Language in the Gnome Archipelago
As a South African, Linguistics student and human I feel it is important to include various languages in my story. What better way to emphasise diversity than with different languages? However, unlike Tolkien, I have yet to create a fully functioning language (or rather conlang) of my own (though I’m working on it!). So, I have shamelessly used languages from our world that work as placeholders for the languages in my story. The lingua franca or most commonly spoken language in the Gnome Archipelago is Gnomenclaturan or as it is more commonly known Gnormal. I have used English to represent this lingua franca as it is the language in which I am the most proficient (and definitely not for any other reason). The second distinct language that appears in my story is Dragonish or Dragon Tongue, the language of the dragons. I have used Afrikaans to represent this language. Any relations between Afrikaans speakers and Dragons is purely coincidental. The third language, Xofam, which is spoken by the Jojoji is not so much a distinct language as a different phonetic realisation of English. It works like a substitution cipher. I got the idea from playing Final Fantasy X, where the fictional ‘language’ Al Bhed uses the same system. But, more on that later. The final language that appears only near the end of the story is Perupeto which is my conlang or constructed/artificial language. I had only developed the language to a usable degree by late 2017 and as a result it only featured in FAT49 much later on. It is my great pleasure and delight to work on this language. It’s influences are many from Japanese to English to French to Arabic to Afrikaans to Igbo to Maori to isiXhosa to Esperanto and many others. As of yet it will remain undecipherable until I release documents pertaining to its rules and vocabulary (I am currently working on a dictionary for it). For now be satisfied with these Perupeto addages:
Kin mafubakin za zuaazon.
Act! Banish the void.
Za kachi yala
The thing goes (skrrr pa a ka ka ka ka ka skibidi pa pa and a pum pum purrr pum…)
But forils its basically an equivalent to C’est la vie or That’s life or Life goes on.
Why no translation, bruv?
Although some characters tend to interpret dialogue (thanks Jack) there remains a large amount of untranslated dialogue in my story. I have done this because I want the reader to feel like they are in the same shoes as the characters. In the interactions with the Jojoji no one speaks Xofam and I want the reader to feel as out of place and confused as the characters do. Translating would kill it. Which brings me to my next point. Translation is mistranslation. It involves brute forcing one language into another, often at the cost of unique descriptions, humour and other language specific nuances. I very much did not want my story to be entirely in English. How boring. For the cats who don’t speak Afrikaans I suggest learning the language. For those unable or unwilling to learn Afrikaans I will tentatively suggest Google translate (note: loss of nuance and hilarious mistranslation likely). Or, you could just read it as gibberish, like so many of us do with languages we don’t know. Understanding demands that we learn.
Xofam works like a substitution cipher. In other words, it uses other letter(s)/character(s) in place of the usual English alphabet. So, a word like welcome in English will be oinqybi in Xofam. Look at it like this: Each letter is substituted for another/others.
w(o) e(i) l(n) c(q) o(y) m(b) e(i)
Make sense? Sweet. Then here are the English-Xofam alphabets side-by-side. Enjoy deciphering.
PS This language is primarily designed to be read rather than spoken and doing so can at times be as awkward and difficult to perform as making a good first impression on your significant other’s parents.
u is substituted by ‘ (an apostrophe) [ʔ] (as in foo’ball #cockney)
n is substituted by dj [ʤ] (as in job-hunting is difficult)
t is substituted by zh [ʒ] (as in genre is a French word, you English swine)
q is pronounced as a dental click (the ‘c-click‘ in isiXhosa or the English tsk-tsk click)
x is pronounced as [ʃ] (as in should I quit while I’m ahead)