Questions tagged [language]

For questions about the written or spoken language of a world.

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143
votes
34answers
62k views

You can control a Demon by knowing its True Name, but why?

The power of True Names over demons is unbelievable: A Lamashtu demon can drain you of your blood in under 5 seconds, blend into shadows, and travel at the speed of darkness. Yet it will crumple like ...
87
votes
15answers
14k views

Does a hive mind race need a written language?

Imagine that human beings in a parallel world evolved with hive mind, so that they can communicate telepathically almost instantly at infinite range. To put thoughts into writing requires effort and ...
81
votes
48answers
16k views

Why would “dead languages” be the only languages that spells could be written in?

Note: this is an in-universe explanation, not media in general. Media in general tends to have magic written in archaic, usually dead, languages. In my world, magic is best described as fickle; most ...
80
votes
13answers
14k views

Are there techniques for creating alien or foreign sounding names?

An interesting setting conducive to telling many stories in? Go! Well thought out inhabitants in this setting with diverse cultural backgrounds? Go! A proper noun for any of it? Houston, we have a ...
76
votes
17answers
26k views

How can I develop names for my fantasy land?

I'm writing a traditional fantasy novel (minus the cliches). I have a land that the novel takes place in. The land does have a name, which sometimes sounds all right, but most of the time sounds kind ...
68
votes
18answers
14k views

How could a language that uses a single word extremely often sustain itself?

The most commonly used word in english is "the" accounting for about 6% of all the words being used. The second most common word is "be" account for less than 1% of all the words used (see ngram ...
63
votes
22answers
9k views

How can I make my languages structurally less like English?

Making vocabulary for a language isn't too difficult (at least, not as hard as it might seem at first!). You can come up with some simple patterns of letters and syllables, and work off of those to ...
62
votes
12answers
7k views

Is there a more effective way to build a language than a word frequency list?

I'm in the process of creating my own language, and so far, I've built a basic vocabulary set of about ~200 words. From here, however, I'm somewhat unsure as to what vocabulary I should work on adding ...
58
votes
23answers
13k views

Is it plausible to have two written forms of one spoken language that are so different as to be indecipherable?

For a story idea in my head to work on paper, a character has to be able to fluently and eloquently speak a common language, to the point of being able to turn a phrase or make plays on words ...
58
votes
19answers
10k views

Would it be possible for an Earth-sized world to speak a single language?

We have thousands of languages in the world, which seem to have evolved differently due to lack of communication methods (it wasn't quite easy for a Chinese guy to speak with French people thousands ...
53
votes
20answers
10k views

How would an order of Monks that renounce their names communicate effectively?

In my fantasy world there exists an order of monks known as the Noncara/Non Cara (haven't decided which form looks better). The Non Cara practice a theology based solely on works. By this I mean: ...
52
votes
18answers
10k views

In an atheist alien society where bodily functions (reproduction and waste elimination) are not taboo what would be used to curse?

Most human swearing and cursing is based on either bodily functions (notably reproduction and waste elimination) or on religion. In an alien society where there are no taboos along those lines and ...
52
votes
13answers
14k views

Would a “ring language” be possible?

A ring species is a species, in which a population migrates in two directions and the population remains continuous as it migrates so that each sub-population can breed with its neighbors, however ...
52
votes
13answers
5k views

How should a country introduce a constructed language as the official language?

Story background The government has chosen to use a constructed language as a part of the process of building national identity. They don't want to use a foreign language. They also don't want to use ...
46
votes
20answers
8k views

Is there a reason to believe that programming languages are going to converge?

On Earth today, even though most people speak some English, there is seemingly no reason to believe that future generation's main language will be the same in decades/centuries to come (i.e., we'll ...
44
votes
11answers
11k views

How to avoid the language barrier when there is no time to learn the other language?

In my medieval world, population A and population B have not had any contacts for thousands of years. But pressing events will make them look for each other. However when they meet... how are they ...
44
votes
20answers
9k views

How can I explain English existing in a fantasy world?

