A Naming Language

A Naming Language

Author: Jeffrey Henning

MS Date: 06-01-1995

FL Date: 11-01-2016

FL Number: FL-00003E-00

Citation: Henning, Jeffrey. 1995. «A Naming Language.»
FL-00003E-00, Fiat Lingua,
. Web. 01 November
2016.

Copyright: © 1995 Jeffrey Henning. This work is licensed

under a Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

Fiat Lingua is produced and maintained by the Language Creation Society (LCS). For more information
about the LCS, visit http://www.conlang.org/

Inventing I language for naming people Ina plltel

I
«My name is Alice, but-»
«It’s a stupid name enough!» Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently; «What does it
mean?»
«Must a name mean something?» Alice asked doubtfully.
roOf course it must, » Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: rImy name means the
shape I am — and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you
might be any shape, almost.»

from Lewis Carroll, «Through the Looking Glass»

Despite Humpty Dumpty’s comment, Alice could not be just any shape — her name
actually summons forth an image of someone who is simple and proper, according to
surveys conducted to determine the impressions people have of different names. All
names have perceptions attached to them.

Etymologically speaking, Alice’s name is from the Greek for «truth». Most American
and European names have become simple labels, their original meanings forgotten.
How many people realize that a name like Jeffrey Henning, if translated literally,

, means «Godfriend Meadowlark»? Meanwhile, Indian names like «Dances With

Wolves» (to take a bad example) wear their etymologies on their sleeves.

If you are fascinated by the origins of names, then you will be happy to learn that a
naming language is one of the most useful types of model languages to create — and
one of the eaSiest, making a great first language for the hobbyist. A naming language
can be less complex than other model languages, since it does not need a detailed
grammar and since it can get by with a small vocabulary: with just 150 words
(revealed below), you can generate millions of names for imaginary people and
places. Once you’ve read this issue, you’ll be able to create two or three naming
languages in as little as a half hour, though you’ll end up fascinated by your creations
and will spend many more hours on them.

To begin creating any type of model language, you must be able to create words in
that language. To create words, you need to understand sounds, meaning, sound
change and so forth. This issue will introduce you to the basic aspects of language;
subsequent issues of Model Languages will explore each one in more depth.

language change

I
The vocabulary of languages is constantly changing, as technology changes and as
our understanding changes. Twenty years ago no one talked of faxes, pes or being
on-line. No one had heard of perestroika. Things were still groovy, nizza, happening.
Besides adding and retiring words, languages put new spins on old words: gay now
primarily refers to «homosexuality», not «happiness»; liberal now is almost a curse,
referring to «favoring governmental power» when it once meant «favoring
governmental power to promote social progress». These word changes are not
surprising. Any of us can look over the linguistic landscape of our lives and see how
the terrain has changed. If you project this forward a thousand years, it is easy to see
how the shape of a language’s vocabulary will go through major upheaval.

It’s harder to see that the grammar of the language, the way we put words together,
will cnange too. While saying hopefully is still frowned upon, it is no longer viewed as
completely ungrammatical. The pronoun them is often used to refer to one person,
rather than the plural it is formally meant to refer to; in casual conversatioN and

writing, them is now the gender-indifferent alternative to he or she (incidentally, as it
was four hundred years ago, before pedantic grammarians — yes, them — stepped
in). Looking a thousand years out, other grammatical distinctions will have been
leveled, revealing new horizons behind them.

Finally, it can be hard to realize that the very sounds we use for words change. It’s
not hard to believe the occasional word changes, such as knowing that cup board is
now pronounced cupboard, the [p] sound having assimilated to the following [b]. It is
harder to believe that English words that now begin with [p] and date from Indo­
European all began with [b] in Indo-European times. Such systemic changes, where
a sound changes throughout the entire vocabulary, happen gradually.

To imagine how it happens, think of a dialect, such as the Bostonian’s «idear about
whether the cah is pahked in Hahvahd yahd». Sound changes systematically when
these dialectal differences become emulated and become the new accepted
pronunciations. Imagine an alternate universe where .JFK served out 8 years as the
U.S. President, and was succeeded by 8 years of RFK, who was followed by 8 years
of Teddy (it had to happen in some universe!). No doubt in that universe the
Bostonian accent became American English’s new standahd.

