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Concerning nonexistent pseudo-language use:
Heresiarch CommandI'm currently in the process of writing a book where the protagonists, a collective of arthropod races, communicate using something that's not quite a language but akin to extremely accurate, modifiable "signal-speak". There is no real set rhythm, rhyme, verbal form and so on for it and when "spoken", resembles flesh, whacking, ripping noise combined with the sound of industrial droning. However I don't feel like always describing what they're saying as in literally writing it down instead of writing down the English equivalents. However I feel if I do the latter they might not seem as alien as I hope to make them (even though they aren't even hard sci fi/starfish aliens) although I think I could just make their syntax and speech patterns just read very unusually. Some help?
edited 27th Feb '13 8:49:01 PM by StillbirthMachine
Only Death Is Real
Ooh... this has always been a bit of a problem for me. I've always found that the Strange Syntax Speaker thing does not work when used with Translation Convention, but you're right in that having them speaking ordinary English might help detract a little from their 'alienness'.
edited 27th Feb '13 9:00:06 PM by nrjxll
Perhaps it would help to include elements of their speech around some of the dialogue tags? For example: Alien1 waved his mandibles, his drone rising to a terrified shriek: "They're coming here?!" Alien2 waggled her pincers in agreement. "And that's not all..." she added in a muted drone.
edited 28th Feb '13 4:04:47 AM by ArsThaumaturgis
Wolf1066If you have a human POV character interact with them, you could mention that (s)he regularly has difficulty understanding them due to having to watch for subtle physical signs and their strange sentence structure. Occasional subtle reminders of that like delays in responding or having to turn to look (or see them clearly) to understand. Actually, the POV character needn't be human, it could be any other alien that does not use the same language that's having difficulties.
edited 28th Feb '13 11:23:10 AM by Wolf1066
Heresiarch CommandThe story is mostly told from their perspective and there are xzul (the aliens in question) who can speak various other languages (English included) to varying degrees of proficiency, but I imagine for the most part they will be speaking their own. I imagine I could just have some of them speak their own language in a somewhat more conventional-English-syntax kind of way perhaps due to outside influence?
Only Death Is Real
Wolf1066You could just use Translation Convention and render what they say in English but have it that, due to the nature of their language, contractions aren't possible (they find the concept "alien" but can use them when speaking English) thus rendering their dialogue in their own language without contractions but using them when they or anyone else speak English. You can also point out from their viewpoint that they find English word order "unusual" and have to remember to put things in the right order for English (perhaps the occasional mistake in their spoken English to further differentiate from the English translation of their own language) or lament that English lacks words for certain things (such as the appropriate words for familial relationships which would be clear in their language but "dumbed down" to "aunt", "uncle", "grandfather" in English, and perhaps make some prone to say "my mother's father" in English) and find English has far too many words for other things. Do make the differences go both ways, though - their language will be rich in some areas and poor in others, by comparison, English will be poor in some areas and rich in others. It'll all depend on priorities. Niven, in one of his Tavern stories has one of the aliens chide a human (speaking her language) for using the wrong form of "your" - the one denoting "part of you" rather than "something you possess" - as their possessives are extremely precise, while we only have the one. (The alien observes that the difference may explain why humans will fight to the death over "their" house or "their" money as if they were fighting a threat to "their" arm, while her race distinguishes between that which is part of them and that which is merely a possession). Your aliens might, due to a quirk of their nature, have a billion different names for something we deem unimportant and yet wonder why we seem to have a billion different names for clouds or killing someone. limyaael has a page on it here: http://limyaael.livejournal.com/154329.html
edited 28th Feb '13 3:56:40 PM by Wolf1066
Heresiarch CommandThanks, all of that is really helpful! Anyhoo, more of a stylistic concern but should their language be in italics, a different font, bolded etc.?
Only Death Is Real
If the language is used sparingly, I'd say italics, since it's generally used for foreign languages. Bold font tends to make it seem like it is shouted, and underlining is used for titles. However, if there is at least an entire sentence, you can leave it unformatted, then use different quotation marks such as [ ] to enclose the speech.
edited 28th Feb '13 6:05:33 PM by Leradny
Wolf1066The Fantasy Kitchen Sink story I'm working on has a number of human and non-human languages for which I plan to make a number of differences in order to demonstrate core differences between the cultures. However, I'm swithering as to whether or not to use (correctly) I/me/my/mine (1st person singular), thou/thee/thy/thine (2nd person singular informal/familiar), we/us/our (1st Person plural), ye/you/your (2nd person plural/2nd person singular formal) to distinguish between the informal and formal modes of speech used by a significant number of the human languages. It's got aspects of alt-hist and most of the languages the humans are likely to speak would have equivalents to I/thou/ye and me/thee/you. Most would have gender as well, but that is not as easy to portray. Given what happens throughout the story, formal and informal speech would convey a lot of information/subtext quickly, and without having to repeatedly say "he used the informal mode of address" and "I/he was angered by this lack of respect" - I could have someone use the thou/thee/thy/thine form, have another react badly "because he's an impertinent whelp who doesn't know his place" and thereafter the readers should be able to work out who defers to whom and what happens if they don't. It'd also contrast nicely with languages that don't have those constructs. Someone who is not a native speaker occasionally botching gender-agreement (those in whose language nouns are genderless or have different genders for the same object) or other linguistic constructs can just be commented on just like "he had a terrible stutter" - no need to show the brutalised language.
edited 28th Feb '13 7:11:08 PM by Wolf1066
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