My hero travels from our world to a fantasy world where people speak English. While there are other nations that speak non-English languages, the particular land she arrives in does. How can I explain ...
44
votes
20answers
6k views

How expressive is a color-based language?

In the answers to this question I learned that some cephalopods communicate via color: Some cephalopods are capable of rapid changes in skin color and pattern through nervous control of ...
42
votes
20answers
8k views

Would people develop spoken language if everyone was telepathic?

Let's assume for a moment that humans developed telepathy as part of our divergence from apes and becoming bipedal. Like intelligence, that evolutionary trait was powerful, leading to it quickly ...
38
votes
14answers
7k views

A believable (and not irritating) proto-language

On an expedition to an inhabited planet, we encounter intelligent life. However, they are not as intelligent as we are. They have language, but it's less expressive and more concerned with the ...
37
votes
3answers
1k views

For designing a vocal language for an intelligent species, how to decide on phonemes?

When you are designing a language for a species that uses vocal communication, one of the early decisions you need to make is that of which phonemes can be used. How does one determine what phonemes ...
36
votes
17answers
12k views

Can the number of letters in alphabet suggest how advanced civilization is?

Let's suppose we intercepted a message in an unknown language. We were not able to decipher it, but we were able to decode it. Meaning we know the letters but not the meaning of the words in the text. ...
36
votes
11answers
9k views

A language made of silence

Currently, most, if not, all human languages use sound to communicate. What if, language A, a language much like English in terms of its global dominance and widespread use, on a planet much like ours,...
34
votes
25answers
11k views

Why would a language be undubbable by universal (machine) translator?

A hypothetical speculative fiction setting uses the universal translator/babelfish/translator microbes/whathaveyou as a convenient plot device. However, certain languages are simply untranslatable by ...
32
votes
7answers
4k views

Could a well versed archaeologist understand and speak languages that are 3000+ years old?

I have an archaeologist who specializes in ancient ancient Northern European civilizations. Due to some handwavy mumbo jumbo, he is brought face to face with a supernatural being which still speaks ...
32
votes
14answers
13k views

Is mathematics a truly universal language?

The quote has many forms, but is basically "mathematics is a universal language." My question is if this is true? If we met aliens could we use mathematics to talk to them? The fact that we could ...
31
votes
29answers
7k views

Would a civilization simplify their languages (eg:English) in order to let their citizens learn more easily?

I know language is not easy to learn, so I have a little bit strange idea: would a civilization simpify their language just because it is too difficult to learn? For example, to simplify English: ...
31
votes
16answers
6k views

Why would robots use verbal communication?

Robots (intelligent machines using some form of artificial intelligence), are central to the plot in a snippet I'm working on. These robots do not have to interact with humans on a regular basis: ...
30
votes
16answers
18k views

In the future, around year 2500, will only one language exist on earth?

In the future, will only one unified language exist on earth, which will be spoken and used for writing by all humans? Will all the other languages and various forms that language become extinct and ...
30
votes
14answers
11k views

Is it practical to make English the global language?

The Hegemony since day 1 of its formation in 2041 has enforced a single global language for: education, legal documents, announcements, and for communication between citizens across the various states ...
30
votes
7answers
5k views

Is one year a realistic timescale to learn an ancient language if every language you knew didn't exist yet?

Say you've gone back in time Terminator-style (no possessions, no clothes, nothing but you and your cells) to roughly 6,000 BC to the ancient near east. You meet a farmer and his family who take you ...
30
votes
13answers
3k views

How could names plausibly change over several generations of humans living in a space station on another planet?

I'm worldbuilding for a story in which a certain portion of the population relocates to a slightly habitable planet due to the complete inhabitability of Earth. It takes place several generations ...
29
votes
18answers
10k views

What event would cause a huge, dominant nation to adopt the language of a smaller, inferior one?

