# How can I make phonological constraints without strangling myself?

There are three main languages in this world:

• Draconic, used by the "old" races, i.e: tengu, dragons, lizardfolk, etc...
• Abyssal, used by both demons and angels: Initially was a low-level language where the description of basic concepts could fill books. Later, a renowned demon collected the most common concepts and structures in the language into libraries and assigned shorthands for them. Nowadays, the language diverged into several dialects:

• Structured Query, used to organize data.
• Object-oriented, used to describe various complex systems by breaking them down to their components (objects) which have attributes and functions (things they do).
• Linear, somewhat deprecated but makes the description of linear (from point A to point B without side-roads) processes easier.
• Common: British English, the isekai gang had brought in.

Common is the language spoken.
A name's meaning comes from the draconic word(s) it was made from.
Abyssal is used in magical incantations.

So, I managed to avoid having to create multiple fleshed-out languages. Yet, I don't know what to do with this one. You see, this language is supposed to accommodate the dialects of quite a few races. Tengu put in clicks and trills to convey simple messages (like ridicule), lizardfolk might hiss, dragons could roar, draconic simply connects these together with a "common ground". Since it's also used to name people and places, it has to be present in a spoken and written format, the latter with both a runic (used for marks and carvings) and a "formal" alphabet.

So, one extremely complex language. Great.

I have no idea how to start with this one most gulagers conlangers limit their phonetic inventory, I'm using Hungarian for the "standard", plus the tengu/dragon/snake/monitor lizard/programmer noises, though they're usually undertones. I have to, as tengu want names with lots of front vowels (e, é, i, í, ö, ő and maybe even á), lizardfolk, and dragons probably want mixed/neutral ones for themselves and demons want sudo rm -rf /home/ and similar curses as their identifiers.

So, yes. This is the problem, draconic is supposed to accommodate a lot, which makes implementing phonological constraints much more difficult. The language is supposed to have a "character", how can I ensure that without limiting the races' own dialects and unique words?

To be clear, the language is primarily a conlang, similar in purpose to Esperanto, though I mostly want it to be a basis for names. The main difference is that I mostly use Hungarian grammar rules as they manage to remain somewhat sane without compromising the language's capabilities.

I mean, "Say it as written" is a fundamental principle with the most striking exceptions being legacy stuff, i.e: old family names Like Kossuth (Kosút) and Dessewfy (Dezsőfi); and "mistakes" you make naturally dió -> dijó. So, a Hungarian spelling contest would make little sense.

Hungarian is also an agglutinating language, so Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért, is a valid word, though a tad bit nonsensical.

• Have you considered posting this on conlang.SE? – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 14 at 18:48
• What is wrong with making its "character" the fact that you could get someone named Sudo Dragon Roar the tengu trill that basically incorporates multi language constructs into its daily language. Dragons like having hoards. Just let them hoard dialects and display them like happy little trinkets literally everywhere. Sometimes with disregard for the original meaning. – IT Alex May 14 at 18:51
• gulagers? What? – pg4919 May 14 at 18:58
• Apparently a pun on an uglynym for language inventors, "conlangers". – elemtilas May 14 at 20:23
• A language is perfectly allowed to have a rich phonemic inventory and at the same time rigid phonotactic constraints. Take for example English. English has a rich phonemic inventory (24 consonants and some 24 vowels (yes, really); at the same time, English has quite rigid phonotactics, drastically limiting the combinations of phonemes at the onset and coda of syllables. (As a Romanian, I pains me to remember than English disallows ps- and pt- and words such as psychology or pterodactyl are to be pronounced sycology and terodactyl.) – AlexP May 14 at 20:43

What are your objectives here? What use are you planning to make of the world you're constructing? The more you're going to expose your worldbuilding to criticism, the more work you're going to have to do. To pick some arbitary categories:

• If you're trying to write a really good fantasy novel that makes a big thing of languages, you're going to have to learn a lot about phonetics and language construction in general. There are very few novels or series that have impressive linguistics. The main example is the Tolkien legendarium, and he was a Oxford professor of English, specialising in philology. Trying to match his standards is beyond most people.

• If you're trying to write a less ambitious novel, or doing a RPG setting, simply using Hungarian as your draconic language is a reasonable idea. It worked for Steven Brust, after all. J K Rowling used dog-Latin as her magical language, which works for story purposes, partly because Latin was a common subject of study in the school stories she was riffing off. If you want something with more fluidity of expression than Latin or Hungarian, Ancient Greek is a good choice, and there are lots of dictionaries and translation sites on the web.

• That's English, we're talking about the MTA (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia) here. Most of their job nowadays is to decide whether naming your child Titán or Anakin(?) should be allowed. – Mephistopheles May 15 at 12:51

Honestly, your best bet here, if you want "Draconic" to be a single language, are Accents and Dialects.

Taking Accents as the first example: Compare a thick Glaswegian brogue, such as on display in Taggart with, well, James Bond. It's the same language, but the phonemes (of which English only has 44!) are being said astonishingly differently. Jokes abound that some people need subtitles to make sense of the former. c Just because Tengu, Dragons, and Lizardfolk have the same basic language, doesn't mean that it's easy for them to understand each other. The underlying sounds may be roughly the same, but the accent will tend to "hiss", "growl" or "chirp", based on the vocal organs available to them. (Similar to how tounge-tie causes a lisp)

On the 'Dialects' front, the best real-world example we have is the 'Chinese Language', which really only exists in the written form. For speaking, you have Mandarin, Cantonese, Hu Dialect, and many more. People from one part of China may be unable to understand what people from other parts of China are saying - but they read and write the same symbols. For example, the character "一" (which translates into English as "1", pronounced "one") will be pronounced as "yī" in Mandarin, "yat" in Cantonese, or "yet" in Hu Dialect. "Hello", written "你好" is "Nǐ hǎo" in Mandarin, "néih hóu" in Cantonese, or "nóng hō" in Hu Dialect.

(This was quite a clever ploy by the Chinese Emperor, providing a way to disseminate his edicts and laws in a way that any of his subjects could understand them, without trying to force them to learn an entirely new spoken language. Part of the reason for its success is, of course, that the spoken languages are all members of the same 'family', so their syntax and grammar are sufficiently close to be covered by a single pictographic writing system.)