hrj: (Alpennia w text)
The pattern of titles for the Alpennia books just sort of evolved on its own, but in that way where you can tell that your subconscious knew what it was doing. I've loved that every title in the main series addresses multiple aspects of the story from multiple angles. And that pattern has ended up helping brainstorm themes for future books.

Daughter of Mystery, as a title, was rather carefully designed to be interpretable as applying either to Margerit (due to her work with thaumaturgical mysteries) or to Barbara (due to the deliberate concealing of her parentage and origins). The Mystic Marriage was rather similarly obvious, referring to the alchemical process whereby different basic elements are "married" in a transformative process (symbolized in the literature by the union of the sun and moon, or by other figures representing opposites) to create the elixir or philosopher's stone. So the title has an overt reference to Antuniet's alchemical work, but also very directly to the way in which the very opposite personalities of Antuniet and Jeanne transform each other and achieve a new synthesis. Perhaps somewhat oddly, I didn't bring in the most common motif to which the label "mystic marriage" is applied, which is the symbolic relationship between certain female saints and Christ where their devotion is depicted as a marriage.

In Mother of Souls the interpretations of the title are a bit less direct. The most obvious, perhaps, is Margerit's quest to start a women's college, riffing off the idea of an institution of learning being one's "alma mater" (of which "mother of the soul" is a loose translation). But there's also the theme of the medieval philosopher Tanfrit being, in some way, the mother of "modern" Alpennian academic thaumaturgy. And then there's a less overt sense of the Rotein river begin something of a symbolic maternal figure to the city and the land. (This is symbolized more clearly in the very briefly mentioned figure of Saint Rota, colloquially known as "Mama Rota", who began as a Roman-era river deity, later converted into a saint, but largely forgotten except among certain segments of the population. But you'll hear more about Mama Rota in Floodtide.)

The original idea for the title Mistress of Shadows (the book that follows chronologically after both Mother of Souls and Floodtide) came from the idea of Barbara taking up a new career in Alpennia's secret service, riffing off the slang term used in Daughter of Mystery using "shadows" to refer to employees used for quasi-legal activities. But I know I'd solidly hooked another of the themes for that book when I realized it would also apply to a new viewpoint character whose mystical talents include an ability to create connections between mystically powerful, but unskilled persons and mysteries designed by other parties. will all make sense when it comes up. In any case, the potentially sinister aspects of her talents, and the spin placed on them by other people, make her another natural candidate for the label "mistress of shadows".

I've been brainstorming for some time trying to come up with a title centering around "sister", and at the moment I have some vague ideas of possibly using Sisters in Spirit for the next book after that. It's a bit far out to have more than a few tendrils of plot worked out, but one of the themes will be women from very different spheres, who would be expected to be rivals and even enemies, finding kinship and common cause. Now if I were brainstorming for alternate interpretations of the title in order to try out some potential secondary plots, "spirit" automatically suggests something supernatural to do with ghosts or the like. It's a bit of a shame that the major period of spiritualism (in our own timeline) is just a smidge too late to tie in well. It would be a natural as a medium (see what I did there?) for Alpennian-style mysticism. Who knows, by the time I get to writing it, I'll have decided that advancing things by a decade or so is ok for plot purposes.

Given the events and concepts I've been noodling around with for the hypothetical Sisters in Spirit, I think the concluding book with the revolution would come after that one. And being a story that will focus on transformations and looking forward, some sort of title-word in the semantic field of children or heirs or descendants will probably be what I aim for.

But all of this started out because I was poking around into the relationship of the word "mystery" between the "religious secret" sense and the "trade mystery" sense, when I was coming up with the idea of the "mystery guilds" being both social groups devoted to religious activities (mysterium) and being the modern (Alpennian-world) evolution of social and trade organizations focused around a professional activity (misterium, from ministerium). This evolved into a sense of the essence of Fortunatus's De Mysteriis et Misteriis as understanding the development and shaping of thaumaturgical ceremonies as both an act of worship and the practice of a craft. So that sense of overlapping (and unrelated) meanings combining in synergy to produce a new, creative understanding is at the heart of my plot-development process for the entire Alpennian saga.

Plus, of course, my love of wordplay and polysemous ambiguity.
hrj: (doll)
All my creative writing has been driven by language.

That might seem like a circular statement, but I mean, by a language other than my native tongue.

I invented my first language when I was ten years old. That was the year we lived in Prague, which was the spark for a number of my loves, including my deep passion for history. It was my first intimate experience with other languages than my own (although I never learned more than tourist-level Czech). That was what spurred me to play with ideas of how languages could encode ideas differently, and being home-schooled that year left a great deal of mental scope for pursuing my own interests.

That first language (Cerani) started as a simple substitution cipher (which I still use for light security when jotting down things like temporary passwords). It then acquired a syllabary associated with the symbols which I used to drive vocabulary creation and finally I developed the apparatus of grammar and syntax, including “inventing” some features (like noun classifier prefixes) that I only later learned were used in real world languages.

The impetus for this column came from a comment I made on [ profile] aryanhwy’s journal that all my angsty teen-age poetry had been written in an invented language, for better diary security. Cerani was that language. I can still recite some of the poems by heart. (Nare po-daru qua si ran po-lers...) They were definitely not masterpieces of versification, but they got me thinking about the role of language in shaping and expressing ideas. (A line of thinking that achieved its apotheosis when I studied cognitive linguistics--but I get ahead of myself.)

I started serious fiction writing when I was seventeen. That was the year we lived in Munich. (You may spot a theme here.) I’d done an accelerated high school graduation so that I wouldn’t have to deal either with finishing my senior year after a break or trying to do a senior year at the American High School in Munich (which would pretty much have eaten up my entire life with commuting). So my time was entirely my own that year (other than teaching myself calculus and sightseeing) and I started churning out a number of rather amateurish fantasy stories. I don’t remember whether the stories I wrote that year had significant linguistic content (I could check -- they’re still in my files somewhere), but the fiction I wrote in the following years when I was in college was very language-driven.

