Foreign Gibberish of Random Language (and Conlang)

So, in an attempt at reviving my WIP, a random thought comes to my mind.

In any adventure story, especially the medieval one, there’s this “common language” which is basically English. But this also means that there’s other language, which is spoken by people of other region, or race, or even by non-material ethereal creature.

The question is, do your work uses a real language as reference, or is it just a simple gibberish?

Some videogames I know refer to a real language, while the others use a “structured language of gibberish,” (or constructed language, conlang) and there’s one I know uses random gibberish.

Skyrim is a good example with its Dragon Tongue, although I’m not sure whether its development is fanmade or referred to a real language.

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Is based in a language they made years ago for Elder Scrolls one lore. Elder saga has one of more detailed lore ever expanded by fans and by writers addition. Books etc. So dragon tongue is basically a made up language like Klingon or Sildarin… Less developed though.

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It’s called constructed language and shortened to conlang.

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Do they speak entirely in the other language?
It is very possible to have “mixed” dialogue where others may speak common, but with their own words thrown in.
(This is actually a very common real-life practice called code-switching.)

So, you could have the fantasy language in italics.
Example:

The azzip we ate yesterday was hot, fresh, and delicious!
(azzip = pizza backwards)

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Ahh, now I know the proper term. Thanks for the clarification. :thumbsup:

@Carlos.R I actually just referring games in general, but I think the “common language” in various stories is the one we speak in real world, i.e. English. But then, it depends on the scope of the publishing and the target audience, be it a local region, world-wide, or even for personal use.

I just wondering, should I do some research if I wanted to put the “non-common language,” or can I just slap some words, play around with random gibberish? Although I’ve to admit, using random words can be quite dangerous.

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I would advise making a list of words you want to code-switch, then creating variables that are easy to use.
So let’s say I wanted to switch money, food, and water

I would just create variables:
*create money “gibberish1”
*create food “gibberish2”
*create water “gibberish3”

Then you can code easily.

Main Character is asking for a drink of ${water}

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Few ways to deal with having another language:

  1. Translate it when it comes up without having any words of the actual language. “He explains, in Conlangese, that he is looking for someone” (or if the narrator doesn’t understand the language, “He says something in Conlangese that you don’t understand.”)

  2. Create your own basic conlang with consistent sound and grammar. Nice for worldbuilding, but can be a bit of a rabbithole to fall down!

  3. Use a realworld language and use words close enough to what you want to express (Latin is popular for this) Bear in mind though that this does bring the associations of the real language/culture through in the reader’s minds, which may not be what you want.

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Thissss! Worldbuilding with conlang is fun. But on the other hand, I don’t want to fall down to the rabbithole as well : (

Actually, if I use a real language as my reference and there’re some readers who know the literal meaning of it, it’s not something that I don’t want. Besides, who make your work known for generations if not fans?

Is there anyone here that uses conlang on their WIP? I wouldn’t mind to take a peek :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Use http://www.scriboly.com/Generators/Language
You can tell it how you want the language to sound with a few example words/syllables/whatever (I am not a linguist) and then insert the phrase or text you want translated it and it will provide you your gibberish. And then as Scribblesome suggested, just use summaries of meaning instead of direct translation, and you’ll be solid

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What I meant was something like, if your fantasy civilisation has praetors and legions, for example, readers may well expect other Roman aspects and be confused or consider it ‘unrealistic’ if they’re not there.

I use a little bit of conlang in my WIP, mostly for place names and concepts associated with the ancient civilisation.

So we have:
‘Taherys’ - ‘the true land’ (a country)
‘An Taherys’ - ‘heart of the true land’ (the capital city)
‘Mal Therys’ - ‘gold fields’ (another country with rich farmland)
‘Malenvadi’ - ‘golden stones’ (a town with a goldmine)
‘Valherysi’ - ‘all lands’ (the name of the continent)
‘valenrasi’ - people, population
’anferel’ - magic, or more literally something like ‘power from within’

(yeah, i fell down that rabbit hole :smile:)

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Hmm, that’s make sense. After all, we’re referring to real-world aspects, don’t we?[quote=“Scribblesome, post:10, topic:26188”]
if your fantasy civilisation has praetors and legions, for example, readers may well expect other Roman aspects and be confused or consider it ‘unrealistic’ if they’re not there.
[/quote]


But I’m not sure about a fantasy world that’s purely made from scratch, tho. I guess the rules at there are more flexible.


