Advice For New Writers

It can be tempting to jump straight into writing and I admire and encourage your enthusiasm, but there are some things it would be good to know first. Writing is a well trodden path with many pitfalls which can knock an aspiring writer’s confidence and slow progress. It is always wise to learn from those who have gone before you if you do not wish to make the same mistakes. These are some key points of advice.

Don’t Let Doubt Kill Your Excitement

There will be times when you look at your writing and think “This is terrible” or worse, “I’m not good enough”. At their worst, these thoughts can weigh you down untill you stop writing all together.

But don’t worry, all writers have these thoughts from to time, especially the less experienced. All you have to do, is ignore those thoughts and the self doubt, and keep writing. Recognise what is good in your work and build on that. Maybe there’s elements that need changing, but if you keep writing, you will get better. If you are having doubts, tell yourself “This is good, but I know it can be better”.

This leads into the next piece of advice.

Your First Draft Will Be Terrible

When you write, you will naturally compare it to works you have read. But you will be comparing your first draft with someone else’s final product which is the result of any number of redrafts. It might take several rewites of a paragraph before you are happy with it, this is fine.

The first draft is for you and only you. You don’t show it to anyone, it is just to get the ideas out. It is to let the creativity flow freely from you on to the page. Don’t stem this flow by worrying about each sentence and paragraph, just write and worry about making it readable later.

I think this Terry Pratchett quote sums it up nicely.

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

So don’t worry about your first draft being terrible, many writers say theirs hardly even make sense, just get it written.

“Great books aren’t written, they’re rewritten”.

Characters Are More Important Than Worlds

This is something I struggle with especially coming at the hobby from the worldbuilding angle. Vast complex worlds with rich history and developed cultures mean nothing if the characters populating them don’t engage the reader. If your characters aren’t up to scratch, you’ll find you are not all that invested in them, and if you are not, how can your reader be? And then you’ll struggle to finish your story.

If the characters are complex, well developed with rich personalities then it will be much easier to write, as the characters will show you where they need to go and you will have a much easier time finishing. Think of it like this. If you have a rich setting, but an undeveloped character you’ll struggle to guide them through, because you’ll have to stop and think a lot, but if the character is well developed, not the setting, the character will keep moving as if they were real and you will naturally create the setting to hold the character.

“Believable, larger a life characters will save a well-worn plot but a unique world with unempathetic characters will always be doomed.” ~ u/novelconcepts (Think how successfull Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray are).

Any Rule Can Be Broken Is Not The Same As There Are No Rules

Rules are there for a reason. Sure you can mess around them, subvert them, and even outright ignore them. However if you do this with every rule you’ll find that your story structure has collapsed and you’ll be left with a mess. Many of the rules are well established and are the result of many years of work. Break the right rules for your story, but don’t ignore the rest of them.

Some example rules

  • A beginning puts an interesting character in an interesting world with an interesting problem to solve.
  • Your character should be empathetic.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Murder your darlings.
  • Great books aren’t written, they’re rewritten

Write What You Know, And Write What You Believe

If you know a lot about mythology, use mythology for inspiration, involve myths in your story, or even go ahead and write a myth itself! Presumably the reason you know so much about mythology is because you’re interested in it. If you’re interested, you’ll keep writing, which is always the main thing, to keep writing. If you write about something you hardly know anything about you’ll most likely spend a lot of time researching your topic.

Write Everyday

A lot of people say write 1000 words a day. If you can’t manage that, no worries, write 500 a day, or 300. The point is to keep writing every day. This gets you into a good habit, a good rhythm and keeps everything fresh on your mind. If you smash out 8000 words in a weekend and then do nothing for two weeks, you’ll most likely struggle to get back into it and you won’t have as many great ideas of a new character arcs, subplots or stellar desciption strike you as when the story is on the forfront of your mind.

Write Short Stories First

Yes I know, its not the advice you wanted to hear. I ignored it too when I started out, got 8000 words into my story and lost my way with it as many of the core concepts and my skills weren’t developed enough. Leave your big idea on the back burner, by all means keep planning and developing it while you practice and hone your craft on short stories. Then by the time you come to write your big novel, you’ll have all the skills ready to tackle it from the start, rather than learning as you go and burning out.

Also a lot of publishers nowadays want you to have published a few short stories and to have put your name on the map before they take the time to read your manuscript. This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

It is also great to practice your skills on stories that don’t require a huge time commitment. Short stories teach you to be economical with your words. A good way to do this is to join a writing forum and get involved in the short story competitions (something we may have here one day ;)).

Plan Properly

“Fail to plan? Plan to Fail.” Slightly controvertial as some writers can just sit down with an idea and write and see where it takes them, but most need to plan it out a bit. Especially less experienced writers. If you’ve planned properly then you know where you are going, who your characters are, what you are trying to achieve in each scene, what the character arcs are. Its much easier to figure this out before you start writing, than to get part way through, realise you overlooked something then have to redo everything. This is likely to be a big motivation killer for new writers, so avoid this by planning and outlining.

Read More

The more you read, the better your writing will be. Its that simple. Your understanding of the craft will improve, you will feel more inspired and its always good to remember what got you into the hobby in the first place.

Reading lots will help build up your repertoire of styles, sentence structure, character arcs, conflicts. Reading widely in your genre will help you know the genre, its tropes, which are overplayed, which are growing in popularity.

Join A Writing Group

Writing can be a lonely pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be. A writing group can help keep you motivated, provide a place for you to learn, bounce ideas, discuss the craft, critique and receive feedback. It is a good place for you to grow as a writer.

Don’t Give Up

If you keep writing, you’ll keep getting better. You’ll get there. If you aim is to be famous or make lots of money, reevaluate yourself. Your aim should be to tell the stories you have to tell in the best way you are able. The money and fame may come if you’re very lucky, but if you have done your story justice then you can be proud.

Hopefully you’ve found these useful and let me know in the comments what I’ve missed and I’ll add it in.

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Naming Languages Part 4/4: Bringing it Together and Putting it to Use

Now it’s time for us to bring our little naming language together, ironing out some details, making some revisions, and writing up a little mini-grammar on the language. We’ll also be putting it to practice to see how well it functions.

First of all will be the changes to the phonology. The original list of phonemes I had chosen was as follows:

Consonants: /p b t d k g m n ɲ f s ʃ x h ɾ w j/

Vowels:        /i y e a o ɯ u/

We also had a syllable structure of (C)V(C) We’re going to change this up a bit by adding some sounds and removing others, as well as writing them up in a more organized way. The following is a little mini-grammar on this naming language.

Language Name: Fteki

PHONOLOGY (IPA values in slashes, Orthography/Romanization in angled brackets)

Consonants

Stops:           /p t c k q/ <p t c k q>

Nasals:          /m n ɲ ŋ/ <m n ñ ng>

Fricatives:     /f v s z ʃ ʒ x ɣ/ <f v s z š ž kh gh>

Tap:              /ɾ/ <r>

Approximant:  /w j/ <w y>

Vowels:        /i y e ø a o u/ <i ü e ö a o u>

Syllable Structure

((F)C­1)V(C2)

1 is any consonant

F is a voiceless fricative (f, s, ʃ, x) if C1 is an obstruent (p t c k q f v s z ʃ ʒ x ɣ)

V is any vowel

C2 is any consonant except /w/ or /j/

SYNTAX

Word order is VSO

Determiners and numbers come before their nouns

Adjectives come after their nouns.

