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Chaosian

Developing an imaginary language?

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Hey guys,

I'm trying to come up with a pseudo-language for a long-running project I've been thinking of, more or less spoken (or written?) the the background of the world, but not really for the direct narrative. Something for world building, eh? The language is supposed to be a hyper-evolved English about 500 years or more in the future, as being interpreted by those hearing it some 1500 years in the future so iIdeally, the language would be based in English, or Latin. Structurally, I'd like a semi-logical cipher that would allow the player to translate this imaginary language into English if they could somehow figure it out, the players that devote more time to understanding the world and the 'puzzles', get more out of the lore.

 

I've worked off direct letter replacements before, and either haven't found the correct combinations I like.

I usually end up with a cipher such as:

 

 

  • A = A
  • B = B
  • C = C
  • D = D
  • E = A
  • F =
  • G =
  • H = C
  • I = E
  • J = J
  • K = K
  • L = L
  • M = N
  • N = N
  • O = O
  • P = P
  • Q = C
  • R = R
  • S = C
  • T = T
  • U = V
  • V = V
  • W = V
  • X = Z
  • Y = V
  • Z = Z

 

 

 

Would become something like:

Hello, how are you doing today? I'm swell.

Callo, cov ara vov doen todav? E'n cvell.

 

Which, I dunno, isn't bad, but I'd be interested in hearing thoughts on, or different strategies towards this kind of thing.

Edited by Chaosian

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Even if you're basing the language off of something else, there's a lot of thought and work that goes into something like that. Unless you have that time, or have people to help you along with it then it might not be worth it in the long run. While it does add some world building/lore things like this really shouldn't be done without proper planning and knowledge of this subject.

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I have 1 made up imaginary language called Chaosian Language (Nothing to do with your name). It's for Chaosians (a demonic race) in World of Chaos. You usually see it in walls of demonic caves, chaos scrolls, etc.

 

This language is backwards English. There is a point to it tho. Angels and humans use English and in this game, angels were once humans. Chaosians were too but they don't want to be seen as used-to-be humans. They want to appear to be the opposite so they decided their language was going to be backwards English.

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Even if you're basing the language off of something else, there's a lot of thought and work that goes into something like that. Unless you have that time, or have people to help you along with it then it might not be worth it in the long run. While it does add some world building/lore things like this really shouldn't be done without proper planning and knowledge of this subject.

I think you're sensationalizing a bit. I'm not looking for Tolkein's Elvish or Klingon, I'm looking for Daedric, or Dovahzul.

 

 

I have 1 made up imaginary language called Chaosian Language (Nothing to do with your name). It's for Chaosians (a demonic race) in World of Chaos. You usually see it in walls of demonic caves, chaos scrolls, etc.

 

This language is backwards English. There is a point to it tho. Angels and humans use English and in this game, angels were once humans. Chaosians were too but they don't want to be seen as used-to-be humans. They want to appear to be the opposite so they decided their language was going to be backwards English.

I am honored to be part of a coincidence.

The idea of making something backwards to further obfuscate is a simple but novel concept.

 

Artcav ollac! Vodat neod vov ara voc?

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Have you ever watched Cloud Atlas? It has a language kind of like that: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/10/25/the_cloud_atlas_phrasebook_your_guide_to_yibberin_the_true_true_language.html

Not a linguist or anything, but a straight cipher doesn't seem like a very likely way for English to evolve because English has many more sounds than the 26 letters, plus we often don't pronounce things the way they're spelled. It might be interesting to look into how the accents of English-speakers around the world have evolved. The vowels get all switched around and sometimes sounds just disappear.

Anthony Burgess used Russian words to create a slang language for A Clockwork Orange, so maybe you could get some Latin words in like that. Latin would actually be great because of the link with English. The spells in Harry Potter are mainly Latin and it's great because you can kind of guess what they do. E.g. I don't know 'crucio' in Latin but I know that English 'crucify' is bad, so whenever I see 'crucio' I know it's the torture spell. On the other hand, if the author had just used a string of made-up sounds it would be too hard to remember what the different spells do. Anyway I'm getting off track. Good luck with your project, it sounds really interesting.

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Well, it would be wise to keep in mind English in itself is not an original language. The letters may be Latin, but the words are comprised of many different languages. Perhaps you should first consider what you want the writings to say and then try looking back and the source of the words you put on the walls for inspiration.

