Sunday, February 15, 2015


WARNING: If you found grammar boring in school, you might want to skip this entry!

It seems that worlds aren't complete without at least one new language or part of one, even if it's only a slim vocabulary. Not being a philologist like JRRT, nor even a linguist by training, I at least have had some exposure to other languages—excluding Tolkien’s creations—having had two years of Spanish in high school and gotten through a nine-month intensive Russian course while in the US Air Force. Consequently, I know how to conjugate verbs and all that sort of thing.

In the early volumes of the Lindensaga™, the foreign vocabulary is limited to a Teluri word (malinir) and the name of that insidious drink, volnaka, which has its origins in Old Aridian and is ultimately derived from the word for water (volna). Volnaka actually means “little water” and was formed from volna simply by adding the diminutive suffix -aka. The world for water actually means “breath of life” and was derived from volno (water) and ona (breath) and was originally vólona, but over time it has been shortened to simply volna as the middle “o” was typically barely pronounced and eventually disappeared altogether.

In later volumes, things get a little heavier. Some interesting Teluri cultural concepts are explored and they required a new vocabulary to represent things which are not found in human cultures, either on Linden or on Earth. When those volumes are published, I will go into that subject in detail.

In order to conjure up the required words, it was first necessary to explore the linguistic origins of those words. For example, there is a poison that translates into English as “freezing death.” I could have just come up with some exotic sounding word, but the thing is that both “freezing” and “death” are very useful words and we might want to use them in some other context in the books. Consequently, I spent some time working up the etymology of both those words.

In creating many of the Teluri verbs, etc., I was influenced by modern Finnish as a starting point. Like Tolkien, I find that Finnish has a certain appeal that other languages lack. I don’t speak it at all, but the written tongue is very interesting. What’s not to like about heroes named Väinämöinen, Lemminkäinen or Kullervo? Some of our Teluri folks have Finnish-sounding names as you will notice.

Back to Freezing Death, our poison. I had previously worked up the verb ‘to die’ and from that derived the noun death=narô (to die=narir), so all I needed was a verb for ‘to freeze’ and its companion noun. Basically, I took the word ‘cold’ and played with it to come up with a root ‘kld’ then converted that to a new word kládar for the infinitive ‘to freeze;’ the noun form derived from that was kladû.

To illustrate the process, here is the full conjugation, etc. of kládar:

to freeze (inf) = kládar          (-ar, infinitive ending)
    1st person sing. = kladir    1st person, pl. = kladár
    2nd person sing. = klador    2nd person, pl. = klador
    3rd person sing. = kladore    3rd person, pl = kladorema

    Noun (cold) = kladû
    Adj (frozen) = kladoja (sing), kladojama (pl.)
    Part. (freezing) = kladojina (same for sing. & pl.)

The Teluri language has only two verb endings, -ar and -ir. Both are regular verbs. There are four irregular verbs, but we’ll save that for some other time. The above example illustrates the -ar conjugation. The -ir conjugation below of 'to die' (narir) shows the second conjugation.

to die (inf) = narir

    1st person sing. = nara        1st person pl. = naráni
    2nd person sing. =naren        2nd person pl. = nareno
    3rd person sing. = narenna        3rd person pl. = narennanos

    Noun (death) = narô
    Noun (the dead) = urinari   [a special noun, from uri (men, people) + nari, a special comb.  form of narô
    Adj (dead) = naroja (sing.), narojama (pl.)
    Adv (deadly) =narojan (sing & pl) [also as adj, i.  e.  narojan malinir (deadly blade) ]
    Part. (dying) =naroja (sing & pl)

We put together freezing (kladojina) and death (narô) thus: kladojinanarô (stress on middle syllable: kladójinanar’). Note: final vowel is often dropped or only partially voiced, indicated by the ’. Over time, speakers tend to shorten things and this word was no exception. By the time we wrote about this poison in a volume that hasn't been published yet, the word had lost the -na- from the middle and had shortened to kladójinar’

Kladójinar’ is a nasty substance. It is often used to treat sword blades. A cut by such a blade causes the victim to go into intensive hypothermia and eventually die. It works very quickly and can be administered in food or drink as well.

That’s enough for today, methinks. If you want more, let me know and I’ll provide it.

– Richard
 for J. R. Hardesty