A few brief High Fantasy Dialogue Lines...

-K2-

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Hi Folks; been a while.

I'm wrapping up final edits on a long, high fantasy novella. A major theme of the story pertains to the divisions languages cause between cultures. The story is written in English (Imperial Crown in the story, *groans* yeah, I know, hehe). Other languages are there to add flavor. The protagonist's barbarian language is well developed. Most other languages are single, short sentences which do not require development, just that they read reasonably well and different from others. In all of the above, a direct action, response, or translation clears up any question as to what was said. Languages are written as English replacement respellings to aid pronunciation (sounding out the word if inclined).

And then there is one. Stereotyped dwarves who speak in a Crown dialect (also stereotypical) vs. their unnamed native language to bridge the contrasting languages. In that short scene, there are few translations or cues to explain what was said by the dwarf characters (2).

I'm curious how easy or painful these read to others. I want a difference between them and English, but an English reader needs to understand them. I want to imply an accent. I am in the process of softening the spelling of this dialect and easing back on the number of non-standard spelled words each line.

A few examples:
A. “Daeyeh spake Crown lass?”
B. “Abbuuhah, hullo! Ah dinnah knew enabody wusz waitin’,” ... “Haeyeh been waitin’ lahng? Ah’ll bae coomin’ doune duerectly.”
C. “Gohmladorin,” the woman shouted. “Yer-uh Hammer child. Ahch, ah’ve nae spake Hammer en years.”
D. “Aye, aye, ah should hae seen et. Ohsh, ye’ar uh bonnae yin tae."

Thanks for your input.

K2
 
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The advice I've heard is to minimize the accent/dialect I actually write down. One technique is to pick a particular word that is always in the dialect and the rest is just grammatically correct. Best is to use word choice and sentence construction to differentiate speakers.

This works on me, so I think the advice is good. All four examples above annoy me. I would let an introductory sentence in the dialect go, but I'd have to stop reading if all the dialog was like this.

For a reader like me perhaps this would work

A. “Do you spake Crown, lass?”
B. “Hullo! I didn't knew anybody was waitin’,” ... “Have you been waitin’ long? I’ll be comin’ down directly.”
C. “Gohmladorin,” the woman shouted. “You're a Hammer child. Ahch, I’ve not spake Hammer in years.”
D. “Aye, aye, I should have seen it. Ohsh, ??? ye’ar uh bonnae yin tae." (I didn't understand the last bit)

Vernacular words bolded.
 
The dialog as presented would be alright for me provided it did not go on that way for much longer. It sounds like you have given thought to this. I think having a small dose of very thick dialect adds to the story, if done for a purpose. So, for example, if you’re writing a scene in the POV of a character who speaks standard English, and then his companion slips into dialect to speak with an old friend they encounter, then writing the dialect thick helps the reader identify with POV character who can’t quite follow the conversation either.

On the other hand, if writing from POV of character who speaks in this dialect, there’s little point to keeping it thick beyond perhaps the first sentence b/c that character won’t be experiencing it as a foreign dialect, they’d just understand the meaning of what’s being said. Same as if you were writing a character who spoke a foreign language altogether; maybe you throw in some greetings and phrases in the foreign language, but you write the bulk of the dialogue in English for benefit of reader.
 
I don't think that is lazy: I don't think dialects work written phonetically, even when done by actual dialect speakers (see Irvine Welsh). It never looks convincing to me, as if the writer is putting on a false accent.

If I wanted to suggest an accent, I'd perhaps have the character speak a little awkwardly and formally (but not if they're a native speaker) and add a few words and/or phrases that suggested coming from somewhere, such as "see" or "yourself" as used by some Welsh and Irish people.
 
A. “Daeyeh spake Crown lass?”
B. “Abbuuhah, hullo! Ah dinnah knew enabody wusz waitin’,” ... “Haeyeh been waitin’ lahng? Ah’ll bae coomin’ doune duerectly.”
C. “Gohmladorin,” the woman shouted. “Yer-uh Hammer child. Ahch, ah’ve nae spake Hammer en years.”
D. “Aye, aye, ah should hae seen et. Ohsh, ye’ar uh bonnae yin tae."
Coming from a US perspective, I found myself stopping to sound out the words to understand what was intended. I felt I was spending all my brain power on figuring out the words rather than interrupting the dialog. I'd suggest limiting the dialect to maybe one word whenever a character enters the scene.
 
I will say that my daughter found Terry Pratchett's "Wee Free Men" which uses a lot of Scottish dialect very hard going when she was in middle school (we're American). I could read it better than she could, but as @Wayne Mack said, I had to basically "read aloud" in my head and imagine Willy the groundskeeper from the Simpsons.

