Zezhi script: a syllabary

In addition to working on the Vinuvu abugida, I’ve also been creating a new conscript, called Zezhi. It is a syllabary, and is used in Keta, specifically in and around Ngyenau Bwezh, a small country in Ei (north of Quarios). I have the beginnings of a majority language of Ngyenau Bwezh, called Bwezhi, but it’s far from usable yet. It’s at that awkward stage where I know what the phonemes are and some basics about verbs, nouns, and word order, but not much else. It is essentially a fetus.

Zezhi itself has independent symbols for combinations of consonants and vowels, in the CV syllable structure. It also has symbols for lone vowels: V structure. It doesn’t have codas embedded in each symbol, but rather marks a “default” syllable as “vowelless” for this purpose, as Bwezhi does have some codas.

Here are some examples:

This is a given name: Miza Lie

Another name: Minisa Burun.
This is the name of the country Ngyenau Bwezh /ˈŋʲɛnau bʷɛʒ/. You can see the diacritics that indicate patalization and labialization in co
nsonants. The line under the final character means that there is a null vowel after this consonant, i.e. a syllable coda. You can also see that in the previous name “Burun”. The character used for codas is always the Ce (consonant plus /ɛ/) character. So without the line underneath, the name would appear as “Burune”.

Below is a transliteration of my full name: Margaret Neal Ransdell-Green.
The transliteration works out to: /margaret nil ranzdɛl grin/

Tosi proverbs + religion

Translation of a Tosi religious proverb, from the texts of Lamat.

Sa tapi gō fū sanā jela ji chi lōlchu i
neg imp be content without kneel.before 2sg.m gen goddess obj

“Content thee with naught without first kneeling before thy goddess”

I am working on writing the tenets of Tosi belief systems, which primarily focuses on one deity, Lamat, war goddess, but also on Kalu, god of silence and peace. The current matriarchal expansionist empire of the Tosi obviously draws most political attention to the cult of Lamat, but the priesthood of Kalu endures and cannot be denied its importance to the history of the Tosi people.

The highly stratified culture of the Tosi traditionally feeds/gears different sections of the texts toward either men or women, to further enforce gender roles. The modern translation (into Tosi from Old Tosi) shows this with the use of the masculine 2nd p sg pronoun: ji, rather than da (feminine).

~

In creating these deities, I originally wanted Lamat to be the only main goddess, to show the Tosi reverence for power and might through warfare, but I then decided that they should have more nuance in their spiritual and religious beliefs. Before Tos was an Empire, it was simply a small nation, with no massive army and military force to show the world. People would have worshiped a multitude of gods and demi-gods, as well as other divine spirits. I think, as Tosi culture changed over time with the changing political structure and the ever-expanding Empire, the religious institutions would have changed too, to emphasize those things that were politically beneficial for the expansion of the state and the Empire. The primary means of this expansion was via the military, so Lamat, as the goddess of war, would have expanded as well, from a goddess to whom soldiers would offer supplications for protection before going into battle, to a central deity whose texts would come to have a greater influence over many areas of life.

The masculine deity Kalu, who represents many of the opposing forces of Lamat (silence, peace, introspection, asceticism, purity, etc) is fundamentally seen as an extension of what the Tosi view as the perfect man: one is is serene and peaceful, not governed by passion. Women are seen as intrinsically superior in this matriarchal society, but they are also seen as imperfect in that they supposedly naturally of a stormier and more tempestuous nature. Men are supposedly a tempering force of quiet, darkness, passivity, rationality, as well as “softer” emotions, such as compassion and mercy. I don’t want to remove this opposing force in Tosi society, because I think without it, the religion becomes more one-dimensional.

Previously, I had only addressed the adherents of Kalu in terms of the priesthood–men who would cloister themselves from the rest of the world (including the world of war, which is seen as primarily the purview of women) and devote their energy to preserving some special force of calm in a culture that is known for its systematic violence and occasional chaos. I want to build up this side of the religion more, and include it in more fiction that I write for the Tosi.

Translation practice in Rílin

I’ve been doing more practice translation for Rílin, to fill out any needed grammatical or lexical gaps. Here is a recent one, taken from here.

English: “That is the city of the Goyanim. They are a strange people. They light their cities at night, as if the stars weren’t sufficient for their needs. They fight and kill each other, not realising the greater danger beyond their small world. And they do not hunt each other with bows and arrows. No, they have strange devices that kill from far away without arrows. And take care near their strange iron horses they use to travel. They travel faster than any natural beast ought to, and ignore the strength of the bow and arrow. Best if you avoid their cities, my son.”

