Have a purpose in mind before you begin. This will be the frame of your
language. From then on, you can simply add to it. You might wish to include
those things in the home, in society, government terms, rules and guidelines,
mathmatical relationships... the list is endless. Anything that could
possibly be useful to you can be added.
2. Voice, Alignment, and Intelligence
Some factors enter into what can be pronounced by the being speaking the words
and his intelligence. As orcs are pictured with fangs, this (litteraly) gets
in the way when trying to pronounce things with completely closed mouths.
Determine what restrictions the beings in question have, if any.
Is the creature naturally peaceful or hostile? For peaceful beings, the words
and syllables will be softer and smoother, while more hostile races will tend
to make sharp, nasty sounds, spitting or barking their words once in a while.
The more intelligent the being, the smoother the language flows. In an evil
society full of geniuses, the language would lose its sharp sounds to
smoother flowing ones, but still keeping a sense of menace to them, though
this is through the pronounciation and speed, and not the language itself.
Evil and powerful beings of high intellect usually have graceful speech,
making it's intenseness and wickedness hard to believe. The more intelligent
creatures also use larger words with more syllables, while your typical orc
might have no word more than three syllables, and most words being one or two.
Only things dear to their hearts (eating, drinking, and fighting) would
contain two syllables. In an intelligent society, these things simply do not
More will be spoken of intelligence when discussing word forms and how to
change them in the sentence structure.
3. Surrounding Cultures
Surrounding cultures seem to have their toll on languages by adding those
words directly into that language, or using derivitives from them. In
English, this is most prevelent in Latin and Greek where we get many base
words and meanings for our words. Simple rearrangements to these original
words work themselves into our language nicely. Therefore a language tells us
something about our history: basically, our origins and how we felt long ago.
This language inbreeding adopts new terms into a changing language only.
There are some languages where this is simply not allowed, such as those of
alignment and ones that follow the strict dictatorship of a certain religion.
Other than these rarities, however, languages will add from others simply
because that's where they originated. For example, if a scientist comes up
with a new idea, and makes up a name for it, other languages may borrow, as
there is no direct translation for it.
In addition to surrounding cultures, sometimes languages may differ from
region to region, through isolation of one group of people over an extended
period of time. When two or more such groups are torn from each other, they
tend to grow in different directions. If and when they unite again, they may
have some difficulty communicating again, though the basics will be kept.
Fashion and style, and even the occasional personal flaire will dramatically
There are usually common languages, which are the result of all these groups
combined communicating together. These are limited tongues, though, and serve
only certain purposes, such as battle between hostile races. Using orcs as an
example again, there may be a dialect for every tribe among them, discusing
metalwork in one clan, and rocks and caverns in another, as they often have
differed interests. But when they come together, usually in time of war, they
need only those things that pertain to them. Certainly the Clan of the Wild
Horse does not wish to discuss the finer points of blacksmithing with the Clan
of the Iron Fist.
Then there are "low" and "high" languages, with the Drow in AD&D and German in
the real world. In both cases, High German/Drow refers to archaic,
upper-class-only words, while Low German/Drow is the common tongue of all the
peasents and common people.
II Understanding Speech
1. Articles and Conjunctions
There are only three articles in the English language, hence they will be
discussed first. They are also the most common used words. A and AN are the
same, and there would be only two articles, save that our language requires AN
for words that contain (as a first letter) a vowel (except long U) and silent
Consider this statement: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
It does not say which apple, only AN apple. It could be any apple.
Similarly, A day does not say which day. It could be thursday, friday, or it
could be the third day of the month or year. A and AN are thus non-specific
articles, meaning that there are several of that kind, and it does not matter
which. When creating your own language, the easiest thing to do in this case
is to have A and AN the same word. That little trick can save you a lot of
headaches. Indeed, our language is complex, and needs a little trimming, but
as we have gotten too deep, it is impossible to go back.
In that same statement, THE doctor points to a specific doctor. Using THE
assumes that you know which doctor the speaker is talking about. In this
famous saying, it directs attention to your doctor, the one you go to for
checkups, etc. It usually means there is one of a kind. THE painting
suggests a painting that both the speaker and listener know of.
There must be sentence connectors, those words that string multiple thoughts
together. That is the reason for conjunctions, such as and, or, if, when,
but, and others. These words are too varied in their meanings, except that
purpose they serve, and they are also listed under other topics (see
conditionals), so they won't be fully described here.
