I spent a while yesterday working on nachīga, the language the Dwarrow use in my gothic fantasy novel. *Most* the work this new draft of the novel requires is actually on the Dwarrow, not the Àlvare, who are actually quite well developed.
(I call dwarves Dwarrow for two reasons: Tolkien liked calling them Dwarrow, and also because “dwarf” means a lot of different things in English, including certain species of animals and a human skeletal disorder. Differentiating concepts linguistically should be done thoughtfully in fantasy, imo.)
There’s so much work done on my Dwarrow that it’s easy for me to forget I’m missing some significant pieces. The Dwarrow were the first part of worldbuilding I did on this book, in fact. I wrote out this manifesto for the idea of how a society consciously aware of corruption and hierarchy might structure itself to prevent these things from growing.
And that came about from thinking about Dwarf Fortress honestly – because in worldbuilding games, we take it for granted that we (the player/king/god) must provide every life form in our societies with food, housing, and medicine. But this is not the case in America and we find the idea revolting. We tell cultural stories about how unhoused people or those who are visibly ill are at fault for these qualities, villainizing the disfigured rather than the beautiful housed rulers who decided it’s okay some humans live this way.
So I’ve got this weird manifesto about the society, I have maps, I have a lot of functional questions answered (levels of technology? applications of it? sanitation? fantasy mass transit?). But I actually didn’t do one of the most important parts of worldbuilding, which is the language itself for nachīga!
It wasn’t essential to understand nachīga in the first draft. I wanted time spent with the elves to feel alienating, hostile, and foreign, so I integrated a lot of conlang words initially in order to distance readers from these hoity-toity fair folk. Meanwhile, Dwarrow were supposed to feel like a homecoming: wrapped in a big blanket of warm acceptance. I used common names for things to make it easier to follow and feel more familiar.
A long time ago, years now, I created the Àlvare language-first. Every value I wanted for my elves, I put into the language. Being excessively elaborate. Deliberately obscure. Musical. Information-dense. Curated. So you can see why it would then feel weird coming “backwards” for my Dwarrow to finally arrive at the point where I need to design a language reflecting values/etc that have been elaborated on elsewhere. It’s a distillation rather than a foundation.
Lots of fun getting into nachīga, though. Once I’ve determined rules for phonology and grammar and stuff, I use a software called Vulgarlang to produce my vocabulary. I go from “scratching my head over rules and IPA symbols” to “1500 vocabulary words in the dictionary” in a few minutes. It’s *really* satisfying.
Since I spent so much time doing thoughtful worldbuilding stuff yesterday, I think today I should write cartoon dragon p0rn.