- Languages of the Story
How Faerie Speech can be read by English-speakers
- Teach Yourself Faerie Languages
Learn pronunciation, download glossaries, fonts & other information
(KAIANEHE UGYCHTHEGI MUV FUUC GUMYRAM OZGYDAFIEC!)
‘There are not many languages on Kaian, but they bump into each other frequently.’
The most formidable of the languages alluded to in this Paerthian quote is written HGWT (Sgkuhth), an acronym for the contradictory sounding “New Ancient Lore”. Another is JEsceH (JehschehS) or “Old Lore” and uses the actual ancient glyphs that became the N.A.L. alphabet. If you’re reading Chapter 1 for the first time, you may pick up on the fact that two of its three main characters are born into cultures speaking very close dialects of N.A.L.
Other great lingoes in use on Kaian include O Ndoko (Ondoko, the language of the third character), Vûl, Mændægæ, Shuvaryk, Tradrootle and Iyoiith. Mændægæ has no well-known written form, and it belongs exclusively to the culture of Mændægæ people in the Atagaian region. Oral translation is sparse at best. Little can be shown that Iyoiith (called “Trurp” meaning “No Language”) is a single language of the confoundedly enigmatic Iyoiith who can’t even show up to explain themselves (according to leading faerie scholars). Minor other languages around Kaian play no big part in the story.
Faerie English words are to compensate for the lack of Jeenare concepts that exist as elegantly (or at all) in English (though no character “really” uses these words since English does not exist on Kaian). Most importantly, there is a “middle-gender” lale, to accompany male and female, and there are its pronouns ze, ze(i)r, ze(i)rs. (For more on the gender roles, please read this brief on The Jeenare).
English is a flexible and easy language, especially since it is one many people we know know we know know. Ahem. Well, let’s not get tied up in morphophonetymology now. Alright. Sometimes, a word is just expressed with so much more satisfaction in the original faerie tongue, if but once. In that case, we have done our best to alliterate it so you have a chance to pick up on it if you want to.
Reading Alliterated Faerie
Pronunciation Guide for Readers of English
Unorthodox letters are used as touch stones, but also have been kept to a minimum so that rough alliteration remains accessible. Vowels can be treated as phonetic Italian vowels (o is “oh”, e is “eh”, i is “ee”) but double vowels (uu ii) and vowels with an ‘h’ added (uh ih) may be added where an English confusion might happen, which is pretty often because — let’s face it — English spelling doesn’t make much sense. To be fair, Jeenare can be a bit fickle themselves (uu may be “oo” or “yoo” and ii may be “ee” or “yee” or even “ih” depending on dialect) but unless you have really critical faeries at home or where you’ll be using these languages, I wouldn’t be too concerned.
* :actually written as X in NAL or X in Old Lore, It is pronounced by creating suction between the lips and pulling them apart, like the implosive sound of a kiss. Will probably be drawn as a small burst of lines.
S F H :a large S, F or H indicates the sound of hissing. Some dialects will actually sound more like a whistle. It seems safe to use these letters for English readers (even though these in particular would create the most elitist sound to a native.)
CH/SH :if I seem to guess wrong between “chh” and “shh”, go with your gut. Only adherents to a dialect would disagree.
K/G :a K actually indicates more of a soft G sound but because both must be emphasized with breath, it can sometimes sound “sharper” than a regular G.
| :a very thin diamond – or a simple vertical bar in modern N.A.L. – indicates the need for a glottal stop in Old Lore, audible breath in newer dialects; used often as a short space between words or contractions.
T/Th :Th is pronounced like the “th” in “the” and “than” rather than the “th” in “thick” or “thumb”, but add a subtle “T” or lisp if possible, and you’ll have a good range of the variations. Can be written as “T”.
Æ/æ :it seems this is best as “a” in cat, though the first “e” in ember could be an understandable interpretation.
R :unlike Ondoko, with its throaty treatment, the “R” in Lore is basically a vowel.
V :with teeth very lightly touching the lip, almost a U or W sound.
D/Dzh :like a staccato Z, but drawn out. Can be written as “D”.
&/& :this character just means “ampersand” and “and”, and is pronounced “MPuh” like popping a humming bubble. It is fun to say, but Lore speakers say it a lot, sometimes just to say anything at all.
SH & CH :unlike in Lore, the difference between the soft “shh” and the hard “chh” is important and a potential subject of ridicule.
LG :this is like the rolling part of an “R”, with the R part r-r-r-r-removed.
F/G :sometimes, I will remind you of the breathiness of Ondoko’s “F” and “G” by adding an “H” after it. They are rarely as pronounced as the “f” in “fact” or the “g” in “good”.
pb ppb pp :strongly explosive Ps (represented in Ondoko by the V character) are accompanied by a hum. Use just the right amount of restraint so it doesn’t sound like you’re spitting or making a rude noise. Good luck.
V :“V” doesn’t exist very strongly, and is usually a derivative of B, unless imported from a foreign tongue.
M :“M” is pronounced more with the nose than we are familiar, and I will remind the reader of this with an “N” after it. To do it perfectly, you will actually want to hold your tongue to your upper lip and create a hum from your nasal cavity to your mouth. But that’s pretty bookish, even for Ondokohe.
Ts/Z :Ts is like the “zz” in “Pizza”, whereas Z is for “Zebra”.
Y :is pronounced like the “Y” in “bye”.
* X :characters borrowed from Lore-English alliteration, and pronounced similarly.
| :though an Ondoko glottal stop is written as their “h” (h H) it seems easier to borrow the Lore-English vertical bar for this function. (Apologies to those who use the vertical bar to indicate clicks).
Occasionally, even when characters can hear one another, an accent will make itself known or a character’s faerie tongue won’t be translated; this represents our sympathetic ear of and to the featured characters, despite the nescient nature of delineating “attitudes” and “accents” from “dialects” or “languages”. Please understand this is not necessarily an attempt to romanticize ignorance or xenophobia (or xenophilia). It’s just a bit of insight on how faeries perceive. Various treatments may be used to distinguish meetings of different languages.
“Audible” speech of faerie folx appears like dark ink on light paper, while thought, precognition and psychic communication may take on other visual traits. Generally, a more particular bubble is a more particular kind of communication. With practice, you’ll pick up on which is which and whom can hear whom (or what). Despite how unrealistic it would be to have such insight as a casual visitor to Kaian, the reader can enjoy the discrimination of scholastic rumors in the entry notes.
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.
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.
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 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.