MORPHOLOGY

Synthetic typology

Inflectional

Plural:           -(a)n

Gen.sg:         -akh

Gen.pl:                 -iž

Infinitive:     -tir

3pl.pres:        -em

Derivational

Actor:           c(e)-

Location:      hr(o)-

Nominalizer: -vek

Adjectivizer:   -ri

Diminutive: -(a)f

Augmentative: -oz

LEXICON

Nouns

Human Terms

Qasi – City

Net – Town

Netaf – Village

Skola – Gate

Mikhtü – Crossroad

Tönvek – Ship

Geography

Kura – Hill

Stiri – Pass

Pušra – Forest

Süfna – Sea

Mösin – Beach

Celüs – Peninsula  

Qero – Spring,Well

Isti – Tree

Štam – Rock, boulder

Ñasa – River

Adjectives

Khte – all

Skimri – Blessed

Wirü – New

Ñöfqi – Great

Colours

Khdir – White

Aste – Red

Manga – Silver

Rin – Blue

Rinoz – Bright blue, Azure

Verbs

Fužtir – to be able

Žetir – To see

Skimtir – To bless

Töntir – To Sail

Other

O/E – The

Qoña – God

You don’t really need verbs if you’re only naming places/people/things. And this tiny lexicon is just to give you an idea of how you could structure your mini grammar. You might find that you need less, or even more than the words that are in the sections above. It’s all dependent on the world that you’re building. But, now that we have our mini-grammar all laid out, let’s put this language to practice and see how well it functions. Here’s a little map of the nation in which this language is spoken, with various settlements and features named.

Fteki Nation

As for people’s names, I like the idea of verbal nominaliztions being common, such that you get people like Cetön – Sailor, and Ceže – Seer/Guide, and Ceskim – Priest (literally Blesser).

 

PART 4 SUPPLEMENT: EXTRA MINI-GRAMMARS

Here are two more mini-grammars for some naming languages with different characteristics than the one above, just to show some of the variety you can get.

Tal Kan Wuç

Tal Kan Wuç is spoken in the archipelago nation of Tal Kan Sig. There are two dialects. The southern dialect is considered the standard version of the language, spoken in the capital and by the queen. However, the northern dialect is seen as a bastardization by traders and fishermen living on those islands.

I’ve decided to incorporate a little mini-lesson into this one – making dialects. You don’t have to include them, but like all other things, it’s just another layer of depth to the world. You also don’t have to get too crazy with them either. Just changing a few sounds here and there is often enough for the purposes of a naming language. Here are some of the places dialects can arise:

  • Across natural boundaries such as large rivers, mountain ranges, or on different islands
  • Rural vs. Urban areas
  • In different social classes such as rich vs. poor.
  • Basically anywhere people are separated from each other for whatever reasons.

So what’s the best way to make some dialects? The simplest and most effective way for the purposes of a naming language is to just change the first sound (specifically consonants) in systematic ways. These will have the most pronounced effect. Here are some things to consider changing between the dialects:

  • Where one has voiceless stops, the other can have the voiced ones – Para, Tina, Kole vs. Bara, Dina, Gole.
  • Stops vs. Fricatives – Pilir, Daska, Kom vs. Filir, Zaska (Dhaska/ðaska/ and /ʒaska/ also being a possibility), Xom
  • Voiced stops vs. Nasals – Bosur, Dimet, Gariz vs. Mosur, Nimet, Ngariz (/ŋariz/)
  • Stops vs. Affricates – Pasa, Taiko, Kyyler vs. Pfasa, Tsaiko/Chaiko(/tʃaiko/), Kxyyler
  • Fricatives vs. Affticates – Fomo, Sana, Xemi vs. Pfomo, Tsana, Kxemi
  • Affricates vs. other Affricates – this really words best with the coronal (made with the front of the tongue) sounds – Tsara vs. Chara
  • /w/ vs. /v/ – Wakari vs. Vakari
  • R’s vs. l’s – Rözun vs. Lözun
  • /l/ vs. w/j – Lana vs. Wana vs. Yana (as a note, for phonological reasons this can work a lot better at the ends of words – Kaasal vs. Kaasaw vs. Kaasay))
  • R’s vs. R’s – /rezu/ /ɾezu/ /ʀezu/ /ʁezu/ /ɹezu/ /ɻezu/ etc.
  • Interdentals (θ ð) vs. t/d, s/z, f/v – Theeso vs. Teeso vs. Seeso vs. Feeso
  • Aspirates vs. Plain – Phaka, Thekto, Khama vs. Fako, Sekto, Xama
  • Ejectives vs. Plain – P’iros, T’awis, K’ulam vs. Piros, Tawis, Kulam

Also note that most of these differences could occur at the ends of words or medially (between vowels) instead. So that’s something to keep in mind when making your dialects as well.

Changing up the vowels between dialects can be a bit messier, and to avoid going beyond the scope of this guide, I’m going to stick with one very common difference – vowel mergers. That is, what may be two (or more) separate vowels in one dialect have merged into just one in another. Here are some ideas:

  • In a five vowel system /i e a o u/, the middle vowels (e o) merge with the high ones to give a three vowel system /i a u/ – Kena, sorim, Areto vs. kina, surim, aritu
  • In a seven vowel system /i e ɛ a ɔ o u/, the low middle vowels (ɛ ɔ) merge with the two above to give a five vowel system /i e a o u/
  • Similarly, the high middles (e o) can merge with the high vowels giving /i ɛ a ɔ u/
  • Where one dialect has /ɛ/ and /æ/, the other has only one of them.
  • Where one dialect has long vowels, the other does not.

Essentially what you want to do is take vowels which are relatively close together in the vowel space and merge them together. So, merging /æ/ and /u/ doesn’t make much sense since they’re so different. But merging /y/ and /u/ does, since they’re both high round vowels.

So now let’s get into Tal Kan Wuç!

Tal Kan Sig Map

PHONOLOGY (values are given in IPA)

Consonants

Stops:           /p b t d k g/   <p b t d k g>

Nasals:          /m n/             <m n>

Fricatives:     /f s h/            <f s h>

Affricates:    /ts dz tʃ dʒ/   <c z ç j>

Trill:              /r/                  <r>

Approximant:  /w l j/            <w l y>

Vowels (South Dialect):      /i e ɛ a ɔ o u/    <i ei e a o ou u>

Vowels (North Dialect):      /i ɛ a ɔ u/       <i/ei e a o ou/u>

Syllable Structure

(C­1)V(W/C2)

C1 is any consonant

V is any vowel

W is /w/ after /a e/ and /j/ after /a o/

C2 is any consonant except glides (w j)

SYNTAX

Word order is SVO

Adjectives before nouns

Numbers before nouns

Determiners not marked

MORPHOLOGY

Isolating morphology

LEXICON

Nouns

Geography

Island – Lay

Archipelago – Kan

Ocean – Wal

Reef – Jan

Cliff – Ray

Bay – Ko

Mountain – Rez

Point/Peninsula – Im

Beach – Sin

River – Wos

Harbor – Ju

Flora & Fauna

Fish – Mi

Crab – Cei

Turtle – Tal

Egg – Tei

Ray – Kar

Seagull – Gaw

Oyster – Hay

Tree – Nos

Nut – Pek

Prey – Zer

Human Terms

Temple – Han

Capital – Nak

Town – Tei

Port – Mec

Nation – Sig

Other

Language – Wuç

North – Gou

South – Pay

Knife – Bay

Sun – Maw

Pearl – Sein

Adjectives

Big – War

Small – Çed

Many – Çou

Long – Eij

Beautiful – Nay

Safe – Fi

Other

The – Ci  

Who/Which – May

Sleep – Ik

One – Sa

Two – Mei

Three – Ga

Four – Ço

Five – Fer

From – an

Of, belonging to – Ke

Names

Tal Kan names are structured as follows:

Personal name – clan name – an/ke island

Personal names are usually a positive adjective, whereas clan names are based on animals. The use of “an” before the island name is restricted to the southern islands (War Lay, Eij Lay, and Mei Ray), while the northern islands (Çou Hay Lay, Tei ke Tal, Pek Nos Lay, War Cei, and Çed Cei) prefer to use “ke + island name”. Some common names being Nay Kar an War Lay or Sein Cei ke Çed Cei (Yes, Pearl is also a common name for both men and women).

Xihopa

Xihopa is the native language spoken on the desert moon Rewa, which serves as a communications outpost and trading hub for the Joakan Federation of Planets.