Rílin: “Tañ yẃäp Góyanimenmu. Be’a li apen. Xavéjalapen tañ yẃäpet bänkasla, do be hyzû bín kuan. Ŝílapen apenset a zansalapen. Be mílulapen bí gaŝ krur̂ûet dexe ẃy kalumla apenmu. Be siŝulapen apenset kótûñla a ítäla. La, lykylapen be’a mönet baes zansalapen róŝó ŝa ítänla. A toroky né lí mu be’a ǵasíaínla zar̂mí baet lykylapen níñgíle. Zaílapen psötar̂ó dexe gölhañ ŝutréla, dexe lhyntíla kótûñmí a ítämí. Ptatí histä tañ yẃäpenet, mävû.”

I imagine a Rílin father telling his son about a culture with more advanced technology (possibly Tosi?). I may do an interlinear gloss but for now, it stands as-is. More to come.

New alphabet (abugida) for Seloi and Karkin!

I have been doing a LOT of conscripting (making new writing system) for my languages this summer! Now that the semester has started (only just), I may slow down somewhat but I am promising myself not to stop!

Much of what I’ve worked on has been the new alphabet for the Seloi and Karkin languages. Before I get into the writing system itself, I will give a little background on the people who use this alphabet.

The Selupa (speakers of Seloi) and Karkin people live on a shared island, off the east coast of the Izoi continent (in Elta–so we’re on the side of Aeniith with Tosi, Ríli, etc.). The Selupa (of the zuna species of humanoid–same as the Tosi and Karkin) have a very secretive but comparatively technically advanced society. Their cities are highly protected, entry and exit is tightly regulated, and their technology and medical advances are not generously shared, when they are shared at all. The Selupa value art and culture as well as science, and are famous for their universities where topics like drama, writing, philosophy, rhetoric, and even culinary skills are taught.

The other major cultural group on the island are the Karkin, also a zuna people, who live in parts of the island not inhabited by the Selupa. Their population is largely split into two–some live inside seven cities that are protected by ruling clans. Just outside of these guarded cities are agricultural areas that supply these cities with food. Others, who dwell outside the protection of the cities, live in an arid expanse of land called the Planulum (sōngē’ën /soːˈŋeːʔən/ in Karkin). This is a harsh land, and its soil is hard and difficult to grow in. The people who live in the Planulum are not under rule of the city clans, and lawlessness is rampant in areas that are outside of settlements. Settlements in the Planulum are lightly governed by consensus, if at all. In the winters, sand storms ravage crops, and in the summer, hot winds can wilt them if not enough rains come. It is a difficult place to live. Caravans travel between the various Planulum settlements and the seven cities, but sometimes are detained due to crime or bad weather conditions.

The original inventors of the present alphabet, which I’m tentatively calling Vinuvu (Seloi for ‘scratched pieces’ or ‘written bits’), are the Selupa. Seloi itself has a very small phonemic inventory (collection of differently recognized sounds)–just 10 consonants and 6 vowels. Vinuvu is technically an abugida–a variant of alphabet in which the consonants are represented by full letters and the vowels are represented by modifications to the consonants (often diacritics or small marks on or near the consonant letters). The following is the version used for Seloi, its original intended use.

Seloi alphabet: VinuvuEach consonant is a full letter with the following vowels being marked as diacritics over the consonant. Freestanding vowels are written as full, and diphthongs and double vowels are either combined diacritics or a full vowel symbol plus a diacritic.

So this is simple enough, but then I decided I wanted this whole system to be used by other zuna cultures in the region of Izoi. That includes the Tosi and Karkin. The Tosi are a massive empire, but I decided that I wanted them to have borrowed the alphabet after the Karkin–the immediate neighbors of the Seloi–had already borrowed it.

The main challenge here was due to the Karkin language itself. It has a lot of sounds, far more than the particularly sparse Seloi. Karkin is mad for different consonants: it has 32 of them! It also has six vowels that can all be long or short (in duration). So obviously, when the Karkin borrowed this writing system, they were going to have to do a lot of modification to make it work for their language…

Behold!
Karkin modifications to VinuvuAs you can see, many letters are modified to represent the numerous additional sounds that Karkin has. Some consonants have added marks to indicate that voicing (Seloi doesn’t have voiced stops like b, d, g, for example). Some letters have descender marks below them to indicate a change in place of articulation (usually farther back in the mouth). Some fricatives (like the letters for v and s) are reversed to show a change in voicing (f and z). The letter for /l/ is modified to represent /r/ and /ʎ/. Various other changes show sounds that don’t exist in Seloi. Long vowel are represented by double diacritics.

A few examples of writing in Vinuvu for Karkin.

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Also the punctuation marks and numerals:
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More information will be coming–watch this space!

 

Margaret

Rílin language: expression of sorrow and sympathy

Well, it’s been a while! I do want to get back in to posting things here, despite my busy workload. Maybe it’s even better for me to do so because of that workload.

