What I Provide
Most people in the market for a language will have some ideas about how they want the language to sound. Unless we're creating a language based on some words and phrases from an existing property, my first step is to create three sound palettes, which will include a practical orthography and some MP3 sound files of me speaking gibberish using the palette. If we have established canon to work from, we're more constrained, and only one or two palettes will be needed.
I can pronounce fairly exotic sound systems, but your actors may not be able to. It may take a few stages of refinement for us to select a sound palette that meets your artistic goals while also being reliably pronounceable by the average English-speaking actor.
Once you decide on the sound palette you like best, we can refine as needed, and then move on to the next step.
Every Language reflects the culture of its speakers. To create a language that is not simply a code of English, I need to know as much as possible about the culture of the people (or creatures) I'm creating the language for. This includes things such as:
- Physiology (how many fingers, for example, lifespan, etc.)
- The geography of where they live
- Family structure
- Degree of formality and hierarchy in the culture, roles of men and women where applicable, etc.
- Level of technology, and material culture
- Historical background, if possible
- Mythology, religion, etc.
All of this information provides the foundation for creating manners of expression that reflect the culture of the speakers rather than that of modern Americans.
If you need a little help on this, I have a questionnaire to prompt thinking about cultural matters.
Grammar and Vocabulary
Unless for some reason you already have some ideas about how the grammar of the language will work, I will work out the high-level sketch of the grammar on my own. I can of course run the basic ideas past you if you want, but one of the reasons people hire me is to not have to think about irregular verbs and unusual syntax.
Vocabulary, idiom and construction development is informed by any cultural information you give me, and will focus on first, a basic core vocabulary with which to test out the grammar, some vocabulary to provide the cultural and conceptual background for the language, and finally words for items, technologies, cultural practices and ideas important to the culture. For alien creatures I can also make suggestions for body language and gestures.
A Note on Writing Systems
I am a terrible graphic designer and have no business designing any but the simplest of systems for simple sound inventories. I can, however, work with your designers to craft a writing system that looks good and is a least somewhat plausible (too many science fiction and fantasy properties are saddled with writing systems that require writing tools that are either extravagant or defy the normal laws of physics). I also have contacts I trust who could be hired to work with us to create something both attractive and usable.
When I get a settled script I will translate the dialog. Once the translation is done I will produce something that looks like this...
I will also send MP3 files of me speaking the lines at speed and at a practice pace. In addition, I will write up a brief description of how the language is intended to be pronounced, so the actors will have a more guidance than just the MP3s to help them understand the intended effect.