Criteria for a language?
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Author:  Jax Nova [ April 17th, 2015, 11:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Criteria for a language?

Just wondering... does anyone know what the official criteria for a language is?

I know that you can make symbols and that's a code... but there has to be some sort of gramatical structure before it's a language. What if you use gramatical structure from another language? Any one have any knowledge in this?

Author:  Elthir [ February 23rd, 2017, 3:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Criteria for a language?

Jax Nova wrote:
(...) What if you use gramatical structure from another language? Any one have any knowledge in this?

I'm no expert Jax, and certainly not a linguist, but if you're wondering about inventing a language, I think you can certainly borrow from "Primary World" sources, although I'm guessing that if you simply adopt, full scale, the ingredients of one specific language and invent a new vocabulary, for example, then (for those who might care to notice at least), the new language might become a bit transparent as an invention.

I know nothing about the language of the Klingons (or languages?) in the Star Trek Universe, but here are three different citations from on line sources, emphasizing that if I know nothing about the language or its external history, I can't really say how accurate the following statements are! But that said: "The alien-seeming sounds all exist in natural human languages, as does almost every aspect of the grammar, but the combination makes an interesting and unique language." Klingon Language Institute "Okrand had studied some Native American and Southeast Asian languages, and phonological and grammatical features of these languages "worked their way into Klingon, but for the most part, not by design." Wikipedia "Knowing that fans would be watching closely, Okrand worked out a full grammar. He cribbed from natural languages, borrowing sounds and sentence-building rules, switching sources whenever Klingon started operating too much like any one language in particular. He ended up with something that sounds like an ungodly combination of Hindi, Arabic, Tlingit, and Yiddish and works like a mix of Japanese, Turkish, and Mohawk. The linguistic features of Klingon are not especially unusual (at least to a linguist) when considered independently, but put together, they make for one hell of an alien language." There's No Klingon Word for Hello, A history of the gruff but surprisingly sophisticated invented language and the people who speak it by Arika Okrent

Tolkien did not invent entire languages, but created enough of Quenya and Sindarin to suggest that he did; or let's say, the languages had enough of that "inner consistency of reality" to seem real and complete, and thus lend a further "real-seeming" to his Subcreated World. JRRT also created inner histories for his languages, as they evolved over time or split into different languages or dialects. But externally, if you take Quenya for instance, one can see the inspiration of Finnish behind it. Tolkien once sent a letter to a fan where he illustrated the Quenya case endings, using the word for "ship" for instance...

"Singular nominative cirya "a ship", (accusative ciryá in archaic Book Quenya only,) dative ciryan "for a ship", genitive ciryo "a ship's, of/from a ship", possessive ciryava "of a ship", locative ciryassë "on/in a ship", allative ciryanna "to a ship", ablative ciryallo "from a ship", instrumental ciryanen "with/by a ship"

Finnish is more complex with respect to case endings, but to take just a brief example: talo "house" talossa "in the house" [inessive case] talon [genitive case]. Note that the genitive singular case ending is -o in Quenya [here displacing the final a in cirya], while the genitive case ending in Finnish for talo is -n, which is a dative marker in Quenya (the genitive case expresses possession, measurement, or source. Many of its uses correspond in English to uses of the preposition "of", and in some situations to the English "possessive case"). Anyway, the differences from English are apparent with respect to these expressions.

But this is a very simplified comparison. Tolkien himself generalized: "The ingredients in Quenya are various, but worked out into a self-consistent character not precisely like any language that I know. Finnish, which I came across when I had first begun to construct a 'mythology' was a dominant influence, but that has been much reduced [now in late Quenya]. It survives in some features: such as the absence of any consonant combinations initially, the absence of the voiced stops b, d, g (except in mb, nd, ng, ld, rd, which are favoured) and the fondness for the ending -inen, -ainen, -oinen, also in some points of grammar, such as the inflexional endings -sse (rest at or in), -nna (movement to, towards), and -llo (movement from); the personal possessives are also expressed by suffixes; there is no gender." JRRT, letter published in Parma Eldalamberon 17

I don't know if any of this helps, but if you're thinking of trying to invent a language, while it's no doubt difficult, I think you could invent parts of it to hint at a fuller "reality". And along with consistency, which we need for communication of course, languages often have "quirks" or inconsistencies too. A "too perfect" language can look... well, too perfect to be true!

In other words, exceptions to a "rule" can exist... as long as there's that rule in the first place ;-)

Author:  Jax Nova [ February 24th, 2017, 12:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Criteria for a language?

Hm... I guess Tolkien's illusion worked because I was always under the impression that his Elvish was much more complete than you make it seem. lol

Some of that does help a bit, though it is quite technical and it is late... I might have to re-read it with a fresh mind tomorrow.

I know there have to be actual grammar rules, otherwise it's basically just a code. I would not, however, want to just adopt or borrow grammar rules from another language. Yet, not being a grammar major, it's hard to invent that many rules and feel like you have a complete and rounded system.

Unlike Tolkien, I don't know any other languages to base anything off of anyways. Though I can see where creating the basics would be helpful then eluding to the rest would leave it for "Later processing" or simply hold that illusion of a complete language.

In my books I certainly would like to have what is (or at least seems to be) a fully formed language for my races. It's so complicated, though.... especially when I have dozens of races the demands to create that many languages that all sound unique would be insane.... :/ Hm... Hm... Hm...

*scratches head*

Author:  Elthir [ February 24th, 2017, 8:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Criteria for a language?

Yeah, Tolkien did do an amazing job Jax; and also, the popularity of Neo-Elvish in general, and the fan invented Elvish for the films, has likely helped give the impression that Tolkien created entire languages.

Anyway, maybe you could concentrate on names of people and places, suggesting different languages behind them. G.R.R. Martin has taken this path, giving the Targaryens [for instance] a certain consistency when it comes to the "flavor" of names. Inventing a "real-seeming" language is a complex business, and not every author has Tolkien's background, or possibly the interest, or time, to pursue this part of world building.

Author:  Jax Nova [ February 26th, 2017, 11:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Criteria for a language?

Indeed he did! lol

That would be a decent idea... only I've got most of the main places already named in my first novel. I certainly don't have the background nor the time I would desire to do such a thing. If, however, that ever changed, introducing a nearly fully formed language, would be quite exciting and I would love to attempt it. I have, thankfully, set up my book so I could go back and do that at a later date since I do not use any "Gramarized or alphabetized" phrases of another language in the book.

Who knows... maybe some day. lol

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