Orbital Map of Rewa

PHONOLOGY (values are given in IPA)

Consonants

Stops:           /p t k ʔ/         <p t k ‘>

Nasals:          /m n ŋ/          <m n g>

Fricatives:     /ɸ s ʃ ɬ h/       <f s x l h>

Trill:              /r/                  <r>

Approximant:  /w/                <w>

Vowels:        /i e a o/          <i e a o>

Syllable Structure

(C)­V

SYNTAX

Word order is SOV

Adjectives before nouns

Numbers before nouns

Determiners as suffix on noun

MORPHOLOGY

Agglutinative morphology

Inflectional

Plural: -mi

Definite: -a

Accusative: -xo

Genitive: -iho

Locative: -lo

3s: – pe

Derivational

Place of: -siki

Place with lots of: -xamo

Adj > Noun: -sa

Noun > Adj: -lana

Diminutive – gi

Augmentative – tu

LEXICON

Nouns

Planet – Xiana

Mountain – Sagiga  

Cliff – Pala

Canyon – Palaxamo

Plain – Ka’o

Saltflat – Lekisiki

River – Fiwe

Forest – Koaxamo

Ocean, Sea – Po’a

Village/town/city – Rasi

Salt – Leki

Snow – Wotowa

Tree – Koa

Tower – Tohi

Captain – Kapitana

Adjectives

Long – Kele

Southern – Wawaxi

Red – Koli

Blue/Green – Laxe

Black – Kigo

Verbs

To run – ana

To climb – Ixima

To fight – ese

To watch – Oro

Xihopa names can vary from town to town, but the most common type of name is one which is essentially a small sentence:

Lekilo Anape – Runs on Salt

Sagigaxo Iximape – Climbs Mountains

Kapitanaxo Esepe – Fights the Captain

Tohimi Orope – Watches Towers

 

And so we can see that with a little bit of effort, you can create a great deal of depth and flavour for your world. I hope that this guide has been useful to everyone and will inspire you all to get creative with naming in your worlds.

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Morphology, Character Names & Typology (3/4)

Intro

The section is going to be about creating some basic morphology for your naming language.

Morphology deals with the morphemes that exist in your language and how your words are built up. Morphemes are the smallest units in a language that have any sort of grammatical meaning. These are things like roots (book, man, tree) and affixes (un-, -s, -ly, dis-). There are two types of morphology you should know about, inflectional morphology and derivational morphology.

Inflectional Morpohology

Inflectional morphology deals with the addition of morphemes to a root (such as affixes) or the changing of the root itself to show grammatical information. These are things like the –ed in “talked” that shows past tense, the –s in “dogs” to show plurality, or the way that “I” changes to “me” to show that the speaker is the object of the verb. For the purposes of a naming language the most useful will be some way of marking plurals. There are of course several ways to do this. One is to just use an affix like English does. Affixes can come in various places. There are prefixes and suffixes which attach before and after their base word respectively. Then there are infixes, which are inserted inside of their base word. A great example of this that is taught to every student of linguistics is the infix which occurs in English. For the sake of being polite, I’m going to use its lesser form “freaking” as in abso-freaking-lutely. There are also circumfixes, which go around their base word. Another possible way to mark your plural is to use a process called apophony, which is the changing of sounds within a root. An example of this from English is “foot” becoming “feet” in the plural. Of course you don’t have to change the vowels. You could change the consonants instead. This could give something like “foot” becoming “voot” or “foon”. Reduplication involves duplicating part or all of the root. So if “sata” is “mountain in your language, “sasata”or “satasata” would be “mountains”. Lastly, you could just not mark the plurals in any way. This is something that Japanese does. I could easily say “I have three book” and you would know that I have more than one book because I said a number with it.

Derivational Morphology

Derivational morphology is far more useful for a naming language. Derivational morphemes are used to either change the part of speech of a word, change its meaning altogether, or even both. With these sorts of morphemes you can

         Turn adjectives into nouns (happy > happiness)

         nouns into adjectives (swamp > swampy)

         verbs into nouns (write > writer)

         Verbs into adjectives (burn > burnt/burned)

         Turn nouns into other nouns (Father > fatherhood)

Being able to change nouns and adjectives into the other is especially useful for map labeling. Some other useful ones are ways of denoting “person who does X” as in the writer example above and “place/land of X”. As an example, these are some of the words that could be derived from a root meaning “horse”:

Actor/person: Knight, Cavalryman, Jockey, Cowboy

Place of:       Plain, Stables, Paddock

Tool:             Whip, Bridle, Saddle, Reins, Sword, Pike, Lance, Bow

Adjective:    Fast, Skittish, Noble

Diminutive: Colt, Foal, Filly

Collection:    Herd, Cavalry, Army

the_tavern

Compounding

Another form of derivation is compounding, that is, smushing two or more root words together to form a new one. Examples include doghouse, Oxford (a ford is a shallow place where water can be crossed), and Neuchâtel (literally “new castle”). When coming up with a new word for your language, think about whether you want that word to be its own word with a unique root, some derivative of another word, or a compound of two other words. For instance, while English has separate words for “king” and “queen”, another language might just use the same word for both, have “queen” as the feminine form of “king”, or in a matriarchal society “king” might be the masculine form of “queen”. All languages have their own preferences for how they form words and as always there is no real right or wrong answer.

Naming Conventions

A good use for morphology, derivational morphology in particular, is in your naming conventions. Here are some ideas for where names can come from:

         Plants – Rose, Daisy, Violet, Orchid, Petunia, etc.

         Gemstones – Ruby, Pearl, Opal, Jade

         Animals are also popular – Leo (lion in Latin), Raven.

         Important people – King, Lord, Lady,

         Positive attributes and virtues – Grace, Joy, Hope, Bravery, Wisdom, Faith, Light, Night, Dawn, Beauty

         Any other objects that your culture values – There was once a great Mayan king named Pakal, which literally just means “shield”. Similarly you could name your characters Sword, Ocean, or Mountain. A sea faring people living on an archipelago might name their children after different kinds of fish or marine life such as Coral, Turtle, Stingray, Sunfish, and Eel.

         Where they come from – Scott (as in Scotsman), Francis (Frenchman)

         Children may be named after what their parents hope or think they’ll grow up to be – King, Sailor, Hunter, Winner (Victor from Latin).

         Having a way to turn adjectives into nouns allows for names that embody the positive attributes of the person. Names that translate to things like “the swift one” “the strong one” “the holy one” come to mind.

         Of course, you could just use adjectives themselves for names – Lucky, Bold, Strong, Beautiful. Some cultures may even name children after objects themselves.

A diminutive is a morpheme that marks a root word as being small or little. They are also often used to show familiarity or endearment as with nicknames. Having a diminutive would allow for names like “little oak”, “little hunter”, or “Darling king”.

Argumentatives

On the opposite side are augmentatives, which mark something as being big or large. Using these can give some of your people important titles, like Great Warrior.

Compounds that make use of a verb are also a good source for names. Timothy comes from the Greek “Timotheos” meaning “honouring God”. Michael comes from Hebrew and translates to “who is like God?”. Here, it might be good to have a way to nominalize/adjectivize your verbs (if you have them). But you could also use noun/noun or noun/adjective pairs such as “Fireraven” or “Redbear”.

Lastly, if you’re having some trouble coming up with a meaningful name that’s to your liking, don’t sweat it. You can just make up a word that fits your language’s syllable structure, and leave the meaning as lost to history. This is how most names in English and a lot of the western world are now. No one thinks of the name Timothy above as meaning “honoring God”, it’s just a name. Same deal with Rachel, which comes from Biblical Hebrew for “ewe” (a female sheep). And if you think of a good one later, you can always come back and add it in.

fantasy_animals_at_the_meeting_096659_

Surnames

Last names or family/clan names are also something you may want, though not everyone has them. But these other names have just as many and varied sources as given names

         They sometimes can come from professions, such as Smith, Baker, Carpenter, Knight, etc.

         Another place to get your family names from is where that particular family is from; Di Napoli, London, or even something that translates to “of/from the forest”.

         Of course it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Last names can also just be nouns or adjectives such as Jack White, John Snow, Ragnar the Bold, Mary the Great, etc.

         Names can also come from the father’s name as in Peterson. In Icelandic naming, this is how last names come about. Using a rough Anglicized example Jon Peterson’s son might be named Erik Jonsson, while his daughter would be Erika Jonsdaughter.  

         Patronyms are also common throughout the world. These translate to something like “son of”. You could use a morpheme on the father’s name to mark this, as in Russian; Mikhail Ivanovich – Mikhail son of Ivan. You could also have it as a separate word as in Arabic; Ali ibn Muhammad – Ali son of Muhammad. Or you could just leave the father’s name alone, giving you something like Paul Brian. If you have a matriarchal society perhaps family names might come from the mother such as Janesdaughter. Matronyms are also quite common.

