Ishana wrote an excellent post on her blog about how etymology has no place in a fantasy novel, and I tend to agree with her. Sure, it is possible to create new languages if you really put your mind to it – Tolkien pulled it off in his creation of Middle-Earth, and it does make Middle-Earth seem more real and alive than it would have been otherwise. For mere mortals like us however, the time and effort could be much better spent on character and plot development. It is also easy to screw it up; if handled wrongly, your efforts will only confuse the reader and the quality of your novel will suffer as a result.
Now, most people are probably aware of language differences, since it is not an uncommon phenomenon in our own world. Most people however, do not possess the same awareness when it comes to numbers, or at least, I rarely if ever heard anyone discuss this topic. This is due to the fact that the way we handle numbers seem to be near-universal (apart from the linguistic aspects obviously). When I write 10 or 1111 on a piece of paper for example, almost everyone on Earth will know what I mean despite any cultural or language differences we may have.
But what about in fantasy or sci-fi, when we first come into contact with new races of beings who are intelligent enough to come up with their own number systems? Continue reading