My favorite world-building technique in that period was to create a poem using a sort of “automatic writing” approach, then assign a general meaning to the poem, then start working out what the vocabulary and grammar must be to achieve that meaning, then explore what sort of society would have created that poem and used that language. The poems themselves often fell away from the stories, like scaffolding that isn’t needed after the building is complete. I’d have to dig through the files to find examples. It was a useful way of freeing up my imagination, even though none of those stories were ever read by other eyes.

Another thing that happened the year I was seventeen was that our travels included a few days sightseeing in Wales, trying to locate the town the Joneses had lived in before heading for the New World in the early 18th century. I picked up a pamphlet on the Welsh language while we were there and developed an irrational emotional attachment to the language based on equal parts family history and my love for the neglected and unfashionable things of the world. In the following years, I picked up some textbooks and language learning materials. My activity in the SCA gave a context for diving into Welsh history and the older forms of the language. And that, in time, led me to take a break from working in biotech to get a PhD in linguistics studying the semantics of Medieval Welsh prepositions.

Grad school intersected my writing life in another very practical way: when I needed a part-time job convenient to the U.C. Berkeley campus, I fell into a position at MZB’s Fantasy Magazine. There is nothing like hanging out with authors and publishing people for stimulating one’s own impulses toward writing. I’d still been writing stories in the meantime, but--after a few abortive attempts in college--had never gotten up to the point of submitting anything anywhere. But in that environment, I started working on several lesbian historic romance novels set in my favorite points of Welsh history. (They’re still in my “get back to this” folder, so some day....) And I turned my hand to short fiction because all my friends were submitting to Sword and Sorceress so it seemed like the thing to do.

My first published story, Skins was inspired by the intersection of a dream that gave me the opening scene of the story and a poem/song I’d written about transforming into an owl. As with my college world-building exercises, I’d set about “back-translating” the song into it’s original form, and that gave me the kaltaoven language and, by extension, a significant amount of world-building about the culture of my skin-changers and their relationship to the dominant culture. The skin-singer stories have bits and snippets of the kaltaoven language sprinkled throughout, but I have a great deal more of the language developed and some day (if I’m ever famous enough to have obsessive fans) I may put more of it out there.

Él-taov alyev,
Mél-daegh alyev,
A-gyam doér-bol pen-poengnga,
A-gyam pen-daegh-leos-na,
Kael-keol i'éle i'óe,
je-taov-og v-tev,
njad-noed-gyam go'om-keov j-kéve tón-taen

I wrote the original version of my Mabinogi-inspired short story Hoywverch around about the same time the third skin-singer story appeared (1997) and sold it to Jinx Beers’ Lesbian Short Fiction but the story was killed before appearing when the magazine folded due to health reasons. The original version was language-inspired in that I was trying to capture the flavor and rhythms of medieval Welsh prose, but when I decided to dust it off last year and look around for another venue, I indulged myself by “untranslating” the opening paragraph into 14th century Welsh. And when I submitted it to for their Artemis Rising series, I took the daring step of including the Welsh opening as well as the parallel English text. I confess to some curiosity whether the logistics of finding a reader who could manage the Welsh played any part in the acceptance decisions, but they took it. And now I’m on tenterhooks waiting to hear how it came out. (Soon. Soon. Sometime in the next two weeks!)

Elin verch Gwir Goch oed yn arglwydes ar Cantref Madruniawn wrth na bo i’w thad na meibion na brodyr. A threigylgweith dyvot yn y medwl vynet y hela. Ac wrth dilyt y cwn, hi a glywei llef gwylan. Ac edrych i fyny arni yn troi, a synnu wrthi. A’y theyrnas ymhell o’r mor. Ac yna y gelwi i gof ar y dywot y chwaervaeth Morvyth pan ymadael ar lan Caer Alarch: Os clywhych gwylan yn wylo, sef minnau yn wylo amdanat. A thrannoeth cyvodi a oruc ac ymadael a’y theulu a’y niver a’y chynghorwyr, a marchogaeth a oruc tra doeth i’r mor.

The language elements in the Alpennia stories are a bit more subtle and backgrounded. I’ve written previously on the background to Alpennian language and names:

On langauge
On names
On socio-linguistics

Here the language development didn’t drive the world-building, but given my background there was no way that I was going to ignore the linguistic aspects of inventing an entire country. And the importance of language in the Mysteries of the Saints gave me a large canvass for bringing my linguaphilia to bear.

Even when my writing has not been directly driven by my study and experimentation with language and linguistics, those interests have always shaped and influenced my fiction. If I’ve done it well (which only readers can tell me), the language aspects add flavor--a bit of salt and pepper but not a whole Scotch Bonnet hot pepper in the middle of the stew.
hrj: (doll)
Titles, Forms of Address, and Courtesy Among and Between Classes

To conclude my essay on Alpennian language and names, I’ll cover some issues of pragmatics and socio-linguistics. (You can take the girl out of academia, but you’ll never take academia out of the girl.)

I’ve created what is probably a very oversimplified system of honorifics and forms of address, but since I deploy them liberally to indicate nuances of relationships between characters (on a level that is probably under the radar for most readers) I felt it was important to have a clear structure. So here goes.

Everyone, no matter at what level of society, has an honorific prefixed to their name (given name or surname) on formal occasions and when respect is being shown. As Margerit notes, “Even the scullery maid is Mefro Lutild on Sundays.” These honorifics are marked for gender and for class, but not for marital status.