Basic sound changes do not happen suddenly like earthquakes buckling the
landscape, but gradually like water eroding a shoreline. Language change is for the
most part slow, since change is on the whole discouraged. The whole point of
language is for people to be able to make themselves understood to each other, and
this happens best in an environment where the language changes no faster than the
land at the water’s edge.

Language change is important because it shows the best way for you to invent a
model language — by making changes to an existing language (whether natural or a
model).

An anceatrallanguage ..» the grandmother tongue

I
Every person alive today has or had a mother. Similarly, every mother tongue spoken
by all these people had an ancestral language that it evolved out of. Even Proto-Indo­
European, the reconstructed ancestor language of hundreds of European and Indian
languages, had an ancestral language it evolved out of: Nostratic, which Some
linguists hypothesize was also the ancestor to five other proto-languages. Since
Nostratic itself is most likely descended from another language, records of the first
language are no more knowable than records of Adam.

The ramifications for the language modeller are that the language he or she creates
should not spring fully armed from the head of Zeus like Athena, but should derive
from its own parent language. Most model languages are unknown orphans, when a
pedigree would not have been hard to provide. Tolkien is one of the few modelers to
actually create an ancestor tongue, which he used to derive many different Elvish
languages for The Lord of the Rings, of which the best known are Quenya and
Sindarin.

‘Wait a minute,» you might be thinking, «are you saying that to create a model
language I first have to create another model language? Where does that language
come from? When does it end?» T olkien again provides the best example; he created
root words in a proto-language; he imagined that the elves would have reconstructed
their ancestral language, much as Europeans reconstructed Indo-European. Proto­

languages are elaborate hypothetical constructions and, as hypotheses, are fuzzy
around the edges: nothing but the bones of an extinct dinosaur, while the exact color
of its flesh can never be known. A proto-language, therefore, can be a simpler form
of model language.

The benefit of creating a proto-language is that it makes it easier to create sister
languages to the model language you are chiefly interested in (what, more
languages?!), enabling you to formulate new words based on regularly sound
changes (more on this in it a minute). It also makes it easier to coin words in your
desired model language, providing a rich system of root words to use to derive new
words. So creating a proto- language can save you time.

The easiest way to save time on your first model language is to use an existing
language as the proto-language. I once worked on a science fiction story set aboard
a colony whose original settlers had been 2Oth- century Italians and Spaniards, who­
– through centuries of living together — had created a new, simpler language. By
using Italian as the ancestor language, with many borrowings from Spanish, I not
only made it easier to create a new language but I taught myself some Italian and
Spanish as well!

If you are writing about a story that has taken place in the last 10,000 years and is
set in Europe or India, you might even use Proto-Indo- European as the ancestral
language for your languages. Check out The Roots Of English by Robert Claiborne
for an easily readable discussion of Indo-European roots, or check out the appendix
to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, published by
Houghton Mifflin; both works are biased in emphasizing those roots from which
English words descended, but make good starting points for devising a language.

Sound

I
To create your language, you need to decide which sounds you want speakers to
distinguish. Basically, while it would be easy to think that the sound [t] is exactly the
same, [t] actually describes a range of sounds, all closely approximating one another.
The way you position your tongue when saying [t] will vary depending on what other
sounds you say before or after it, but we both articulate [t] similarly enough to
recognize it as the same thing.
There is no objective reference that says a language must have any particular sound.
For instance, Old English did not distinguish between the sounds [f] and [v] or [s] and
[z]. The plural of [hoof] was pronounced [hoovz] but it was not until later times that
speakers treated the \f\ sound in the singular as different from the \f\ sound in the
plural. In Old English times, there could be no word [vat] different from [fat] — such a
distinction was just not made. Gradually, the sounds came to be heard as distinct.

So when creating the sounds of your language, you need to realize that they will only
approximate English sounds, not exactly match them, and might not reflect
distinctions currently made in English. The [hw] sound in whale might be regarded by
your speakers as the same as the [w] sound in wail (yes, they are different sounds,
but you might have to listen closely as you pronounce them to tell the difference).

You can certainly include in your language sounds that are not part of English, say
the French vowels, typically pronounced with the lips rounded, or the expectorating
[kh] of Hebrew and Yiddish, let alone the clicking sounds of the Hottentots and
Bushmen. However, you should refrain from having too many unusual sounds in your
language; you want your readers to be able to pronounce your words without too

much difficulty. Simply having regular sounds combined in unique ways (e.g., sretan,
or tsedet) will be enough to convince them it is a unique language anyway.