Structure

How you choose to structure these names is up to you, and may say a lot about your culture and their society. Some groups just have  a first – last name system. Others bring larger encompassing clan names into the mix. And as I said above, don’t have the concept of a family/clan name. Though people in plenty of groups in North America will have several names, ranging from a given name, nicknames, special titles, and even personal names so secret no one knows them

Conclusion

Experiment with your language’s morphology and be creative with your names! They’ll say a lot about your culture. And even if you don’t want to create a naming language, hopefully these past two sections will give you some inspiration for names anyway, such as Garnet the Great, Empress of the Holy Isles – Captain “Old” Joe Tinsmith from Six Mine City – or Emma “Tankrider” Leatherman from Wheelport.

PART 3 SUPPLEMENT: TYPOLOGY

So for this supplement, I’d like to bring up a topic which doesn’t get talked about a lot with naming languages – morphological typology. I know what some of you may be thinking, that you didn’t sign up for any hardcore conlanging. Well there’s no need to worry. We’re not going to get into any theoretical implications or weird quirks of grammar here. I’m going to keep definitions broad and simple.

While it sounds complicated, morphological typology just refers to how your words are structured. I’m only going to reference three basic ones here as I feel they’re the most useful for making naming languages.

         Isolating/analytic – Only one morpheme per word. That is, everything is its own separate word. So rather than “dog-s” you have “many dog”, “walk earlier/yesterday” instead of “walked”. Analytic just means that the language allows some compounding and derivational morphemes, but still no inflections. Examples of this would be Vietnamese and Mandarin.

         Agglutinative – Here, each morpheme has only one meaning and they remain distinct from each other. This means that in order to build up larger meanings (derivationally and inflectionally) they stack together. This can sometimes result in rather long words Turkish and Finnish are good examples of this kind of language.

         Fusional – These languages have multiple meanings per morpheme – such as Latin or Russian. This results in somewhat smaller and more “compact” words. For example the Latin suffix “-os” tells us that the noun is second declension, plural, and the direct object of the verb (accusative case).  

The point of all this is, that typology is just another variable which can influence the names of your places and characters. Shin Ral Wis from Dok Sen Te is very different from Kualahimi from Ammilagiga.

Credit to Jafiki91

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Constructing Languages: Word Orders (2a/4)

Intro

Now it’s time to start thinking about basic syntax, or word order. Because we’re only making a naming language, sentence level word order isn’t all that necessary unless you have a few phrases or bits of text from your culture, such as a spell, prayer, or greeting.

Word Order

There are six main types of word order for languages, based on the placement of Subjects, Verbs, and Objects. Some orders are more common than others, while some are so rare that only one or two real languages use them. The following is a list of the major word orders, from most common to least, coupled with some languages that use that order, as well as an example sentence:

SOV (Turkish, Japanese) “John dogs sees.”

SVO (English, Mandarin) “John sees dogs.”

VSO (Irish, Hebrew) “Sees John dogs.”

VOS (Malagasy) “Sees dogs John.”

OVS (Hixkaryana) “Dogs sees John.”

OSV (Warao) “Dogs John sees.”

However, just because a certain word order is less common than others doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose it. All of them are perfectly valid. Furthermore, you can use word order to give a certain spice to your language. For instance Marc Okrand, the creator of Klingon chose the word order OVS to make the language seem more alien. For the naming language we’re making here, I’m going to choose the word order VSO. My first reason for picking this is because it’s my favorite word order. My second reason is because this order while not very common, but isn’t super rare either. It will give the language a way of doing things that most speakers of English aren’t too familiar with, which I feel will make my world a bit more interesting.

Something more important to think about for a naming language is the placement of adjectives and determiners (words like “the” “a” “this” “that” –  numbers can often be lumped into this category, which is what I’ll be doing here for simplicity, but you can tinker with their placement as well if you’d like). This will be much more important when you start naming the various locations around your world. For each of these two types of words there are two spots to put them in; either in front of their noun, or after it. Here we end up with four possible combinations:

The Red Hills

The Hills Red

Red Hills The

Hills Red The

All of them are perfectly valid, and whichever one you choose is up to you. There are some issues that can come into play with the determiners based on what verbal word order you have, but that’s a topic for a later discussion. For a naming language you don’t need to worry too much about it. For my demo language, I’m going to have determiners come before their noun, and adjectives come after. Making up some words for the above example I get: E Kuran Aste which has a rather nice ring to it.

Naming Geographical Features

        The next step, if you haven’t already done so, will be to make start making some words for various geographical features. You should also create some adjectives that will pair well with them. After that, start playing around with some word orders. See which ones fit best, which ones sound just right to you. Maybe you’ll find that while a certain word order seems to fit, it causes the words to sound a bit off, or vice versa. It’s completely ok to refine your language whenever you see fit. You could even completely overhaul it. It might take a few iterations but eventually you’ll have the perfect naming language for your world.

        Now comes the first step in applying your naming language, naming your places. Place names can come from all sorts of paradigms:

  •         The simplest solution is to just name your geographical features or cities after their surroundings – The Red Hills, East Lake, High Peak(s), Ocean Grove, The Straight, Atlantic City.
  •         You could name it after an existing place –  New York, New Hampshire, New England, New France, New Spain, New Mexico, Paris (Texas), London (Ontario)
  •         You’d be surprised at how many places just get called New Town – Neustadt, Naples (Napoli), Yenişehir, Xincheng, Villanova, Novgorod, Nyborg, Neuveville
  •         Expressions of gratitude, thanksgiving, or hope – (New) Haven, (New) Hope.  
  •         Positive nouns and adjectives are common as well – Perfection, La Paz, Concord, Pleasantville, Safe Harbor.
  •         Of course any adjective + noun combo will work for a quick town name, though you may have to create any words you don’t already have.
  •         How far you are from some point of interest – Half Day Point
  •         It could be named after the people that were there originally. Paris is named for the Parisii tribe.
  •         It could be a name from some other culture, most likely one that was there first. This is very common across the United States with names of Native American origins – Massachusetts, Mississippi, Miami. Others such as Detroit (The Straights), Vermont,  Colorado, Florida, California, and many others come to us from the French and Spanish who once occupied large portions of North America. So a key here is that older settlements may have these sorts of names.

·         Cities and locations may also get their name from the person who founded, discovered, or conquered them – Alexandria, Jacksonville, Charleston. A name may also come from a mythological hero or god/spirit. This would be a good place to think about how your language marks possession such that you could have John’s Cove, or The Port of Gerax.

Next

A List of Words (2b/4): This links to a list of words which will be very useful in naming places and figuring out your language and is a supplement to this part.

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Place Naming: Word List (2b/4)

Intro 

The following is a list of some words which may come in handy for your naming language. I’m sure some will look at this list and think “how am I going to come up with all of these words? This just got way too complicated”. The good news is, you don’t need all of these words. This list is merely here to get you thinking about what sorts of words you may need. For example, if you have a desert setting, you may not need words for “ocean”, “forest” and “Meadow”. You might also find that you need different terms than those listed, such as different animals, geography, etc.

Even if you are not creating a language, this can be useful for you to come up with names of locations in English.

Next Time (In case you want to skip the list)

Morphology, Character Names & Typology (3/4):This part is about creating some basic morphology for your naming language, naming conventions for surnames, and a supplement on typology.

