‘The Language of the Elves’ by Rie Sheridan Rose, author of “The Luckless Prince”
About Rie Sheridan Rose
Rie Sheridan Rose has been writing professionally for the last ten years or so — though she has just added the “Rose” on the end. After putting up with her for the last eight years, she figured her husband deserved the recognition. Prior to last year, her work appeared under “Rie Sheridan.”
In that decade, she has published 4 novels, 1 short story collection, 2 chapbooks of collected stories, and five poetry collections as well as contributing to several anthologies.
Her stories have also been published in The Eternal Night, ShadowKeep and Verge ezines, as well as the EOTU and Planet Relish websites.
Her poetry appeared in the print magazines Mythic Circle, Dreams of Decadence, and Abandoned Towers as well as the Electric Wine and Tapestry ezines.
The Half-Price Books 1999 “Say Good-Night to Illiteracy” Anthology contained her children’s story “Bedtime for Benny”.
Both her short story anthology RieVisions and poetry collection Dancing on the Edge were finalists in the 2003 EPPIE awards. Poetry collection Straying from the Path and Young Adult novel The Right Hand of Velachaz were finalists in the 2004 EPPIE awards.
Her most popular stories to date are the Adventures of Bruce and Roxanne, humorous horror shorts several of which have been collected into two print chapbooks by Yard Dog Press.
She has also written the lyrics to several songs for Marc Gunn. Their “Don’t Go Drinking With Hobbits” CD is due out in August.
Her latest book is The Luckless Prince, published by Zumaya Otherworlds.
Rie lives in Texas with her husband Newell and several cats, all spoiled rotten.
You can visit her website at www.riewriter.com.
Connect with Rie at Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/riesheridanrose.
The Language of the Elves
One of the myriad lessons I learned from Professor Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings was that elves spoke their own language when they didn’t want the humans/halflings to understand them. And it sounded cool. So, when I set out to write the elves in The Luckless Prince with a serious eye toward eventual publication, I wanted my elves to have their own language too.
Only one problem, I was not a linguist. When J.R.R. Tolkein created his multi-level elven languages, he had studied linguistics for decades. He knew the composition and construction of language, and used that knowledge as the base of his new ones. I thought that making up some weirdly spelled words that sounded kinda cool was enough.
I remember well the first time I got the idea to add in the elven words. I was visiting a friend for the summer, and making yet another pass at revision. This would have been sometime in the late 1980’s. During this first attempt at language creation, my method was simple. I glanced around my borrowed bedroom, found an object, and rearranged the letters in its name until I had a new word I liked. So, “bookcase” might become “casobek”, the elven word for journey-bread.
This made perfect sense to me at the time, and I considered that I had written a language. Until I found an elective to take when I was back in school for my Asian Studies degree that sounded like it might be interesting: The Languages of Science Fiction. You can still find our old webpage cached on Google, because I looked it up: http://www2.truman.edu/~mshapiro/sfhome.html . Unfortunately, since this class was in the late 1990’s, many of the links are dead on this website – but it still gives you clues what to look for when you want to learn to construct a language. This class opened my eyes to just how much work should go into the formation of an imaginary language.
I learned the basic concepts of grammar would probably still apply to a new language. You would still need nouns to name people, places, and things (though I chose to use simple alternate English names for my places). You would still need verbs for actions, and adjectives/adverbs to describe those nouns and verbs. So, I began rethinking my language.
I describe the language as “twittering” and “bird-like” throughout the story, so I made the decision to leave out certain English letters in my Elven alphabet because they are too sharp and hard a sound. You will find no words starting in C, G, or K for example – this was a conscious decision. The only words beginning with T are really the Th sound, which is less sharp. There are more vowels than anything else, because they have a tendency to soft, more liquid sounds in general.
I decided that the elves, being a proud people with a bit of snobbery, would have a third case for humans, so my verbs and personal pronouns come in male, female, and human. I created other rules for past tense and future – thought I simplified to only past, present, and future. (I decided elves don’t really need past imperfect tenses…do we?)
After I had this framework to build on, I could start creating the actual words of my language. This time, it wasn’t merely looking around a room and rearranging letters, it was a consistent, logical, rule-based system. And it was a blast!
To see the finished language, visit Elven Glossary . To see the language in use, read The Luckless Prince .
About The Luckless Prince
The Luckless Prince is an epic quest fantasy. Prince Roland and his squire, Stefan, journey
downriver to negotiate a fur deal for his father. But the seemingly innocuous mission becomes
a nightmare as the raft is attacked by a band of raiders. And their troubles are only beginning.
As Roland tries to return home and reassure his father of his safety, he finds himself taken
prisoner by the mysterious elves of legend. And, in the end, only by forming an uneasy alliance
can their common enemy be defeated.