Languages are very strict about how sounds are combined. English, for instance,
allows words to begin with [sn-], but never [zn-]. The rules English uses could fill
pages, but as a modeler you want to just ~Iint at complexity. You may want to have a
combination that is unusual in English and make it frequent in your language: for
instance, have some words begin with [sr-], [kn-], [kth-] , [tl-], but here again restraint
is the order of the day.

As you specify how sounds can be combined, you may want to outline valid syllables.
Your language might only allow syllables of CVC (Consonant+Vowel+Consonant) or
just CV or VC. Some languages, like Japanese or Korean, have very strict limits on
how syllables can be formed, making it possible to list all the valid syllables of the
language. But where Hawaiian allows just 162 different syllables, Thai has 23,638
syllables.

Two languages can have the exact same consonants and vowels and yet sound very
different, depending on the syllable patterns and on the frequency of the consonants
and vowels. You may want to list the sounds that occur most often. By paying
rigorous attention to this when developing the proto-language, you can relax a little
more during creation of the descendant language, which will carry on many of the
same frequency patterns, though applied to different sounds as the sounds change.

Many languages have very simple vowel systems. Eskimo-Aleut has just three
vowels (the smallest number ever observed), while Spanish and Japanese each has
‘five vowels. The typical language has between 5 and 7 vowels, but Indo-European
languages usually have more; English has 12, and German has 14. The African
language Khoisan has the record with 24 vowels.

Languages have been observed to have anywhere from six consonants (Rotokas) to
95 (Khoisan), with an average of 22.8 consonants. The typical language has twice as
many consonants as vowels. The most common consonants include [p], [b], [t], [d],
[k], [g], [gh], [f], [s], [sh], [rn], [11], [ng], [gng], [w], [I], [r], mand [h].
For a great discussion of the sound structure of languages, check out The
Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language by David Crystal.

Sound change

Over time, sounds gradually change in certain circumstances. John F. Kennedy, like

many Bostonians, would drop his last [-r] from words like [car], while adding an [-r] to

Cuba [cubar] and idea [idear]. As alluded to before, had enough Americans adopted

this, it would have been considered a regular sound change and many other words

might have undergone this change. Or listen to the dialect of Brooklyn, where [bird]

becomes [boyd], for instance; someday all English speakers might pronounce [ir] as

[oy]. No doubt, through the rise of one dialect in Old English, the sound [sk] was

gradually becoming [sh].

Over great periods of time, these changes become more pronounced. Literally and

fig u ratively.

Here are some common ways consonants evolve into one another:

» __ • •

<~ . . __ • ~. _~~~_. ~~~.. _____ • _ . , __ · z ____ _ ~_._" ___ • __ __ _ , ~_ ••••' . ' <~ b <---> eh <--->

v

kw

d <---~ 9 d <---> t

d <--->
th

f <--..» p f <---> V

g <--->
d

b <--->
gw

b <---~ p g <---> g <--->

k

w

. .

~ — – -.’.’ …

gw <--- gw <-...> gw <--- gw <..--> gw <---> h <---> h <--->
Y

> ku

hy

zh

k

kw
hw <--- hw <..-...>. ‘ hw <--- , kw > v
– … «..

> hv

‘> pK <.."..> 9

,

k <--->
gw

k <""''''>. h

k <---> k
kw

hv <---> ,

hw

h <---> s h <-~~> Y
– .
kh <--"">

,

,,-~

—–._. ,,-
k <-->
th

,'» <--,,>. S

kw:

ku <-..-> ku <'---> kv <:_--> kw <--> kw <---> kw <---> kw <--- kw <---> kw <---> kw <-....::,>

gw

kw

kw

ch

gw
P <--->
*_

hw

> k

kh

ku

kv

P <---> , P <---> P <---> pf <--->

p <-"'..:;:. b f hw pf S <---> sh <:..",,.>.

k

kw

t <--""> d,t <.."'...~ th t <_....> Z

.

