If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, He’ll Have to Create a New Language

I’ve been feeling for a while now like I needed to set aside the Eilinland project and start fresh with a new series. I learned so much throughout the process of editing and publishing, and I wanted to be able to start with a clean slate and craft a series from scratch using all of those things that I learned.

It took a little bit of convincing myself because I’ve gotten so attached to the Eilinland characters and wanted to explore more of their stories, but I realized there would be more wonderful characters waiting for me wherever I decided to take my writing next and that the writing process could be a lot easier if I started over with all of my new-found experience. I finally started to get serious about another world idea a couple of weeks ago, and at this point I’m fully submerged in this other, still unnamed, world. I do plan to return to the world of Eilinland for some more stories someday, but “it is not this day!”

Creating a World the Right Way Means Creating a History

Why are the people where they are? How did they get there? Why are they doing what they’re doing?

These are all of the questions I started asking myself after coming up with the initial concept for the series. I didn’t realize how much a people group can be motivated by its history and how many ideas and inspirations I could draw from developing one. I decided that the group of islands that the series is set in was initially populated by a small group of sailors from some other islands. I haven’t decided whether they were adventurers or fleeing from something like a plague or famine in their home country. I have developed some stories of what happens after they arrived in their new home, the islands on which the books take place over 1000 years later. Many of those stories greatly influence the books’ settings through things like political structures, social and economic divides, and religious beliefs.

Creating a History Means Creating Names

The thing about creating stories, even if they are just contextual stories that won’t make it into the series itself, is that there are characters and locations in them. Those things need names. I couldn’t just continue saying “that one person who did that one thing went to that other location farther south.” Things get really confusing really quickly.

I started out using some of my usual naming techniques: altering common names slightly, typing adjectives that described the thing into google translate and creating a mashup of several words from several other languages that it came up with, or just jumbling consonants and vowel sounds around in my head until something sounded interesting. A small voice kept nagging at the back of my mind, though, but I kept ignoring it because I knew what it had to say would mean a lot of work. After fighting it for several days, I finally let it speak, and it said:

Consistent Naming Requires a Consistent Language

Names come from language, and I knew then that I wasn’t going to successfully develop an authentic-feeling setting if the names were coming from several dozen inspirations and languages from literally all over planet earth. Thankfully, I found this amazing conlang youtube channel which has broken down the task of creating a new language into manageable steps. I’m now obsessing over the project and having the time of my life.

A New Language Required a New Alphabet

The process began with choosing what sounds from the phonetic chart would be included in the language, and as soon as I had that worked out, I decided it didn’t make sense to keep using a Latin alphabet because the sounds weren’t accurately represented. I had this ingenious idea to create characters which would stem off of a circle to create words. In the image attached to this post, those are three words: Minah hae dojakash, which means “the person sees the animal.” (Not very exciting, I know, but you have to start somewhere.) The consonant sounds stem off of the circle which is the base of every word, and the vowel sounds hang between the consonants. I talk my way through it a little more in a video here.

So far, I have the phonetics worked out, the full alphabet to represent the sounds, and about a dozen or so words to use as I figure out how the grammar works (which I’m a good ways along on that as well). Just a little farther and I’ll be able to start naming all of the characters and locations in a more consistent and informed manner.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” you need to. Just find a child to read it to or else people will give you funny looks.

I have a pretty epic map in the works right now as well, so I’m thinking a map post is in order soon. Remember to subscribe so that you don’t miss it! If you weren’t intending to subscribe and therefore can’t remember that you forgot to subscribe, I have nothing to say to you!

Zierah! (Goodbye)

4 Comments Add yours

  1. iloivar says:

    Have you discovered the Constructed Languages facebook group, yet?
    It is a supportive group of language artists and tinkerers of all stripes. It is 50% of the reason I’m still on facebook at all. Many of the members are very knowledgeable about linguistics in general and conlangs in particular, and can be a great resource if you get stuck on anything or an appreciative audience for the small conlang advances we make day to day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d never heard of it, but I’m definitely going to go check it out! Thanks for sharing!


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