November 19, 2016
I just love world-building so this week's post focuses on key 2! Linguistics is one of my favorite aspects of world-building. This first part of Key 2 focuses on the history of language in the world.
(See Key 1: History.)
This post focuses on Key 2: Linguistics, however this topic is too large for one post!
You can see that the vast majority of it is linguistics. (Yes, that green binder is CRAMMED with hundreds of pages of linguistic material). I believe linguistics is why Tolkien was so brilliant, and why his world breathes such depth and life that is nearly unparalleled in the literary world.
What is linguistics? Linguistics isn’t just “language.” Linguistics is the study of speech’s structure, its nature, and, in my opinion, most importantly the history and evolution of such speech. Linguistics is the gateway to the cultures of a fantasy world. Linguistics is road-map back in time and the definition of the present.
It would take ages for me to talk about just how fascinating, deep, and vital linguistics is to deep world-building, but I will do my best with just a few small examples.
In The Kings series, we spend a lot of time with the elven society. While the linguistic elements heavily influence the world, the details are omitted. Yet if you were to peel back the story for the details, you can see just how deep the linguistics goes—and how much of an influence it has on the culture, word-choice, focus, and magic of the elven world:
Do you wonder why Hairem belittles Ilsevel in politics? Do you wonder why Sellemar seems to take a different approach on the elves? Do you wonder why the True Bloods seem to place genders as equal? Do you wonder why the True Bloods are suggested to be so powerful? Do you wonder why Ilsevel sees the Sel’vi as the superior race? Do you wonder how the different elven races became so divided from one another?
These can all be traced back through linguistics.
Here is an example of Ancient Elven—as you can see, the language and history are wholly bundled—each affects the other:
The Ancient Elven language was the first known language of the intelligent creatures on Ӕrsadore. Words used to be capable of invoking actual, tangible power—Sel’ari’s design of creating a higher race. This is why most modern magic spells are in the ancient elven language.
As the elven language gradually began to be influenced by “lesser races” (aka, non-elves), the elves’ original language (now referred to as ancient elven) began to dissolve. As the language began to deteriorate, so too did the elves’ magical prowess. Generation after generation was born with less magic and thus, begot children with less magic. Eventually, it became just as common to have a child born without any magical potential as it was to have one born with. The need to pronounce words so perfectly became unnecessary (as those who often spoke the language had no power to invoke the words), thus opening the door to a society far less dependent on magic.
Without magic, other skills and professions were developed, and in turn, new cities, relations with other races, ways of life, etc…
With gradual changes over time into racial dialects (as the elves split across Ryekarayn), ancient elven’s final dissolution occurred sometime after the Reformation of the Council, when the vast majority of elves returned from afar to join their brethren in a united kingdom: bringing with them their thousands of years of language, culture, and influences from interactions with other races. This combined influence—this new language—became what is now referred to as Modern Elven.
The purity of Ancient Elven is now restricted to the arcane tongue and formal religious or political ceremonies. It is still commonly practiced by the scholars, mages, and True Bloods.
Ancient Elven has maintained an unchanged language as the words must remain pure to hold power. The language reflects a reflects a gender-equal society with strong ties to religion and upholding the role of women in decisions pertaining to justice (as their goddess, Sel’ari, is the goddess of justice). The language also reflects heavily the love for beauty. Thus, it is argued that the True Blood society is purer, fairer, more religious, and just.
How does the history of the language of the stories you love (or the stories you write) affect the people of the present?
Copyright © 2020 Steps of Power. All Rights Reserved.
Our site content may NOT be sold or used for any commercial purposes.
The artwork on this site is the sole property of Steps of Power and may not be used without permission. When sharing our artwork you must give credit to www.stepsofpower.com.
Free shipping offers only apply to orders shipped within the U.S. For international ordering, see our support page.
Webdesign by Michael Broering: Click here to contact