Language forms the crux of cultural values. From language, memes, traditions, and values emerge. The pillars of humanity. When I began Blade of Dragons, building a fantasy language that would aid me in developing the world of Atlas was vital. Enter the Primeal.
I’ll describe my experience with building a fantasy language, followed by tips from other world builders.
As a language used by the ancient Highborn on Atlas, the Primeal contains powerful phonetics and mantras. To use magic on Atlas, the practitioner must evoke words and hand gestures. Most of these I borrowed from ancient traditions here on Earth.
Objections Behind the Primeal
The Primeal has provided depth to Atlasian culture. It strengthened the world building, while heightening the immersion and character interaction. The mysteries woven into the Primeal reflect on the plot and character arcs too.
I got the idea of building a fantasy language from novels such as Mistborn, The Faded Sun Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, and others. Using this method, I borrowed from Latin and Hindu. The process was easier than I thought, as I wasn’t developing a language from scratch. The downside to this was that there was less of a unique feel, compared to other fantasy languages.
Vocabulary of the Primeal
Albeit, I took a relatively simple approach to my fantasy language than most. The Primeal is, roughly, a form of butchered Latin. Many of the words have similarities to Latin vocabulary, with some Hindu and English bits thrown in.
Examples of the Primeal Language
- Aspectä rey’lief (Aspect-TAH-Rey-LI-eff): May the Aspects’ grace follow you (used as a friendly farewell).
- Aum (AH-ooh-oom): Creation.
- Egüs (Ei-gu-ah-sh): You, it.
- D’wyrm (Di-were-um): Tongue of dragons.
- Lumasil (Lu-MAS-sil): Light of hope.
- Me’puläm (Me-Pul-LA-um): My love, my shining star (a title used among lovers).
- Tal’draco (Tall-der-AH-co): Dragonite.
- Tal’snak (Tall-sh-NAH-kek): An offensive slang for a half-Dragonite.
- Sal’av (Sal-LA-of): Hello.
Magic Applications of the Primeal
Many of the words used in modern Atlas are crude dialects of the original language; yet they still carry powerful vibrations that can influence reality. The simple word, sal’av, can evoke good will and ease in another’s heart. Another word, tal’snak, summons fear and perhaps anger in others.
Weaving together strings of power words, an individual can produce complex spells and influence reality. This act of magical weaving, or Shifting, is widespread on Atlas. The reader gets a strong example of this starting from the first scene to the final chapter.
Things Left to Consider
The Primeal, to Earth human ears, may sound musical and otherworldly, but I haven’t nailed down the specifics. I’ll research fantasy languages more to add depth to the Primeal, the feel, the vibrations of the words.
That said, I discovered some resources useful for building a fantasy language.
1. The Zompist Language Kit
Lingvo is an excellent resource on real world cultures and languages. Everything from Germanic and Babylonian dialects are available. This resource is more beginner friendly.
3. Interactive IPA Chart
Here’s a page that is an invaluable reference for new and experienced conlangers. The page explains the sounds of human language and how they are pronounced. This allows world builders and writers to go a step further with their languages.
4. IPA Keyboard Bind
This module goes with the previous as it helps bind certain IPA symbols to a single stroke. I found it useful, but not essential.
5. Google Translate
Don’t hate me for this one, but Google has a decent language engine that can provide ideas or vocabulary for new writers. The quality of translation leaves room to be desired, though.
When designing the Primeal, I had to consider the following:
- The sounds of the language
- A glossary, or lexicon, of words
- The grammar, syntax, and feel of speaking the words
- The magical and cultural implications
- How the alphabet is modified for cursive handwriting
Like other world builders, I borrowed from preexisting languages to make my job easier. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a proven method that does work. Even English language contains words borrowed, butchered, or stolen from other languages.
Building a fantasy language is a fun process, and it doesn’t have to frustrating or complex. It’s important to keep things simple enough for your readers, or else you risk losing them at the expense of your world building. Balance, as with all things in life, is what we artists strive for.
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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White