We share an interest in constructed languages, and today she is going to tell us about Draconic, a language from Dragon Wars.
Draconic – or this really isn’t how you should do a fantasy language (not even one that’s just for naming)
When I started writing The Dragon Wars Saga I had to do some world-building. It was interesting because while I’m not the first (and won’t be the last) writer to create a fantastical rather than hard fantasy world there was precious little advice on the web about how to do the former. I really had to go it alone. One of my previous guest blogs over at Feral Intensity discusses this.
I also needed a naming language – Draconic, which is the formal language of the Dragons in the series. I really didn’t have the faintest about conlanging and I kind of just winged it. This probably wasn’t the best idea, but there you go.
It was lucky because it’s just a naming language – even dragons only use draconic formally – so I didn’t need to work out the grammar in any great detail. But looking back I perhaps should have made a phonetics and phonotactics table. When I need a new draconic name I don’t have a table of permissible sounds and combinations which means I have to work out if the word I’m thinking of sounds right by saying it and comparing it to other names and words. Fortunately I have a pretty good grasp of the phonotactics in my head so it hasn’t been much of a problem.
I did run into phonotactics problems a couple of times. One of the dragon ranks/honorifics alra/alran did not pluralise nicely – which I didn’t realise until I tried to do it. Alri is just wrong (pluralising Ala rather than Alra) and Alrri would indicate trilling the r twice as long. But natural languages are full of such bumps so I resolved it by having a vowel insert in such situations to give Alrari.
Here’s some other facts about draconic:
• Draconic is rich is approximants – r,l and y especially. The r’s are trilled and the l’s very liquid. They also use stops a lot though not so much they make the language sound closed.
• The language is gendered – -a = female, -an = male, -ri is plural, plural can be used where gender is unknown but more usually they use female in that case. There is also -te which refers to abstracts and neutrals. Example words (miri – chief or ruler) – miria, mirian, miriri for people, miriate – everything that falls under the rulership of a particular miria. Worlds are always referred in the feminine – Taloa (Earth), Talonyka (The Speaker’s World), Kithra (The world of the Kithreiri).
If I had to give any advice to someone making a fantasy naming language for the first time it would be to at least work out all possible sounds and the way they can fit together before you start. It’ll save you pain later.
Becka Sutton is a self-described crazy cat lady, but she’s not very good at it: while she is crazy she only has one cat. She was born in Britain in 1972 and has lived there her entire life. In her early teens she started scrawling fantasy stories in exercise books her mother bought her to stop her scribbling in her school books. She hasn’t stopped writing since, and she credits writing as the outlet that allowed her to recover from the nervous breakdown she had after her parents died.
Her other interests include reading, listening to music, attempting to draw, growing her own vegetables and looking after the aforementioned Pumpkin cat.
No, you can’t read the novel she scrawled as a teen – she burned it long ago because it was awful.
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