Hello and welcome to another conlang post! This one is a guest post by Lavender Bleu (go check out her blog; she has awesome posts on worldbuilding, not to mention many other areas of the writing craft… Just read this post first. ;) ), and she’s going to be talking about alternatives to oral speech when it comes to language and communication. This is a super cool topic, and I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did!
Written language is something that you really do see a lot of, regardless of whether or not you’re literate. It surrounds us in our daily lives because we need a way to communicate while we are not face to face. It’s easy to write someone a note and leave it somewhere you know they’ll find it instead of, say, waking them up before you go to work.
Written language is important. It was likely one of the first linguistic developments other than slang. People needed a way to communicate across distances and when they couldn’t talk to each other directly, so they started writing. They wrote on clay, stone, wood, and then eventually paper.
If your world doesn’t have technology like phones, they likely have a written form of language to fill that need.
Sign language is primarily used to communicate with people who are mute, hard of hearing, and/or deaf. However, it can be very useful in any setting in which you want to communicate without speaking.
Sign language was used a lot in the horror film A Quiet Place due to the fact that the main characters were being hunted by monsters that killed anything that made a sound. This is why it’s great for situations where you have to stay silent if you want to live, or for fantastical races that are deaf/mute.
Language Expressed by Touch
Here’s one you likely didn’t think of. However, if you’re familiar with the famous Helen Keller, you should know that she learned to communicate by touch, since she was both blind and deaf. Because she couldn’t see, she couldn’t read conventionally (she did go on to learn braille, though) and because she couldn’t hear, she couldn’t learn to talk as a child (although she did learn how to as an adult).
Language expressed by touch is very important for characters who can’t otherwise communicate. It’s useful if you need to talk discreetly in a tight spot, too.
Communication Through Pheromones or Scents
A lot of animals communicate various meanings through pheromones, and a lot of information can be gained by natural scents. You could take this and use it as a code. For example, the scent of a specific perfume could mean danger while another means that it’s safe. Similarly, you could even create codes based on different flavors or dishes.
If you have a fantastical race that can detect a wide variety of scents and the minute differences between them, then you could consider giving them the ability to change their scent to communicate.
Smoke and Other Types of Signals
Finally, you can use smoke and light for signaling. In fact, the most common types of signals would be those made with smoke, signals from lighthouses (or from the famous poem about Paul Revere), and even semaphore (which is an alphabet that uses flags).
As long as you can communicate words, phrases, or letters through it you can consider it a part of language. If you want to be more specific, a code communicates words and phrases and ciphers communicate characters.
You can make languages in a large variety of mediums—you’re not just restricted to oral speech. So take your new-found knowledge and use it to make something awesome.
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