Monday, June 18, 2012

Creating a fantasy language: basic sentences

Lesson 2
With a little vocabulary under your belt, it’s time to begin constructing grammar. Start simple: How to construct a basic sentence.

(Creating a fantasy language: (Lesson 1, Rationale, Lesson 2, Lesson 3Lesson 4Choosing wordsCreating an Alphabet)

Chances are, as you created vocabulary, you created patterns in your words. For me, most nouns end with –an, -in, or –on. Adjectives had no endings, and verbs in infinitive form had no endings because they took endings when conjugated.

Let’s start with verbs.

Your first rule is to decide how to conjugate your verbs. When I was learning German, we looked at 6 present-tense ways to conjugate a verb:

to walk:
I walk
you walk
he/she/it walks
they walk
you all walk
(formal) you walk

In this language, I’ve decided gender is important. So I’m going to be more specific:

san (to drop):
I male: sana
I female: sani
you m: sanla
you f: sanli
he: sanda
she: sandi
it: sando
they: sandia
you all: sanlia
you formal: sanla si/sanli si

Now let’s make a sentence. I want to say, “I drop a ball.” The speaker is feminine.
Relevant vocabulary:
iko (I, female)
san (to drop)
a (ne)
cortan (ball)
My sentence is:
iko sani ne Cortan.

Note that I’m not capitalizing the sentence at this point. If you plan on using capital letters (say, capitalizing all direct objects and objects of prepositions), then that is a grammar rule to begin working on here. Therefore, I am not capitalizing the beginning of my sentence to avoid confusion.

Let’s try another sentence.
She makes him angry.
Or, literally, “she causes anger in him.”
it (she)
der (to cause)
ata (him)
el (in)
fodratan (anger)
it el Ata deri Fodratan.
she in him causes anger.

Because I once decided that prepositions go before the verb in complex verbs, I’m following that up by placing the prepositional phrase before the verb in the sentence. This means the adjective gets pushed back to the end of the sentence.
This basic structure can become a rule:
(Who) (where) (what happens) (what)

He falls into a lake.
at (he)
sanko (to fall)
elti (into)
pana (lake)
ne (a)
at elti ne Pana sankoa.
he into a lake falls

You all lie down under a table.
utia (you all)
nansanko (lie down)
uz (under)
ne (a)
hoskon (table)
utia uz ne Hoskon nansankolia.
y’all under a table lie down

What's the basic sentence structure of your language? What rules (or patterns if they're not strict) do you have so far?

Vocabulary so far:
san: to drop nansan: to put down nansanko: to lie down ko: self koma: self-aware
uzko: to be sick kopalli: to self-reprimand palli: to reprimand uz: under syl: to cast magic
sylpana: the magic source pana: lake ako: I (male) iko: I (female) utu: you (object)
ata: him iti: her oto: it (obj) at: he it: she
ut: you ot: it (subject) der: to cause ne: the kes: one
des: two tres: three fes: four res: five ses: six
pes: seven les: eight nes: nine doc: ten cortan: ball
hoskon: table elti: into el: in fodratan: anger fodrishin: hostility
fodrish: hostile del: to create


  1. Awesome series. Very informative! I've done some flirting with fantasy languages in my work, but I'm always too intimidated to leap write in, so I'm digging these entries.

    1. :D I'm glad you're finding them helpful! I was actually just wondering if anyone would actually find them useful, but now I know that someone is, I'll keep going! :D

      I think most people get intimidated by the fact that it sounds complicated, but once you get going, it's actually pretty easy to write a language. Just make sure you keep a running list of your vocabulary, because that's the part that takes the longest - making all the words! Fortunately, it's also kind of addicting, because once you get started, it's actually really fun. :)

  2. These are really good and well written. The idea of making a language has always appealed to me, and even though I'm just loosely following these guides, they're very helpful. I'm mostly working on some vocab first, then I'll move on to grammar and sentence structure. Well done non the less.

    1. Thanks! I'm glad you're finding them helpful. :)

  3. How did you come up with the words for this language?

    1. For this language, it uses a basic English alphabet, so I chose random short letter combinations as word roots. Some I just nab parts off words I see around me; others I pull out of nowhere. I rarely run out of ideas since there's so many basic combinations, but being random can be harder if you like working with a system. It's fun, though, because if you end up with two similar words you can start making puns in your language, and sometimes I do things with it like say the words are considered associated in the culture (so if "hoskon" also meant "colorful," I might say having lots of furniture is considered a sign of being a cheerful person).

      It was actually easier in a language I made with a character alphabet that had 56 characters, each either a single letter or a pair of letters (similar to Japanese hiragana). The first 50 characters I each assigned to be a word on their own, and I chose a set of fundamental concepts that I thought would be most important to an evolving society --“ti”=life; “so”=I/self; “fa”=water; “ku”=eat; “da”=first; “sho”=after; etc. Then, whenever I needed a new word, I chose which of those 50 concepts it was most related to and combined the characters. So, “sotifa” would be “blood” and so on. The last 6 concepts I used for conjugating verbs, making plurals, making adjectives, etc.

      Another method, if you want to sound similar to a certain language without being that language, is to find a word in the target language that means the same and changing it to sound similar to the words you already have (if you have a language without o’s, for example, and you want to create something vaguely close to german, the word for week might be “vak” instead of “Woche”; and you don’t want it to be too close, so “bahn” for train might be “bina”).