Teach Yourself Faerie Languageson April 16, 2016 at 4:40 am
Koqifugehe hurÒ de WguxÔ nigË de hurÒ de fup dehe.
‘The animals speak to themselves, but we speak to each other.’ (Ondokohe saying)
The above saying, though appearing crudely typed (and backwards) to an Ondoko native speaker, is understandable through rare field documentation of comparative glossaries provided by faeries willing to give us a taste of their glyphs, words and voices. Even if we have a long way to go and what is set in stone by an age may be changed rapidly by the flow of a Kaian day, you are invited to approach conversational Faerie with us and explore the Kaian world on a deeper level. We will keep the site updated with developments and corrections on a case-by-case basis (that is ad hoc) but we’ll try to get the best answers to any questions you have, time permitting. Perhaps, through respectful exploration, you will even help us uncover more to the languages than we thought possible.
Cultural Sensitivity Counts
Faerie information is a prized commodity among faerie people. When borrowing and learning about fae languages and culture, please come to it with respect and patience, as one would an unfamiliar Earth people. Do not expect to just settle into it right away or immediately understand the customs, rituals and history that birthed these languages. Like in all strange and wonderful languages everywhere, their words come with ethnicity that should be respected as much as possible on their own terms, for what they represent to their home culture, as well as hopefully teaching you more about yourself. Though an ‘attitude of gratitude’ for one another might be the path to discovering the greater reasons we are all here, it’s also true that each language is experienced in its own unique way. Now let’s get on to the gossip.
A Brief Summary of Cultural & Lingual Differences
While object/subject/verb order changes and differences are debated by the likes of the Old Lore of Stragaia, the major languages are weary of settling such differences and can be more or less understood in familiar order (Subject first, Verb and Object later) and conjugation has become simple — at least for Jeenare, who are used to such categories as “large group of mingling genders over there” and “we trio of lales”. While the nomadic and isolated Vûl nurture subtle and complex conjugations, and write in syllable glyphs (like an upward Korean) theirs is still perhaps what we’d consider the most familiar language. Every day sort of fae who can communicate with each other — let alone Shuvar, Tulrats, Ægridzhi or even scarcer beings — on their own level, are few. The tensions on Kaian are not making things easier.
For example, the languages ‘at war’ are preserved by those whose favorite speech may only be described as ‘without particular character’. Yet, depending on whom you ask, Lore is generally a “huffing and hissing” kind of language, with N.A.L. being the more impatient staccato evolution. Whereas Ondoko is generally called a “breathy and mouthy” language in comparison. Lore is written left to right and upwards, while Ondoko is written either right to left, left to right, or downwards depending on context. Because the Queendoms tend to speak the latter, and Kingdoms the former, the gender war is apparently exasperated by voluntary miscommunication. There might be no sexually dichotomous reason for the numerous preferences other than cultural counterposition. For some reason, Lore and Ondoko each call the other “bubbly”.
The Glossaries & How to Use Them
The English-to-Faerie glossaries are compiled from random encounters and limited study sessions with language speakers. Some word files may have required repair, recreation or modification to be considered useful, even at the cost of original accuracy. You can search the dictionaries for basic words as well as some articles, prefixes, suffixes and the like, to aid conjugation and real sentence construction. If you don’t find a word, we may not have it, but try searching synonyms since we’ve tried to match meanings to their closest English equivalents. Naturally, there will be unpredictable exceptions and variations that we get wrong, but the best way for us to learn an obscure language is to dive in and try it. Every mistake is a clue toward making conversation. By unlocking these languages, perhaps we might help to bridge divides and create a greater understanding of ourselves and our connection to the magic within us. (Some would say that the vast interwoven jumble of Kaian societies is not conducive to discovering a final strict grammar anyway.)
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Swadesh Completion Level: Basic — naval terms and taxonomy in Ondoko would require entire dictionaries unto themselves; so we can be sure our working glossary is only the tip of the iceberg.