Geography Terms:

Plains

  • Plain
  • Savannah
  • Meadow
  • Field
  • Prairie
  • Steppe

Forests

  • Forest
  • Woods
  • Grove
  • Copse
  • Stand

Hills & mountains

  • Hill
  • Down
  • Mountain
  • Peak
  • Range
  • Plateau
  • Crest
  • Mesa

Valleys

  • Valley
  • Canyon
  • Cliff

Harsh terrain

  • Marsh
  • Swamp
  • Desert
  • Wilderness
  • Jungle

Rivers

  • River
  • Stream
  • Brook
  • Estuary
  • Channel
  • Rapids
  • Portage
  • Source
  • Confluence
  • Delta
  • Bank
  • Waterfall
  • Spring

Seas & Lakes

  • Ocean
  • Sea
  • Bay
  • Harbor
  • Lagoon
  • Gulf
  • Straight
  • Lake
  • Pond

Coastlines

  • Coast
  • Beach
  • Peninsula
  • Cape
  • Point

Islands

  • Island
  • Archipelago
  • Atoll

Local features

  • Rock
  • Tree
  • Bridge
  • Ford
  • Dam
  • Park
  • Oasis

Human terms

Settlements

  • City
  • Town
  • Village
  • Hamlet
  • Colony
  • Port
  • Market
  • Capital
  • Kingdom
  • Empire
  • Nation

Military

  • Fort
  • Castle
  • Wall
  • Camp
  • Tower

Religion

  • Shrine
  • Oracle
  • Temple
  • Church
  • Chapel
  • Monastary

Other

  • Mine
  • Inn
  • Stopping point
  • Post
  • Lodge
  • Mill
  • House
  • Manor
  • Estate
  • Crossing
  • Farm
  • Orchard

Roads

  • Road
  • Highway
  • Trail
  • Way
  • Path
  • Causeway
  • Bridge

Adjectives

Age

  • New
  • Old
  • Ancient

Size & Shape

  • Round
  • Flat
  • Wide
  • Narrow
  • Small
  • Large
  • Split
  • Vast
  • Greater
  • Lesser

Location

  • High
  • Low
  • Central
  • Upper
  • Lower
  • Near
  • Far

Directions

  • North
  • South
  • East
  • West

Greatness

  • Great
  • Grand
  • Glorious
  • Noble
  • Holy
  • Royal

Descriptive

  • Windy
  • Sandy
  • Cloudy
  • Foggy
  • Rainy
  • Snowy
  • Dry
  • Wet
  • Good
  • Twisted/Twisting/Winding
  • Fertile
  • Beautiful
  • Pleasant
  • Quiet
  • Gold(en)
  • Silver
  • Jewel(ed)

Colors

  • White
  • Black
  • Red
  • Brown
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Grey
  • Pink
  • Tan
  • Etc etc

Numbers

  • Full
  • Half
  • Quarter
  • One
  • Two
  • Three
  • Four
  • Five
  • Six
  • Etc etc

Water quality

  • Fast
  • Slow
  • Clear
  • Muddy

Common Nouns

Animals

  • Horse
  • Ox
  • Chicken
  • Sheep
  • Goat
  • Lion
  • Fox
  • Deer
  • Hawk
  • Eagle
  • Dragon
  • Fist
  • Turtle

Substance

  • Earth
  • Water
  • Ice
  • Stone
  • Fire
  • Ashes
  • Smoke
  • Dust
  • Salt
  • Sand

Professions

  • King / Emperor / Lord
  • Knight / Warrior / Soldier
  • Priest / Holy Man
  • Hunter
  • Fisherman
  • Sailor
  • Baker
  • Forager

Types of trees

  • Aspen
  • Birch
  • Cedar
  • Elm
  • Oak
  • Palm
  • Pine
  • Willow

Flowers

  • Rose
  • Lily
  • Tulip
  • Sunflower
  • Lilac
  • Lavender
  • Petunia

Gems

  • Diamond
  • Emerald
  • Ruby
  • Sapphire
  • Topaz
  • Opal
  • Amethyst
  • Agate
  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Amber
  • Quartz
  • Onyx
  • Pearl
  • Garnet

Positive Attributes

  • Grace
  • Hope
  • Beauty
  • Strength
  • Courage

Space Terms

  • Planet
  • Moon
  • Star/Sun
  • Asteroid
  • Asteroid belt/field
  • Comet
  • System
  • Galaxy
  • Nebula
  • Ship
  • Station

Credit to Jafiki91

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Constructing Languages: Creating the Sounds (Naming Language)(1/4)

 

Intro

This post is all about naming languages, and will be geared more toward those that are new to the art, and have little to no experience creating languages. Whether you just want to add a little flair to your world, or want to add a fully fleshed out language with original stories and texts, constructed languages, or conlangs as they are more commonly called, add all manner of depth to a world.

Before we get into the actual language creation, it’s important to note that there’s no denying that culture and language are tied together and the addition of linguistic details to a world, regardless of how small they are, can add a shade of depth and a level of complexity to your cultures, stories, and characters. And even if you decide not to add any actual languages to your world, a mere mention of one or two can bring details of your world that can show the complexity of its cultures. The following is just a little blurb to give you an idea of what I mean.

“The people of the mainland, and especially the capital, loath the people from the islands just off shore. It is not only because of their uncivilized ways, but also their uncivilized tongue, which sounds ‘guttural and horribly uneducated’.”

Even with just that little bit we can see who the dominant group is, and how they see a more marginalized group. And of course you could talk about it from the other perspective. Maybe the islanders view the mainlanders as very proper and uptight because of how they speak. It’s all up to you.

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PART 1: SIMPLE PHONOLOGY AND ROMANIZATION

We’re going to start things off simple by creating a bare bones naming language. A naming language is one which isn’t really all that fleshed out. It doesn’t have all the complex grammar or syntax of a full language. What it does have at the very least is a system of sounds, ways of putting them together to form words, and a way of writing them down. These are known as a phoneme inventory, phonotactics, and romanization respectively. The advantage to having a language such as this is that it keeps all of the names for your locations and people within a regular framework, rather than just having them be random syllables that were thrown together. The other advantage is that you have control over what the names are like, as opposed to using real world languages, which come with their own cultural connotations.

The first step in creating our naming language is working out its phonology, that is, what sounds it has in it.  In order to choose some sounds for your language, you may want to familiarize yourself with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). This is the system used by linguists to describe all the possible speech sounds used by humans for language. At first glance it can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert on it. For now, just know that there are a lot of sounds to choose from and play around with. An overview of consonant and vowel features can be found in the section Understanding the IPA Chart.  

What Kind of Sound?

So how do you choose? Well there are a couple of ways to go about it. One method is to think of some languages that you are either familiar with or just know a little bit about. Do you want your language to sound a bit like Spanish? Or maybe even a cross between Korean and Zulu? You can look up these languages and see what sounds they use, then use some, all, or more in your language. Another method is to just pick out some sounds that you like, ones that you feel will fit the language that you’re making. Ask yourself what sort of “flavor” you want.

A harsh guttural language might be very consonant heavy, specifically with lots of stops and consonants made in the back of the mouth such as /k/, /q/, and /x/. It might also use lots of clusters not found in English like in the word “kazg” and vowels made in the back of the mouth such as /o/ and /u/. A light, flowing language will have lots of vowels (specifically front ones like /i/ and /e/), sonorant consonants like nasals and liquids (l’s and r’s), as well as fricatives (sounds like /f/, /s/, and /h/).

Examples

Here are some examples that will give you an idea of how language can help shape how others view your cultures. The first set adheres to the stereotypical Tolkien races with a light flowing Elvish and a harsh gutteral Orcish. The second switches them up a bit to show that things don’t have to be so black and white.

“The Orcish tongue is very harsh and guttural, as can be seen by the general Qordazhg’s famed battle cry: «Qrot ga zhuvd terkodz!»”

“As one enters the great Elvish city of Thiliem it’s hard to miss the royal seal inscribed just above the gates: Nirem Alshia Laisuron”

“The orcs strike fear into the hearts of men with swift words which flow like poison. Most notable is the phrase they leave marked on every city and town they decimate: Sirgeth khrets ki jorlen sekadh.”

“Elvish rulers, such as Kutitsa Tarek, Cesta Sotoq, and Kraqta Turats are some of the fiercest politicians in the land. Their tongues are as sharp and piercing as their arrows.”

