Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Workshop: Initial Issues

The first thing I notice as I go through these language and world descriptions is that we have some humans involved, and a goodly number of humanoids. All cool. I note that Catreona has her humans speaking "British," which is the language represented by the English used for the story. This is a good way to organize a human language in this context. For example, Sheila Finch calls her human language "Inglis." This is an important thing to address if your world is divorced in space and time from our world. If you choose "English," that will mean the language is the direct descendant of modern English and will probably not be a uniform Human language but one spoken by a segment of the human population.

K, if you don't yet have a name for your human language, I'd suggest you pick one. If you're calling your humans Terrans, maybe "Terran" should be what you use.

I don't see much on human language in David's piece. David, have you got your human language worked out in some basic way?

More individual questions (please everyone read):

For pyraxis: You say that rsakk are one of several races of "human," but that they shift into lizard form and others shift into other forms. While I can see how fire could be important to these people (especially if they breathe it, it might be seen as an essence of their spirit), it seems to me that the main distinction between them and others is that they take the lizard form, and that this would figure hugely in their cultural identity and language. Are there any special characteristics of rsakki that make it pronounceable by or otherwise appropriate for lizards (rather than others)? Do the rsakk feel that their lizard form is purer or otherwise better than their human form? What is the role of human form in their lives as opposed to lizard form? In what contexts do they want to differentiate themselves from the other types of people?

For wordjinn: You say the three houses, Az, Uz, and Ua, are separate and concerned with different things, and they have dialectal differences but not major language differences. I wonder how, and how often, the three houses interact with one another. This would be a factor in evening out language differences. Since they've obviously been around for a long time, I could see that there might be dialectal distinctions between the groups. Can you think of a way to make the language use reflect the main concern of the house? I should remark that dialectal differences can be rather large, and if you want there to be dialect differences, you should probably think of how you'd like to mark them in your English text. Also, if Ua is a "newer" house, then its dialect might resemble one of the others (say, Az) more closely than the two others do (making Uz and Ua dialects more similar to each other than to Az).Do you have any immediate thoughts on this?

For K: can you clarify the psychic powers of the Dalkans vs. Eyans? What kind of psychic behavior is expected in social contexts? Is there a principled way in which the provision of empathic cues fits in with the Eyan (or Dalkan) language? I imagine there could be, if these people are accustomed to having an emotional overcurrent surrounding them. Your excerpt from the worldbuilding workshop said things about the ability to block emotional projection. Does this have degrees? What kind of empathic behavior is expected in different social situations?

For Catreona: I need to know more about the interaction of your people. Based on your excerpt from the worldbuilding workshop, I have the impression that they conform to the social rules of the British, at least roughly. I would expect, though, that the nature of the task of surviving and making society work on this foreign planet would alter some things about it. What might those things be? I would also encourage you to think through the situation of the Plague Children, since it seems to factor significantly in your story. You say that the Plague Children are well-integrated (and so are the indigenes). I would expect that the society as a whole would then hold an ideal for such integration, as well as maintaining expectations about how such people are to be treated, addressed, etc. Once you've figured out what this is, you'll then be able to get a better sense of what unwanted discrimination means. People will not all hold these ideals to the same degree. If you're interested, you might want to check out my entry entitled "Don't make them all the same." I'd like to hear your thoughts on these topics.

For David: It sounds to me like you're looking to create a language with a distinct system of formality. The parameters for your formality and informality are not clear. "Respectful" informal language can be as simple as speaking informally when the situation calls for it. Are you looking for something that is spoken asymmetrically based on rank, or something that is spoken symmetrically based on the formality of the situation, where having a person of high rank involved would cause both parties to speak formally? Next, here's an issue that's been bothering me since the last workshop. Have you worked out the precise circumstances of the change from land to water habitation? This will have a huge influence on the language solution that was pursued by these people. I tend to think that they would be likely to have a sign language. This would lend itself well to your semi-translated words. Water as a language medium is very limiting because of the type of sounds that travel - think about dolphin and whale communication. If you want humans to try to speak a vocal language of this type, it will be a challenge. You can pick a vocal language that sounds different above and below water, but I would think that the sounds that are inaudible or indistinguishable underwater would regularize and disappear rather quickly under those conditions. The pheromone discharge strikes me (at first glance) as totally unnecessary. There will be lots of opportunities for communication difficulty already, and I'm not sure how they would evolve naturally. Again, please tell me more about the history of the inundation. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Everyone please feel welcome to read each other's material and comment on your own initial impressions. I will continue to make comments as I find new things to comment about. Your written responses to these questions will help me a lot.

