Thursday, August 25, 2022

Talk like a Human

Traveling across the North you're likely to meet some humans.  Many of those humans speak the language of the Isquentaga, or something closely related to it, so it helps if you know a little of that tongue.  Here's a quick intro.


When elven memory-transfer technology is used to record human words, here's how they're spelled.  Vowels are sort of like Spanish:

  • a [a] as in swat 
  • e [e] as in whey 
  • i [i] as in ski 
  • o [o] as in tone 
  • ų [ʌ̃] as in skunk

These consonants are just like in English: p, t, k, ch, s, h, m, n, l, w, yG is always [g] like in gear or give (not like in gem).  Qu is a [kʷ] sound like in English.  Ts is the same as in English, but note that it can show up at the start of a word, like tsigem "seagull".


The most common greeting is simply yeque "health".  If you want to know who you're dealing with:

  • Ska naga?  "Who are your (f) people?"
  • Ska taga?  "Who are your (m) people?"

The way to say "your" changes by the gender of who you're talking to.

  • To a man: tachale "your canoe", takata "your mother", taquotsi "your dream".
  • To a woman: nachale "your canoe", nakata "your mother", naquotsi "your dream".

Answering the question is easier, since it doesn't change for gender.

  • Ogansi iga. "Ogansi is my people."

Asking someone's name works the same way:

  • Ska nawana?  "What is your (f) name?"
  • Ska tawana?  "What is your (m) name?"
  • Ųskalak iwana.  "Ųskalak is my name."

There's no word for "is" in the Isquentaga language.  To say "What is your name?" you literally say Ska tawana? "What your-name?".

Any noun can take a possessive prefix.  Wana "name" becomes:

  • iwana "my name"
  • tawana "your (m) name"
  • nawana "your (f) name"
  • kewana "his name"
  • niwana "her name"
  • akana "its name" (ak-wana but the w disappears)

    Offering in Trade

    If you don't speak the language well, trade will have to be simple and blunt.

    • Itsya sehek. "I want an arrow."
    • Ketsya olet.  "He wants a jackrabbit."

    Here we have itsya "I want" (pronounced like "eats ya") and ketsya "he wants".  The root word is tsya "want" plus a prefix to show who's doing the action.  Verbs use the same prefixes as possessive nouns, so the i- in iwana "my name" is the same as the i- in ipo "I hunt".

    • Itsya cho chale. "I want this canoe."
    • Itsya na chale. "I want one canoe."
    • Itsya qua chale. "I want three canoes."
    • Itsya pamak chale. "I want all the canoes."

    Nouns don't change to become plural, so chale means either "canoe" or "canoes".

    • Ikatsya. "I want those."
    • Ikatsya chale. "I want the canoes."
    • Ikitsya. "I want it."
    • Ikitsya chale. "I want the canoe."

    Notice the -ka- in ikatsya?  Verbs can take a prefix for their object as well, the thing being acted upon.  I-ka-tsya is basically "I-them-want". 

    • verb structure: subject-(object)-root

    Sometimes a prefix changes depending on the sounds around it.  The rules are a little complicated, but we can see an example with ikitsya "I-it-want".  The "it" prefix is actually ak- but i-ak-tsya isn't allowed.  The i-ak merges together to ik- and then an -i- is inserted to make the word more pronouncable: ikitsya "I want it."

    • Inaman cho squana. "I offer this blanket." 
    • Iknaman cho squana. "I offer this blanket."
    • Iknaman. "I offer it."

    Here, i-ak-naman "I-it-offer" becomes iknaman as the sounds merge together.  The -ak- "it" prefix is optional if the object is mentioned explicitly, so you can say either "I-offer this blanket" or "I-it-offer this blanket".

    Nouns in this language have a gender, so if do you use an object prefix it has to be of the right gender: ak- "it", ke- "he", ni- "she".

    • Maknaman chale. "We offer a canoe (it)."
    • Makatsya chochag. "We want hominy (it)."
    • Maketsya aya. "We want clay (him)."
    • Makenaman samas. "We offer an antler (him)."
    • Manitsya nala. "We want copper (her)."
    • Maninaman mak. "We offer a dog (her)."

    To show the one who benefits from the action, use the helping verb si at the beginning:

    • Tasi inaman squana. "I offer you (m) a blanket."
    • Isi ninaman chale. "She offers me a canoe."
    • Kasi tanaman yama. "You (m) offer them a potato."

    Tasi "for you" has a prefix to show who this is for: "you-for I-offer this blanket". 

    Trade Questions

    We've seen how to make statements, now let's try some questions.

    Nakatsya. Nahotsya? Hokatsya?
    na-ka-tsya na-ho-tsya ho-ka-tsya
    you.f-them-want you.f-what-want what-them-want
    "You (f) want them." "What do you (f) want?" "Who wants them?"

    Instead of using a personal prefix (like i- "I" or ke- "he") there's also a question prefix ho- that means "what" or "who".  Ho- can be used as the subject or object of a verb, and it can also be used as the possessor of a noun.

    • Hotsya pamak tųk? "Who wants all the rocks?" 
    • Hosi taknaman tųk? "Who do you (m) offer the rock to?"
    • Natsya hotųk? "Whose rock do you (f) want?"

    Yes/no questions are a little more complicated.  To make a statement into a yes/no question you add go at the start, then tack the suffix -a onto the last word in the statement.  Both parts are required.

    Tatsya mak. Go tatsya maka?
    ta-tsya mak go ta-tsya mak-a
    you.m-want dog q you.m-want dog-q
    "You (m) want the dog." "Do you want the dog?"

    Negatives use a similar structure, adding ha at the beginning and adding -ens to the last word in the part being negated.

    Itsya chale. Ha itsya chalens.
    i-tsya chale
    ha i-tsya chale-ens
    I-want canoe
    not I-want canoe-not
    "I want the canoe." "I don't want the canoe."

    A Quick Trade

    Here's a little dialog to show how trade might work.  The only new vocab word here is ųm "give".

    • A: Yeque!  Atalak iwana.  Ska tawana?
    • Hello!  My name is Atalak.  What is your name?
    • W: Yeque!  Weyanoto iwana.  Tahonaman?
    • Hello!  Weyanoto is my name.  What do you offer?
    • A: Iknaman cho chale.  Go takatsya?
    • I offer you this canoe.  Do you want it?
    • W: Ikitsya.  Go tanitsya inala?
    • I want it.  Do you want my copper ornament?
    • A: Ho initsyans.  Go takanaman tasquana?
    • I don't want it.  Do you offer your blankets?
    • W: Go ikanaman, takųm chale?
    • I offer them and you give me your canoe?
    • A: Tasi im chale.
    • I give you the canoe.

    That's all for now.  Let me know if you'd like to see more content like this, either in this language or in one of the other languages.