Working-class Mefro (f) and Mefroi (m) (derived from the word for “my” plus the derivation of an old germanic root “fraujo/frauja” that originally meant “lord/lady”)

Middle-class Maisetra (f) and Maistir (m) (from Latin Magistra/Magister)

Upper-class Mesnera (f) and Mesner (m) (from the word for “my” plus the Alpennian derivation of the Latin root “senior” which also gave use French “signeur” and Spanish “señor(a)”).

The linguistic gender distinctions in the latter two pairs are something of an anomaly, possibly driven by a deliberate conservatism due to awareness of the Latin roots. The gender distinction in mefroi/mefro is native to Alpennian and is seen similarly (and for the same root) in the nouns burfroi/burfro indicating a person of the middle class (i.e., “bourgeois”).

There is some flexibility in formality in whether the honorific is used with the given name or surname. One of your own servants might be Mefro(i) [given name] except for those with special status like the housekeeper or butler. But generally if you want to show respect (and especially for a stranger) you’d use it with the surname. A child might be Maisetra/Maistir [given name] but for an adult you’d always use the surname (hence Margerit takes note of who continues to addresses her as Maisetra Margerit rather than Maisetra Sovitre). I can imagine that there might be contexts in the upper class where someone might address a child as “Mesner(a) [given name]”, but in general there would be more of a polarization between someone familiar enough to use the given name alone or not familiar and so using the more formal version with the surname.

For the even smaller set of noblemen or noblewomen with a title, they might be addressed by the full title (Baron Saveze) or by honorific+surname (Mesner Lumbeirt), but in general if being referred to in the third person it will be with the title. Another titled individual, especially one with a close relationship or if there’s a hint of less-than-complete respect may address someone just by title (Saveze). Similarly at all levels, a familiar or not entirely respectful relationship may be reflected by addressing someone by surname alone without an honorific. So, for example, when Charul Pertinek (a noble) addresses Margerit’s uncle simply as “Fulpi”, it’s to put him in his place, not as a sign of friendship.

When referring to someone in the third person when they aren’t present, the level of formality used will generally reflect the relationship between the speakers, not the relationship of the speaker to the person being referred to. So members of the upper class who are on a first-name basis with each other will habitually refer to others not present by plain surname or title in conversation, but if speaking of the same person to someone of a lower class, or someone of their own class who isn’t a close friend, will always use a formal version.

There is the usual overlap between a “friendly familiar” address and the familiarity of address that is either an expression of social dominance or an outright insult. Use of a given name is the ultimate indication of familiarity for both of these. It’s extremely rare for someone to refer to a person of higher status by given name, and even rarer to do it in direct address. Pay close attention to the circumstances under which Barbara uses “Margerit” rather than “Maisetra Sovitre” even in the privacy of her thoughts, much less in speaking to others. And the occasions when she directly addresses Margerit by her given name (up to the point when they become lovers) are always very marked circumstances of intense emotion. (And a giveaway of how she feels about Margerit.) This is part of the status imbalance between the two of them because Barbara has no known surname for most of the story and her social status is highly ambiguous. So she is always addressed and referred to simply as “Barbara” which, in any other circumstance, would be disrespectful.

Conversely, Barbara always makes a point of referring to Estefen Chazillen as “Estefen”, even after he has the title, as a mark of her scornful opinion of him. (Never to his face because there’s no context when they’re speaking directly.) There are a few other key “tells” involving the use of given names. At one point when LeFevre is talking to Barbara and refers to the old baron as “Marziel” it’s a hint that their long friendship and partnership had eroded the barriers of class and of the employer/employee relationship significantly -- though he never would have addressed him that way in person when he was alive. For that matter, pay attention to the one occasion in the entirety of Daughter of Mystery when someone refers to LeFevre by his given name. It’s a major give-away of something that is otherwise only very subtly indicated. (And, to some extent, I did that as a bit of an “Easter Egg” for those who picked up on the subtleties.)

Overall, the rules of address and reference are a major but covert tool that I used for establishing and reflecting relationships between people and for indicating attitudes. Because of the nuanced way I was using them for these purposes, I had to start with some fairly simple and rigid structures to play off, otherwise the readers would have no hope of picking up on when the variations were meaningful. The rules and how they’re bent and broken aren’t meant to be something that jumps out at the reader, but rather as something that might be noticed as an afterthought and that subtly shaped the reading experience.
hrj: (doll)
ETA: A couple very minor corrections made after the initial posting.

(I continue my three-part series on Alpennian language and names.)

Alpennian Names

As with the underlying parameters of the Alpennian language, the location and common history with its neighbors sets out the basics of the names in use.

Personal names will have some sort of deep-level substrate of both Latin and Germanic compound names with constant infusions of the standard European name pool, introducing names of Christian significance and those that became popular through cultural exchange among the elite levels of society. The latter developed into what one might think of as the “European international name pool”. All of this would be well established long before the early 19th century setting of my novels. In fact, the differences between the personal name inventories in different European countries at that time were relatively subtle, expressed largely in the way individual names developed within the rules of the local language, or how they were adapted when borrowed into local usage. In some ways, I’ve exaggerated the distinctiveness of Alpennian names to emphasize that we aren’t in familiar territory. And I’ve emphasized certain aspects of the Alpennian name pool in non-historic ways to be able to use certain aspects of naming as a class signifier.

The differences between Alpennian names and those of neighboring countries come from two major sources: the Alpennian sound-changes described in the previous section, and the choice of a starter set of name elements. As I noted before, for reasons of geography and (relative) obscurity, I used the obsolete Langobardic language as my jumping off point on the germanic side of the equation. My source lists hundreds of recorded Langobardic names (both male and female) which can be deconstructed into prothemes and deuterothemes (roughly: prefixes and suffixes) as well as supplying some models for non-compounded names and diminutives. These compounding elements have parallels in other germanic languages but the specific sets, frequency, and combinations are distinctive.

