Monday, September 10

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, September 10, 2018 6 comments
by guest author Lauren H. Salisbury

Tolkien deployed invented languages to enrich his fantasy.
There’s nothing better than opening a new book and being swept away into an imaginary world. I love discovering fantastical realms peopled by strange races and bizarre creatures. I also enjoy the sense of immersion that comes from comprehensive world-building, one of the hallmarks of my favourite speculative fiction.

Using an original language is often part of this. Just as little details add a sense of realism to a setting, even a couple of words or phrases can make a huge difference to the overall impression of an unfamiliar culture or species. In fact, where there’s no unique terminology, I often feel like something’s missing, which can disconnect me from the narrative.

I wanted my own worlds to be as authentic as possible, so I invented languages for each species. My process was reasonably simple and involved the following three stages:


I started with the overall sound I wanted my languages to have, whether to make them guttural, lyrical, harsh or soft. Did I want clicks or glottal stops? Based on this, would they use or omit any specific letters?

This was influenced by the general image I wanted to create for each species. For instance, Esarelians are ambitious and politically astute, making alliances and continually plotting. Baketags are a warrior race with a strict honour code, and Oeals are empaths known for manipulation. I chose soft sounding consonants and glottal stops for the Esarelians while Baketags have hard, clipped sounds, and Oeals use mostly vowels in their speech. This gave me a pool of letters from which to draw when naming characters and inventing specific words.


Once I knew what sounds I wanted, I thought briefly about how complex the grammar should be for each language. Things like word length, whether they’d use prefixes and suffixes, whether adjectives and adverbs went before or after nouns. I didn’t want to go too deep into this area, as I only wanted a taste of each language, but it helped me build the words I did need.

For example, Baketag words have only one syllable with adjectives forming suffixes. Their words also join together to form longer single words and don't include articles, determiners, auxiliary verbs, etc. The name Baketag—people (bak), warriors (et), leader (ag)—translates to “people who are warriors under the ultimate leader.” Their planet, Vobaket is “planet of the people who are warriors.”

Specifics – Names and Phrases

With the sounds and basic grammar in place, I was able to create specific words and phrases that would imply cultural references and make each species more authentic. For instance, Esarelian names have two syllables, and the second often denotes class. I was able to play with this principle in the first book, having a character’s suspicions regarding another’s rank confirmed by her name, which made the scene much more interesting and nuanced.

As for the number of alien words I incorporated, that was more intuitive. I started with the names of the main characters, a handful of animals and plants, some foods, and a phrase or two that would fit the story or act as a species’ motto. After that, I added more as I needed them. For Conviction, this included an Esarelian game of strategy and a term for suspected assassination.

I only use alien words and phrases where they’d appear naturally, and I’ve tried several means of explaining their meaning. These methods range from a simple definition following the term, i.e., “As the Ra’hon, the ultimate leader, of the largest known Empire, Ashal needed to…,” to an integrated explanation. Here’s an example from Conviction.

I also found that having a clear idea of their language influenced the way I wrote the narrative in scenes from their viewpoint. I avoided contractions and stuck more rigidly to grammar rules than I did in scenes with a human viewpoint. This reflected their formal speech and helped distinguish them as an alien species.

Several readers have specifically mentioned the way I balance the alien and familiar in my novels, and including parts of their language was one of the main ways I accomplished that.

I hope sharing my process has shown that constructing languages doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated to be effective. However, I’m by no means an expert, and I highly recommend reading around the area, especially if you want to invent more than just a few phrases and names. There are a lot of great resources out there, but a good place to start would be the Language Creation Society at

Thank you for taking the time to find out a little bit about me and my writing, and have fun!

About the Author

Lauren H. Salisbury was an English teacher for sixteen years with an MA in Education. She is now a writer who dabbles with tutoring and lives with her husband and a room full of books in Yorkshire, England. She likes to spend winters abroad, following the sunshine and becoming the seasonal envy of her friends. When she’s not writing, she can be found spending time with family, reading, walking, crafting, or cooking. The Legacy Chronicles is her debut series.

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About the Book

The Legacy Chronicles 2
Christian speculative fiction

Can two people with opposing principles overcome their differences to be together?

Than has spent his life ostensibly having fun while secretly fighting for his people’s freedom. A member of the underground resistance, he is only ever serious around his comrades and his family. When an injury forces him to step down from active duty and his reluctant nurse sparks his interest, Than finds himself in uncharted territory. The fascinating woman will have nothing to do with him.

Menali’s past has taught her to keep her head down and trust that God has a reason for allowing the human race to suffer on U’du. When Than explodes into her life, he refuses to take no for an answer and challenges all of her preconceptions. He soon has her re-evaluating her priorities and wondering what life with someone like him would be like.

The Legacy Chronicles available here:



Use the Rafflecopter below to enter Lauren's giveaway, a Conviction swag bag, which contains character pictures, a themed greeting card, a cross stitched bookmark, a stone necklace and a signed print of the passage it's taken from.

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Q4U: How have linguistic details enhanced your favorite spec fic books? 
Any questions for Lauren?


  1. Awesome blog post, it's great to learn how you create new languages for your books.

    1. Thank you. It was lots of fun to invent them.
      My young nieces got involved too, which was exciting for them but resulted in some of those rules I mentioned above being broken a time or two. It was worth it for a five year old to get excited about fiction, though.

  2. First time visiting, very cool sci fi

    1. Thank you. I've always enjoyed the genre, and this series refused to stay in my head any longer. ;)

  3. I'm amazed at the creativity of authors!

  4. Aww, thank you. I'm amazed by lots of people, which is probably why I write about courage and trust in difficult circumstances.