank beer John.” Of course there would need to be complications for indirect objects, and other things that complicate basic sentences in most languages.
I also came up with an interesting idea on family/clan names. An unmarried male dwarf’s full name would be <given name> <paternal indication> <father’s clan name> <maternal indication> <mother’s clan name>; an unmarried female dwarf would reverse the order of the clans: <given name> <maternal indication> <mother’s clan name> <paternal indication> <father’s clan name>. When dwarves wed, they replace the first clan name – the paternal clan for males, the maternal clan for females – is replaced with a spousal clan indication and the spouse’s clan.
An example, using common English/American names:
If John p-Smith m-Jones marries Sarah m-Clark p-Williams, their names would become John s-Williams m-Jones and Sarah s-Jones m-Williams. Their first son would be Fred p-Jones m-Williams and first daughter would be Jane m-Williams p-Jones.
This creates an opportunity for an interesting inheritance situation as well: The headship of a clan (including the royal clan, thus the king) would pass to the eldest son of the eldest daughter of the current head. The further heirs would have to be documented in the cases of no daughters of the head, or daughters with no sons.
If I were able to figure out how to set up the sounds, I could use the Gen tool provided by the author of the Language Construction Kit to produce words, which would at least let me start creating a bit of a Lexicon, albiet one that uses standard Unicode characters in an arbitrary font.