Monday, May 11, 2009

Listening to the Birds

Epistle XVIII: Questions of Language Acquisition and the Patriarchal Qualities of Language

Oh my beloved, may the peace and blessings of the Ancestors, Spirits, Immortals, and the Father of Stars be unto you.
Greetings, oh my Puey.

Everything is going well here upon the plantation of yours in the middleheart of Jaràqtu. Fhermáta has returned and has taken back all of her authority as the oldest Sister, and somehow has forced Siêthiyal and Karuláta to stop chasing each other around with quqlimùqli balloon flowers. My cousin Ixhúja disappeared for a day but has returned also, and she is eager to write unto you. My Mother has been quite busy scattering dreamdust and stardust throughout all of the crannog and making all things sparkle in a most ætherial light. Even honored Khwofheîlya and Qtìmine are getting along, as are Grandmothers Tàltiin and Xhàtrajhil. I suspect that in a couple of days Grandmother Xhàtrajhil will take Qtìmine and her servants and leave, and perhaps life will return back to normal. The servants are almost finished patching up the wounded wall which my contraption managed to shatter during the unfortunate incident a few nights before, but otherwise all the plantation is brimming with the sounds of early summer.
As I listen to the music of the fields, the swaying of the trees, the motion of branch and flower and petal, as I drink in the song of this season, one cannot help but think about how nature itself is part of the song of language, and how all of the worlds about us partake in it. I was helping Fhermáta to feed the crimson goats, and as the hircocervi began fainting one by one, I could not but help marvel at the sound of their khmàryor khmàryor bleating. As the goats collapsed I listened to the birds and to the dinosaurs that were feeding themselves of the seeds in my palms, the music of the birds, and the songs of the dinosaurs made me wonder how it was that they learnt the music of their parents and tribe. Do wild beasts learn their songs in the same way that we children of Pfhentókha learn language? Thou who learnst to speak in Qtheûnte, the purrs and clicks and mews of wild beasts and yet not in the words of Khlìjha, perhaps thou canst explain unto me how the birds are able to sing their symphonies, and the whales their glories, and all creatures wonderous and beautiful in their way. And as I lead the ducklings unto the ponds I kept wondering, how is it indeed that the rest of us Real People learn how to talk? It just seems as if we are all born, and we gurgle and prate and burble, and then in the same way that we learn to crawl and stand and run and dance, so too we speak. But how is that even possible? And whyever is it that I have managed to create Language all of myself?
I believe that there may be some evidence that for the Real People much of the Babel Language is innate. Speakers from various timelines, from the Dawn of Time unto the final Dissolution of the Dreamtime, always speak Babel. There are approximately a billion, billion loquents using the language, and yet Langauge remains distinct in this huge population throughout this vast expanse of eternity. Moreover, one must consider the Traîkhiim. Their lifetimes are considered short in comparison to the rest of us Real People, although when you and I become the Sun and the Moon we may be able to lengthen their lives just as we restore fertility to the Land. But in our forefathers’ days, the Traîkhiim lived for about twelve to fourteen years, and when a Triîmeling is only a few weeks old he is able to speak complete utterances in Babel, even when they are reared in relative isolation. I remember reading the tale of a viceroy king who had some Triîmeling reared by silent slaves and within days the infant Triîm were chirming out and saying, Fhèkos fhèkos fhèkos! that is, Manna, manna, manna!
However there are certainly different accents of Babel as exhibited by the various dialects. It seems that during the first few sennights, months, or winters, depending on the life cycle of ths speaker, that one can pick up the nuances of the phonologia of that khlunáli dialect. So one who speaks the Imperial Dialect Khniîxhwa still sounds distinct to a Qhíng or an Kháfha, for instance.
This brings to mind, then, what features of Babel are innate to the minds of the Real People? Much can be the subject of speculation. Here are a few possibilities:

Reality consists of either countable substances which are unmarked plural or mass substances which are considered singular.
The aspect of an utterance is more important than its position in time.
Attributes are either neutral or inherently good, therefore one must use qlaêkh to describe that which is harmful or sinful.
There is a trice-way distinction of fhwìpu gender: One may be sentient-animate such as a person, a non-sentient animate such as a plantimal, or non-sentient inanimate such as a book. Animate creatures may further be subdivided by gender, male or female, gamma or alpha or beta, or epicine, groups of them all.
An utterance must consist of a predicate, but it may also have an object and a subject. Objects and subjects may be inflected to describe whether it is telic or volitional.
One can demote the agent by the passive voice and the object with the antipassive voice.
Colors are important.
Negative statements may be considered rude.
One must be mindful of the social context of a statement. There are secondary modes to mitigate a state which may be rude, plus a rich system of honorific prefixes.
All words are to be sung.

