Notes on Epiphany: Oratory in Ịgzarhjenya Languages (and Iturji)

When I was reading the 56 Hikol piece about Tehjen, I did not render Narahji in the IPA — although retrospectively, that would have been easier. I would have needed way fewer takes than I had to do to get this right!

That piece is written in pre-reform Narahji, which you can tell because the possessive word is mosmur instead of momuThe prefix mos- is used to indicate possessiveness, and mur is the first person singular indirect object pronoun. People in Narahja practice diglossia up until 1897, when the language is course-corrected.

My words bring horror. People call me Desertion.
My skin is the color of cliff-rock, and it flakes like cliffrock.
The Great Canyon dark devours my soul.
My body becomes it, and the Canyon-Dark becomes my mind.
It rips my brain into small pieces that are the Canyon’s rivers,
And my blood is the soil that nourishes the people with fruit.
Such is my fate to serve for all time:
I revolted against our ways, the Karatha, the Tesekhaira, the ruler!
I chose to be alone, and what a mistake! I am no more.

That is this in English — but in Narahji, it becomes:

I mukro bezurælotek kul magdu mosmur xai Tehjenan manlịdgu.
I neä ruaịgzærmobæ glabdeml i blesgị mosmur xai lagịgzæla.
Ku klazæxub mosmur gleglælaben ku Narahjịgz lịbịmị̈nobæ.
Kusanglabdemlben omdag ku glịklazæ mosmur; radag kusanglabdemlben ku kovta.
ku koværna belæla kul ösyosnosyosjab xai kul bizar ragazị glabdæl bakus
Xai i ëiza glabdeml i ịtö, ku sjenä i hjenganas nokla i ëiza.
I dom mosmur glabdeml lexai fubä, gåmịtit kolborị:
Ku tsærgbị mosbyur, Katatyan, Kerosyan, ñæ Deimolan natzssaịtrun!
Tselvit bladeissaịtrun, xai ku narlị glabdeml kolborị! Boglabdesunuakba.

The text exists somewhere between a poem and prose — it’s not in a formal metric style. This is quite common in Narahji because oratory and poems are recited differently from ordinary speech. Certain vowels, such as iou, and a, are lengthened and have a higher pitch even when they are not stressed. It produces an extremely stylized form of speech. Below is the text I actually worked from while doing the reading, which contains both the lengthened vowels and the original word stresses.

Ī mūkrṓ bezū́rælōtek kūl magdū́ mosmū́r xai Tehjénān manlịdgū́.
Ī nehā́ rūaịgzærmobæ glābdéml i blesgị́ mosmū́r xai lāgị́gzæla.
Kū klāzæxū́b mosmū́r gléglælaben kū Nārāhjị́gz lịbịmhịnōbæ.
Kūsānglābdémlben ōmdāg kū glịklāzǽ mōsmū́r; rādā́g kūsānglābdémlben kū kōvtā́.
kū kōværnā́ bélæla kūl hōsyōsnōsyṓsjāb xai kūl bīzā́r rāgāzị́ glā́bdæl bākū́s
Xai ī heizā́ glabdéml ī ịtthṓ, kū sjenhā́ i hjengānā́s nōklā́ ī heizā́.
Ī dōm mōsmū́r glābdéml lexai fūbhā́, gåmịtī́t kōlbōrị:
Kū tsærgbị́ mōsbyū́r, Kātātyā́n, Kerōsyā́n, ñæ Deimṓlān nā́tzssāịtrūn!
Tselvī́t blādéissāịtrūn, xai kū nārlị́ glābdéml kōlbōrị! Bōglābdésūnūakbā.

I had to make a decision with characters like Karatau Meiyenesi (Kurutimi) in the audio. As an Iturji upper-class person of the jomela gender who has extensive training in oratory and politics, Kurutimi would speak in Tveshi, Iturji, and Narahji using an affected oratorical style. The Iturji follow the Ịgzarhjenya (Khessi, Narahji, &c.) in that. It’s a sign of status. I tried out some of ler sentences in English using oratory-like diction, and it was over-the-top. I compromised on that.

This recitation is thus one of the few places where the oratorical style actually comes out and bites the reader.

Linguistic Beauty Can Be Hard to Podcast

To conclude, we believe views about the beauty and ugliness of languages and dialects are built on cultural norms, pressures and social connotations. […] Most listeners know of linguistic varieties that they do not like, but we should appreciate that these feelings are highly subjective and have no basis in social scientific fact.

From Giles, H. & Niedzielsky, N (1998). Italian is beautiful, German is Ugly. In: Bauer, L & Trudgill, P (Eds)., Language myths. London: Penguin, pp.92.

This was going around on Tumblr a while ago, via original quote-poster linguisten.

As part of my efforts to move over interesting stuff about constructed languages to Pangrammatike, here’s what went through my head when I was making Narahji — what I posted in response to the thread when it went through my Tumblr feed. I’ve added a bit to it because this is no longer on Tumblr:

Narahji can be very consonant-clustered, and it’s actually very hard for me as an English-speaker to do a sentence in Epiphany in that language on a first take. Not only do I need to speak an intact, decently-pronounced Narahji sentence, but I need to rapidly switch from English to Narahji and back again. It’s really hard. Narahji has a regular stress on final syllables, except not. It stresses the final consonant sans suffix, except for personal name suffixes, which are stressed. Here’s a set of examples where stress appears. I’m simplifying it by marking stress with an acute accent.

