Monday, September 18, 2017

In Defense of Made-Up Languages in Fiction: I'm Not a Linguist

Lord of the Rings. The author is a linguist. He's got experience making up a language. Elvish is awesome, I gotta say.

What about Star Trek? All those alien languages. Truly, some amazing imagination going on there.

But let's back up from all those big guys for a sec and think about people who are not linguists but who are tapping into making up a language.

In my novel (Liaffon), the characters (East Seekers) are chased around a pine tree forest by a terrible humongous rat-like creature called the Savaj (I know, OH SO CLEVER *rolls eyes*). The Savaj is then killed by a tribe ruled by women and they have their own language.

Whenever I tell people about this, they immediately say, "Don't make up a new language unless you are a linguist." OR, "Take words from Latin."

Well, this is a fantasy world so why would they speak Latin? is my first response to the second comment.

As for the first comment about being a linguist (like Tolkien), I must defend myself.

You see, this tribe (the Sa'ling) do not have a written system. This is an oral language. So, when I write "E'acka landor [East lander]" I don't actually mean they are writing it as such. This is just me, the author, putting letters to their oral language (transcribing). If a book could have sounds in it, you would just hear a girl saying "eh ahka lun door".

But yes, yes, I know even an oral language has some kind of system and these Sa'ling do have some kind of system. They don't have words like "and" "the" "a"...what are those called? Anyway, those are dropped when they speak and it is inferred largely.

Basically, they are just putting words together to make sense. Kind of like a two year old might do when they first learn how to speak.

"Want ice cream" they might say, right? Instead of "I want ice cream".

My Defense Points:
1. The Sa'ling speak an oral language. I'm just transcribing.
2. Even in the two chapters where this language appears, I really don't write so much of the Sa'ling language. I'm not writing an ENTIRE CHAPTER and not even a paragraph.
3. As long as the made-up language does not take up an entire chapter or a whole paragraph, you don't have to be a linguist to have a made-up language in your story.

Saying that you can't do it UNLESS you are a linguist is like saying, you can't sing a song UNLESS you are a singer, you can't debate about politics UNLESS you are a politician...I think it's ridiculous.

I would say go ahead and make up a language but don't call it a language because people freak out and tell you not to do it if you're not a linguist. Call it a...fantasy element.

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