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Thoughts on Writing – Developing a Fictional Language – The Immortals’ Language (Choosing the Sounds)

With Wind and Words now complete, I’ve been thinking about the next story in the series (along with a short story set in Reveratch, a completely different region of Cirena).

One thing I’ve determined is that Ancient Cirenan needs to play a role in the story. The problem?

I’ve developed the Cantingen language, and a few odds and end words from Cirenan, but nothing extensive.

Making matters more complicated, Cirenan is supposed to be something like English… a mixture of languages that isn’t entirely consistent. This means that, whereas I can easily create a new Cantingen word when I need one (I even have a list of words that fit the language but don’t yet have meanings, specifically for this purpose), I can’t do that for Cirenan. At least… not on the scale that I’m going to need for the next story. Not until I have an idea of what languages are going to influence it.

As such, I’ve been thinking about the different languages which will influence Cirenan.

There are three that I can think of in particular:

  1. Cantingen – (This is one of the original languages of that world, though it wasn’t as consistent in ancient times as it is at the point where The Wishing Blade series picks up. More prevalent on the southern coasts.)
  2. Immortal – (The language of the humanoid wolves and bears which inhabit the immortal realm. There would be several variations of this dialect depending on the region and what kind of creatures are using it, but the primary one that will influence Cirenan is the variation based on the wolves. More prevalent in the northern and western regions)
  3. Litkanston – (This is the language that developed in the southern regions of Cirena. I haven’t explored this one yet).

Thankfully, I already have a pretty good handle on the Cantingen language, since it’s the basis for word magic (and featured prominently in the Stone and String series).

Now, thanks to developing some of the details regarding Reveratch, which sits on Cirena’s northern border and shares space with the Immortal Realm, I’ve started looking more in depth at the language of the immortals. I haven’t come up with an official name for it, so, for now, I’ll simply call it the immortal language. (Sorry… all my creativity is currently being directed to developing the language, not naming it).

The first thing I did was try to consider what things were important to the immortals, and which immortals would be represented.

The immortal realm is fluid, meaning that different places are not always next to each other at the same time. Oral storytelling to preserve memories (and thus, how to get from one place or another), is important. My focus is primarily on the wolves, who share a similar language with the bears (Bears are important to Reveratch). The wolves’ belief system is also a bit different from that of the Cantingen people, and varies from group to group. In general, though, they do not worship Madia/Madiya (and some may even see her as an affront to Karewalin), and while they see Listhant-Nsasrar as a creator, he is not the only creator of their realm.

That is what I started with, though those details may change as I continue to develop their world.

Ultimately, for creating the sound of the language, I started with the main “immortal” name I already had: Nsasrar. Anything I constructed for this language needed to be able to accommodate his name.

So I moved on to deciding which sounds I wanted to keep, and the representations using the English alphabet for each.

I got a bit of inspiration from looking at one of the Inuit languages, in that (at least according to the article I was reading), you could signify a short vowel by only using one, and a long vowel if there were two of the same vowels. (I could totally be wrong about this, though, and I need to dive back into the realm of internet research to find that article again).

I ended up with this for the immortals’ language:

  • i (sick)
  • ii (eye)
  • a (sack)
  • aa (aid)
  • e (bed)
  • ee (weed)
  • o (soap)
  • uu (moon)

There is also “u” (uh). However, it is only shown before a consonant, or if to represent its occurance after the “uu” sound.

The reason for this is that a single consonant, by itself, will automatically have the “uh” sound added (though it is not emphasized).

For example, Nsasrar sounds like “Nuh-sas-rar.”

(Eventually I need to relearn IPA so I can use a more specific way of designating sounds).

I also determined that an apostrophe will break apart words, indicating when a sound should stop.

For example, “amaa’a” is pronounced “ah-may-ah,” with a bit of a harder stop between “may” and the second “ah.” The second “ah” recieves more emphasis that it would if it had not been seperated. (Also, this way we can see that amaa’a should be pronounced “ah-may-ah” instead of “ah-mah-ay.”

This is different from the Cantingen language, which uses the apostrophe to designate “of” and has a hard “c” sound.

For example:

shodo’charl (stone of passage) is pronounced “show-doh-kuh-charl”

These are differences I’ll have to remember as I swap back and forth between working on the different languages.

Next I decided on the consonants for the immortal language, and I specifically wanted ones that I could picture being growled, barked, or yapped (with a little room for imagination).

This was my resulting list:

  • c
  • ch
  • cr
  • d
  • dr
  • g
  • h
  • l
  • m
  • n
  • r
  • s
  • v
  • vr
  • w
  • y

There is one other consonant: “q” (sounds like: “kwuh”) but it is specifically reserved to mean “I.”

Now, those may change as I develop the language, but that’s my starting guide for developing words.

