Creating a basic naming language

A naming language is a very basic conlang: a phonology, an orthography, a small dictionary, and enough grammar to name things: people, places, deities, etc. Naming languages aren’t intended used for full sentences or passages, so there’s no need to create detailed grammars.

Of course, you can always do that. Your conlang just wouldn’t be a strict naming language anymore.

Step 1: Phonology

The first thing I think about when creating a naming language is (aside from the culture that will be speaking it, of course) the phonology. A phonology is the sounds that comprise a language and how those sounds fit together – syllables, morae, stress, tone, etc.

What consonants do I want the language to have? What vowels? Do I want consonant clusters? Diphthongs? Vowel harmony? All those decisions are made in this stage.

Looking at the phonology of a real-world language can be helpful. If I want a language to sound Finnish, or Japanese, or Irish, I look at the sounds of that particular language.

In my amateur conlanger opinion, Wikipedia is actually a pretty good reference for phonology. Here are the Wikipedia pages for Finnish phonology, Japanese phonology, and Irish phonology.

Picking phonemes

Now, let’s pick out some vowel sounds: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/

And some consonants: /p/, /t/, /k/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /s/, /ʃ/, /x/, /j/, /ɹ/

I like to organize this information in tables:

naminglang1

Some of these sounds may look unfamiliar to those unfamiliar with linguistics:

  • /ŋ/ is the sound in sing
  • /ʃ/ is the sound in shoe and ash
  • /x/ is sound in Scottish loch and German acht
  • /ɹ/ is the non-trilled, non-rolled, non-tapped, r-sound used in English words such as red, right, and wrong
  • /j/ is the consonantal sound in yes and you

If you want to familiarize yourself with IPA, here’s an IPA chart with sounds.

For this example conlang, I’ve decided against having diphthongs or vowel harmony. Maybe another time!

Deciding on a syllable structure

Syllables can have relatively simple structures of CV, like in me /mi/ or more ridiculous structures like CCCVCCCC, like in strengths /stɹɛŋkθs/. Yes, that’s three consonants, followed by one vowel, followed by four more consonants, all in the same syllable.

Let’s use a simple CV syllable structure, where C = any consonant and V = any vowel. This produces syllables such as:

  • mi, mu, me, mo, ma
  • pi, pu, pe, po, pa
  • si, su, se, so, sa

Stress

This probably isn’t entirely necessary for a naming language, especially if you never actually plan on pronouncing any of the words you create. I like to do it anyway.

Let’s put the stress on the first syllable of a word, because that’s pretty easy to remember:

  • /ˈmo.mo/
  • /ˈna.na.ka/
  • /ˈka.sa.ja.ni/

Step 2: Orthography

What letters are you going to use to represent the sounds of your language? I generally like to stick with something naturalistic. There’s no reason, of course, that you can’t use <c> to represent /t/, or <X> to represent /a/. However, a language that did that would be obnoxious.

naminglang2

I generally arrange my orthography like this, with separate tables for consonants and vowels. I find it’s easier to keep track of things this way.

Step 3: A Dictionary

This is where I start creating the words I need – names & placenames. I generally find creating words to be pretty tedious, so this is my least favorite part of the process.

Usually what I do is create a word and assign an meaning to it. Here are a couple of examples using the words I created earlier:

  • momo – noun – bird
  • nanaka – noun – king
  • kasajani – adjective – red-colored

This continues until I have all the words I think I need. Most of my planning & worldbuilding happens before I start writing, but it’s inevitable that I miss something and end up having to come up with a couple more names later on in the story.

Step 4: Basic Grammar

Sometimes I skip this part if all I need are names. Okay, I usually skip this part for a naming language. But it may be worthwhile to work out how adjectives modify nouns or how the verbs in your language work. This usually requires deciding which cases, genders/classes & numbers a noun/adjective is marked for, and tense (at the very least) for verbs.

Two naming languages I created for The Book of Immortality

Meitsung soré: the main language of the elves and humans in the Meitsung Empire.

  • Lisel = bigleaf hydrangea
  • Tsensung = heavenly overseer
  • Suli = purple
  • Showakelu = stone river
  • Meitsung  =splendid
  • soré = language
  • Hengshal = north borderland
  • Shensi = east homeland
  • Kelutshélin = river plateau
  • Shihun = great lake
  • Ménghun = south lake
  • Méngwing Nang = southwestern mountain range
  • Wingshal = west borderland
  • Tengming = central capital city

Mayu lháni: the language of the tigers. It has the sound /ɬ/ <lh>, which I think is most commonly known as the Welsh <ll> sound.

  • Muhánquri = mountain tribe
  • Hirúka = shining sun
  • Qursin = luck + belief
  • mayu = language
  • lháni = tiger
  • Arquhin = true origin
  • Símaqágu = great forest

A goal to work towards in 2021

I’ve gotten back into conlanging recently after being rather unmotivated for the past couple of years. I don’t know why it is that I’m suddenly interested in working on my conlangs all of a sudden, but I am excited to get back into this hobby again.