If you haven't read it yet, maybe take a look at that to see how Pratchett handled the dialect.
 
"Hello! I didn't know anyone was waiting," he said in a heavy Scottish accent.
I like this method, and when I see it used, it works for me. It's a good example of where telling is better than showing. It lets the reader supply the required information. For made up worlds, it's better if a description of the accent is supplied. Thanks to Star Trek I know what a heavy Scottish accent is, but otherwise a brief description of the accent worked into the text does very well.
 
Those were fine. I'm increasingly not a fan of heavily phonetic accents, but I understood them fine. Compared to molespeak in Brian Jacques' Redwall, or Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, they were mother's milk.

If there's a problem with it, it's the imprecise mirroring of real world accents. I am fairly sure it's meant to derive from Scots, and things like Ahch rather than Ach and Doune rather than Doon are nails down chalkboards. Cooming sounds more Yorkshire than Scots. It's uncanny valley.

Also just because it was fine doesn't mean I think you wouldn't be better off with a milder approach to it. Take this little segment from McDowell's The Elementals:
“What's in that house, child, knows more than you know. What's in that house don't come out of your mind. It don't have to worry 'bout rules and behaving like a spirit ought to behave. It does what it does to fool you, it wants to trick you into believing what's not right. It's got no truth to it. What it did last week it's not gone be doing today. You see something in there, it wasn't there yesterday, it's not gone be there tomorrow. You stand at one of them doors thinking something's behind it—nothing's behind it. It's waiting for you upstairs, it's waiting for you downstairs. It's standing behind you. You think it's buried in the sand, why then, it's gone be standing behind that door after all! And you don't ever know what it is you looking for. You don't ever know what it is you gone see! Wasn't no ghost you saw, wasn't Martha Ann.”
To me, this is a great example of work that

a) has a very clearly observable regional dialect
b) has very easily read English

Just a few word substitutes, and the right word choices, and the right cadence, and it really creates the impression. And unless there is a strong reason to go all out, I think it's better.

Since language divisions are a major theme, I get going all out. But you've got to really nail it.

"....hullo! Ah dinnah knew enabody wusz waitin’,”

I would have written this as:

"Hello! I didn't know anyone was waiting," he said in a heavy Scottish accent.

I think thats just me being lazy though.

There's an argument about lazy and smart in a story set in our world where Scotland exists but for a secondary world fantasy like the OP seems to be doing based on it being Imperial Crown rather than English, this is just not an option.



Also, since we're talking of languages, having a language called Imperial Crown seems weird and I'm not sure I can think of a language with a similar name in our world. If you have a dialect or accent, then sure, that mirrors the idea of Received Pronunciation, but an actual language? Imperial Crown belongs to the list of D&Disms like Common or Trade-Tongue. It's not a big deal but, if you're going all out on language, then I think this is a small infelicity worth polishing out.
 
As someone who uses regional dialect in their writing (Northern Irish, not dissimilar to the OP) you can be quite subtle and still get the flavour across

‘Did you see that wee calf on the hill?’
‘The one with the oul’ mark on her face?’
‘Aye. Going to be a fine show animal, that one.’

Hopefully reasonably easy to follow but still with the flavour of the language
 
Thanks again everyone.
Also, since we're talking of languages, having a language called Imperial Crown seems weird and I'm not sure I can think of a language with a similar name in our world. If you have a dialect or accent, then sure, that mirrors the idea of Received Pronunciation, but an actual language? Imperial Crown belongs to the list of D&Disms like Common or Trade-Tongue. It's not a big deal but, if you're going all out on language, then I think this is a small infelicity worth polishing out.

I did want to comment on this aspect. The language's name comes from an old online, chat-based RPG that everyone needed to speak English while playing, but we didn't want to call it English as it was another world. I considered renaming it for this, but decided to keep it because it works.

All other languages mentioned (and named) have names we might expect: Hamr (Tem'Kref'Hamr) for the protagonists barbarian language; Shonaeshan for tribal Shonaesh; Moulanjarous for 'human' Port Moulan, but coincidentally a close variant is also what their enemies High Elves speak (Eesaenia); River Thaenous for 'human' Torksions speak, which again is a close variant of their Sylvan Elf enemies, Veeandlia; Vorkanii for Vorka; Rosstloff for the Rosstan region; etc.

