Saturday, April 16, 2011
Worldbuilding A to Z: L is for Language
Obviously, in Akhet the source language will be Ancient Egyptian. Now there are unique difficulties with using that source. I can't actually learn the language without a long period of extensive study and maybe not even then. I can't even obtain a useful dictionary of the language. I tried, but the books I found with large glossaries notated the Egyptian words as they would have been written, without their vowels. That's not much use to me. So I have settled on simply compiling a list of names of actual Ancient Egyptian people from my research. I have in many cases managed to isolate the meaning of the different word components of the names. By doing this with any name I can kind a translation of, I can assemble a list of word components that I can mix and match if I want to create a name that means a specific thing.
For instance, the name of the second King of the sixth dynasty was Userkare which is translated as "The Soul of Ra is Strong". Now I can see that the "re" at the end of the name refers to Re/Ra and if you read my post yesterday you know that "ka" is usually translated as "soul". Therefore I can surmise that the "User" element of the name refers to strength.
Right now I have used this method with two important characters' names. My MC's companion and sometimes POV character is named Setekhpenre. The element "pen" I have seen used in enough names where it is connected to the name of a god (penre or penamun) to guess that it refers to being "chosen of" the god in question. Setekhpenre is indeed a person "chosen of Re" for a specific task in my story. My MC is called Kamose. Ka, of course, referring once again to that soul like element of the social self I discussed yesterday. "Mose" can be isolated from names like Thutmose as meaning "born of". Therefore my MC is "born of his ka". That will have significance.
One further concern when working with such names is trying to keep them from being too unwieldy for readers. I am fully aware that in using a language so unfamiliar to English speakers I am risking frustrating my readers. Because of that I have tried to chose and assemble names that are as easy as possible to pronounce while still maintaining the Egyptian feel. In addition, I will most likely include a pronunciation guide for all my names. I've always appreciated those in fantasy books I've read.
What do you think of the names I mentioned above? (Two other names I am using are Asetnofret and Nebetah.) Do you find them too difficult? Would a pronunciation guide be enough to stave off any frustration on your part? Let me know how you like your fantasy names.