A New Translation

In revisiting the grammar of Draványa I have resolved to start from pretty close to the ground. There are a small handful of core words that I want to retain unchanged, and a number of features that should be preserved, but basically all this is new conlang work seen through the lens of the other projects that I have worked on since embarking on the journey of Draványa many years ago. The great majority of the existing lexicon was filled out in the process of compiling Draványa titles for the 183(!) Emperors and Empresses of Arál Draván, so aside from changing those, and probably some proper names,

I have basic sentence and clause structure worked out, so the next logical step is to actually translate some stuff. Thankfully, I have much material that is notionally itself a translation from Draványa, so I will translate it back, and then back again to English so I can analyze the differences.

Let’s start with this sentence, an early excerpt from the dynastic history of Arál Draván:

He conquered the city-states which were neighbor to Dravá and dissolved the White Alliance, and great Dravá rose to hegemony under his guidance.

This is a typical example, and it’s no less than five clauses, two of which are subordinate. But by themselves there’s nothing terribly difficult here. So let’s break it up like this: (1) He conquered the city-states (1a, subordinate) which were neighbor to Dravá (2) and dissolved the White Alliance (3) (and) great Dravá rose to hegemony (3a, subordinate) under his guidance.

Each of the clauses can be broken down fairly easily. Draványa uses a somewhat flexible Verb-subject-object word order within main clauses, but an SVO order in subordinate clauses. So let’s take these one at a time.

Clause #1 is easy enough: (conquered)(he)(city-states) — Verb first, then subject, then object

Let’s tackle the verb. Draványa has four tenses: the present (the action is happening right now,) the imperfect (the action is ongoing,) the perfect (the action is completed) and the future (the action will happen after this moment.) This is historical material, so generally we’ll be using the Perfect tense.

Draványa is also an inflected language, meaning that the forms of words change to reflect their grammatical function. Each verb has a different form to reflect first, second or third person and singular or plural number. There are a number (at least three and there will likely be more) of standard conjugational forms as well as irregular verbs. There’s also three different moods, but all this is in the indicative so we get to ignore that for now.

So in the original there’s a word tavós meaning to seize or take control of in a rapid or rough manner. “To conquer” is as good a translation as any. In the indicative third person singular perfect tense this becomes tavoséka, “he conquered.”

Now the two nouns, one the subject (He) and the other the object (the city-states.) Because of the structure of the verb, the subject (a pronoun) is built in. So we only need the object, a direct object.

Nouns in Draványa have four possible cases: the Nominative (for the subjects of clauses,) the Accusative (for direct objects and to reflect motion toward,) the dative (for indirect objects, to reflect motion away from, or to indicate the instrument by which an action is accomplished,) and the Genitive (to show possession of or origin from. There’s also a vestigial Instrumental case which has mostly collapsed into the Dative, and a nearly extinct Locative case whose functions have been absorbed by the Nominative and Genitive, and which only appears in a few irregular words. Our indirect object will be in the Accusative.

“City-states” turns out to be somewhat tricky. There’s no analogous word in a culture which has been out of the era of such polities for four thousand years. But there is a word gháthe meaning a nation or discrete people without regard for size or population, and an adjective rés meaning small or petty. In Draványa adjectives are not inflected but as a result they must appear before the noun they modify. So rés gháthe, or rés ghathégu in the Accusative plural.

However, Draványa also features definite and indefinite articles, as well as a demonstrative form of the former which grammarians of English would call a determiner. (like “this” or “that.”) Unlike in English, the articles is never split from the noun, so our “the small nations” becomes rés dhugá ghathégu, “those other small nations.”

Our first clause therefore comes out as Tavoséka rés dhugá ghathégu.

Clause #2, “which were neighbor to Dravá,” is a subordinate clause: it modifies (main) clause #1 and could not stand alone as a sentence. Subordinate clauses follow the clause they modify and are indicated with a subordinate conjunction. And again, word order in subordinate clauses changes to SVO. The conjunction here is dír, meaning “that” or “those.”

There’s no subject in this clause, but there’s the verb “to be,” which is by the way irregular in every known language. It happens that the indicative, third person plural perfect form is degésha. So dír degésha. But “to be” isn’t the right verb here, and is an artifact of translation to and from English. The word we want is vílet meaning to be close to or accompany. So more accurately we have dír viletéke.

Dravá here is the direct object, so in the accusative that’s Dravága — the “to” is again an artifact of English and would be redundant here.

Our clause #2, then, is dír viletéke Dravága.

Main clauses are separated by a particle súd in the first such occurrence in a single sentence and súd shá in subsequent separations. This can be translated as “and” and “and also,” but this is not the same “and” that we would find in lists of grouped nouns like “butter and bread and cheese.”

Afterwards, clause #3, “and dissolved the White Alliance” is straightforward. The subject, again, is “he” (Zhómach,) inherited from the beginning of the sentence and not present here. The verb is “dissolved” while the direct object is “the White Alliance.”

