Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Many Tongues of Yezmyr (Part 1 of 3)

Copyright © 2010, Ramsey Dow. All Rights Reserved.

The World of Yezmyr is one of many tongues, both living and dead. This is the first post of three in which I will detail the languages I use in my science fantasy setting.

One of the things I've appreciated in immersive worlds, such as Middle Earth and Tékumel is the lavish attention paid to language. Now I'm no philologist, so there won't be any actual language development from me, but I certainly can fake it. To that end I have detailed the three basic language families extant on the world: the "native" tongues of mankind, the monster languages, and languages which are esoteric or otherwise unusual. These families each contain a number of related languages.

I don't get very detailed with any of these languages, nor do I make up grammars or vocabularies or the like. I simply make sure that I know the name of the language, who speaks it, whether it has a written form or not, and a handful of interesting observations about it—color, if you will. It's the latter item that will help jog my memory down the road when player characters find themselves confronted with strange glyphs and I've got to make up something on the spot.

All humans know the "common tongue," the trade language spoken by mankind throughout the known world. All other monsters that can speak have their own language. Some monsters can even speak common, although this is far from the norm. As per usual, characters have a capacity to learn additional languages based on their intelligence score.

The first language family I will discuss is the "native" family. This family consists of the eight languages of mankind. Although not all of these languages originate from humanity, all of these tongues are associated with the lawful civilizations of men.

Adhari: This is the guttural speech of the Low Men. It is a fairly simple language. It has no written standard, although a common orthography has been devised for use among the various tribes.

Chitin: This is the strange clicking and tapping language spoken by the Chitinous Men. Humans have a very difficult time speaking this tongue, as it was clearly not created for use with human vocal chords—or bodies. Moreover, its written form is obscenely complex. Most have difficulty grasping the language it its totality. Nevertheless, with patience and study, it is possible to master enough of the rhythms of this language to be able to communicate with Chitinous Men in their native tongue. Hand clickers are frequently employed to simulate tapping on chitinous plates.

Common: This language is both simple to learn and politically neutral. It is the language of trade used throughout the city-states of mankind. It is used by nearly everyone capable of speech. A percentage of monsters have mastered and are capable of using the Common Tongue of Mankind.

Dwovish: This is the language of the High Men of Dwo. It is guttural and resembles Hochdeutsch in both sound and construction. It is a very precise tongue. Nouns with many syllables are constructed to give exact meaning to concepts. Its written form consists of a succinct family of glyphs that can be used to construct any spoken concept or idea.

Mengwese: This is the language of the High Men of Mengwu. It sounds like Mandarin Chinese and is written in vertical sequences of glyphs, reading from top to bottom. Like Chinese, Mengwese has a bewildering array of glyphs representing concepts. Complex ideas and concepts are related by constructing sequences of glyphs that build upon one another.

Mutie: Not so much a language as a cant, this is the universal slang of mutants. Although many mutants are able to communicate telepathically, some lack the proper faculties and must resort to vocalized speech. Thieves along the borders of the various wastelands frequently speak a pidgin form of Mutie for 'trade' purposes.

Synth: This 'language' is actually a high-frequency communications protocol employed by synthetics for purposes of data communication. The sounds of this language occur above 20,000 Hz and are thus imperceptible to most humans, although some young people sense the sounds. In addition to vocalization, this language can also be spoken as packets across networks, both wired and wireless.

Murrican: This is the language of the Earth Men. It is standard American English. Its written form uses the Latin alphabet. It sounds just like it does on Stargate SG-1.

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