What follows is some of the work I’ve done (plus notes) on the language of the Aenyr people.
As a preparatory note, I’ll be using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) for description of phonemes but will later shift to other symbols (with a guide) to depict how I intend to write the language within stories in Avar Narn. The language will have its own alphabet, but currently does not.
I’ve been using a combination of Mark Rosenfelder’s The Language Construction Kit and my own linguistic research to inform the choices made below. I highly recommend the book. I have a few similar ones on my shelf, but his is the one I usually start and end with.
A little bit of introduction–the language of the Aenyr is an ancient one, seldom used in the Avar except in remaining place names and its influence on subsequent languages (such as the Altaenin tongue). As I post more about the history of the Avar and of the Aenyr people, you’ll see this fleshed out.
To begin, I needed to decide on the sound of the language. I found the following quotation on the Wikipedia page for “cellar-door”: “it at once brings to mind a word from one of those warm-blooded languages English speakers invest with musical beauty, spare in clusters and full of liquids, nasals and open syllables with vowel nuclei–the languages of the Mediterranean or Polynesia, or the sentimentalized Celtic that Lewis and Tolkien turned into a staple of fantasy fiction.”
I used the quotation as something of a guide in selecting phonemes for the Aenyr language. Following Tolkien, I first looked at Welsh and Finnish, but I also looked to Sanskrit, Serbo-Croatian and a few other Earth languages in the process.
First, I satisfied the guidepost of the above-written quote by adding the liquids: /r/, /l/, /ɹ/, /ʎ/ and the nasals: /m/, /n/, /ɲ/, /ɳ/ (the latter two being influenced by Sanskrit). I added in the other consonants mostly based on some of the words that I already had that I’d decided came from the Aenyr language. The same with the vowels.
Here’s where, for me at least, things got interesting. I had made a decision (mostly for ease of vocabulary building) to use the agglutinative aspect of Finnish (suffixes may be added to a noun core by standardized rules to create a number of other nouns). I had also decided long ago the meaning of “Avar Narn,” Aenyr words approximating the “the world reborn.”
So, it was time to engage in a little reverse engineering–I needed to make those words mean what I wanted them to mean, and this provided the start of the language.
Before I get too far into this, a note on (current) pronunciation. Here is a little chart of my current pronunciation notes for vowels:
Our starting place, with some pronunciation guidance: Ävär Närn.
I took “är” as the core word and made “Äv-“, “n-” and “-n” prefixes and suffixes in agglutinative style.
To get where I needed to go, I decided that “är” means “to be born, to come into being.”
“Äv-“, then, became a prefix to create a noun from a verb, specifically a noun meaning “the place where [verb] happens.” This gives us “Ävär” = “birthplace.”
“n-” then became a prefix for a verb equivalent to English “re-“, while “-n” became a suffix to form a past participle/adjective, making “Närn” = “reborn, resurrected.”
Breaking down the prefixes and suffixes, and adding some more, yielded the following list:
n- “to do again”, “re-” När = “to be reborn”
-n to create past participle/adjective from infinitive Ärn = “born”
-tälё “an agent, one who does [verb]” Ärtälё = lit. “birther,
Närtälё = “necromancer”,
-ёnyn creates adjective from verb Ärёnyn = “fertile, arable, productive”
-vё creates noun meaning a master of the verb Ärvё = “midwife” or
-tön “without, lacking” Ärtön = “unborn,
Ärtälёtön = “motherless”,
-ys an instrument or tool used with the verb Ärys = “birthing chair”
-yr a (general) collection or group Aenyr = “the Aen people”
Äryr = “the born, the
Ärtälyr = “mothers
-ёn to pluralize a noun Ärtälёn = “(the) mothers”
That’s a lot of mileage from two original words! There’s a lot to be continued here (declension of nouns, verb conjugation, grammar, regular/irregular words, etc.) and I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes that will have to be corrected, but I feel like it’s a good start.
Here’s one particular issue I’m trying to wrap my head around: I’ve already used some words with vowel clusters in them (“Aenyr”, for one) where the vowels elide together (that should have a long “a” sound at the beginning) and others (“Ellembaё”) where the vowels are pronounced separately. Not sure what I’m going to do here, but there are a few possibilities: it may be that the orthography of the language solves the problem (when written in its own script the “Ae” is a single letter corresponding to the “(aɪ)” phoneme) or it may be that I have to go back and start respelling that word to fit in with a coherent pronunciation scheme for readers.
I don’t intend to go so far as to create complete working languages–I have neither time nor skill for that. Instead, the languages of Avar Narn will be used to create names for places, people and things with consistency and immersion.