I’ve already made a few determinations about the organization of sentences, how words change when paired with other words, and a starting point for the indication of tense and interrogatives, but those are still very much in development.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few of the words and a sentence I’ve translated thus far.

I – q – (kwuh)

drink – dramer – (drahm-air)

cold – uuanuu – (oo-ahn-oo)

milk – novo (no-voh)

quickly – vree – (vree)

I drink cold milk quickly.

translates to:

Dramvreeq novauuanuu.

* * *

If this interests you, let me know, and I may go into more detail about how I’m actually trying to put the sentences together later. For now, I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing and Publishing – Help Me Help You

Hey, everybody!

I haven’t been posting a whole lot of writing-oriented posts on my blog lately, since I was in the middle of releasing the Glitch saga, but I know a lot of you out there are writers and are interested in improving your writing or publishing process.

So I have two questions I’d like to ask you. 🙂

  1. What would you like to know more about the writing process?
  2.  What would you like to know more about publishing?

Comment below, and I’ll see about covering those topics a bit more in the future (or point you to where someone has done it better than I can). 🙂

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Thoughts on Writing – Researching Real World Languages

At my day job, one of my jobs is to organize composite images. Think: class pictures composed of individual student pictures. I start with a basic form, input the data on that form, sort through a list of classes already in the database, make sure the correct names are in the the right fields, and that the grades are formatted properly for the group pictures. I also scan the names of teachers and students to make sure that the apostrophes are in the right place, “Jr.” has that period at the end… etc. That’s the simplified version, but needless to say, I get to see a lot of names (which is great when you’re trying to brainstorm name ideas).

Today, though, one of the other composite creators called me over, baffled by the names in the grade field: AnangoonsagMiigwanensag, and Noodinensan. (Yes, I wrote these down so I could look them up later).

I was baffled, too. While we see a lot of Spanish names, these words weren’t familiar. Problem was, we have a particular format we try to follow when creating composites, and we weren’t sure how to place them. It’s not uncommon for preschools to have grade names like Infant Sunflowers, but this particular job has less information than usual to go off of. However, we suspected they had meaning to the school using them, so we didn’t want to simply remove them from the grade field.

My first suspicion was German (probably because of the double “i” in miigwanensag… but that really didn’t look right. And the words definitely weren’t French or Spanish.

We glanced through one of the classes, hoping to get an idea from the pictures, and several of the students looked like they might be of Native American descent.

Okay, cool. That gave me a way to narrow down my future search if the search returned several hits.

I wrote down the three words, and then once I got home, did a Google search.

Needless to say, it actually narrowed down quicker than I expected.

There aren’t a lot of results for anangoonsag (I’ve got six results from my Google search), but Google immediately came up with an Ojibwe-English dictionary translation page. The translation read: “star: ~little”

Now, I noticed earlier that two of those words end in “nsag,” so I wondered if this might be a suffix of some kind (for “little”).

A few more searches, and I suspected anangoonsag did indeed have something to do with stars. Once I plugged in the other words, Inarrowed down the idea that these words were from Anishinaabe, a language of the Ojibwe/Chippewa people. I used Wikipedia to get a quick overview (Note: Wikipedia is good for overviews, but I wouldn’t advise relying on it for accurate information), and found that, according to Wikipedia, the Ojibwe are the second largest of the First Nations, and historically, they are known for their birch bark canoes and their use of cowrie shells for trading. (This reminded me of history classes I had back in grade school, so this struck a “ah-ha!” connection point with me). I was also curious about their legend of the Wendigo.

Fascinating, how three unfamiliar words can start a bout of research.

Still curious about what those words might mean, I looked for search results that included the word (or a part of the word) and mentioned either Ojibwe or Anishinaabe. I found this site, which has a wealth of information, including a note on diminutive terms. This was important, because I found both -an and -ag.

But these weren’t suffixes. It seems (if I understand the chart correctly), that these are just parts of the particular word. The chart for diminutive terms shows (and includes the pronunciation for) the basic singular form of several words, then the singular “small” form of the word, then the plural form of the word, and then the “small” form of the plural word.

Based on my (relatively quick) searches, I think the three words have something to do with “star” (anangoonsag), “wind” (noodinensan), and “feather” (miigwanensag). There may be more to each word, such as a suffix or prefix I haven’t discovered yet, but still, it’s a starting point.

If I planned on using these details while writing fiction, I would want to delve more into the words and their various forms to make sure the form was correct–or as close to correct as I was going to get.

At the same time, I’ve got more information than I had before, and now I’m curious to know more about the Ojibwe language and culture.

If you find something that your curious about–a word, a myth, a culture–do a quick search. You might find that you want to learn more about it. 🙂

Have you ever come across an unfamiliar word, searched to learn what it meant, and become fascinated with what you found?

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