The Sylvan Sta

I’m not going to share all my notes on what exactly all the Sylvan words and phrases in Book II are, but I will speak a bit about the Sylvan tongue, or sta/stan – speak/language.

Most of their language is comprised of brief roots, that in their script are typically one glyph.  Ta, te, ka, ki, ke, na, ha, un, ve, and so on are just a tiny sample.  Most if not all of these are words on their own.  There are a few modifiers like a, i, y, etc that can significantly change a word’s meaning.  Every key sound has an undertone of meaning ranging from quality, to gender, strength, and so on, but these are far from absolute.  They merely offer an extra level of emotional impact to the language for a learned speaker.

That all said, the language is a bit like english in that there has been a lot of degradation of the roots with time.  Most speakers have as such memorized words, and not roots.  Tepal (true-people) who re-root their speech are considered full of themselves, and too in their head.  That is except among the nobility, where it is common, and praised.  There is further massive use of idioms that have become as ingrained in their language as lol, or gun metaphors have infected english.

It is also what I (an amateur linguist at best) would call a half-tonal language.  Which is to say that tone, much like in english, mostly carries emotional import, or subtext.  The subtext however is almost more crucial in Testa (true-speech.)  It can change the meaning of words and phrases in ways that would be familiar to english speakers.  Question, or statement, doubt or certainty, command or request, and a number of hard to translate concepts.  Further, sarcasm is actually a built in feature of their language, and has at least three distinct forms ‘accusatory,’ ‘playful,’  and ‘leading.’

This obnoxiously introduces the idea of double-sarcasm, and is the point at which people learning Sylvan typically quit, or master it instantly.  This, in well used double-sarcastic form, would imply not judgement of either party, but props to the language.  In this case it would also mean about the same thing regardless of the form (tone), but there are nuanced untranslatable (most Sylvans even get a bit confused) meanings to each combination of tone in the double-sarcasm.  Very cheeky speakers may chain every other word in a differing sarcastic tone.  The effect of which is rather sing-song, and typically cheery sounding.  Just like in english, the speaker is probably making a total ass of themself for irritating effect.  A noble would never do this, at least not outside of very intimate company.


Side Notes:

Sylvan glyphs look similar (more rigid, and complex) to many runes used by mages, and there is some shared meaning with standard convention, but it is fragmentary at best.  Nonetheless being presented with Sylvan writing, rather than speech, Kiannae might have had a much easier time understanding some of it.

On pronunciation:

There is no direct z sound in Sylvan speech, but there is j, which is pronounced a bit like zj, and to be differentiated from g which is the strong gu.  I chose to use js over zs though for reasons, which the most astute amongst my readers might guess.  I also won’t cry over anyone juing instead of zjaing – its close enough.

Also when in doubt y is as in yet.


For kicks here is a translation of the first verse of Ivan’s song:

Vonjon vejon, jo os soer ven.
What-will-be will-be, [the] future not ours [to] see.

No, the rest does not translate into other parts of que sera sera.
It’s closer to “for every season turn turn,” but not quite.

For clarity: There is an idiomatic understanding of objectifying the future; which implies “will-be.”  A grossly literal and un-nuanced translation would read “what-future-being” “why-future-being.”   The objective n in Sylvan does a lot of complex things in various contexts, including changing vo (which) into von (what,) or ve (why,) into ven (see.)  The intent of vejon is a re-iteration of uncertain future, but again in an objective sense.  A more certain statement of “will be” would translate jo ji – but this is almost more like saying “[it] will be [done].”  A fairly proper answer to a superior, parent, elder, etc giving a command.

Now since I’ve given you ve (why,) then veve would best translate “why [ask] why?”


Feel free to speculate in the comments, I’d love to hear what you all think.  Keep in mind if you think it could be a spoiler please preface it for your fellow readers with [Book]:[Chapter]:Spoiler, or just “Speculative Spoiler:” if you think you have unraveled something far reaching. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “The Sylvan Sta

  1. hansmassage

    I picked up that you were using names as clues when the meaning Kiannae’s name was revealed. I suppose it might be interesting to go back to the discussion as to what Wren’s name was.


