In my post on the muddled linguistic nightmare/heaven that is the Giva POV, I failed to mention that an additional consideration rattling around my head is what Cedeiran scholarship on Elentian would even look like. I mean, the standard Cedeiran party line is that Elentians are a subhuman, demonic, bastard race. Even skeptics are hardly going to have a positive or neutral take on them—and that does spill over to language.

Naturally, I whiled away a few hours imagining the horrorshow of Cedeiran texts on Elentian. Something like:

The Elentian tongue, like its people, has origins in a past so distant and unknown that none can guess at the true stock. Whatever its base, the language today can only be described as the mongrel child of some gross linguistic hedonism, the result of many different languages mixing freely together without regard for the quality or legitimacy of the result. Consequently the language produced by this heedless admixture suffers from constant perversities, inconsistencies, unpleasantnesses, and general impurity—also, one might say, just as its people.

To their credit, however, the Elentians have made repeated attempts to enforce some order and respectability on their bastard tongue. Over a thousand years ago, the Elentian empress Elleyne [nb: Helaina of House Moiradar] ordered the dialect of the imperial city to be taught throughout the schools she established. More recently, some three hundred years ago, a Marelian queen named Jypolia [nb: Xipolye of House Myrane] commissioned the creation of a dictionary to be used in the schools, which rear up all Elentian children. The dictionaries standardized spelling and instituted a system of diacritics to untangle the disastrous orthography. Nevertheless, only so much can be done for so degenerate and wayward a language. Particularly in Nerocna, rogue dialects sprout up like weeds, and persistent just as stubbornly.

If this description seems too harsh, the intricacies of the Elentian plural should serve to illustrate.

Consider the word elenya, ‘blessed [one].’ All evidence to the contrary, the Elentians regard themselves as a singularly fortunate people, and consequently from their earliest days referred to themselves as ‘the blessed,’ the collective plural formed by the affix -l: elenyal.

On the other hand, the word andina, ‘sorcerer’ (contracted and modernized from anðaratna) becomes ‘sorcerers’ as andinai, frequently misspelled and mispronounced as andini. (Many Elentian plurals formed with -ai have been ground down to -i by the vulgar, though—of course—not with any consistency; -ae is a common variant.) As both words end on the same vowel (a), there can be no justification for the difference.

Now, Lord forbid, what of words that conclude on consonants? Well, let us turn to zêr, spirit. One could hardly, even in Elentian, add -l, but one would not be unreasonable to suppose the standard -ai suffix would be applied as zêrai. One would, however, be incorrect: the proper plural is zŷr, of all things. Indeed the substitution of a final vowel with y is, while not the most frequent plural formation, certainly common enough. For instance, ‘apprentice,’ ithalar, becomes ‘apprentices’ as ithalyr.

To make matters still worse, all of these are considered standard in Elentian, following the convoluted rules of the language—varying based on final letters and compounds, number of syllables, and presumably the positions of the stars. What might a genuinely irregular case look like?

Let us go from apprentice to master. ‘Master’ in Elentian is alaiyà (cf. ‘Alaiyath,’ name of a former Marelian dynasty), but in current times only when used as a common noun. As a matter of address, it becomes Alai (masc.) or Alaia (fem.; in this usage, stress shifts from the first and third syllables to the second, for no apparent reason). Of course y cannot be replaced with y, and alaiyai/alaiyi sound cumbersome enough, but the final phoneme resembles elenya so closely that alaiyal seems the undoubted solution.

By now the discerning reader can undoubtedly guess that of course it is not. No. Where nouns end on a stressed vowel, diphthong, and/or vowel hiatus, the affix -r is preferred over -l. Why? The authors would offer an explanation, but have none. This, too, is standard, and would produce alaiyar, a reasonable enough formation by Elentian standards. Instead, ‘masters’ is alayr, a word so misshapen and misbegotten that it pains us to set it down. The most common usage is in reference to a sinister order of trained witches, formally called Alayr-Llyrende (‘masters of knowledge’), but among the common folk known simply as ‘the Alayr.’ In this context, ‘Alayr’ has become so widely used that the neuter singular has disappeared altogether, conflated into the plural. Thus one says not only ‘the Alayr’ but ‘an Alayr.’ Bear in mind that this usage is not a dialectical variant but the only accepted one. ‘Alaiyà’ as a proper noun exists only in colloquial usage, where it carries an entirely different connotation that would be extremely offensive to an Alayr.

(Note: standard use of diacritics would make it álaÿr, but the authors have never seen it written as such. We cannot even pretend to surprise.)


Actual note: the author are terrible linguists as well as terrible people. (I also envision this as an Elentian translation of a Cedeiran text on Elentian—linguistic nesting dolls!)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s