Here are questions for you to address as you ponder the beings (human or otherwise) who will speak your language. Some of the answers may have an impact on the phonetics of your language. Other answers may have consequences for your semantics or even syntax. Think about what you want to be working with and developing. You need not individually address each of these questions; they are there to guide your thinking only. Your end product for this assignment should be in the form of at least two or three large paragraphs. Please remember to write formally, avoiding the first person. Starred questions are required.
- * Are your speakers humanoid (that is, shaped like human beings)? If they are not, this may have immediate implications. You will have to decide what sounds they can and cannot make.
- * Do they live on Earth? If they do not, please describe salient characteristics of their planet (existing or invented) which significantly impact their language and culture?
- How is the climate?
- Is yours a current, past or future society? (It is also possible to work in a fantasy universe with no connection to our own thus rendering the time question irrelevant.)
- * How many speakers of this language are there?
- What is their technological level? Are they simple hunter-gathers, space travelers or something in between?
- Do you have anything to say about their family or political structure at the moment?
- What other factors (physical, cultural, spiritual, environmental, gastronomic, medical, political, esthetic, whimsical, practical, or rhetorical) make your society unique?
- * Greetings and leave taking rituals are
phatics: that is, they have no real semantic content.
You can say 'hello', 'nice day' or 'what up, Dog?'. These expressions vary in formality, but they have little or no semantic content: they are just ways to greet and perhaps start a conversation.
Still, a greeting which is characteristic of a group of people can tell you something about them. The first words you will invent for your language are a greeting (something like 'hello' or 'good day', 'well met' or 'what's up?"'), and a leave taking (something like 'farewell' or 'later!"? For now, give the English literal translations of these. resist the temptation to get too complicated, but do create something reflective of your culture.
If for example, you are creating the language spoken by
mice, a friendly greeting might be "there is always cheese" and a leave taking phrase might be "watch your tail!"
Where would you like to go??
Here's a culture and language ... and much else for you to boldly visit, if you wish.
The Klingon Language Institute.
January 20, 2011