The Pronouns of Pros

(Loosely inspired by a G+ post in which I contemplate trying to phrase Eldraeic self-concepts into Japanese pronouns and honorifics: I went with a baseline of watakushi-sama, if you’re curious.)

Did you know (you did not) that archaic – or bearing in mind that it’s a deliberately designed language, prototype – Eldraeic had no first-person pronoun? All self-references had to be done through illeism, with name, title, epithet, or some combination of the former.


The Great and Powerful Trixie approves of this!

“I” was just too damn self-effacing, don’ch’know; a puny pronoun unsuited to the truly magnificent magisterial awesomeness of – well, any one of us, really. Pronouns, after all, are substitutable; individuals are very much not.

(It’s also handy when it comes to matters of valëssef, since your choice of name, title, or epithet to use lets people know which of your facets you are manifesting at the present time, without resorting to wearing masks Chresytanri-style.)

Even third-person pronouns were typically replaced by names when referring to people, for reasons of respect and because by the same principle, it lets the person addressed know which of their facets is being addressed.

Second-person pronouns were… best avoided, really.

Modern Eldraeic, however, does have a first-person pronoun (val), usable in casual speech to save time, but much like the third-person, it’s an assignable variable; it’s customary to illeize when you first speak, and on all subsequent valëssef shifts, to let people track the changes. Third person usage has tracked this change in approximately the same way.

No-one will find it particularly strange if you go full illeist, though. It just moves you into an extra-formal register.


A Brief Pronoun Note

You may notice that in “Purpose” I used the male-default pronoun and person-reference – i.e., “men of every kind”, “him and his”, etc.

This is, of course, a decidedly imperfect translation of the Eldraeic original, which uses, of course, the word daráv – “person, sophont” – in formations like the former, and whose pronouns are all entirely ungendered unless deliberately gendered, which in this case they weren’t because there’s no reason so to do.  Unfortunately, while in modern texts I can use “soph” for the former, at least, English has no slightly-archaic gender-neutral constructs that would fit into a text set in this era without seeming, well, clunky.  At least in my opinion, and since I’m the one doing the writing here, it’s my opinion we’ll be going with.

But if you were wondering why Her Divine Majesty Seledíë I Selequelios, by Right of Coronargyr and Chartered Mandate Empress of the Eldrae, Chief Executive Officer of the Imperium Incorporate, First of the Free, Defender of the Star’s Flame, Heart of the Realm, Sovereign Lady of the Heights and Depths, Dyarch of the Infinite, etc., etc., was speaking in the masculine, that’s why.

Gendered Pronouns

As you may have noticed from here, here, and here, I appear to have settled on using the ve/vis pronouns to represent the eldraeic neuter (but animate) gender, and the hse/hsis set to represent the hermaphrodite gender.

(Still no sign of what I may or may not use to represent “prenuptial catalyst” or “postnuptial catalyst”, though…)

Pronoun Choices

And, based on that last story, it looks like I’ve elected to use the Egan-style ve/ver/vis pronouns for the neuter gender (the friend, although it never comes up, was a kaliatar; a neuter member of a trisexual species).

Still haven’t settled on which English pronouns to use for herm, though.  Hm.  (And part of me is now trying to remember unsuccessfully which pronoun(s) Bujold used for Bel Thorne, et. al. in the Vorkosigan books.  Not that fiction-writing has binding precedents, or anything, but still.  Curious.)