Picking the Sounds

So now let’s start picking out some sounds for our example naming language. We don’t want it to sound too English-like, so we’re going to make sure to pick several sounds not found in English. During this I’m going to be using characters from the IPA, which will be enclosed in slashes (e.g. /s/), so you may need to reference the chart if you aren’t familiar with a particular sound. I like to start with vowels because there are far fewer of those than there are consonants. We’ll go with something simple, the five standard vowels common to Spanish and Italian: /i/, /e/, /a/, /o/. and /u/. However, I also want to throw in a little curveball, /y/ and /ɯ/. The first is the rounded counterpart to /i/. It’s the sound of German ü, and French u. The second is the unrounded version of /u/, and is found in Turkish. Now that that’s set up, it’s time to think of some consonants. I’ll start with the least English like sounds. /ɲ/ /ɾ/ /x/ seem like some good choices to me.. I’ll want some more consonants than that though. So we’ll add: /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/, /m/, /n/, /f/, /s/, /h/ /w/, and /j/. As a general rule of thumb, try to keep your phoneme inventory relatively balanced. That is, don’t just use sounds from one end of the chart and not the other. Spread them out a bit. Of course every natural language has irregularities, so one or two oddballs won’t hurt anything.

Romanization

Now’s a good time to bring up Romanization, that is, how you write your language in the Latin script. You can of course make up your own orthography or use a different transcription scheme, such as one based in Greek, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, or any other script you like. For this example, I’m going to represent the sound /y/ with the character ü and and /ɯ/ with ı. The other vowels will be written normally Most of the consonants will be represented as they are in Engish, with the exception of /j/, which I’ll write as “y” as English does. To represent /ɲ/ /ɾ/ /x/, I’ll use ñ, r, and kh respectively. Some people like to make use of diacritics when making a language. And that’s perfectly fine, plenty of natural languages use them in their writing systems. For the purposes of a naming language though, you may want to keep them to a minimum, especially if it’s for a novel. You don’t want your readers getting caught up everytime they have to read a name like “Ăşŕeȕṭ”. Apostrophes are another thing to watch out for. Don’t just throw them in to make things look exotic. In real writing systems they serve a purpose, such as in contractions, to represent ejective consonants, to show a glottal stop, or even for a long vowel. The main point is, if you want apostrophes in your language, make sure they serve a consistent purpose.

Syllables

Now that we have our sounds laid out, it’s time to work on syllables. How your syllables are formed will determine what words will and won’t be possible in your language. For instance the word “bnick” (IPA /bnɪk/) is impossible in English because it doesn’t allow the consonant cluster ‘bn’ at the start of a syllable. At the heart of every syllable is the nucleus. This is the most prominent point of sonority, and 9 times out of 10, the nucleus will be a vowel (there are some exceptions to this, but we’ll talk about that at another time). Consonants that form the beginning of the syllable are called onsets, while those that end the syllable are called codas.

Some languages have very simple syllable structures such as (C)V, where C is a consonant and V is a vowel. The parentheses show that an element is optional. So if we make our little naming language like this we could have words like ferado, tuna, and arakha. However, I’d like to go a bit more complex than that. Let’s add codas to the mix, giving us a syllable structure like (C)V(C). This would give words like radkon, fensi, and ürkhet. That’s more like it! You could of course create more complex structures with more restrictions. For instance, in English, the sound /h/ can only be at the start of a syllable, whereas the sound /ŋ/ (the sound made by ‘ng’) can only be at the end of a syllable. Other languages allow these sounds to go in either spot. We could also make a very complex structure such as (C(C(C)))V((C)C), which could give a word like Ksrant. Try playing around with a bunch of different structures to see which one best fits the language that you want to make. And once you’ve done all this, you’ll have a basic naming language perfectly suited for labeling various places in your world, as well as naming the people who inhabit it.

640x452_2791_crowrider_meeting_2d_fantasy_picture_image_digital_art

 

PART1 SUPPLEMENT: UNDERSTANDING THE IPA CHART

Here we get a little in depth with the actual sounds of the IPA chart. All consonants have a Place of Articulation, that is, where they are made in the mouth, and a Manner of Articulation, which is how they are made. There is also a distinction between voiced and voiceless consonants. Voiced ones are made with the vocal cords vibrating, and voiceless without. To get a feel for this place your hand on your throat and pronounce the sound /s/ (like in English “sit” and hold it for a while: sssssssssssssss. Now do the same for a /z/ sound (like in “zoo”) zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. /s/ is a voiceless consonant, and /z/ is its voiced counterpart. Start with /s/ and transition into /z/: ssssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzz. You should feel your vocal cords “turn on” when you transition to the /z/ sound, but you’ll also notice that your tongue and mouth position don’t change. Whereever you see pairs of consonants in the chart, the left is the voiceless and the right the voiced (e.g. s z).

Now we’ll take a look as the various Places of Articulation, which can be divided up into four major areas:

Labial: Made with the lips

Bilabial: These are consonants made with both lips. Examples include /p/, /b/, and /m/.

Labiodental: These are made with the lower lip touching the upper teeth such as in the sounds /f/ and /v/.

Coronal: Made with the front of the tongue.

Dental: These sounds are made with the tongue tip touching the back of the teeth. The “th” sounds of English “thick” and “that” (IPA θ and ð respectively), are considered dental. Though do note that these two sounds are often made with the tongue between the teeth in English, and would therefore be called “interdental”.

Alveolar: These sounds are produced with the tongue near or on the alveolar ridge, which is just behind the teeth. Some alveolar sounds from English include /t/, /d/, /n/, /l/, /s/, and /z/.

Post-Alveolar: Sounds like English ‘sh’ /ʃ/, are made with the tongue positioned just behind the alveolar ridge.

Retroflex: These are consonants made with the tongue curled back toward the roof of the mouth. For some speakers of English, this is how ‘r’ sounds are pronounced.

Dorsal: Made with the back of the tongue.

Palatal: These are sounds made at the hard palate, which is more commonly known as the roof of your mouth. The only palatal sound found in English is /j/, which is the y sound in “yard”. However, a full range of sounds can be made here, from stops, to fricatives, to nasals.

Velar: These sounds are made with the tongue touching the velum, or as it’s more commonly known, the soft palate. Some examples would be /k/, /g/, /ŋ/ (ng in “sing”), and /x/ (like in Scottish “loch”).

Uvular: The uvula is that little dangly thing at the back of your throat that looks like a punching bag and there are plenty of consonants that can be made there. Some examples include the /q/ sound found in Arabic and Inuit languages, as well as the French ‘r’ sound /ʁ/.

Radical: Made with the tongue root.

Pharyngeal: These are sounds that are made in the throat. A great example is the Arabic letter ع which in IPA is /ʕ/. For speakers of English, and other European languages, these consonants can be a bit difficult and strange.

Glottal: These consonants are made at the glottis, which is the where the vocal cords are. The most notable sounds here are /h/, and the glottal stop /ʔ/, which is the sound separating the syllables of “uh-oh”.

Next we’re going to move on to Manner of Articulation. This is the way in which a consonant is produced and is related to the degree of constriction of the vocal tract.

Stop: Stops are just that, a full stop in the airflow. Examples include /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, and /g/.

Nasal: Nasals are also technically stops, in that a full closure is made at some point of articulation. However, the air is allowed to escape through the nasal cavity. English nasals include /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/.

Fricative: These consonants allow a little air to pass through, which creates a turbulent sound. Examples from English are /f/, /v/, /θ/ /ð/ /s/ /z/ /ʃ/ /ʒ/ /x/ (Scottish “loch”) /h/.

Lateral Fricative: These are like normal fricatives, with one major difference, the air passes around the sides of the tongue. A lot of books might describe them as a breathy ‘l’ sound.

Affricate: Affricates are consonants that begin as stops, and are released as fricatives. An example from English is the ‘ch’ in “church” (IPA [tʃ]).

Tap/Flap: These terms are often used interchangeably to refer to a sound which has a quick closing and then opening of the vocal tract. The American English word “latter” has this tapped sound in it. It’s the ‘tt’ in the middle (coincidentally, the ‘dd’ in “middle” is the same sound).

Trill: Ah the famous (or infamous) trill. Trills are made my rapidly opening and closing off the vocal tract over and over. The one most familiar to English speakers would be the one used in Spanish, /r/. There are other trills though, some French speakers have a trill made at the uvula, /ʀ/, and there even exists a bilabial trill /ʙ/, which is like a quick fluttering of the lips.

Approximant: Of all the consonants, approximants are sounds made with the least obstruction of airflow. These are sounds like /w/, /j/ (English ‘y’ like in yard), and /ɹ/ (English ‘r’).

