Linguistics Guide to Shared World Language and Glossary Development

Linguistics Guide to Shared World Language and Glossary Development

Pule has given some really interesting guidance on the words, phrases, names development which we discussed in great detail Tuesday night. So I’m going to relay that as best as I can, and give some exercise he suggested to make this all more our own, and then outline a set of “rules” that we can follow (and those rules then assist anyone coming up with new words or phrases) – almost like a “world building” for language. I’ve then begun the process with the words we’ve all offered up (in particular the planet names as a start point).

Even though we’ve started with words that have meaning (i.e. “Song” in various languages) we can abstract them and use those to inform the rest of the language. This also allows interested readers to try and figure out what we’ve done with those key planets/suns names, and reverse engineer it to find the original meaning.

The objective now is to develop sounds that feel like they belong together rather than the actual meanings. Set aside our writer logical hats and the need for meaning to begin with, and simply play. Think orally rather than written – process these words to produce other words rather than the existing form. Make a game of it.

Play and surprise ourselves – beat your perceptions – imagine you’re learning the language for the first time, rather than knowing what a sound means first. Imagine the anthropologist finding the language and the people for the first time: “In this language, there is reduplication.” “In the native tongue there was no word to point to oneself – “that which you look at”.” 


  • Reverse the word.
  • Say something forward and then backwards, or backwards and forwards and compound them.
  • RANDOMISE: Abstract the words rather than think in terms of meaning. Have two hats, throw in all the vowels, the other hat throw in all the consonants. Draw randomly from each and put them together and generate in this way.
  • Or choose a number, and work out how a number converts to a sound.
  • Each person comes up with three rules and then choose one out of the three: e.g. “in this language it always starts with a very high tone and ends on a low tone; or in this language the volume of your voice conveys difference in a grammatical meaning.
  • We will all automatically pronounce to our own speech patters, and potentially infuse it with local sounds.
  • Change every vowel to the vowel closest to it: u becomes o, ee becomes é, or opposites, e becomes u, a becomes i or o.
  • Take a random household object and put it to the group and ask “what does this object “sound” like – not actual sound but what you think it is vocally?  Curtain “shin” (downward motion), stone (krikárick), leaf (swiké), colours – a sound that describes a colour?


THE PLANETS: Wimbo, Orin, Pina, Ukwe, Zefeni

TWO SUNS: Sauti and Zuva 

  1. Remove our literal meanings from our minds for a moment and abstract the names/words.
  2. Take the words/names that we have suggested for the planets and suns, and in an audio way (remember how Jude asked us all to pronounce Sauti) pronounce those words and then rewrite more in a way that adds emphasis to portions.
    1. e.g. Sá-Uthi 
    2. or Sau-uTé or SouuThi
  3. Say the word and ask someone else to write it down how they perceive it (think of the variations on popular song lyrics that people hear).

Someone last session mentioned echoes in the language represented by repeated/duplicated words or vowels:

    • And reverse phrasing (think duality, yin and yang, the fact that we have two Suns as that physical metaphor, sound played backwards): e.g.
      • eWkuUkwe (Ukwe spelled backward then forward) 
      • or uKwékwé (Ukwe repeated as the “echo” planet), 
      • Inneféz (Zefeni backwards), 
      • Orino-Rin (reverse+repeat – echo), 
      • Wiimb-ó (emphasis on the i and the ó representing the “spirit moon” that was suggested).

We have two suns – the language of resonance can reflect this yin-yang, duality, echo and reduplication concept.

From our world building point of view, because of the importance and significance of the planet and sun names, these would not have lost their original names through time, while the actual ancient language has fallen away.

In order to set some guidelines for our Linguist to flesh out a language – and for other creatives to add to the language at a later stage, we develop what linguists call the “language’s rules”.


EXAMPLES: Think of a rule for this language in a way that an anthropologist, on discovering these people in the flesh, would describe it – eg. Google what the description of various languages are – their one sentence or two sentence descriptions – and imagine what this would be.

  • Go through descriptions of other languages around the world:
    • Japanese is an agglutinative, mora-timed language with relatively simple phonotactics, a pure vowel system, phonemic vowel and consonant length, and a lexically significant pitch-accent.
    • Cherokee or Tsalagi Gawonihisdi – a word can convey ideas that would require multiple English words to express, including the context of the assertion, connotations about the speaker, the action, and the object of the action. Verbs, which comprise approximately 75% of the language, as opposed to only 25% of the English language.
    • Swedish has a tone or pitch accent, described by many speakers of English as a singsong rhythm. 

Modern constructed languages:

Toki Pona – the function of the language is to have the smallest vocabulary as possible (120 word) – Its Rule: express yourself with the least amount of words. DESCRIPTION: “Toki Pona is a philosophical artistic constructed language known for its small vocabulary, simplicity, and ease of acquisition.”

Ithkuil – this one is about saying the most complex idea in the shortest possible way – 10 letters has three paragraphs of meaning. One letter is a modifier and changes the meaning of what follows etc. DESCRIPTION: “Ithkuil is designed to express more profound levels of human cognition briefly yet overtly and clearly, particularly about human categorization. It is a cross between an a priori philosophical and a logical language.”

Lojban – to be as logical as possible. For high philosophical, mathematical communication. DESCRIPTION: “Lojban is a logical, constructed, syntactically unambiguous human language.”

OUR LANGUAGE’S RULES (please discuss) – a guide for development:

  1. RULE 1: (MAIN RULE) RESONANCE – A key “rule” or aspect that keeps coming up is “resonance” – this is a language revolving around resonance, sound, vibrations. Think of what vocalisations reverberate?
  2. RULE 2: This language uses reduplication. Think in terms of the echo and Reduplication: eg. Tata (father in isiZulu) is a repeated “Ta”.
  3. RULE 3: Key words are made up of a backward and forward utterance.
  4. RULE 4: Some utterances involve the out breath (forward) and in breath accordingly (backward pronunciation).


  • I’ve been looking at the oral tradition of storytelling across the continent. An orator recites/performs an epic poem, others listen. The listeners (other orators) go that evening and recite that epic repeatedly to memorise. They NEVER add to or embellish. And this is another reason many histories and stories are lost because they were never required to be written down and recorded. They may adapt an epic depending on what time and circumstance they are allotted for a performance.
  • The orators in our world could be a revered group of people (maybe in a certain setting or story).
  • How do they begin a recital? Think “Once Upon A Time…” as an initiating phrase, or “So Be It/Amen” as an ending. 
    • What word/sound could we come up with that represents that (again, without a real world meaning yet)
    • In Lord of the Rings (the movie) Treebeard utters a very resonant word that has always stuck with me – “burárum”. WIKI says: This was an Entish sound or word issued by Treebeard when he spoke of the Orcs. The word is described as a “deep rumbling noise like a discord on a great organ”, signifying Treebeard’s disgust at the thought of these creatures. It is glossed as an “Entish noise of disgust”.
    • Do these storytellers bring in a physical act/gesture to create emphasised resonance – e.g. hit their chest on a word, gesturing their hand outward to show sound traveling outward.
Linguistics Guide to Shared World Language and Glossary Development -

Linguistics Guide to Shared World Language and Glossary Development

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