Inspired by this question. I was thinking about the constructed language I'm building and a group of countries in the history of my world, and ended up wanting to ask this question. Please do take the ...
28
votes
11answers
6k views

Creating Fictional Slavic Place Names

I have a very simple question regarding a small problem I cannot find a single satisfying answer to. I am trying to create a country with a prominent Slavic culture. In my story, an alien world has ...
28
votes
14answers
6k views

Why would a religion make up its own language?

I've been exploring language for the past few weeks, and I came up with what I believe is an interesting idea. Let's say that a fictitious religious sect decides to, for some reason, make a language. ...
28
votes
15answers
5k views

How to share knowledge to a future human civilization who doesn't know our languages?

Consider that I want to let an object to share knowledge to a civilization living in a far future (~10.000 years after today). It can be a book or any object which can store information, must be ...
28
votes
11answers
9k views

How could the English language gradually dwindle to just one word?

This excerpt below is from George Orwell's 1984 and it is the character Syme talking about the progress of the official language "Newspeak" and how its goal is to eventually destroy modern ...
26
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there a right/wrong way to figure out how my world name would evolve into middle English from Arabic?

My husband, who loves to help me with my problems and doesn't at all intend to complicate them :::heavy sarcasm font::: suggests that Ardu Ghaib isn't the only likely thing the Arabs might have called ...
25
votes
24answers
7k views

In a culture that writes in circles, what would the medium for writing look like?

Most Earth cultures — as far as I know — tend to use square or rectangular surfaces to write upon, and similarly our texts are also organized into square and rectangular shapes. However, a culture ...
25
votes
7answers
3k views

Would an enduring Inca Empire ever need paper?

In this alternate history, Tawantinsuyo resisted all attempts at conquest. The reason is not very important; let's say a fluke storm killed all of Pizarro's men shortly after they started engaging the ...
24
votes
36answers
8k views

Why would a telepathic species use spoken language? [duplicate]

I'm currently designing an advanced alien civilization that has achieved telepathy. The idea is that each one of their species has a small device merged with their brain that can allow them to ...
24
votes
23answers
6k views

What gets lost in translation?

I've got a magic item that translates languages. The rules are this: the closest word to the word used in meaning is given to the listener, unless there's something the other language doesn't have a ...
24
votes
7answers
5k views

Is there a way to translate a language that includes words for things we don't know?

I saw some ideas of translating an alien language, like in the movie Arrival. The steps make sense, but I thought of another scenario: Imagine you meet aliens in space. They speak, but you can't ...
24
votes
7answers
5k views

Would a primitive species be able to learn English from reading books alone?

A species that hasn’t developed any form of written or spoken language learns to speak English, or any modern language for that matter, and it becomes prevalent in their future society. To summarize, ...
24
votes
7answers
5k views

Scientific Naming Conventions for Alien Creatures

I'm a xenobiologist going on an expedition to a habitable planet about 14 LY away. We don't expect to find anything amazing - maybe some bacteria to study - but lo and behold, the place is teeming ...
24
votes
4answers
17k views

How can I develop scientific names for my species'?

I'm building a fantasy world and I am building the animals that inhabit it. Now I am working on the animals that live in this world, and after building their anatomy, I wonder about their names. I'm ...
24
votes
8answers
2k views

How do I blend cultures - naming world features?

In my world I have a variety of nations and city states but I also have a history/background that means they are not and have not been completely isolated. In fact there was once a continent spanning ...
23
votes
11answers
4k views

How to explain a character's ability to communicate while traveling across a land of extremely fractured dialects?

So, on my post apocalyptic world, most people are relative homebodies compared to today. Nobody travels more than a few days distance, except for soldiers, merchants, and slavers. It’s been 500 years ...
23
votes
8answers
2k views

Dragon script/writing system — how would it work?

Let us assume we have our prototypical European dragon representative over here, George. He has four ground-limbs with four clawed digits including an opposable digit on the forelimbs, normally is ...
23
votes
15answers
6k views

Is a galaxy-wide language possible? [duplicate]

While working on the world I talked about here, I decided to tweak one thing. Instead of having the group of aliens terraforming a planet be of the same species, I decided to have them be different ...

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