Lateral Approximant: Just as with the lateral fricatives, these are approximants made by letting the airflow pass around the sides of the tongue. The /l/ sound of English is a great example, but they can occur at other places of articulation as well.

Vowels

For the final part of this post, we’ll talk about the all-important vowels. Vowels fall along three main gradients, height, backness, and roundness (as a disclaimer, vowels can be pretty wishy-washy, and there are a lot of complexities we won’t get into here. For the purposes of a naming language, we’ll stick with basic definitions).

Roundness simply refers to whether or not the lips are rounded when a vowel is made. Where vowels appear in pairs, the left is unrounded, while the right is rounded (e.g. i y)

Height (or openness) is how high in the mouth your tongue is. Typical high vowels are /i/ and /u/, while /æ/ (like in hat) and /ɑ/ (like in father) are low.  

Frontness refers to how far forward the tongue is in the mouth. Vowels like /i e ɛ æ/ are front, while ones like /u o ɔ ɑ/ are back.

Resources

This is a good site for listening to the various sounds in the IPA which can help with choosing a consonant inventory.

This is a list of some of the most common vowel systems found in natural languages and again, can help with choosing which ones you want.

Lastly Zompist’s Gen and Awkwords are both word generators. You put the sound and syllable rules of your language and it can spit out a whole bunch of words at once. I personally prefer Awkwords simply because you can add weights to the various sounds to make them more or less common. They’re really useful to get a feel for the language before you start naming things.

Next Time

In the next part we’ll be looking at Word Order.

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Historical TV Series Through Time

This is a list of tv series set throughout history, starting with the most recent first. You can use it to get a feeling for and as inspiration on settings in those periods, or if your like me and love a good historical series, just have a look and see which appeal to you and do some easy going “research”. I’ve watched all these on the list over the years and have loved most, if not all of them. I believe all of them are good (if a bit dramatised) representations of life and events at those times.

I will keep it updated as we go, so keep checking back, and if you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments. I will also do the same for films, games and documentaries at some point.

1919 AD England

Peaky Blinders: A gangster saga set in Birmingham during the aftermath of World War I.

8.8/10 IMDb 93% Rotten Tomatoes 9.5/10 TV.com

1812 AD Russia

War and Peace: Tell the story of events surrounding the the Napoleonic invasion of Russia and the impact of the era on pre-reform (Tsarist) Russia.

1715 AD Bahamas, England

Black Sails: Tells the story of Captain Flint and his pirate escapades as he tries to rally the pirate world against the rest of humanity.

8/10 IMDb 8.5/10 TV.com 58% Metacritic

1492 AD Italy

The Borgias: Follows the rise of the Borgias family to the top of the Catholic Church and their efforts to maintain it against threats from within the church and without.

7.9/10 IMDb 8.4/10 TV.com 71% Rotten Tomatoes

1464 AD England

The White Queen: Set in the bloody War of the Roses, the long war between the rival houses of Plantagenet, York and Lancaster, it follows the stories of three powerful women who manipulate events from behind the scenes, Elizabeth Woodville, Margret Beaufort and Anne Neville. Full of court intrigue, backstabbing and the cold hearted quest for power. You can easily see why the War of the Roses was cited as inspiration for Games of Thrones.

7.8/10 IMDb 8.6/10 TV.com 78% Rotten Tomatoes

1194 AD England

Robin Hood: Robin returns from fighting in the crusades to find that his home is suffering under the high taxation and corruption of the Sheriff of Nottingham and along with his band of Merry Men fights for the freedom of the people.

7.6/10 IMDb 8.6/10 TV.com 92% Rotten Tomatoes

801 – 900 AD England

The Last Kingdom: The kingdoms of England are attacked and in places occupied by Vikings. The southern Kingdom of Wessex is the bastion of defense against the Danes. The protagonist Uhtred, is a the son of a Saxon noble who is captured, adopted and raised by Danes, and his loyalties are tested as he must decide between his people and his homeland, and those who raised him.

793 AD Denmark, England, France

Vikings: Tells the story of legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok and his escapades across Europe.

8.6/10 IMDb 9.2/10 TV.com 91% Rotten Tomatoes

0 – 100 AD (Generally set in the 1st century) Roman Empire

Rome: Follows the lives and actions of historical (Julius Caeser, Marc Anthony, Octavious etc) and wealthy Roman families as well as two common soldiers who get wrapped up in the action.

8.9/10 IMDb 8.8/10 TV.com 71% Metacritic

73 – 71 BC  Roman Republic

Spartacus: The Spartacus series tells the famous story of Spartacus’s escape from the Gladiatorial grounds and his major slave uprising across Roman Italy which threatens the very core of the Republic.

8.6/10 IMDb 8.5/10 TV.com 65% Rotten Tomatoes

Honourable Mention

Game of Thrones: I’m sure you’ve all seen this, but its good inspiration for the level of backstabbing and court intrigue that went on in Feudal/ Medieval societies.

9.5/10 IMDb 94% Rotten Tomatoes 9/10 TV.com

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Fortnightly Posts and the Plan for the Future

Fortnightly Posts

I’ve decided to move to releasing content on a fortnightly basis (every two weeks) as a result of a number of things.

I’m going backpacking in Australia next month so it will be harder to both find the time and space to write new posts and be in a position to update the site.

I’ve realised that in the past few weeks, its quite easy to burn through content and I’d like to keep the site a live until I get back so I that I can expand it further (see the Plan section).

Plan

The two main things I’d like to do with the site are to relaunch it as a full site, not just a blog, using Squarespace, and launch a forum. There is a cost associated with both of these, so when they launch will probably be linked to the Patreon goals.

The Site

$8 a month for personal site (20 pages), or $18 a month for business site (unlimited pages) (£5.46 & £12.29 respectively)

I would like to rebuild the blog into a fully fledged site, making it easier to navigate and expand into different areas such as writing, map making and art, as well as whatever develops out of the forum.

The Forum

$20 a month for IPB forum host (All the free hosts I’ve looked at look seriously outdated by now and I can’t see members being too keen to join them).

For what advantages a forum would have over reddit, click here. There is currently a poll up on whether readers of this blog would like to see a forum as part of the site. At the time of writing this, it is at 81.25% yes, 12.5% maybe, 6.25% maybe if it had more features, and 0% no, so I’m quite hopeful it will be successful.

I would like to encourage a good level of discussion on many different surrounding areas of the hobby on the forum and invite people to write guest articles if something good arises that would benefit people. This would help make it easier to find good guides and resources rather than having to trawl through threads and subredddits.

I would also like to encourage visual art on the forum and showcase this on the site.

The vision is to have the site drive traffic to the forum and for the forum to drive content to the site, to the benefit of all.

Conclusion

In the mean time, enjoy the hobby and I’ll try to keep this regularly updated as much as possible.

 

 

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Economy & Barter Systems

Intro

It can be easy to think that money and a free market exchange system is the main method of how an economy runs, but for most of history, this was not the case. And so it doesn’t have to be in your world either. In  this post I will talk about different methods of barter system.

Primitive Communism

(Pre-Marxist) Communism is probably the original system, which would have worked well in small communities where everyone knows each other, such as in nomadic tribes. Everyone would pitch in with the hunting and making of tools and the food and water would be split among the group. It wouldn’t make sense for food to be allocated by whoever gathered the most, as people would have to switch jobs to fill in different rolls.

For example, one of the women (who is probably a less skilled hunter then the men) may look after the young children, which frees up the other adults to gather food, but they wouldn’t be bringing in any themselves. Others might be teaching the young people the skills they need to be a contributing member of society, which is very important for the future survival of the tribe.

It is only when they began to produce a surplus that private property comes in and the tribe may move onto another system. Usually, but not always the surplus will come with permanently settling. This economy is usually focused on agriculture.

You might like to apply this to a settled country and see if you can make it work. In practice there would usually be an elite class who pretend to be equally distributing the goods, whilst skimming wealth off the top.

Informal Exchange

Perhaps the most rudimentary of exchange systems, the informal exchange system would have worked in small communities where everyone knows each other. If one person wanted something, they would either exchange goods of a mutually agreed value, or leave with the promise of payment further down the line. This relies on everyone relying on each others honesty and as people are likely to know one another, if someone doesn’t make a payment, they’ll find the community will turn on them. This becomes more difficult as the population grows.