The Draványa verb tanách means to rend, to break apart, to separate from the whole. The indicative perfect plural is tanachéka. The adjective belá refers to the color white, and the noun luráz is a pact or agreement — lurázeg in the singular Accusative.

Remembering that adjectives precede nouns but do not separate them from their articles, “dissolved the White Alliance” becomes tanachéka belá dhú lurázeg.

The fourth clause “(and) great Dravá rose to hegemony” could be a separate sentence but Draványa tends to chain them together. The subsequent “and” becomes súd shá.

Now for the first time we have a subject that’s not either implied or built into the verb form. That is, of course, Dravá, which is already in the Nominative. The adjective rán means potent, powerful or mighty (not necessarily large.)

The verb réshe meaning to increase in majesty or stature is what we’re looking for here. In the indicative perfect singular it’s reshék. In VSO order this becomes reshék rán Dravá.

Now for clause #5, “under his guidance,” which is also subordinate. The subordinate conjunction here is agór, meaning while or within the duration of.

Draványa uses both prepositions and postpositions. The postposition meaning “within or inside is áde, and as the name implies it occurs after the noun it modifies. That noun is fahún, meaning stewardship or guardianship. Ordinarily a direct object would appear in the Accusative, but what we mean to say is that Dravá in increased in might because of his rule, which puts it into the Dative as an instrumental. It’s singular and first declension so the form is fahúno.

In SVO order, (and again the subject is merely implied by context,) this becomes fahúno áde.

So here, again, is our original English version: “He conquered the city-states which were neighbor to Dravá and dissolved the White Alliance, and great Dravá rose to hegemony under his guidance.”

And now we can give the version in Draványa: Tavoséka rés dhugá ghathégu, dír viletéke Dravága, súd tanachéka belá dhú lurázeg, súd shá reshék rán Dravá, agór fahúno áde.

And finally, we can retranslate that back to English to get a rendering that’s both richer and more accurate: “He conquered the small nations that were near Dravá and broke the White Alliance, and also mighty Dravá grew in majesty by means of his rule.”

This was, I won’t lie, rather a lot of work and hard thought. But it was the simplest sentence in the first paragraph of the entry for the first ruler of Arál Draván. Hopefully the rest of the paragraph will be easier.


Revisions Ahoy!

I have language notes everywhere on Dravánin… in old files, notebooks, archived web pages from long-dead websites. Possibly it’s time to start to put that together into something coherent. And as it’s gone through many rounds of development, that neccessitates a lot of brush-clearing and clarification. I started working on it years before I did any serious reading on the subject of linguistics or constructed languages and some of the terms in the lexicon, including many proper names, are “legacy” names that I built the whole thing around. Some of these I am determined to retain, but others will change. And I am probably (probably) better at building a conlang now than back in the olden days.

I’ve just revisited and revised the phonology of Draványa. And unsurprisingly, there were changes, intended to give Draványa a more distinct character which also easing word generation without falling back on some pretty seriously overused word endings. Part of that did include chopping some phonemes, which means that many names need to be changed to include them… but also that certain sounds that originally did _not_ appear in the language need to be properly introduced. The sound represented by the letter y, for example, didn’t appear in Draványa, forcing me into the kludge of making the name Ytherra from a language other than the one at the center of the setting. Akward.

One of the core terms in the language is Arál Draván, the name of the ancient empire around which much of the world of Ytherra was erected. Oddly enough, perhaps becuase it was named so early, the only etymology I have for it says that it means “empire of Dravá,” which is really pretty unsatisfactory. So as an exercise let’s take that apart and put it back together.

Dravá is the name of a city, the capital of the empire and analogous to Rome or Byzantium at their heights. Its history stretches back almost five thousand years. But how was the city named?

We’ll stipulate that it comes from a pre-Draványa root terave, meaning a center, a space in the middle, a gathering place in the midst of all. A hub or locus. Naturally, then, since I have long established that Draványa is an inflected language, a genitive or locative form of this noun might well be Draván.

OK, that works! So what about Arál? We can certainly translate it as “empire’ but its meaning should be deeper. We can say that it’s a cognate of a related word, garada, meaning “a part of”, “one with” or “unseparated from.” Is it a noun or an adjective… or is it a preposition? As a bonus, prepositions are uninflected, so we can just use the straight definition of a preposition meaning, inside, within, unified with, or wholly a part of.

Now this is a more interesting etymology, and one that reflects my current thinking about Arál Draván and the reasons for its longevity beyond mere political inertia. The very word, the name of the state, means a unity with Dravá, the city and by extension its head, the Emperor.

This might trickle down to other names and cultural aspects… the emperor’s seat has been called the Traitor’s Throne, forged of the unrusting blades of the soldiers of the usurper Lazhám. (I may have beaten George R. R. Martin to this idea, but I won’t swear to that.) Perhaps a better name, then, reflecting the new etymology of Arál Draván, is the One Throne, that seat above all others from which the embodiment of unity in the empire governs.