More soon...


  1. Erm...

    Er, well, uh, I've sort'a been concentrating on interpersonal relationships between and amongst my four core characters. The world they live on...ummm...is just sort of there.

    In other words, I don't know anything about how, when or why the humans from Earth got there, where on the planet's surface they made landfall, the circumstances of first contact with the indigenes, how interaction was established (peacefully or violently), the indigenes' level of technology at Settler landfall, the mechanics of indegene/Settler integration on the planet... It would appear that at the time of this tale, Settlers are a larger demographic than indigenes, but I don't know the historical reason(s) for this circumstance. It also would appear that Settlers are more economically and politically powerful. But, I don't like this tendancy, and hope to rectify it as the story develops (and my knowledge of Nova Britannia grows).

    In other words, I can't answer any of your questions...now. One thing I do know is that the indigenous language is bound up with culture (large, freighted word, that) and that faith or religion informs that culture. Settlers have religious traditions as well, drawn from those of Earth which therefore need, or at least get, no particular attention. One aspect of Nova Britannian life I need to explore is the faith aspect. I have a feeling once I get up the nerve to tackle that, some of the other cultural and linguistic questions will start to come clear.

    But it's very discouraging. Everybody else's worlds are extremely well developed. Mine's barely embryonic. There are so many things I've taken for granted or glossed over or simply never thought of. *sigh*

    Guess I'd better stop blathering on, and get to work.

  2. Catreona,

    Please don't be discouraged - but I think if you start right now to push on some of these issues and figure them out, you'll find they help you immensely in discovering more about the interactions of your people with one another and the indigenes. Start with a basic sketch of the early events, and then dig further in. If there's a strong faith component in "modern" society, ask yourself why and look to find reasons for that in their history. Maybe landfall was difficult. Maybe they were looking for a place where the natives had faith. Etc. Let your mind go and start pursuing the leads you find in your characters and in your story so far. If you get to a more developed place than you were at before, then I'm happy (and I suspect, so will you be).

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, Juliette. Sorry to whine.

    Must look into landfall, of course. But I don't think that has much to do with modern faith traditions. Charlie and Bronte both happen to be Catholic, not Roman Catholic, obviously, but adherents of the form of that faith that developed on the new planet. Emma is some sort of Evangelical Protestant. The interesting thing is, the indigenes already had a knowledge of the God worshiped in the three Earth monotheistic faiths. I think their conception of this God was either trinitarian to start with or was easily able to accomodate the concept of a triune godhead. For this reason, indigenous and Settler faith came into remarkably litttle conflict by virtue of their natures. Indeed, Bronte seems to represent a nacent melding of the two, that is Christianity and indigenous faith, just as he is fluent in both planetary languages. I wonder if there's a connection there...?

    In any case, the following info dumps, while primative, may give you some more background:

    Everyone, every single person on Nova Britannia had a friend, a sibling, a child who had been affected by The Plague. The first few children born with nervous system damage were a worrisome medical curiosity. When it became clear that all babies, throughout the planet were being born with varying degrees of central nervous system damage, the press resurrected the all but forgotten word "plague," and it stuck. The first victims had passed their third birthdays before the cause was identified, and a further two and a half years went by before a safe and effective means of preventing it was perfected.

    And through it all, people continued to have babies, each couple hoping desperately and fruitlessly that their child would be spared; that their prayers or herbal concoctions or incantations would protect their baby. So, there was an entire cohort of disabled Nova Britannians. And, to those of us who had been children and adolescents when The Plague struck, these people seemed as unremarkable as anyone else. But, very few of the victims had died. The Sinclairs' son must have been one of the most severely ill.


    I stared from where Sinclair had been to the locket in my hand. A plain golden oval with the name "Emma" engraved on the front in fancy lettering. Moved by an understandable if not laudable impulse, I opened it. Rather than a lock of hair or a photograph, it contained a minute com device. Curious, I looked more closely and saw that the miniature unit was not a portable com but a recording. Without thinking I gently touched it to activate it and heard Sinclair’s voice, “My Star Girl, I love you.” Quickly, I snapped the locket closed and slipped it into my inside breast pocket, a lump rising in my throat. Pausing to draw and release a long breath, I headed inland, calling Sinclair as I went.

