The Idomeni Languages

I’m not a linguist. That being the case, I approached the concept of language invention rather gingerly. I had already heard and read enough complaints from trained linguists who took SF writers to task for everything from impossible glottal stops (how does one pronounce “h’grtho’th” anyway?) to the fiction that is the universal translator, and I knew that I wanted to avoid committing any of the obvious crimes if I could.

 Idomeni and humans

I decided that the idomeni languages could be learned and spoken by humans and vice versa, that our physiologies and ways of language were similar enough to allow this to occur. The problems that would arise would be more cultural and bioemotional. The idomeni, who as a rule do not look one another in the eye except in situations of extreme intimacy, would find most human communication at the same time intrusive and distant. Many of us look even strangers in the eye, which implies to an idomeni a closeness that does not exist. Some of us gesture when we speak, others of us don’t. We slouch, toy with jewelry, fuss with our clothes, look for something to lean against. This fidgeting sometimes indicates our mood, but not always. When it does, the interpretation is not always straightforward. While our gestures and postures sometimes mirror the feelings contained within and the emotions behind our words, they also can obscure, mask, or contradict what comes out of our mouths. This would serve to confuse beings for whom words and feelings are always in sync, who take pride in displays of open animosity that humans usually try to hide, and who use gesture and posture to reaffirm what they say.

For our part, most of us might find the idomeni wearing. Their constant gesturing and change of posture would appear attractive in a stylized way, like some forms of Asian dance, but the need to tweeze meaning and significance from each movement over the course of a conversation would overwhelm anyone who wasn’t highly trained. The half-swallowed flow of their words would be difficult to understand (more about that below). Finally, this apparent gracefulness would contradict their forcefulness and challenge of their words, which would reflect their relish of open antagonism.

We could each confuse and aggravate the other quite handily.

The idomeni among themselves

Along with illustrating differences between human and idomeni, I also wanted to use the idomeni languages as a way to highlight both the extreme stratification of born-sect society and the gulf that existed between it and the made-sect Haárin.

All Vynshàrau, all Pathen, Oà, Laum, and other born-sects, being different races and peoples, have their own languages. As stated above, these languages are accompanied by changes in posture and gesture that serve to broadcast the emotions and opinions of the speaker so that no misconception can exist as to how s/he feels. There is no “I misunderstood your point” in born-sect idomeni. A combination of a straightened back and a gently-curved hand can reinforce or clarify the plea contained within a question; the addition of a head-tilt indicates puzzlement or outright confusion.

However, in other situations, a head-tilt can indicate the speaker’s regard for the being to whom they’re speaking. When the speaker tilts their head to their own right, it means that they consider the one to whom they are speaking an acquaintance only, no one special, neither honored friend nor esteemed enemy, teacher nor student. On the other hand, when the speaker tilts their head to their own left, that indicates regard or respect for whomever they address. The greater the tilt, the greater the feeling. This assumes a straight back and squared shoulders, however, since one faces whomever one respects with as tall a stance as one can. If an idomeni is angered, the bowed back and hunched shoulders indicating that displeasure are often accompanied by a tilted head, since that’s often the only way they can look at the object of their disaffection.

Gesture and posture are not the only ways the idomeni have to indicate their mood. Like some human languages, the born-sect tongues have formal and informal versions. These versions, High, Middle, and Low, are differentiated by the amount of gesture and the formality of phrasing — a graceful High hand curl-and-wave of anger would devolve into a Middle hand-twist, then to a Low hand-chop. The spoken language would also diminish in complexity, the sounds becoming rougher as nouns and verbs lost their polite suffixes and prefixes. The lower forms of the language are usually used during argument, or when something needs to be explained quickly, or in discussion between idomeni who know one another well. The Haárin form of a born-sect language would reduce still further, like a sauce being boiled down. An Haárin would gesture much less and truncate their words even more.

How the idomeni sound

For the born-sect, eating is a sacrament, an act of communion with the gods. The born-sect are, therefore, rather hung-up over activities about the mouth. Not only don’t they share food, they don’t share dishes or cups, either. They don’t kiss. Most of the sects have rules about not eating in the presence of others (not all born-sects do this, only the dominant ones we’ve met so far). Humans who come into contact with them are careful to clean their teeth and make sure their breath is odorless.

