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Writing in Your Own Tongue

Languages of Middle EarthSome very successful fantasy novels have flirted with inventing their own language or languages – among them the Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien was a professional philologist and Old English specialist) and George R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

But many writers just use a few choice words in their new lingua, to give their stories a bit of High Fantasy flavor.

To be sure, a new language isn’t an absolute necessity in Fantasy – it really depends on the story you are telling. But it can add a bit of flair and flavor to your work, setting it apart from others, and if you are really luckey, your own little Dothraki might end uop being spoken by hundreds or even thousands of fan boys and fan girls around the world.

So have you ever invented a language for your own Fantasy work? Did you go whole hog, or just opt for a few key phrases? Did you base it on anything?

And readers, do you enjoy it when an author builds a new tongue in their stories? And if so, what are some of your favorites?


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2 thoughts on “Writing in Your Own Tongue”

  1. I have several works-in-progress that have made up languages. Mostly key phrases. And one story that has a third gender, though that’s not the topic. lol

    As a reader, I enjoy the made-up words, but then I’ve read scifi/fantasy/high fantasy since I was little and cut my teeth on Tolkien’s world.

    As a writer, it’s not always easy, and one of my works-in-progress will contain a glossary for reference, though I’m making sure the content in the story has enough description so the reader knows what the word/phrase is.


  2. I do like invented languages as a reader. Even just a few words or phrases, including curses, really add texture to a fantasy world. Tolkien is the epitome, of course. He more or less built his mythology around the languages, rather than the other way around. I love the elvish tongue Sindarin It’s a beautiful language. In fact, the languages of elven-type characters in fantasy often seem particularly mellifluous.

    Something else kind of fun you see more in sci-fi is changes in human language as cultures meld, technologies develop, and words morph into “future” forms. I’m thinking of things like Firefly, which is a different medium, of course, that had the Mandarin curses mixed in with English.

    And then there is the whole concept of names having power that you often find in High Fantasy. Stop me now or I might write a whole essay on that topic!



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