Although a much more complete guide to the Aesidhe language is in development and will be available soon on the website and elsewhere, I do want to give some very brief notes on the pronunciation and structure of the language for the curious.
The Aesidhe vowel structure is very simple, with only five primary vowel sounds and occasionally nasal exceptions. There are no dipthongs.
a – as the a in “father”
e – as the e in “get”
i – as the e in “be”
o – as the o in “phone”
u – as the u in “flu”
~ – a tilde above the vowel marks that the vowel should be nasal. Additionally, vowels after nasal consonants (n,m) tend to be slightly nasal as well, except for e, but are not usually marked. A nasal vowel before a b or p also usually has a slight m sound before the b or p. Similarly, nasals before k tend to have a slight ng sound. For example, the Aesidhe word for “two”, yamakshi, would be pronounced “ya-mãng-kshi.”
Aesidhe has fewer consonants than English, and its most common sounds nearly all have English equivalents. Oddities include the throated hh sound, the t/th sound for t, and the glottal stop.
b – as the b in “bet”
ch – as the ch in “witch” and not voiced as in "cheat"
chh – as “ch”, but voiced in the back of the throat as with "hh"
g – as the g in “goo”
h – as the h in “hit”
hh – as ch in Scottish "loch" or German "achtung." Like "k" further back in the throat.
k – as the c in “coo”
khh – as “k”, but voiced in the back of the throat as with "hh"
l – as the l in “let”
m – as the m in “met”
n – as the n in “net”
p – as the p in “pet”
phh – as “p”, but voiced in the back of the throat as with "hh"
s – as the s in “sap”
sh – as the s in “sure”
t – pronounced like a cross between the English t and th; similar to the Spanish t (alveolar-dental)
thh – as “t”, but voiced in the back of the throat as with "hh"
w – almost as the w in “wet” - similar to English, but usually more aspirated, like hw
y – as the y in “yet”
z – as the z in “zap”
zh – as the z in “azure”
' – indicates a glottal stop, a quick break before continuation of a sound; example: p'o would be pronounced like “puh-OH” rather than “poe”
The stress system for Aesidhe words is fairly regular. The primary stress typically falls on second syllable, with secondary stress on every other syllable thereafter. There are irregulars, typically Proper names, which are most often accented on the first syllable, and again secondarily on alternating syllables thereafter. Any words which are not accented on the second syllable will be marked with a diacritic (') above the primarily accented vowel.
Grammar, Diction, and Everything Else
Of course, even a basic discussion of grammar and diction is far too lengthy for a novella-sized e-book. Still, I'll hit some highlights and points of interest here, just for fun...
Word order is Subject-Object-Verb. Structure is very regular and formal. Even object omission is rare and considered very informal. “Do you love me?” would almost always be answered, “I do love you.” Even simple interjections and answers to yes/no questions are usually full sentences. Complex and compound sentences are non-standard, and there are only two sentence conjunctions — áo (“or”), and tegoni (“therefore.”)
Parts of Speech
Nouns – Nouns in Aesidhe are created many ways, and have a very high level of irregularity, often extending into what would in English be metaphor. Nouns are often derived from verbs or combined verbal and nominal elements, and many verbs can simply be given a noun prefix to nominalize it. Others are believed to be derived from an earlier language or languages, onomatopoeia, and nouns are also a class where loan words from other languages are relatively common. It is even quite acceptable to use a phrase of description as a noun... “that colorful airy thing” is a perfectly good substitute for “waleni” (“butterfly”).
Nouns consistently decline by number (-ya suffix for plural), and sometimes by animacy (especially for a living being which has died, or an inanimate thing which is personified); gender is often implied by vowel sound, but there are no strict rules.
Some examples of Aesidhe nouns: “pugalo” (“body”) is literally a “walking form.” The Aesidhe “wanawi” means “star” or also “afterlife,” and combines “wa” (animacy prefix, “alive”) + “ina” (“night”) + “wi” (“little”). “Yachaiotosu” (“truth”) is, literally, “Many speaking as one.”
