Languages and conlangs (that’s constructed languages like, for example, Dothraki and Klingon) are a great way to add flavour and immersion to your D&D campaign or novel setting! But organizing them – and figuring out how much you need to write for each one – can be tricky! In this post, we’re going to take you through how to organize your fantasy languages and conlangs using World Anvil, the ultimate worldbuilding platform.
Start with an overview to organize languages and conlangs
A great way to start detailing the languages in your world setting, and to introduce your readers to your world’s languages, is by listing them all on a single page! You could use a generic article template for this.
This language overview article is especially useful if your worldbuilding project has many different conlangs and languages! Having them all in a single reference article will help you remember all your languages at a glance. And if you make it available to your players and readers, they’ll thank you when they want a quick reminder of who speaks what, and where!
The world of Ravare, by Oneriwien, uses this idea beautifully. There are four language groups (common, uncommon, exotic, and archaic), and each language description specifies its region and alphabet. Go check it out for an awesome example!
Tip: use the tagging system to generate automatic lists of all languages! Learn more about tags.
Create individual articles ONLY for important languages
Maybe you’re tempted to create expansive articles for each and every language in your world. But choosing carefully which languages you expand can save you valuable worldbuilding time! (And, as we always say, you can always go back and worldbuild something later if you find it’s important for your campaign or novel!)
If you have many different languages, it’s likely that some will be more important than others. Maybe it’s the main character’s language or the one spoken by the dominant culture. Whatever the case, having full articles dedicated to the most relevant languages will be very handy! You can link them to the language overview article for bonus handiness!
What should you write about fantasy languages?
A language article can include technical details if you’re going down the conlanging rabbit hole. You might want to create full grammar and vocabulary rules like Tolkein did for his languages. They can – if you want them to – be an expansive and fascinating part of your novel or campaign.
But you don’t need to go FULL CONLANG! Languages have much more to them than just the linguistic mumbo jumbo. Think about where it’s spoken, what’s its relationship with other languages, how society views it, and so on. Add juicy idioms and similes which tell more about the history and culture of the people who speak the lanague. And if you need more ideas, check out these 5 tips to create fantasy languages for non-conlangers!
For an example of a great non-technical language article, check out TJ’s Ancient Auric! He does a great job at keeping the article short and easy to read. But at the same time, filled with information on the place this language has in the world of Melior.
Another approach to integrating your conlang with the world is creating a story in your language! We are Kykr, not Fey, by Tobias Linder “Toblin”, is an amazing example of this. Having the story translated to the conlang gives it extra realism and immersion points!
How do I organize my languages within my worldbuilding?
You can categorize languages in many different ways depending on how the people of your world use them.
Beneath the nation:
If languages mainly belong to individual regions, you could categorize each language under its country’s category. For example, in the real world, Dutch would appear under the Netherlands’ category.
Beneath the culture or ethnicity:
On the flip side, multiple countries often share the same language. For example, Spanish is spoken in Spain but also in most Latin American countries. In this case, you could place the language under culture or ethnicity categories.
In their own special Language category:
But changing how you categorize languages depending on who speaks them can be a bit chaotic, depending on your setting. And even more so when you consider dead languages like Latin, Sanskirt or ancient Greek! So another option is just having a single category called “Languages” to put them all in! Then, just make sure that each language article clearly links to the region or culture that speaks it.
New language options on World Anvil’s worldbuilding template!
We recently added more prompts to our Language article template. Now you can more easily talk about sentence structure, adjective order, structural markers, and tenses. If you’re interested in exploring the technical side of a language, look at other language articles for layout inspiration! Sable Aradia’s Orcish language is a great example of a technical article with an engaging layout —so make sure to check her work out!