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Constructed Languages and Intuitive *~ Culture Feels ~*


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#1
J.E. Sawyer

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This thread is about the technical aspects of PE's constructed languages.  If you don't find the subject interesting, it may be very boring to you.

 

For PE, I am developing a number of constructed languages (conlangs) to a limited extent to help establish the flavor of the world and the distinct cultures within it.  With each conlang, there is (or are) a number of real-world languages used as a starting point.  Eld Aedyran is based on Old English with elements of Danish and Icelandic.  Vailian is based on a mixture of Italian, French, and Occitan.  The ancient Engwythan language (used by the previous residents of Eír Glanfath) is based on Cornish.  Glanfathan (used by the current Glanfathan tribes) is based on Old Irish and contemporary Irish.

 

The orthography of most of these languages is relatively straightforward.  A moderately-informed reader will likely mentally read the words and names with 80% accuracy, pronunciation-wise.  Players may read the Eld Aedyran name Durnisc as "DUR-nisk" instead of "DUR-nish", but most of the time, they're going to be in the ballpark.  If players read about the Vailian consuagli asegia (siege councils), they may not get the stress "right" or hit every consonant cluster correctly in their heads, but they probably won't stumble over the words.

 

The exception to this is Glanfathan, based on Irish.  The foundations of Irish orthography in the Latin alphabet go back over a millennium and had to adapt to using Latin orthography for sounds that probably didn't exist in Latin, like /v/.  Irish orthography also uses a set of rules for consonant pronunciation that are based on the surrounding vowels (slender or broad).  Irish cased grammar can also mutate words in a way that forces the insertion of additional vowels to maintain their "slender to slender, broad to broad" vowel rules, which means the consonants in between can wind up changing pronunciation as well.

 

The result is Irish's distinctive "boatload of letters" appearance and unintuitive (to most English-speakers) pronunciation.  In contrast, Cornish (another Celtic, but not Goedelic, language) did not develop standard Latin orthography for many more centuries.  Its pronunciation is much more intuitive to the uninitiated.  Despite the fact that Cornish exists in a different branch of the Celtic language tree, it shares some etymological roots with Irish, but the pronunciation is almost always more intuitive.  However, written Cornish is much less distinctive from written Irish.

 

When you see something written in Irish, there's little doubt what language you're looking at, but the pronunciation will quite often not be "right" in your head.  As it applies to the languages, names, etc. in Project Eternity, how much do you care about the intuitive pronunciation of our conlangs?

 

E.g. in the various Icewind Dale/Dark Elf books, Drizzt's panther is named Guenhwyvar.  Most people don't know that the Welsh pronunciation of that name is close to "Guinevere".  Does that matter?  If you see a name like Dair Bhriste, how important is it to you that the way you pronounce it in your head is the way it is "supposed" to be pronounced?


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#2
Morgulon the Wise

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I do care. Much.  It would be really awesome to hear and see the conlangs and its influences.

 

I like Tolkien, the creation of new or similar languages or conlangs so thumbs up from my side. Is there any possibility to adapt the scottish accent? I dunno if Cornish sounds in that direction.

 

Please give us a sound update on this! I want to "taste" it with my ears!



#3
IndiraLightfoot

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First off, I'm very happy you're going the route of conlangs in order to achieve cultural variety and distinctiveness. Thank you!

 

As for that second question: It doesn't matter a single bit to me. Morgulon mentioned Tolkien, one of our planet's most popular authors. Interestingly enough, most of his fans wouldn't even know how to pronounce "Tolkien" the right way. Why? Because they may be from other countries and with other languages than in what Tolkien's works were written. Also, they may be English speakers that simply don't know the "correct" pronunciation. I've been watching a series called The Hour recently. The protagonist is called Rowley. The other characters pronounce it differently - there are two versions circulating in the show - and sometimes one and the same characters shift pronunciation. Think of the surname of David Bowie.

 

Does this diminish the work, or my appreciation of all of its details and facets? Not at all. The experience is all in the head of the reader/viewer/player. So, don't sweat it. But please stay consistent on those conlang-cultures when naming things, places, persons, objects, etc.


Edited by IndiraLightfoot, 17 June 2013 - 11:34 AM.

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#4
Gumbercules

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Thanks for the new info.

 

I think I value the languages appearing appropriately distinct more than I value getting the pronunciations right immediately. That said, if there's a pronunciation guide somewhere in the game or enough voiced dialogue to give context, that would be nice.