Pronouns – Aesidhe has a fairly complex pronoun structure. Pronouns decline by animacy (is it a living thing or no?), gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter), and number (singular, plural). They tend to be very regular, though personal pronouns have some irregularities and add more complexity to the cases: person (first, second, third), location (proximate, obviate), and the addition of two numbers (dual, dual personal/familiar). Examples: “washechuli” (“they/them”) would most literally mean “those several females over there.” “kóli” means “You and I who are very good friends.”
Proper Nouns – Names, titles, and other honorifics are also a highly creative area of the Aesidhe language. You might have noticed, for instance that Adria has three Aesidhe names; this is not uncommon, and every Aesidhe receives at least one childhood name and one adult name upon reaching adulthood.
Names are almost always formed by adapting or truncating a verb phrase to a nominal form, and then this name is often subsequently shortened to 2-3 syllables for everyday/informal use. Names are only given by someone elder to the one being named (rarely his or her parent), and always describe something applicable to the person. Thus, an Aesidhe camp is often full of very small children who are unnamed, and simply called “méne” (“child”), “méli” (“girl”), “méko” (“boy”); modifiers are used when more specificity is needed. Names in particular often ignore the normal stress rules, particularly for females, instead placing the stress on the first syllable (two of Adria's informal names follow this pattern).
Verbs – Verbs are most definitely the core of the Aesidhe language, and have a fairly rich but mostly standardized set of conjugations. All verbs are considered transitive, and require both a subject and an object to function. Another peculiarity is that Aesidhe verbs are essentially all active; there are no linking verbs or direct translations of the verb “be” or its many English forms. Aesidhe instead tends to use descriptive verbs relating to the senses to indicate a state of being or quality—and even these are best considered active, though they conjugate differently. The English “How are you?” would translate to the Aesidhe equivalent of “Does your body feel whole?” or something similar.
Verbs tend to have the most original roots, meaning that few of them are adapted from other parts of speech, whereas many other parts of speech are certainly derived from Aesidhe verbs. This seems to pair with cultural norms of the Aesidhe quite well. Animacy is more typical than in other cultures, and so ideas of action and motion as well.
Active verbs have four valency types: normal transitive (vast majority), ditransitive, object transitive, and postpositional transitive. Valency describes how a particular verb relates to its object or objects, and mostly just allows certain verbs to have assumed or modified objects. For instance, a postpositional transitive verb “sleep” could ignore the most likely used postposition: “I sleep bed.” Valency is a function of the root word itself, and thus is not an actual part of the conjugation.
Regular active verbs conjugate for aspect, mood, and number. Here is the default form: root + (aspect) + (number) (affirmation/negation particle) (mood particle)
There are three verbal aspects: imperfect (default, no ending), showing that the action is not completed within the sentence context; perfect (“-pi”), showing completion of the action (though not necessarily past tense); and habitual (“-we”); showing repetitive or ongoing action.
Verbs are singular by default, but conjugate for plurality (“-la”) to match the subject of the sentence, just as in English.
Although not actually considered a part of the conjugation, the affirmation or negation particle is mentioned here, because when it is used it is placed before the mood particle. See elsewhere for details.
The mood of a verb is expressed by a final particle, and is the most complicated part of the conjugation. The most common mood is the indicative, which is the default and has no particle, and is used to indicate a statement or question.
The subjunctive mood shows an uncertainty on the part of the speaker in one of three ways: “sni” is used to indicate that the substance of the sentence is second hand, and so the speaker cannot personally verify it. “gnu” shows that the speaker is uncertain of the actuality of the statement, as in future events, things which are unseen, or things which are purely subjective. Note that “gnu” does not in itself dictate a future tense. “t’úmni/tʼúmne/tʼúmno” (gender - matches the speaker, not the subject) indicates a desire or intent on the speaker's part.
The imperative mood is used to give an order or make a request. There are twelve particles for the imperative, varying by both relative age/status and relative gender. For example, a male making a request of a younger female would end the verb with “óhi” … if she were to make a request in return, she would end with “hechayo.” There are many norms and customs which alter this usage contextually, however, even within the same conversation, especially where one may be older than another, and yet of lesser status in some way, or when addressing groups of both genders (oddly, Aesidhe has no gender-neutral mood particles, but typically defaults to the female unless there are many more males than females).
Though uncommon, there are irregular conjugations in Aesidhe, which include changeable vowels for aspect, affix variations (such as odd default gender subjunctive mood verbs).
