The Lord’s Prayer in Vestan

From the past to the future. Here’s a translation of the paternoster into 26th-century Vestan:

||:|||::: iee1 ô2vo3 fûzo4 :: in āvan5 see6 ::
io nààm shə̀ bá sāwraaza
bòn uud laig in āvan see :||:
gēv dɛ̀7 plɛ̀i8 gə̄iəd ôvo dáála mīmbo9 |
noo fōgev dɛ̀ plɛ̀i vìr ôvo lêze10 glàin11 ::
laig ɛ̀ fōgev dɛ̄dam see :: díí glàin gààs ɛ̀ see |
noo díín lá ɛ̀ plɛ̀i nó bá là êni nee tíítaajhan |
bɛ́ líver ɛ̀ plɛ̀i fən rûie :||:
aamen :::|||:||

(it seems this font can’t handle diacritics over schwa, sorry about that)

Some notes:

1: Vestan, like all Space English, requires all vocatives to be made explicit with a preposed pronoun; the distinctive, irregular lowering of the vowel in this word is a Vestan trait.

2: Space English is a tonal language (or family of languages, depending on your point of view). The diacritics in this transcription (into contemporary Detroit Letters – Vestan is natively written mostly in its own script with an archaising and idiosyncratic spelling, largely indecipherable to outsiders) indicate tones.

3: Vestan, like other asteroid dialects, strengthens medial /w/ to /v/; this is a major diffeence between these dialects and the non-asteroid forms of Space English, which instead tend to strengthen /w/ to /ɾ/.

4: the first vowel is a prominent example of the asteroid-wide back vowel chain shift. By contrast, the Asaphian translation of this nominal clause reads i̯ii ɔru fozu.

5: an example of Space English’s occasional conservativism – the final nasal here has been lost in many English languages by this time.

6: our first example of one of the most distinctive grammatical features of Space English: the “see-relative”. Early Space English introduced the clause-ending particle see as an auxiliary marker of various subordinate clauses, including relativisation and comparisons of manner. In the former case, it has generally entirely taken over the relativising function – in āvan see translates to “who is in heaven”. However, while this is true within the Solar System, the more conservative and isolated dialect of the world of Valhalla also retains the original pronoun, and hence has iúús in ávan sēē.

7: another unusual feature of Space English is its retention and regularisation of the dative pronouns to mark recipient arguments of certain verbs (even in the absence of themes). Their use is most widespread in Vestan. In the case of the verb “to give”, all Space English regularly uses the dative: hence, for example, Asaphian gēf dɛ̀s and Valhallan gééf das alongside Vestan gēv dɛ̀ (Modern English “give (to) us”). However, in the case of the verb “forgive”, only Vestan uses the dative: Vestan fōgev dɛ̀, but Asaphian fògef ɛ̀s and Valhallan fógeef as.

8: Space English requires all imprecatives to be marked with the imprecative particle; however, the exact placement of this particle varies somewhat between dialects. Vestan tends to place the particle after a pronominal object of the verb if present, but Penuman prefers to place the particle immediately after the verb, and Asaphian allows single-word adverbs to also precede it: hence Vestan gēv dɛ̀ plɛ̀i gə̄iəd, in a way the middle ground between Penuman gēv plɔ̀iz dɛ̀z jhodɔ́i and Asaphian gēf dɛ̀s gɔ́ɔ́biɔt plɜ̀ɜ̀s. Valhallan, meanwhile, is as usual more divergent, and regularly places the imprecative particle at the end of the clause it modifies: gééf das gáájət ąr hāni kɛɛk pilɔɔs.

9: the word mīmbo or its relation is found in all Space English, but the exact meaning differs. In Vestan, it refers both literally to yeastcakes (the staple food) and metaphorically to the requirements of living, or by extension to money; in Valhallan, however, it refers almost entirely to money. In Asaphian, it can refer to money, or to food, but more specifically refers to the universal basic income.

