If you're having trouble getting started, here is an example of how this might work.
The group involved can literally be anything or anybody.
Relax. Imagine. Play.
Note that if you are a novice linguist, you might not understand all of the technical details that follow. However, they can still serve as a kind of guide for how to start thinking about your language.
There are already several largely suitable cultural descriptions available to you on the webpage. Consult those for what your assignment should look like. this page will help you with the pre-writing phase.
Say you want to create the language secretly used by employees of a fast food chain. (Something more developed than what you often hear short-order cooks and wait staff calling to each other when placing and discussing diners' orders.) Their working environment is noisy, making communication difficult, and they have little time to talk. Given their common job, they have things which they must frequently say to one another that most of us rarely (if ever) say. Here are a few things I might consider when creating their language and some reasons why this might, in fact, be a fun language to create:
Since their environment is so noisy, they should have sounds in their language that are easily distinguishable from one another and these sounds should be easy to hear over lots of background noise. Thus:
- There are few vowels: perhaps 3 or 4 only and these are acoustically as different from one another as possible.
- They may have no time to stop work to get a drink and so must walk about with straws between their lips, ready to slurp down a drink at any opportunity: thus: no bilabial or labial dental sounds.
- Because these are hard to hear, there are no voiceless consonants.
- Because these are easy to hear, the language has clicks.
- Again for acoustic reasons, the language has tone but the tones are much more pronounced than natural earth languages: the highest point of high tones is a full octave above the low tone's lowest point.
Morphology, Lexicon and Syntax
Given their physical and economic environment, they might need monomorphemic forms like the following:
- One word that means: "I did not understand what you said (because of the noise etc), but I don't want you to repeat it now because really, the situation hasn't changed and if you say it again now I still won't understand,,, so just wait a minute and I'll let you know when to repeat that."
- The word that means: "Remember that thing I didn't understand? Can you repeat it now?
- Adjectives for "second object from the right", "second object from the left" "third object from the right", third object from the left" (to indicate easily which spigot on the drink dispenser they mean).
- Verbs "to be needed up front", "to be needed in back"
- A noun for "food that will be thrown out if the employees don't take it home". Not leftovers precisely.
- A system of numbers based on coins: morphemes for 1, 5, 10, 25 and an archaic term for 50. For example: no one word that means ,six, since that's just 5&1; no words for 40 because that's 25&10&5.
- 1st person plural pronouns (that is, forms of "we" that refer to:
- You and I: an inclusive form (we as it is used in English)
- Te staff and I (excluding any of the customers)
- The staff currently working and I only excluding everyone else
- My family / friends who do not work here and whom you (fellow workers) have never met.
- A distinction in the 3rd person pronouns that refer to people one has never met (the boss's wife, your fellow employee's kids)
- Some formality or solidarity distinctions that can be made on nouns and pronouns (maybe even verbs) to denote differences in status between management and workers or even owners perhaps.
- Perhaps a morpheme to add to words like wife, fiancee, roommate, mother which means "that person you talk about all the time who holds that relationship with you but whom I don't quite believe in because I've never met"
Of course this is only the merest beginning.
The idea is to take a situation, real or imaginary, and decide what forms of language would suit the participants' needs, designing all those in as you go, remembering to be playful, to use your craft to make the points you want, and to never break character as the objective, descriptive linguist.
Answers to the Step 1 questions
Recall that these will not be presented in a list but rather woven into a few large paragraphs.
- Speakers are human, living on earth today.
- Employees of fast food and short order restaraunts in every nation.
- There are perhaps 500,000 speakers, spread around the globe.
- Being restaurant workers with little time in a loud environment, they must speak a language with many short, clearly distinguishable words.
- Greetings and leave takings translated literally into English: (Note these are only among employees because no restaurant patronis expected to speak or understand the language).
- Greeting between workers or from manager to worker depends on if they are on time for their shift or not. There are four choices. all are single words with a prefix:
- 'before-time; (used if the person is early for a shift),
- "on-time', for punctual arrivals
- 'past-time' if the person is late
- 'time'. This last is used if the person appears at a time other than his or her shift or if a clock is not visible.
This is always used from worker to manager because, of course, the worker has no right to evaluate the manager's punctuality.
- Leave takings depend on when the person is to be seen again.
- 'until next-shift' to bid farewell until a scheduled or about-to-be-scheduled next shift.
- 'until outside' to bid farewell until we see one another outside the restaurant.
Back to Lang Creation Homepage