In addition to this starting Langobardic name pool, I added in the Latin forms of a vast number of popular names from Christian tradition. Names that would have come into Alpennian use later (by borrowing) were adapted similarly, not because they would have gone through the same historic sound-changes, but on the principle that they would have been modified to fit the Alpennian sound-system at the time they were borrowed. So they may not follow the sound rules strictly, but the result won’t violate the overall patterns of the language.

But it’s not entirely that simple. There might be a certain conservatizing force on Latin names due to the continued use of Latin in liturgical, academic, and legal contexts during the formative periods of the language. Furthermore, names might have been re-introduced multiple times, resulting in inconsistent variants. Names introduced later from the international pool might use that foreign version as a starting point and then might be modified by analogy to conform to Alpennian phonology, or might retain their “foreign” shape as a sort of exoticism. All of these forces give me a little extra freedom in creating the “look and feel” I want for the name pool, as well as providing more variety than a purely mechanical system would.

As the author, I can also use the device of presenting a truly foreign name (of a non-Alpennian character) in the spelling appropriate for that character’s origins, in order to signal those origins. So, for example, the estate manager René LeFevre is signaled as being of French origin by his name (with whatever other implications one might choose to draw about his origins and personal history). Similarly, there’s the example of Jeanne de Cherdillac who is ethnically Alpennian but who married a French exile and self-consciously affects a French name and mannerisms as part of her social “performance”. Similarly Barbara’s Italian fencing master in Chalanz has an obviously Italian name, and so forth. Some of the professors at Rotenek University have names indicating foreign origin, in part as a way of indicating the international character of the institution. This is one technique I use regularly to indicate the cosmopolitan nature of Alpennian culture. Names of figures in Alpennian history may be referred to by the “modern” Alpennian forms of their names, or by Latin versions of those names, reflecting how they would have appeared in records of their own time.

On gender

One of the quirks of how I derived Alpennian names is that the original inflectional endings of Latin and Germanic names were lost (though gender-specific associations of particular compound elements or borrowed names were retained). So many names have identical forms used for both men and women, such as Iulien (from Julianus/Juliana). Alpennian grammar--like other Romance languages--retains clear distinctions between masculine and feminine in many forms. (We see this most obviously in gendered forms of the titles of address.) Alpennian society is not by any means gender-neutral or even particularly progressive regarding gender issues. We see in the aspects of “honor culture” a clearly patriarchal leaning, despite certain legal allowances that are more progressive-leaning. But one of the ways I wanted to distinguish the names from other Romance cultures was in not having women’s names always end in “-a” or “-e”.

I may digress a bit on the topic of gender politics: there are structures in Alpennian society that allow for (although don’t overtly encourage) greater gender equality. For example, inheritance is not strictly by male primogeniture. While the tradition of a semi-elected royal succession is unlikely to have been intended to allow for preferring a female heir over available male ones, it makes that possible. And the same case applies to the inheritance of titles. As the old Baron Saveze notes toward the beginning of Daughter of Mystery when he’s baiting his nephew Estefen, there’s nothing in law barring him from leaving the title to Estefen’s sister Antuniet. Or rather, from commending Antuniet to the prince as his chosen heir. There are legal and traditional guidelines for what they call the heir-default -- the person closest in blood and, by preference, male. But the structures that were originally set up to allow power to pass to the person best suited to hold it have the side effect of allowing for women to inherit that power. So the gender neutrality of Alpennian name forms hold a faint reflection of this potential gender equality on a symbolic level, but it was never meant to be cause and effect in either direction.

On Diminutives and Pet-names

Getting back to naming practices in general, another thing I had to come up with was guidelines for diminutives and pet-forms and whatnot. My basic diminutive suffixes are -ek and -et, but with -et provecting to -ez, as in Annek (from Anna) or Tionez (from Diana). They may also occur with a final vowel (sometimes with the consonant doubled) as in Akezze, Toneke. Toneke is a great example of several principles. The original root is from Latin Antonia and following the usual sound-changes we get Antuniet. (The final -et may either be by analogy to French Antoinette or may be the Alpennian diminutive.) But the pet-form clips off the first syllable leaving “-tun-“ which -- now that it picks up the stress -- “remembers” that the vowel was originally o. So the stem returns to Ton- and now we add an entirely different diminutive ending to get Tonek or Toneke. There are a few other techniques for forming diminutives. This not only gives me a greater variety of options when dealing with the fact that -- as in most European societies of the time -- there should be a lot of focus on a small set of popular names like John and Elizabeth. Now I’ve done this with Elizabeth -- in fact it’s something of a running gag in Daughter of Mystery that there are a lot of Elizabeths running around and most of them have an alternate variant form of the name (like Lissa and Bezza) for everyday use to be able to distinguish them. Similarly in The Mystic Marriage, I have two prominent characters named Anna and this is commented on. And one of them gets a clear alternation between the more formal Anna and the affectionate pet-form Annek that everyone uses -- but not to her face.

Another circumstance where diminutive forms show up a lot is in surnames, because a lot of working-class surnames are derived from patronyms, and very often from diminutive forms used as patronyms (as in English -- though it isn’t always directly appearant there if you don’t know the history of the names).

Names that Don’t Follow the Rules

Now, I have sometimes broken the rules of name derivation, either because a character was very emphatic about wanting a particular name, or because the Alpennian form just semed unesthetic to me, or because the correct Alpennian form seemed to have too modern-American a feel to me. I can usually excuse this as being a reversion to an original Latin form. For example, the correct Alpennian form of Barbara should be “Parber”. But not only had Barbara carried her name from the moment she introduced herself to me, I just don’t like the look of Parber at all. So for whatever reason, she uses a Latinate form. Another example is Anna, where the Alpennian form should properly be simply Ann, but that felt too modern so I went with the Latin form. Part of my backstory for this is that use of Latinate forms is something of a class marker with upper class families often preferring them to the vernacular. This puts an interesting twist on the alternation between the more formal, upper-class Anna and the definitively Alpennian diminutive Annek, which is something the character delibrately encourages to emphasize her Alpennian roots. (This is more relevant to events in The Mystic Marriage, so I’m being a little cagy on details.)

