November 30, 2016
Boy do I have some juicy linguistical and Sopling content today! This, in my opinion, is one of the coolest aspects of Steps of Power. This second part of Key 2 focuses on the practical effects of language in the world.
(See last week's Key 2: Linguistics 1.0.)
(Next, I'll tackle Key 3: Landscape)
So last week, we took a look at how history affects the way that people speak, but where do we see specific cases of this in the series (which are decent examples of the use of linguistics in the world)?
(Below is but a small snapshot taken from my rather long linguistical document)
And so on and so forth...
Hopefully the way this picture shows up for you on the blog isn't too ridiculously tiny. You should at least be able to right click - view image to enlarge it.
Point of note from that picture:
In the English language, we say “Harry’s wife” or “Trisha’s son.”
But in the elven language, elves may not be “possessed” by other elves and so possessives cannot be attached in the suggestion of such—regardless of how harmless they indeed are. In fact, there is no use of “the male’s wife” in ancient elven: it would be “the male is married to the female.” This is another linguistic treasure that speaks about the respect held for one another in ancient elven society, versus the changes that came over time with outside influences and corruption. Indeed, even the word “servant” did not exist in ancient elven society, and instead they used a word that meant “employee.” Employees can be equals. Servants cannot.
Speaking of “male” and “female”… why not man and woman, you ask?
“Male” and “female”, as you can probably guess by now, is the closest translation to the elven words for those genders. In elven history, elves came into being before mankind and were the authors and shapers of much of the world’s history. They were one with nature. When other races came—dwarves, goblins, eventually humans, etc… elves needed a way to define themselves outside of such creatures— like we humans have a distinct word for our genders and refer to all other things as “male” “female” etc… but never “man” and “woman”. In the elven world, elves and nature were one and in harmony—they considered themselves and nature things of peace and superior to the grittiness of the rest of the world. Thus elves and nature retain the “male” and “female” word translations while males and females in other races receive the “man” and “woman” mark, as this designates them, in a way, as “lesser.”
You may notice, however, that this is not consistent across all elves—some elves identify more with other cultures or believe such a distinction to be belittling and wrong. Itirel is a prime example of this and believes such a distinction creates division in the world.
Since we’ve talked so much about elves, why not talk about the word “elf” itself?
The Common Tongue word “elf”
The word “elf” comes from the word “elven”, the human linguistic transformation of the race “Sel’ven.” While the elves originally referred to themselves as a whole as “Sel’ven,” they eventually developed their own definitions and societies based on the changes that came to them due to the loss of the ancient elven tongue (the influences of other races, breeding, gods, magic, etc…)
This map shows the location of the elves before Eraydon’s death (before the majority abandoned the country for Sevrigel). Red is pre-Eraydon. Yellow is post-Eraydon.
“Sel” = light
“Ven” = being
Sel’ven is “being of light” or “light being”
As you can see, those races that remained close with the Sel’vi retained more similar racial names:
“Hel” = mountain, “Malra” = fire, “Fara” = forest, and so you get your “beings of fire” and “beings of forest.”
“Gal” = sea, “wen”= being— a further linguistic slip, but still translates to “beings of the sea.” Next comes the Ruljenari—Ruljen, singular—who distanced themselves even further so you end up with an even greater linguistic difference (Ruljen, Ruljenari, Ruljarian vs. Sel’ven, Sel’vi, Sel’varian.)
And then comes the Lithri, Darivalians, and Noc’olari, and by now you should be able to tell just how far away from Sel’varian society those races have moved. When you visit such societies, then, one would expect strong differences between them and the Sel’vi. Thus, linguistics can even begin to suggest relationships to the reader.
Yes, much of this is so deep that readers will likely never know the details to most of it. But as a writer, such information is vital for the keeping of a consistent and infinitely deep world. Bits and pieces show in the people’s lives and mannerisms, while depth is revealed across societies and histories.
In the works you’re reading or writing, what do the translations of the people suggest about themselves, their cultures, or the past?
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