@Carlos.R I think it’s better if we write the words directly instead of assigning it to an individual variables. It is a lot of work to be done, and I don’t think there’s significant differences if we use variables for the gibberish or not.

It’s not like those gibberish are going to be randomized each playthrough, tho.

It’s pretty easy, in my experience at least, to create just enough of a conlang to have a consistent phonology. I usually do this for place names in my stories, but obviously whatever works for you. And beware rabbit holes :wink:

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Speaking of guys does the actual Game of Thrones Song of Ice and Fire book series ever used the phrase common tongue. The lingua Franca of a lease that world was the language of the old Freehold and only very few people of certain class spoke it. One of the things I really love to do that world is everyone speaks a different language. There’s no true Universal common tongue.

You want to do more real life example you can do what medieval universities did and what most universities did up until the mid-twentieth century everyone spoke Latin

Vulgarlang.com is another cool language generator, although it has its limitations (like only creating languages with masculine/feminine conjugations, like french)

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Or it’s just translated into our language, because whatever is happening during the story is anyway in past tense, because it happened various years/centuries ago in whatever world the story is set. Nice way to treat continuity errors as translation errors i.e. giving a canon in story explanation for it.

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I would like to note that Skyrim’s not really a good example of language construction… rather, it’s a good example of providing plausible looking flavor for the viewer. Dragon Tongue’s grammar is nearly a copy of English. It has a few distinct features, but it even copies quirks of English’s pronoun system. What it does do is provide the appearance of a foreign language, so if that’s the main requirement, it suffices for that.

The classic example of language creation for a fiction setting would be Tolkien, who fleshed them out and had full language histories and derivations for them as well. Well-constructed recent languages in the media would include Na’vi (from Avatar) and Dothraki and other languages from the Song of Ice and Fire world. It’s also worth pointing out Tsolyáni, which is naturalistic, non-European in flavor, and also featured extensively in a Choice of Game… Choice of the Petal Throne. That would be a good game to look at to see how a fictional language can be integrated. (It’s mostly on the level of vocabulary.)

I think one key question is going to be what you would be using this language for. Since we’re reading in English, sticking with a “naming language,” where you have enough vocabulary to form names for people, places, and cultural concepts, often does the trick. I’d suggest working out the sound system for a language as the main key here, so it will have a consistent and distinctive sound. It also helps with my immersion as a reader.

I would suggest The Language Construction Kit as a good resource for anyone who’s starting out.

I’m also really into language-building, so I can offer advice and suggestions if anyone is interested :smile:

For my (still very short) WiP, I’ve developed KuLaghuna as a naming language, so mostly just a bunch of roots which I can combine to make names :stuck_out_tongue: I don’t have a full grammar. I did develop its phonology thoroughly, and my WiP includes a system for the player to generate their own character name that fits the syllable structure of the language.

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It may be easier that way, it depends on the coder.
But I think it would make it easier on the beta tester if you have it the way I suggested?
You should make a poll? :smiley:

So I’ve done a bit of conlanging for some of my non-IF fantasy stories. And I also assisted an indie game dev with the languages in his game, primarily with the phonology. I’m also currently using Old English in the draft of a story, though I may change that to a conlang for the final draft. And I was a linguistics minor (the major required taking European studies classes and I didn’t have room for those) in undergrad. So I’ve definitely gone down the rabbit hole… :fox_face:

Using a real language (whether or not it is still natively spoken) carries risks. People can easily do research to figure out if you’re correctly using a language and native speakers will be put off by any errors that show up. If you go this route you will want to get a native speaker (for living languages) or expert (for dead languages) to look over it if you aren’t one of those for the language you use.

