|| Thus Spake The Creator
The Old Tongue
Go here for an entire
letter on the Old Tongue.
Q: Mr. Jordan? If I may? How did you develop the
A: the words come partly from Gaelic, Russian, Arabic,
Chinese, Japanese, the grammar and syntax I believe I
invented myself although it's possible that another
language usees the same. Of course, just as with English,
I have deliberately put in some very illogical
Q: Mr Jordan, I was wondering where you came up with
the "old language" and the Aiel language? Are
there preset rules to them and it is a functionong
language? Or do you just have a set of _words_ that you
devised and insert when needed?
A: It's a functioning langauge in that I have developed a
basic grammar and syntax, and have a vocabulary list
which I have devised, some from Gaelic of course, but
from languages less often used. russian, arabic, chinese,
japanese. I try to follow these rules that I've set up
but occasionally I realize I have to invent a new rule
because I'm doing something I've never done before but it
all follows the grammar I've devised. As far as the Aiel
that I've devised as a culture they have bits of Apache,
bits of Beduin, bits that are simply mine.
Is there a complete language of the Old Tongue, and if
so, how long did it take you to develop it?
There are some 880 basic words -- maybe 900. I got a list
of what is considered basic English, which are the 800
odd words of a basic English vocabulary, removed the
words that were of no use in the context of my world,
came up with words in the Old Tongue in each of those
English words, and then added those words that did have a
specific context in my world.
First, I'd like to thank you for your incredible Wheel of
Time series. It's given me incredible reading enjoyment
as well as given me the opportunity to build Wheel of
Time areas on an online Internet game, a MUD [Multiple
User Domain]. My question is when was the transition
period between the Old Tongue and the New Tongue? I
assumed it was after the Breaking, but many of Mat's
memories still have the Old Tongue in them, and they were
long after. When was the change, and what caused it?
have gone into this in some depth in other places, but
basically after the Breaking, the primary language was
still what is called the Old Tongue. In the period
between the Breaking and the Trolloc Wars, what would
become the language spoken today began to develop as a
common or vulgar tongue. During the period between the
Trolloc Wars and the War of the Hundred Years, that
vulgar tongue supplanted the Old Tongue as the usual or
everyday mode of speech, and the Old Tongue regressed to
being more and more something of scholars. At the time of
Artur Hawkwing, anyone who was educated, whether noble or
commoner, could speak and write the Old Tongue, but in
everyday life, most people used something very much like
what is spoken today. And it was the simple swamp.
Q: Do you have a Languages education? Where did you
get the idea for the Old Tongue?
A: Well, I got the idea for the old Tongue simply because
the core beginnings of this story lie 3000 years in the
past -- and I've never heard of a language remaining
unchanged over that length of time. We could not
understand the English spoken by an Englishman from 1000
years ago, and we'd have difficulty understanding him
from 500 years ago, and the same holds true for a
Frenchman with his language or a German with his.
A question about how he formed the Old Tongue.
A: The actual words are based on many words. I used
turkish, arabic, russian, chinese, japanese, and for a
hint of the familiar, I used a little Gaelic, too.
Because fantasy languages always have some Gaelic. That's
just the way it goes. but I made deliberately the grammar
and structure complicated.
... English is supposed to be the most
difficult language to learn in the world as a second
language. I think that that is pride speaking, but just
the same... yes, well, 'my language is harder than your
language.' I've been told it's true though, but whether
it is, I don't know.
... [he once tried learning Cantonese] ...
I'll tell you, there are eight tones in Cantonese.
Mandarin isn't too bad, there are only four tones there,
but you've got eight tones in Cantonese. And there are
others that can get twelve or better in other dialects.
You can as well just forget about it, unless you grew up
jodling from the cradle...
Reports from signings
The concept of the unified language he basically
explained as there had been a single language in use (the
Old Tongue), and the writing and printing of books
continued throughout the Breaking, albeit in a very
limited extent. The written word introduced a very large
conserving factor in the language-change mechanism.
He didn't give any conclusive answer to the Two Rivers
channeling paradox, but he noted that many strange
occurances come from there, like inherent ability to
speak the Old Tongue under stress.
A reader asked when the term "Ajah" came to
have the meaning it has in Rand's time. He said
that until at least 500 years after the Tower was
founded, it meant a temporary association for a specific
purpose, and was a
lower-case noun. Its proper-noun sense arose
afterwards, supplanting the earlier usage after the
Sitting in the back of the room, my memo-recorder
didn't pick up very much, but the following is what I can
make out of it and remember as answers to a question
about how he created the Old Tongue (always a topic some
people are very interested in) :
- There is no simple standard way to make plurals, to
shift the irregular verb, it's all adapted because of the
merging of different languages (Just like around 900 AD
when the Saxons encountered the Danes and began creating
a lingua france, so the Old Tongue is also supposed to
have been created by mixing different languages, and thus
has a lot of the same sort of irregularities as english
- He started with that list of 880 english words with
which you should be able to manage in 95% of english
conversations, removed what he found unnecessary and
added others he needed.
Oh, Rando, I'm really sorry about this,
but Jordan overthrew your toh-toes argument. Pratchett
was talking about you having to take care in fantasy not
to use words like sandwich, unless you had the sandwich
guy appear in your story. Jordan disagreed: the writer is
simply translating... "And their word for a bit of
unidentifiable meat wrapped inbetween some... two slices
of greasy bread would translate as 'sandwich.' But that's
not what they call it at all, that's just what you call
it in english. "
Raina's Hold / Thus Spake the Creator - Index