And then, we have Imperial Crown/English. In this world, perhaps 30-50 humanoid species (referred to as races) are divided into hundreds/thousands of distinct cultures from small tribes to larger, more cohesive groups. Over millennia they have been absorbed, annexed, or seceded from occasional kings and even emperors. Various emperors attempted to force their language upon all others while at the same time proclaiming their imperial authority, with the crown's (leader's) language. Imperial Crown.

Thanks for your insights and help.

K2
 
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I will say that my daughter found Terry Pratchett's "Wee Free Men" which uses a lot of Scottish dialect very hard going when she was in middle school (we're American). I could read it better than she could, but as @Wayne Mack said, I had to basically "read aloud" in my head and imagine Willy the groundskeeper from the Simpsons.

If you haven't read it yet, maybe take a look at that to see how Pratchett handled the dialect.
Pratchett toned down the accents for the Tiffany Aching books - it might be interesting to read one of those, then read Carpe Jugulum, compare the accents, and see what you prefer.
 
The advice I've heard is to minimize the accent/dialect I actually write down. One technique is to pick a particular word that is always in the dialect and the rest is just grammatically correct. Best is to use word choice and sentence construction to differentiate speakers.

This works on me, so I think the advice is good. All four examples above annoy me. I would let an introductory sentence in the dialect go, but I'd have to stop reading if all the dialog was like this.

For a reader like me perhaps this would work

A. “Do you spake Crown, lass?”
B. “Hullo! I didn't knew anybody was waitin’,” ... “Have you been waitin’ long? I’ll be comin’ down directly.”
C. “Gohmladorin,” the woman shouted. “You're a Hammer child. Ahch, I’ve not spake Hammer in years.”
D. “Aye, aye, I should have seen it. Ohsh, ??? ye’ar uh bonnae yin tae." (I didn't understand the last bit)

Vernacular words bolded.
That reads better to me. Enought distinct dialect words, but less puzzling out the pronounciation of words that aren't really all that different. (I'd render the last as "You're a bonny 'un, tae.")
 
Thanks again everyone who responded to my question. The solution I went with was a little of the above suggestions--and a tiny bit not. The above character's initial four lines of perhaps 20+/- (a couple from above) remain the same with some eased spellings. At that point it's mentioned she 'knocks some of the seasoning off' her dialect and then eases significantly. The flavor remains via her husband's few lines--which were simpler--yet remained unchanged to mark the contrast.

I even applied it in a couple other areas with the highly developed barbarian language. Though in all cases each phrase is well explained, to not tax the reader, I used five or six words ending with..., where I then stated in entirety what the listener understood. If it overwhelms the reader still, it's no longer on me.

Thanks again! My revisit to high-fantasy is finished, and hopefully the PDF will be available for free download after the holidays. Back to sci-fi and dystopias for me ;)

K2
 
"....hullo! Ah dinnah knew enabody wusz waitin’,”

I would have written this as:

"Hello! I didn't know anyone was waiting," he said in a heavy Scottish accent.

I think thats just me being lazy though.

No, that's you making it easy for the reader making it it so they don't have to stop and deconstruct language every time a character opens their mouth.

I live in Scotland. I hear 'heavy Scottish accents' every day. (There is no one Scottish accent any more than there is only one American, or one English accent) and reading misspelled Scots - it's 'dinnae' not 'dinnah' - is hard work.
 
No, that's you making it easy for the reader making it it so they don't have to stop and deconstruct language every time a character opens their mouth.

I live in Scotland. I hear 'heavy Scottish accents' every day. (There is no one Scottish accent any more than there is only one American, or one English accent) and reading misspelled Scots - it's 'dinnae' not 'dinnah' - is hard work.
I personally love a word ending 'ae, (aey, not the expected aeh)' and have used it in every conlang I've ever written as a 27th letter/sound. And yet, this dialect is not Scots. It is a fantasy Dwarvish Crown Pidgin Dialect. As noted above, I've already adjusted this in the finished work.

That said, with an undeveloped conlang, I'm faced with a choice. Lose any/all flavor -- or spell something to suit a single Earth language/dialect while forsaking all others -- or write something so most people can sound it out, like all children learn to do, to generate a pronunciation they can decipher as easily as listening to some unfamiliar English dialect.

To elide and accentuate didn't: dint (too harsh for the dialect), dinna (might be sounded out by some as -a- as in cat), dinne (some might pronounce as dine, others din-neh), dinnae (some might pronounce as dinnay), dinnah (din-nah) eliminates the potential long-vowel -i- and ensures the -ah-. Context eliminates the potential for the word to mean 'dinner.'

Thanks again everyone for your advice. Some was used to finish this work, the rest I'll keep in mind with other projects.

K2
 

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