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#5
JR.9613

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     It matters a lot to me. I think that the author's context is important and I wouldn't mind at all with having to take the time to learn how to pronounce things that are not immediately apparent. Like Gumbercules said, I value having the languages being distinct, and it isn't the end of the world for me if I screw up saying something as long I figure it out eventually. I do appreciate that you are willing to take the time to add depth to this aspect of the game and I am looking forward to it!


Edited by JR.9613, 17 June 2013 - 11:58 AM.


#6
mcmanusaur

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As long as we don't get names like Z'dgyv-qylix, which is all but unpronounceable by individuals possessing human vocal anatomy, knowing intuitively how something is pronounced isn't very important to me. "Oh, but they're space elves" isn't sufficient compensation for the fact that I must constantly worry whether I'm omitting the third "Z" in a character's name. That said, a language where Latinate pronunciation doesn't apply neatly will likely feel very foreign to a majority of the audience, but this isn't a bad thing if that's the desired effect. But as long as there are patterns and recurring consonant clusters, I can get used to it.

 

To me there's a difference between "Oh, I could pronounce this name but it might not be entirely correct" and "I'm not even going to try". Many fantasy settings go way over the top in creating such bizarre languages that players will end up doing their best to avoid. I'm very happy to hear the constructed languages in Project Eternity will be heavily modeled on real/historical languages.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 17 June 2013 - 12:02 PM.

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#7
Lysen

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I wish I knew Irish or Welsh, they are so cool.


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#8
sesobebo

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if the name is never spoken out loud i won't lose any slep over it.

but i'd preffer if the names were visually distinct, so a NPC named J___ V________ doesn't get mixed up with a NPC named J__ V_________ from a village down the road.


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#9
Sensuki

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I do not care if the names are 'unintuitive' to the average person to pronounce, but then again I already knew how to pronounce "Guenhwyvar" properly, as that name is used in some "King Arthur" stories. Buliwyf from the 13th warrior pronounced Bool-vai as well.

If this is simply regarding pronunciation or if it relates to the voice acting of conlangs, please go with your intended version of the pronunciation, not the pronunciation that you think the majority of people will expect.

It would however be nice to provide some grammar rules or examples in the campaign almanac or player manual for the uninitiated. I would love to learn how to say everything the correct way if I don't know how.

#10
J.E. Sawyer

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I have been trying to keep things in the realm of the comprehensible/not ridiculous, e.g. Cean Gúla is inspired by the banshee or, in Irish, Bean Sí (woman of the Sidhe).  In Irish "woman of blood" would be Bean Fuil (the genitive of "fola", blood).  No matter how we set up pronunciation expectations, 90% of readers will read "bean" as what they eat in a burrito, so I just shifted the initial letter for woman over to "Cean" and made the Glanfathan genitive "of blood" the creepier-looking "Gúla" which isn't too wacky, all things considered.


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#11
JR.9613

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I have been trying to keep things in the realm of the comprehensible/not ridiculous, e.g. Cean Gúla is inspired by the banshee or, in Irish, Bean Sí (woman of the Sidhe).  In Irish "woman of blood" would be Bean Fuil (the genitive of "fola", blood).  No matter how we set up pronunciation expectations, 90% of readers will read "bean" as what they eat in a burrito, so I just shifted the initial letter for woman over to "Cean" and made the Glanfathan genitive "of blood" the creepier-looking "Gúla" which isn't too wacky, all things considered.

 

     I think that, as long as you inform everyone of the real life languages that inspire those in P:E, it shouldn't be too hard for someone to find out how to pronounce anything they have trouble with, if they actually care enough to learn. However, as many have already said, a grammar rule/guideline would help significantly if the resources are available (I would assume they are if the time is being taken to do this in the first place).



#12
OldRPG'sAreGood

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I do care, but I don't think it's that important for the pronunciation to be spot on right after seeing the word, as IMO mispronunciation can help with making a language feel foreign and different. Also, while some might not care much for it, I think that learning a bit of some in-game language gives a feeling of accomplishment.

 

And since were on the subject, will it be possible for the players character to mispronounce names and words alien to the player character? Might create some tense situations, and fun ones as well.


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#13
Tsuga C

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If you see a name like Dair Bhriste, how important is it to you that the way you pronounce it in your head is the way it is "supposed" to be pronounced?