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I tnod dnatsrednu ruoy egaugnal lol

 

 

 

Artcav ollac! Vodat neod vov ara voc?

 

Hello vectra! How are you doing today?

 

hmm... feels more like code breaking than another language, problem being that some of the letters show up several times, makin it hard to decifer. Another little thingy that makes it feel like code is the fact that you are mixing vowels and consonants, and the missing letters make it more screwy with the brain (altough not impossible to accept as a linguistical occurence).

 

Vcv? ---> Why? (try pronouncing it)

 

Try this decifering sheet on for size. (one step right to encrypt and one step left to decrypt)

 

E -> U -> I -> A -> O -> E 

 

L -> R -> M -> S -> N -> F -> J -> Y -> V -> H -> Z -> W -> L

 

B -> G -> C -> P -> T -> K -> X -> Q -> D -> B

 

Ak an yink o niccunkaef gik A kzafx ak larr gu semu uonv ke tonn jem o rofciocu, aj vei lofk ke soxu ak semu bajjapirk kzuf afhumk uhumv lemb raxu A larr fel.

 

Utez ka ntruz!

 

A bit unhappy with kzafx (think), it could be fixed by switching some letters around or by adding a grammar rule. Something like "A before X rule" if the preceding letter is a consonant (kzafx -> kzafax).

Hope I didn't break your brain, as you can see when you go beyond a few word sentences it becomes hard enough.  :P

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I am not a big fan of substitution cypher "languages" myself, they just seem silly to me. What's wrong with actually inventing a actual grammar and vocabulary like Klingon or Quenya or Gargish? Heck there is a random language generator thing meant for Dwarf Fortress here if you feel like using that.

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I am not a big fan of substitution cypher "languages" myself, they just seem silly to me. What's wrong with actually inventing a actual grammar and vocabulary like Klingon or Quenya or Gargish? Heck there is a random language generator thing meant for Dwarf Fortress here if you feel like using that.

 

Inventing up an entire language with its own grammar and structure can be a lot of fun. But I wouldn't personally recommend it unless you're really obsessed with your creative world. In my personal experience, nothing kills an author's interest in their own project quite like becoming too interested in it.

 

Full disclosure: I killed a project I spent at least four years working on. Out of fatigue. That was a lot of work for a lot of nothing.

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That is a really cool tool! However, what amount of time would it take for the player to learn such a language?

 

If it's for wouldbuilding and a writing tool it doesn't really matter if the player ever learns it, past a few words anyway. Though collectively, the larger your player base the more likely they will pool together and crack your language together anyway. :3

 

Inventing up an entire language with its own grammar and structure can be a lot of fun. But I wouldn't personally recommend it unless you're really obsessed with your creative world. In my personal experience, nothing kills an author's interest in their own project quite like becoming too interested in it.

 

Full disclosure: I killed a project I spent at least four years working on. Out of fatigue. That was a lot of work for a lot of nothing.

You make it sound like all the work you did on a project is totally worthless once you abandon it. I mean, there is no reason you can't use a language you made for a project later in a different one if the project falls apart.

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I don't necessarily agree with that. Don't get me wrong, it's certainly something you can do; nobody's going to stop you. But the reason you would create a new language is to give detail, to add flavor to your world. But unless your projects are strikingly similar, or at least have certain components in common, the language might not be transferable.

 

And I get what you're saying, about how there's no wasted work. Still, I think it's best to avoid author fatigue, and to that end, a simple cipher language can be more than sufficient.

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That may or may not be true, it depends. I doubt many people are going to do the Tolkien thing of trying to flesh out a full history and context to the language though.

 

You could also use obscure real world languages too I guess.

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See, and this is what happens when I make a thread and then forget about it.

 

snip

Cloud Atlas- I have not. The problems I have with more 'jargon' based languages is that they always come off pretty brainless. Like the language of yokels, who don't speek good. It doesn't quite evoke the feeling of advancement or nobility, or sense that English (as the player perceives it) has lost something coming from it.

Now, mixing up words with associated meaning / vibe, in combination with mixing up letters IS the kind of thing I could see, and the Harry Potter referential use of Latin does bring some ideas to mind.

 

snip

Perhaps a bit of fudging may be in order. As you suggest, special cases.

I wonder what first translating words phonetically might sound like?

I wunder waat furst translayting words fonetocally might sownd lyke?

