How do I say my name in ….

This is probably the first question I have when ever I get more than a mild interest in a constructed language. Surprisingly, this often is poorly documented and there is usually a tedious discussion about the merits of picking a name. Can I just has a name already? If there are any conlang creators out there, they should automatically think to include a section on how to pick a name in their language.

Short note on names and Identity.
Obviously no one is moving to fake language land and will need to change their name to blend in, be accepted or to gain citizenship. What does happen is names are words and words often need suffixes, prefixes or a recognizable form in order to be integrated into a text without looking like your car keys dropped into a bowl of oatmeal–awkward, a bit ugly and out of place.

Transliterating and Adapting to Foreign Phonotactics
To transliterate from one language to another, you will want to work out the IPA of your name in English (or your mother tongue), and then, if there are sound that are missing, see if there are sounds close by on the IPA chart.  After that, you will need to remove illegal consonant clusters usually by dropping the end of the cluster, but sometimes by inserting a vowel, removing illegal vowel clusters, usually by dropping vowel or inserting a consonant such as an glottal stop, h, w or y.

If you haven’t noticed, the above doesn’t sound completely easy. If you don’t want to pick a name only to find out it has illegal consonant clusters or letters that don’t exist in the alphabet, then you might rather some of the other strategies below.

Some Patterns to Note.
Some constructed languages were not created with the intention of being used by real people on the internet. They don’t necessarily have any advice, or at least any official advice. So for Klingon, Na’vi, Sinarin and Quenya, as far as I know didn’t work out any official way for you to name yourself. The options available:

  • pick a pre-existing name from the fictional world- like Worf, or Bilbo
  • transliterate your name- Matlh’ew (Matthew in tlhIngan)
  • Pick a suitable word or phrase, possibly by translating what your name means or used to mean. – E.g. Matthew means “Gift of God”, but creating a nominal out of a phrase like that is a bit tricky when you have just started studying

On the other hand, language created with the aim of creating a community of users, such as toki pona, Esperanto, Ido, often do have some advice, or failing that, the conventions usually are well established. If you have a biblical name (like I do), then you might want to check to see how it’s was translated in the Bible– alas, I just checked and it doesn’t look like that parts been translated yet.

And finally, in both fictional and real online cultures, you’ll need to decide how to deal with titles.  I live in the real world, so if I was corresponding with Paul Frommer, I’d work out how to say “Professor” or what ever is the convention at the moment, because that’s what I would do if I met him in real life.  If you live in the fantasy world, you might want to follow the conventions of the fantasy world, i.e. decide where everyone is in the fantasy world, and address them accordingly, as Generals, or Grand-Poo-bahs or what have you.

How do I say my name in Klingon?
You can pick a suitable word–chargwI’ means ‘the one who conquerors’–or you can adapt your name to tlhIngan phonotactics.

How do I say my name in toki pona?
A toki pona name is a noun plus an adjective formed by transliterating your name. You pick a suitable noun, usually jan, but you can also pick mije, meli. If you aren’t even human, you can pick soweli, waso, kala, pipi. Then you take your name and adapt it to toki pona phonotactics. You can use this tool for a rough approximation. For example, I am jan Mato.

How do I say my name in Esperanto?
Your name needs to conform to Esperanto’s phonotactics and orthography. There are already conventional Esperanto versions of common names, so you might want to work out what the most common way your name has been translated or transliterated in the past.  Here is one such list and here is a much longer one.

What is my name in Ido?
In Ido, your name is left unmodified, even if it doesn’t conform to Ido phonotactics.

What is my name in Lojban?
Lojban names must be adapted to lojban phonotactics, particularly with respect to making it clear where your name starts and ends. The last letter must be a consonant.

What is my name in Sindarin or Quenya?
Here is a huge list of suggested translations/transliterations of names into Quenya.  That list works out a suitable name by finding the meanings of common names then translating them.

One Sindarin fan has an innovative solution– randomly generate your name.

What is my name in Dothraki?
No specific advice…. yet.

What is my name in Na’vi?
No specific advice… yet. Here is a suspicious looking name generator for Na’vi.

What is my name in Kelen?
Kelen is what I’ve been calling a singleton– a language written for some other reason, but is good enough for community use.
You get a variety of options to pick from, including a clan name, a location name, a guild name, a descriptive name and a nickname. This sort of pick-from-a-menu approach is new to me. And you can attach honorifics that could translate from achievements on your resume.

What is my name in GZB
GZB is another singleton*. GZB first names are suffixed in -ram. Family names are suffixed in -šam.

*see above

Who am I?
I am Matthew Martin, also know as jan Mato, Mateo Marteno, lì’fyatu, qoHtlhaQ. I don’t have a name in Lojban, Dothraki, or either Elivish, but I’m working on it.

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2 Responses to How do I say my name in ….

  1. Rex May says:

    In Ceqli, you can wedge your name into Ceqli phonotactics
    http://ceqli.pbworks.com/w/page/5455977/Morpheme-Shape
    Or you can translate its meaning. And in either case, suffix a -zo that marks proper names.
    Matthew Dean Martin > Zmatyuzo Dinzo Zmartinzo
    That’s a wedging. Ceqli words can’t start with nasals, vowels, or laterals.
    You’d probably end up shortening it to Zmazo or Tyuzo.
    My Name
    Rex May > Kiqozo Fayzemxarzo
    That’s a translation “King” “Month of May.”

  2. Note that it may be possible to turn one’s name into a Lojban compound word, which is useable as a name. Some possibilities for converting the name “David” would be: “david”, “deivyd”, “deivid”, etc. However “deivid” is composed of the short forms for the words Day and Poison, so may not be completely desirable. Therefore using another syntactic class, compound words, such as “deivi’o” = day-eternal (an obviously better connotation), might be more suitable, not to mention more “native” sounding, if there is such a concept for Lojban.