Recently I found again some notes I thought were lost on some alien languages I was creating for one of my WIPs. I thought I’d write a little about how I create alien languages.
Why even create alien languages? Well, your alien characters need names. As do places on your alien worlds, and alien concepts. Creating alien-sounding words is better than naming your aliens Tom and Bill.
How I do it is I pick out 2 real languages, such as Indonesian and Dutch for my language for the alien Lizard race, and mingle them.
For example, I pick a word from Dutch, slang, and a word from Indonesian, ular. I take the front half of a word from the one language and combine with the back half from the other. I come up with ‘slar.’ Reversing the process, I come up with ‘ulang’.
I like ‘ulang’ better than ‘slar’, so ‘ulang’ becomes the native Lizard name for the Lizard race. I randomly add ‘-in’ to it to form the plural, so ‘Lizards’ is translated ‘ulangin’. So— the ulang language has a plural.
I make a list of something like 15 Dutch words and 15 Indonesian words and create a list of some 30 words in Ulang-pa, the Lizard language. They include some of the following: Alliri, sendeen, beggup, sangwaam, gunerg, hoopala, kefd, sednig, baper, and hoepi.
Any time I need name an Ulang character, I pick a word from the list to be his name. If I need a word for a concept, I pick one from the list— such as ‘sendeen’, which means an Ulang tribe or sept.
If I wanted to create words and phrases in the language, I have to make some decisions about the words of Ulang-pa— the nouns, verbs, adverbs and pronouns. And if there are any useful affixes that Ulang-pa uses. We already seem to have -pa for ‘language of’ and ‘-in’ to mark the plural. I then pick out words from the list and assign those words meaning, and can use the words to form phrases and sentences in Ulang-pa.
The multilingual dictionary pictured above, ‘The Concise Dictionary of 26 Languages,’ is the book I used to create the Ulang-pa language. But it’s not the only source book I have used. When I created a language for the alien Menders, I used ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian as my 2 languages.
I use for my reference book for Greek the book ‘Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible’, which contains a dictionary of all the Greek words used in the Protestant Bible. For ancient Egyptian, I have a book on the ancient Egyptian language I bought at the Egypt museum in San Jose, California, when I was a teenager.
The Mender language is somewhat more developed. I have a list of male and female given names, and a list of 24 names of noble Mender houses. I also have a few Mender words, some of which are derived purely from the ancient Egyptian language. There is ‘saret’ meaning ‘philosophy, theology, wisdom, science’ — a key concept of Mender culture. I have ‘ireepat’ for ‘prince’.
Some of the constructed Mender names I currently have are Epes, Oktsep, Mavret, and Hapas, all male names. And Reri, Meketi, Netari and Yatros, all female names.
The idea of using two different real languages and combining them the way I do is to try to be able to create a set of unrecognizable alien words that have a similar ‘flavor’. Since each alien language has a different set of two languages at the source, each alien language will have its own set of characteristic spellings borrowed from the original languages.
Creating languages, not necessarily for fictional worldbuilding purposes, is a hobby of its own. Invented languages are usually called constructed languages or planned languages. Some famous constructed languages are Volapuk, Esperanto and Ido, along with lots of others, created for international communication. Other invented languages, such as Tolkien’s Elvish and Star Trek’s Klingon, are the intellectual property of their creators and cannot be used without permission.