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!


2 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”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s