Things I Learned Today (June 19, 2012)

Today (all right, yesterday) was a research and writing day; as I get closer to grad school, and my Design Goals loom, I’m going to be doing these more and more often.

The big one—and the reason this post is going to be so minimal—is this: attempting to assign a set of languages as described by a setting into language families is hard. It’s even harder when your source material can’t stay in its own language families. (Check out the D&D 3.5 PHB sometime—the gnomish surnames are mostly English with one blatantly Germanic entry thrown into the middle, we’re still not sure what the orcish names are supposed to derive from, the elves are sort of consistent maybe with each other but not with any language I’ve ever seen, and the halflings are all over the map. My consultant couldn’t figure out whether to laugh or have a headache.) And… well, some people may not think about this too closely, but I’m going to have this thing published, I’m living under the same roof as a linguist who will cheerfully spend an evening telling me where linguistic drift comes from and speculating as to the family tree of the D&D races, and dangit I am going to make sure that the resulting language map at least makes sense to me. I may post on the parts I actually learned later, when I get them all into something approximating order and figure out what you wonderful people (or at least, the ones who didn’t already spend years on creative linguistics message boards) would find most useful. For now I think I’d best rest.

On the other hand, learning the kinds of facts that are useful when figuring out linguistic drift and prior relations is fun. Our conversation covered the fact that Icelandic Does Not Do Loanwords, five different types of clicks (none of which are going to make their way into my work anytime soon, I promise you that), the fascinating geographic spread of Indo-European languages, the use of honey in developing the Korean writing system,

Blue apricots are a thing. It’s not that I’m not familiar with the extensive family of things that exist on the continuum between apricots and plums: I’ve seen pluots, I’ve seen plumcots, I’ve seen apriums, and after a while I thought I’d seen them all. Then I saw blue apricots, which are the color of black plums, the shape of apricots, and fuzzy. Still need to try one, though. This probably isn’t quite as relevant to my writing or my design work, but it makes for a fun illustration of the fact that there are an infinite number of points on any line segment between any two definite points.

Spelling “hierophant” is a pain in the neck. It’s far too easy to transpose the e and the i.

Learn anything interesting today?

1 comment

  1. Shinali says:

    Just remember the role of isolated languages, especially if you have a reclusive/isolated fantasy race. The best example of how language change operates I was ever shown was to compare a word’s etymology for something like “ascension,” which is less often used to say the conjugations of “to be” in related languages. Language change is not consistent, it is based on people being lazy and being more likely to modify/slur common words (“jeetyet?” for “did you eat yet?) than obscure or formal ones. People are funny that way.

Leave a Reply