The language of magic, part 5 of lots

22 Oct

Inamali is the language of magic – the language of the Inamali people and their writings, including their spell books. It is the language Karia must master if she is to understand how to destroy magic.

And I thought you may enjoy the books a lot more if you understand a few things about the Inamali language.

Spoiler alert: If you have not read The House in the Old Wood, you will not want to read the rest of this post.

One key facet of the Inamali language is its use of what we call “constructed verbs.”

In English, we modify verbs based on the subject:

I walk, she walks, etc.

We also modify verbs based on the tense:

I walked, she walks, etc.

Sometimes we’ll add words for those reasons, as in, “I will walk” or “she will be walking.”

But aside from a few irregular verbs, some of which we do next to nothing to (such as bid), that’s about all we do with verbs, and we call that conjugation.

Some languages, such as Inamali, go much further with their verbs. Concepts that we would use separate words for get combined into the verb in constructed verbs. Pronouns, for instance. In English, we would say, “He hit me.” But in Inamali, it would be something like “Hehitme.”

Let’s back up and take this more slowly.

Inamali verbs have a basic form. Tsika, for example, means to hope. Taka means to remember. I’ve previously mentioned that tsiva means to fish.

To those we can add prefixes. You’ve heard of those – they’re something that’s added to the front of a word to change its meaning. We can also add suffixes – those go at the end of the word. What we don’t do in English is add infixes – stuff that drops into the middle of the word to change the meaning. (OK, we do in slang and some technical terms, but really, no, we don’t.)

Inamali uses all of those, but most especially, for the construction of verbs, infixes.

Lina is future tense, and lita is past tense (well, not precisely, but we’ll deal with that later), and those are infixes, so tsilinaka (tsika split by lina) means something like “will hope” and talitaka (taka split by lita) carries a meaning similar to “remembered.”

Pronouns are also built into the verbs in Inamali, rather than being separate words as they are in English. In ancient Inamali these are present in every verb. In the Inamali of Karia’s day, they appear irregularly. They are in the process of disappearing in cases where they are not needed – for instance, in sentences with a subject and an object. Let me give you an example:

Tlisilitar’ulukali Karia Failean.

This literally translates as, “Karia she has walked slowly toward her (formal) Failean.” The verb alone translates as “She has walked slowly toward her (formal),” because we’re talking about Karia and her mom. Here’s how it breaks down:

Tli is a prefix indicating that the subject is singular and feminine.

Sili is the root verb, to walk slowly.

Lita is an infix – falling between si and li – that shows past tense (sort of). But here it’s pronounced litar because of the glottal stop (‘) following.

ulu is an infix – after the tense, before the last part of the verb – that indicates that the object is feminine, singular and respected.

Ka is an infix indicating direction, in this case, toward.

This gives you an idea of the order of infixes, too, which is important: Tense, object marker, then direction. You could also have infixes here for intent (such as evil, or friendly), pace (which is unnecessary in this case since sili means to walk slowly), whether they are causative – and more.

For the sake of all our sanity, please don’t ask me to explain “causative.” And the “more”? Let’s let that one lie, too, OK?

So it’s possible, in modern Inamali, that the sentence we had above could also be written:

Silitakali Karia Failean.

This verb translates simply as “walked slowly toward.” But in this case, it is unlikely the markers for the subject (the prefix tli) and object (the infix ‘ulu) would be dropped because the object is formal.

Next time: Am I making you tense?

Have you read the second part of Karia’s tale, Karia’s Path? Get it on Amazon.

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