book on a simple way of creating a realistic language that if you're into spending a few dollars on, I found really useful. It's a great addition to my (rapidly expanding) worldbuilding library.
Also...someone mentioned Holly Lisle's _Create a Language Clinic_, and I just wanted to add my props to that mention. Holly Lisle's writing instruction materials are all very well thought-out, and pretty clearly written. She makes no claim to "Ultimate Writing Technique Mystical TRUTH" but just gives her own methods as succinctly as possible. So if you are making maps for Roleplaying Games (which involve story) or for your own fiction, I highly recommend you give her site a look-over. She has a lot of stuff that totally free, as well as more detailed instruction that costs money. And even the stuff that you pay for has a range--some is very cheap for the amount of information she gives, and there are even more extensive works that cost more.
And no--I am not getting paid for this or compensated in any other way (LOL). I have many of her "Clinics" though, and have also taken her "How to Think Sideways" course. Just thought I'd throw a plug out there for her, since I've gotten a lot out of her work.
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Just read through this, and found it interesting, so I'll add my own little tuppence.
One of my favourite places, when it comes to looking at Toponomy has to be "Torpenhow Hill" in England.
This name, as I understand it, basically means "Hillhillhill Hill"; "Tor", "pen", and "how" all meaning hill in different languages (Old English, Welsh and Danish I think) - I guess it goes to show, that when a new power arise in a region they may use old toponomy, but add to it themselves. And I find that rather interesting.
Now that's too darn funny; but very enlightening.
If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
-J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)
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Just read this thread and liked all posts. I also tend to create a whole new language for the people who created the names. One web site I found helpful that has been up for the last 13+ years: The Language Construction Kit. Holly Lisle's site seems good, but it also seems you have to buy the book to get all of it. The LCK is free.
While my wife was still alive, she and I created the Vinyarik language with about 18,000 words. Alas, I no longer have the notebooks for this language like Holly Lisle suggested.
Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun. - Albert Einstein
A good friend will come down and bail you out of jail. A best friend will be in jail with you and say, "Dude, we screwed up."
On my map of Paidixira, the world is supposed to have a decidedly greek influence, so i kept a nifty greek translator site on bookmark at all times and translated a couple words together any time I needed a name. I went the same direction naming animals too: a hound with an axe shaped head is called a Xikouri combining the greek words for "axe" and "hound." I also recommend the site Behind The Name for anyone struggling to come up with forenames for characters. Not only do they have the etymology of thousands of names, but they also have tons of statistics and historical connections about names.
I've found things to be decidedly easier when taking from established languages. Behind all of the names i've made, I recognize the whisper of a real city or country. Some of the names have come out looking very alien (for example, trying to name forests often uses the root "Xylo" for wood, which has the odd effect of obscuring the meaning of a name whenever I use it.) but i'm using a blunt tool and one can't expect too much. I'm interested in using some of the techniques mentioned in this thread, so i hope my two cents have at least a glimmer of the usefulness your suggestions did.
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i wish you still had those notebooks... that would be a real piece of work...
For those who'd like to use french as a basis for your toponymy, there are a few facts that are worth knowing (especially if you plan to give it a medieval feeling).
Lots of places are named (as in any language, I guess) after landmarks : rivers, hills,... or after what the place was used for in the first place.
For example, if you want to use landmarks :
- The french city of Bordeaux is named after the fact it is a coastal city. Bordeaux a contraction of "bord des eaux", which could be translated as "water side".
- The town of Liège is named after a small river that crossed it before it was "forced" underground, the river Légia.
- You can find a whole lot of places with names like Montrouge (red hill), Le Chesne ("chesne" is an old form of the word "chêne", which means "oak tree"),...
Places named after what they were used for :
- There's a neighborhood in the city I grew up in called La Bergerie (the sheepfold). Of course you won't find any sheep, but it's what it used to be.
- There are villages called La Forge (the forge), Vieux-Moulin (old mill),...
A lot of place are named using ancient words. This is what makes french medieval places sound "medieval"... You can use oldish versions of some words quite easily :
- The word "château" (castle) used to be "castel" (as in Castelnaudary, the new castle of Ary, or in Castelsarrasin, the Saracen castle)
- The word "royal" (related to the King) used to be "réal" (as in Montréal, the King's Hill)
- The word "nouveau" (new) used to be "nau" (like before, in Castelnaudary, which we can decompose as "castel nau d'Ary", the new castle of Ary)
- The word "libre" (free) used to be "franc" (as in Villefranche, free city)
People who named the places liked to show how new they were :
- Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Pope's new castle)
- Villeneuve-d'Ascq (the new city of Ascq)
- Neufchateau (new castle)
- Funilly enough, the "Pont Neuf" (new bridge) in Paris is the oldest one in the city
Of course, we also have more than a few names that come from other languages : latin, german, flemish, italian, spanish,...