Please stay away from random gibberish. It is immersion breaking to discover that what you thought was a conlang is actually random sounds, especially if there isn’t any consistency in the phonology. If you are taking the time to include gibberish, why not spend just a bit more time to develop the phonology? It will make people like me much happier and more immersed in your world.

James Portnow points out in his chapter in From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages (2011) that:

designers must create languages that reward the efforts of novice players, are learnable in the context of their games (there are no textbooks or teachers), are inessential to game play, fit the creative property, and can be learnt at unknown intervals. If a game doesn’t do all of these things, it doesn’t promote players’ engagement or improve players’ experience within the fiction of the game, both outcomes which should be a designer’s constant goals. (pp. 137-8)

Since interactive fiction is often a combination of prose story and game, the above points are worth keeping in mind. Your readers shouldn’t have to learn the additional language(s) that show up in your work to be able to progress. Anything important in a language other than the one the work is primarily written in should be translated. If it isn’t important, but the PC knows the language, then it should be translated. If it isn’t important and the PC doesn’t know the language, then you can leave it untranslated with a mention that the PC doesn’t know what was said. Granted, it might be good to then have the speaker switch to a language the PC does know and repeat the information. I might enjoy the puzzle of figuring out the meaning of an untranslated bit of dialogue, but someone else won’t.

I think that @TSSL’s suggestion of creating enough of a language for names is a great one. It allows you to flesh out the world a bit without having to worry too much about grammar (though you’ll probably want to figure out some of the morphology). Be careful in the use of apostrophes for conveying phonological information–they have been used for glottal stops, syllable markers, ejectives, elision, and palatalisation to name a few. If I see an apostrophe in what appears to be a conlange and there isn’t a pronunciation guide, I have no idea how I’m supposed to pronounce the word.

And speaking of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings–in the prologue Tolkien writes about the Red Book of Westmarch and how a selection from it was published as The Hobbit, in Appendix E, Tolkien writes that “The Westron or Common Speech has been entirely translated into English equivalents,” and in Appendix F, [section] II: “On Translation” he goes further and explains how he translated the Red Book. In other words, Tolkien explains the use of English as the common language in Middle Earth as his doing as translator of The Red Book of Westmarch. Such a narrative frame is one way you could explain the fact that in your fantasy world everyone seems to be speaking English. For instance, you could say something along the lines of, “These are the collected writings of the deeds of a figure of note in [time period name] now translated from [conlang name] into English.”

In addition to TSSL’s suggestion of The Language Construction Kit, I would recommend The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building by David J. Peterson, the linguist who created the spoken Dothraki in the Game of Thrones show based on the Dothraki words appearing in the books.

And like TSSL, I can also offer advice and suggestions on conlanging.

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Oh, it’s been a while since I played around conlang :sweat_smile:

Thank you @DireldaKitsune and everyone that contributed in this topic :pray:t4:


To be honest, I’m actually overwhelmed and afraid about conlang. I plan to include fictional human/non-h races in my story, as well as their own language, but I’m not a language person in any way :[

Originally, the idea is to let the PC (which is obviously has no idea about the language) hear the this foreign community speaking in their native language. Later, they may have a companion who can translate the lang. if they need to communicate with the native folks.

The problem, perhaps this’ll sounds silly, is how far can I get away with a not-so-developed conlang? How developed a conlang should be before I can use them?

Yeah. Developing an entire language from scratch takes a bid of time and effort if you’re going to do it properly (or at least have it developed in a meaningful way). That’s why most media tends to handwave any language barriers.

The way I see it, you technically don’t even have to show any of the words or sentence structure if you’re having a translator along with you, but I’m guessing that would make the language thing a mute point. I’d say try having the MC work in unconventional ways to communicate if the language barrier becomes a burden, and there’s no translators around (Body language in particular is a place you might wanna look at).

As for your language development question, the answer is really how much time and effort you’re willing to put in it, and how much world building you wanna do. If you’re doing a WIP, I’d say develop your language to the point where it can be peppered in conversations where appropriate, like Spanglish or something similar.