Names and Class

I’ve touched a little bit on class issues in names. I wanted to create some clear class markers both for given names and surnames, though I don’t expect the average reader to pick up on them necessarily. It just helps in creating a consistent and distinctive “feel” that helps with worldbuilding. The ways in which I did this aren’t necessarily historically sound in terms of how name pools developed. In general, Alpennian working class people will have names that derive from Germanic roots (that is the Langobardic name pool that I used to create my linguistic “look and feel”) plus the most common of the Christian-origin names, but often using Alpennian diminutives. So, for example, when Barbara says that, whoever her father was, he wasn’t some “Mefroi Iannik” (using the working-class title “mefroi”), she’s emphasizing that he wasn’t of low birth, with Iannik (an Alpennian diminutive of John) standing in for the “common everyman”. The kitchen servants in the Fulpi household have names like “Luzza” and “Gaita” (from germanic roots) or “Aggy” (a pet-form from Agnes). Middle-class given names are more likely to be from the traditional “pan-European” name pool, both of names of Christian significance (especially saints’ names) and popular international names like Richard and Frederick. Upper-class given names draw on this same pool, but also include more recent borrowings from other cultures like Charluz (an Alpennization of Charlotte) or classical names (like Tionez, which is an Alpennian diminutive of Diana).

It is very common for the reader to encounter working-class people only by their surnames. (I’ll get into class dynamics regarding address and reference in the next section.) This isn’t always apparent because, as noted above, the most typical form of working-class surname is taken from a patronym and therefore may look very similar to a given name. (In fact, there are certain characters where I haven’t yet determined whether the name I’ve used for them is a given name or surname.)

Upper-class surnames are typically derived from proper names of places, originally indicating ownership of the land indicated. To generate these names, I started out with the earliest identifiable forms of place names in the general region of south-east France, north-west Italy, and Swizerland, and then applied Alpennian sound-change rules to them. There are also some upper-class surnames deriving from occupations or offices that would have held appropriate status. For example Chazillen comes originally from “castellanus”, someone responsible for the administration of a castle. There’s a certain snobbishness revolving around upper-class surname origins and their relationship to landed titles. Generally older titles will be held by someone who has a surname different from their title, simply due to the way they changed hands down the years. Having a title identical to your surname is generally a marker of a relatively recent elevation, as it either means that the title has been created fresh or that a family with a declassé surname has adopted the title as their surname when receiving it. A surname deriving from a more descriptive place-name (rather than a proper name) such as “Old Mill” (Vezemul) is generally a marker for middle-class origins (or lower), and similarly for surnames derived from working occupations. But there’s a fair amount of overlap at the class margins due to historic mobility.

The final part of this essay will cover forms of address and reference and issues of class dynamics and courtesy in how people speak to and of each other.
hrj: (doll)
Alpennian Language and Names: Part 1 - the linguistic background

I confess it: I have the Tolkien disease. I love using language as a worldbuilding tool. (I have entire trunk novels that were inspired by creating people to speak the langauges I’d invented.) Alpennia didn’t require that type of worldbuilding, but it was inevitable that I’d think a lot about the place of language, language usage, and more specifically about names in the world of my novels.

Researching language and names for an ordinary historical novel is fairly straightfoward: find the right sort of reference works and develop a philosophy about how you plan to balance authenticity and clarity. But while I placed Alpennia in the middle of a very specific time and place in our own world, I wanted to make it clear (in subtle ways) that it was something all its own and not a thinly disguised France or a Switzerland with the serial numbers filed off, or any other number of possibilities. I wanted it to have a look-and-feel all its own that still drew the proper connections with our own history.

I could neither let my imagination flow free and invent something from scratch, nor simply look things up in my over-stocked library of name resources and linguistic references. But both of those processes contributed to the end effect.

After drafting up this essay, I realized that it went on entirely too long, so I decided to break it up into three shorter bits: the background of the language, my strategy for naming characters, and the ways I use forms of address and reference to illustrate the structure of society and the relationships between the characters.

Alpennian Language

It went without saying that, given that I had invented a country, I would do something in the way of defining and describing what the language of that country would be. Geography alone determined the general parameters of the Alpennian language. Alpennia sits nestled in an imaginary space bordering on France, Switzerland, and Italy, roughly adjacent to the Savoy area (but without replacing any existing territory), and more pertinently, roughly in the region inhabited by the Langobard (Lombard) tribe in the post-Roman era. Based on this, we can assume that Alpennia was a Roman province at one point, that there was a strong Latin substrate and later invasion by Germanic tribes, and therefore that it ended up with a Romance language. That Romance language may have had some traces of an original Celtic substrate and definitely had a later overlay of a certain amount of Germanic vocabulary and personal names.

The primary reason to know something about the Alpennian language was to develop a distinctive approach to names, but there’s also a small sprinkling of vocabulary. Nothing where the meaning can’t be determined from context, but where I wanted the words to have an actual history and background. But, as I say, the most visible aspect of Alpennian language is the names. I wanted the reader to be able to trace connections to familiar names yet wanted to make them distinctive and clearly part of a unified culture. My method for coming up with “name seeds” will be described in the next section. I “grew” those seeds by applying a set of sound-change and spelling rules so that they would vary in systematic ways from the way names appear in neighboring cultures like French and Italian. And I wanted to come up with a target “look and feel” to guide my process and use as a touchstone for tweaking the results.