10: as in several other English languages, the plural has been entirely lost from Space English, and wholly replaced by the use of numerical classifiers, along with numerals and adjectives – lêze is the classifier for most abstract nouns.

11: the merger of post-consonantal /l/ and /r/ is one of the shibboleths of Vestan and Vestan-influenced asteroid dialects. Penuman has grain, Valhallan has krain, and Asaphian has graam. However, it should be noted that the historic contrast is not entirely lost, but is partially preserved through consonant quality and tone.

 

A brief explanation:

Vestan is a prominent dialect of Space English in the 26th century; it has over two million native speakers and a respected body of media content.

Space English is an English language of the Western family – it diverged from West Coast over the course of the 23rd century, and was at first regarded simply as a ‘broken’ vernacular form of the southern variety of West Coast that was developing at more or less the same time and with which Space English has a number of developments in common. It emerged out of a very particular context: among early FTL pioneers exploring and settling the Solar System, West Coast remained the most common lingua franca; but by the 23rd century the dominance of West Coast had faded considerably, and many pioneers spoke it poorly. The Space English that developed consequently emerged from a process of mild pidginisation (though it is msitaken to regard it as a fully-fledged pigeon or creole), in which the number of vowel and consonant qualities was reduced, morphology was dramatically reduced (derivation) or eliminated (inflection) and a large number of loanwords were introduced. Much more use is made of clause-modifying particles, and the language is tonal. None of these features are unique to Space English, but their rapid and simultaneous adoption lead Space English to diverge quickly and to swiftly be recognised as an independent dialect. Since the 23rd century, it has since itself diverged into a number of dialects (or languages, depending on one’s perspective), aided by the generally insular nature of its speaker-communities.

Despite its name, Space English is not really the language of humans in space; the initial faltering steps that created a young and independent culture spread across the solar system were soon wholly overshadowed by the much larger migrations to extrasolar colonies, and the use of the nascent Space English within the early professional spacetraveller community was overwhelmed by the development of the modern space fleet on a dramatically larger scale and a more militaristic footing. Today, the language of the fleet is Fleet, a new mixed language, with some similarities to Space English but no close genetic relation, and no intelligibility, while the colonies speak a range of languages very similar to those they left behind on Earth – above all, Leewefraaka, with which Space English is not mutually intelligible. Space English has survived in only a few, overlooked places: the handful of colonies remaining in the asteroid belt; on Deimos (and to a lesser extent Phobos and Mars); and on the floating sky-world of Valhalla, which was settled directly from early extrasolar colonies, rather than from Earth. Old Venerean English was never widely spoken and is now only of academic interest; Old Lunar, however, has experienced a slight resurgence as a cultural and domestic second language, though it has few or no native speakers.

A defence:

This, you might complain, is clearly rubbish. There’s no way English spoken only a few centuries from now could be so different! But actually, I disagree. Changes aren’t all created equal, and it’s surprising how small changes can have a big effect in a short period of time. In the case of Vestan, I think that the soundchanges up to the 23rd century give a language that’s very recognisable as English, albeit with an unusual accent; but beyond there, I think that the changes suddenly ‘snap’ those bonds of recognition, at least for me. But this has also happened before. Consider, this English from 700 years ago:

Whylom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duk that highte Theseus;
Of Athenes he was lord and governour,
And in his tyme swich a conquerour,
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne
Now, there’s a word or two might give a modern English speaker pause, and we should recognise that our conservative spelling obscures a few differences in pronunciation (‘silent e’ was not yet silent). But by and large, this is very recognisable and very understandable English. Oh, we might say, you see, English hasn’t changed much in 700 years, and won’t change much in another 500!
But now here’s some English from 1,000 years ago:

Swá ðá drihtguman      dréamum lifdon
éadiglice      oð ðæt án ongan
fyrene fremman      féond on helle
wæs se grimma gaést      Grendel háten
maére mearcstapa      sé þe móras héold

Look how English changed in just 300 (or400) years! Some of this of course is the replacement of some of these words by loanwords by the time of Chaucer, and some is the use of poetic images (and hence unexpected words), but even when the words are perfectly alive today, they’re different enough, and the grammar is different enough, that it’s hard to recognise them. And some of the changes are quite simple: even if you just regularise the definite article, introduce the indefinite, standardise the word order and cut off some suffixes, you get something like “a feond on hell,  the grim gaest hat “Grendel” (a fiend of hell, the grim ghast hight [i.e. “was called”] “Grendel”).

