Artificial languages in my books

18 November 2011 07:59

When I started writing books, I promised myself I wouldn’t go overboard with invented languages (i.e. Tolkien-style). I am not a linguist, and what experience I have with creating languages is limited to programming languages, which are far less broad in scope than spoken and written languages.

As such, the Northlandic language that is used in Gift of the Destroyer is rather simple. The vocabulary I built has about 50 words, and using verbs is pretty straightforward (there are only 3 or 4 forms, and they’re not affected by personal pronouns). The people of the Northlands are a simple and mostly isolated folk, and their language isn’t that complex. Northlandic is basically an evolution of the Arvayan language of the Forbidden Lands, which at the time of Gift of the Destroyer is a dead language, though still mostly intelligible for those who understand Northlandic. Despite having a far more advanced civilization than the people of the Northlands, the Arvayan language too is relatively simple.

But the book I’m currently working on (the sequel to Gift of the Destroyer) features characters from Ktharia, which has a society far more complex than any seen so far. As such, I wanted to have their language reflect the complexity of their society, and I succeeded. Of course, seeing as I don’t include grammar rules for my invented languages in my books this is mostly for personal use. I think I’ve gone a bit too far with Ktharian though. I’ll explain:

The Ktharian language has no irregular verbs, and has a different inflection for each personal pronoun (first, second and third person form, both singular and plural), this gives us 6 different inflections. Of course, Ktharian distinguishes between present, past and future tense, giving us 18 forms. If the verb is used as a question, then the inflection changes, giving us 36 forms. Ktharian also has a perfect tense (present and past), giving us an additional 24 forms. There is also a perfect continous form, giving us another 2 forms. How many is that? 42 forms? Oh before I forget, each form changes depending on the social status of the person you’re speaking to, giving us standard form, submissive form and dominant form. This of course for each of the 42 variations, giving us 126 forms. Oh, and then there’s imperative form, which only exists in dominant form. I’m not sure if I’ve counted correctly, but right now Ktharian has 127 different verb inflections. And the vocabulary has like 20 words at the moment, only 8 of which are verbs.

Does that mean I’ve gone too far?