Anyway.

In light the recent catastrophe in Paris, I have been thinking about how the Ríli form expressions of sorrow, sympathy, condolences, etc. Languages often have formalized/idiomized or set phrases for these kinds of expressions, so I thought it was important that Rílin did as well. Rílin culture emphasizes harmony, support, respect, and sensitivity to others’ emotions, so I wanted to make their phrases of sorrow and sympathy reflect some of those values too. All of the words and grammar used herein are extant parts of the Rílin language–I am configuring them in ways that seem appropriate.

Note: the variations on the way of saying ‘you’/’your’ are due to traditional Rílin’s (and Lunauli Rílin) way of distinguishing three levels of formality/familiarity for pronouns and persons (lí at the most familiar and zana at the most formal for ‘you sg.’).

Lilaíkim – ‘I am grieving/mourning/crying’ (this word lilaí also means to weep copiously)
lilaí-k-im
/lɪˈlaikɪm/
grieve-pres.prog-1sg

Lilaíkim líu/xyu/zanau – ‘I grieve with thee’
lilaí-k-im lí-u/xy-u/zana-u
/lɪˈlaikɪm ˈliu (ˈxyu) (ˈzanau)/
grieve-pres.prog 2sg-instr

R̂yla límu/xymu/zanamu imi – Lit., ‘I am in/with thy sorrow’
r̂y-la lí-mu/xy-mu zana-mu imi
/ˈʂyla limu (ˈxymu) (ˈzanamu)/
sorrow-instr 2sg-poss

Hestia(tíí)/(tyy)/(taa)ky – Lit. ‘may you recuperate/rest’
hestia-t-íí/t-yy/t-aa-ky
/hɛstɪaˈtiiky (hɛstɪatyyky)(hɛstɪataaky)/
rest-npst-2sg.fut-irr

Bítapky Démas/Ifinŝas líet/xyet/zanat – ‘May Déma/Ifinŝe embrace/aid thee’ (depending on which goddess you would like to reference)
bí-t-ap-ky Déma-s/Ifinŝe-as lí-et/xy-et/zana-et
/biˈtapky ˈdemas(ɪfɪnʃas) ˈliɛt (ˈxyɛt)(ˈzanat)/
embrace/aid-npst-3sg-irr Déma-erg/Ifinŝe-erg 2sg-abs

Image of a Rílin woman: Silin

Commissioned art of a Rílin woman named Silin. Free Image Hosting at FunkyIMG.com (Please click the image to see the full size version! It looks squished when I insert it here.)

Silin is a scount with the Sunulí guerilla militia. She spies on the Tosi encampments and is an expert tracker of the woods. Her home settlement was destroyed in the initial Tosi attack on Rílin border towns, and Silin’s husband and young son were murdered. She wandered for a few years and fled to the northern coast of Elinís̆. It was here she met Tsilu, another Rílin woman who had fled the invasion, and they became friends, and eventually lovers.

I want to write stories about Silin, but I have three WIPs going right now that need to be dealt with first!

Poem for a narēd

In Tosi legend, narēdi (singular narēd /’nare:d/) are fire spirits that seduce zuna (the species that Tosi are) into throwing themselves into lava flows and burning. This is a poem about a narēd. Her name is Sapof (which comes from the Tosi words for “never extinguished”).

~

the narēd

her bleeding eyes alight

with fires from ancient earth

weaving around the stones

from within a blistering cavern

hotter than the blinded stretches of the deserts

she claims those who gaze on her fiery glory

a death worthy of a queen

how sublime

to burn away

in the eyes of the narēd.

~

Mintaka

Voagry Treir

Moodboard for Voagry Treir :

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 4.37.26 PM

Before me stood a woman in a flowing green gown, with pearls draped at her breast like dew on a flower. Her eye seemed to glow in the low lamplight and the flicker of the fire cast orange shadows over her skin. She was pale, much paler than most people in norther Quarios, and I wondered where she’d been born. She could have looked Orikrindian if not for her great height. She was one of the tallest women I had ever seen. Her gold hair ran in a river down shoulders that were broad and stately. In her face was an incomprehensible peace, of such a nature that I was sure I had never felt so serene once in my short lie. At that moment, I felt a piercing pain in my heart, both sweet and agonizing, and it occured to me that this woman seemed, to my naïve heart, like a god.” 

Elucuna in Quarios

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I am still working on Elucuna’s story, but I wanted to take this excerpt from the upcoming section to use for Voagry’s moodboard, because Voagry is one of my oldest OCs and one of my personal favorites. ❤

~

Also I promise to post more real content again soon. Grad school is starting up for me again and I have more work! I am going to keep worldbuilding, conlanging, and writing over the semester (as I always have) because it a great stress-reliever for me. And god knows I could use that.