Honour Exchange

If you want to use a system such as Informal Exchange on a larger scale you could add a cultural trait which would allow this to work.

I’ve done this with one of my cultures, Mesit. Mesit people have an honour bound culture and to not repay debts is big sin, as it represents going against ones word. As everyone strives to maintain and build their honour, they try keep to their agreements. Of course, as the society grows, this is going to become harder and harder until they have to move to something else.

Command Economy (Usually a Marxist Communist Economy)

This is communist economy in a more modern setting. It is one which is controlled by a powerful centralised government which handles the production and distribution of goods and services. It may still have a low level of trade however. Tends to focus more on industrial goods.

A command economy, such as the Inca’s is one where the establishment controls all aspects of the the economy and allocates goods as and where they see fit. I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% sure how the Incan economy worked, but this is my understanding of it. People owed labour and in return received food and shelter. A command economy often goes hand in hand with a communist economy.

Interestingly the Incas did discover the wheel, but it was only used as a child’s toy, not in all the ways that other societies used it. This is an example of how you can turn things on its head.

Free Market

The free market, or capitalism, means money talks. All goods and services have a price determined by demand and supply, the invisible hand of the market and if you can’t afford something, you can’t have it. Tends to focus on consumer goods with no government intervention.

Mixed Economy

Most of us experience a mixed economy to varying degrees. There is the private sector, which functions as a free market, and a public sector, which will be under a command economy. Generally this involves public spending on things which are deemed to be in the public interest of everyone, such as the army, sanitation, street lights, lighthouses.

Even economies we would think of as being more free market, such as the USA economy are not, as there is a degree of command economy in there such as education and military spending, but also corporate bailouts and a subsidies. In a true free market, any company that fails would be allowed to fail, no bank would be too big to fail. You could make the argument that this culture of corporate bailouts, tax reliefs and bailouts is actually corporate socialism, which is ironic considering how much of dirty word socialism is in the US.

Feudalism

In feudal economies, manours were largely self sufficient and so little trade occurred from manour to manour. Peasants were tied to the land and were given a plot of land to farm in return for taxes in the form of crops and their services for things such as construction or war. They also had to pay to use manour services such as the mill. This below shows the feudal structure (its from this page (its been a good resource for this post)). This system is a bit unusual and it doesn’t really fit neatly in any other system.

Kings
Give large land grants to Upper Lords called fiefs
Give Protection
Receives money, military service, and advice

Upper Lords
Give land grants to Lesser Lords
Give Protection
Receives money, military service

Lesser Lords
Give land grants to knights
Receives money, military service

Knights
Give land to peasants/serfs
Receives crops, labor

Peasants/ Serfs
Receives land to farm
Pays with labor, crops

Make Your Own

The first six that I talked about are pretty straight forward and feudal almost looks like something that someone made up in the way that it differs from the other systems, even thoughts it was real and widely used.

All economies deal with “an infinite amount of human needs and wants from a finite set of resources” This is the quote I was taught day 1 of economics A Level. Of course, you put a man down in the forest, his wants and needs aren’t limitless, he’ll want shelter, food, water and heat. You can consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Then consider supply and demand.

maslow-hierarchy-1024x761

One approach might be to think about the resources available (maybe using a resource map) and the industries present in the area, and then what policies, or economic set up might benefit them.

Think About What Culture You Have

I have a nation called Tukit which neighbours the honour bound Mesit. In Tukit it is said that “no man starves unless they all do”. So they have a controlled communist economy, where the priests who run the granaries store and distribute the food. Its a point of conflict with Mesit as when famine strikes, they take a loan out with Mesit which they fail to pay back the next year. Mesit considers this a big dishonourable act given the size of the loan, and there fore a diplomatic insult. Tukit thinks that Mesit should share anyway and that they should be forgiving that they didn’t manage to pay back the loan on time. The honour bound warrior nation of Mesit invade.

So you can see how the different cultures might have economies. Throw natural disasters at them, think about how they would react and let the situation play out.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found this useful and sorry its a tad late. I’ll add to it as more information becomes available; I’m sure people have plenty of knowledge on this to share. I’ll be following this up with a part two on different types of currency.

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Using Art to Drive Worldbuilding

Intro

Often it can useful to visiualise your characters and your world. Representing these with 3rd party art can be very inspiring and a great way to do so without spending ages writing descriptions and so you can spend more time developing your world.

I’ve interspersed this post with art from my Pinterest boards so you can sample the quality of the art available there.

Where to Find it? Pinterest vs DeviantArt

I recommend building up a resource of art that you like, which you can always refer back to when you are looking for something in particular or would like some inspiration. I originally started doing this on DeviantArt, but I find Pinterest is better, and here’s why.

DeviantArt hold loads of different kinds of art, with varying levels of quality and use for the worldbuilder. It can be difficult to even find decent art like you see in this post through the site’s navigation system. I found the best way to do this was to google search “fantasy characters deviantart” and then look at the links that come up and add images I liked to my collections.

Pinterest, however, is geared up for just sharing and finding art, without all the social media side that gives DeviantArt both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on how you want to use it. On Pinterest, you can follow boards which host art you like and your feed will display art from these, plus art from similar boards. Within a week or two of using it, I have followed loads more boards than I started with and I’m now follwing 89 boards, all of them posting art and content I want to see. I have my pins divided into 8 boards, which keeps it nicely organised and makes it easy to find the kind of art I want. Though I will say Pinterest forces you to be logged in to really use the site, which is both very annoying and put me off using it for ages.

That said, I haven’t looked back since I did join and I’ve been steadily going through my DeviantArt collections and pinning them on my Pinterest boards. Its easy to add to your boards. You can download a Chrome extension (I’m sure it exists on other browsers too) which lets you pin any image on the internet to your boards. The pins link back to their original location so its beneficial for creators and encourages wider range on content on the site.

Using Art for Characters

I divide character art into 4 categories, human males, human females, non human races and mythical people/ deities. When creating a character, I have a look through the relevant board to see if there’s any similar to what I had in mind. Once you’ve got a nice range of characters, which shouldn’t take any time at all to do, you can easily find one you want and add it into your World document.

One of the great things about doing this is the character in the art will prompt you to consider different things and develop the character more. I’ve often been looking at a piece of art I’ve chosen to represent a character and noticed the look in their eye, a scar or a trinket they may have and written a backstory to explain this. This really helps your characters come to life and develop into a multidimensional individual in ways you might not have thought of.

Character Art for Cultures

The flip side of this is to take a piece of character art and fit them into your world, developing your world so it can accommodate the character. Often I’ve come across a great piece of art with a character dressed in a way that none of my current characters are. Even if I don’t want to write the character themselves into the world at this point, you can build a culture based on them. Take different aspects of their appearance, their hair, their tattoos, their jewelry, their weapons, their clothes, their tools, their technology and think about the kind of culture that might accommodate this. I have done this a number of times with some interesting results. Your interpretation of these features is likely to be different to the next persons so you can come up with some unique cultures in this way, especially as opposed to basing your cultures off historical ones, which is what  most people do.

Locations & Scenes

This doesn’t just work for characters, it can work for anything, clothes, weapons, technology, you name it. But another element I particularly think it works well for is locations and scenes. On this board I put any shots of environments, settlements, action scenes, character scenes where you cant really see who they are.

You might find yourself thinking of a backstory for what is going on in the image and you can write it to fit into your world, developing characters, races and cultures as you go. If you have a place in mind, you can use the image to illustrate it, or you can take the image and place it in your world, developing the surrounding environment based on that.

Inspiration

The art can be as inspiring, if not more so than music, particularly Epic Music. If you’re feeling a bit short on ideas or want to refill your creative well, so to speak, just have a look through your boards and take a look at all the art that’s relevant to your world. When your using your worldbuilding depot and reading over your content, coming across the art is a great way to break up the text, keep your imagination flowing and all round enhances the enjoyment of the hobby.

Conclusion

Using art in this way can really help you build up your world quickly, help you visualise it and keep yourself inspired while at the same time appreciating some beautiful works of art.

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