From the Klingon language in the Star Trek universe to the Na'vi language in James Cameron's Avatar, fictional languages can go a long way in making a fictional world 'real' and more 'lived in'. Creating a fictional language can be an intensive undertaking -- for example, it's a famous fact that J. R. R. Tolkien studied linguistics before writing the Lord of the Rings novels, which include multiple languages of his own creation. However, depending on the size of the project, it is also possible for amateurs to create their own fictional languages, just for fun or as part of a self-built fictional world.
Method 1 of 2: Use an alphabet
Step 1. Name your language
You have complete control over it! However, make sure it sounds like the name of a language!
Step 2. Start with the pronunciation
You can choose how the language is pronounced, giving it the specific sound and feel you are looking for. However, to make it more grounded and professional, you need to add a background to it to take it beyond the sounds.
Step 3. Create the alphabet of the language
This is where you can get creative. This can be anything you want. You have a number of choices:
- Use icons or symbols. Many languages, such as Chinese, use icons or symbols to represent spoken language. If you choose to do this, you will also need to come up with a pronunciation for each symbol. Each symbol will have its own unique sound. Numbers are a good example. This is a beautiful but difficult route.
- Come up with an alphabet or syllabic script. Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, Hindi, Japanese, Arabic… Create a collection of symbols that represent single letters or whole syllables, or even diphthongs.
- Use an already existing alphabet. If you're using our Latin alphabet, for example, you just have to come up with new words for things, instead of coming up with a whole new pronunciation system.
- Combine different alphabets. Add accents to existing letters (eg: the Spanish ñ) to create new letters or sounds.
Step 4. Create a vocabulary
These are the words of your language. You should start by making up common words, then move on to the less common ones.
- Start with the basic vocabulary; these are words that are often used. These are the words like 'I', 'he', 'his', 'and', 'a', 'to' and 'it'. Then you move on to the verbs, such as 'to be', 'to have', 'to want', 'to go' and 'to make'. Remember that a e i o u y play an important part in forming accents.
- Move on to the general stuff. As your language's vocabulary grows, you can start naming anything you can think of. Think countries, body parts, action words, etc. Don't forget the numbers!
- If you don't know what to do, don't forget that you can borrow words from other languages. You can even change words. For example, the French word for man is homme. The Spanish hombre is almost the same, with just a few different letters and changed pronunciation.
Step 5. Build your own word list
Open the dictionary and start copying words and their translations. Not only will this be helpful if you forget how to say something, but it will make sure you don't miss a word.
Try to make the words easy to pronounce - you don't want to produce tongue twisters every time you open your mouth
Step 6. Make sure your words come across naturally
A common pitfall for language creators is using too many apostrophes in their vocabulary.
Step 7. Develop the grammar for your language
These rules describe how sentences are formed. You can copy a lot from the existing languages, but change some lines to keep it original.
Step 8. Decide how you will determine the plurals of nouns
You need a way to tell the difference between 'book' and 'books'. Many languages add an -s as a suffix. You can add a suffix or even a prefix to your words. You can even add a brand new word! (Examples: if book = Skaru, then 'books' can equal Neskaru, Skarune, Skaneru, Skaru Ne, or Ne Skaru, etc.!))
Step 9. Decide on the tenses of the verbs
These tell you when something happened. The three most important tenses are past, present and future.
You can also find a way to tell the difference between words like 'swimming' and 'swimming'. But that is not necessary. For example, in the French language, "je nage" can mean "swim" or "I'm swimming."
Step 10. Make up substitutions for other suffixes
These are things like -ly which converts English adjectives into adverbs and -ness which converts words into nouns.
Step 11. Think about how verbs are conjugated
Conjugation is the way a verb is changed to indicate who is doing what. In Dutch we say 'keep' and 'he keeps'.
Step 12. Construct sentences using the new language
Start with a simple sentence, such as "I have a cat." Then move on to more complex sentences, such as "I like watching television, but I prefer to watch movies."
Step 13. Practice
Like learning a foreign language, it takes practice before you can use your language with ease.
Step 14. Try out your language on other people
You'll love the confused look on their faces, they might look a bit odd or even annoying, but don't let that discourage you!