These issues also affect how the born-sect talk. Back-of-the-throat sounds would predominate, while hard, toothy or fricative sounds like ‘th’ or ‘p’ or ‘d’ would be softened as much as possible (a spray of saliva as one expounded would be a faux pas to end all faux pas). A Vynshàrau “r” sounds like the French ‘r’ some of us had a devil of a time pronouncing in school. In contrast, a Vynshàrau Haárin ‘r’ is a trilled ‘r’, an Hispanic-like ‘r’. Thus, the ‘r’ in “nìRau” sounds like a cat-like “rowr”, while the ‘r’ in “Haárin” is produced when the tongue bounces off the back of the front teeth like the second ‘R’ in “Puerto Rico.” Taking those differences into account, note the contrast between born-sect and Haárin names: Avrèl nìRau Nema/Egri nìRau Tsecha, Morden nìRau Cèel/Dathim Naré.

Pronunciation

Ok, here goes — the point of all this drivel — “How do I pronounce the blasted names!” I’ve refrained from trying to use proper dictionary notation and have simply stuck with the “sounds like…”

And yes, those accents I’ve stuck on those words do make a difference. I’ve tried to remain consistent, with left accents (`) indicating a born-sect pronunciation and a right accent (´) indicating the Haárin variation. See the table below for clarification, as well as the individual words listed afterwards.

idomeni vowel Sounds like…
á gape
à map
a father
é beet
è ea, as in gear
e bet
í bite
ì beet
i sit

idomeni: ih-DOH-meh-nih.
Long o. Short e, like the e in beg. The i’s are also short.

Knevçet Shèràa: Key-neh-SET Sheer-ra-AH.
The K is pronounced as “Key”. Both unaccented ‘e‘s are short, like the ‘e‘ in idomeni. The ‘v‘ is silent, the ‘c‘ is soft, the ‘t‘ is pronounced. The ‘Shè-’ is pronounced ‘sheer’. Both a‘s at the end of Shèràa are pronounced.

 

The Vynshàrau and Vynshàrau Haárin terms of polite address help illustrate the different sounds denoted by the accents:

: “nay”, like the a in gape.
The polite title for a Vynshàrau Haárin female.

: pronounced “nigh”, with a long i.
The polite title for a Vynshàrau Haárin male.

Nìa: “NEE-ah”.
A diminutive of nìaRauta, the polite title for a Vynshàrau female. Its use connotes fondness or friendship, and is usually used by a dominant when speaking to a suborn.

NìRau: “nee-ROW”.
The polite title for a born-sect Vynshàrau male.

(Although I’ve yet to use it, would be the logical male diminutive, pronounced “nee”)

NìaRauta: “nee-ah ROW-tah.
The polite title of a Vynshàrau female.

Rauta Shèràa: ROW-tah sheer-ra-AH . The ‘au‘ is an ‘ow‘ sound (like ‘now‘), while the r‘s are the swallowed French-like variety. This Shèràa is the same as that in Knevçet Shèràa:

 

Now, some more names:

Dathim Naré: DAH-thim NAH-ree (same th- as in ‘thin)

Hantìa: HAN-tee-ah

Haárin: hah-ay-RIN

Kièrshia: Key-ear-SHYA

Laum: same ‘au‘ sound as Rau. Lauwm.

Pathen: pah-then (same th- as in “then”)

Nema: neh-mah. In his full born-sect name, Avrèl nìRau Nema, the a in Avrèl is like the a in Pathen, while the è is pronounced like the è in Shèràa. Ah-vrail

Oà: O-a. Long o, a as in map.

Sànalàn: SAH-nah-lan

Shèrá: the Vynshàrau pronunciation would be Sheer-ray

Tsecha: TSAY-chah. This is a Sìah Haárin word, so it deviates from the pattern. This e has a long a sound. The T is pronounced. The ch sounds like you’re clearing your throat — think challah or Chanukah. Short a.. In his full Sìah Haárin name, Egri nìRau Tsecha, the E is again pronounced with a long a sound, while the i has a long e sound: AY-gree.

Vynshà: the y is pronounced as a long e, while the a sounds the same as the a in map. veen-sha

 

I’ve also detected the occasional confusion concerning My Girl’s name. Jani Kilian is Anglo-Indian. The references I’ve encountered list Jani as a male name, but oh well. Most folks would pronounce Jani’s name JA-nee, a as in at. Her mother, however, would pronounce it differently. For her, the a in Jani would be pronounced with an ah sound. The i would still sound as a long e. zha-NEE. Kilian, I pronounce like the beer, KILL-ee-yen, not in the French manner (Kill-yeh).

I pronounce Reuter as ROY-ter. Neumann as NOY-mahn. Angevin gets the full-blown French presentation, AHN-je-veh, since she’s Earthbound.