Pronouns are a large part of our language. It is perhaps the largest
collection of most commonly used words, except for articles. Pronouns can
take many forms, including with them gender, singular/plural, possession,
placement, and others. Each most important item is discussed here.
No matter the subject you talk about, you will want to say that something
is mine, or yours, or theirs. These types of pronouns can direct attention
to not only material objects, but also ideas, actions, and duties. Below
is a list of useful possessional pronouns.
Mine, yours, theirs, his, and hers. Mine is first person, saying something
is your own. Yours is second person, stating that it is the property of
the person you are speaking to. Theirs is either one or more persons'
possession other than that of yourself and the person you are speaking to.
His is the same as yours, except that it points specifically to a single
male, while hers directs attention to a single female.
Others can easily be added to your language, such as a pronoun that points
to more than one person, all male, that are not around at the moment.
While that is an impracticle example, sometimes such strange combinations
can be useful. After a little practice with the finished language itself,
you can become used to it and will find yourself wishing English had such
useful words, however unorthodox they may seem to others.
You will need to know where you are, in just about any given case.
Pronouns have the power of saying such things without giving out details.
That is the purpose of using them: so you don't have to re-explain
everything over and over again. When you wish to go here, or there, you
shouldn't say "Speaking of the cave near the little winding river, I wish
to go back to the cave near the little winding river," when you both know
where you are talking about. That should have been "Speaking of the cave
near the little winding river, I wish to go back there." It is much more
practicle, and doesn't dwell on one thought too long.
Many overlook the power of pronouns, and without them, we would not be at
the level we are now. So we do have pronouns, and so should your language.
You really only need three words for placement.
Here, there, and then. Then is also placement, but in time, not is space.
But then there are objects that you need to use pronouns for. This and
that are classic examples; this refers to an object here, and that refers
to an object there. The following list should be used in that regard.
This, that, these, and those. These is the plural form of this; those is
the plural form of that. This points to a close object, these to close
objects; that points to a distant object, those to distant objects.
The next type of pronoun is that of yourself and others. You will always
wish to speak of yourself or others in some regard. Here are the words
needed for that.
I, me, myself, you, yourself. I and me are one in the same, but are used
differently with certain grammer rules for the English language. Me and
myself are twins, as are you and yourself, which speak of the person you
are communicating with. If you are talking to more than one person, it
might refer to all of them. "You surround our enemy, while I prepare the
He, she, and it.
He refers to some person, a male, who you know of already, whether he was
brought up in the conversation earlier or you think the other person knows
who you're talking about.
When you're in a conversation, and you direct an order, or something to that
nature, and you're not certain of an event, you will need a conditional
statement, such as IF or WHILE, etc. The following list will be sufficient
for beginning languages. It is doubtful that this list will ever need to grow
beyond it's initial framework.
If, then, else, when, while, and until. You could also add words to your
language that mean the same as some phrases, such as "as long as" or "not
until". Be warned, though, that comprehension will need to be more complex or
a person will get easily confused by a single word substituted for an entire
phrase. This is yet another inevitable factor in the creation of a new
Prepositions and prepositional phrases are the things that color our sentences
and give them detail. "Under the rock", "around the corner", "through the
roof" are all prepositional phrases. There are so many prepositions that only
a few will be named within these pages. For more, there can easily be found
lists of prepositions in English grammer texts at your local library.
When thinking of prepositions that you may need, you should consider the nouns
you have created. If you include a word meaning rock, you will need such
prepositions as around, under, atop, on, but not through or abreast. Keep
your list of prepositions limited at first, relating only to the nouns you
have created. If your language grows enough, however, this may be impossible
to keep track of, and your preposition list will become wild. This is not
Abreast, about, around, at, before, below, beneath, for, from, in, inside, of,
out, outside, over, through, throughout, to, and under. This list is not near
to complete to usefulness. Your purpose may even outdo grammer texts, in
which case you will have to look them up in a dictionary. There are hundreds,
maybe thousands of them. My suggestion when using prepositions is to think
small, then let your list grow as you need them. You might even eliminate
prepositions that mean the same thing, keeping only one, such as below and
beneath. They mean virtually the same thing. Below is more common to me, so
I'd throw out beneath... It's up to you.