    Sinclair was right. That romance was hopeless, be he a senator's son or no. His birth and breezy, affable sophistication, his good looks and intelligence were of no avail if, as I now realized, his sweetheart was Emma Morrow, Old Man Morrow’s daughter. I knew Emma. She was sweet tempered, bright and a little wistful. Like Jocelyn, she belonged to the cohort of children who had been born with disabling neurological injury. Unlike Jocelyn, though, Emma was confined to a wheelchair and was completely blind. But to my way of thinking, her most severe disability was that her parents adored and smothered her.

    Sinclair’s problem, the immediate problem, was obviously that she and Sinclair were not allowed to see each other. So, he wanted to give her a keepsake; the standard keepsake, a locket but with a difference. An image and even a lock of hair would be meaningless to Emma. So, Sinclair had contrived something that would be meaningful to her - a recording.

    With an entire age cohort, a sizable minority of a generation visually or physically disabled to one degree or another, most both, a fundamental societal shift had to take place. No longer were equal access and equal rights laws merely feel-good window-dressing applying to a tiny and thus politically insignificant minority of the population. Everyone who didn't have a disabled child himself had a cousin or a friend with a disabled child. Rich, poor, city-dweller or countryman, Native or Settler, private citizen or public figure, this sudden, inexplicable tragedy was an equal opportunity scourge.

    So now that the youngest of these children were in their early twenties, Nova Britannia was a fully integrated, fully accessible society, and it seemed that no one could remember a time when it had been anything else. Stairs were a rarity; ramps and elevators the norm. All printed materials were routinely produced in large and jumbo print and in Braille as well as standard print. Most were also recorded, and pocket-book sized "Ready Speak" consoles were already common for best sellers. Wheelchairs, scooters, personal care robots, and adaptive reading devices were mass produced to the highest quality standard, and were exempted from all anti-tech legislation. High visual and tactile contrast control consoles were standard on all devices and equipment except those unsafe to be operated by persons with visual or motor deficits. Even these were better designed for ergonomics and safety.

    Great advances had been made in a remarkably short time in voice recognition and artificial intelligence generally. A personal care robot was as responsive and reliable as a human, or more so. The whole society had benefited from the scientific and technological advances and corresponding rise in quality of life. And those like myself and Sinclair who had been children when the first disabled were born had simply accepted them as children like ourselves, children we had to look out for a little more, and sometimes adapt our games for, but no different than anybody else.

    But some parents were over protective. Morrow and his wife fell into this category. Emma was vivacious, intelligent, possessed of a zest for life that her spasticity and total blindness couldn't quash. I'd known her almost as long as I'd known her father, and had gotten into the habit of bringing her interesting news and tales from the distant lands where I traded. She wanted to know about everything, and already had an encyclopedic knowledge of the planet. She was a fine horsewoman, and it was to purchase a new horse for her birthday that her father had engaged me this summer. He and his wife loved her very much. But, they cosseted and petted her like a fragile child. I couldn't imagine they would countenance her having a suitor.

  4. Are there any special characteristics of rsakki that make it pronounceable by or otherwise appropriate for lizards (rather than others)?
    Yes. The same language is spoken both in human (nok) form and lizard (rsakk) form, though with somewhat different inflection because of the differing vocal chords. There are a lot of sibilants, sharp clicks and guttural sounds. "Hs" is a sound that comes up a lot and doesn't have a direct English equivalent. The mouth is shaped as if to pronounce "h", but spoken with a hiss instead of breath. "R" is gutturally rolled. The more human sounds like "n", "m" and "b" are skimmed over when the speaker is in rsakk form.

    Do the rsakk feel that their lizard form is purer or otherwise better than their human form?
    Yes, very much so. The shapes are sacred, seen as a realization of one's soul. Both religion and culture revolve around what it means to be rsakk, which is an idealization of the instinctive traits of the lizard form. In practice this means:
    - weaker parental ties
    - reverence of heat/fire/sunlight (the rsakk are not cold-blooded but are not far in spirit from that ancestry)
    - social acceptance for pain-as-pleasure and the causing of injury (counting on natural healing)

    What is the role of human form in their lives as opposed to lizard form?
    The rsakk form is a finely-tuned development of the body's instinctive response to danger. Where an Earth human would get a rush of adrenalin and heightened senses, the rsakk will change form. Young rsakk (age 14) are unable to control the change and spend the next four years learning to harness it. Adult rsakk change to whatever form is most convenient. Tasks that require fine motor coordination like cooking or weaving are done in human form. Sacred tasks, and tasks that require physical strength or desert endurance are done in rsakk form. Mating is often initiated in human form and shifts to rsakk partway through. Size differences make mating possible with one member in each form, but can badly injure the human. Buildings are scaled to accommodate rsakk form. "Cooking" is often just a matter of scorching meat a little on the outside, since in rsakk form meat is eaten raw.
    Above all, the rsakk are not just "humans who can shapechange". If anything they are "lizards who can walk like apes". In rsakk society, at any moment, as part of everyday life, one can be called on to shift and react. Disagreements are resolved by lashing out physically instead of with words. It is perfectly natural to lick blood from a wound and seal it with saliva. Wariness is a way of life.