I’m sure that the list could continue, but this is all that comes to me this day.
In some ways the Creation of Babel is like the art of the archeology of a strange and alien world. It is a little difficult to explain, Puey, my beloved, it is almost as of language causes the Dream to come into being and be true and real. Right now I’m sitting in the fields and scribbling my notes away while the sheep are feeding and gambolling before me and laughing in their own alien tounge, but when I was very small I remember when I used to sit in the trees and just watch the birds, I remember watching the way their their beaks opened and closed, their chests heaved, and they made noises, and I found it remarkable to think about the very quality of noise. It occurred to me what beauty sounds had, how they could be articulation and story, that talking itself was a form of creativity. What exactly was language, I used to wonder? Why was it that some words had such emotional weight unto them? Why was it that a certain string of words became music? Language is a strange and extra-terrestrial dance, I must say, language is knowledge itself, it is inspiration and madness. From when I was little even to this day a few sounds tripping one after another can cause mine heart to flutter, to make mine imagination soar, to leap, to fly with all of the possibilities of what grammar can be, how predicates can be used, what new words one can add to the jìfhyei lexicon. What beauty can one discover in language? What wonders can one find in the song of bird and whale and earth? All music is connected to the same language. All I can do is watch the sheep before me and think about how all things are a part of Babel.
With all due respect to Great-Uncle Táto, I think that a grammar book should use lots of words for hugging and kissing. When I start explaining some of the inflexions and forms of language, I think that kissing would be some of the most appropriate participles to use.
Puey, I shall give these sheets to Karuláta to copy for you. My cousin Princess Ixhúja has returned and wants to write a brief essayling on whether or not Babel is a patriarchal language. I’ll look o'er what she writes but probably not make any changes in it. It is interesting to hear a different perspective on Language, especially one who grew up in such a different world.
All my love, my most huggable and kissable Puey.
Your Éfhelìnye.

[These notes are affixed to the epistle]

Is Babel a Patriarchal Language?
Writ by the hand of Princess Ixhúja Tsàlkhat Pípa Fhífha Fhúfha Khmàkha Epóna of Þe House Pfhaqhaîtsir