The Vestan I propose above may at first glance seem alien, but it’s actually not that remote – less remote, I’d suggest, than the changes in a few short centuries between Old and Middle English.

 

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The Lord’s Prayer in Old Wenthish

Old Wenthish, for those who don’t yet know it, is a fictional Germanic language I’ve been working on – specifically one influenced early on by Ingvaeonic, but not within the Ingvaeonic family itself. It’s spoken in the later centuries of the first millennium on the Wenthar Islands, a fictional archipelago of low-lying, windswept, North Atlantic islands in the vicinity of Rockall.

And here’s their paternoster, with a few explanatory notes:

Ūser fadar, thu tha isi1 ā2 hibnē:
gahāilgōda sī
3 thenha4 namō,
cuemē thenha cuinnengarēca
5,
uearthē
6 thenha uiliō
an middegardē
7 sua sama ā hibnē.
Geb
8 ūs ādagē ūser dagelēcen hlāibia9
ād frageb ūs ūser scuild
10
sua sama fragebād uī ūser scuildēdom
ād ne t
eoh ūs in cuistongo11
ac befri ūs aba droehtthō
12,
amen.

1: usually, a locative verb is to describe positions; in this case, the choice of the existential verb indicates an essential property (God’s being in heaven is part of what is meant by ‘God’) rather than an accidental location.

2: heaven is considered something God is “on”, rather than “in”. This may reflect influence from Old Irish, but is also a natural decision in Germanic languages (c.f. English “on high”)

3: the subjunctive form of the copula; throughout this prayer, the optative sense is conveyed simply by subjunctive verb forms. The copula takes two arguments, but both are in the nominative, and their order is optional, with the adjective fronted here for emphasis (is is often the case with adjectival predication).

4: the reduced form of the possessive, used when no specific contrast is implied.

5: kingdom, from cuinnenga, ‘king, warlord’, and reach, ‘realm, domain’. The more intuitive (for English speakers) cuinnengadōma is also a valid word, but primarily conveys the sense of ‘kingship’ (the quality or property), rather than ‘kingdom’ (the geographical entity).

6: the transformative copula, but also used, as here, for the enactment, instantiation or implementation of abstract nouns – a loose translation might be “come to pass” or “come to be”

7: ‘the middle enclosure’ (c.f. “middle-earth”, “Midgard”). It would also be possible to speak of earth, but this would primarily indicate earth or soil, rather than the world. Nonetheless, an earth is an colloquial phrase for ‘in the world’, ‘on earth’ or ‘in life’.

8: this is a rather direct language, and a plain imperative is not considered inappropriate for requests, even of God.

9: bread (c.f. “loaf”). The cognate to English “bread”, brād, also appears, and can be used for cakes and loaves of bread, but primarily has the sense of ‘swelling, bulge’. This is probably because the Old Wenthish still primarily made use of unleavened bread (PGmc. *hlaibiz), with the term for the newerfangled leavened, risen bread (PGmc. *braudaz) becoming primarily associated with the swollen appearance of bread after rising.

10: flaw or wrong(doing). The sense here is therefore closer to ‘sin’ or ‘crime’ than to (as is found in many English translations) ‘debt’, although a scuild is distinct from, vaguer than and more innocent than a scathō (injury, harm, crime), pecced (sinful act), anfoled (injustice, crime) or cairi (crime, felony). The cognate term is used in an old Northumbrian version of the prayer, though not in those from southern England.