E vvndar vaat erct tranclavten vordc onetecallv nect covnd lvka?

 

(Well, it reads like German...)

 

I wonder what fudging words into irregularity might make it look like?

 

E vindar vaat ferct tranclaven vordec onetecally nyct covnd lyka?

 

snip

Yeah, while I am dedicated to the project, it's not exactly the kind of investment I'm looking to make into something that really could just be gibberish and have 0 bearing on the entire plot. From what I could tell, that Dwarf Fortress seems like a proc gen way to make Cloud Atlas language - computers writing yokel language. Very foreign, but not really what I'm after. Edited by Chaosian

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Yeah, while I am dedicated to the project, it's not exactly the kind of investment I'm looking to make into something that really could just be gibberish and have 0 bearing on the entire plot. From what I could tell, that Dwarf Fortress seems like a proc gen way to make Cloud Atlas language - computers writing yokel language. Very foreign, but not really what I'm after.

I think the Dwarf Fortress thing was a bit more powerful then that, though still not as powerful as doing it yourself of course.

 

Though if you want to see what english will look like 500 years in the future:

 

i bet t wil lok lik tis. hypr evo'd txt'n srthnd. y txt unsry lttrs? :P

 

Either that or it will look about the same. It's hard to evolve language in a major way I think the greater the number of written examples we have to work on and that's growing at an exponential rate as the internet evolves. Likely most of the difference might be in vocabulary.

Edited by KilloZapit

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@Chaosian, check out this video. I know you don't plan on spending too much time on the language, so the series of videos is, I'm sure overkill for you. However, if nothing else, what he talks about near he start of this video, the IPA (not the beer), could be very useful. The IPA, or International Phonetic Alphabet, might be a good place to start switching sounds (and thus letters). If you're interested in going a bit more in depth the videos that follow the one below have some interesting info (like whether living in the mountains impacts the way people speak...and actually, it does). They might give you some ideas on how English might change over the years.

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Now 'that's the way to do it bro! That's getting really down and technical, like a very professional way of going about it.

Seems intensive, but I'll give it a little bit more time down the road and review how deep down that rabbit hole I wanna go. Awesome suggestion.

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I figured you would dig that, even if he does take it to a level most of us will never go to for the worlds we build. It's definitely some interesting stuff, at least to me.

 

On an unrelated note: you just hit 666 posts with that one.

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Your cipher method is not very good, and people will see through it. Listen, here's a relatively simple method to make something that looks more integrated within your world. Think about the society that has this language, and try to find some analogue in real languages. Then use this generator to try to imitate this real language, and then refine it to be closer to what you're looking for specifically. That's what I would do, if I wanted to develop a language but didn't want to spend too much time on it.

Edited by Hierophant

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Your cipher method is not very good, and people will see through it. Listen, here's a relatively simple method to make something that looks more integrated within your world. Think about the society that has this language, and try to find some analogue in real languages. Then use this generator to try to imitate this real language, and then refine it to be closer to what you're looking for specifically. That's what I would do, if I wanted to develop a language but didn't want to spend too much time on it.

 

The Dwarf Fortress generator I linked to contains a very important feature I think that one probably misses: Generation based on root words. Still interesting though!

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Your cipher method is not very good, and people will see through it. Listen, here's a relatively simple method to make something that looks more integrated within your world. Think about the society that has this language, and try to find some analogue in real languages. Then use this generator to try to imitate this real language, and then refine it to be closer to what you're looking for specifically. That's what I would do, if I wanted to develop a language but didn't want to spend too much time on it.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make real language. While the result might be nice to look at, it is utterly futile to attempt to translate. There is no input, I might as well be writing Lorem Ipsum with wingdings.

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Your cipher method is not very good, and people will see through it. Listen, here's a relatively simple method to make something that looks more integrated within your world. Think about the society that has this language, and try to find some analogue in real languages. Then use this generator to try to imitate this real language, and then refine it to be closer to what you're looking for specifically. That's what I would do, if I wanted to develop a language but didn't want to spend too much time on it.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make real language. While the result might be nice to look at, it is utterly futile to attempt to translate. There is no input, I might as well be writing Lorem Ipsum with wingdings.

 

 

Coming up with the right words for your language is your job, not the generator's job. The generator is there to provide you with a consistent sound and look. If you really want to put no work in it at all, then just use a foreign language. Geeze. 

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