One of the longest-lasting and most rewarding friendships of my life began in the sixth grade. I had just transfered to a new school, and being a shy, unathletic kid, I naturally gravitated to the other shy, unathletic kids, which in this case included Brett: a tall, skinny boy with glasses, allergies, and a gloriously nerdy set of interests. We played chess and read books together at recess. He got me to read Tolkien. And he got me into language.
In sixth grade Brett had already studied Latin and Old English, and his enthusiasm for arcane and obscure linguistic trivia infected me. I started studying Hebrew, we both dabbled in Tolkien’s languages, and we both tried to make our own languages. His languages were initially much better than mine, as he had a big head start on linguistics, and having two foreign languages already under his belt was a tremendous advantage for his initial language-construction forays. He taught me the International Phonetic Alphabet and the basics of phonology and historical linguistics. I don’t exaggerate much to say that my friendship with Brett changed my life: the interest in linguistics that he sparked never died out; Linguistics became my major in college, which led indirectly into my current day job; and my linguistic training was part of what motivated and prepared me to go to Romania where I met my wife.
He’s still better than me at linguistics, too, since he is in the last stages of finishing his PhD. in Linguistics, while I have a lowly B.A.
However, I do have one thing over him: I kept up the hobby of language creation (conlanging, as we call it), while he seemed to abandon it in high school. I’ve continued to develop languages for my fictional settings and my private amusement, and just the other day I completed an application for an actual paid conlanging gig. At this point I have at one well-documented language, Yivrian, and a whole slew of sketches, planned languages, and notes.
I’ve also put a lot of work lately into Praseo, the language used in my current WIP. And with the confluence of conlang-y things going on in my life right now, this seems like a good time to write about that aspect of my writing process, talking about how I use and create languages for my fictional settings, with pointers to how you can do the same if you’re interested.
Next week: a naming language.