Friday, February 24, 2012

Linguistic Influences

I've written about created languages a couple of times, specifically in reference to Elvish. Today, I thought I would briefly discuss a related topic, the real-world languages that have influenced my work. And since it's getting near to my bed-time ("Early to bed, early to rise..."), I'm going to be very brief.

  • English: Well, duh.
  • German: I studied German in junior high and high school. I actually learned more about English grammar by studying German, than I did in my English classes. In German, I learned all about nominative, accusative, genitive and dative cases, and how to apply them in both German and English. I also learned about the concept of relatively strict suffixes used to indicate gender, number, tense, and case. German was complex enough that I had to work to wrap my brain around it, and logical enough that I was able to pick up the basics pretty quickly.
  • Koine ("Common") Greek: Koine Greek was the Greek spoken throughout the Roman empire around the time of Jesus Christ. It was less complex than, say, classical Greek, but still more complex than other languages. I found it to be more difficult than German, although I think part of that was the lack of easy references to English except in a few cases. Greek had more tenses than German or English, thus more suffixes to learn. It also used a different alphabet that was only vaguely related to the modern Latin-based alphabet. Still, I really liked Greek, and had a lot of fun studying it.
  • Biblical (Old Testament) Hebrew: For me, this was the most difficult language to study. Not only did it have an even more alien alphabet than Greek, but it was written from right to left, and it introduced the  concept of vowel notation rather than vowels as actual written letters. There was also the lack of simple references to English, like Greek, thus making the language more alien still to my ears and eyes. That said, Hebrew grammar is quite simple, with only two tenses, and fairly simple rules for adding prefixes or suffixes to indicate the various word forms. In the end, I grew rather fond of the idea of vowel notation, as well as the alien letter forms in the Hebrew alphabet.
And that's it. Those are the languages I've studied, and each one has influenced the design decisions I've made in relation to my own Elvish language, simple as it is.