    In what contexts do they want to differentiate themselves from the other types of people?
    Hm, a harder one. The rsakk like to see themselves as cultural leaders of the world, but can't escape the fact that it's simply not true. In areas more heavily populated by other forms, they are seen as arrogant, vicious and barbaric. They believe themselves both stronger and more honorable. Those claims have more truth. A rsakk holds another rsakk to a higher code of conduct than he would an outsider. Rsakk believe in open confrontation and are scornful of those who backstab or secretly nurse resentments.

    Thanks for doing this workshop :) - I can already tell it's going to bring out some great detail and richness in the different cultures.

  5. Catreona,

    Thanks for your quick response. I should apologize for laying all those questions on you, many of which are basic worldbuilding questions - but during the worldbuilding workshop I was concerned mostly with text-level worldbuilding and wasn't able to bring many of them up because of time constraints. I understand that the issues may seem to be peripheral to your story as it's currently written, but I assure you that your world will take on much added depth if you know the answer to such questions. Moreover, I think right now you're leaving some fascinating story issues on the table (if you'll pardon the expression). Two things pop immediately into my mind with regard to the plague children. One is, what was the origin of the plague - was it an indigenous disease that had different effects on humans from indigenes, or was it something that mutated from an imported virus? The answer to this question will involve exploring how the indigenes were affected or not by the plague, and give you insight into their view of the humans. The second question is, are your indigenous people conversant with science or are they primarily faith-based in their understanding of cosmology and other issues such as disease? This could give you some interesting twists in your plot, because the indigenes might see the plague as being visited on the humans for some reason. Invasion perhaps?

    All this is to say that in my experience, a story gets stronger when I don't shy away from potential conflicts but explore them fully. If you free yourself from the strict following of the story and let yourself figure out some world things, you could find some really powerful story elements you were previously unaware of.

    Anyway, I hope it gets your thoughts going in interesting directions. I'll try to concentrate on language here, but language reflects culture in a lot of ways, which is why I'm asking.

  6. Pyraxis,

    Thanks for the quick response. I like how you've thought so many of these things through. I immediately have several thoughts about your most recent comments.

    I can see why the rsakk language would avoid labial sounds - no lips. So this would rule out b, p, w, m; also potentially f, v, and possibly rounded vowels would become unrounded (though you could still write them as o and u based on their tongue position). On the other hand, I'm not sure why the language would retain these sounds when spoken by people in human form, particularly since the lizard form is seen as more pure. The lip sounds might take on a connotation of baby-talk, for example. Or, if the language is also spoken by some of the other people on the planet, then it might have those sounds in their parlance (particularly if they have lips).

    I could also see that the human form could be seen as the appropriate form for diplomacy, or possibly also as representing the potential for compromise. It's also the form they have in common with the other people of the planet, so that could change how they view it.

    One fun way you could have rsakk indicate disdain for foreigners would be to have them speak it deliberately without lip sounds while in human form.

  7. Juliette,

    When I say the Plague struck everyone, I mean it struck everyone, indigene and Settler alike. Of course, when some massive tragedy of this kind strikes any society, there are always some fraction of the population who view it as divine retribution. In general though, once the initial shock wore off it was viewed as a medical/scientific problem that should, in principle, have a solution. Searching for that solution spurred research. The Settlers had had a fairly high level of sci/tech sophistication upon arrival (obviously, since they could travel to and confidently anticipate colonizing an extra solar planet). But, they had been slacking off in the past three or four generations. The indigenous sci/tech was different, not necessarily inferior as such but concentrating on different things. I think they may have independently developed space travel or have been developing it, in order to explore their satelites, when the Settlers turned up.

    Yes, faith is more thoroughly integrated into indigenous society/culture than is custommary in, say, contemporary American society. Yet, they do not substitute superstition for science. I don't know as they would be more likely than Settlers to ascribe the Plague to supernatural and thus inscrutible causes. At the same time, I'm not at all sure the indigenes had a written language at the time of landfall. Or, rather, their written language was rudimentary but adiquate for their needs.

