Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fantasy Language Generator Update

As the May spring cleaning continues, I now revisit one of the earliest tools that I made available on the site. Back in April of 2010, I first posted my Fantasy Language Cypher. For those of you have have come to the site since then (or who may have missed it the first time around), the tool provides an easy way to create pseudo languages for your fantasy or science-fiction world.

Here's how it works:
  1. Inside the guts of the script, the Risus: The Anything RPG rules are are used to generate phoneme frequencies for English. The actual text doesn't matter so much as that it was always the same. This model is hidden from the user.
  2. The user supplies a model corpus (in the Latin alphabet) that should produce very different phoneme frequencies. I particularly like the works of Clark Ashton Smith (in English or in translation).
  3. The script then maps the most common phonemes in Risus to those of the model text.
  4. The user enters text to be "translated". The script replaces phonemes using the map generated in the previous step.
Here is an example:
Model Text: Esperanto "translation" of The Witchcraft of Ulua.

Text to TranslateOutput
January February March April May June July August September November DecemberFloluaro Maruaro Roj Ankid Ria Flula Flugo Eecurgh Tambrapan Betapan Damapan
one two three four five six seven eight nine tenola zi knua mien mita tij tatas iej bila kas
spring summer autumn winterlil tullan eenuj fikan
map mapping mapper mappedroj rognil rognan rognajn
As long as the model text is the same, the "translations" will be consistent. As you can see above, the "-uary" suffix maps to "-uaro" and the "-ember" suffix maps to "-apan". The faux-conjugation of the verb "to map" also produces an interesting simulated grammar.

Note that "march" and "map" both translate to "roj" due to a mismatch in the number of phonemes in the different model texts.

Anyway, this isn't a real language but it may be close enough for your roleplaying needs. Simply pick a different corpus for each language and you can always go back and generate more words as you need them.

UPDATE: Today's update adds support for many (but not all) accent marks that appear in English and other languages that use the Latin alphabet.

9 comments:

Talysman said...

The accidental re-use of phony words in "translations" may actually be an interesting brainstorming tool... for example, I used a Lorem Ipsum sample and translated some texts and noticed that "lord" and "lock" were both translated as "tras"... If the culture really did use a word that meant "lock" to also mean "lord", that could lead to all sorts of cultural speculation. Do landed nobles act as metaphoric locks on the doors to the wilderness, in the eyes of the culture?

Trey said...

Clever. :)

I think Talysman makes a good point, too. Such cyhers can be a the jumping off point for at least a "naming" language.

Aarneus said...

I was wondering how it worked! :D

Though an option to translate back into English would be nice.

Risus Monkey said...

@Talysman & Trey: I love the idea of looking for ideas in the re-use of words. And yes, this is entirely intended to be a "naming" language. :)

@Aarneus: I'm afraid I couldn't guarantee that it would translate back correctly. But it is definitely something worth checking out...

Aaron Helton said...

I tried Irish, Spanish, and Italian texts as the model, and lord and lock still ended up being the same word. Spanish, for instance (using a few paragraphs of The Abominations of Yondo), produced lord = ris and lock = ris. Taking the same paragraphs from the Italian translation of that text, we get lord = qin = lock. So it doesn't really appear to be a function of the model text so much as some factor present in those two words or the reference corpus.

This is an excellent and interesting tool, and I am very interested in finding new applications for it, but it does seem to have a few limitations.

Risus Monkey said...

@Aaron: Thanks for pointing this out. I'm going to take a closer look when I get the chance. I freely admit to its current limitations, but I hope make additional improvements here and there to make it even more useful.

Phi Dinh said...

Hi there. This is one of the best things I've seen for a long time. I am creating a space strategy computer game with lots of alien races. Can I have your permission to use your tool (or at least the ideas you have presented here) to generate alien languages?

Risus Monkey said...

@Phi Dinh: go right ahead! If you use the algorithm then just try to give mr a shout out. :)

Anonymous said...

I think the cypher is awesome, but it seems to strip the text of the formatting it was an originally, and the box for the text to "translate" is a bit too small.