Saturday, March 7, 2015

Building a Language Part 3: Grammar

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     Having decided on which sounds to use and assigned those sounds to letters, we are now going to look at the grammar. More than anything, this post will try to show you some of the things we take for granted in our language, some of the things so natural that we don't question them, so that you can make your language differ from English. Studying other languages can also help you to find ways to construct your language differently. Of course, if you want, you can simply use the English grammar, but it's so much cooler to have your very own.


     Pronouns are generally considered essential, though not necessarily by those who speak your language, as they allow you to refer to something without using its proper name. Look back at that sentence and notice how many pronouns I used. So, if your language has pronouns, how many? How specific? Do they have one pronoun that is universal? That would result in "I", "it", "she", "we", and "you" being the same word. It might seem confusing to us, but in Hebrew there is only one word for "but", "and", "yet", etc.
     Or do they have dozens of pronouns that are far more specific than English? (For example, that differentiates between "you" singular and "you" plural?)


     In English, conjugation is pretty simple. The verb changes based on tense, as well as number of people referred to. In some languages it is simpler, for example, Mandarin doesn't differentiate between past, present, and future. Others are more complicated, such as Spanish. Spanish has a different set of verbs for nearly ever pronoun, and for the different tenses. How will your language conjugate? Remember that the complexity of the language reflects and is shaped by the culture.

Number of words:

     Do we really need so many words to express a concept? Or, do we need more? In Spanish, "I run." is literally translated "Yo corro." but because the pronoun is reflected in the verb, you can also just say "Corro." Maybe your language can do the same thing. Or, maybe it uses more words. Perhaps they always accompany a name with the pronoun. For example, my language, New Orcish, has each noun prefaced with an article/pronoun, for example "The/him shopkeeper that sells a/it grapes is more honest than other a/they shopkeepers."
     Try to find things like this, things that truly separate your language from any of the languages you know. Changing the base framework in this way makes it so truly unique; a language, not a code. And it adds a realism and depth to the language, and the world.

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have a poetry contest open, which you can find here.

For the next post in this series, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment