Rawàng Ata: a phonology sketch

I’ve been playing with Rawàng Ata – my constructed language with Austronesian inspirations – for many years now, but I don’t think I’ve ever properly sat down and described its basic phonology.

So, here’s a quick sketch: RA draft phonology sketch

(Since neither WordPress nor online forums seem great at respecting the elementary formatting necessary for this, I thought it would be easier just to make a .pdf of it)

Sorry in advance for any confusion in the document: one problem with this, as with all language, is that every part relies on every other part, so it’s never possible to lay things out in a completely logical order…

Life in the Colonies in the 26th Century: Guerra (3)

Third and final installment…

Politics and Peoples

Guerran politics have always been hard to define. The first settlers, before the Exodus, were driven by profit, and the first Colonial Constitution was highly plutocratic. During the Exodus, when the population exploded and famine stalked the land, the colony became polarised into two camps, Green and Yellow: the Greens were legitimists, who blamed the Protectorate for their hunger, sought the restoration of feudal democracy, and favoured aggregations of capital – specifically land-owners – while the Yellows were neo-MacGaskillite redistributionists. It might be thought that the Greens were solely the party of the rich, but this was not so: many poor Guerrans believed that their best chances of survival came from supporting the ruling class, who were after all the ones driving investment in the young colony, rather than from smashing up the few power structures that could deliver progress, while the more expansionist settlers feared that attacks on the property rights of Atravidian slumlords would eventually mean attacks on their own rights as free landholders in their settlements, and the rights of their children and grandchildren to eventually derive profits from the risks the settlers were taking. It was this division between Yellow and Green that lead to the establishment of Maquinna as a more egalitarian (Yellow) rival to Atravida and Descubierta.

Enthusiasm would be the death of both movements. Inspired by Leveller influences, radical Yellows launched the so-called ‘Guerran Revolution’, an eight-month political upheaval that resulted in the executions of many Greens and the assassination of many Yellows; the radical local governments the revolution produced soon, for the most part, collapsed into chaos. The movement was not entirely discredited, and moderate Yellows took care to identify themselves not with Levellers and Reds but with the Keyite forces, and even went as far as briefly claiming secession from the Protectorate as a Keyite colony; but the secessionists lacked the support of either their own public or the Keyite forces themselves, and the ‘secession’ was soon forgotten about. With the death of the elder Key and the turn of many of his followers to piracy, the Yellow cause withered, its followers being swept up by the Grecian faction within the Protectorate. The Greens for their part were decapitated (literally) as an organised party during the revolution, and gradually drifted into the anti-Grecian faction, and hence into oblivion.

Under the current Constitution, the colony is ruled by a Governing Council. This Council selects its own membership (serving terms of 5 or 10 years), except that the Chairman of the Council is directly elected by the people. This is a genuine election, one-man-one-vote (women are also allowed to vote), although the electoral system is in part indirect: the popular vote is added to regional block-voting, in which small and old regions are over-represented, in a modified majoritarian alternative vote system that seeks to prevent the unfettered dominance of the big cities. The Chairman has a casting vote in the Council and a limited veto, and also assigns portfolios and resources to Council members, but cannot directly control the Council’s composition himself. The Council however has only limited direct powers, and acts to co-ordinate between regions rather than set a single policy agenda; nonetheless, the Governing Council does appoint the Regional Councils, who are much more powerful. Regional Councils must be approved by plebiscite every decade by the populace, but the precise electoral system is left up to the region. Similarly, regions have the right to elect Chairmen of their Regional Councils; some do, some don’t, and some choose boards of chairmen or revolving chairmen – whether this selection is by election or some other method is left up to the region.

Most politics is personal on Guerra. There are few official parties, and they have little power; instead, there exist personal power structures: the last three decades have been marked by the struggle between the Ditmar faction and the Wen faction. These allegiances cut across political boundaries; in general, the Ditmar faction has the backing of the richer landowners, while the Wen faction is backed by capitalists, but these generalisations have many counterexamples, and the allegiances of the liberals, the poor, and the middle classes are unpredictable. Perhaps a better generalisation is that Wen’s faction is more associated with Maquinna and Ditmar’s faction more with Atravida. Place of origin is probably a bigger cleavage than class, in terms of politics, and the Governing Council carefully obeys an unofficial geographical formula: of the twelve senior members, two members are from Atravida, two from Maquinna, one each from Resolution and Descubierta, one from the Voyager Region, one from a smaller city (usually Challenger City), two from lesser regions on Lake Mariner (one from the north, one from the south), one from a minor region, and one from anywhere other than Maquinna or Atravida. The same formula is repeated for the 24 junior members, albeit with less rigour.

Government policy is the result of compromise between the factions, and there is little overt ideological disagreement on Guerra anymore (outside of some more countercultural groups in the big cities, particularly in Maquinna). Guerrans generally oppose large corporations, but favour small enterprise. They support land rights and oppose inheritance taxes, but they limit land acquisition and defend the rights of tenants. They favour a base level of welfare for all, and seek to support the poor who wish to better themselves, but they do so through mutual banks, and the poor must make a business case for investment in their lives. In general, Guerran politics favours individualism and individual rights, but is also suspicious of great wealth disparities and favours an economically and socially classless society. Guerrans are in general conservative in their values, and many of those values are imposed through the law, albeit on a regional level rather than colony-wide (all sorts of things are permitted in Maquinna). Guerrans ardently support the Protectorate, although there is a degree of stubbornness and skepticism whenever the Protectorate attempts to impose its will on the colony – ‘universal solutions, but through local methods’ is a common refrain.

As for internal, social divisions in Guerran society, there are relatively few. Although the colony is only a little more than a century old, the chaotic nature of its founding, with Earthicans from all regions and classes being deposited together on the planet en masse, led to rapid merging and levelling of cultures (and the Earth of the early 25th century was in any case much more culturally (and genetically) homogenous than in centuries gone by).

The language of the colony is Geriniz, an Anglic speech-form derived from Liiwefraaka. Geriniz and Liiwefraaka remain (unsurprisingly, given the recency of their separation) more or less mutually-intelligible, although recent settlers from Earth may need a little while to ‘get their ear in’. Geriniz itself consists of several dialects, with four or five recognised standard forms… these all share much in common, but also have substantial differences from one another. They are for the most part mutually intelligible.

Outside the megacities, languages other than Geriniz are relegated to the status of ‘house languages’ – languages passed from mother to child and used in family situations. House languages often have limited lexicons and show considerable syntactic influence from Geriniz. Speaking a house language outside the house, other than with close friends, is frowned upon – it is seen as exclusionary, elitist, or sectarian. In the megacities, however, the combination of larger populations and a constant influx of immigrants has enabled the survival of pockets of language-users – dozens, if not hundreds of language have their own little urban communities. However, almost all citizens speak Geriniz, and for most it is their first language.

Regarding faith and life-stance, most Guerrans are ardently panhumanist; many households hold icons of the Eternal Protectors, and of Protector Demmings. Religion is treated with suspicion, as a sectarian force; in particular, the once-sizeable Cathodox population has dwindled away almost entirely in the wake of the Electoral Crisis, though a rump schismatic pro-panhumanist ‘Independent Patriarchate’ still remains. Cultivation is considered the superfluous time-wasting of decadent societies, a vain attempt to fill the psychological void arising from the absence of traditional families, strong communities, a sense of duty and a healthy connection to the soil. Mysticism, however, is commonplace, particularly of a monotheistic, devotional kind. Most Guerrans are not fully convinced of the efficacy of faith, and have litle interest in theological niceties, but devotional practices, particularly prayer and the veneration of icons, are widespread, with saints, gods, orishas and so forth all sharing attention in a syncretistic folk practice. Of particular significance is the native religion of Consuelism, an offshoot of Erengism (itself a new religion of the Early Contemporary era, an austere prophetic and restorationist Christian faith with a high degree of syncretism with Islamic practices) centred around the Messianic and faith-healing claims of a certain Sister Consuelo, who proclaimed herself the appointed saviour of the planet. Consuelism now considers itself the largest religion on Guerra, but in practice most adherents merely treat it as part of the general syncretistic folk devotional practice; its particularism (Consuelo is seen as the saviour for all people on Guerra, but for nobody on any other planet – each planet has its own saviour, appropriate to the particular nature of that world) and its relative lack of any religious obligations or complex theology beyond devotion to Sister Consuelo and general pleasantness to everybody else, make it an appealing faith.

The icons of Protectors, Admirals, and domestic politicians are also commonly used in devotions, although this practice is officially considered superstitious.

Among non-theistic ideologies, Multiplicity is seen as decadent nonsense, Democracy is seen as oppressive and corrupt, and Transhumanism is considered a gross perversion and treason against all mankind. Transhumanist groups do survive in the big cities, particularly in Maquinna, but they are both socially and legally persecuted. Guerrans do have considerable time for Ecologist views, and for the general principles of Grounded Semantics, but few follow any organised ideological groups to that effect.

There are robust populations of many Plain Folk groups, though they are less numerous than on Earth. Most common are the native Guerran Plain Folk groups; these are farming-based communities with strict ‘ordnungs’ but often widespread use of technology where it does not lead to avoiding hard work or to inegalitarianism. Guerran Plain Folk have most in common with Old Order plains, though the historical link is through inspiration and parallel evolution rather than linneage. Guerran Plain Folk are typically non-religious, though some groups venerate their ordnung.



The World within the World

Guerra is an important colony world, in terms of population. However, it has little economic significance. It does engage in mining and industry, and does export its goods to Earth and elsewhere, but it is not a productive powerhouse like Herjolfsson, Nikitin or Battuta, or even like Degama. Likewise, it does accept a steady stream of colonists – but not that many, nor are they the highest-paying. Guerra is generally seen as a perfectly nice place, safe and dull, with a culture that is distinctive but not too distinctive. Guerra is respectable, and quaint. Guerrans are viewed (as a generalisation) as solid, reliable, and obsessed with farming – but the passionate homesteaders for the most part would rather head to Degama. Guerrans are disproportionately represented in the Fleet, but are less common in the officer corps – it is not in the Guerran mentality to seek to become an officer. The Protectorate sees Guerra as a loyal, untroublesome, but sometimes pig-headed, colony world. The most famous historical Guerran in the Fleet was Grand Admiral Diceman, a sturdy and reliable leader who served as a Marshal on the front line in the Fourth War; a few decades ago, Grand Admiral Ditmar served as Director of Logistics, and was a member of the Central Committee, but his parents had left Guerra for Zheng before he was born. The senior Guerran in the Fleet today is Admiral Longwalker, currently serving as a Tribunal Conductor for the Justice Division.

Guerrans, for their part, are generally welcoming toward newcomers from Earth, but are somewhat xenophobic toward the other colonies. Most are seen as too strange, too pretentious, too divorced from the reality of the soil. In some ways their closest allies should be the Degamans – both are Exodus worlds, both have strong agricultural traditions but also large and vibrant cities. In reality, however, there is considerable tension between the two groups. Guerrans view Degama as the privileged child of the Exodus, receiving resources that could have saved lives on Guerra; furthermore, they view Degamans as individualists lacking community spirit – their farmers, say Guerrans, are more interested in escaping society than in building new communities, and their urbanites are content to ape Earth fashions and divorce themselves from their hinterlands. Guerra, by contrast, may on the surface have a strong divide between the cosmopolitan megacities and the conservative countryside, but in reality there are deep ties between the two, and even Guerran megaurbanites, no matter how countercultural, see themselves as distinctively Guerran, in a way that perhaps is not paralleled in Degaman megacities.