11: here the translation follows the Old English – cuistong, not unlike Old English “cost(n)ung” primarily bears the sense of a tribulation, trial, or test, even a hardship, rather than the more seductive sense of modern English “temptation”. This reflects a wider uncertainty over the appropriate translation of the Greek term that has vexed translators into many languages.

12: evil, particularly of a theological kind; the abstract noun derived from droht, ‘evil, unholy, morally wrong’, which itself is a loanword from Old Irish.

 

 

And a tentative translation (sure to be revised later) into Modern Wenthish (the contemporary descendent of the above):

Ur faðer, thu as er á hibhenne,
lątte thy nąmme yheilow’ð a’liegge
lątte thy conge-reach a’cwemme
lątte thy ønske a’weorthe
an midyarde sam as á hibhenne.
Ląt thyssel a’yebhe us ydaynne ur dáyly hláf
an so lietch thi, Ab
áy a’fayebhe us ur schiydde
also sam we fayebhen schiyd-effaren with us
áy ná a’leððe us ynat ná cystung
achnion a’byfrion us av driythi
an so lietch thi, Ab
amen.

Verb Conjugation in Old Wenthish (1)

A break today from the usual trickle of book reviews: lots of verb tables! Today’s post outlines the verb conjugation system of Old Wenthish, a fictional Germanic language spoken on some fictional islands in the latter half of the first millennium. At least, this post deals with the strong verbs – weak verbs will require another post.

And yes, this is all stupidly complicated. Don’t blame me, blame Proto-Germanic…

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Some glimpses of a Romance language

Recently, I was toying with a Romlang (constructed Romance language, for those not into that sort of thing). Unfortunately, I’ve sort of lost interest for now, though I imagine I’ll pick it back up eventually. For now, I just thought I’d share a couple of glimpses for the curious. [no, they’re not absolutely from the same version, some of the orthography is a little different, etc].

First, a sample, from the Oaths of Strasbourg:

Bizmi maheb dhi Il-Dhu, è bizmi il-boblu grêsan è nos ḥâṣ muḍai
à zexṛ dhi la-dha aqîta, infant Il-Dhu um-dhuért il-hafṛ ed il-bodṛ,
ya vù adh is-yâmṛ miu aḥu aqît, il-Gaṛlú, fi azoud ed in qôha gdua,
cou omi deift fi dresu is-il-hôtir à hon aḥu, asìg iles um-wicrut aḷtrohic.
È con Louthr ya in-gacoṛdré âdun nun qe fi miu vouḷtádi
hobri miu aḥu aqît, il-Gaṛlú, dàmun aḷqun is-inflisrut.

(I won’t bore you with details of orthography, but to give a general idea: unstressed -i and -a are both schwa (but the former palatalises some preceding consonants); plain -h- is sounded when initial and utterance-initial or stressed, but is otherwise a glottal stop or just a marker of vowels in hiatus; h-dot is a velar fricative probably softening to /h/ intervocalically; other dotted letters may be velarised and will lower or back surrounding vowels). Q is just /k/ before front vowels, but is otherwise uvular. Etc).

And, never seen before, a verbal paradigm. This is the second-declension verb ZUCṚ, “to shine”:

Present Indicative:

zuċ zuqí zuct zuqìu zuqidí zucn

Past Indicative:

zusi zusí zust zusìu zusidí zusrìn

Pluperfect Indicative:

zusra zusrá zusret zusṛìu zusṛadí zusṛàn

Future Indicative:

zuqiṛu zuqiṛí zuqiṛét zuqṛivìu zuqṛividí zuqṛivn

Present Subjunctive:

zuċa zuċá zuċt zuċìu zuċadí zuċn

Past Subjunctive:

zusisa zusisá zusist zusisìu zusizdí zusisn

Future Subjunctive:

zuser zusrí zusiret zusirìu zusridí zusiren

Conditional:

zuqiṛìa zuqiṛìa zuqiṛìat zuqiṛìu zuqiṛiadí zuqiṛìan

(in transitive verbs, the future and conditional remain separable. Thus, duaṛ-m-ìat (“he would give me”), duaṛ-t-ìat (“he would give you”), etc.