th <--->
d

th <--->
k

P
th <--->
t

V <---> V <---> W <---> W <---> Y <--->
g

gw

w

v

* –

Y <---> 9

gw

Y <---> » Y <--->

h

y ~–> » ~;-~:>9 z <---> t z <--,,> y zhg~-«> ~~==’ r~.~-.»..·.]l~~·..••·]r~’ •• ~-.~r *- (lost)’

r <"",",..,>. l s <,,--> h

V <--->
b

V <.,.-..> f

This list is not meant to be all inclusive, just representative of changes that occurred
in Indo-European.
Likelihood Of Sound Change

# Of IE Languages Where IE Initial Consonant Changed

gh
gw
gwh
bh
dh

12
12
12
11
11

kw
g
[@:J’ w
k
b

11
9
9
7
4

d
s

P
t
Y

4
4
r
3 ~’ m
2
n
2

1
1
0

0

You can use the above table as a rough guide to determine which consonants are
more likely to undergo change. It is not representative of all languages, being an
analysis of 12 languages descended from Proto-Indo-European and showing the
number of languages where the consonant in the word-initial position changed. The
languages analyzed were Armenian, Avestan, Common Germanic, Greek, Hittite,
Latin, Lithuanian, Old Church Slavonic, Old Irish, Old Persian, Sanskrit, and
Tocharian.

The nasals, [n] and [m], are fairly stable, as are the liquids [I] and [r]. The stops [p], [t]
and their voiced counterparts [b] and [d] change in only a third of the languages. All
aspirated consonants changed in every language analyzed, being markedly unstable;
[k] and [g] and their glide forms [kw] and [gw] were also more likely to change than
not.

Sound changes actually vary by position, with a sound change applying to different
places — the [s] might become [h] at the beginning of a word, [k] in the middle of a
word and [z] at the end of a word (though this is an extreme example). For

simplicity’s sake, you may just want to apply the same changes regardless of
position.

Besides these phonetic changes, there are often «environmental» changes in words,
where sounds change because of the sounds they are near. The following examples
illustrate the major types of sound change.
Assimilation
Regressive or anticipatory, a sound is influenced by the following next sound:
English [cupbord] became [cubbord]; the word assimilation is itself an example: Latin
adsimula-re became assimula-re, since [ad-] regularly assimilated to [as-] before the
[s] sound.

Progressive, a sound is influenced by a preceding sound

Coalescent or reciprocal, when two neighboring sounds influence one another:

don’t you becomes pronounced [donchu]

Dissimulation
sound moves away from the pronunciation of neighboring sound: French marbre
became English marble as the second [r] became dissimilar from the first.
Split
a sound becomes regarded as two distinct sounds, such as Old English \s\ compared
to Modern English \s\ and \z\ (Old English’s failure to distinguish between the sounds
is one of the reasons many Modern English words are written with’s’ when [z] is
pronounced)
Metathesis
two sounds change places, third from Old English thridda
Elision
sounds are omitted (elided) in rapid speed, often dropping a consonant from a cluster
of consonants: [cubbord] became [cubord]; elision specifically refers to loss of an
unstressed vowel or syllable: elementary becomes pronounced [elementry] when the
‘final schaw sound is elided.
Loss
a sound disappears from the language altogether, as the velar fricative, a variant of
Ihl (and the final sound of Scottish loch), did in English, with only a vestige remaining
in English spelling: the common silent ‘gh’ of English words like light, night, sight,
which were once pronounced [likht], [nikht] and [sikht].
Haplology
the loss of a sequence of sounds because of similarity of neighboring sounds: should
this ever be called haplogy it will have undergone haplology itself.
Syncope
the loss of medial sounds, as boatswain lost the [t] sound as it was shortened to
bosun ([bosun] is the correct pronunciation of boatswain, by the way, never [bo-tswa­
n]).
Apocope
the loss of final sounds, as in the silent ‘e’ in words like love and hate; of course, the
silent ‘e’ used to be pronounced.
Liaison
introduction of a sound between words, as in French when the silent final consonant
of a word is pronounced when the next word begins with a vowel.
Prothesis
introduction of an extra initial sound, as occurred in Spanish and Old French, which
frequently inserted an [e] sound before an initial [sp]: for instance, Latin specia-is
became Old French especial.
Epenthesis

introduction of extra medial sound, as Old English bre-mel became Old English
braembel.

