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Making a language from scratch

If you’ve looked at some of the other pages here on my blog you may have noticed near the bottom of the other page, it talks about me writing my own language. That language is currently called Nafairu and is based loosely on Russian, German and a few other languages here and there for good measure. It’s now a year since I first started and with the work I’ve put in, off and on, there is now approx 840 words.

Over the last year I’ve had quite a lot of interest in how I went about starting my language so here’s a little of what I did.

Grammar!

I knew I was going to need to brush up on my grammar for this kind of endeavor. My grammar really wasn’t great, thankfully making a language has improved this. I spent probably about a day studying grammar rules of other languages. Things like how they handle past tense, present tense etc and verb forms, noun genders and all sorts of things. French and German for example have noun genders and have several different words for the, depending on the gender of the noun that follows. English obviously doesn’t. We just have the.

For Nafairu I had to decide all of these things, how I was going to handle all the tenses, gender etc. before I could even begin to come up with words.

Alphabet

Next I had to think about what alphabet I was going to use. English uses the Roman alphabet but many languages like Russian, Hebrew etc use their own alphabets. I also could then decide how many letters I was to have. Even using a pre-made language doesn’t mean you have to use all the letters or collections of letters like sch in German. I decided for now I’d use the Roman Alphabet but I’d do it in a way that if I wanted to assign each letter a new one later and switch alphabet I could. Sometimes one thing at a time is more than enough.

Sounds

Once letters and grammar is decided the important thing becomes how the language sounds, not just each word, but each letter. Are the letters said in their short forms, long forms, what happens with pairs of certain letters, what new sounding letters do you want. What’s the overall feel of the language. Is it the soft ethereal language of the elves or the harsh gruff sounds of the Klingon warriors. All this has an effect on the latter processes and needs to be born in mind when creating words, especially if the intention is for the language to be spoken.

First task

Only after the above decisions have all been made (and noted down) can you get onto actually coming up with some words. I started with the basics, the, he, she, them etc and a few things like basic numbers and anything else I thought I was going to use a lot like the verbs have, be etc.

Second task

When I got bored of randomly picking words I decided to get to work onĀ  translating a piece of writing, coming up with the words as I needed them. I started this process by using my diary. I don’t really keep a diary but for a little while I decided to just so I’d have something to translate. It worked for about 2 weeks and by that time I was about a week behind in writing in English and translating into Nafairu. It did get me started though. I had approximately 500 words by the time I stopped.

Final task

My last task in making this language was getting other people involved. I mean I can’t really have a conversation with just myself. I’ve done this by putting the dictionary on google documents and giving all my helpers access to see the document but not edit. This means I can write them letters in the new language, they can translate it and write some back again in the new language. When I translate back I can get a feel for what rules are and aren’t working well, if my language is too confusing and how well it flows.

What’s next?

When I hit about 1500 words I plan to start trying to hold actual conversations. Nothing too complicated but something to get me used to hearing the language and it’s phonetics. I do think I’m going to need some more correspondents to get me there anytime soon, however, any volunteers?

 

 

Category: How-to  Tags: , , ,  3 Comments