Based on the vague geographic target for Alpennia, I pulled out my copy of Bruckner’s Die Sprache der Langobarden which includes not only ordinary vocabulary but an index of all of the recorded Langobardic personal names. This was the touchstone for my look-and-feel. Now mind you, this is the look-and-feel of the names as recorded in the sub-Roman era. So we aren’t talking about a rational linguistic analysis, but of an esthetic target. I found that target in some of the spelling quirks of how those names had been recorded. In particular, I used the devoicing of stops in certain positions (i.e., b > p, d > t, g > k) as well as certain ways of representing sounds (“z” for the sound “ts”, “ch” for the sound “k” at the beginning of words). The idea wasn’t to imply that the spelling of Alpennian was static from the sub-Roman era through to the 19th century--certainly the specific names were put through major changes to produce the ones I used. But it gave me a target flavor that had some relevance to my fictional location.

After a little playing around, I came up with about a half-dozen sound change rules to use in generating modern Alpennian names. This is a far simpler system than would describe a real language over that time-span, but it was sufficient to the task. This next bit is going to use some technical linguistic terminology, but I’ll give a set of examples to show what I’m talking about.

Step 1: Clip off any inflectional endings, but keep a trace of any high vowels because they sometimes affect the vowel of the final syllable. (I told you I was going to use technical terminology.)

Magdalena > Magdalen
Augustinus > Augustin
Bertolf > Bertolf
Johannes > Johann(es) (forms of the name occur based on both versions)
Stephanus > Stephan
Lombardi > Lombard(i)
Savatio > Savat(i)
castellanus > castellan

Step 2: Stress goes on the first syllable.


Step 3: Certain initial consonant clusters are avoided, especially st-, sp- (as in French and Spanish), but also br- and similar. These are resolved by adding an epenthetic vowel (a schwa-like vowel which will normally be represented by “e”) either before s or between an initial stop and following consonant. This epenthetic vowel does not cause the stress to move. Consonant clusters involving “f” are also unstable, though not the rule isn’t as firm.

BERtolef (the final “lf” counts as a cluster because there is no vowel following, if it had been in the middle of a word the epenthetic vowel might not be necessary)
CAStellan (note that the “st” here doesn’t require insertion of a vowel because it isn’t a cluster -- it segments out as cas-tel-lan)

Step 4: All unstressed vowels are raised. (Initial epenthetic vowels generally remain as “e” but those elsewhere in a word may raise.) “A” may raise to either “e” or “o” depending on environment (I don’t have hard rules here so I wave my hands a little).

LUMberd(i) (note that this is a rare example of a stressed vowel raising, no doubt there is a historic explanation that I haven’t yet invented)

Step 5: This step generally involves a variety of changes to consonants. Syllable-initial stops are devoiced as well as final stops. This does not apply generally to stops in clusters, especially when combined with liquids (l or r) but there are exceptions (I sort or wave my hands about dialectal differences at this point). As a rule, original “t” becomes “ts” (spelled “z”) except in consonant clusters (and certain other rare exceptions) however there are inconsistencies. V will sometimes devoice to F, but there are many exceptions. G when followed by another consonant may become a semi-vowel which generall shows up as i (turning the preceding vowel into a diphthong).

PERtulif (t remains due to the “rt” cluster)
eSTEphen (t remains due to the “st” cluster)
LUMbert(i) (b remains due to the “mb” cluster)
SAvez(i) (note that v has not devoiced in this case)
CASzillen (this is a dialectal exception to the rule that t remains in clusters, I think there may be a sub-rule based on where the stress falls in relation to the cluster)

Step 6: This is the miscellaneous step with changes that aren’t quite as strict. Sometimes there’s syncope that collapses syllables, especially in the aftermath of epenthesis (resuting, in effect, in a vowel moving from one side of a consonant to the other). Clusters of very similar consonants may merge (e.g., “sz” > “z”). Original lost high vowels may result in diphthongs in final syllables, depending on my mood (e.g., Lombardi > Lumbeirt) or may be retained as syllables (generally as a schwa, spelled “e”). Esthetics are part of my process here. I'm looking for what changes result in something that “sounds right."


Step 7: This step is pretty much just applying some spelling rules:
J >> I
PH >> F
TS >> Z (which I’ve already done in step 5)
initial K (as a sound -- it may be spelled C or K) >> CH (but K internally)
X (either as the gutteral “kh” sound or as “ks”) >> H

The initial CH spelling is to get a germanic feel without looking like German. The alternation is most apparent in the text in the shortening of Aukustin to Chustin, but this is the detail where my approach is most likely to mislead the reader and I will undoubtedly run into people who pronounce these names with an English-style “ch”. (And, of course, just to confuse the matter, Jeanne de Cherdillac’s title is pronounced in the French way with “sh”.)


And that’s as much as you need to know about the language and phonology for the moment.
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I was asked yesterday about resources for studying medieval Latin via audio (hearing and speaking aloud), and while I don't know if the asker has an LJ, others might be interested in checking out Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., who specialize in teaching materials for classical languages (among other historical topics). (I will note for the record that I'm a little concerned that their "among other historical topics" include recordings of Hitler's speeches without a larger context of interest in 20th c. political rhetoric, raising questions about the political leanings of the company.)