You can quickly generate more than one language by inventing different sound
change rules for each language. So perhaps the Dilbertian [d] becomes [t] in
Dogbertian, whereas it becomes [th] in Dinobertian. Or take a look at how the names
James, John and Katherine have evolved in seven different languages:

~~~i:i:~:~::~:d:~:~:n:~l~-_~~~n __~Jr~~~~· _..-.—- )T~o_ . __nl

English

French

German

Italian

– ._­

Spanish

_,_»,_»_.• _____

~._.~

___._~~_~._•• __~_~___ __ F¥·_’ ___

~._’

_ __ _ · ,.__ .~ ____ . __

Jakob

Johann

Katharina

James

Jacques

John

Jean

Giacomo

Jaime

– » –

Giovanni

Juan

Katherine

Catherine

___ ~ ________._< ______ ~ .~_~ ___, _.­ Caterina --".--.. ----.---~ ­ Catalina -, Karin, Katarina Swedish Jakob John, Johan Yiddish Dzheymz Yohan Katerine .- ~--. Names vary idiosyncratically and do not always evolve according to the regular sound changes that affect other words. Thus the English towns of Luton and Leyton are -- despite their differences -- both derived from the same word, Lygetun, "farm by the river Lea" (the river Lea, incidentally, may either mean "bright one" or may represent the name of a river god, Lugus). Names get shortened frequently; for instance, Johann, Giovanni and Yohan all indicate that there used to be an [a] sound after before the [n] in John and that the silent [h] in John used to be pronounced, and still is in German, Swedish and Yiddish. Spelling When inventing your own language, you can go all out -- inventing your own alphabet or even hieroglyphs to accompany it. You can have spellings that represent scholarly thinking about how the word derived, so that the word sounding like [gramilt] is actually spelled 'kramillid', for instance, because lexicographers believe the word [gramilt] used to be pronounced [kramillid]. You can invent new symbols or use old symbols to represent sounds, so that 'pra@t!so>r’ is pronounced … oh, never mind.

Or, you can spare users of your language a lot of difficulty; you can strive for a
system of spelling that is phonetic. Since learning a new language is difficult enough,
this is the course I recommend. Yes, I’m hooked on phonics.

Be warned, however, that even a phonetic representation can present difficulties, if
you yourself are mistaking English spellings and conventions for actual
pronunciations. For instance, if you were representing English phonetically, you
might think that you could specify that the plural was regularly formed by adding [-s]
to the end of a word. While this is true for [cat], it is not true for [dog], whose plural is
actually pronounced [dogz]; [church], for its part, has a plural of [churchez]. So make
sure your phonetic spelling really describes the sound you want.

One problem with phonetic spelling is that words are pronounced differently in
different circumstances: the word a can be pronounced [ei] or as [@] (schwa), and
can be pronounced [@nd], [@n] or [n], depending on whether or not the speaker is
placing emphasis on them.

While you can use special characters for sounds, it will be easier on your readers if
you transcribe them using conventional letters. The letter ‘h’ is great for forming
digraphs; you might say that ‘rh’ represents a trilled [r] sound, or that ‘mh’ might be an
aspirated [m] (sounding similar to [vJ), or that ‘dh’ represents the voiced th in then,
while ‘th’ represents the unvoiced th in thin.

Your spelling may even reflect a regular sound change of the language. For instance,
in German, the final’b’ in a word sounds like [p], the final’d’ like [t], and the final’g’
like [k], so ‘Korb’ is pronounced [korp], ‘Band’ [bant] and ‘Tag’ [tak].

WQfd$

Once you have created sounds, you can begin generating words. Words are nothing
more than sounds arbitrarily linked to meanings. Onomatopoeia refers to sounds that
are imitative, such as arf, bark or bow-wow for the sounds a dog makes. Most words
