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Create a Language in 3 Steps

January 3, 2012

It is likely in the course of their writings that fiction writers may at some point need to develop their own languages. Perhaps a long-forgotten tome is found, a new culture is discovered, or an aspect of life such as religion or magic maintains an ancient language after regular use has been abandoned. In all of these cases, it would be beneficial to develop a language that characters might come in contact with. All people in real life do not speak the same language, so why should characters in a novel? Use of a new language adds believability, exotic flair, and added value to a story.

I created a new language for A Broken World, which I used for the magical elements of the story as well as the original language of the planet. So far I have heard a lot of positive feedback about this language.

Following are the steps I recommend to create your own language:

1. Develop the grammatical aspects because without these a language is useless. This includes verb tenses, pluralization, possibly declensions, and other such important grammatical concepts. Inspiration for this can be found by looking at a variety of real languages. Depending on the level of complexity preferred for your language, you might only need a few tenses and no declensions or you might need many tenses and convoluted declensions. It’s all up to the creator of the language. This part will likely take the most work as it is essential to understand grammar before adapting it to your uses.

2. Decide on the pronunciation for the language, especially vowel sounds. Without a guide to how things sound, people often become confused and disenchanted with a language.

3. Create the words. Write down the words and their English translations so you can refer back and forth. There are many strategies for word generation, and you just have to find the one you like best. Some options include crafting words that you feel best fit the meaning, blending existing words from multiple languages, or complete randomization.

Caution: Try to avoid irregular verbs and other words that do not follow the rules of grammar that you establish. (Nearly all languages contain words such as these, and they greatly hinder the ease with which people learn the language as a whole.)

Feel free to take a look at the Language of Magic tab to get an idea of how to tackle this process. It shows the parts of the language I created for my story. This tab will be updated as needed because language is always changing as words come and go and usage evolves and adapts to the times.

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4 Comments
  1. Julia permalink

    Thanks so much for posting this. I’m working on a fantasy series of my own, and didn’t know how to tackle the problem of various languages. This gave some very good insight πŸ™‚

  2. Awesome post! I love how-to’s. I’ve sketched out languages for stories before but never really approached the writing of them in any kind of format. I might add to you list–create a few slang words to give the language more color.

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