Monday, July 04, 2011

Planetary Romance: On the Use of a Conlang...

Good Afternoon, All:

One of the defining elements of early Planetary Romance series is the introduction of small glossaries of unusual words, purportedly in the native tongue of the planet. Avid readers of the genre might recall items liked those mentioned in this Barsoomian Glossary, this Glossary of Persons, Places and Things in the Sage of Prescot of Antares, or this Glossary of Gorean Terms. It seems to me that any true Planetary Romance setting should follow in these popular examples, and come up with at least a minimal constructed language glossary for their setting. In a previous post on constructed languages from last year, I mentioned that I had begun the creation of a constructed language for my old World of Samardan setting. Personally, I enjoy creating conlangs (constructed languages), but given the depth that you can take such efforts, you could easily lose your world-building development time as you focus on your conlang development. Toward that end, I'd like to offer the following information for those who wish to pursue such a task and still keep their sanity (and that of their players).

First, there are only a few areas you really need to invented words in order to create the illusion of another world. Taking from the experts, we can see that those areas pretty much focus on:
  • titles of nobility,
  • animals/creatures,
  • basic numbers,
  • measurements of time and distance, and finally
  • place names,
  • people names,
  • the occasional oath.
You don't need to be able to recite the Tower of Babel text or the Lord's Prayer in your newly invented tongue. That's going a little overboard, in my opinion (although I've done enough work on Samardan's trade tongue to get close in some regards, so I speak from experience.)

In closing this particular post, I'll leave you with an example of the work I did for World of Samardan, the most commonly used titles of nobility.

Common Titles (Original Version - World of Samardan)
  • Sen: One who is a mentor, teacher, sage or a member of mystic peerage.
  • Pansanu: One who holds the noble title of Lord.
  • Jun: One who is a member of a martial order or peerage; a knight.
  • Kulin: One who holds the noble title of Baron.
  • Korin: One who holds the noble title of Marquis.
  • Stran: One who holds the noble title of Count.
  • Razha: One who holds the noble title of Duke.
  • Nabil: One who holds the position of a Minister for a kingdom.
  • Balidin: One who holds the noble title of King.
  • Amandin: One who holds the noble title of Emperor.

Note: The feminine form of these titles is derived by applying the feminine -ba suffix to the end of the title. Example, a woman belonging to an exclusively-female martial order of peerage would be addressed by the title of Junba, while a Queen of Pain would bear the title of Balidinba.

Yes, it was confusing at first, and I'd recommend dropping your titles of nobility to three (low, medium and high) or four (low, medium, high, king/emperor) to avoid that in your own settings. However, once the players picked up on it, we were able to use the more common examples they encountered very easily, and it added a lot of flavor to the setting. It also removed much of the standard European cultural bias that went with the more traditional titles.

This is just something to think about.

With Regards,

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