Are Con Langs Necessary for Fantasy:

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26 ArsThaumaturgis14th Mar 2013 05:01:25 PM , Relationship Status: I've been dreaming of True Love's Kiss
It's not a joke. And it should hardly need to be explained beyond "no" ...

I'm inclined to argue that it's only a simple "no" if the thread title is all that's taken into account, and not the first post.

The first post, as I read it, mentions a few approaches to alien languages and ask for advice; as has been given, I think that this does warrant a bit more discussion.

edited 14th Mar '13 5:02:20 PM by ArsThaumaturgis

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Instead of debating the matter of whether answering the title alone actually tells the thread starter what he wants to know amongst ourselves, why don't we actually address his concerns?

On that note: Personally, I'd say that implying different languages through narrative would be the best option to go with if you aren't going to try to work out a full language (or the basic grammar framework for one, at least).

Tolkein had a leg up on every other fantasy author ever when it comes to conlangs, in that studying how different languages worked was his passion and, literally, his day job. I wouldn't say that it's essential to work out your own, as long as the story as a whole is consistent and well-written.

edited 17th Mar '13 9:20:20 PM by Specialist290

28 Sharysa31st Mar 2013 03:48:40 PM from Alameda, CA , Relationship Status: Dancing with Captain Jack Harkness
The local bard

I'm dealing with fantasy-medieval-Europe with actual Fantasy-Medieval-European cultures (with Fantasy-Germany, Fantasy-Ireland, and Fantasy-England in the main cast), so I'm sticking mostly with different names, accent signifiers, and cultural references.

Mainly, it's the names that are a dead giveaway since they're literally real-world names with extra/switched/missing syllables. Yes, it's lazy, but it's also fun.
29 DeMarquis1st Apr 2013 05:48:15 AM from Hell, USA , Relationship Status: Buried in snow, waiting for spring
Who Am I?
The reason the answer is "no" is because language is not always an important plot element. I think a lot of authors get so caught up in worldbuilding that they forget that they are actually writing a story. In general, a story is more compelling and better written if the setting is limited to just those elements that actually move the story forward in some way. If the languages your characters speak are an important plot point, or if it is an important aspect of their character, then go into just as much detail as your story requires.

The reason Tolkien went into so much detail concerning the languages in his world is because they created a bridge to the past- the languages each race spoke reflected their historical legacy, a legacy that was critically important to understanding the story he was telling.
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30 Wolf10662nd Apr 2013 03:54:18 AM from New Zealand , Relationship Status: In my bunk
Typin' strangely
Language can also convey a lot about a group of people or about particular characters. It conveys concepts and illuminates the way they think.

If you have fantasy races, the distinctions in how they think can be illuminated by aspects of their language.

This does not mean you have to go all out to create a Conlang with vocabulary, conjugations etc etc etc - you can get by just by noting the distinguishing aspects of the language that reveal important information about the race.

Do they use formal terms for addressing strangers and/or those higher in their hierarchy than themselves? Is there a complex system of honorifics? Different words used for "please" and "thank you" depending on caste?

All sorts of things could contrast one culture/race from another. If the race has multiple languages, how many of them share similar traits?
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31 VincentQuill3rd May 2013 11:36:52 AM from Dublin , Relationship Status: Sinking with my ship
i honestly think conlangs are bad for your work. Tolkien was a language professor, he knew his stuff, and you presumably are not, otherwise this wouldn't be an issue. To be honest, you probably can't do a good conlang, it will be accused of ripping off real or fictional languages, and honestly it's a bit of a waste of time. the narrative is more important than the limited world building gained from language creation. A hint of an accent on some characters or just saying "he spoke in the gutteral tongue of his people" or whatever would do the same job but wouldn't bog down the work. i do think colloquialisms are fun to use though, and the various phrases and euphemisms, but do them in 'translated' form. it will work better and is a lot easier.

edited 3rd May '13 11:38:48 AM by VincentQuill

32 Blueeyedrat3rd May 2013 11:57:04 AM from nowhere in particular. , Relationship Status: Mu
Are conlangs necessary? No. Can they be fun to make? Of course.

I think I came up with the idea for my conlang first, and later (for unrelated reasons) started building a world to use it in.

edited 3rd May '13 11:58:45 AM by Blueeyedrat

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33 Romulus15th May 2013 04:19:31 PM from The Edge of Somewhere, PA , Relationship Status: YOU'RE TEARING ME APART LISA
Amateur Person
I think an acceptable alternative to conlangs is also to use other, real world languages.
34 Drakkarius17th May 2013 07:53:48 PM from Innawoods, USA , Relationship Status: 700 wives and 300 concubines
In my writing, I will use a mixture of con langs and real foreign languages (a recent one I did was an older looking Slavic style language based on old Russian), but with plenty of olde timey looking corruptions to make it fit my setting better. You can, of course, just do whatever you feel fits your writing best, as it takes a damn long time to sit down and go over all the points needed to actually make another language (depending on where you start, you would need to go over morphology, grammar, phonology and other such whatnots...).

All in all, the short answer is...


But, it does add an interesting level of detail, IMO.
35 MorwenEdhelwen17th May 2013 08:10:27 PM from Sydney, Australia
Aussie Tolkien freak
[up] I'm using Old Icelandic as the dwarvish language in my story.
The road goes ever on.
The first one. Unless you happen to have a degree in linguistics and know what you're doing, trying to make your own language will be a disaster. It never turns out well.
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37 66Scorpio17th Sep 2013 06:58:13 PM from Toronto, Canada
Banned, selectively
In writing you can largely avoid the need for a conlang by using a few techniques. 1) Start with with characters talking normally. 2) Describe what the language sounds like, without actually mentioning the words and sentence structure. "Wiping your ass with silk", the lyrical quality of Irish or the somewhat musical quality of tonal languages like some Chinese dialects, the harsher consonants of something like German (sometimes referred to as "the language of war"), etc. 3) Selectively invent words for which there is either a) no direct translation or b) something fairly easy to translate but adds flavour, like the native term for king, duke, a fief, school, clan etc. 4) Going out on a limb, transliterate rather than translate to illustrate that there is a different sentence structure or word composition. For instance, in Chinese "Wo bu shou de hao ying wen" translates as "I do not speak English well" but transliterates (word by word) as "I not speak well English." In English we "far-sound" (telephone) while Chinese "electric-talk" (dian hua). English tends to put adjectives at the front while romantic languages put the noun first. "Wargames" in English is "juegos de guerra" (games of war) in Spanish. . A separate question is how to present the accent of a foreign speaker where the languages are fictional anyways. In real life, Chinese speakers have trouble with V and TH because their language simply doesn't have those sounds while, notoriously, R's and L's are mixed up because L only appears at the beginning of Chinese words and R usually at the end, making "Lorrie" easy but "Ralph" all messed up. They roll their H's in the back of their throat while the French largely drop them from the pronunciation, etc etc. It can be hit or miss to write the pronunciation phonetically rather than writing what they are saying, and then commenting on their accent as a matter of exposition.
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