Øynduyska – diachronics of declension

Sorry for the lack of updates in recent months. You know how it is – stuff. Also, I’ve been working at two massive blog projects that will probably never see the light of day. And I have two book reviews I need to do.

For now, though, it’s just a snippet of Øynduyska again – this time, how its noun declensions have developed over time. And yes, this does contradict (and supersede) the information in my last series about the language. Sorry!

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Øynduyska – some examples (1)

I’ve finished for now with Øynduyska, at least in the sense of posting a sketch on this blog. But I’m still translating some things and fiddling with some details, so I thought I’d share four very small (one line) translations, with explanations.

Yes, a couple of things are slightly different from in the foregoing discussion, and represent minor changes I’ve made since then. [or mistakes, of course…]

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Øynduyska- XVI (Questions, Imperatives, Catenatives)

Near the end of this first phase of Øynduyska.

 

Questions

Formal polar questions, like negations, generally require a modal auxiliary. This modal verb takes the inquisitive suffix -a, and is fronted: machta ðu ðam bylda? – “are you building it?” (lit. “might you be building it?”). Leading questions – less appropriate in formal speech, but common colloquially, additionally employ the Wackernagel particles ay (for positives) or ney (for negatives): machta ay ðu ðam bylda? – “you are building it, aren’t you?”

The chief exception to this pattern is the questioning of adverbs and of prepositional phrases. Such questions may follow the general structure – machta ðu ðam lawli bylda? – “are you slowly building it?” – but where they are the particular focus of the question it is also possible to front the element, and add an interrogative element to it directly. In the case of adverbs and some prepositions, this element is the particle an, directly following the adverb or preposition; for other prepositions, it is simply the suffix -a attached to the preposition. In the case of the preposition an, the preposition is entirely replaced by the interrogative preposition, . Thus, ina ða hussa, machta ðat ligga? – “does it lie within the house?”; ná ða bóka, machta ðat ligga? – “does it lie on the book?”; lawli an machta ðu ðam bylda? – “is it slowly, that you build it?”

Modal auxiliaries are not required, however, with copulas, which instead are fronted themselves, and themselves take the -a suffix: isa iss cąld? – “is ice cold?”

In colloquial speech, but rarely in formal contexts, polar questions may simply be formed from indicative statements, followed by a subordinate clause: typically an is? for present events, an was? for past events, or an są? or an bia? for certain requests. Thus, byld ðu ðam, an is? – “you’re building it, yes?” or byld ðu ðam, an są? – “build it, if you would?”

Content questions meanwhile require interrogative pronouns or adjectives. The basic interrogative pronouns are fann (“who?”) and fassa (“what?”), alongside fónn (“how?”), fara (“where?”), fiðr (“to where?” and “how much?”), fása (“from where?” and “why?”), fǫffáða (“why?”), fien (“with what instrument?”), and fanna (“when?”). Fann and fassa further have the dative forms fąna and famma respectively, and the shared genitive fössa, and may be preceded by prepositions: befós fössa? – “beside what/who?” Certain prepositions however combine with the pronoun to yield special fused forms: awann (“on/in whom?”) and awassa (“on/in what?”), athann (“to whom?”) and athassa (“to what?”), and beocha (“with whom?”).

In fann and fassa content questions, the questioned element is fronted, the interrogative taking the place of an argument, and any non-copular, non-modal verb sent to the rear: fössa ðu saoch? – “who/what did you see?”; fann ði saoch? – “who saw you?” Modal verbs and copulas instead show subject-verb inversion: fann is he? – “who is he?” However, this construction is regarded as somewhat brusque, and may easily be interpreted as accusatory or commanding; a more indirect phrasing is generally prefered. In more formal contexts, this employs a modal verb: fössa dorsht ðu sevha? – “who might you have seen?”; fann dorsht ðam bylda? – “who might have built it?” In more colloquial contexts, a relative construction may instead be used: fann was, sam ðam byldi? – “who was it that built it?”

