I’m toying with a Sanskrit-esque conlang. At the moment this is likely to be just a naming language, but there’s a good chance that I’m going to need to expand it later, so I want to make sure I get off on the right foot.
But this poses the question: what is Sanskrit-esque? I’m mostly concerned with phonology and mouth-feel, not syntax or morphology—which is convenient, since I know basically nothing about Sanskrit beyond its phonology. A little brainstorming suggests the following characteristics:
- A four-way stop contrast, with all combinations +/- voice and +/- aspirated for most places of articulation
- Palatal and retroflex consonant series
- a as the most common vowel, followed by i
- Syllabic sonorants, especially r
- Lack of w, but v and y very common.
- Onset clusters of the form Cr, but few/no other onset clusters
- Vowel length distinction
- Relatively few word-final consonants, and those that occur are usually nasals or h
I found this Sanskrit text as a good language sample, from which I drew most of the preceding observations. Obviously some of these are generalizations about Sanskrit romanization and not necessarily about phonology per se, but since my end-goal here is to create a Sanskrit-flavored naming language, observing the romanization conventions is part of the deal.
Now I further complicate my requirements by noting that I already have a decent number of names in use for this setting, which I have to retrofit without completely destroying. Let’s start with the city formerly named Wyrnas, a grotesquely cliche pseudo-Welsh name. My initial concept of this language used the digraph yr to indicate a syllabic [r], so this name can be changed to Vrnas with almost no change in actual pronunciation. But what a wonderful difference in flavor! I’m off to a good start.
Next is Corath. This name doesn’t violate any of our rules outright, but that final -ath doesn’t sit right. Obvious alternatives would be Coratha or Corathi, which are merely okay. While looking at these names I thought of simply geminating the th to Corattha, which seems just right.
On to Gocem. I’m pretty sure that CoCeC is not a possible word-shape in Sanskrit, so we have to change at least one of the vowels. But the most minimal change here seems like the best: Gocam
(Note that I’m editing purely for flavor here, without any concern for the morphology or phonotactics of the target language. This is fine as a first step, though later of course I’ll have to figure such things out.)
I won’t go through the rest of the 20-ish names that would have to be retrofitted, since this is just a preliminary sketch. But I’m heartened that the retrofit seems to be possible.