So, in case you haven't noticed, there is no conjugation for tense. The Aesidhe do not have a simple verb form to express past, present, or future activity, though this can be partially determined from aspect. Otherwise, where an order of events is important, it is usually understood from context, or else it can be specified by using ordinal modifiers after the verb to compare actions. This would basically sound like “I climb first up the tree. I prepare second my bow. I see second a large elk. The elk runs third away. My arrow misses third the elk.” This would be three separate moments with five separate actions occurring.
Modifiers – Adjectives, adverbs, and numbers are all handled very similarly, and always appear after the element modified (usually written with a hyphen separating). Like nouns, modifiers have a wide range of formality, and few fixed rules. There are two practices which warrant explanation: reduplication and combination.
Reduplication is commonly used for comparative adjectives and adverbs. A very simple example is with the adjective “-gi” (“good, enjoyable”). When asked to compare two flutes (“isuya”), for example, a musician may describe the the first as “isu-gi” (“good flute”), and the second as “isu-gigi” (“very good flute”). If both flutes are of equal quality, an actual comparative would likely be used, rather than reduplication: “isuya-gi ch'a” (“very good flutes”).
Combinations are also allowed with modifiers, with a wide range of freedom for the speaker. There are relatively few adjectives and adverbs, so it is common practice to conjoin them as desired, often omitting sounds as convenient, so long as some clarity can be conveyed (often allowable by tone and context). A good example would be “gentle.” There is no word for “gentle” in Aesidhe, so a speaker might give the impression by combining the Aesidhe modifiers for “slow” and “careful” like this: “zhuhi” (“slow”) + “zhuwi” (“careful”) = “zhuhiwi” or “zhuwihi” or “zhuzhuwi” … any of these could mean “gentle” or “graceful” or “deliberate” when applied to a noun or pronoun. After a verb, they would mean “gently” or “gracefully” or “deliberately.” If one bird was more graceful than another, she might be called “zhuhiwiwi” … which has the added benefit of sounding like a bird onomatopoetically.
Aesidhe has a set of both cardinal (“one... two... three...”) and ordinal (“first... second... third...”) numbers which specify 1-10, then have three non-specific words for “many,” “very many,” and “uncountable.” Each of these numbers is descriptive and conceptual on its own, and can often also act as nominal or verbal elements. The adjective forms of these are simplified, and only a few of them are commonly used in this way:
-be - “no, none”
-io - “a, an, one”
-chʼono - “some, several”
-kse - “many”
-ksese - “very many”
-po - “all, every”
-gnu - “any”
A good way to think of numbers for the Aesidhe is: They will usually not specify a number, even when asked. The answer to the question, “How many elk did you see?” would be “I saw some elk” or even “Elk who would feed the tribe for a season walked.”
Postpositions – Like English prepositions, Aesidhe prepositions affix to a noun or a pronoun to create nominal phrases, though these suffix directly to the end of a nominal, rather than create a phrase by appearing before. English “under the hill,” for instance, would take the form “hillunder” (sometimes written with an intermediary hyphen). There are two types of postpositions: locative, and motive. Locative postpositions place a noun or pronoun in space: “óch’o” (“between”), “ho” (“at”). Motive postpositions imply motion: “heto” (“onto”), “lemuhã” (“upwards, into the sky”). Note that, although these affix directly to the noun or pronoun, they have their own stress, many of which are irregular.
Function Words – Like any language, there is a bit of a miscellany to Aesidhe.
Rather than changing pitch on a word, the Aesidhe have an actual sound to mark emphasis: the particle “si” is spoken after a word to emphasize it if the speaker is female; if male, the particle “so” is spoken.
The “gna” particle is used at the beginning of a sentence or independent clause to denote a question, but cannot be used for a request (this is handled solely by the verb).
Affirmations and negations are a bit odd in that they really function somewhat more like interjections. The Aesidhe equivalent of “yes” is “ka.” It is used after the verb to indicate agreement to something already said, but not typically to answer a question. Similarly, “be” is used like “no” or “not,” but is appropriate (and often necessary) as a modifier on the verb in response to a question. Neither “ka” nor “be” is used alone, outside the context of a sentence, except by young children; it is generally considered rude.