    The Plague was caused by something native to the Nova Britannian environment. I'm told that such an event could plausibly be caused by a highly unusual and unpredictable event such as some sort of disturbance in the sun. Alternatively, it is not unknown for new diseases to appear here on earth as new human habitat is appropriated and humans come into contact withu previously unknown flora and fauna. The Plague might have been caused by that kind of encounter event. But, I'm leaning strongly towards an extra planetary explanation. Some sort of solar anomelly, the planet passing through some anomelous radiation band or something of that sort.

    I'm delighted that you're taking my world so seriously. Please, any questions or thoughts, specifically language related or not, will be most welcome.

    I probably won't be able to work on the project again till the weekend. See you then.

  8. 1. Can you clarify the psychic powers of the Dalkans vs. Eyans?

    As empaths, Dalkans can feel others’ emotions. Not just ‘know them’ or ‘are aware of them,’ but feel them in their own body. There is a difference between feeling someone else’s emotions and feeling one’s own- just as you perceive your own voice through your ears (like you perceive any other sound) but also through the vibration of your resonators. Dalkans can usually tell the difference between someone else’s emotions and their own, but they do really feel them.

    Most Dalkans have a basic level of mind shielding, where they can willfully but easily keep their day-to-day emotions from being on public display. (Those who don’t have an emotional ‘incontinence’: infants and young toddlers who’ve yet to develop the skill, the very old, those who’ve experienced psychic trauma and been damaged to some extent.) Intense emotions, or a wave of feeling that takes someone by surprise- these things are much bigger than this basic shielding and would be easily and inadvertently perceived by all Dalkans within psychic proximity.

    Therefore, among Dalkans, experiencing another’s emotions is generally a conscious act, analogous to reading. In order to read someone’s base level emotions, a Dalkan usually needs to give that person their attention, and actively choose to overcome their basic shielding. There is a good deal of variety in Dalkans’ reading ability, much of which is due to innate talent, and some to training. There are Dalkans who train extensively in psychic reading and are very, very good at it. Likewise there are those who are just more sensitive to other’s emotions. These fragile individuals have a hard time in society.

    Terrans don’t have any basic shielding ability, and their emotions are on display for any Dalkan who glances at them. Terrans are not even aware of being read by a Dalkan, so Dalkans are free to ‘stare’ with impunity. Because Terrans lack a psychic presence, their emotions are very localized and don’t create as strong a psychic disturbance as other psychics, Dalkans don’t find it uncomfortable to be around Terrans. Terrans emotions feel significantly weaker and are easily separated from one’s own. Thus, Dalkans usually feel at an advantage in these interactions, having an easy awareness of Terrans emotions, but not feeling them as truly as their own, all without violating any Terran sense of privacy.

    As projems, Eyans’ natural state is to broadcast their emotions so that others feel them. The analogy is no longer to reading or seeing, where after all you can always chose to avert your eyes, but to someone playing their music or perhaps having a strong scent- everyone in proximity is subjected to it, whether they wish to be or not, and it can be difficult to ignore. The base volume level at which they broadcast varies among individuals, although the volume within an individual’s range is proportionate to affective intensity.

    It is not surprising, therefore, that the basic shielding ability in Dalkans is more highly developed in Eyans. Eyans work hard to dampen and suppress as much of their emotional projection as they can in public, and are very aware of the variability in this area. They value those who are good at this. It takes both innate talent and trained skill to be able to completely shield one’s emotions, and others are certainly aware of it.

    Eyans basic affective projection is so strong, that even Terrans, who have no psychic presence to speak of, are aware of it, although on a level very similar to Dalkans ability to read Terrans, where it is clearly a separate thing from them and more a curiosity or even a benefit, than a disturbance.

    Dalkans, on the other hand, perceive Eyans’ projections so strongly that, undampened, it can be difficult for them to pay attention to anything else (much as when someone has the music up too loud and you can’t carry on a conversation or even ‘hear yourself think.’) Because of the strength of these projections, they have a difficult time differentiating these emotions from their own. It is extremely disconcerting and uncomfortable. There is a lot of social and historical baggage between Dalkans and Eyans, but at root there is a very basic incompatibility. Eyans in fact can project so strongly in some cases that they can psychically damage Dalkans, much like a loud sound can cause permanent hearing loss.

    2. What kind of psychic behavior is expected in social contexts? Is there a principled way in which the provision of empathic cues fits in with the Eyan (or Dalkan) language? I imagine there could be, if these people are accustomed to having an emotional overcurrent surrounding them.