The Wise of the clockwork and crimson worlds of Khnìntha one had an hypothesis that the various structures and architectures of language in general echo various unspoken cerebral thought patterns of the Real People. It was believed that the forms and vocabulary of Babel either influenced or determined the sòthwa point of view, the khwìju kösöm, the khmeûqa ancient custom as one learns and uses language. Language and custom cannot be disentangled.
Such a relativistic hypothesis early came under attack during the dynasties of the Saffron and Crimson Moons, and when Khnìntha was cast off from the rest of the Imperium, the study of language for its own sake was largely forgotten. But in the last year questions of language have arisen again. Is our worldview constrained by language? It is a dubious issue when studying Babel, and the original hypothesis is deeply flawed, but the relative issue is this: Babel is the language of all the Realities of the Dreamscapes. How can one really speak of an khwìju in a language wherein those who dreamt in it created language itself. This is language that was spoken for to create the Dreamtime, that language that was mother tounge unto such beings as My Lord Raven. However, despite its eld, Babel is also the alchemy of a single person, a young Princess of the House of the Sun who created language to express all the love in her heart. Verily the proper way to view language is not merely as a linguistic tool but as magic and art.
However many of the Daughters of Ifhrúri who have now been reintergrated in the Empire and who are thinking about an Empress who created Babel are claiming that Babel is definitely a patriarchical language. Let’s assume that it is. The Language and the Book that the Empress of Tomorrow is writing develop alongside of each other. The names and habits of the characters of the book inform the language, and the shaping of the language gives an underlying reality to the book. The Starflower Princess has chanted that one cannot write about, say, a Tree unless one understands the leaves. But one doesn’t understand the leaves until one can paint them, and none can paint who has not first learned how to draw. So a good writer, someone who has a fine sense of spatial detail, should also be a good visual artist. This is all a little reminiscent of the artist Qlòrmel wtsùyot whose argument was that a playwright is only a playwright if he is skilled at both sacrificial tragedy and betrothal comedy. The Starflower Princess already knows how to paint. But for her there is another somewhat deeper shadow behind the structure of character and scene, and these are the words themselves. Part of her wonders, One cannot write any myth, let alone one about φantastick things, dreamlands of warriors and princess, chariots and dragons, and make them all real unless the words themselves are real. If the Language of the book is about reality and magic, one probably should seek to understand what one is trying to say. Therefore, thought she, one could not say, The Emperor is so and so, without knowing what his name was and why it should be that and what does Emperor truly mean? One can thus begin to see in this progression, from concept to language how the culture and character are related. Babel cannot be culturally neutral, for it is culture itself. Babel is messy and real and silly and one can make bad puns in it, for it is thought itself. Babel is the creation of the Starflower Princess Éfhelìnye’s fevered imagination.
So how should the Daughters of Ifhrúri conceive of Babel? One can find many trivial examples of patriarchy in Babel. Qírenat is the Divine Emperor, but Kaîxhrenat is the Divien Empress. They even sound alike. But they are not quite the same. The Qírenat is the undisputed ruler or authority of the Dreamtime, master of o'er approximately a billion, billion souls. He is part of the Pwéru, the House of the Sun. He has powers o'er nature and weather. He is the fertility lord and brings rain and crops and life. He is ritually married unto the Land. His health affects the Land. The dying Emperor may bring about feminine, but a righteous or young Emperor may bring about a golden age. But what exactly does the word Kaîxhrenat denote? She is the wife of the undisputed ruler or authority of the Dreamtime. The Emperor may have no power in some dynasties, but the Empress never does. She is often of the House of the Sun and often a close relative to the Emperor. She may or may not have power o'er nature and weather. She is the Land unto whom the Emperor is ritually married, for every Emperor at his ascension must also be married. Does Babel thus in choosing two different words for the Sun and Moon imply a different power structure for the Emperor and Empress? No Empress can rule the Dreamtime. Babel is patriarchal because the society that speaks it requires it.
Or perhaps a better example, however, of the patriarchical nature of language comes from the qhèrna grammar. Babel has lots of prefixes and suffixes to do the clockwork motion of Language. Some of the swètwa suffixes are interjections. Aiyo’ ei! is Alas alas! and Ekheu’ ei! is Ouch! Now consider fhwii and qhau. Notice one of them has the high vowels Ii and the other the low diphthong Au. The first is thought to be feminine while the second is masculine. Consider the following examples:

Éjar xhmir qírenat stélaring.
Þe princess speaks to Þe Emperor.

Éjar xhmir qírenat stélar fhwii xing.
Þe widdle princess spoke to Þe Emperor.

Éjar fhwii xhmir qírenat stélaring.
Þe princess spoke in a cute fashion to Þe Emperor.

One would probably not say:

Éjar xhmir qírenat fhwii stélaring.
Þe princess spoke to Þe effeminate Emperor.

Consider Þe counter example:

Éjar xhmir qírenat jakhtakhtayùpwar.
Þe warrior spoke to Þe Emperor

Éjar xhmir qírenat jakhtakhtayùpwar qhau.
Þe strong warrior spoke to Þe Emperor.

Éjar qhau xhmir qírenat jakhtàkhta.
Þe warrior spoke in an adult manner to Þe Emperor.

The suffix +fhwii is properly only applied unto women of all ages and children. +qhau is only applied ot adult men. One can say:

Éjar xhmir qírenat jakhtakhtayùpwar fhwii.
Þe widdle warrior spoke to Þe Emperor.
Éjar xhmir qírenat stélarùpwar qhau.
Þe tom·girl princess spoke to Þe Emperor.

