…you have to worry about it actually meaning something in another language. There was the anecdote of the car company – Volkswagen, I believe; but it does not matter – which tried to sell a car brand called “Nova” in Latin America. No Va meaning “doesn’t go” or even “doesn’t work” ruined their product for them.
Whether this story is true or not doesn’t matter any more than who made this mistake. It still means that any words you invents, especially names of important places like planets or your protagonist names – need to be checked on-line. Otherwise you may add just a little more humor to your setting than you’d like.
I guess I was lucky. One of our Turkish translators tells me that “enderra”, in Turkish, means “rare”.
I was going to post some nice samples of the language of Arnâron… only to discover that I messed up the word order in about a quarter of the sentences. Yes, I suck at linguistics and grammar and stuff.
At least I noticed it before posting it.
Since I really can’t be bothered to re-do the examples right now, especially since I’ll have to re-draw them all with Inkscape, the language update will have to wait and I think I will tackle something else first so I’ll get a few more posts out before World Building Month ends in a few days.
When I said that I don’t have numbers, I wasn’t quite correct – I do have numbers, just no symbols for them.
| Number | X-Sampa | Latin characters | | ————- |:————- |:————-| | 0 | nuR | nur | | 1 | ki | ki | | 2 | do | do | | 3 | Re | re | | 4 | so | so | |5 | at | at | |6 | mo | mo | |7 | na | na | |8 | ge | ge | |9 | ji | yi | |10 | ksi | ksi | |11 | ksi ki | ksi ki | |12 | ksi do | ksi do | |20 | doksi | doksi | |21 | doksi ki |doksi ki | |22 | doksi do | doksi do | |23 | doksi Re | doksi re | |30 | Reksi | reksi | |40 | soksi | soksi | |50 | aksi | aksi | |60 | moksi | moksi | |70 | naksi | naksi | |80 | geksi | geksi | |90 | jaski | jaksi | |100 | RaJa | ranya | |200 | do RaJa | do ranya | |201 | do RaJa ki | do ranya ki | |1000| zanu | zanu | |2345| do zanu Re RaJa soski at | do zanu re ranya soski at | |10000| ksi zanu | ksi zanu |
I originally considered using an octal number system but decided against it for two reasons. First and foremost I wanted to keep it simple, and a base-8 system isn’t the simplest solution, the decimal system is. Secondly, since the inhabitants of Arnâron are biologically humans, and they have ten fingers, they are by far most likely to develop a decimal system.
| X-Sampa | Latin characters | Translation | | ————- |:————- |:————-| | nuR | nur | none, no-one | | kidoRe | kidore | few | | teRat | terat | some | | namaR | namar | enough | | geJa | genya | many, a lot | | Ruj | ruy | everything, everybody, all |
The language uses measure words to form plural or to specify the number or amount of anything. There are five measure words:
| X-Sampa | Latin characters | Used for | | ————- |:————- |:————-| | duJa | dunya | humans | | uRu | uru | living things | | tai | tai | unliving things | | Ri | ri | uncountable things | | wo | wo |abstract ideas |
“Uncountable things” takes precedence over “living things” and “unliving things”, but not over humans or abstract ideas. For example, a crowd of humans always uses the special humans measure word, even if the number of individuals is unknown or even unknowable. On the other hand, grass is uncountable – even though you could in theory count the individual blades of grass. However, if you actually have a defined number of blades of grass, they would become countable living things. This isn’t very different from how English handles it (“grass” versus “blades of grass”).
Another example is land: Land itself is uncountable (“He owns a lot of land”), but it can be countable (“He owns two acres of land”) or even an abstract idea (“Lands of plenty.”)
The use of different measure words may also change the meaning – compare everything: Ruj Ri (“everything uncountable-things-measure-word”) and everybody: Ruj duJa (“everything humans-measure-word”).
To complicate matters further, it is possible to use the measure words in ways other than their literal meaning. For example, one could use the “living things” measure word to quantify one’s enemies. The idea expressed, of course, is that they are “less than human”; a grave insult. It is even possible to go one step further. Referring to enemy soldiers as “unliving things” even further degrades them and implies that they already lost the battle – they are as good as dead.
Context makes a lot of difference as well. For example, one could refer to oneself as a “living thing” as a means to humble oneself, or when one wants to explain that one’s life is unhappy and depressing. A soldier may describe himself as an “unliving thing”, meaning that he is a servant of his master, a tool, a weapon of war, and will serve faithfully without questioning his orders. Or he could use it to show that it is only a matter of time before he will fall in battle.
After way too many hours spent working on it, I proudly present: the alphabet of Arnâron. I’ll call it a “final draft” because I am sure I’ll still change some things around… But I think it’s roughly in its “final” form.
Unfortunately, the vocabulary of the language doesn’t suffice for a much longer text, yet. I have the basic grammar down, and I can form plurals, but I am missing numbers, future/past tense, imperative, and so on, as well as quite simply a large number of even basic words.
I’ll get there… the main issue right now is that I really want to work on culture and nations, but to do so I need the language!
Designing a language is quite hard, if you’re going at it from a complete lack of any kind of linguistic knowledge. It’s easy to throw something random together, but I find it hard to make it not suck.
Spent more time last night to work on the script. Current samples:
The first line simply reads “Arnâron”.
The second line reads “tonyo zu des ka zu” which means “I think therefore I am”.
You may notice that I flipped the “A”-triangles (/a/ and /A/ in X-Sampa) over to make for less eerie similarities. The “u” and “û” (“u” and “y” in X-Sampa) are now the two variations of the circle, while the “o” looks like a “u” – and is one of the glyphs I am really unhappy with. Same for the “ny” consonant (/J/ in X-Sampa).
I resisted the temptation to make the script right-to-left oriented, deciding I didn’t need the added headache.
I spent a goodly amount of time brainstorming on my alphabet today. In the end, I came up with 21 glyphs that will be the characters of the script… Except that I think they don’t really match each other stylistically. So there’s still a lot of work ahead of me. Still, I wanted to post a short sample just so that I have something to show for the many hours spent.
It reads “Arnâron”, of course.
Does it make sense that the “A” and “O” kind of look very similar to what’s in the latin alphabet? Well – the triangle and circle are just too simple to exclude them. And I figured since I’ll include them, it does make sense to use them in this way instead of confusing people by making the o-glyph stand for, say, “e”.
That said, it is very much a work in progress, and I am sure I’ll change a lot of characters around.
Before I actually start posting details about the history of Arnâron, I though I’d give a very basic guide to the pronunciation of names and other words in the local language. Basic, because I am still very much working on their language – it doesn’t even have a final name yet – and trust me, creating a language is about the hardest thing you’ll ever do in world building, especially if you have no background in linguistics.