are not onomatqpoetic. Tolkien once remarked that he found cellar door to be an
incredibly beautiful series of sounds, though the meaning was not worthy of it. So
don’t slave over matching sounds to words. If you spend all your time thinking about
the exact sound each word should have you’ll never flesh out your vocabulary.

It can make learning new words somewhat easier if they have to follow specific
patterns depending on parts of speech. Your language might require the root form of
all verbs to end in [-r] and all nouns might end in a vowel.
A naming language does not need a complex grammar. The only grammatical
decision you really need to make is how to form compound words: should the
modifier proceed or follow the word being modified. Assume you have a language
with the word kwan for «dog» and kooz for «house». Does the phrase kwan kooz, then,
mean «doghouse» or «house dog»?

Proper nlme!J

Many common names were formed from surprisingly few elements. If you coin just
150 words in a model language, you will be able to generate millions of distinct
names.

I analyzed about 300 common English and European names to come up with the
following tables of common meanings underlying these names .

……………..-………………………. ~.

Adjectives for proper d
names

················..···D··············.~·D·····
… .

………….
a
. . ‘

iJ

..d

»

bear-like

chief

eagle-like

fortunate

.industrious
– _. _.. – –~.-~ …- —
mighty

.~

. —

_ …..-

. – – . –

beloved
blessed
– . ..
– —‘-. –
compassionate constant desired

bitter

‘ . ..»

.- ~ . -..

-. –

o» ____ ‘ » ‘

. —

-~

~-~

— –

.- – – — — —
brave

-~.

divine

flowering

earnest

– » ~- , ~ –

– < " • • • , fox-like falcon-like famous -- ~ ~ free hallowed happy laughing lion-like loyal noble ----~~ ---_ ..'---."--"-' northern patriotic manly ~- ... ",~~--~~--.. -~~-. peaceful ­ ­ powerful ready strong-willed wealthy praiseworthy prayerful protecting pure sharp swift wise shining small strong valiant --- - - -->-_. . . .,

victorious war’s

wolf-like worthy

young

— –

Nouns for proper names: L~f~____~n’_»J r~L,_:__

arrow

crown

father

giver

healer

,

,

laurel

,man

rose

spear

sword

battle

bearer

:~ r[~_~-:~,»,][~f~»~_»_,~~»r
brightness counselor :

_ • • _____ , . ____ • • , . _

‘»

_

_-. _ . , _ • • ~ __ .o _ _ _ ~_ ._ » _____• ___ ~ ____ ~_____ _

• _~_.

defender dweller
– —
fighter

– –_. — . ~

forest

– – –_.

earth

gate

farmer
— » .
— _.­
gift

«» __ ._N r .~. ___

_ ___ •

____ •

_

__~

– __ • • • __ _. __ _

God
~ –

helper

leader

guardian hammer harvester
«. – -. –.,<~-~--~---- --~.-.-- ... -~ .... -~ -_'.,-_.- -~~ home lily . . . horse - . lover -­ keeper maid •• -<- - - - ~-- • ---~ ' " ' - >

-~.

~ -.- . . ., -_ . – –

– » ‘ – – – .~. – . – – —-~ – – – – -_••

pearl

ruler

staff

people

protector

rock

runner

steward

smith
-.

stranger

son

stronghold

traveler

twin

warrior

wolf

You can use these tables to generate names in the following ways:

.. adjective 1 : «Pure» (Katherine)
.. adjective1 + adjective2: «Noble and Shining» (Alberta)
• adjective1 + noun1: «Chief Protector» (Howard)

.. noun1 + noun2: «Elf Ruler» (Avery)

.. adjective1 + adjective2 + noun1: «Noble, Brave Warrior» (Gunther)

• adjective1 + noun1 + noun2: «Strong Warrior Twin»

It adjective1 + adjective2 + noun1 + noun2: «Young Bear-like Battle Hammer»

You can use these tables to generate almost all the names you need. Theoretically
you could use these tables to generate 6.3 million names.

Feel free to use a few elements that you like in many different names; for example,
«famous» in Anglo-Saxon was represented by hroth and is contained in the following
names: Rodney («famous»), Robert («famous brightness»), Roland («most famous of
the land»), Roderick («famous ruler»), Rudolph («famous wolf’) and Roger («famous
spear»). Roger, incidentally, was spelled Hrothgar in Old English, and is the name of
the beleaguered king in Beowulf