    In Dalkan culture, where reading someone else’s emotions is a choice, there are certainly social rules about when it is allowed. As a basic rule (with many exceptions), there is an expectation of emotional privacy, that it’s not polite to read other’s minds. That said, it varies according to status- someone of high status would be allowed to read someone’s emotions if they wished during a conversation, where the reverse would never be allowed. Negative emotions are expected to be as strongly shielded as possible, while there is an expectation that positive emotions will be open, and that others have a right to share in them, that you don’t have a right to keep those to yourself.

    Family and friends have expectations of a certain amount of emotional sharing- intimacy- in casual situations. I imagine emotional exchange would be part of normal conversation, perhaps in greeting like our ‘how are you?’ (although, social expectations of whether someone actually answers that question vary widely in our culture, lol). I suspect that Dalkans/Eyans have less words for feelings, since they have a more effective way of communicating those and that the language actually has less ‘just checking in’ niceties than our own, since they have better ways to emotionally check in with eachother, that the language is much more about transferring factual information. Certainly, as represented, the formal High Dalkan is severe.

    Certain Dalkan rituals use the ability to link minds. There is a Communion ritual that families engage in with the nightly meal. There is a Reconciliation ritual where a person makes amends by opening up their mind to the person they wronged. There are Inquisitions, when someone may be compelled to be read for truth-telling if it’s determined there is a societal need.

    Eyans, on the other hand, are accustomed to a certain level of emotional background noise both positive and negative, and treasure their moments of silence. This in part accounts for their strong attraction toward consensus- wouldn’t it be great if you could get all those different radios playing on the same frequency? If you could get everyone on a different station to turn theirs down to an inaudible level? It’s the next best thing to peace and quiet. Then you don’t even have to worry about which radio is your own, if you’re playing the same tune as everyone else. Many Eyans have a much stronger sense of being a part of a consensus than an individual.

    In fact, space for emotional privacy and having a sense of individuality is largely limited to the privileged. The privileged reserve both public and private space for individuals who have displayed different levels of competency in shielding and dampening. Desirable careers have limitations on them, as well as access to living space, and contact with others, etc. Those with demonstrated skill in these areas have much greater access to breeding and parenting rights and all the perks of this world.

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  10. wordjinn wrote:

    You say the three houses, Az, Uz, and Ua, are separate and concerned with different things, and they have dialectal differences but not major language differences. I wonder how, and how often, the three houses interact with one another. This would be a factor in evening out language differences. Since they've obviously been around for a long time, I could see that there might be dialectal distinctions between the groups. Can you think of a way to make the language use reflect the main concern of the house? I should remark that dialectal differences can be rather large, and if you want there to be dialect differences, you should probably think of how you'd like to mark them in your English text. Also, if Ua is a "newer" house, then its dialect might resemble one of the others (say, Az) more closely than the two others do (making Uz and Ua dialects more similar to each other than to Az).Do you have any immediate thoughts on this?

    The people of the houses interact with each other via trade and special events – a lot less since the water disappeared. The royal houses interact with each other mainly via meetings and cooperative projects.
    The language use sort of reflects the concerns of the houses already: Spoken language is all sung. Az language is the most colorful, followed by Uz which is more like chanting. Ua language is undergoing some changes due to the Raba's spartan style of singing (she prefers drums) and her adoption of speech without music. Telepathic language is different based on whether one uses protocol: Az tends not to, Uz uses it as prescribed, and Ua tends to drop it within the first few exchanges of an interaction.
    Ua dialect is likely closer to Uz because of geographical proximity: the lands of Uz lie between Ua and Az.

  11. here's the link to the longer response: http://wordjinn.wordpress.com/

  12. Wow. Lizards don't have lips! I actually did not know this, I was just going by what sounds seemed natural. I did some googling, and sure enough, there aren't any reptiles on earth with prehensile lips.

    This brings up a few problems. I don't want the language to look too remote or unpronounceable to the humans reading the book, and I wonder if I took out all the b, p, w, m, f, v, and oo/u sounds, the words would start looking too homogenous. And it would be hard to give up the couple important character names with those sounds. I did some experimentation and it's hard but possible to get an expletive b/p sound without using lip muscles. W's are probably silent though. F and v are out because there wouldn't be enough control to put the lower lip against the teeth (especially pointed carnivore teeth, and even in human form, they file their teeth as a beauty mark). M is iffy and probably spoken with a heavy accent. B/p might be combined to a new letter without an English equivalent, which was rarely used (like Z in the English alphabet).