    • Manbezúrozaịrruịts. You yourself brought me.
    • Manbezúrozaịrra. You will bring me.
    • Fyúrbas manbezúrozaịrra. You will bring me accompanied by them.
    • Rúrbas manbezúrozaịrra. You will bring me accompanied by lim (note lack of gender in third person singular).
    • Ku sabí bezúrovịrra. We (inclusive) will bring potable water.
    • Ku sabí bezúrovịrrakịb. We (inclusive to the listener) will bring ourselves potable water. Could also mean, We (inclusive to the listener) will ourselves bring potable water.
    • Ku sabí kị́rhjas bezúrovịrra. We (inclusive to the listener) will bring ourselves potable water. An alternative way to do that sentence.

I wanted a language where consonants clustered like grapes caught in the mouth. When I learned that many conlangs spoken by villains (e.g., in Tolkien) had that clustering and strong agglutination, I took that as a challenge. I wanted to make a language that did it — a language not for villains. I clustered consonants a lot in Narahji, and I made it OVS — object, verb, subject.

Its earlier versions were more clustered than the one I decided on, and it has a lot of fricatives and vowel aspiration. It doesn’t actually sound that harsh now, I think — but I love the sound of Narahji, so I’m a bit biased.

I learned a while after I created Narahji that Klingon is also OVS with some consonants that also sound harsh to American English speakers. So I went in that direction while thinking, “I’m so fed up with you people who say languages like this are ideal for orcs and villains,” and (apparently) the creators of Klingon were like, “Let’s make something super alien and harsh because Klingons.”

Perceptions of beautiful dialects/languages are biased, just as Giles & Niedzielsky said. I actually think that Narahji is quite beautiful when it appears in sentences.

Insults in Narahji: The Noun Class Edition

(A partial repost from Tumblr with some new content.)

The Narahji spoken in Epiphany is not always internally consistent because it’s the Narahji of a changing time. Salus is navigating a complex world of formal, standardized Narahji and informal Narahji. In 1865 Standard Count, the year Epiphany takes place, language activists are working hard on a referendum that won’t make headway until the 1880s to recalibrate official Narahji based on outside-of-the-office usage.

When I say “Narahji,” I also mean the Narahji that is taught in schools — this is a canyon region over a thousand kilometers across and several hundred kilometers top to bottom on a map, so there are a lot of small dialects and regional languages.

Kati and Salus have an exchange in Entry 39 in which Salus is offended by Kati’s use of slang for the word family. In pre-reform Narahji, the word is ku bvyadö, a noun in the animate class. It will become ku pho, the slang term Salus dislikes, once reform takes hold. Ler distaste for the slang term mirrors common discomfort among speakers who feel ownership of a language when that language changes. Like many speakers, Salus is complicated — le also picks and chooses which linguistic innovations le’s comfortable using in writing.

Regardless of whether one uses ku bvyadö or ku pho, I’d like to talk about the noun class system, AKA the linguistic gender applied to nouns in Narahji. When I developed the disrespect system in Narahji, I had an exciting opportunity to apply something I found interesting in Aikhenvald’s How Gender Shapes the World. Outside of Indo-European languages, many will employ gender inversions when disparaging a noun or the thing the noun represents.

This is the pronoun system for modern Narahji. The most important bits of it are the animate/inanimate pronouns.

Refl./Emph. Subject Direct Object Indirect Object Possessive
1s -ịm man- mur momu
1pincl. -kịb kịn- kịr åskị
1pexcl. -bė byan- byur åbhi
2s -ịts tsan- tsur åtsu
2p -kė kyan- kyur åku
3s -ịr ran- rur moru
3sanim -kus san- sur mosu
3sinanim -ron nan- rur årur
3p -fė fyan- fyur mosfu
3panim -kyus syan- syur åsyu
3pinanim -lyon ñan- ñur moñu

Note that this is post-1880s Narahji — the slang possessive pronouns have been adopted into the official grammars taught in schools, whereas before there was a prefix, mos-, that glommed onto the indirect object pronoun.

Narahji, as part of the Ịgzarhjenya language family, divides the non-human world into animate and inanimate noun classes. All animals and plants take the animate class, as do things that are considered living things. Inanimate things will often be referred to using the inanimate class. Nouns that denote abstract ideas and concepts, such as families, mistakes, honor, &c., have irregular noun classes that need to be memorized by nonnative speakers. The articles used are ku (animate) and i (inanimate).

Native speakers may refer to things in the inanimate class with the animate class article when emphasizing the noun’s importance. This usually only happens once in the sentence, after which the native speaker will revert to the accepted noun class.

Thus, to say, A (goddamn) fire burned lim. It (emphatic) happened at the dock, one might say, Rankunælaịrru ku besun. I febiyxoho gådzælaịrruron. Fire, i besun, is transformed into ku besun. The speaker uses the correct pronoun suffix, -ron, for inanimate nouns in the second sentence.

The opposite might happen for nouns classed as animates. This is one way to code disrespect in Narahji.

Ogekowælaịrrabæn i pho åbhi. Our (shitty) family will not cooperate. A listener might respond, Ogekowælaịrrabænsæ̈ ku pho aku? That is a yes/no query that correctly uses ku pho.