The documentation I created for most of my conlangs is not the best. Everything is spread out over multiple spreadsheets and word documents – sometimes even different folders! Things are not where I expect them to be, half-finished dictionaries are everywhere, and different versions of the same conlang exist in the same folder…without revision numbers.

And thus a new goal was born: clean up each conlang. After a bit of planning & deliberating, I decided that for each conlang, I’d do each of these things:

  1. Write a description/overview/summary
  2. Create a complete phonology, including allophony, assimilation, stress, etc.
  3. Finalize the orthography
  4. Work out the entire grammar – nouns, verbs, adjectives, sentence structure, etc. with tons of examples
  5. Create a dictionary with all necessary words
  6. Write a description of the conlang on the Conlangs page of this website
  7. Put the conlang on Conworkshop

Yep, I plan on creating a Conlangs page on this website! I had one a long time ago, then deleted it when I wanted to focus this website more on writing. I also plan on making posts about my conlanging process & history, and individual conlangs themselves.

I hope the rest of you are as excited about this as I am!

My introduction to conlanging

I was introduced to The Lord of the Rings in my first year of high school in 2008. We were reading The Hobbit in English class, and the teacher ended up showing us some of the Lord of the Rings films. I was hooked instantly, bought the books, and convinced my parents to buy the extended editions of the movies. My sister and I watched them frequently.

2008 was the year I first participated in NaNoWriMo. I decided to write a fantasy novel of my own called Runes. This is the original summary:

A race from the Otherworld, the Divine, came to Lochlann and Éirinn. Ten thousand years after that, Zoë Austran is training to become a soldier and a cartographer so she can map little-known areas and discover new lands. However, all of that changes when she meets a half-elf named Cross Éremon. Her little brother, Leon, and “family demon”, Azaré, go missing. She, Cross, Allen and Malcolm (brother and cousin, respectively) go across Éirinn in search of them.

I was super into Irish mythology at the time. Can you tell?

At some point in 2008, I decided that the Divine people needed their own language. This was after I’d started creating and naming the gods and heroes of the world. Their names were a mishmash of Old Irish and Old English, modified to seem like they were part of the same language. This is how the Divine language started.

This language eventually became to be known as “Visanan”. I decided that the word order was Object-Subject-Verb (later changed to Subject-Object-Verb), that nouns had no cases and verbs had very little inflection, and that it had originally been spoken in the four cities of Falias, Murias, Findias, and Gorias. Yes, more Irish mythological references! I changed the names of those cities to Visanan versions later on: Sé Halanivethéas, Sé Leothéas, Sé Garsethéas, and Sé Aelewithéas.

Here is part of a “poem” I wrote describing each city:

Sé gion céasteal ieldanlin sa sé Visanan Mú norinma le.

(The four ancestral cities of the Visanan are located in Mú)

Ionie, Sé Halanivethéas, Céaste sa Halanivesin.

(The first is Sé Halanivethéas, the City of Serendipity)

Gerinél Grennirvisanan sindon, norin nodon sindon.

(Its color is Visanan green, and its location is North)

Sé Halanivethéas céaste sa halanivesin así miurea sindon.

(Sé Halanivethéas is the city of serendipity and innovation)

Vionie, Sé Léothéas, Céaste sa Léo.

(The second is Sé Léothéas, the City of Light)

Gerinél gilden sindon, norin sidon sindon.

(Its color is gold, and its location is East)

Sé Léothéas céaste sa léo así aethesos sindon.

(Sé Léothéas is the city of light and understanding)

Vivionie, Sé Garsethéas, Céaste sa Garsewer.

(The third id Sé Garsethéas, the City of the Sea)

Gerinél maelvisanan sindon, norin desidon sindon.

(Its color is Visanan blue, and its location is South)

Sé Garsethéas céaste sa wires así gares sindon.

(Sé Garsethéas is the city of hardiness and endurance)

Gionie, Sé Aelewithéas, Céaste sa Aelenwini.

(Te fourth is Sé Aelewithéas, the City of White Flame)

Gerinél wini sindon, norin vedon sindon.

(Its color is white, and its location is West)

Sé Aelewithéas céaste sa friuwe así libowe sindon.

(Sé Aelewithéas is the city of truth and fact)

After I did all this work, I realized it would be more interesting if each of the four cities had their own dialects, and that Visanan needed to be reworked as a proto-language. I never actually succeeded at doing this. The above poem shows the general aesthetic I wanted to keep in one of the daughter languages, but I was never able to derive a language from the proto-language that I found satisfactory.

I finished writing Runes (all 168,305 words of it) in March 2011 and set it aside. I originally intended to edit it, but there were too many changes I’d made during the middle of the story. In March 2011, I was 16 and did not have the discipline to edit a novel. I didn’t want to do it, so I didn’t. There were other stories in the Runes universe to write, and I moved onto those. And so I continued working on Visanan.