    1. Just for fun, and to test out my new root grid I have done a good faith attempt to translate the opening paragraph of Book 1:

      Vu jivi stan fer aki jy jute? Ossa. Sa wosy i sha, ju saji ijit lyjan fer stavo. Unwon, woly akit sypal, woven vo sa woven osunti ejeten yte, ju jy ite jin kokite.

      So far I have at least 3 unloaded consonants to work with, and two pseudo-vowels that are very light across all consonants. I have covered color, basic materials, concepts of life, spirituality, pronouns, and a lot more. Feeling pretty good, and a little silly since only a few more pieces of Sylvan have any reason to appear before the end of Book 3. Still, I can have some fun.

      Edit: Note – do not expect all concepts/words to remain in the same order, or for the translation to always be literal. At least one place I changed indirect speech to re-address the subject as an adjective, which was fun; “godly/godlike”


  2. Creating a language is a terribly complex thing. I commend you and am trying bloody hard to follow along. The younger readers should have less trouble since old minds are less flexible.
    [Spoiler]: I’ve just got to believe “what will be” is the children get to find their father and each other again.


    1. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of fun with the language. I really am obsessed with the concept of roots, and rebel (as a total amateur) that they are even more common than we think, and there are a lot of hidden roots that we just can’t find the history for, because it’s too old.

      It’s a spooky pattern, at least in english that got words from so many languages, how there are a lot of things that sound very similar, but don’t share a root, but do have adjacent meanings. I always forget the example, but I find them all the time.

      [Spoiler, BUT it’s been hiding in plain sight since book one, so hard to give this a cut off. Certainly painfully clear by mid Book III where I spend forever hammering it into damn near everyone’s head…]

      Any way. Consider perhaps the very nature of opining upon the further. Do not ask, as much as “who can say?” is the message I take from the original song. Who can say, why ask? Why ask, when none can say? Don’t waste your breath my dear.

      I’m a big fan of observer theory. One cannot observe without changing. Do not ask, you might change it, my interpretation.

      Here though abstracted, a man is comforting him-self as much as the girl. What has he gotten himself into? What does it mater, who can say what it comes to, do the right thing.

      Hmmm… I’ve just seen another mirror, fascinating.


    1. Oh, so curiously close, but not quite the the secret hidden there. The twins were named by their father, but he wasn’t around when Wren was born.

      This is not explained anywhere, but Sylvan children are named at birth, traditionally by the father. In fact as I write this, they probably would not discuss the child’s name much before, any more than opine upon their future. I imagine there were probably some cute conversations /before/ the twins were born, over why he would not entertain the conversation of what they should be named.

      “One may wish a path, but how can one know, to os-seen it? They will chose.”

      “Will they then? You wish to name our children in piercing scream? Doesn’t seem how one winds up with a name so flowery, and soft.”

      “Then one has not smelled the flowers of my home land, nor touched their petals.”

      “Soft as your hair, and sharp as your morning breath?”

      “Soft as yours, and as pungent.”

      “So, not soft.”

      “Not the hair, my Unyna.”

      Meliae blushed, and looked cross. “You aren’t telling me something. I won’t be distracted.”

      “Or you are not listening, my… love.”

      “Oh I am, you sneaky cat.”

      “Hmm. Perhaps you have not heard a Sylvan child’s wail then. I tell you what should os-be said, os-saying. That is my way, and I os-change.”

      “I’ll have some say in our children’s names.”

      “The mother always, does. One way or another.”

      “I should wipe that smirk off your face.”

      “You have ways.”

      Sorry, really does not necessarily have anything to do with Wren, but actually I can see a backwards reason why it actually sort of does rather profoundly. Never considered this before… Ha, the paths we go down explaining things… without explaining them.


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