A map breathes life into the world of a story. There is no better example than the map Tolkien created for his novels. It has gone on to be the model for most of our beloved fantasy series, from A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) to the Wheel of Time.
Unfortunately, on occasion I have picked up a fantasy novel and been disappointed by the map provided. At first I thought it was a lack of detail, but I came to realize that even the most crammed and cramped map could be found lacking. It was not until my nerdiness brought me to understand Tolkien’s secret: he had not created his map for his novels. He had created his map AND his novels for his languages.
You see, Tolkien was first and foremost a linguist, and created the Middle Earth and its peoples and cultures to fit into the linguistic families he had derived from Northern European languages. It is this complex and realistic backdrop that gives his world such life and longevity in our imaginations.
While I enjoy linguistics, it is not my specialty. I am a political science major, and I am primarily fascinated by the epic endeavors of both individuals and whole social groupings.
I started with a free realistic world generator online. It gave me and my wife the basic terrain features to place starting groups of people in a scenario for a simple prehistory. We were then able to etch out more detailed histories of each, bringing the world to the events in Disorder of War. The appendices in the back of Book I are a portion of what we came up with, and the plan is for each novel to have further appendices expanding on the histories of the world as they are ironed out.
Students of language will note that we used roots of Old Germanic, Assyrian, Amharic, and Farsi among others for the various cultures in Book I and while I do have my own excel spreadsheet outlining the derivations in detail, it is not something that is ready for publication.