Guerrans are, however, not entirely alone in their own stellar system. The briney planet of Malaspina shares the same star, and many colonists there originate from Guerra. The closeness of the two worlds and their shared history make visits from one to the other relatively affordable; however, in practice the contact between the two planets is minimal. Guerrans are of the (quite understandable) opinion that nobody in their right mind would ever want to visit Malaspina, which they consider to have only been given the prestige of ‘Colony World’ through an accidental coincidence of physics and onomastics. Most Guerrans consequently forget about the place altogether. Malaspinans do visit Guerra from time to time (it must be nice to be anywhere that isn’t Malaspina), but for the most part consider Guerrans dull, lazy, conventional, disorganised, and offensively arrogant. Malaspinans are mistrusted on Guerra – they are considered perverted and louche, yet at the same time regimented, conspiratorial and illiberal. In the megacities (the only places Malaspinans are ever likely to be encountered), the more credulous and bitter Guerrans trade in rumours of Malaspinan machinations against Guerra, attempts to seize power on Guerra surreptitiously, by corrupting key political figures. Why the inhabitants of Malaspina might want to do this, beyond their inherent viciousness, is rarely specified; most plausible in the popular imagination is the rather sensible suggestion that Malaspinans would like to return to Guerra en masse (anywhere must be better than Malaspina), but know that this would require giving up their immoral cultural traits, and so wish to achieve domination of Guerra in order to negotiate return from a position of strength. However, while ‘the Malaspina Problem’ is mentioned regularly in political discussions, most sensible Guerrans find the threat overstated and of little practical interest.

Life in the Colonies in the 26th Century: Guerra (2)

Second of three posts describing life on the colony-planet of Guerra (in the same setting as my earlier posts about life on Venus). The first part can be found here.


Men, their Wives, and their Mistresses

Middle-class men and their wives do not typically live together on Guerra. Men live in cities – that’s where the work is, where other men are, where business occurs. Wives live in the countryside – that’s where the men aren’t. Guerran men are protective of their wives, and the thought of them living in the city appals them – there are just so many dangers. Crime; boredom; unsavoury friends; the temptations of adultery. Men have to save their wives from these things, and in truth most wives are reasonably happy with this arrangement. Marriage is mostly for love on Guerra (though of course family connections and economics are important considerations too!), but everyone knows that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Continue reading

Life in the Colonies in the 26th Century: Guerra (1)

This will be a short series of (probably three?) posts about a human colony in the 26th century. It’s set in the same setting as my series about life on Venus, from a couple of years ago. This time, we leave the decadent cloud-cities of old Venus for the quiet, respectable colony-world of Guerra.

Memories of the Past

Guerra is a world born in tragedy. Most of its population are descended from settlers who came to the planet during the Exodus – the decades-long process of mass emigration that followed the Liberation of Earth 130 years ago. Most of those settlers came fleeing famine, and scarred by memories of the Occupation. In truth, their situation on Guerra was at first little better: the limited agriculture possible on the infant world was rapidly outpaced by ship after ship of refugees. A sizeable fraction of the settlers, particularly in the later years, were criminals transported and indentured in exchange for clemency. The fledgeling Protectorate did its best to prevent mass starvation, but life was tough at best and for many impossible. Famine struck again two decades later, when Levellers besieged the planet for three years, cutting off energy supplies and interplanetary trade, and yet again under the four-year siege impossed by the vnaorn during the Fourth War. On both occasions, the planet refused to capitulate despite starvation. Continue reading

The Spirit Thief, by Rachel Aaron

As part of a recent resolution to try to catch up with some popular modern fantasy novels, I’ve just read Rachel Aaron’s 2010 novel, The Spirit Thief. How has the genre changed, I wondered, since the 1990s? Since, if we’re honest, the 1980s? (I wasn’t reading fantasy in the eighties, but many of the books I read in the 90s and early 00s were written in the late eighties or early nineties).

If this is representative, the answer is: surprisingly little. Continue reading

Reduplication in Rawàng Ata

Apologies for the seemingly random formatting that WordPress insists on adding and subtracting…

Rawàng Ata is a language that employs several forms of reduplication, and for several purposes. Several parts of speech can feature reduplications. Continue reading

Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett

The 29th installment of my ongoing complete Discworld re-read.

Permit me a slightly fanciful new classification of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. There are novels that, it feels, he wrote because he needed to write a new book: books like The Last Continent, for example. There are novels that, it feels, he wrote because he had what he thought was a cool idea for a book, like Feet of Clay or Maskerade. There are novels that it feels as though he wrote because there was something he wanted to write about – Soul Music, for example, or Jingo. And then there are a small number of novels that, I can’t help but feel, he wrote because he was born to write them. The Colour of Magic, oddly, is one of those books – it may not be one of his best novels, but it’s one I can’t possibly imagine anybody else (or even the same author at any other time in his life) writing. Another is Small Gods, his widely-acknowledged magnum opus.

And a third is Night Watch. Continue reading