Step 15. Teach other people your language, if they want to
If you want to be able to use the language with your friends, you have to teach it to them. You can even try to spread your language to as many people as possible.
Step 16. Write the rules of your language in a dictionary or phrasebook
This way you'll always have something to refer to if you need help memorizing your language. You can even sell them to earn some extra cash!
If you want to make your language more famous, create dictionaries of the language (including the alphabet) to help others learn your language, and give them to anyone who wants to use your language
Method 2 of 2: Using grammar
Step 1. Name your language
This is the most fundamental property in all languages. You can choose from various names. You can even use a made-up word from your made-up language, such as "Victory" or "Big Language." The choice is all yours.
Start with very commonly used words, such as 'and' or 'I' or 'a' or 'it'. It is recommended to use short words as they are often used. An example could be something like 'ant', 'es' or even 'loo' before the word 'en'
Step 2. Start thinking about the grammar rules
For example, if the word bird is 'Bird Aviatiolap', why not make the word birds 'Bird Aviatiolap'? The 's' at the end of a word is added in many languages to create a plural. If you want to make it a bit more complex, you can add genders, just like in most European languages, such as French and German. For example, if you want the word 'horse' to be masculine, you can make 'the horse' something like 'Mat Fereder', but a feminine 'cat' would become 'Fet Kamaow'.
Note that some languages have no plurals at all. For example, in Japanese, "cat" and "cats" are both ネコ (neko). Languages can behave very differently, especially if they come from two places that are far apart. Experiment with potential grammar rules
Step 3. Consider basing your language on an existing language
For example, 'Vogelaviatiolap' means bird in your language. It is composed of the following languages:
- 'Vogel' is the German word for bird.
- 'Aviatio' comes from English. However, it is not finished, as the word is part of the term 'aviation'
- 'Lap' is an Onomatopoeia. It is a completed term, and comes from 'flap!'
Step 4. Consider basing some of your words on other words you've invented
For example, if you made up something like "Khinssa" for the word "China," A "Drink" as "Beaver," and the word "Accident" as "Casnondelibreaten," why not turn the word "tea" into something like "Khincasnon Beaver." ' or 'Bevernondelibreatekin' or even 'Khinssacasnondelibreatenibever'!
Step 5. Get your inspiration from existing alphabets and words
- Why not add some non-Latin characters like ß? You can even base the entire language on an alphabet other than Latin characters, such as Chinese!
- You can even adopt or change some words from languages. You can write the word 'pen' as 'penn', or even 'pen'. With the help of your homemade dictionary you can be sure that you don't miss a single word.
Step 6. Don't forget to keep a record of all your creations, preferably in writing
Step 7. Use your language
Get used to using your language yourself, and spread it to other people. Once you're confident in your language, you can start experimenting and expanding:
- Grab a book/novel and translate it into your own language.
- Teach your new language to your friends.
- Once your friends understand your language, you can use it to communicate.
- Be fluent in your own compound language and spread it among friends, family and others!
- Write your own poem/novel/story using your own language.
- If you are really ambitious, make it your goal to help others become fluent in the language. One day it might become the official language of a country!
- Remember that you have to decide how to write the language. For example, we write our language from left to right, but Arabic is written from left to right, Chinese in columns, etc.
- When developing your language, make sure you follow a systematic language system. In other words, make sure everyone follows the same guidelines.
- Practice the pronunciation and spelling of many of the standard words in your native language. A few Dutch examples: is, who, when, of, why, if, what, where, can, may.
- If you want to start making other languages, you can use your native language as a model and change a few letters or sounds to construct a completely different language. This makes your native language a proto-language - a language that branches off into a family of languages.
- Try this with a group of friends. It's much more fun when other people understand your language too.
- When creating a writing system, you have to pause every five minutes and then continue, otherwise all your letters will look the same.
- Email or text your friends so they don't get confused.
- Practice your language often so you don't forget it.
- Don't forget the punctuation.
- If you use icons and symbols, you can borrow some of them from other languages, For example: Chinese, Japanese, Arabic.
- Unless you intend to, you should check that the words you are translating are not slang so that when you translate what you are saying, you will be able to do so easily.
- Take a break from developing your language every now and then, otherwise the process can frustrate you and possibly give you the hang of it. This happens often and can subsequently discourage you.