The Raving Otaku At Large (railstar) wrote in beregoth,
The Raving Otaku At Large

Elvish Primer

Tolkien I'm not, but I couldn't resist giving the elves of my world their own bizzare language. Also, I used the oportunity to throw out some cultural notes as well, although I'll probably have to write something more definative later.

The Elvish Language in Beregoth
A basic primer

Elvish is a unique language compared to the human languages (notably Olgothian, Serentian, and Zulathan), and the Dwarven language (to include the Danjo dialect spoken by the Erja, which is a direct offshoot) or any of the Unclean's languages (since they are mostly a way of providing empathic suggestions of various emotional and physical states through verbal intercourse rather than communicating ideas) because of its syntax. Elvish, known as Silothasi by those who speak it natively, communicates all its ideas as a complete unbroken thought. That is to say, if something in real world English were spoken or written out in Elvish, it would take on a form such as this:

The weather outside is very cold today, isn't it?

Would become:


To human and dwarven speakers, it's as if the Elvish speaker is speaking in one continuous run-on word. In written Elvish, no punctuation is used and no words are contracted; the script flows directly from one word to another. This makes Elvish extremely hard for a non-native speaker to translate, since only thorough and intimate understanding of the context in which certain words are used can the meaning of any given phrase in Elvish be deciphered. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether something is intended as a question, statement, or exclamation unless the context is understood. This is not something easily grasped by those not raised within the language and culture.

When a human or dwarven language is spoken, pauses are taken at the end of each thought or even in between words. These pauses serve a two-fold purpose, to allow the speaker to regain his or her breath, and to allow the listener to absorb what was just said and make sense of it in their minds. Elvish thought, and therefore Elvish speech, works on a different principle. An Elvish speaker completes the entirety of whatever he or she has to say as a complete thought, with no pauses between words or individual sentences. Indeed, the concept of a sentence, that is, a thought contained in separation from all the other thoughts around it, is entirely a Human or Dwarven way of thinking. Elves see everything as its whole, not as its individual constituent parts, and their speech reflect this. However, Elves, like all living things, do need to breath, and will pause in speaking to do so, but these pauses are ONLY for the purpose of catching one's breath, and are ONLY taken after certain syllables in the Elvish grammar. To do otherwise shows a lack of education and grace, and in some social situations might even be considered rude or in bad taste. A popular word game with Elvish youths is to try and make short speeches containing only words that lack the syllables needed to allow the speaker to pause for breath, and then try to recite them all in one go, with the person who manages the most before having to stop and breathe being the winner.

The syllables that may be followed by a pausing breath are Sha, Wa, No, Tas, Las, Mos, Tha, and Fe. Many nouns and proper names use these syllables, and Mos is sometimes used as a part of speech like A, The, or And in English. Of course, this means that the syllable in question may even appear in the middle of a word, for example the Tha in Silothasi as noted above. That means when an Elvish speaker is talking, he or she may pause in the middle of a word for a breath. Needless to say, very little headway was made in interpreting the Elvish language until some Elves learned the Human languages and began communicating in a meaningful way with the other races.

Elves consider the broken speech of Humans and Dwarves distasteful, lacking any sort of refinement or grace. They also see it as childish, since each thought has to be broken down and separated for the listener to be able to understand it. The languages of the Unclean they regard as even beneath the sounds of animals.

There are three main dialects of Silothasi, each with its own distinct idioms. The first is Vatisilothasi, which can be translated as High Elvish, although the prefix Vati can also be used to denote the physical height of the subject as being above something else, or even be used by itself as an adjective similar to "above". "Vati", as it is known by Human scholars, is the most widely used dialect and is spoken primarily by the Elvish clans living in the central plains of the Elven Territories. It is considered by the Vatikida, the "High Kin" which is how the plains clans refer to themselves, to be the "correct" form of Elvish speech, and while the other two major subcultures of Elves do not disagree that it is the closest to the original mother language, they don't necessarily hold the Vatikida in the same regards as they seem to hold themselves.

The second dialect is Yonothasi, which is primarily spoken by the secluded hill and mountain dwelling clans of elves known as Moskida, commonly named by humans as "Grey Elves" or "Spirit Elves" because of their darker olive complexions, uniformly white hair and gold or violet irised eyes. Moskida does not really translate directly, but a transliteration of the name might be something like: "And Those Other Kin". The Moskida are held somewhat apart from regular Elven society (regular being the culture and traditions established by the Vatikida) because of their tendency to be reclusive and separatist. "Yono" differs from "Vati" in that the inflection given to verbs is different. "Vati" stresses the end of a verb to denote it as action; "Yono" stresses the middle, since all verbs in Elvish have exactly three parts. Also, "Yono" is often pitched higher and adverbs and pronouns are often slurred into the word they precede or follow. Vatikida consider the Yonothasi dialect to be provincial, but many poets and songwriters often recite or sing in "Yono" despite whatever dialect they happen to speak normally because they feel it lends itself well to music or poetry. Also, it's worthy of note that the word "Yonothasi" contains two of the syllables suitable for pauses side by side, a rarity in Elvish grammar. Someone wishing to insult a speaker of "Yono" will pause markedly after both syllables (i.e. Yono(breath)tha(breath)si) as a way of inferring that they are as slow and troublesome as their language is tiresome to name. Needless to say, Moskida are rather reclusive, and somewhat defensive about their culture and dialect.

The third dialect is Ralithasi, which is spoken exclusively by the southern clans of elves that populate the great forests close to the border of the Human and Elven territories. They are known as Dashanikida, referred to by Humans and Dwarves as "Wood Elves" or "Sylvan Elves". Dashanikida translates as "Kin Who Dwell In Trees", which accurately describes the clans who live in the great boughs of the trees of the forests they call home. "Rali" differs from "Vati" and "Yono" in its usage of the possessive forms of self-address and how it refers to others with pronouns. The Dashanikida have very "loose" concepts of ownership and personal relationships. The communal living arrangements and lack of formal couplings by marriage are reflected in the ways they use pronouns to address one another. the words for "Mine" and "Ours" and "Theirs" are basically interchangeable and can never be taken in their literal sense when applied to Dashanikida, but when a speaker of Ralithasi Elvish is speaking about another non-Dashinikida elf or a non-elf, then they can and must be taken in the same context as in "Vati". To non-Elvish (and even quite a few Elvish) speakers of "Vati", this arrangement seems almost schizophrenic. Personal relationships are handled differently as well. Although Dashanikida know and use the words for "Wife", "Husband", "Betrothed", and other such relationals, they never use them when referencing themselves. They have an entirely different set of words used to describe their own unconventional social structure, the description of which is an essay into and of itself. In terms of inflection and tone, "Rali" has a tendency to shorten the third part of a verb, not slur it as with "Yono", but simply not fully pronounce the vowel sound at the end. For instance, the verb "to climb" in the present tense (i.e. climbing), gethiso, would be shortened to just gethis. Also, they will never have the syllable Tha in a proper name. Any name that would normally use Tha in "Vati" or "Yono" uses Mos in "Rali". For example, the Vatisilothasi name Shinarielitha would be Shinarielimos in Ralithasi.
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