Hmm, to make up for my uneasiness about the preceding company, here are some other audio resources for Latin that I turned up on a brief Google search:

Now I feel a little better.
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Session 183: New Work by Young Celtic Studies Scholars

Ornament and Incarnation in Insular Art (Ben C. Tilghman, Walters Art Museum)

The title was typoed in the schedule as “Ornament and Incantation …” which sounded quite intriguing. Discusses the use of artistic style for the dating of artifacts, e.g., cross-comparing jewelry and manuscripts with similar ornamental styles to localize one or the other. This is a preface to his main theme about the use of ornament to express the incarnation of God. Examples taken from the Gospels of the Book of Durrow, relating the relationship of the symbols of the evangelists to their framing ornamental motifs to symbolic values of either the evangelists themselves or their symbolic function in relation to Christ. (Don’t try too hard to unpack that.) Switching to the Book of Kells, the “unfinished” ornament at the beginning of Matthew leads the eye further in with gradual elaboration from page to page. He suggests this is a deliberate technique (rather than an unfinished project) with the progression then being “incarnated” with the explosion of ornament of the major decorated pages. It goes on into more and more minute detail. I feel like I’m listening to a theological exegesis rather than an art history critique, in part because if feels like faith is a key part of receiving the interpretation. Maybe sometimes the lack of ornament really is an unfinished artwork?

Diminutive Expressions in Middle Welsh (Karolina Rosiak, Adam Mickiewicz Univ.)

This is the paper I really came to the session for – who could resist Welsh linguistics? Her paper is part of a larger exploration of mode and how diminutives relate to mode. (I assume I’ll find out what she means by “mode” somewhere in here.) Diminutives can be snthetic, i.e. indicated by grammatical form such as sound-symbolism (“tiny” vs. “teeny”), by grammatical displacement, e.g., referring to the addressee in the 3rd person. But they can also be formed by word-formation processes, e.g., compounding, suffixing, reduplication. Another method is by analyitc diminutives, i.e., where the overt semantic form indicates diminutive size, e.g., in Welsh the use of “bach” (small) as an endearment. The diminutive process can create a change in the denotational meaning (e.g., the Welsh conversion of unitary plurals, such as “pryf” insects, worms, to singulars “pryfyn” (insect, worm). Or diminutives can change the connotation meaning, e.g., endearments. But some change connotational meaning negatively. Pragmatic usage of diminutives can depend on the nature and relationship of the interlocutors (when not simply denotational), such as adult to child.

We now get a survey of different analytic methods of forming diminutives in all Celtic languages. And a survey of the Welsh sources used for her study. Earliest examples come from place-names, which don’t speak to the pragmatics of interpersonal use. Examples use “-ig”, “-yn”, “-an”. Some personal name evidence, esp. for the “-an” suffix.

Catalog of suffixes:

-an from Late Brit. –agn-; retains grammatical gender of root word, may occur interchangeably with other suffixes such as “-ig” with similar meaning

-yn (m), -en (f); different gendered forms, suffixed form retains gender of root, this is the suffix used to form singulatives of plural roots

-ig < Brit. –iko-; primarily forms feminine diminutives, but this can be overridded by the semantics of the root in the case of animate (esp. human) references

-ach < Brit. –akkos; usually conveys derogatory meaning, forms mostly masculine nouns

-os; neutrally diminutive

-ell; rare
-cyn (m), -cen (f); only attested at later period (me: I’ve always interpreted this one as a borrowing of English “-kin”, I mentioned this in the Q&A and it turns out other opinions concurr)

Compounds, e.g., “man” (small) prefixed to form close compound

What Is This Meat Product? What’s at Stake in Translating “Aislinge meic
Conglinne” (Lahney Preston-Matto, Adelphi Univ.)
-- Paper was moved earlier in the day … good thing I wasn’t counting on hearing this one.
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It's so delightful to see Language Log considering the same fascinating questions about the competing grammatical, conventional, and metaphoric motivations of preposition choice that I spent an entire PhD dissertation exploring. It's almost tempting to drop a note to that effect to the blog, but I'm not sure I'm quite that forward.

ETA: Ok, ok, I sent off a note to the blog author, including a mention of where the dissertation is available online. I suppose it would be ultra-cool if my name showed up in further discussions on the blog. Almost as cool as having my paper title mentioned in the Kalamazoo Pseudo-Session monologue!
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The second day of the Language Creation Conference was just as interesting as the first, but I will skip over the specifics of the papers and presentations and straight to the workshops. Sunday continued the brainstorming workshops with the same teams/working groups. I promised to write this up, but it may be a bit long and detailed for many people's tastes. )
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This weekend [ profile] scotica and I are attending the 2nd annual Language Creation Conference which happens to be held on the U.C. Berkeley campus. Nothing quite like a small lecture hall packed with other folks who think inventing your own languages (and cultures to speak them) is a perfectly natural and understandable enthusiasm. It's been a nice mix of theoretical presentations and people showing off bits of their own creations, combined with some interactional games and workshops. (One of the workshops involved vocabulary-creation exercises using Duplo blocks to represent linguistic "building blocks" and my team really rocked.) It turns out one of the people running it was one one of my beginning linguistics students back several years ago. If I make it to another one of the conferences I'll probably submit something to present. (I dislike presenting the first time I attend a conference -- I'd rather get a feel for the event first.) Not sure when that might be -- next year's is in New York in April, which would be hard to manage that close to Kalamazoo, and the year after that they're talking about Europe.

I'm of two minds about sharing background information about my Kaltaoven language -- the one in the skin-singers stories in Sword and Sorceress. On the one hand, it would be fun to set out some of the underlying features of the language in public. But on the other hand, I like the idea of including just enough in the way of glosses and translations of the language snippets that I include in the stories that someone could do a fair amount of starting to work things out on their own. And it would also be fun to leave it as a puzzle for interested readers to try to solve on their own, if they like. But then, not everyone who enjoys languages wants to go to the trouble of decoding them on their own. And, of course, maybe nobody cares. I suppose at the very least I could set up a page on my web site that collects all the language data from the stories in a single convenient place.

