It all started with a letter and a ring
On words and Naming of Things
I find that one of the hardest parts of generating a fantasy world is naming the seemingly endless people, landmarks, cities, buildings, dynasties, and social-political groups. If I were willing to accept naming conventions that already exist, such as naming counties *land that would be able to reduce my workload significantly, but I think it breaks the immersion if the players are in an entirely new world, with a unique culture, yet everything is named as if it were in the British Isles. It is clear to me then, that I need to learn how words are structured so that I can create unique cultural naming conventions for each of the major cultural groups in my world.
“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”
In my pursuit of being able to generate such a convention, I decided to start studying syllables. I should note that much of my research is on Wikipedia. I first stumbled upon reference 1, a page that seemed to be an example of just what I was looking for. The author had selected which consonants and vowels he wanted, defined a schema for how these sounds should be put together into a syllable. A gold mine for further directing my research, as the consonants and vowels were categorized by what region of the mouth and sort of motion is used to make the sound.
“The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.”
Now, after reading a few wikipedia articles on these classifications, the use of symbols I had no idea even how to pronounce led me to IPA, the International Phonetic Alphabet which is where all of those screwy symbols you see in the dictionary for pronunciation (which isn’t really much of a help at all in my experience) come from. There is a chart on the wiki page for IPA that maps all of the sounds used in any known language. See reference 2. Now, if I were so inclined, I could rabbit-hole down this and self-study myself into a degree in linguistics, but I think this is far enough of study into phonemes for the moment.
Now that I can pick which sounds I like, I want to be able to know how they should combine. Back to reference 1, which as I am writing this I feel kind of foolish. I wanted to include the fellow’s name who wrote that page, but it wasn’t a fellow at all but a computer. That link I provided is actually to a program titled “gleb”, which if you run it generates a language for you. Now, I could call it quits, press refresh until I get one that I like and then run with it, however, I guess I am greedy. Or curious? Whatever you want to call it, I want to know how to do it so that I can do it on my own by hand to get EXACTLY what I want.
So, “once more unto the breach”. The syllable structure is my next goal for rudimentary understanding. Gleb spits out stuff such as
C1: a consonant
V: a vowel
C2: a consonant
C3: one of /n t s ɾ/
here, which looks vaguely like regular expressions in programming, which is a tool for parsing input by looking at patterns of symbols. If I had to hazard a guess, based of what I have read about syllables, since in most languages the nucleus of a syllable is a vowel, anything not in parentheses are required, which makes those in parentheses optional.
Reference: (forgive my lax citations. This isn’t an academic paper :P)
1 – http://000024.org/cgi-bin/gleb.cgi
2 – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/IPA_chart_2005_png.svg