5. Nouns and Gender
In the Spanish language, as well as many others, there are male and female
words. This is determined by a suffix, while some other languages use
prefixes. If you wish to do this--and it's not suggested due to an extreme
amount more work--you can do so by formulating your own suffix/prefix
additions to words. But I will show you how, in case you have other plans for
them, such as making them plural, etc.
Adding an -el, for example, could determine one phase change of word. Let's
make this the plural form of the word. Our examples, dulag, kile, and humel,
are made plural, and are changed to dulagel, kilel, and humelel. What they
mean does not matter for the sake of the example. Dulag--whatever that is--
are made plural simply by adding -el. Kile, having already an 'e' at the end,
simply needs an -l suffix. And finally, where humel previously has an -el
ending, it adds another, and might change its pronounciation a little from
(HU-mel) to (HU-muh-mel), thus making syllables out of different letter
combinations. You can also add, if you wish, exceptions for strange letters
like x, y, and z. You may make it sound a little better, but only at the cost
of adding to the complexity of the rules of grammer. Keep track of these
rules and exceptions somewhere.
When adding prefixes or suffixes, don't add more than one or two letters, as
you're significantly change the sound, and thus the meaning, of the word. You
want to keep them noticably similar... usually. In genius societies where
great and greatest need to be determined quite differently, you might have two
completely indistinguishably different words.
Phase changes you'll want to cover are: singular/plural, gender (optionally), and other
and miscellaneous things (food may be 'hun' for planted food and 'hunir' for
hunted meat food).
When you create a noun, think of all the actions that would go along with
that--verbs--and make sure you have all the words to describe it--adjectives.
Then create the prepositions you'll want to use with it. If it has a hole in
it, through might be used, as well as many others. But with prepositions
you'll find that all the basic preps. you need you created with the first
twenty or so nouns. And when doing so, keep all nouns basically related to
one topic, moving on when you think you have covered every aspect of that
topic. This is also an excellent way to learn the language.
6. Verbs and Tenses
When you create a verb, also create with it any adverbs that may be used with
it as well as prepositions. If you run, you will want to 'run under ...' and
'run through ...', etc.
Verbs are really no different in creation than nouns, in that you need
suffixes and prefixes to create different phases of the words. However, those
phases are tenses (past/present/future), instead of gender, etc.
The prefix/suffix rules you use should not resemble that of any other prefix/
suffix method you have used with any other part of speech before, to avoid
confusion. That way you can identify quite easily what part of speech the
word is without actually knowing its meaning. This is extremely useful when
learning the language. You can learn the words through their context and your
mind will pick them up more easily, knowing there are little tips like that to
Given the statement: "The gorgon dityels the enral."
Gorgon means 'runner' and dityels means 'passes' you know that "The runner
passes the enral," whatever an enral is. In this case, you might see that
enral is a torch in marathon running or a baton in races in which people run
parts of the race. Consistancy is an invaluable tool in the case of building
something you must then remember.
7. Adjectives and Adverbs
Adding almost as much detail as prepositions comes adjectives and adverbs.
Adjectives describe nouns, such as 'WHITE pants' or 'FLOWING water'. Adverbs
describe actions, such as 'ran QUICKLY' or 'MADLY thrashed'. Adjectives can
be converted to adverbs in the English language simply by adding an -ly
suffix. This does not apply to all adjectives, but for the most part, this
will work. 'He FLOWINGLY danced,' would work, but 'He WHITELY painted' sounds
odd, and so it is the responsibility of the speaker to make himself clear. A
prefix/suffix rule could be added here as was done in the noun section (see
8. Date and Time
Time and date is almost something not worth mentioning here, but you may wish
to make the months and days called something different. For example, you may
have your own names for months and days, and include your old holidays and
celebrated events (in a fantasy game, for example).
While this may seem to make things complex, it is worth it in the respect that
when speaking your other langauge, you may say "Jal gelan duth huardey
January un rena!" It seems crude and sluggish, though it works. That is the
definition of a kludge, and that is what your language will be, a kludge.
When creating the Drow language for AD&D I even changed the names of the
already different months on the surface. The Drow live below the earth,
several miles in fact, and I figured their completely different culture would
name their seasons and months accordingly.