But one would only say such sentences for comedic affect. No one would really take them seriously.
There is one exception to the use of + fhwii. A young lady may apply + fhwii unto the name of a young man whom she knows quite, quite well. This may apply to a Sister addressing her Brother, of a Shepherdess addressing her Swain. No one would consider this offensive. But if one were an outsider unto that social circle, it would be considered a most dangerous thing to say. The Starflower Princess may call Puîyos Puîye fhwii. But if, say, a stranger were to call him that, the only response appropriate would be swift and brutal retaliation. If one were of the appropriate social standing an apology would be acceptable, if one were of lesser estate, only death would be a suitable. Thus + qhau and + fhwii are a case of story creating grammar. In other words, the alleged patriarchy of the story implies that there should be terms which should be applied unequally, and so mythology comes to be.
And yet one should consider the contrary. For in Babel the qhén, the grammatical gender is very natural. When words are inflected in the construct and ingeminate cases or even with some focus particles, words tend to be classified as sentient-animate as in persons, non-sentient animate as in plantimals and body parts, and non-sentient inanimate, as in things, places, and abstractions. This is very clearly differentiated. However, one may further subdivide animate creatures into male or female, or gammar or alpha or beta, or a collection of epicine. This usage is usually simple. Gamma Qhíng are gamma Qhíng. Beth Qlùfhem are beth Qlùfhem. All clones and eunuchs are women. Epicines forms are more commonly used then gendered forms, perhaps because they appear to be the simplest, the base forms. And yet, even when Language uses a simple genderless form, that neither makes the language itself more or less patriarchical. There is only so much that one can read into the structure of Language. It is interesting that many of the words for government and power and logic also have connotations of Fatherhood, but words for beauty and elegance and poesy have connotations of Motherhood.
But just as the masculine and feminine pronouns are not simple, too are genders rather complex in the nonlinguistic portio of our lives. The Traîkhiim species for instance have a neuter form which is grammatically considered masculine. And yet other types of neuter creatures are considered grammatically feminine, such as the many eunuch slaves the swink for the High Castes. Some species of the Dreamtime have only one sex, and they are also considered grammatically feminine. However some species have three sexes, alpha, beta, and gamma. The gamma sex is always considered grammatically masculine, and the alpha and beta sexes are considered grammatically feminine. Is there any logic to this? The gamma sex among the Qhíng, Aûm, and Kháfha dominate in terms of sacrificial politics and warfare even though the gamma sex does not correspond to the male sex. One could not accuse such a species as having a patriarchy in the way that the Færie of the Empire have. However, the gamma parent is still called by the same word that we use for father, and the alpha and beta parents are called by the words that we use for mother.
The Wise of Khnìntha sometimes made a distinction between Efhòswuqhe, that is, women’s language, and Ofhàthweu, that is, men’s language. The difference between Efhòswuqhe and Ofhàthweu, however, seem to be more culturally delineated than grammatically defined. For instance, consider these two participles:

Xhwètetlhang, xhwenítetlhang those who, while standing, bow somewhat (when greeting older siblings; ør a woman greeting a man)
Xhwètetlhung, xhwenítetlhung those who, while gneeling, bow somewhat (when greeting older siblings; ør a woman greeting a man)

Xhwenítetlhang pejor Puîye Fhermáta.
Fhermáta stood ond bowed a little to Puey.
Xhwenítetlhang pejor Puîye’ Akhlísa.
Akhlísa gnelt ond bowed a little to Puey.