You can easily flesh out the above tables to better represent the culture of the people
who will speak your model language. For instance, islanders would not name people
after wolves and foxes, but after predators peculiar to their locale, such as sharks
and octopuses. Their names would reflect people’s relationship to the sea: sailors,
divers, swimmers and beachcombers. The tools they would refer to would not be
swords and spears, but tridents and hooks. The adjectives they would use would
likewise reflect their environment: unsinkable, seaworthy and foamy.

If you want to add additional words to these tables, check out the etymologies of real
names; one good source is The Baby Boomer’s Name Game by Christopher
Andersen, which includes a basic etymological dictionary of 2,500 common names.

PI~.~~ n~m~~

The names of people and places are intimately related. For instance, Wins/ow (a
town in Buckinghamshire, England) is named after Wine (an Old English name
meaning «friend») and means something like «Wine’s hill», ‘Wine’s burial mound» or
perhaps even «Wine’s estate at the burial mound». In turn, Wins/ow is a man’s first
name and means «from Winslow». Many place names become first or last names in
this way, and these in turn might inspire new place names; some other town of
Winslow might be named after a fellow named Winslow — and so it goes.

Most names refer to a natural feature, such as a river, a hill or a forest, or to a man­
made construction, such as a fort, a road or a burial mound. Place names are very
seldom taken from an event that may have happened there, such as a battle or a
coronation, but do sometimes take names from recurring events — a field where
people are regularly executed or married (I’ll refrain from comparing these activities!)
might have a name like the Hangingfield or the Weddingfield. For instance, the
village of «Kingstone» is not likely to be so named because some king drew a sword
from a stone there, but rather because many monarchs have been coronated there
(or stoned there, depending on the kingdom’s traditions!).

Place names in the British Isles tend to be formed from 50 basic root meanings,
which are given below. These 50 meanings can be combined to give 2450 different
names, and can be combined to form millions more when combined with names
involving people (e.g., Boston, «Botwulfs stone»; the ending is not -ton, «town», but­
ston).

.

Meaning

English/irish/welsh word element

>_ ~

» r » » , , ,

abbey

bridge
——-
castle

church
. . _–«­
cottage

dwelling

enclosure

estate

farm

field

ford

fort

» __

__

__ ~

, _ «_

e •• _ ‘_ • • •

• • • _

fort( old fort)

fort(ring fort)

height

.___ _____________

~

~

__.____•• _________

.. ____

~_

._~.

_.

_._. _

_____ F_·_~~·_»

•• ~_

Abbey-

Pont-, -bridge

•.»,–«._-

._ •… «».» — – .-<~- Castle Eccle(s)-, Kil(I)-, Kirk-, Llan-, -church -cot -wich, -wick Lis-, -wardine, -worth -land -ton, -by -field -ford Caer-, -b(o)rough, -burgh, -bury ,~- .. -~-". -- ~--- ".-_. -- --~ ._---- -~ '".- ._.., - .. --. - .~-,- --- ._- -----------.-.-------.-<----"--.-------~ -caster, -c(h)ester Rath­ Ard­ ' ~ F _ " ~ " _ " " ~ " ~ _ . _ ~ « " - ,_ ._ - - -'--<'-'---~"-'~-~~-~~~----.--' .~<- +" _ • • •_-~.- -"--.~,.--~ -----,~ -_ . - - - , - ­ highland hill hilltop holy place home farm homestead island lake meadow monastery moor mountain peak new pass people of place pond port resort river mouth riverside rock secondary settlement ._-'.-... _ ... __. stone '_' • • _, _ • • _ w . '_• • • • stream town tree upper valley . - __ • __ . ' _ -0 __ > • •, . _

~

_