    Interesting idea that labial sounds might be associated with baby talk. Or slave talk - the race the rsakki most commonly take as slaves have a form resembling a deer, so as herbivores they have lips as dexterous as horses and a language that matches.

    That may be a solution for keeping Hsobi's name as it stands. She could just be mocked for having a "slave name".

    One fun way you could have rsakk indicate disdain for foreigners would be to have them speak it deliberately without lip sounds while in human form.

    I like that! *grin*

  13. K - I'm curious - can you give an example of a conversation between Dalkans or between Eyans (the way wordjinn did in that extended response) that shows how their conversation patterns are different because of the emotional data being transferred psychically?

  14. Pyraxis,

    Japanese has an unrounded "u" sound and Korean has unrounded "o," so you can get away easily with leaving these in your language. I don't think the alterations will be as extreme as you fear, but I think it could be fun for you to take out some of the lip sounds for more verisimilitude in your language.

  15. Juliette,

    The provisional indigenous name of Nova Britannia is Vracally. However, I have been playing for some time with the mythology and legendarium of another world, a Fantasy world, called Darian. Recently it has occurred to me to wonder if this mythology and legendarium could be grafted onto, ideally naturalized into, Nova Britannia. Certainly, Darian is more euphonious than Vracally. There would be considerable problems with such a project, not least of which is the inconveniant fact that in the legends and moving into history, everybody has English names. It's only in very ancient times indeed, times that are recognizably more mythical than legendary, that there are non-English names. Nonetheless, a melding could perhaps be achieved.

    The reason I mention this at all is that a couple of these legendary/quazi-historical tales are accessible online. If you're interested, go to http://ketfiction.blogspot.com and check out "The Lady of the Stars" and "The Maiden and the Merman." I have recently incerted "The Maiden and the Merman" into the narrative with the explanation that it is a modernday retelling of a "traditional tale." Not sure how I like it, but it's in the nature of an experiment. It went over well with my reader... Anyway, just thought you might be interested.

  16. My idea was to have two different forms of the same language. The first is the simple form of everyday speech that most people use in most situations. The formal language is spoken asymmetrically based on rank (and a character’s insistence that they deserve the display of respect due to their rank), and it is rather complicated - requiring the characters to really put a bit of effort into getting the phrasing just right. Talioth’s mother uses it when she catches her daughter outside - it adds weight to her authority, and the extra thought she has to put into the phrasing is like a human counting to ten to control her temper.

    The change from land to water habitation came at a time when the arcati were considering one of the biggest issues their genetic engineering technology had thrown at them: Should we use our technology to engineer people (not just animals), or will we anger the gods by tampering with something sacred?

    Soon after the debate started (and I say debate, but I’m thinking that it’s going to end up as open warfare between the opposing ideologies), the arcati sun began to increase it’s radiation output (I’m researching stars to see how/why they might theoretically do this), and the polar ice caps began to melt. I still have to decide how fast - I want it slow enough to allow time for some genetic engineering, and fast enough to lose quite a bit of tech. A post-apocalypse scenario without the nuclear exchange.

    Both sides decided that the solar radiation was a sign of divine retribution - against the other side, of course.

    Sign language is a good idea, and I may steal that for part of the story. But it can’t be the whole solution. On their way back to Nirael Reef, Talioth and her mother are attacked by a bloodray, and Talioth’s mother loses her right arm. With her left hand clenched tight around the stump to slow the bleeding, she tells Talioth to swim away and don’t look back, prepared to sacrifice herself by luring the bloodray away from her daughter. Sign language is difficult with both hands occupied.

    For audible communication, I think I can have my humans use sufficient tech to alter their voices - it‘s not the Universal Translator of Star Trek, they still have to work out what the words mean, but at least speech is possible. And the tech idea might just fit in nicely with everything else that I’m planning.

    The pheromones have to stay, because they are essential for a plot twist later in the story. But I can just use them for the most basic of communication and leave the misunderstandings for elsewhere.

  17. Human language? I hadn't thought too deeply on that. Presumably a future variant of English, since the Captain asks difficult questions of one of the scientists, and he likes to comment on the degree of difficulty with the phrase "It's not rocket science. But I am a rocket scientist. So why are you asking me?"

    Since the phrase "It's not rocket science." is English (American scientific/cultural?), the humans are from such a culture.

    Beyond that, I've worked out very little.

