Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Resource for Making Up your Own Languages

Thanks to several good linguist friends of mine, I found this site, called The Language Construction Kit by Mark Rosenfelder. If you are a science-fiction or fantasy writer, or if you were curious as to how language works (both natural and "unnatural"--note, not "foreign"), check out this site.

In my sci-fi/fantasy stories, I tend to do a lot of "world building", i.e. make up a completely new culture, language, people, etc. that my protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) meet and interact with. Sometimes, I base my ideas on a mix of existing cultures, a melting pot of sights, smells and sounds. Other times, I make it up on the spur of the moment, especially if it's only a one-time example. It takes a lot of effort to make an alien culture seem really "alien", as opposed to just "humans with googly eyes and antennae" (as a fellow writer friend puts it). But we as writers are human, so we end up giving our different cultures a mirror of  own morals, viewpoints and attitudes. The outsiders looking into our Human existence (Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land comes to mind). It makes for good conflict and a good story.

My academic background is languages, linguistics and teaching English as a Second Language. One of the "rules of writing" is "Write about what you know." So it isn't surprising that language plays a part of my writing. I've been a fan of Star Trek for a long time and two of my favorite characters are Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (the Original Series) and Ensign Hoshi Sato (Enterprise). Both are linguists, teachers and communications officers. Their job was to make sense of the unknown, to share culture and extend the hand of friendship.

Interesting how art imitates real life, and vice versa.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

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