Arashálinu Enáthaga, Part One

Today’s writing sample is not new. Actually it is many, many years old, and only given a quick once-over in the last few days. It’s a part of a significantly larger document that I wrote as part of the history of the Empire of Arál Draván, the greatest surviving nation (for so say its people) on the World of Ytherra.

I have just made public a number of older posts about Ytherra’s geography, mythology and languages, some of which may be in need of light revision. And there’s a great deal more of this particular piece which I may be posting over the coming weeks, as I get to lightly tweaking it and as interest warrants.

The Arashálinu Enáthaga

Lo! Now shall be told the names of the Emperors of the City and the Imperium, names great and obscure, reigns decades long and mercifully short, the mighty and the corrupt, saviors and black magicians, and deeds of glory done in ancient days. Learn well ye proud citizens the names and deeds of these heroes and villans of old, for they are the blood and stones of the Empire.

Editor’s Notes

Arashálinu Enáthaga is literally “The Names of the Emperors,” an ancient record, maintained since the founding of Arál Draván, that names the Emperors and Empresses and their deeds. In point of fact it is more than a mere listing of rulers and their reigns, but a dynastic record and a document of central importance to the Dravanin cultural heritage. The original is supposedly still extant, preserved somewhere in the Imperial palace in Dravá. Copies of varying currency are available in virtually any major library in the Empire.

In Dravanya, the title of a ruling Emperor is Árashal, loosely translated as a “magistrate above magistrates,” and rendered as “Emperor” for the purposes of this translation. Árashal retains its original form from Archaic Dravanya, the form of the Dravanya language which was spoken around the time of the Empire’s founding. By courtesy this title is sometimes granted to certain other heads of state, notably the Emperor of Kondú.

It should be noted that the term Árashal is generally used regardless of the gender of the ruler. In this translation the English words “Emperor” and “Empress” have been used to denote either male or female heads of state respectively, but the Dravanin themselves do not normally distinguish Empresses by a separate title. There is, nevertheless, a feminine form of the term, Aráshala, which is occasionally used in informal conversation or in poetic compositions, or when the distinction is deemed significant, but only very seldom in Imperial documents.

Throughout this document Imperial dates are used, given as the more modern “Imperial Reckoning” (or IR) or as the archaic “years of Empire.” Dates before the founding are denoted BF.

The First (Zhomádu) Dynasty

The first dynasty of Arál Draván, begun by Zhómach in the founding year and carried on by his descendants in direct line until the death of Angkésh in the one hundred and eleventh year of Empire. Six Emperors ruled in the First Dynasty, for a total of one hundred and eleven years.

Zhómach Ulách lúa Hamúl, the First Árashal

Zhómach, called Ulách lúa Hamúl, the First and Founder, was born fifty-five years before the founding on 16 Olgathu, the eldest son of Alenach. He conquered the city-states which were neighbor to Dravá and dissolved the White Alliance, and great Dravá rose to hegemony under his guidance. The Imperium of the City was woven by his hands and he placed the calendar in the trust of the priests of holy Zerem, and thus the years are counted since the beginning of those days when he ruled. He decreed the first day of the new year to be the Vernal Equinox and called the first cholach after himself. He was father to Várlesh, who would succeed him upon the death of the Usurper. He died on 6 Leresu in the fifth year of Empire, betrayed by his disloyal general Lazhám, who would usurp the throne.

Editor’s Notes

The calendar month of Olgathu was renamed Hulenu to honor Huléng Teleshénu, “the Chaste,” the twenty-first ruler of Arál Draván, in IR 844, by decree of Vádroth IV Relkatán, “the Celebrant.” The earliest known records indicating Zhómach’s birth date as 16 Olgathu (Hulenu) date from the 23rd century IR. Prior to that, several different dates were used, until scholars came to near-consensus on the issue at that time. In recent centuries an Imperial holiday, the day of the Founder, has been held on 16 Hulenu.

Little is known of Zhómach’s near-mythical father, Alenach, save that he was the foremost leader and principal driving force behind the White Alliance, a loose union of several Laghá city-states, of which Dravá was the largest and most influential, even at that time. He is said to have seized power from local landowners in 58 BF, and cowed the temples and the Greatclans into accepting him as chief magistrate of the city. The founding of the White Alliance is assumed to have taken place after this. Alenach is thought to have died in 26 BF, but this is little more than conjecture.

Welcome to the New Ytherra Blog!

The minuscule number of regular visitors to this blog will notice that a major change has been made. The look of the place has been changed and the vast majority of posts have been pulled backstage. Nothing has been deleted, and certainly all Ytherra material is recorded elsewhere. But this blog has been re-purposed. It will no longer serve in its original role of releasing Ytherra material to the public — at which it was an utter failure anyway.

Instead, this will be the general-purpose blog for Ytherra Games Studio, a “soon” to be launched publishing effort with the aim of getting several of my projects (including Ytherra) into print. So welcome to the new place!