Morning morning lovelies. Today I’m on the blog tour for Empire’s Reckoning by Marian L Thorpe, and am happy to have Marian on with a brilliant guest post titled ‘Constructing Languages‘. Check it out along with all the book info below. Hope you enjoy!
A feature of my series that many readers like are my constructed languages. Now, I’m not JRR Tolkein! I don’t have full languages or grammars for these languages, just words and phrases. There are four of these (so far): Linrathan, the language spoken north of the Wall, is a Gaelic analogue; Marái’sta, the language of the Marai, is pseudo-Norse. Casilan clearly stands in for Latin, and the last is the language of the Kurzemë, which appears briefly in the third book, Empire’s Exile.
I chose to use constructed languages for both a practical and a thematic reason. I’ll let my protagonist of the first trilogy, Lena, explain the thematic purpose:
I tried to sort out the inchoate ideas forming in my mind. About language, and meaning, and if all concepts were universal, and could be translated. About the gap between intent and comprehension, between what was meant and what was understood, and the assumptions and shared experience encompassed—or not—in any exchange. (Empire’s Exile)
Language – and its reach and shortcomings – is an underlying concept in the series; adding the complication of translation to that exploration made it both a little more obvious to the reader while increasing the challenge for my characters.
The practical reason for using constructed languages was simple: I didn’t want to take the time to learn the grammar of four languages! But also, my world isn’t real: it looks like northern Europe in many ways, but it isn’t. Equally, I wanted languages that look like real ones, but aren’t.
How did I go about this? An important word in the previous paragraph is look. Readers confronted with a new word, especially one in an unknown language, often simply process the shape of the word, not its phonemes, at least at first. So words had to look as if they belonged in the real language. Let’s look at scáeli, the Linrathan term for a bard.
I drew on three words to create this one: skald, scop, and scéalaí. These three words are related: a skald is a Scandinavian word for a composer and reciter of poems honoring heroes and their deeds. Scop refers to a poet in Old English poetry, and scéalaí is Irish Gaelic for storyteller. In my world, a scáeli is all these things. Simply put, I just played around with the structure of the word and the placement of the accent until I had something that looked right.
I said earlier I didn’t invent grammars, and that’s largely true, except for plurals. Again, while I deviate from the grammatical structures of the real languages, there’s always a basis for my choices. The plural of scáeli is scáeli’en, and I use this plural ‘en’ in other places too within Linrathan. In real languages, this is a rare plural in English (ox – oxen) and can also be found in Dutch and German. I also use an ‘a’ plural: an individual school is a Ti’ach: the schools are Ti’acha. I borrowed this from Old Irish (Tuath, plural Tuatha.)
Every so often, I just use a real word from the real language I’m mirroring, to increase the verisimilitude of my constructed one.
I’ve had great fun doing this, and it’s appreciated by many of my readers. The books have a vocabulary list, if you want to know how I think the words are pronounced….but really, your interpretation is just as valid as mine!
How many secrets does your family have?
For 13 years, Sorley has taught music alongside the man he loves, war and betrayal nearly forgotten. But behind their calm and ordered life, there are hidden truths. When a young girl’s question demands an answer, does he break the most important oath he has ever sworn by lying – or tell the truth, risking the destruction of both his family and a fragile political alliance?
Empire’s Reckoning asks if love – of country, of an individual, of family – can be enough to leave behind the expectations of history and culture, and to chart a way to peace.
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About the author
Not content with two careers as a research scientist and an educator, Marian L Thorpe decided to go back to what she’d always wanted to do and be a writer. Author of the medieval trilogy Empire’s Legacy and the companion novella Oraiáphon, described as ‘historical fiction of another world’, Marian also has published short stories and poetry. Her life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history informs her novels, while her avocations of landscape archaeology and birding provide background to her settings. Empire’s Reckoning is the first of a planned trilogy, Empire’s Reprise.
tour hosted by
Thanks to Rachel for inviting me on to the tour, and to Marian for her wonderful guest post.
Any questions for Marian, then get in touch using the links above.
Have a brilliant day!