  18. P.S. The story does require the sort of culture that has movies/TV series similar to, say, Star Trek. So definitely first-generation descendant of Western civilisation.

    In fact, a Star Trek analog and a working stardrive (brand new, very first voyages happening now) are all the current requirements I have of my human culture.

  19. Thanks for the question, Pyraxis. I've been looking for a succinct excerpt to include, and it's been challenging (brevity not being one of my strengths, lol).

    These workshop questions are such great catalysts for thought, and I’ve been refining my responses. I think expectations of emotional privacy are some of the defining differences between Dalkans and Eyans. Dalkans expect to be able to control whether or not they have affective privacy/distance/intimacy, while Eyans generally do not. What I wrote about privacy being valued I think is probably true of *some* Eyans, but not all. I think that it would actually terrify some Eyans because they’ve never had it, and certainly when it is forced on Kei, who has more Terran views of these things, it almost drives her mad.

    That aside, when I looked through my manuscript for dialogue, in practice, my Eyan characters talk about feelings a lot. Partly that has to do with this specific plot, and the fact that what someone is feeling and how that syncs with what they are projecting is at the heart of this story, but partly I think it is because it is as much a part of the conversation as the words they use. These things are actually very integrated, and they notice the absence as much as the presence. (oh, and I found Maeve’s full name!).

    Here’s an example of dialogue. I don't know if this helps or not:

    “We can’t afford to create a consensus we can’t live with-not while we still hope to change it. So you keep yourself locked up like a citadel for the time being, don’t give me any reason to suspect you’re anything other than the victim Ld. Maeve DuuBoh-PrahNihn is working so hard to portray you as. Let us do this extra-legally, without advocates and hearings and Consensus-forbid findings. Preserve some kind of solution we can live with.” He smiled, but she felt the warning and suspicion in it. “You don’t even flinch.” And with that seemingly damning statement, she felt him withdraw from her mind and sit back in his seat.

    She tried to explain: “In order to work with Terrans, you have to be in very tight control of your affectual projection. It’s required. I excel at it and have almost no emotional bleed.”

    “You’re lecturing me on psychic requirements?” He laughed, seeming genuinely amused. “Sure. That’s a good story. We’ll stick with that for the moment.” She couldn’t read his tone, and his mind was closed to her. She tried to keep her urge to panic in check, turned it on him instead.

    “I can’t tell what you’re trying to insinuate.”

    “Really?” He was surprised. She could feel that. “Maybe that’s for the best. There are some things you can be too good at.”
    She couldn’t afford to let this conversation slip completely out of her grasp. “I’m sure they don’t include self discipline and control. This is basic prejudice against Terrans, and all those who work with them-”

    “This has nothing to do with Terrans! Look around. There are no Terrans here to restrain yourself for.”

    She was taken aback. “It’s my habit.”

    “Well, that’s quite a habit you’ve developed. We’ll see what’s to be done about it.” His sarcasm was barbed and vicious. There was nothing masked about it.

    She was incredulous. “You burst in to arrest me with the Corpa and take me god knows where. You think I should open my mind to you? You think that would be a normal thing to do?” She tried to keep the shrillness from her voice.

    “You’ve got to be terrified,” he reasoned. “You have good cause to be in fear for your life, not to mention your beloved mentor’s. I know you’re ashamed, you’ve been red as a blood flower since we found you. I even presume you’re angry with me: you’ve raised your voice, you’re sarcastic, you’re picking a fight you really can’t afford to have. But I can’t feel a hint of it.” He leaned forward and looked directly in her eyes. “No, I don’t expect you to lay down all your fences and welcome me into the depths of your mind. But you are freakishly devoid of emotional bleed. I could have taken you into custody on a public corner with a cadre of desk-bound bureaucrats for all the psychic fall-out you’ve produced. And if you’re half as smart as I think you are, and you have ‘that kind’ of control, you would be wise to let a little of it bleed through because you wouldn’t be telling us anything we don’t know or frankly expect. You would merely be maintaining some veneer of emotional honesty.” A barely restrained wall of personal contempt backed up his words.

    Kei was shocked. This was an accusation of an altogether different kind. “You’re questioning my honesty? While talking about deniability, and playing along, and cover and veneer- you’re questioning my honesty?”

    “You ever been tested for capacity for emotional deceit?” His question hung in the air for a moment, stunning Kei with its implications. “Ah ha.” He said quietly. “And there it is. The first glimmer of fear. The first crack in the citadel. Let’s not let it crumble altogether just yet, shall we?”