• • • • < • • • •_ . " ._ . _ " . -. - , Blaen-, -head Bryn-, Dun-, -don Pen- -stead, -stede, -stow -hampton ____ - - _ y - - " . " _ •• - - . - - - - , , - - - . - - " Bally-, -ham(stead), -hampstead Ennis-, -ey ,- ~ ~. " , - ... Loch- Clon­ -- -- -minster -more, -moor Ben- New­ -gate -ing(s) Stock-, Stoke­ -mer(e) Port-, -port -ville Aber-, Bel(la)-, Inver-, -mouth -side Carrick­ _ " . , ,_ , . . , __ 0< _~ ,_.~, _" __ J -stock, -stoke, -thorpe -ston(e) -b(o)urne, -well Ballin(a)­ -tree, -try ~-- Auchter­ -- - -- - - -.. ~ ~ ~_. ~.~_ ~_ ~" • • ___ __ ~ ___ ~~_. ___ •• ~~ __ ¥ F __ • __ • • ___ • __ • Glen-, Strath-, -dale valley (narrow) -combe ,_ , ___._. ______ __ ____ ~ __._~_.__ ._ -, __ ~~ ' •• __ ._ •• _.~ ____•• , ___. _________ ,'c_·· ______·__ ~ ~ _ __ ,,_~ ____ ._~ •• ____ __• __., _._. ___ ._~ _______.~__._ • ___ • __ ~ ~ _ • _______ _ __ ._ , ____ ." ___ • __ , .~ valley (wooded) - , ____ . ______ •• _______________ ~___ , ___,_,_c_, village wood -.-----.-------.-- .. ---------'"----~~---.,- - - ~-.--,-, wooded angle of land -den Tre­ Rhos-, Ros-, Ross-, -wood . . < - - -_ . --,~----- - , - - - - - - - - , - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -~ . . , - -~. -. - - - - - - - - - - - - - ' - - - ' - - . -----------.-~ -< - - ­ -shot(t) "_ ,__, , ~_. __ ._, _~V __ :~__ , __ • __ , _ _ _ _ -' __ • _ ___ ___ ___ __ ,,_~" ________ c ___._~ ~~~~.~~ [p], [d] > [t], [g] > [k], [m] > [n] and [11] > [m].

The language of Negasi went through different changes from Nagada. The only
consonantal change was that of [d] > [t] > [s]. Vowels changed depending on the
syllable they appeared in:

Vowel

First
syllable

Final syllable (if more
than 1 syllable)

[a]
[e]

[e]
– –«.’~~-.– ~ ~.~-. –~~~ ~~~—-
[u]

[i]
[a]

«_~’ __ _ ‘_~ __ ‘T __ __ __ ‘ _________. . __ • __ • __ • ______ __ ___ » ___________ v.

[u ] [a ] [o ]

For instance, the Nagada word naba became neb; in Negasi.

All words in the three languages are spelled phonetically. All three languages put the
modifier before the word being modified (e.g., «doghouse» means «the house for
dogs»).

Here are the root words of Nagada and how those words appear in Makata and
Negasi.

«bearer»

ba

.. –.,–… ~.– ~». ,­

–‘-‘—‘-‘–‘-~

,.

«beloved»
– » ..
¥_.»
ublessed»

«divine»

«giver»

«healer»

«lily»
._… -_..- – -_. -­ ‘~—-‘-
«pearl»

«shining»

«swift»

naba

luma

luma

ge
..

dala

-» ~

~.-.-

hama

rele

dube

sahu

Makata

Negasi

pa

mapa

~_··_~_.~·w~~_

peta*

luna

ke

tala

hana

rele

tupe

sahu

be
neb;

lami

~» ~. «~.~~. ~

luna*

gu

seli

heni

rula

saba

seho

There was not room in this short introduction to cover borrowing or meaning change
or any of the other factors that can override direct descent from a parent language,
and I will give only one example here: Negasi borrowed luna from Makata to
distinguish between the meanings of «divine» and «blessed», which were both
reflected by the single word luma in Nagada. Makata, for its part, coined the word
peta for «blessed» to distinguish between the two concepts.

Based on these words, here are some common names in the three languages.

«blessed
pearl»

«divine
healer»

Lumarele

Petarele

Lamirula

Lumadala

Lunatala

Lunaseli

«swift healer» Sahudala

«lily giver»

Hamage

Sahutala
Hanake

Sehoseli

Henigu

«pearl
bearer»

Releba

Relepa

Rulabe

The above table assumes the meanings of the names were kept current (like Indian
names like «Dances With Wolves») rather than fossilized. If the meanings were
instead forgotten, then the Makata and Negasi forms would have been shaped
simply by changing the sounds of the words. So Nagada Lumarele would be Makata
Lunarele, rather than Petarele.

If I was actually going to use these names in a story, I would spend much more time
refining them to develop an affinity between the sound of a name and the character I
wanted to represent. However, taking the words as they are can provide insights into
the IIn-agjned p~ople. I think Lumarele is a great name for an island princess, and I
can picture SBhlldaJa, the impotent witch doctor who wants her hand in marriage, but
the name of her;ealous sister Hamage carries with it the stench of lilies, rather than
their sweet aroma …A Naming Language image
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