Questions employing the other interrogatives likewise relegate the verb to the rear, but otherwise leave the clause unaltered: fanna ðu henn saoch? – “when did you see him?” The indirect constructions are not required here, although they may sometimes be employed for additional politeness, formality, or disambiguation. For example, the ambiguous beocha ðu henn saoch? – “with whom did you see him?” – may be rephrased as either beocha was he, sam ðu henn saoch? (“with whom was he that you saw?”) or beocha was ðu, sam henn saoch? (“with whom were you who saw him?”).

In addition to the interrogative pronouns, Øynduyska also possesses two interrogative adjectives, filie (“which?”) and fliecha (“what sort?”). These act similarly to fann and fassa, except that they are often accompanied by the noun they modify: filie macacca is, sam ða cuppa menn hav upybrǫka? – “which monkey is it who broke my cup?”

 

Imperatives

The imperative may be conveyed simply through intonation and subject dropping: byld ðam! – “build it!” Such a command is likely to be seen as urgent, but also as uncouth and impolite.

Alternatively, the preterite subjunctive form of the verb may be employed, for a more polite and gentle request: bylday ðam! – “build it!”

However, it is also common for requests and commands to be couched in periphrastic constructions. Most prominent are the relatively cold construction formed upon a prepositional predication – lieg het á ði ðam ta bylda, “you are to build it” (lit. “it is on you to build it”) – and the more graceful construction formed with ląthalątha ði ðam bylda, “let it be that you build it”. The lątha construction may also be used in the third person (singular or plural), or in the first person plural, with jussive and cohortative forces respectively.

 

Embedding and Catenatives

Some Øynduyska verbs are capable of forming, in theory, chains, by taking another verb as their object, or as part of their object.

In such a situation, the embedded verb is placed into the infinitive, preceded by the preposition ta, and it is preceded by its subject and object, if any. The subject is dropped if it is identical to the subject of the matrix verb. If the matrix verb is transitive and takes objects in the nominative or genitive, the subject of the embedded verb will be placed in the genitive, if it is not also semantically a transitive object of the matrix verb, and in the nominative (or dative, for pronouns) if it is; if the matrix verb takes objects in the dative, however, the subject of the embedded verb takes the dative; if the matrix verb is separable, its preposition attaches to the subject of the embedded verb as though it were its object. If the matrix verb is intransitive, however, the subject of the embedded verb remains in the nominative (or dative). Thus, member ech av hem ta bylda, “I remember he builds” (with a separable verb demanding the dative), börr ech hem ta bylda, “I make him build” (in which the subject of the verb is also directly affected by the matrix verb), and varcweeð ech hem ta bylda, “I promise he will build” (with an intransitive matrix verb), but hóp ech henn ta bylda, “I hope he will build” (in which the matrix verb is transitive, but the subject of the embedded verb is not semantically its object, being unaffected by it).

This catenative structure is, for many verbs, contrasted with a ‘relative’ structure with sam and a subjunctive (member ech av hem sam he bylda, “I remember of him that he builds”; hóp ech sam he bylda, “I hope that he builds”). The catenative structure is generally preferred, with the relative structure typically reserved for emphasis, and for situations where more precision regarding tense and aspect is required. Also available is a ‘direct’ construction employing the cataphoric pronoun ðusmember ech av ðus: he byld – “I remember this of him: he builds”. The direct construction is even more emphatic, but commonly used in reporting speech.

An additional complication arises in the case of embedded questions. Here, the catenative construction must be employed, and employs a distinct set of pronouns, modified forms of the interrogatives: fanna and fassa become fa and fas and so forth. Thus, kną ech fa ta byld, “I know who builds” (or “I know who built”; tense and aspect are lost from embedded verbs).