Monday, January 26, 2009

Thinking ahead to a Language Design Workshop

I'm getting a vibe from some of you that all my linguistics posts are making my language design workshop seem scary.

It shouldn't be.

I'm not planning to sit down and have people design languages from the ground up; that is, not unless they want to. What I'll be looking for will be a description of the people speaking the language with details about their physiology (not so tough with humans) and their social structure, and also a sense of how deeply the language should penetrate the work, i.e. whether use of the language is intended to feel intimate or estranging. As with my last workshop, I'll give more specifics on the day the workshop opens, and ask for people to submit within the first week of February.

It's my bedtime, but I'll try to do some pragmatics tomorrow.


  1. Thanks, Juliette.

    Hmmm... I have a feeling the indigenous language ought to penitrate at least one project I'm thinking of using for this workshop pretty thoroughly. In both cases, one of which you've already seen excerpts from, we have Earth settlers on an already inhabited world. In one case, the native language, even to the level of personal names, pretty much defeats human attempts to speak it. One friend of mine I showed a draft to observed plaintively that she couldn't even pronounce the name of the species or that of the planet (the two are closely related. Yet, the settlers would per force use native names for native objects, flora, fauna etc which was unfamiliar to both cases...

    Well, I'm interested but still a touch dubious as to my ability to produce what you'll be looking for in this workshop.

  2. Catreona,

    Much in the same way as my last workshop, the point here is to work with what you need in your story rather than to require you to produce some kind of empirically valid language. I'm looking to improve the feel of what you're working with so that it seems more organic and more like natural language. I'm a little dubious about "defeats human attempts to speak it," but we can discuss that in more depth in the workshop. I'm currently thinking of taking between 5 and 10 participants, depending on the response.

  3. Well, I'm interested.

    I'm looking at my marine species, the arcati. I don't need to work out their entire language, but what I do want for their language is this:

    It should be spoken underwater, by a water-breathing species.

    It should be possible for an air-breathing species to pronounce the verbal parts, provided they are willing to get nice and close to the surface of the water, and speak slowly, clearly and distinctly.

    There is no Universal Translator, so misunderstandings can develop during the learning process(especially until the arcati realise that humans don't generate pheremones as important language inflections, as arcati do).

  4. David,

    Thanks for your interest. I'd appreciate it if you could look through the questions I just posted and try to answer them for me.