Time will not change unless you are creating for a fantasy gaming world, where
perhaps clocks do not yet exist. You would have different cycles of the sun
on the surface, while below in the Underdark of the Drow, they have a magical
fire that crawls a pillar, called Narbondel in one city. Different phases
represent different times, more precise than the sun because you have no
clouds to block it! Use your imagination and consider the culture for these
1. Sentence Structure
There are many ways one can speak words, by--in the English language--putting
the subject first, then the verb and the object, or another method. While
using your own way gets tricky when it comes to translation, the difference is
unique and "neat". The English method is practicle and implies a possessive-
oriented society, but that may not suit your purpose.
Our syntax varies: <subject> <predicate>
...with the optional descriptive phrase entering before, after, or in-between
either the subject or the predicate.
Take, for example, the Roman empire, where they placed the verb first, then
then noun and its object. This shows their affection for action, as their
society was based on action, from the gladiators to chariot races, even to one
of the several wars they had.
Their syntax would be: <predicate> <subject> [<descriptive preps>]
Other languages, such as Clyde Heaton's Elvish, places all descriptive
prepositional phrases and colorful words first, showing their disregard for
time. Since they are a nearly immortal people, living to the age of 1200,
they can afford to set aside the main topic of speech to focus on the mood.
This makes a better understanding of their situation, for example, when an elf
comes back to his king and reports failure. The king would listen to the
details foremost to discern if he had, perhaps, led his subject on an
impossible mission. However, when angered or in a hurry--such as in war--they
would skip description all-together and use a more Roman-based sentence
Their syntax would be: [<descriptive preps>] <predicate> <subject>.
While when speaking many exceptions to these syntaxes creep in--both from the
fact that you're using English to learn it, and therefore borrow, and that
sometimes things just can't be spoken clearly that way. That will happen in
any society, ours especially.
2. Dual-Word Transformation
In the less intelligent races of the fantasy worlds, the use of prefixes and
suffixes is rare. Indeed, any sort of organization of words would be used
only with things that the race favors, such as war in the case of orcs, or
stone- and metal-work for dueger dwarves. This is true for tenses of verbs
and adjective/adverb conversions, but not gender or singular/plural forms.
The statement "dez dotad" means 'killed' in Common Orcish. "Dez" means
'kill', but the speaker wanted a past tense, so he included the adverb
"dotad", making it past tense.
Watch for too much of this however, as it makes slow-speaking creatures the
target of others' frustration. Saying some verbs in present tense can be
dangerous in war-driven communities.
IV Learning, Teaching, and Expansion
1. Word Lists and Topics
The best method that I have found with the creation of languages is the use of
index cards, suggested to me by an article on languages in Dragon Magazine
No.75, by TSR, a fine AD&D subscription magazine. That article is the basis of
my work, so I owe credit to them.
Get several hundred of these cards and make two indexes, one for English and
the other for the language you are creating, and arrange them in alphabetical
order (as you add to it). This way, you avoid repitition of words in both
cases (creating new words when you have already used that particular made-up
word and by designating two new words for one English word). On one side put
your language, and on the reverse, the English translation. This is, in
addition, an excellent way to study them.
You can't very well use a language effectively when you don't know anyone else
who knows your language. Whether you find a friend to help create the
language, or if you do it yourself, make sure others know about it. This will
develop your skills in that language, and help you to see flaws in it. You
might say to yourself "that doesn't sound good" or "that could be smoothed out
a little". This is good; it means you've taken interest to perfect a
language, and it will always turn out for the better. After you get things
pretty much down pat, don't be afraid to make a few exceptions of adjustments
to make it sound better.
Half the fun is stumbling over simple sentences... Starting a new language
isn't easy, but it is rewarding.
3. The Written Word
Most languages use the standard ASCII type characters, usually the same 26 or
so letters of the English alphabet. However, runes, symbols, and calligraphy
can enhance your language immensely, and give it your own personal flaire.
This is something that will not and cannot be discussed in a simple ASCII
file. This I leave to you to develop. Make it as creative as you want it to
be; smooth and extravagant, or blunt and crude. Of the several written
languages I've made, I know only one. After a while you get to know runes of
your own hand and you start to read them as if they were plain, English words
before you. It really does give you a sense of satisfaction and
accomplishment when your first language becomes quickly to your lips and your
Good luck upon creating your own language, for you'll need it. 'Tis not a
frustrating experience, though it does take quite a bit of dedication. Create
too many, and spread them too thin, and they'll also become bland and wear
thin. This I also know. Many little single-purpose languages have I written
and forgotten. I think you will find much greater satisfaction in creating
one big one.
Until next I write,
Appendix A: Basic Words