By mid-2016, Old Visanan was more of a conlang than any of the previous versions of Visanan, with a regular orthography, a phonology that made sense, and a fairly decent, sensible grammar for a largely analytic language. However, I’d either finished writing or scrapped every single story in the Runes universe years earlier. There was no need for me to continue working on the language, so I didn’t.

I worked on this language on-and-off for almost eight years. I’ve never spent so much time on any conlang in my life. It’s honestly incredible that one thing managed to occupy so much of my free time for so long! And I don’t know why I kept working on this language for so long. Maybe because it was my first conlang and I didn’t want to abandon it?

Has anyone here ever made a conlang, or been interested in constructed languages?

Lexember 2018

This Lexember, I worked on Rennukat – the conlang that I created for The Land of Two Moons.

Day 1

iro [ˈi.ro] v. to exist physically

Tsu rennut iro.

[tsu ˈrɛn.nʊt ˈi.ro]

two moon.NOM.PL exist.PRS.IND

“There are two moons”.

Day 2

Language: Rennukat

syven [ˈsy.vɛn] n. star

Day 3

syvekerru [ˈsy.ve.ˌkɛr.ru] n. galaxy (star-cloud)

Day 4

rennudiren [ˈrɛn.nu.ˌdi.rɛn] n. an impact crater caused by the former moon Ellinen

Day 5

lerucha [le.ˈru.tʃa] n. theocracy. A loanword from Ciniáne leruggeá [le.rud.dʒe.ˈɑː] “God republic”

Day 6

hasra [ˈhas.ra] n. desert

Day 7

varasynne [ˈva.ra.ˌsʏn.ne] n. taijitu. From vara “dark” + synne “light”.

Day 8

maita [ˈmaɪ.ta] n. magic.

vara maita “dark magic”

synne vaita “light magic”

Day 9

nahtaryklun [ˈnah.ta.ˌrʏk.lʊn] n. spirit weapon. From nahta “soul” + ryklun “weapon”.

Day 10

Akoisusei [ˈa.koɪ.ˌsu.seɪ] n. The Goddess of Mercy. From akoi “behold” + susei “mercy”.

Day 11

dyhtail [ˈdʏh.taɪl] n. deity

Day 12

soiny [ˈsoɪ.ny] n. pigeon

Day 13

aven [ˈa.vɛn] n. crossroad. Sai Avenit “The Crossroads” is a city in the Western District of Tsurennupaiva.

Day 14

chanda [ˈtʃan.da] n. serendipity. Chanda is the name of the current Avatar of Akoisusei (The Goddess of Mercy).

Day 15

Sairren [ˈsaɪr.rɛn] n. One of the moons that orbits the planet Talassa.

Day 16

Veitlen [ˈveɪt.lɛn] n. One of the moons that orbits the planet Talassa. Also the name of one of the protagonists of The Land of Two Moons.

Day 17

koissa [ˈkoɪs.sa] n. avatar

Day 18

meinara [meɪ.ˈna.ra] n. planet

Day 19

tsyra [ˈtsy.ra] n. diamond

pevu tysra “carbonado (black diamond)”

Day 20

narzyll [ˈnar.sʏl] n. beryl. This is an old loanword that’s kept its spelling.

juki narzyll “goshenite”

kane narzyll “red beryl”

losir narzyll “morganite”

ris narzyll “aquamarine”

ryt narzyll “emerald”

tuura narzyll “heliodor”

Day 21

hallionhiljon [hal.ˈli.ɔn.ˌhɪl.jon] n. solstice. From hallion “sun” + hiljo “stand still”. The final –n exists solely because hallionhiljo sounded too awkward.

Day 22

mortjara [mɔr.ˈtʃa.ra] n. sapphire. From mor “deep blue” + tjara “gem”.

Day 23

kanetjara [ˈka.ne.ˌtʃa.ra] n. ruby. From kane “red” + tjara “gem”.

Day 24

sherir [ˈʃe.rɪr] n. quartz. A loanword from an old, lost language.

Day 25

diren sherir [ˈdi.rɛn ˈʃe.rɪr] n. stishovite. From diren “crater” + sherir “quartz”.

Day 26

aritehde [ˈa.ri.ˌtɛh.de] n. silver. From ariana “silver color” + tehde “metal”.

Day 27

haturra tehde [ha.ˈtu.ra ˈtɛh.de] n. gold. From hatuura “gold color” + tehde “metal”.

Day 28

artemaren tehde [ˈar.te.ˌma.rɛn ˈtɛh.de] n. bismuth. From artemaren “rainbow” + tehde “metal”.

Day 29

natarika [ˈna.ta.ˌri.ka] n. demon.

Day 30

vuhta [ˈvʊh.ta] n. ghost

Day 31

manavah [ma.ˈna.vah] n. human