The true meaning of these pàsqo sentences can only be understood in the cultural context of the Winter Empire. Fhermáta stands and bows a little unto Puîyos, for greeting him, because it is right that she, through her body language, show some deference unto him, although they are both of the same age. Akhlísa, who was already kneeling, nods a little unto him also, but because he, in their society, is considered her older Sibling. Some traditional Khnìnthan grammarians would classify the above sentences as examples of Efhòswuqhe, of women’s language. In Khnìntha it is more often the case for the younger to be bowing unto the older, it is the same in the Empire, but in Khnìntha I think the overt body language is less pronounced.
Certain lexical items, mostly pertaining to anatomy and elogance, were also considered Efhòswuqhe. For instance: Exhòxhra, feminine clothing, and Fhènti, females; those who are feminine, adorable, cute, and Fhùmfha, women, females; those who are feminine, adorable, elegant, mellifluous, euphonious, and Fhlàqhoa, fhlaqhoâthe, Eunuchs, slaves for Warriors and Nobles, and Sepáto, Senípáto, Eunuchs, slaves for the Emperor, and Jhwèrpa, jhwèrpat,* white ankles, a sign of exquisite beauty among Xhámi maidens, and Jhwuîros, jhwuiròxhnu, (of a woman), my or our calf, lower leg, and Jhwuîroisii, (of a woman) your calf, lower leg, and Jhwuîrosoi, (of a woman), hir or thair calf, lower leg; those who are curvy, undulate, and Khlìnye, khlìnyat, those who are beloved, and this becomes the feminine name suffix –linye which one can occasionally observe in the names of the Princesses of the House Pwéru, and Khwùlqa, khwùlqu, females; those who are female, feminine, and Qòqtakh, (of a woman), my or our hip, and Qoqtákhie, (of a woman) your hip, and Qoqtákhoi (of a woman), her or their hip; those who are curvy, undulate, and Qoqtákhoijhangétsa, qoqtákhoijhangétsu, women’s dresses, gowns, and Thwèmla, thwèmlat*, white necks, sign of exquisite beauty among Xhámi maidens, and Tsèlpe, tsèlpepe, my or our bosom, and Tsèlpie, tsèlpien, your bosom, and Tsèlpeu, tsèlpeun, her or their bosom, and Tulyóla, cute maidens, cute girls, nicknames for any girl, and Xhìlikh those who are feminine, effeminate, girly, and Xhilikheqhalùlokhi, grace, those who are graceful, and Xhwòne, xhwònene, whie ankled maidens; those hwo are white ankled, and Xotóla, well-zoned maidens; those who are supple, and many, many other participles.
Examples of Ofhàthweu, of men’s language include: Atènya, beards, and Fhliê long beards, and Fhliêyi, fhliêyim bearded men, pogonotrophous; those who are bearded, and Ìqan, those who are blessed, which also appears as a masculine name suffix, and Khapyènxha, khakhapènxha, my or our beard, and Khyàsiin* beards and Ós divine love, which also appears as a masculine name suffix, and Óxhèrkhrexi masculine intuition, the intuition which Khnìnthans believe that males have but females do not, a boy’s, a Father’s, an husband’s intuition, and Oxhòxhra, masculine clothing and Prár, práril my or our beard and Qetlhèkhla* legs, heels, knees, hips, a man’s hips and Qetlhekhlajhangétsa, and qetlhekhlajhangétsu men’s kilts and Thwakákhun, thwakákhunga, my or our mustache and Thyakàqumei your beard, mustache and Thyakàqumeu his or their beard, mustache and Thyàkaqun my or our beard, mustache and Tìnye, tìnyein, those who are masculine, bellicose, warlike, and Xhapènxha my or our beard, and Xhapiînxha your beard and Xhapeûnxha his or their beard and many, many more.
In terms of the actual morphosyntax and grammar, men and women and gammas and betas and alphas use Babel in almost the same way. However, at least among the Xhámi Færie, it is true that women tend to use the following suffixes more often then men:

·eyii Cute, affecciounate, nickname (2·s)
Fhwii Lad! Laß! (Cute, diminutivë, effeminate) (+8·s)
·ji/eji Diminutivë, for relatives, proper names (2·s)

Xhthenteqheyétyai púxhmi xá Puiyèyeyii!
Come towards mee, wee Puey!
Xhthenteqheyétyai púxhmi xá Fhermáta!
Come towards me, Fhermáta!

Éjar fhwii xhnoe jaiyÍngikhmaràswaor óxing poa.
I wæs only chit·chatting with honored Íngìkhmar.
Éjar xhnoe jaiyÍngikhmar óxing poa.
Perhaps I wæs only talking with honored Íngìkhmar.

Where is wee Puey?
Where is Fhermáta?

However, a more substantial difference between men’s language and women’s language is that women tend to use the khmekéstu, the neutral register for personal pronouns and relative pronouns, more often then men. The khmekéstu forms are considered more polite, and even in the Matriarchy wherein I grew up, the lasses used the neutral register far often then men. In fact, according to some traditional Khnìnthan grammarians, it is noticed that when a woman is in conversation wiht a man, she uses the neutral register at least a third more often than the man does.

Joîjae túxhrejor aîPuîye’ óxing poa.
I see you, Puey. (Possibly spoken by a female).
Joîjae túxhrejor aîFhermáta púxing.
I see you, Fhermáta. (Possibly spoken by a male).

This is about all that one wishes to write about the nature of Language and its relationship to the Winter Patriarchy. It’s a fairly complicated issue, and this is all that I have for now. I’m going to go and sneak up behind Siêthiyal and find out whether I can’t scare her enough and make her fall into water and mud.
Your Feral Twin Ixhúja

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