As people have been requesting more linguistics and vocabulary, welcome to the first article in our new approximately-weekly series, Speak Eldraeic Like a Semi-Literate Barbarian. (From the remarkably unpopular Like a Semi-[whatever] Barbarian series of self-help books.) It will consist of a series of chapters discussing different features of the language from the bottom up, and will (once there is some) also add a vocabulary list page to the site that we’ll expand on as we go.
In this first chapter, the introduction, we talk a little bit about the language and its various forms – most importantly, what the rest of this series won’t contain.
First of all, one should bear in mind that Eldraeic is a constructed language within as well as without the Associated Worlds universe. It was specifically developed to be the official common language of the constituent nations of the Empire of the Star. As part of the Imperial Charter, the various constituent nations and their successors agreed to universal fluency in Eldraeic.
The language was developed, to some extent, before the Imperial period; reifying the original version took nearly a century of scholarly debate (with the odd duel and brawl to break the monotony), combining aspects of the sundered languages of the original nations redesigned for precision and clarity – its exquisitely regular grammar has a strong mathematical basis that makes it ideally suited to express logical and technical concepts. It was eventually released for general use in 8.
However, while Eldraeic became, as intended, the shared language of governance, education, global media, and commerce, it was accepted and encouraged that the constituent nations would keep their original languages for daily use. As a consequence of this, Eldraeic has adopted many loan words and borrowed features as the Empire has expanded – indeed, it has become quite fashionable to lard one’s conversation with words and phrases borrowed from one’s cultural tongue – and many of these have found themselves incorporated into subsequent releases by the Conclave of Linguistics and Ontology.
There are two –
(Okay, three, but the third is one people would prefer not to admit to.)
– well-known Eldraeic dialects.
Low Eldraeic is the one we’ll be talking about in this series. It’s the standard version of the language spoken by the entire Empire for day-to-day purposes.
Then there’s High Eldraeic, which we won’t be covering. Unlike such languages as High German, High Eldraeic is an extremely sophisticated prestige dialect, used on the most formal of formal occasions, the highest of official documents, by savants and scholars, poets and artists. As well as the normal alphabets, it can also be written in several dedicated glyphic systems conveying multiple dimensions of meaning.
(We won’t be covering this because it’s every bit as complex and flowery as the most elaborate forms of Heian-period court Japanese on top of that of the language itself.)
Then there is Trade. Trade is, from one perspective, the interstellar language of communication, trade, and diplomacy that predated ubiquitous machine language translation. From another perspective, it’s an Eldraeic pidgin hacked for simplicity, which incorporates a significant number of words and grammatical features from other languages of the Worlds, split into many mutually-mostly-comprehensible dialects. From yet another, it’s a painfully grating mutilation of a beautiful language that it would be nice never to have to hear again now that machine translators can render just about anything into minimally competent Eldraeic.
(We won’t be covering that one, either.)
Another aspect of the language is its variations adapted to the different vocal apparatuses (and to an extent, psychology) of the different sophont races of the Empire. While difficult, it has thus far been possible to keep the variations isomorphic.
The version we will deal with here is Eldraeic I, the original varietal of the language released in 8, and thus obviously suited to the eldrae throat and range of hearing. (And thus, additionally, suitable for human speech and hearing.)
Other versions include:
- II, released in 443, which is a sign language based in gesture and digit positioning (having its origin in military and engineering gesture-sign languages);
- III, based on pause and interval like Morse code, and therefore suitable for even primitive communication channels;
- IV, a variation of I adapted for the canid throat, and while still relatively close to the original has a growling, howling character;
- V, designed to be best spoken underwater;
- VI, a compressed binary representation used primarily between digisapiences, which in its slowed-down audio representation resembles the twittering of modem cant,
- VII, encoded in color and pattern, for species with chromatophores,
- VIII, designed to resemble the natural communication of silicon-based species such as the galari, and many hydrogen-breathing gas giant species, for use over natural radio communication,
- IX, made up of ideographic chimes and tones of various harmonic frequencies forming thousands of sub-symbols, similar to mynenio and thus favored by the myneni and similar tympanic speakers,
- X, a varietal of whistles and trills used by avians and other whistle-speakers,
- XI, a scent-based variant for those who speak via chemosynthesis,
- and more…
There are three primary written forms for Eldraeic – if we discount the ideographic writing, which is now largely relegated to commonly used store signs, calendars, watch faces, emoji, and other such usages – each of which uses the same 48-character alphabet written in different forms.
The runic alphabet, commonly known as hexrunic, is derived from forms of writing pioneered by the azikeldrae for carving into stone or inscription upon metal. Thus, it largely eschews curves, and avoids ascenders and decenders which interrupt symmetry; hexrunic is compact, making use of modified hexagonal and part-hexagonal shapes which use space efficiently. Combining accents are placed within the letters.
This alphabet was also commonly used on early computer displays, both teletypes and pre-WYSIWYG digraphic displays (being naturally monospaced), and many of the most commonly used technical fonts are designed for it.
There are also two cursive alphabets, one designed for pens and descended from Selenarian originals, a language of graceful, tall curves, with an italic slant and ascenders and descenders offering free scope for calligraphic flourishes and ornamentation. Each character flows freely into the next. Accents are added above the text.
A second cursive variation, designed for brushes, is taken from the writing styles of Ochale and Kanatai, which has also become popular for writing on slates and other pressure-sensitive surfaces. This variation also gave rise to claw-letters, a modification devised by dar-bandal savants for easy inscription by clawed species.
Next time, we’re going to discuss the actual 36 letterals (and 12 numerals) of the Eldraeic alphabet, and the language’s phonology.