Saturday, May 7, 2016

"Bend to the reed's tune - sing a new song": Update


     It's time for an update on the book I'm currently working on: Children of the Music.  The title of this post is the epigraph for the book -- a traditional statement from the Siritoch culture.  The book itself is divided into two halves, the first being "The Reed's Tune" and the second "The New Song."  You can discover how those phrases apply to the story when you read it.

     I have also decided to reveal the cover art.  This doesn't mean the book will be published soon, because I'm not quite satisfied with it yet, but this gives me an illustration to post in various places.  The cover incorporates every symbolic element of the book: the differing eyes of the two peoples, the Music of the Siritoch (of particular importance is the serpentine trumpet that I featured in another post), the sacred tree of the Epanishai, and the circle of standing stones where a shrine exists that is holy to both peoples, although they don't realize it.

     The back cover will have a map of the Land between the Mountains and the Sea, and the text of the paperback will have two internal black-and-white maps, one for each half.  The second part of the story takes place 285 years after the first, so the land has changed considerably in that time -- a larger population, more cities, roads, etc.

Names and Conlangs in Children of the Music

     The reader will not find the names in this book as difficult as my termite names, although of course they are not English.  There are quite a few characters and the relationships among them may be a little difficult to keep straight at first, so I've compiled tables clarifying who is related to whom.

     When I wrote the book some thirty years ago, I wasn't into the conlanging mode yet.  I've always been interested in language, but I mostly just made up names on impulse. (In fact all of my conlangs started out that way.)  Consequently, I wasn't as careful about some aspects of the names as I would have been if I had written the book in the last ten years.  

       A word on the phonetic system:
     These days when I construct names or a language, I never use the English letter "C" because its pronunciation is too ambiguous.  Is it to be pronounced like an "s" or like a "k"?  In English it's usually like a "k" when it's followed by "a," "o," or "u," and like an "s" if the following letter is "e" or "i"  (examples: cake, cere, cinnamon, conlang, culinary).  
     In the two languages in Children of the Music, I consistently used "c" instead of "k."  I think my intention was to have it be always "hard" as in Latin, but who is going to know that?  So we have names like Cumiso and Cormaldur and Corith.  In fact, I discovered that actually I had only one name where there was an ambiguity in the pronunciation and that was a minor mention of a river named Cindala.  I'm changing that to Tindala.
     So I decided to keep the letter "c" instead of changing it to "k."  I've grown accustomed to the "c," and "Kumiso" and "Kormaldur," etc., just don't feel right to me.
      "G" presents a similar difficulty.  However, I find I used only initial "ga" in Galana and Galno and Gauramur, so those don't present a pronunciation problem.  And I never used the letter "j" so its pronunciation is a non-issue.

     I have thought about writing some rudimentary conlangs for the two languages, but I don't really want to spend a lot of time doing that at this point, even though it would be fun.  And I've decided it wouldn't add anything to the stories except maybe for some of my conlanger friends.  I do have a few words in Siritoch and Epanishai.  In Siritoch "Wal" means "Grandfather"  (of any degree, actually).  I wanted something for Nebet to call his great-grandfather.  Just "Grandfather" seemed too formal for a seven-year-old and "Grandpa" or "Granddad" seemed too colloquial and too native to our planet Earth.  I really think it would have been appropriate to make Siritoch words for "Mother" and "Father," too, and I've considered adding those to make it less formal.  However, I haven't decided yet whether to do that.

     The odd thing is, among the Epanishai, I felt that having  Saremna call her father "Papa" seemed perfectly appropriate.  "Father" would be way too formal from a five-year-old, and I never even thought of making an Epanishai word for "Father."  So I haven't been exactly consistent, but it seems to work.

     For the Siritoch, I did come up with diminutive suffixes, such as "Walanatha," which would in effect equal "Grandpa."  This can be used with personal names as well, such as Nebetanatha or just Nebetanath and even the long but sonorous Batharamolanatha (her name is Batharamol).  This is sometimes shortened to simply 'Ramolanatha.  Otherwise, I have very little Siritoch vocabulary, only "Thirnam," a name which means "Cherry." Frankly, I've always liked the word "Epanishai" (pronounced Eh-PAHN-ish-AI), but I never cared for sound of Siritoch (the "ch" should be that soft gutteral sound as in German "Koch.").  However, after all these years I'm stuck with the word -- my mind would not accept using any other term for those people!
     If you look at the names of the Siritoch, there are repetitions that surely mean something in their language.  A lot of names end in -ith or -ath or -eth, and others end in -ol.  I've sometimes thought of -ith as a feminine ending, but I haven't been consistent in this.  I think the names all have a meaning which could be worked out if a conlang was composed (e.g., -ol could be a plural form), but again I don't think that would add anything to the enjoyment of the story.

     I did do a little more technical work with the Epanishai language.  The holy trees are called the "sharovai" (singular: sharova), so it's clear that at least one form of plural in Epanishai is changing the -a ending to -ai.  I figure "Epanishai" is plural, too, but I never use a singular -- it never occurred to me back then.  The sacred grove is the "Codia," and a Priestess of the Grove is a "Codian" (plural: Codiant, so that's another way to make a plural in Epanishai).  And I do mention the names of some of the Epanishai months: Torhorda (the month before the new year begins; Danhorda (the midwinter month), and Nalhorda (the month just before midsummer).  I clearly remember setting up the calendar to have eight-day weeks, because I've always found our seven-day week annoying.  If you have to do something every other day, for example, you can't make it come out even.  If I have more information on time keeping, it's buried irretrievably in my voluminous collection of early manuscripts.
     The Epanishai names themselves are distinguishable from Siritoch.  The male names often end in -o.  For variety, several male names end in -ur, -is, or -al, or even -ab.  I didn't seem to vary the female names; they all end in either -ia or -a.  Of course, I could still change some of those, but I don't think I'm going to do that. 

     And that's about the extent of the linguistic work I did for this book.  Probably enough, although not thoroughly satisfying.


A Follow-Up on My Political Correctness Post

     I did decide to change the word "men" whenever I had used it to mean "people."  There was a lot more of that in there than I had realized.  I did keep the term "bearded men" because the Siritoch have no beards and it's the male Epanishai that they fear, not the women, so it makes sense they would make statements like "the bearded men are coming to kill us."  They wouldn't say "the bearded people."
    And I also eliminated "alien" when it's a noun referring to the Epanishai.  I kept it in certain adjectival usages such as "that's alien to our way of life."

     

4 comments:

  1. Sounds like my kind of book Lorinda :D

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    1. Thanks, Chris! I think you'll enjoy it!

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  2. I'm impressed by the degree of thought that you've put into the construction of names and languages. I imagine it pays off, though, and gives everything a more credible, realistic feel.

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    1. I created two pretty complete conlangs (constructed languages) for my termite books. I'm a member of the Language Creation Society (http://conlang.org/) even though I'm far from being a professional linguist (their former president David Peterson wrote the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones). If you're going to show a realistic first contact with extraterrestrials, you really need a language for them to speak. Thanks for checking this out, Bun!

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