Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Language as Culture Part 2

eat -> ate -> will eat
write -> wrote -> will write

kumakain -> kumain -> kakain
(kain is the root form, but not the present tense)
sumusulat -> sumulat -> susulat

taberu -> tabeta -> taberu
kaku -> kaita -> kaku

Tenses show how a society perceives its chronological placement. In English, the future form is present form with an extra word before it. This indicates the society's view that the future will eventually become the present. Yes, I know, it sounds like I'm stating such an obvious thing and you're probably saying, "duh!" by now. But bear with me.

In Filipino, if you notice, all three forms are changed words, which doesn't indicate future becoming present, or even present becoming past. But notice that our present tense is also our present progressive tense. This shows that the Filipino society is one that lives in the moment. We are not overly concerned about the future. We forget the past quickly. We live in the now.

Notice, now, that In Japanese, the present and future form of the verb is the same. Tells where they see themselves living in, doesn't it?

In Rian, I've decided to make the past and present the same, indicating that these people live in the past. They are a backward people with not much technological advancements. And it is in their mindset that what they do will eventually be forgotten.
example: gaom -> gaom -> agaom

example: I will write. -> I will write.

example: Magsusulat ako. -> Magsusulat po ako.

example: Kaku -> Kakimasu.
 -> Okaki shimasu
 -> Okaki itashimasu
 -> Okaki ni narimasu.

How a people view hierarchies can be seen in how many forms of polite language they have. English speakers may add "Sir" or "Maam" to their sentences, but the sentences basically remain the same. Which shows us that, while hierarchy exists, it's not that big a deal. For a culture that allows people to call their bosses and stepmothers by their first name, that's probably true. For Filipinos, the word "po" is added to the sentence, and plural form of the pronoun is used when referring to the respected person. The structure changes. So, classes or rankings do play a significant role in this society.

For the Japanese language, as you can see, the polite form doesn't stop with one. There's the polite, then the more polite, then the even more polite, then the exalted. And if their language is hot on hierarchy, then you can assume their culture most probably is, too.

Now, in my Rian langauge, there will be hierarchy, but only two: the normal form, which Rian people use when talking amongst themselves, and the exalted form, which they use when talking to others.
example: Apareg laken. (normal)
 Maparegan la. (exalted)
 (I will return)

Language as Culture Part 1

Talecraft has always brought aspiring Filipino Writers workshops to help develop their craft. And we're at it again with our Fantasy World Building Workshop Series! For the series, I was tasked to give a talk for the third workshop, the Language workshop. So for that, I decided to talk about language and grammar, and how it defines a culture. If a writer is to make his own language, it's good to know how it defines the people they create.

Language is linked to culture. It:
  • Defines a people's take on rules
  • Shows their outlook in life
  • Gives a glimpse of their past
  • Shows what's important to them
  • Shows what kind of hierarchy the society has

Let's compare three languages for this.

English: S - V - O
I like books.
I catch thieves.

Filipino: V - S - O
Mahilig ako ng libro.
Nanghuhuli ako ng magnanakaw.

Japanese: S - O - V
Watashi wa hon ga suki desu.
Watashi wa dorobo o kyacchi shimasu.

As you can see, English starts with the Subject, I; then the verb, what is going on; then ends with who or what it's happening to. If we take the Filipino language, the structure is different. It starts with the verb. The Japanese language looks a bit more like English, except the object and verb are flipped.

Now a language's basic sentence structure shows how a society is driven. The English and Japanese languages start with the subject, which means these societies prioritize the "character." The Filipino language starts with the verb, showing that the Filipino People are more concerned with the "plot." Case in point: When someone jumps off the train, what's a Filipino's first reaction? It's not, "Sino tumalon?" (Who jumped?), it's "Bakit daw?" (Why?). Filipinos like to know the story. The Filipino, as a people, is very plot-driven people.

What about the difference between Japanese and English? Both put priority in the subject, but Japanese put a bit more priority on the object than English does. Which also means they probably put more value on non-protagonist characters. And true, in literature, English literature started out with a lot of clean-cut main-character-is-absolutely-good-and-antagonist-is-absolutely-bad type of stories. While Japanese stories, from the start, have a lot of grey characters.

So, if, for example, I create a language called Rian, and I adapt the following sentence structure:
Rian: O - V - S
example: Agrap erek laken.
(Books - like - I)

My created society is probably a more "other"-centered society. It's probably one that values others more than the self. Maybe it's a race created for servitude.

bird -> birds
house -> houses

ibon -> mga ibon
bahay -> mga bahay

tori -> tori
ie -> ie

Plural forms show how a people hold quantity in importance. In English, to make a noun plural means to change the word. When you say a sentence in English, you have no choice but to choose the singular or the plural form. Quantity is a big deal. In English-speaking societies, more is really better. "What's making that scratching sound on the roof?" "Bird," is not a correct answer if there are several birds on the roof. You really have to say, "birds."

But if you're speaking in Filipino, where the word is not changed but rather just given an additional word before it, to answer, "ah, ibon," is correct even if there's more than one bird on the roof. This doesn't, however, mean that Filipinos don't value quantity. We do, actually (see Polite forms), but the fact that we can drop "mga" without destroying our grammar means that there are things other than quantity that we value more.

