04 July 2011

A Guide to Constructed Languages: Rules & Grammar: Other Considerations

There are many complexities to languages. Here are some things you may want to consider while constructing your language:
  • PARTICLES - Particles are like small words that are not used on their own. The most popular language to use particles is probably Japanese. Particles can be used to show a word is the subject, object, or verb, or to show excitement or in place of a question mark. In Japanese, almost any sentence can be turned into a question my adding ka at the end. In English, that would be like, 'You are well ka?' meaning 'Are you well?' or 'The house is blue ka?' for "Is the house blue?'
  • POSSESSIVE - Possessive means showing ownership. In English, excluding pronouns, possessive is shown by adding apostrophe-s ('s). In other languages, however, possessive is shown differently. In French and Spanish, 'of' is used, so 'Naoko's dog' in French would be 'Le chien de Naoko' and in Spanish would be 'Perro de Naoko'. Japanese has a similar system, a mix between French/Spanish and English. It uses a particle (no) and is used like this: Naoko no inu.
  • MASCULINE AND FEMININE - There are two ways M&F are used. The first way has masculine, feminine, and neutral forms of a word, and the words in a sentence must agree with each other, regardless of the speaker (ex. French). The second way is to have words that are considered more masculine or feminine or neutral; they are used to show the speaker as more masculine or feminine, and don't need to agree with other word genders in the sentence (ex. Japanese).
  • POLITENESS - Some cultures are big on politeness. Again, Japanese is a really good example. In Japanese, many words have a polite and casual form, some more masculine and some more feminine forms. And, of course, there are rude versions too. Watashi is the polite form of the word 'I'. Though it is used fairly regularly, there are other words that can be used in its place for more casual circumstances, such as atashi, which is a feminine way of saying it.
  • PLURALISATION - In English, we usually add -s or -es to words to denote pluralisation. In French, a similar system is used, except other words in the sentence need to become plural too (agreement again). Example: 'Les chats sont mignons,' versus 'Le chat est mignon.' Some languages don't use pluralisation at all. In Japanese, words do not change if they are plural. Neko could mean 'cat' or 'cats'. They do, however, have things called counting words, which are used to indicate how many there are of something. There are a number of counting words, some for inanimate objects, others for living things, etc.
  • DEFINITE & INDEFINITE ARTICLES - The, a, and an are examples. The is definite, and a and an are indefinite. Some languages don't use these, and some languages make them a requirement for things all the time. If you do use them, how do you want them to be? In English, we have a to be put in front of consonant sounds (a rabbit, a humanbeing, a historical event, a piece of toast, a unicorn, a herb (when h is said), etc.) and an is use in front of vowel sounds (an ox, an axe, an octopus, an unfinished project, an herb (when h is silent), an indicator, an extraction, etc.). This is to make speaking flow. If we said 'a octopus,' it doesn't flow because of the two vowel sounds, so, by adding n, we can speak with more fluidity. Sometimes different accents or dialects add or subtract letters to make speech flow. You could take this into consideration with other things, too, when creating your language.
  • NEGATIVE - There are a lot of ways negatives can be denoted. In English, we usually use no, not, non-, or none (There is not any bread; there are no wild cats around here; there are none; that is not important; that is a nonissue; etc.). In French, negatives use ne pas or n' pas, and the verb goes between ne and pas (Je n'ai pas le canif; je ne suis pas un poisson; je n'aime pas les animaux; etc.). How might your language make things negative?

If you are creating a language for a fictional world ('constructed world' or 'conworld'), you may want to consider the history and the people of the language.

Many languages have irregular forms of words; you'll particularly hear 'irregular verbs'. This just means that these words don't follow the normal way to make the verb tenses. In English, some examples are to be, to go, to do, to eat, and to drink.

You could even create words that would be archaic in your world, or histories of words or phrases. Did they come from those archaic words? Did they come from another language? Did they evolve from a different way of saying something, perhaps something that was more sensible?

Something else you might take into consideration are the values of the people. If these people, for example, value feelings over everything else, their vocabulary in that area may be more diverse than in others. It may include different but similar words to explain intricate details. Greek has several words for 'love' depending on the context of the word. In English, we can say, 'I love my boyfriend,' 'He loves that man,' 'I love my father,' 'I love my friends,' 'I love those shoes,' etc. and there is no distinction between them.


What other ways could you show ownership in a language?

Do you think masculine and feminine words are helpful? Why or why not?

If you are making a language for a constructed world, would you want to create irregular words? Why or why not?

What other kinds of values could a culture have and how might that affect their language?

How about the people themselves. Are these people simple? Intelligent? Orderly? How is this reflected in the language?

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