Vocabulary Creation?!?

Posted by Matt on 17:01 7/1/02

In reply to: (none)

I really dont understand how to make vocabulary. Out of the 5 languages I have made, I just randomly created 1600 words. When finished, I wasn't satisfied like I should have been. I need some help, this is the only thing that I cant understand the process or concept.... The Language Construction Kit wasn't much help to me... Would Somebody Help me please?


Mark responds:

I'd suggest you have to clarify why you feel dissatisfied. Do you mean that you don't like the randomly created words aesthetically? Or that you don't know which words to create and which to derive? I'll briefly address both questions, but this is an art, not a science, and you have to find the way that pleases yourself.

1. The easiest way to create a lexicon is by computer. I haven't tried this, but it wouldn't satisfy me, because the words wouldn't feel like they were mine. I hand-create words as I need them. 'Attractive' words are largely (in my opinion) a result of the language's phonological constraints and the languages you're used to. For instance, the Persian name Mahtob sounds rather harsh and unfeminine to me, but that's because I don't speak Persian. In Farsi it means 'moon' and no doubt sounds nice.

When making maps as a kid, I found myself making scores of names that all sounded the same... they all had a CVCVC pattern. I try to add more variety now: names like Eteîa Mitano, Cterano, Jinayzu, Kulapman, Uytai, Sitfi, Nouaseuae, Palthuknen sound like they come from different languages.

2. As for derivation, my practice is to go out of my way to derive rather than create words. I try to think who might have originally invented the word and how the thing to be named would have looked to them. Of course, it helps to have a very detailed world and history to do this; but even if you have just one language, always see first if you can build up your word out of existing words.

It takes time to get an awareness of how words are formed. We grow up, of course, thinking in words, not about them; it can be a little unsettling to learn how arbitary they really are. Learning another language can help, especially if you look for patterns. (A nice exercise: go to zhongwen.com and figure out the meanings for the Chinese province names-- Sichuan, Hunan, Fujian, etc. What patterns can you identify?)

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