Anyway, more conference tomorrow -- should be fun.
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So there I was Saturday, shortly after noon, in the aisle at Michaels Crafts shopping for various useful objects for the Games Tourney when the cell phone rings. It's [ profile] klwilliams with an invitation to go off to a bookstore in SF to hear Katharine Kerr do a reading and then do dinner afterwards with the author and her husband. And just as I'm saying something to the effect of I've got this stuff to do for the Games Tourney, I'm thinking, "Idiot -- weren't you just complaining last week to this very same [ profile] klwilliams that everyone else seems to do all these spontaneous social things and somehow you never do? And," I continue to myself, "you know why people never call you up and say, 'Hey, let's go do such-and-such'? BECAUSE YOU SAY NO." At which point I sputtered a little and said, "Of course I'd love to!" It was an interesting reading -- although I confess not quite fascinating enough to make me start in on yet another 14-volume fantasy series when the "to read" shelves are already overflowing. But the after-dinner conversation rambled into historic linguistics and Gaulish personal names, so it was quite enjoyable.

Sunday I did various game-prop related projects with saws, drills, sandpaper, paint, glue, and varnish, and then got the event booklet/handout roughed out and partially filled in. And grumbled at the freecycle person who was supposed to come pick something up and never did and hasn't e-mailed about it either. (I'd start listing my freecycle items here in the blog, but not all that many of my readers are geographically convenient.) I've been posting "Game of the Day" teasers in the West Kingdom e-mail list to get people thinking about the event. I've gotten a couple of postive responses and nobody grousing at me about "spam", so I'm hoping that the idea of tucking event reminders into the corners of constantly changing useful content is working the way it's supposed to.
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I confess, I do ego-surf on Google periodically. This is the first time I've gotten a hit on Google Scholar -- someone has cited my PhD dissertation in their own research. Too cool.
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It figures that just as I'm feeling particularly overscheduled I conclude it's time to make some decisions about any trips I want to take this summer. Dilemmas, dilemmas )
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Another thousand words tonight, tucked in between the gym and the housecleaning. I figure I'll have a first draft finished by the end of the weekend, although I do have a handful of names to come up with, plus at least two new sentences in the language of my main character. (This means I have to go back and review the existing vocabulary, grammar, and phonology. One of them only has to be a scrap of a magic spell, and I may have something already that will serve that I haven't used yet. The other one will only need one new vocabulary item, and I know the grammar exists already, I just need to look it up.) But I need four or five new personal names in at least two different languages, and that takes immersing myself in the existing material and a bit of meditation.
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To a large extent, the entire long process of reorganizing and redecorating the house has marked the end of the "grad school period" of my life (if only because some parts of the process were specifically put off for years while I was finishing the degree). But somehow there's something very ... final about taking all my old photocopied class readers and binders full of class notes and homeworks and putting them in the recycling bin. I'm having to make a very clear separation between the linguistics books and references that I have some expectation of using in the future, and those that I acquired only to help me write the dissertation. Well, ok, the separation isn't that clear yet. I'm keeping a bunch of books that I probably will never use again but that are simply such wonderful gems of analysis and information that I can't bear to part with them yet (or that I paid enough for that I'd like to try to squeeze some trade-in value out of them rather than simply putting them in the general "deaccessioned" pile for rummaging). On the other hand, I really don't need three copies each of Metaphors We Live By, More than Cool Reason, Philosophy in the Flesh, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, or Mental Spaces. I'm not at all sure why I have three copies of some of them. Two I can understand: one for the campus office and one for home. But the only reason for three is that I kept getting freebies as a TA. Now if I squeeze all the Indo-European grammar books into the free space in the non-Celtic language and linguistics bookcase, I'll have freed up four shelves in the general linguistics bookcase that will be enough to cover the onomastics overflow (from the onomastics bookcase), and then ... well, the dominoes keep falling. So far I think I have about 20 shelf-feet of deaccessioned books. Yow.

I really must get back to doing fun linguisticky things. I have some ideas for an in-persona SCA collegium class on linguistic theory. I think with a lot of pre-planning and scripting, it would be fun to do in a sort of Socratic mode: asking the students questions on grammatical theory and then "correcting" them with the official medieval answer. (Ok, I have to work on this a lot if I'm going to make it fun for the students and not just for me.)
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Yes, I really do watch it just for the commercials. Bayer had its first superbowl commercial this year -- the one for Aleve with Leonard Nimoy. (I successfully guessed what the gimmick was going to be based on a very slight hint on the in-house newsletter description.) But what just made my day was hearing Welsh spoken during a superbowl commercial. (Beer commercial: people from lots of different countries saying the equivalent of "cheers" while raising a glass. I didn't notice what brand it was for -- it gave the impression of being a a promotion of beer in general as a concept.)
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'Tis the season for finding boxes and packages unexpectedly delivered, but when I came home to find a large carton from "ProQuest Information and Learning" on the porch I was totally baffled. Turns out to be the hardbound copies of my dissertation that I ordered back, oh, two years ago. Yay! Now I'm trying to remember why I ordered four copies. One for me, one for the parents (yes, I know I gave you a xeroxed velo-bound copy two years ago, but that was meant as a place-holder), maybe one for the linguistics department library rather than the usual xeroxed copy?, maybe my usual "one for the brag shelf" to supplement the use-copy? Or maybe it was just "Wow, this is a cheap price for a hardbound copy, I'll order an extra or two just in case I find a use for them"? I have this nagging feeling that at least one of my friends was interested enough that I got them a copy as a present, but after two years it's a very nebulous feeling.
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Arrived safely in Bangor[1] after spending over 12 hours in transit. Ack for three-leg plane flights. Not much else accomplished since last posting.

[1] Maybe cranberry margaritas loosen my inhibitions, but I distinctly recall explaining to one of my co-workers -- in excessive linguistic detail -- that "Bangor" derives from Welsh roots meaning "a wattled enclosure". I think I then had to explain "wattled". I recall with somewhat less equanimity explaining to another co-worker's new wife that, regardless of what her mother always told her, her name "Kendra" is not of Welsh origin. I'm generally not that pushy about disillusioning people about their beliefs about their names.


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