Semi-important if there's a number a cutscenes that employ the language in question or we routinely converse with Glanfathan speakers who pepper their "common" speach with plenty of Glanfathan words; not very important otherwise.

#14
Sensuki

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By the way, what is the correct pronunciation of consuagli asegia ?

 

I took it as con-SWAH-LI A-SEE-JA (or JIA) don't know the exact phonetics but the french g not the english one.



#15
J.E. Sawyer

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kohn-SWAH-ylee ah-SAY-djah



#16
Gfted1

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How will we even know how the words are supposed to be pronounced? Unless they are verbalized in-game wont it be as always, the players will come up with whatever sounds right in their heads.



#17
Sensuki

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kohn-SWAH-ylee ah-SAY-djah

 

Cool, almost, that would be the australian accent getting in the way haha :).


Edited by Sensuki, 17 June 2013 - 12:46 PM.


#18
J.E. Sawyer

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How will we even know how the words are supposed to be pronounced? Unless they are verbalized in-game wont it be as always, the players will come up with whatever sounds right in their heads.

 

That's what I expect, but I wanted to find out how much players care about their expected pronunciation matching the "real" pronunciation (for whatever that is worth).  My assumption was that players don't really care as long as they don't stumble over the words while reading them, but it's a baseless assumption.



#19
Lephys

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A) I add my thanks to the pool for your taking the time to start this thread, and my appreciation to the pool for the amount of effort/detail going into these languages (instead of simply making up cool-sounding words for everything that are tied together only by roots of cool-sounding-ness, and possibly lots of X's, Y's, and Z's).

B) I kind of share McManusaur's sentiments on this. I've read many books/series in which there were hundreds of proper names, of both people and locations, and many terms, etc. If I can't even figure out any kind of pronunciation pattern that's even remotely likened to more common root languages of reality, it becomes difficult to stave off the impact that has. It's like joining an organization that you're going to be involved with regularly and for a while, and never getting properly introduced to anyone. You feel like you don't really know the world as much, like you're lost in a foreign land with no way of reading the signs or speaking to the people.

So, I definitely think there has to be SOME semblence of intuitive nature to the languages, in general. One suggestion I would make (or, rather, support, as it's probably already been thought of, to be honest) is to sort of forgo the complexity of pronunciation rules in the root languages with which you're dealing. Not so much that you make everything the same. But, if there are 10 different ways to pronounce "ae" between two consonants, maybe (since you're pretty much constructing a new language, regardless of how much it borrows from an existing one) reduce that to 2 or so. So that we're not guessing at every single word, "Is that 'ehh' and the 'A' is silent? Or is it a long 'A' sound? Or maybe it's pronounced 'aye' in this word? Or it COULD even be a long 'E' sound..."

That's really the only thing that kinda irks me, even after everything's mostly intuitive in general. It reminds me of all the most ridiculous rules in the English language. "I before E except after C." Etc. Also, in doing so, all it takes is a few sprinkles of voice-over segments to tell us all we need to know. "Hmm... is that person's name Aidan, or AYEdan? Oh, he introduced himself. It's AYEdan? Okay."

I admittedly feel a lot more connected to the world the less I have to worry about whether or not I'm butchering some culture-forged language. And since the languages are basically being hand-crafted, I think we'd benefit more from a much simpler pronunciation ruleset.

I know you already touched on how you're simplifying some otherwise-rather-unintuitive things, but I just wanted to stress the more minor point of not having 17 different ways of pronouncing a compound vowel, however intuitive they all are, individually.

EDIT: In light of the few posts that occurred while I was being a slowpoke with this one (see avatar), I just wanted to say that, if the game never audibly "corrects" my best-guess pronunciation of something I see, it's really not going to impact my experience at all, either way ("YAY I GOT IT RIGHT!" or "Curses! I'm butchering the language!"). Under those circumstances, it's just a simple matter of whether or not the words are fundamentally intuitive so that I can easily make a best guess.

Also, I'd just like to say that it would be very interesting if there were established variations in pronunciation between cultures. You know, like the English "MISS-eyel" versus the American "MISS-uhl."

Edited by Lephys, 17 June 2013 - 01:07 PM.

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#20
Micamo

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As long as we don't get names like Z'dgyv-qylix, which is all but unpronounceable by individuals possessing human vocal anatomy


Georgian

Berber

And my favorite, Nuxalk (Bella Coola)
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