Invented languages with clicks and whistles

oranges

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In a prehistoric fiction I'm writing, I'd like my invented language to include clicks and whistles. I know not to overdo it. I wonder if using the IPA symbols would be better than using my own two-letter combinations. I'd try to keep it simple. Any thoughts and suggestions? Thanks.
 

Mirannan

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Well, if you can find anything about any of the many "click languages" in the real world it might help you. The most famous one (spoken by a contestant on X Factor, of all things!) is Xhosa.
 
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Read some of Toni Morrison's slave narrative short stories. The ones which depict the language, as spoken by the slaves of the time, as phonetically accurately as possible. It's almost impossible to actually read the dialogue. As for IPA symbols, there's only a few hundred--many thousand--linguists who can read that stuff, why limit your audience so drastically? What is gained, story-wise, by depicting the actual sound of the language, more than just in passing?
 

Stephen Palmer

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My advice would be to hint at it only - you've got to keep the flow. If people keep pausing to work out names, words etc you've lost them.

I'm having similar issues with Yorkshire dialect - I need to indicate it to give flavour, but not make it broad, ie less readable. Bit of a tightrope act...
 

Bowler1

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I have little aliens that talk using clicks and whistles, but as it's SciFi they also use a translator box, which does get me off the hook.

However, when talking with each other I just type it in english and use a speech tag, such as - she whistled, she clicked, she replied happily whistling. Let's face it, it would just be communication to my little aliens and the means of communication and how they express words is by the by. My view is simple. The reader justs wants to read a story not learn a new means of communication, so just stick to the story.
 

tinkerdan

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You would need a glossary of terms and that would be annoying. Oh, wait I remember recently reading something in SF that had acronyms for all the present space technology which is almost like a different language. They helpfully supplied a glossary of terms.

Yeah; it was annoying.

You'd need to do the language with () and the translation in order to even begin to get me to read it.

It would still be annoying
 

Phyrebrat

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And also how would you intend to describe the differences between the 3 types of click (in xhosa/zulu). Do you really want to go into details about the palate etc!?

With naming characters, I would make reference to the use of x's in language to denote the click e.g. Nelisiwe Xaba has the nnngn-click on the x of Xaba. (Sorry if that sounds confised. Not sure how to write phonetically).

So, yeah. What Stephen said :)

pH
 

oranges

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Thanks. Different groups in my story speak different languages, so there might be some brief discussion of "His name is pronounced with a different click..." Then I'd drop it, and I'll keep the spellings simple.
 

hej

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In a prehistoric fiction I'm writing, I'd like my invented language to include clicks and whistles.

Any thoughts and suggestions? Thanks.
At the risk of being tangenial, I would to know how the uses of clicks and whistles came to be recognized as part of language.

I've read that among peoples with a high level of congenital deafness, sign language emerged from speech. Thus, these individuals can be largely bilingual, applying spoken or sign language as need be.

I speculate that a society with many, malformed larynges could have created this alternative communication -- that was absorbed into the main language.

My hunch begs the question, where did these inadequately formed organs go?

A simpler explanation is that the vast majority of speakers found the click and whistle to be a hassle.
 

Dennis E. Taylor

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Click languages are not degenerate languages or dialects or pidgins. They are a set of languages descended from an ancestral language probably centered in southern African. There are two loci of the language type currently--one as mentioned above in southern Africa; another smaller group up near Morocco, IIRC. The use of clicks as a language component is no more odd than the sinospheric use of tones in language.
 

Caledfwlch

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I'm having similar issues with Yorkshire dialect - I need to indicate it to give flavour, but not make it broad, ie less readable. Bit of a tightrope act...
Areet love! has tha been on Ilkley Moar Bah'tat? I were there 9 while 10, it were reet grand until we went down't reeking ginnel :p

The Leeds dialect is fairly understandable to non Yorkshire people, my ex fiance was reasonably cogent to non Tykes, but her Uncle, and grandfather rural guys 1 working in a slaughterhouse, t'other retired, it took a few meetings for me to pick up and understand them properly.
It was quite a shock my first day in Leeds when a male taxi driver called me "love" then 20 mins later, a male bus driver called me love too, turns out it's a Leeds thing, men calling other men love.:D
I am quite proud that I picked up enough that I can understand "On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at" in the Yorkshire Dialect :)
 

DelActivisto

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At the risk of being tangenial, I would to know how the uses of clicks and whistles came to be recognized as part of language.

I've read that among peoples with a high level of congenital deafness, sign language emerged from speech. Thus, these individuals can be largely bilingual, applying spoken or sign language as need be.

I speculate that a society with many, malformed larynges could have created this alternative communication -- that was absorbed into the main language.

My hunch begs the question, where did these inadequately formed organs go?

A simpler explanation is that the vast majority of speakers found the click and whistle to be a hassle.
There are a great many different sounds we are capable of. In the English language we use only 42 distinct sounds, called phonemes. By contrast, we're capable of making over 500 different sounds. If you include languages like Chinese where tonal inflections change the meaning of words, the number is infinite - but the distinct sounds number around the 500 mark.
 

Toby Frost

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It might be worth having a look at the notes at the end of West of Eden by Harry Harrison, which deals with a similar imaginary language. IIRC, Harrison uses a couple of extra symbols to denote noises or gestures that humans couldn't make.
 

Montero

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Regarding the origin of click languages, as was said further up the thread - hunting language. Was watching an excellent documentary recently with Alice Roberts where she went out on a hunt with two bushmen. The click languages don't carry as well or alert the prey so often was what she was saying.
 

Stephen Palmer

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Regarding the origin of click languages, as was said further up the thread - hunting language. Was watching an excellent documentary recently with Alice Roberts where she went out on a hunt with two bushmen. The click languages don't carry as well or alert the prey so often was what she was saying.
the episode where she looked at the ingress into Europe was fascinating.
 

hitmouse

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If you want to get some ideas about whistled languages and their advantages, look up Silbo, which is used on one of the Canary islands.

For examples of the successful use of heavily accented dialect in SF, check out Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, and Feersum Endjin by Iain M Banks.
 

Cathbad

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Don't we use whistles in our language as well?

>wolf whistle
>amazed/awed whistle
>Whew whistle (used when narrowly escaping calamity)
...

Or not...
 

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