Grammar: Mostly Subject Verb Object (Ondo, super-officially), Subject Object Verb (various dialects)
Notable Language Features: A large multitude of small modifiers, prefixes and suffixes, the most common of which we’ve collected in this glossary. There is no future tense, but one can still speak of the future using present tense with help from words like “soon” and “then”.
Written Forms: An alphabet with 7 vowels, 18 dipthongs and 19 consonants, with the consonants having capital forms but considered ‘subservient’ to vowels. Conventionally written right to left and downward, but the characters are mirrored when written left to right. The alphabet is used to construct syllable blocks based on consonants inside vowels. Vowels were once treated differently or even ommitted, but they have now been standardized by royal decree.
New Ancient Lore Information
Swadesh Completion Level: Underway — Basic — while there aren’t as many older words in NAL, new ones are multiplying and changing very quickly, and adding to contemporary slang that we are unlikely to catch up to with ease. (Many are increasingly borrowed from Ondoko dialects, though.)
Grammar: Anything goes. It’s not exactly ‘flexible’ but it’s so challenging to follow rules, only sticklers try. It’s said that written NAL, which is almost always Subject Verb Object order, robs the spoken language of its true character and maybe even reduces any composition into a facetious speech.
Notable Language Features: More shared words between dialects than expected, for their wide range of grammatical differences. Dialects can have very different tonal qualities. While verbs should be conjugated as personal or impersonal, different speakers define this differently. Standardized conjugation is being proposed.
Written Forms: An alphabet with 1 implosive/click, 1 glottal, 1 excrescent (for the word “and”), 7 vowels and 11 consonants. Though not as varied in pronunciation as English, the consonants cover a variety of sounds and aren’t strictly phonetic. Adapted from the glyphs of Old Lore, an alternative alphabet that is being phased out. There is still a movement to create a more specific alphabet but it appears there have been difficulties in doing so. Generally, NAL is written from left to right, with lines carrying upward.
Old Lore Information
Swadesh Completion Level: Underway — Moderate — slow and hesitant to adopt new words, meaning within intonation is highly prized. So easier to approach fairly full Swadesh.
Grammar: Subject Verb Object. Avoid SOV unless you want to enter into discussion about it.
Notable Language Features: Verbs must be conjugated as personal or impersonal, as well as cryptically change in pronunciation or spelling for non-lale genders. Adjectives must be conjugated to correspond to four particular senses. Because there are only phonetic trends (rather than rules) for personal/impersonal conjugating, one is expected to memorize two words for each and every verb and every gender’s conjugations to properly speak with each. In addition, tonality further entrenches verbs and nouns to assigned genders and other characteristics. It’s complicated!
Written Forms: One scripted alphabet, an old precursor to NAL with an older style to the NAL alphabet of 1 implosive/click, 1 glottal, 1 excrescent, 7 vowels and 11 consonants. Their adherence to the limitations of the written form, and how it can be used to capture speech, is a constant subject of conversation in Old Lore culture; it is considered to contain sacred mysteries.
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Swadesh Completion Level: Moderate/Good — with doubts — though seemingly low in vocabulary and access to the Vûl (Vuul-culture faeries, strictly) is limited, making our collection feel more complete, cultural changes have apparently made the Vûl lose much of their original vocabulary and most may use only a few hundred words more than this glossary.
Grammar: Subject Verb Object order is safe.
Notable Language Features: Fewer independent articles and many prefixes/suffixes for tenses, conjugations and amounts; more contextual meanings seem to make up for fewer words.
Written Forms: An alphabet with 7 basic vowels and 12 basic consonants; Vuul is properly transcribed in syllabic blocks, though linear forms were known (and are used in this glossary for convenience). Known tradition is to form blocks from lower right to upper left, stacking upwards.
Additional Information: The culture considers their spoken language deeply ingrained and may use the name for themselves (Vuul) and their language (Voguul) interchangeably. Voguul may refer slightly more to the written form. It is polite for outsiders to call them Vûl.
As an added academic measure for those interested in using typical .DSL dictionary files on home or portable Dictonary software, we have released the original dictionaries used to make the online versions.