We could work with categories,
Transporting Raw materials,
Transporting electronic goods
Place names will be a pain, but if we work with the name generator and do syllables, we could generate a reasonably large number of potential names of places/pilots/ships/things
The pilot-to-pilot chatter will of course be the easiest, and yes, hundreds of thousands of voice clips to get this right is important.
But then, it would add so much to the game to have people's voices and such.
Being able to pronounce those randomly generated placenames would require that we have all our possible syllables pre-recorded, which imposes some logistic problems, so you're asking for trouble with syllable generators. For some languages it's not too complicated, so we'll start with Hawaiian:
- short: [a e i o u]
- long: [a: e: i: o: u:]
- [m n p k ʔ h w l]
Syllable structure: (C)V.
Hawaiian's syllable structure and phonotactics are so trivial that this is a basic combinatorics problem. We have ten vowels (five long and five short) and eight consonants.
(C)V means we allow syllables of consonant + vowel as well as syllables consisting only of a vowel.
We have consonants * vowels + vowels to cover CV + V, so we end up with 90 possible syllables. In reality, this example turns out to be reasonably accurate, where /wu:/ is the only illegal CV syllable in Hawaiian. But it gets complicated. In addition to having unit vowels, Hawaiian also has diphthongs, which are vowel sounds that contour from one vowel quality to another (cf. the vowel sounds in English "ouch", "night", and "Friday" -- both of them).
Hawaiian has about 15 of these diphthongs, and a diphthong can take the place of a vowel in a syllable (they are both valid nuclei).
So now we can consider D as our number of diphthongs and set up our math problem this way:
(CV + V) + (CD + D) ==> (8 * 10 + 10) + (8 * 15 + 15) = 90 + 135 = 225 possible syllables.
This might not be entirely accurate as far as actual
Hawaiian words play out. In reality, a lot of potential syllables are never used, especially in languages with very permissive rules. English allows many forms of CCVCC, but indeed, "swict" is not a lexical item outside the paraphonological realm of acronyms and Twitter hashtags
. So while 225 possible syllables isn't necessarily an accurate depiction of the sonic depth of Hawaiian's lexicon, it's definitely good maximal case.
So if Hawaiian were to feature in Limit Theory, we would need up to 225 sound clips per voice actor. In English, we have about 10-14 vowels and 24-25 consonants depending on dialect. Just covering possible (C)V syllables, we're dealing with a maximal case of 364 syllables, and that's not even getting into the rest of English's (CCC)V(CCCC) syllable structure. Thankfully, maximal or near-maximal words like "strengths" are fairly rare and not every single legal combination of CCCVCCCC would need to be pronounced -- just the ones that are actually used in the English lexicon.
Though with a lexicon of well over 100,000 words, there would need to be some trimming done. But if, say, we limited LT's lexicon to the ten hundred most common words
or the two thousand most relevant words to spacefaring, then we wouldn't even need the syllable complication and we could record whole words, though at that point, we might be back to how "blocky" Freelancer's NPC dialogue sounds. I suspect we'd have similar issues with syllables though, so perhaps I got on my linguistic soapbox for naught
If you want to go further down this rabbit hole, reveal the spoiler below.
Limit Theory, though, is procedurally generated. It doesn't have to stop at one language. It doesn't have to stop at a dozen languages, or a gross of languages, and those languages could have any
set of phonemes and any list of phonotactic rules that restrict and permit various combinations. But let's stop and do an intermediate kind of check -- barring other structures, what are all the possible (C)V syllables that could conceivably be used in human languages?
To make this a little less complicated, I'm going to discount diphthongs and secondary articulations on consonants -- we're just dealing with plain, unadorned consonants present in the IPA table, and plain unadorned vowels in the IPA table. So here we go:
We have about 130 consonants between pulmonics, ejectives*, implosives*, and clicks. We have 39 vowels in the standard vowel table**. Per our CV + V formula, we get a whopping 5109
possible syllables. If we considered additional details about articulation, this value would increase at least one order of magnitude. If we added more types of syllables (not everyone speaks Space Hawaiian!), then we start entering "is this pronounceable" territory.
, for example, is a language that permits a maximal syllable of CCCCCCCCVC structure. That's eight
consonants in the onset of a syllable.The most we permit in English is three, for comparison. Nuxalk defies
the entire notion of a syllable itself, permitting entire words consisting of nothing but consonants
It doesn't take too long for us to want to break things into smaller units than syllables, or to limit all of our potential procedural languages to a specified subset of different human sounds. Big enough to produce variety, small enough to keep it pronounceable. And making syllable structures and phonotactic rules very restrictive, to keep the overall syllable count down.
* Ejectives and implosives are marked with diacritics, but are distinctly different from the pulmonic consonants at their place of articulation. Either way, this is an order-of-magnitude sort of experiment we're dealing with here, so exact numbers aren't super important.
** The IPA vowel chart uses some diacritics to fill in spots in the vowel table. I am counting these, but I am not counting vowel qualities based on length, tone, or other things. Merely height, backness, and rounding.