In the case of Japanese, the word doesn't change. The plural form of the noun is the same as the singular form. This indicates a more qualitative society, one that is more concerned on the high quality of an object rather than the quantity. And this is apparent in their machines as well as in their food. I'm not talking about taste, alright? I'm just talking about quality.

So back to my created language. I think I shall adapt the English style and add a letter to change the word to a plural form. But I will also adapt the Filipino take on "dyan" and "doon" to indicate how much plural the noun is, indicating an even higher importance on quantity than the English language.
example: Edum -> Eduma -> Edume
(singular -> plural (a bit) -> plural (a lot))

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cyberpunk Romance Anthology Call for Submission

Another call from Samhain. How would you mix Cyberpunk with Romance? This is a challenge, dear Talecrafters. Rise up to it!

Welcome to the future, a cyberpunk future—post-industrial dystopias where society has broken down; a world of advanced science, cybernetic and tech. The cyberpunk world is a dark and gritty place, blurring the border between actual and virtual reality.

I’m very happy to announce an open call for submissions for a new, yet-to-be-titled summer 2011 cyberpunk romance anthology. Don’t know what cyberpunk is? Think The Matrix and Bladerunner, or the popular role-playing/computer game/book series Shadowrun. For more information on cyberpunk, you can check out the entry on wikipedia. .

I’m open to M/F, M/M, F/F, or multiples thereof, any sexual heat level, and the romance must end happily ever after or happy for now.

The novellas must range between 25,000 to 30,000 words in length, no more, no less—please note, only manuscripts that fall in this word count will be considered for this anthology—and will be released individually as ebooks in August 2011.
Submissions are open to all authors, published with Samhain or aspiring to be published with Samhain. All submissions must be new material—previously published submissions will not be considered. Additionally, manuscripts previously submitted, whether individually or for past anthologies, will not be considered either. Be aware that manuscripts submitted to this anthology cannot be resubmitted at a later date unless by invitation from an editor.
To submit a manuscript for consideration, please include:
The full manuscript (of 25,000 to 30,000 words) with a comprehensive 2-5 page synopsis. Also include a letter of introduction/query letter. Full manuscripts are required for this as it is a special project.

As well, when you send your manuscript, be sure to use the naming convention Cyberpunk_Title_MS and Cyberpunk_Title_Synopsis. This will ensure that your submission doesn’t get missed in the many submissions we receive, and makes it easy for me to find in my ebook reader.

Submissions are open until February 1, 2011. No submissions will be accepted after this date—no exceptions. A final decision will be made by February 28, 2011. Send your submission to and include Cyberpunk Anthology in the subject line. Questions and queries can be addressed to Sasha Knight ( though do your due diligence and read this anthology call completely and check the Samhain Submission FAQ page before emailing. www.

Springtime “Just Romance” Anthology Call for Submissions

Hello, gentle readers. Our friends from Samhain Publishing are open for submissions for their upcoming Romance Anthology. Do take a look and do submit. Her'e what they've got from their website:

Samhain is dialing down the heat and focusing on the romance for a Springtime “Just Romance” Anthology.

I’m excited to announce an open call for submissions for a new anthology for Spring 2011. The theme is Springtime, and in keeping with that theme, I’m looking for stories that focus on blossoming romance rather than full-blown sexual relationships, chemistry rather than combustion, the spark of attraction rather than the blaze of passion.
The stories can have closed-door sex scenes, glossed-over sex scenes, or characters who are waiting until after the book is over. There can be as much romantic and sexual tension as the book can handle, but no explicit language, and all stories must end with a happily ever after or happy for now.
I’m open to all sub-genres of romance, and all types of sexuality: m/f, m/m, f/f and combinations thereof.

The anthology will include novellas from 20,000 to 25,000 words in length and will be released individually as separate ebooks in May 2011 and will be combined as one print title for mid 2012 print release.

Submissions are open to all authors, published with Samhain or aspiring to be published with Samhain. All submissions must be new material—previously published submissions will not be considered. Additionally, manuscripts previously submitted, whether individually or for past anthologies, will not be considered either. Please be aware that manuscripts submitted to this anthology cannot be resubmitted at a later date unless by invitation from an editor. However, submissions with merit for possible publication at Samhain will be passed to interested Samhain editors even if not chosen for the Springtime Just Romance Anthology.

To submit a manuscript for consideration please include:
The full manuscript (of 20,000 to 25,000 words) with a comprehensive 2-5 page synopsis. Please include a letter of introduction/query letter in the body of your email, and attach the manuscript and synopsis as two separate MS Word or rich text files. Full manuscripts are required for this as it’s a special project.

Also, when you send your files, please be sure to use the naming convention Springtime_Title and Springtime_Title_Synopsis.

Submissions are open until November 1st, 2010 and the final decisions will be made by November 30th, 2010. Please send your submission to and include Springtime Anthology in the subject line.

Questions can be addressed to Imogen Howson at Also, if you would like fuller details of the heat level we’re seeking for this anthology, please contact Imogen.

Please note, we are not accepting multiple submissions for this anthology. However, if you already have a manuscript under consideration as a general submission with Samhain and would also like to send in a submission to this anthology, please do so.